1945 INA trials: a rare glimpse from the lens of photojournalist Kulwant Roy

Rare images of the November 1945 Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauj) trials from photojournalist Kulwant Roy’s work, as documented by Aditya Arya in the visual archive History in the Making.

Updated: August 29, 2017 7:57 pm

In his book Azaadi!, English author Reginald Massey, who was born and raised in pre-Partition Lahore, recalls the reception of three INA generals shortly after they were acquitted, which he witnessed as a teenager:

There were thousands who greeted them at the historic Minto Park. In unison they chanted loudly:

Chaalis crore-on ki awaaz! (Forty crore people shout in unison!) (Editor’s note: India’s population was 40 crores – 400 million – at that time.)

Sehgal – Dhillon – Shah Nawaz!!

When the Japanese routed the Allies in south east Asia, they took some 60,000 soldiers of the British Indian army prisoners. 20,000 of them agreed to switch sides and go to war against their former masters — the British, in the Indian National Army under the command of Subhas Chandra Bose.

After the Allies won the war, the INA soldiers once again became prisoners — this time of the British. The military logic of the British India government was clear — they considered the INA joinees to be traitors, deserving of severe punishment. The furious, self-righteous government decided to make an example of the the INA leaders by performing their court martial and treason trial — the first one was to take place in Delhi’s iconic Red Fort, the same place from where Bose promised that INA would declare India’s independence.

Of the three INA generals arraigned for the first trial were a Hindu (Prem Kumar Sehgal), a Muslim (Shah Nawaz Khan) and a Sikh (Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon). The cause of their defence was taken up by the Congress, whose leaders toured the country, mobilizing support for the soldiers awaiting the trial. Jawaharlal Nehru was among the defence lawyers. While the defense lost the case and the defendants were declared guilty, the British sensed the popular mood, including within the British India Army, which was far from unsympathetic toward the INA. This was a time when the Muslim League was on the threshold of winning Pakistan, by dividing the territory of British India along communal lines. Yet, Indians, irrespective of religion were united in feeling that the ruling power was out for vengeance and in heaping curses upon it. The government was forced to commute the sentences of the convicted trio and release them.

Images

Photojournalist Kulwant Roy (1914-1984) had been among the handful of Indians who lived and worked through the exciting times before and after India’s Independence. His archive of mostly unpublished prints and negatives lay forgotten in boxes for more than 20 years after his death in 1984 until they were discovered by Aditya Arya, to whom he had left his work. Here are a few snapshots from the time around the INA trials of 1945 that Roy captured through his lens:

Indian national army, kulwant roy, jawaharlal nehru Jawaharlal Nehru with the members of the INA Defence Committee, 1945. Photo by Kulwant Roy (1914-1984) and photo credit : Aditya Arya Archives, Chairman & Trustee, India Photo Archive Foundation. Indian national army, kulwant roy, jawaharlal nehru Members of the Defence Committee, R.B. Badri Dass, Justice Acchru Ram and Asaf Ali discussing the charge sheet of the INA cadre at Delhi Red Fort, 1945. Photo by Kulwant Roy (1914-1984) and photo credit : Aditya Arya Archives, Chairman & Trustee, India Photo Archive Foundation. INA defence committee, azad hind fauj, INA trials, jawaharlal nehru Jawaharlal Nehru emerging from the Defence Committee office. Photo by Kulwant Roy (1914-1984) and photo credit : Aditya Arya Archives, Chairman & Trustee, India Photo Archive Foundation. INA trial, red fort trials, Indian national army, kulwant roy General Mohan Singh who formed the First I.N.A in Far East is seen here while chatting with Mrs. Ehsan Qadir, wife of Capt. Ehsan Qadir of the INA. Photo by Kulwant Roy (1914-1984) and photo credit : Aditya Arya Archives, Chairman & Trustee, India Photo Archive Foundation. INA, mahatma gandhi, red fort trials, azad hind fauj Mahatma Gandhi with soldiers of the INA, 1945. Photo by Kulwant Roy (1914-1984) and photo credit : Aditya Arya Archives, Chairman & Trustee, India Photo Archive Foundation. kadam kadam badhaye ja, mahatma gandhi, INA, azad hind fauj Captain Ram Singh, who had composed the patriotic song ‘Kadam Kadam Badhaye Ja’ plays the violin for Gandhiji at the Harijan Colony, 1945. Photo by Kulwant Roy (1914-1984) and photo credit : Aditya Arya Archives, Chairman & Trustee, India Photo Archive Foundation. indian national army, mahatma gandhi, jawaharlal nehru Jawaharlal Nehru attends a meeting of Gandhiji and INA soldiers, 1945. Photo by Kulwant Roy (1914-1984) and photo credit : Aditya Arya Archives, Chairman & Trustee, India Photo Archive Foundation. indian national army, mahatma gandhi, jawaharlal nehru An engrossed audience listening to Gandhiji in this rare documentation of the meeting, 1945. Photo by Kulwant Roy (1914-1984) and photo credit : Aditya Arya Archives, Chairman & Trustee, India Photo Archive Foundation. indian national army, mahatma gandhi, jawaharlal nehru, sardar patel Also seen attending the meeting is Sardar Patel, 1945. Photo by Kulwant Roy (1914-1984) and photo credit : Aditya Arya Archives, Chairman & Trustee, India Photo Archive Foundation. INA defence committee, jawaharlal nehru, indian national army Jawaharlal Nehru with members of the INA enquiry committee at the Constitution Club, New Delhi (1945). Photo by Kulwant Roy (1914-1984) and photo credit : Aditya Arya Archives, Chairman & Trustee, India Photo Archive Foundation. indian national army, jawaharlal nehru Jawaharlal Nehru with INA cadre, 1945. Photo by Kulwant Roy (1914-1984) and photo credit : Aditya Arya Archives, Chairman & Trustee, India Photo Archive Foundation.

Kulwant Roy gifted his work to Aditya Arya, who has since archived them under the aegis of the India Photo Archive Foundation. Arya can be reached at adityaarya@adityaarya.com