The end of World War II marked a dramatic change. The end of the war was greeted in India with a vast sigh of relief. However, the issue which most caught the popular imagination was the fate of the members of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's Indian National Army (INA), who were captured by the British in the eastern theater of the war. An announcement by the Government, limiting trials of the INA personals to those guilty of brutality or active complicity, was due to be made by the end of August 1945. However, before this statement could be issued. Nehru raised the demand for leniency at a meeting in Srinagar on 16th August 1945. The defence of the INA prisoners was taken up by the Congress and Bhulabhai Desai, Tej Bahadur Sapru, K.N. Katju, Nehru and Asaf Ali appeared in court at the historic Red Fort trials. The Congress organized an INA relief and enquiry committee, which provided small sums of money and food to the men on their release, and attempted to secure employment for them.
The INA agitation was a landmark on many counts: Firstly, the high pitch or intensity at which the campaign for the release of INA prisoners was conducted was unprecedented. This was evident from the press coverage and other publicity it got, from the threats of revenge that were publicly made and also fiom the large number of meetings held.
Initially, the appeals in the press were for clemency to 'misguided' men, but by November 1945, when the first Red Fort trials began, there were daily editorials hailing the INA men as the most heroic patriots and criticizing the Government stand. Priority coverage was given to the INA trials and to the INA campaign, eclipsing international news. Pamphlets, the most popular one being 'Patriots Not Traitors,' were widely circulated, 'Jai Hind' and 'Quit India' were scrawled on walls of buildings in Ajmer. Posters threatening death to '20 English dogs for every INA man sentenced', were pasted all over Delhi. In Benaras, it was declared at a public gathering that 'if INA men were not saved, revenge would be taken on European children.' One hundred and sixty political meetings were held in the Central Provinces and Berar alone in the first fortnight of October 1945 where the demand for clemency for INA prisoners was raised. INA Day was observed on 12 November and INA Week from 5 to 11 November 1945. While 50,000 people would turn out for the larger meetings, the largest meeting was the one held in Deshapriya Park Calcutta. Organized by the INA Relief Committee, it was addressed by Sarat Bose, Nehru and Patel. Estimates of attendance ranged from to two to three lakhs to Nehru's five to seven lakhs.
The second significant feature of the INA campaign was its wide geographical reach and the participation of diverse social groups and political parties. This had two aspects. One was the generally extensive nature of the agitation, the other was the spread of pro-INA sentiment to social groups hitherto outside the nationalist pale. The Director of the Intelligence Bureau coceded: 'There has seldom been a matter which has attracted so much Indian public interest, and it is safe to say, sympathy.' Municipal Committees, Indians abroad and Gurudwara Committees subscribed liberally to the INA funds. The Shiromani Gurudwara Prabhandhak Committee, Amritsar donated Rs. 7,000 and set aide another Rs. 10,000 for relief. Diwali was not celebrated in some areas of Punjab in sympathy with the INA men. Calcutta Gurudwaras became the campaign center for the INA cause. The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu Mahasabha and the Sikh League supported the INA cause.
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