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India during World War II

From Academic Kids

During World War II, India was a British Crown colony. The Indian National Congress led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi strived for complete independence from Britain in the 1930s. The Congress was opposed to Fascism, Nazism and colonialism. Gandhi, in an open letter to Adolf Hitler, preached for tolerance. On September 1, 1939, Germany, invaded Poland sparking off the Second World War. On September 3, Britain declared war on Germany. As a possession of Britain, Britain decreed that India was at war with the Axis powers. The Congress criticised the administration for not taking them into confidence.

The Indian stance

The Congress pointed out that although Britain was going to war for the sake of freedom, that same freedom was not entitled to India. Therefore the Congress refused to actively take part in the war. India would however, take part in the war, if independence was granted. Another school of thought led by Subhash Chandra Bose of the Indian National Army (INA) allied itself with the Axis based on the principle that "An enemy's enemy is a friend" rather than ideology. The Axis powers recognised the INA as the legitimate rulers of India.

The British government meanwhile send Indian troops to fight in West Asia and northern Africa against the Axis. India was also made into a nation to produce essential goods such as food and uniforms. Ores were mined to support the war much to the consternation of Indians. As a result of the food supplies being diverted to Britain, a mass famine occurred in Bengal, with 3 million people starving to death in 1943.

Capture of Indian territory

By 1942, neighbouring Burma was invaded by Japan. By then it had already captured the Indian Andaman and Nicobar Islands. India was now faced with a hostile enemy at its gates. As a major possession of Britain, Japan looked to invade India and stamp out the economy which had so far fueled the Allies. Japan ceded the Andaman and Nicobar islands to the INA on October 21, 1943. In March 1944, Japan made an invasion into India's eastern borders and moved as far as taking Kohima in Nagaland. Japan also bombed the cities of Vishakapatnam and Madras.

Recapture of Axis occupied territory

Meanwhile the Japanese were facing stiff resistances in the Pacific front. Hence they moved their troops eastwards leaving the INA to defend the captured Indian territory. Harsh weather and disease also took its toll on the Japanese. In 1944 a resurgent Britain recaptured the INA occupied lands. Later that year Japan surrendered.

By 1945 the war had ended. Indians pressed the British for independence as they had earlier promised. On August 15, 1947, India was declared a free nation.

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