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Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon (March 18, 1914 - February 6, 2006), popularly known as Col. G.S. Dhillon, was an officer in the Indian National Army who was charged with "waging war against His Majesty the King Emperor". Along with Gen. Shah Nawaz Khan and Col. Prem Kumar Sahgal, he was tried by the Britishmarker at the end of World War II in the INA trials that began on November 5, 1945 at Red Fortmarker. Dhillon also played an important role in the Indian independence negotiations.

Col. G.S.Dhillon

Early life

Childhood

Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon was born at Algon on 18 March 1914. His father and mother were descendants of the Dhillon and Dhariwal Sikh Jat clans, respectively. He was the fourth child of his parents. His childhood name was Bakshi. His father was Sardar Takhar Singh and was employed in 8th King George’s Own light cavalry. He was promoted to post of Veterinary surgeon. Gurbaksh Singh was born when Takhar Singh was posted at Ferozepurmarker.

Education

Gurbaksh Singh's early education was at Changa Mangamarker, a Government primary school. After passing 4th class he got education in number of schools, namely, Government High School, Chunianmarker in Lahore district; Government High School, Dipalpore in district Montgomery; Vernacular Middle School, Raiwindmarker in district Lahore; Victoria Dalip High School, Solanmarker in Baghat State of Simlamarker Hills; Dayanand Anglo Vernacular High School, Montgomery and lastly Gordon Mission College, Rawalpindimarker. Chunian was the birthplace of Raja Todar Mal.

He got education from teachers belonging to various religions that made him a secular person. He was a member of the Boy Scout Association. He has knowledge of Persian, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi and English languages.

In 1931, he passed his High School from Dayanand Anglo Vernacular High School, Montgomery and joined Faculty of Science in Gordon Mission College, Rawalpindimarker. He failed to qualify F.Sc. examination of Punjab University in 1933. This ended his dream of becoming a doctor. Early that year his father had retired from service. With matriculation only he was unable to get any job.

Military career

Army enlistment

Mr. J.F.L. Taylor, a friend of his father, suggested to join the Indian Army as a combatant in the lowest rank as sepoy and further improve his educational standard. So he joined as a sepoy in Training Battalion, the 10/14th Punjab Regiment on May 29, 1933. As a recruit his pay was fifteen rupees per month. He completed his training in first week of March 1934.

During June 1936, he was selected for training at Kitchner College, Nowgong as a prospective candidate for the Indian Military academy Dehradunmarker. From Nowgong, he was sent to his parent unit and from there to Dehradun. At the IMA he was considered an average cadet. The start of World War II cut short his training in the Academy by one term and he graduated in March 1940. He was posted to the 1st Battalion of the 14th Punjab Regiment, which was called "Sher Dil Paltan". He joined this Battalion on the last day of March 1940 at Lahore in the same barracks where he had been a sepoy in the 4th Battalion of the Punjab Regiment. His Battalion moved from Lahore to Secunderabad in September 1940.

Overseas move

Soon after the second week of February 1941, Dhillon and his battalion were ordered to move overseas. Left Secunderabad on 3 March 1941 for Penangmarker Island and from there to Ipohmarker, north of Kuala Lumpurmarker in Malaya. After about two months stay at Ipoh, their Battalion moved to Sungei Pattanimarker in South Kedahmarker as a part of the 5th Indian Infantry Brigade under Brigadier Garrett.

The 3rd Cavalry was allotted the defence of the Island of Penang. He disembarked at Singapore and reported at 7 MRC, Mixed Reinforcement Camp at Bidadari. From Singaporemarker he was sent to Jitramarker situated on the main road to Thailandmarker, south of the border. He arrived Jitra on December 5, 1941.

Dhillon in World War II

Following the attack on Pearl Harbormarker and the bombing of Singaporemarker on the early morning of 7 December 1941, the United States declared war on Japan. The Japanese forces completely destroyed the squadrons of the Royal Air Force at Sungei, Alor Starmarker and Kota Bharumarker airfields. On December 11, 1941, 1/14th Punjab Regiment fought a pitched battle at Changlun near the Thai frontier. Dhillon commanded the Headquarters Company with his C.O. Col. Fitzpatrick who remained nearest to the front line. The Battle of Changlun went on for eight hours and was lost. The Alor Star had also fallen.

On December 13, 1941 they arrived at Miami Beachmarker? near Penangmarker. They were taken to 3 M.R.C. in Penang. At the same time it was ordered to evacuate Penang. They were given the duty to guard a railway bridge at Nibong Tabol. They guarded the bridge for another two days till the arrival of Japanese. Then they were ordered to withdraw to Ipoh where Dhillon fell ill with malaria. He was hospitalized and sent to Singapore.

By the dawn of 9 February 1941, almost two divisions of the Japanese had landed on the soil of Singapore. On February 10, 1941, 7 MRC was moved to Raffles Square, a business area. By that time it was apparent that the surrender of Singapore was imminent. On February 13, 1941, Raffles Square was bombed. 7MRC suffered heavily with about 300 killed and many more wounded. The second-in-Command of 7 MRC, an English Major and Dhillon had a difficult job disposing of corpses. They dropped them in ocean. Singapore capitulated on February 15, 1941 and British Forces surrendered unconditionally to the Japanese.

The defeated and demoralized Indian soldiers collected themselves at Farrer Park in Singaporemarker. Major Fujiwara addressing the POWs expressed that it was his firm belief that world peace and the liberation of Asia could not be achieved and maintained without a free and independent India. He further said that if Indian POWs in Malaya were prepared to fight the British imperialism for the noble cause of achieving the independence of their motherland, the Imperial Japanese Government would advance all out support. He suggested the formation of Indian National Army. He handed over all the POWs in Malaya to Capt. Mohan Singh, the G.O.C. of the Indian National Army.

Indian National Army

Formation of Indian National Army

At the stage on Farrer Park Capt. Mohan Singh addressed the POWs and decided to form an organized and disciplined power in the form of Indian National Army. The erstwhile POWs were to become now the soldiers of India’s Army of Liberation, the army that was to fight under its own leadership, with a real and just cause to wage war.

Mohan Singh was from the same unit from which was Dhillon. He was a close friend of Dhillon. On February 17, 1942, Dhillon decided to join the Indian National Army and took the vow not to drink till India became free. Next morning Capt. Mohan Singh issued orders to march off all the units of various camps on the island where the units were to occupy their allotted accommodation. Dhillon’s unit was to proceed to Neesoon Camp. Neesoon village was situated away from main town of Singapore. This camp was the Regimental Centre of the Hong Kongmarker and Singapore Royal Artillery.

The Japanese Headquarters had asked the Supreme Headquarters to provide 200 officers to guard the British and Australian prisoners of war at Changi Camp. Dhillon took the risk and volunteered his services for this unpleasant task. At Changi Camp, Dhillon and other Indians were asked by the Japanese to give up the British drill and words of command and adopt Japanese ones. Within a fortnight they learnt the Japanese drill and words of command. Here they kept the Allied POWs in five separate Camps – Australian Camp, Hospital area, 9th Indian Division]] Camp, 11th Indian Division]] Camp and 18th British Camp. Its own officer, usually a General residing in the Camp, commanded each Camp. Changi was under military control of Japanese as well as Dhillon. Dhillon inculcated amongst the prisoners the feelings of national unity, discipline and keen sense of duty through daily lectures personally delivered by him. After some time at Changi Camp Dhillon fell seriously ill. He was released from the command of the Changi Garrison and sent to Seletar Camp and was admitted to POW Hospital.

Shaping Indian National Army

Dhillon’s health improved at Seletar Camp. He along with over thirty important senior officers from among the Indian Prisoners of war attended the Bidadari conference called by Captain Mohan Singh at Bidadari Camp in Singapore on 24 April 1942. The resolutions of this Conference, came to be known as the "Bidadari Resolutions", formed the backbone of formation of INA. As resolved at the Tokyomarker Conference, a representative conference of the Indians who lived in East Asian countries was held at Bangkokmarker on 15 June 1942, which continued for 10 days. Thirty INA volunteers nominated by Mohan Singh among the Indian prisoners of war attended it. A resolution was passed at this conference known as Bangkok Resolution. Dhillon got his National Commission on 1 September 1942 and was posted as major on the 10 September 1942. He was still ill so he was attached to the Reinforcement Group.

The first review of INA was held at Singaporemarker Padaung in front of the Municipal Buildings on October 2, 1942, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi. Dhillon attended this function as an observer. The progress in recuperating Dhillon’s health was slow. He was recommended a month’s leave and sent to Penang. He returned to Singapore in the middle of November 1942. The Japanese had not yet ratified the Bangkok resolutions not recognized the INA as an independent army. General Mohan Singh had lost confidence in the Japanese. In the beginning of December 1942, the Japanese asked the INA Headquarters to dispatch an advance party to move to Burma so as to prepare camps and accommodation for the main body of INA. Meanwhile differences developed between Mohan Singh and the Japanese. The Japanese arrested General Mohan Singh on December 29, 1942. There was a period of crisis due to suspense and indecision. On the advice of Rash Behari Bose Dhillon continued in INA. They went all over the Island and up-country to urge men to remain in the INA.

Meanwhile Subhas Chandra Bose (Netaji) was trying to come to the East. In anticipation of Netaji’s arrival, the revived INA was reorganized under its new headquarters known as Directorate of Military Bureau (DMB) with Col. J.K.Bhonsle as the Director. Dhillon was appointed as Deputy Quartermaster General (DQMG) in the "Q" Branch at the Army Headquarters. He was to look after the Technical Branch and was responsible for the accommodation also. The Army Headquarter was organized by the middle of March 1943 and was duly gazetted on April 17, 1943. On appointment Dhillon took up the task of collection of kit and clothing of those personnel who decided to leave the INA. When Netaji arrived on July 2, 1943 in Singapore and the Army was enlarged in December 1943, Dhillon was transferred to be the 2nd-in-Command of the 5th Guerilla Regiment.

The 5th Guerrilla Regiment

Dhillon was appointed Second-in-Command to Major J.W. Rodrigues in December 1943. Rodrigues raised the 5th Guerrilla regiment at Bidadari in Singapore. Apart from helping in raising the regiment Dhillon was responsible for training, discipline, morale and welfare of the troops. The 5th Guerrilla Regiment was formed as part of the 2nd INA Division, which was organized under the command of Col. N.S. Bhagat consequent on the 1st Division’s move to the Front.

On March 30, 1944, the 5th Guerrilla Regiment moved to Ipohmarker in Perakmarker state of Malaya. Dhillon proceeded with the advance party to make necessary arrangements for the Regiment.

Move to Burma

Dhillon was sent to front at Alor Starmarker in Infantry Regiment at Jitramarker. On July 15, 1944 they left Jitra for onward journey Kawashi, Merguimarker and Tavoymarker through Thailandmarker and then to Moulmeinmarker and Rangoonmarker in Burmamarker. They had a period of long stay at Bangkokmarker. From Bangkok they flew on August 21, 1944 over to Rangoon by Netaji’s personal aircraft, the "Azad Hind". At Rangoon they were accommodated in Mingaladon Camp about from Rangoon. Dhillon was here officiating as the Deputy Adjutant General (DAG) and also the Deputy quartermaster General (DGMG) in the Divisional headquarters when the first anniversary of the Provisional Government of Azad Hind came about. As part of the celebrations of the anniversary, the review of the 2nd Division of the INA was arranged at Mingaladon. It was part of duties of Dhillon to make arrangements and issue orders for the ceremonial parade at the vast parade ground. The parade was held on 18 October 1944.

Subhas Chandra Bose

Dhillon met Subhas Chandra Bose on October 15, 1944 at his residence in Rangoonmarker. He again met him on October 26, 1944 after which Dhillon was made Brigade Commander of the Nehru Brigade. Towards the end of 1943, "The Nehru" was put under the First Division. It moved to Burma in early 1944 and arrived at Mandalaymarker. The Nehru Brigade was deployed in the Myingyan area with the object of defending it against enemy attack, which appeared imminent consequent on their withdrawal from Imphalmarker.

In the middle of December 1944, the Japanese Army Commander General S. Katamura visited The Nehru Brigade along with the general came Col. I. Fujiwara, the greatest supporter of the INA and one of the originators of the idea among the Japanese. Dhillon was advised to expect the worst so that there was no disappointment later.

The Nehru Brigade held Irrawaddy

Towards end of 1944, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose gave Dhillon the command of 4th Guerrilla Regiment also called the Nehru Brigade. His regiment distinguished itself in the battlefield. The Nehru Brigade was to hold the Irrawaddy Rivermarker from Nyaungu in north to Pangan in south, both towns inclusive, and to hold the enemy crossing the Irrawaddy at those places.

Dhillon formed an advance party from 9th Battalion and left for Pagan on December 29, 1944. Dhillon ordered the move of battalions to leave Myingyan by February 4, 1945 so as to be in their respective positions by February 8, 1945. Dhillon ensured all the arrangements. The Nehru Brigade held the Irrawaddy as planned. Dhillon kept his Headquarters at Tetthe during this operation. On February 12, 1945 the enemy planes carried out saturation bombing on INA defences. On 13/14 February night enemy launched an assault in front of the 8th battalion deployed at Pagon. These assaults were failed and the enemy had to withdraw. The Nehru Brigade kept on holding the Irrawaddy and this was the first victory of INA. After the failure at Pagan the enemy tried another assault crossing opposite Nyaungu by using outboard motors and rubber boats. This assault was also failed and hundreds of enemies were killed or drowned. Having failed the enemy had no other choice but to retreat. This was another victory of INA. This could not sustain and INA had to withdraw and Dhillon had to proceed to Pagan.

Dhillon reached Pagan on February 17, 1945. On February 23, 1945, General Shah Nawaz visited the Commander of Khanjo Butai and discussed co-ordination of Indo-Japanese operations in the Popa and Kyauk Padaung area. Col. Sahgal was given the task to prepare Popa as a strong base with the view to take up an offensive role. Dhillon’s Regiment, the 4th Guerrilla, was assigned the duty to check the enemy advance on to Kyauk Padaung from the west, where the British had established a strong bridgehead at Nyaungu. This was to be achieved by carrying out an extensive and persistent guerrilla warfare in the area between Popa, Kyauk Padaung line in the east and as far forward towards the Irrawaddy as possible as to deny the enemy the use of Nyaungu-Kyauk-Padaullg-Meiktila metalled road for supplying reinforcements and supplies to his forces fighting in the battle of Meiktilamarker. Shah Nawaz arrived Popa on 12 March 1945 and relieved Dhillon forthwith to join his regiment.

On April 4, 1945 his Division Commander, Colonel Shah Nawaz Khan, ordered Dhillon to return from Khabok to Popa. By then 4th Guerrilla regiment had been in that area waging guerrilla warfare for over five weeks. Mount Popa and Kyaukpadaung was one pocket of resistance, which had so far defied all British attacks. Under constant raids by INA the British forces were forced to use longer routes that caused the British loss of time, greater consumption of petroleum products and frequent breakdowns of vehicles.

From the beginning of April 1945 the strategic situation began to change rapidly. The enemy launched a three-pronged attack on Mount Popa and Kyaukpadaung area. On 5 April 1945 Dhillon was allotted the defence of Kyaukpadaung, south of Popa. In the second week of April there was daily bombing from air. Under the cover of this barrage the British forces advanced in their heavy tanks and armoured vehicles. There were very heavy casualties. The INA could not organize any defence. 2nd Division of the INA was to withdraw to Magwe, south on Irrawaddy. After completing the task of withdrawing from Magwe, they came to a village called Kanni.

In the meantime, the Burmese army has declared war against Japan, and as such, the villagers did not co-operate with INA. Their retreat was fully under the control of General Aung San’s Army under the new name of People’s National Army, after having established a parallel government extending their hold over about 50 villages. They crossed Irrawaddy at Kama to reach Prome on May 1, 1945. Most of INA officers and men could not cross the river and they were stranded on the east bank of Irrawaddy. It was apparent by then, that they had lost the war. Rangoon had already been vacated. From Prome they took southeasterly direction to retreat through the jungles of the Pegu Yomas. Eleven days after leaving Promemarker, they reached at village called Wata about west of Pegu. There they learnt that Germanymarker had surrendered. Japan was being heavily bombed daily. The British forces had occupied Pegumarker. Rangoon fell during the last week of April. Herein they decided that the surviving forces of INA should surrender to the British.

Surrender of Indian National Army

On The May 17, 1945 the enemy encircled The Indian National Army. So they surrendered without any surrender ceremony. They were put into prison at Pegumarker. Shah Nawaz and Dhillon were taken to No. 3 Field Interrogation Centre under command of Major C. Ore on May 18, 1945. Later on May 31, Dhillon was sent to Rangoonmarker Central Jail. On the June 9 1945 Shah Nawaz was brought from Pegu and put up with Dhillon in Rangoon Jail.

On July 1, 1945 Dhillon was brought to Calcuttamarker by plane and from there, sent to Delhimarker by train. On July 6, 1945 he was put in the Red Fortmarker and interrogated by Mr. Bannerjee of the Central Intelligence Department. The interrogation was over by the third week of July. On the August 6, 1945, Shah Nawaz, Sahgal and Dhillon were jointly summoned to the CSDIC for the first time. It was the beginning of the first INA trial at Red Fort. On September 17, 1945 the trio were served a copy of charge sheet. The main charge was waging war against the King. The news of trial was made public through the press and All India Radio.

The Red Fort trial

The historical trial of Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon, Prem Kumar Sahgal and Shah Nawaz Khan at the Red Fort began on November 5, 1945 by a General Court Martial for the charge of waging war against the King. When the trial began a mass demonstration was going on outside the Red Fortmarker. People gave voice to their resentment on the trials by shouting:

Lal Qile se aaee awaz,

Sahgal Dhillon Shah Nawaz,

Teenon ki ho umar daraz

(Meaning – Sahgal, Dhillon, Shah Nawaz, comes the voice from the Red Fort. May the trio live long)

The New Year's Eve December 31, 1945 was the last day of trial. The trial marked a significant turning point in India’s struggle for Independence and Col. Dhillon along with his two colleagues Col. Prem Kumar Sahgal and Maj. Gen. Shah Nawaz Khan became symbol of Indiamarker fighting for freedom.

The verdict of trial came on January 1, 1946. All three were found guilty of waging war against the King Emperor. Having found the accused guilty of the charge of waging war, the court was bound to sentence the accused either to death or to deportation for life. No finding or sentence by court-martial is complete until confirmed by the Commander-in-Chief. Commander-in-Chief Auchinleck, taking into consideration the prevailing circumstances decided to treat all three accused in the same way in the matter of sentence, and decided to remit the sentences of deportation of life against all of the three accused, and they were later released.

Dhillon released

The incidence of release the three members of the INA was of momentous significance at national level. The unprecedented publicity in the national papers and the media during the proceedings of trial enhanced the credibility and legitimacy of the freedom struggle launched by Indian National Army. On the following day of the release, January 4, 1946 the whole of Delhimarker and its neighbourhood had gathered to participate the rally never organized in the history of Delhi.

Recognition



  • The Indian Postal Department issued a stamp in 1997 in the memory of Dhillon’s contribution to liberation of India.


Author

Col. G.S. Dhillon had also written a book From my Bones in which he has recorded experiences that contributed so significantly to India’s Independence. In this book Col. Dhillon narrates his experiences of INA and the nostalgic memories of the trial. The story narrated in the book is not the history of INA. The narrative is of the events, which concerned the author or were to his knowledge in connection with his duties and status in the movement. It is more like a historical account of his actions. He was also a poet. Though not a prolific poet, his poems vividly capture some of the momentous happening of recent history.

Personal life

Dhillon married to Basant at age of fourteen in 1928. Their first child, Amrita, was born on 15 April 1947 at Simlamarker. Amrita studied at Banasthali Vidyapith for eleven years and later became a doctor. Dhillon has two sons Amarjit and Sarvjit. Both are settled at Shivpurimarker. His wife Basant died on 19 March 1968 at Shivpuri. Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon was living in Dhillon’s Den at the village Hatod in Shivpurimarker district of Madhya Pradeshmarker during his last days of life.

Death

Col G S Dhillon died on February 6, 2006 in the Intensive-Care-Unit of J.A.Group of Hospitals, Gwalior (M.P.) following a cardiac arrest after prolonged illness. His last rites were performed at Shivpurimarker with full military honours on February 8, 2006.

At the First Death Anniversary of Col.Dhillon, on February 6, 2007, A large number of people from different sections of society, gathered at his Memorial - AZAD HIND PARK (the place in village Hatod of Shivpuri where his cremation took place on 8 February 2006) to pay their tributes. Various freedom fightors, government officials, politicians, large number of school children, his friends & relatives along with local residents paid their homage to Col. on the occasion

References



External links




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