When Assam Became Part of a Psychological War Between Japan and England

War Through Posters

The year was 1944, and the then Assam province witnessed several posters being dropped from the sky by an unidentified aircraft. The poster carried the picture of an angry man pointing his finger towards the viewers, it also carried blood stains, piles of skulls and dead bodies drawn in the background and various dates written on either side. And finally, it carried a text in the centre which clarifies the message it wants to deliver.

When Assam Became Part of a Psychological War Between Japan and England

“Glorious freedom. Revenge for our blood bathed history”, was written on the poster in Hindi language. Later it came to be known that the poster was airdropped by the Japanese air force in Assam in order to spread hate against the British and ignite the fire of seeking independence from the colonial rule. Basically, the Japanese wanted the Indians to turn against the British.

Posters of this kind were reportedly airdropped and distributed in several other parts of the nation. It was a psychological war, known as Psychological Operations, which is kind of a ‘sub war’ going on alongside the 2nd World War. Hate advertising was attempted by the Axis powers in British ruled India during the World War II. Later, the Britishers also tried to propagate posters of this kind in various parts of the country to incite countrymen against the Axis powers.

India & WWII

The 2nd World War started in the year 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland, and then Britain and France declared war on Germany. The war came to an end with the American bombings in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Because India was a British colony at that time, so it was dragged into the war by the colonial power.

Indians, in 1939 came to know that Lord Lithlingow, the then Viceroy of British India, announced that British was at war with Germany, and as a colony India too had to fight the Axis powers. The Congress leaders raged amidst disappointment as the decision went against their wishes and they were not consulted even once. The Congress didn’t want India to incur the losses it did during the 1st war, but didn’t have the political power to act according to their will.

During the 1st World War, which continued from 1914 to 1918, India was forcefully included as a British ally. The British Crown ordered more Indians to be recruited to fight the war, and because of this India witnessed several difficulties. Men were forced into the army, food and medical resources were diverted for the army, which created inflation and diseases among the masses. Moreover, the British government had to bear a lot of war expenses, hence taxes were increased in India.

An emergency act, known as the Defence of India Act, 1915, was also in place during the entire duration of the war, which allowed the British government to arrest anyone without warrant. This emergency act continued even after 1918, when the war ended. Later, the infamous Rowlatt Act of 1919 was also passed which stated that emergency would stay in place.

Even Mahatma Gandhi expressed displeasure at these measures of the British government, and organized the Rowlatt Satyagraha to protest against the Rowlatt Act. These protests also led to the horrifying Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar in the same year.

So, due to all these problems and atrocities, Indians had a bitter experience of participating in war. Due to this, when the 2nd World War broke, Indians were reluctant to participate. The leaders of different parties, including the Indian National Congress too were of the opinion that India should not be involved somewhere, where its national interest doesn’t lie.

The Propaganda War

Coming back to the posters which were airdropped in Assam and distributed across the nation. As India was eventually inducted into the war by the British, so, the Japanese started to spread propaganda among Indians against the British. Basically, it was not exactly propaganda but the reality was being shown by the Japanese as they used various pictures, data and slogans of the atrocities and exploitation done by the British against India.

Japanese somehow wanted to ignite the fire of independence among the Indians. This fire of independence was already burning red, as Mahatma Gandhi, in 1942, started the Civil Disobedience Movement and called for a ‘fight to finish’, to achieve ‘Purna Swaraj’.

So, these sentiments were used by the Japanese to seek support from India, because South Asia was a strategic location during the 2nd World War as it connected Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy to Hirohito’s Japan. It also became important for the Allied Powers as Indian subcontinent could be used to cut-off the Axis powers from one another.

Hence, this propaganda war was at its peak in India, as both British and Japan were trying to woo Indians for support. The Japanese even captured some British Indian soldiers in Rangoon (largest city of Burma at that time). These soldiers (prisoners of war) were inducted into the Indian National Army, which was started by Rash Behari Bose and Captain Mohan Singh and later was led by Subhas Chandra Bose.

Hence, India was a crucial nation during the 2nd World War. Though not independent, but India was important for both the Allied and Axis powers, and both were trying to woo the Indians through a parallel psychological war. And Assam too came into the picture of this poster war.

Pratik Deka,
Content Writer,

Post a Comment