Giani Sardar Pritam Singh Ji Dhillon, Founder of First Indian National Army

Giani Sardar Pritam Singh Ji Dhillon, Founder of First Indian National Army

Giani Sardar Pritam Singh Ji Dhillon, Founder of First Indian National Army
In the INA Court Marshall cases that took place against some of the officers, in New Delhi, in 1945/6 there was one notable name missing. For he was a civilian, who was the real brains behind the idea of the First Indian National Army, Giani Pritam Singh Dhillon, who had met with an Intelligence officer (Major Iwaichi Fujimura ) of the Japanese Imperial Army and mooted the idea. He was almost forgotten from the history of Indian National Army. Whereas Capt [later General] Mohan Singh is discussed largely.

Giani Pritam Singh was born on the 18th of November, 1910 in village Nagoke Sarli, District Lyallpur, currently in Pakistan.His father’s name was Sardar Maya Singh, and mother was Mata Fateh Kaur.

Pritam Singh, as was the culture then, got married quite young to Bibi Kartar Kaur. They had two children. One son, Prithipal Singh, and a daughter Gursharan Kaur.

He did his early studies in Lyallpur, and then passed out as Giani from Lahore. He then joined the Lyallpur Agricultural College, but left half way to join the Shahid Sikh Missionary College in Lahore to become a Sikh missionary. His wife passed away in 1938.

As missionary, and revolutionary his work led him to Bengal. While there he became actively involved with the Indian Independence Movement and Gadhar Party. He was instrumental in the failed 1915 mutiny, that he stirred among a Bengal Lancers regiment. The authorities started hunting him. He fled via Burma to Bangkok, in 1919, where a number of Indian revolutionaries from other parts of India were living.

Once in Bangkok, he mingled with the local Sikh community and along with his missionary work began spreading the message of the Gadhar party.


Then he met with Major Fujiwara, head of the Japanese field intelligence section in the region, who had, even before the declaration of war by Japan, reached an agreement of collaboration with The Japanese at Bangkok on 4 December 1941 . It was Giani Pritam Singh’s idea, working with Major Fujiwara, that captured Indian soldiers be asked to join an First Indian National Army to fight for Indian independence. These plans were started long before the war broke out, among a group of revolutionaries based in Bangkok. His wife passed away in 1938, while he was still in Bangkok.

Capt. Mohan Singh is the First Operational Commander of the INA, accepted the position on Giani Pritam Singh Ji and Major Fujimura’s insistence.

In 1941, Capt Mohan Singh of the 14th Punjab regiment was stationed at the Thai border, in operation Matador, when the Japanese attacked. The 14th Punjab retreated along with the rest of the Allied Forces. Capt Mohan found himself in the jungles of Jitra, as a straggler. There they made an approach through locals to surrender to the Japanese, after they found some leaflets in Punjabi were dropped by the Japanese calling upon British Indian soldiers to surrender, and join the INA to fight the cause of Indian Independence.

At Jitra, Kedah, they were met by Giani Pritam Singh and Major Iwaichi Fujimura in a car that carried an Indian tri-flag along with a Japanese flag. They persuaded Capt Mohan to join the cause of INA. He was one of the most Senior Indian officers in the British Indian Army. He agreed to take the operational command.
Next day, they gathered at Alor Star Gurduara, where the first ardas for the success of the INA and Indian Independence was done. Thus, a very strong element of little known history is attached to Alor Star Gurduara Sahib, that has not been released nor commemorated or acknowledged by the local community, that a great event took place within it’s grounds.

Giani Ji died in an air crash in Tokyo. Giani JI along with 6 other INA officials had flown from Saigon after a conference to Tokyo, where he died in an air crash accident at the airport, on 24 March 1942.

Kuala Lumpur fell on 11 January 1942 with 3,500 Indian prisoners of war and Singapore on 15 February 1942 with 85,000 troops of whom 45,000 were Indians. Giani Pritam Singh asked for volunteers who would form the INA to fight for freeing India from the British yoke, under Capt Mohan Singh’s command. A large number, again mostly Sikhs, came forward. Mohan Singh established his headquarters at Neeson in Singapore with Lt Col. Niranjan Singh Gill as Chief of Staff, LtCol. J. K. Bhonsle as Adjutant and Quarter master General and Lt. Col. A. C. Chatterjee as Director of Medical Services. The INA, however, was formally established on 1st September 1942 by which date 40,000 prisoners of war had signed a pledge to join it.

Rajyashree Chaudhuri shared Mission to Declassify Documents‘s post.
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