' Operation Bajadere' Hitlers Ambitious Plan to Invade India with the India Legion
Many soldiers and friends have asked me as to why I had not written about the India Legion. What was the India Legion? It was captured Indian POWs of the British Indian Army who were persuaded and motivated by Suhas Bose to fight alongside Nazi Germany for the freedom of India. Thousands negated their oath to the King and signed up with India Legion. This force fought alongside the Wehrmacht in Normandy as well and as per reports performed pretty well.
In 1942 Hitler had the world at his feet. The German army had penetrated deep into Russia and France had fallen inside 40 days. That was the time he conceived a plan to throw the English out of India. He found a ready collaborator in the fiery Indian leader Subhas Chandra Bose. He had fallen out with Gandhi and had escaped the British dragnet and reached Germany.
Ribbentrop formulated a plan to induct Indian captured POWs from the African campaign and form the India Legion. Bose was enthusiast about it and he set about his task with fervor.Hitler is a much-reviled character in the West and Russia. In India, however, he is looked upon more benignly as Indians feel he wanted to throw the British out of India. The Indian Hindu leader Balasaheb Thackeray was one of his great admirers.
The India Legion was formed in 1941 and was equipped by the Germans. They were treated well and the German army respected the religious beliefs of the India Legion. It was ensured that pork was not served to Muslim troops and beef to Hindu troops. The Indian legion was formally inaugurated complete with its own insignia. It became part of the Waffen SS. It was a highly specialized force and a plan was made to airdrop 100 members of the legion into Iran and given the name "Operation Bajadere".
The German General Staff were confident that Rommel who at that time was sweeping across North Africa would soon conquer Egypt and capture the Suez Canal. Hitler envisaged a period of a few months for Rommel to reach Iran. The plan was put into effect and consisted of dropping Indian troops by parachute into Baluchistan, Their task was to break the British lines of communication and damage vital installations. The initial lot of 100 para soldiers were airdropped, hoping for Rommel to advance and link up.This group infiltrated to Baluchistan and carried out many acts of sabotage. They were highly successful, but there is no record of them in the military history maintained by the Historical records section of the Ministry of defense. All the records are with the archives of the German army.
Unfortunately, Rommels thrust stalled just about 55 miles from Alexandria and he lost the vital battle of El Alamein. Any plans of a lineup with the Indian Legion in Baluchistan were abandoned and also by early 1944, the tide had turned against Hitler. Operation Bajadere was thus in hindsight a failure.
With Rommel in retreat, the OKW abandoned "operation Bajadere". The remaining Indian legion troops were inducted into the German army and fought against the Allies in France. Bose had been transferred to Japan to organize the Indian National Army and the troops of the legion came under command of Kesselring and Rommel. We learn from the archives of the Wehrmacht, that the India Legion fought with valor. The British were terrified when they came to know about the Indian Legion and wanted to keep all information about the Legion secret. They feared they would lose their hold over India.
Towards the end of the war, the remaining Indian soldiers of the Indian Legion tried to enter Switzerland but were taken into custody by the US army and handed over to the British.
They all were put in chains and transported to India. They were court-martialed and given stiff sentences, but the British hold over India had weakened and the Army and navy were restive that their comrades were being tried. A mutiny commenced in Mumbai and Karachi and the British government knew its days in India were over. The sentences were never carried out.
Independent India never acknowledged the brave contribution of the India Legion, but time has changed and now Narendra Modi has realized that this is a glorious part of the freedom fighters and due honor has come. The feats of the Indian Legion needs to be retold 100 times, no wonder Hitler is not considered an ogre in India. Some time back prominent cafe opened in Mumbai, called "Hitler Cross Cafe ", but it was closed on pressure from Israel. The India legion is a glorious page in Indian military history.