Dr. Susmit Kumar, Ph.D.

[Note: This paper is an extension of my paper Hitler, NOT Gandhi, Should Be Given Credit for the Independence of India in 1947, which is the most popular paper at my website. A few years ago, this paper was used “AS IS” in the history examination paper at GCE/GCSE level for Edexcel, a product of Pearson Education Limited in UK.]

 

Mahatma Gandhi launched the 1942 Quit India Movement only because he was afraid that Indian National Army (INA), created and supported by Japanese army (which had already won Burma at that time), would liberate India from British rule. (As per British intelligence report) Gandhi’s feeling during mid-1942 was that Germany and Japan would win World War II, which would have made his name a footnote in India’s history as till then he had always hushed down any talk of independence within his Congress party. In fact the whole thought and background of Gandhi's draft of the 1942 Quit India Movement was one of favouring Japan.

 

Till the 1942 Quit India Movement, Mahatma Gandhi was never in favor of complete independence of India from the Britain. In his book The Indian Struggle Part II 1920-34, Thacker, Spink & Co, Calcutta, 1948, pp 81-2), Subhas Chandra Bose described his first meeting with Gandhi in 1921:

 

I began to heap question upon question…The reply to the first question satisfied me…His reply to the second question was disappointing and his reply to the third question was no better…My reason told me clearly…that there was a deplorable lack of clarity in the plan which the Mahatma had formulated and that he [Gandhi] himself had no clear idea of the successive stages of the campaign which would bring India to her cherished goal of freedom.

 

At the Madras Congress session in 1927, when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose, two other freedom movement leaders, succeeded in having a resolution passed declaring India’s complete independence, Gandhi was annoyed, and hence—only to cater to Gandhi—the Madras resolution was modified to request dominion status under the British.

 

Let us study the history of the Indian National Congress. It was established by a retired British Indian Civil Service (ICS) officer, Mr. Allan Octavian Hume, and not by Indians, after the 1857 First War of Independence, as a safety valve for the educated Indians. In 1907, Congress Party was divided into two factions: moderates; “Naram Dal” (soft faction) led by Gopal Krishna Gokhale and extremists; “Garam Dal” (hot faction) led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak. They were termed so because of their attitude towards the British rule. Naram Dal was willing to work with British whereas Garam Dal attitude opposed British rule. Lal-Bal-Pal (Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Bipin Chandra Pal) were a triumvirate of Congress leaders at the forefront of Garam Dal. During that time, Gandhi was leading Indian movements in South Africa. In 1915, it was Gokhale who invited Gandhi to India to strengthen his Naram Dal.

 

The Garam Dal movement gradually faded with the death of its main leader Bal Gangadhar Tilak in 1920 and the retirement of Bipin Chandra Pal from active politics. Lala Lajpat Rai died in 1928 due to the injuries from lathi (baton) charge. The superintendent of police, James A. Scott, ordered the police to lathi (baton) charge the non-violent protesters led by Rai and personally assaulted Rai. Tilak also had to suffer at the hands of British as he had to spent six years in jail in Mandalay, Burma from 1908 to 1914 just for writing in his newspaper Kesri which was termed seditious by an English judge. In jail he developed diabetes. Gandhi and his followers, on the other hand, were never brutally beaten or given such poor-condition jail sentences. Both Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela are highly regarded and worshiped as the father figures in their respective countries, but Gandhi did not suffer at the hands of the British ruler as much Mandela did. Mandela was in jail continuously from 1962 to 1990, and was not given amenities which Gandhi (and his followers) were offered by the British rulers in India.

 

In fact, “Naram Dal Gandhi” was just an extension of “South African Gandhi.” Throughout his stay in South Africa, Gandhi actually supported the British Empire (The South African Gandhi, Stretcher-Bearer of Empire, Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed, Stanford University Press, 2015); as per the authors, who are professors at University of Johannesburg and University of KwaZulu Natal, respectively, unveiled a man who, throughout his stay on African soil, stayed true to Empire while showing a disdain for Africans. For Gandhi, whites and Indians were bonded by an Aryan bloodline that had no place for the African. Gandhi's racism was matched by his class prejudice towards the Indian indentured. He persistently claimed they were ignorant and required his leadership, and he wrote their resistances and compromises in surviving a brutal labor regime out of history. The South African Gandhi writes the indentured and working class back into history. The authors show that Gandhi never missed an opportunity to show his loyalty to Empire, with a penchant for war to do so. He served as an Empire stretcher-bearer in the Boer War while the British occupied South Africa, he demanded guns in the aftermath of the Bhambatha Rebellion, and he toured the villages of India during the First World War as recruiter for the Imperial army. The meticulously researched book punctures the dominant narrative of Gandhi and uncovers an ambiguous figure whose time on African soil was marked by a desire to seek the integration of Indians, minus many basic rights, into the white body politic while simultaneously excluding Africans from his moral compass and political ideals.

 

 

 

 

 

Below is the first paragraph of the (previously secret) declassified document, created by the Secretary of State for India for War Cabinet on June 16, 1942. The entire document is available at this British National Archive website - http://filestore.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pdfs/small/cab-66-25-wp-42-255-35.pdf

 

 

 

 

The opening paragraph is – “As I mentioned to the War Cabinet on 15th June 1942 (War Cabinet Conclusions 74(42) Minute 3) there are increasing indications that Gandhi is abandoning his previously declared policy of refraining from embarrassing Government and is planning to lead Congress into some widespread movement with the aim of compelling the British to withdraw from India. I now circulate for information an extract from the Viceroy’s telegram of 7th June and a copy of his telegram of 11th June (already circulated) together with a copy of the published Congress War Resolution of May 1st compared with the original draft (now established to be the work of Gandhi himself) and a selection of recent significant statements by Gandhi.”

 

[If you want independence from your colonial ruler, you have to at least “embarrass” them. If you are not embarrassing them, then it shows that there is some kind of mutual understanding between you two.]

 

As per the (previously secret) declassified document, created by the Secretary of State for India for War Cabinet on June 27, 1942, the whole thought and background of Gandhi's draft was one of favouring Japan. Gandhi’s feeling was that Japan and Germany would win World War II (please see the screenshot below)

 

The entire document is available at this British National Archive website –

 

http://filestore.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pdfs/small/cab-66-26-wp-42-271-1.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Let us see why Gandhi changed his mind and wanted complete independence from Britain in June 1942. In mid-1942, Nazi Germany was in control of entire Europe and was winning in North Africa and driving towards Stalingrad in Soviet Union (please see the screenshot below) and on the other hand, Japan had taken over Burma and knocking at the door of India (please see the screenshot below). Japan had already created the Indian National Army (INA) in 1942 under Mohan Singh, by Indian POWs of the British-Indian Army captured by Japan in the Malayan campaign and at Singapore. INA aim was to secure the independence of India by driving away the British.

 

Mid-1942 German Advance in Europe and North Africa

 

 

 

  

Mid-1942 Japan (and INA) was Knocking at the door of India

 

 

 

 

 

Hitler Should Be Given Credit for the Decolonization of Asia and Africa

 

Hitler wanted to create the Third Reich, a super colonial power, which would rule over the world for a thousand years. But it lasted only for thirteen years because Hitler was trying to turn back the clock as colonialism was in its last phase. Instead of creating a super colonial power, Hitler destroyed colonialism. Following World War II, within a few decades nearly all colonies in Asia and Africa obtained their independence. World War II had a profound effect on the colonial powers because it completely destroyed their economies. Although Hitler committed crimes against humanity, I give him credit—and none to Gandhi—for India’s independence immediately after World War II. Hitler destroyed the economies of Britain and France to such an extent that they were no longer able to financially maintain their military forces and were hence incapable of containing the burgeoning freedom movements in their colonies. It is worth noting that Britain was in such bad shape that it received about one-fourth of the total aid given under the Marshall Plan. Regardless of Gandhi or any other charismatic leader, Britain would have left India in 1947 purely for financial reasons, due to its wholly collapsed economy. After WWII, Britain left not only India but nearly all its other holdings, including Jordan in 1946, Palestine in 1947, Sri Lanka in 1948, Myanmar in 1948, Egypt in 1952 and Malaysia in 1957. For the same reason, France also had to grant independence to Laos in 1949 and Cambodia in 1953 and had to leave Vietnam in 1954; Netherlands also left most of its colonies called Dutch East Indies, mainly Indonesia in 1949. Had there been no Hitler and no World War II, it most probably would have taken another 30 or more years for India and some of the other colonies to achieve independence.

 

Gandhi delayed the independence of India. Had there been no Indian National Army, created by Japan, knocking at India’s door in 1942, India would not have had any independence movement as long as Gandhi was alive as he was firmly against it.

 

Another major consequence of World War II was that it greatly hastened Indian political independence. The highly publicized Cripps Mission that took place in India in 1942 was essentially a political ploy approved by Churchill to buy time for Britain and to try to assuage anti-colonialist feelings in the U.S. (Cain, P.J. and Hopkins, A.G., British Imperialism 1688-2000, 2nd Ed., Pearson Education, Harlow, U.K., 2002, p. 560).

 

British historians P.J. Cain and A.G. Hopkins described the hopeless situation of the British in India as follows:

 

By the end of war, there was a loss of purpose at the very center of the imperial system. The gentlemanly administrators who managed the Raj no longer had the heart to devise new moves against increasing odds, not least because after 1939 the majority of the Indian Civil Service were themselves Indian. In 1945 the new Viceroy, Wavell, commented on the “weakness and weariness of the importance of the instrument still our disposal in the shape of the British element in the Indian Civil Service. The town had been lost to opponents of the Raj; the countryside had slipped beyond control. Widespread discontent in the army was followed in 1946 by a mutiny in the navy. It was then Wavell, the unfortunate messenger, reported to London that India had become ungovernable [which finally led to the independence of India] (Cain, P.J. and Hopkins, A.G., British Imperialism 1688-2000, 2nd Ed., Pearson Education, Harlow, U.K., 2002, p. 560-1).

 

During the pre-independence period, the president of Congress party was usually nominated by consensus. But there were only two instances of elections for the president of Congress party during the lifetime of Gandhi and both the times, Gandhi’s candidates were the losers – in 1939 and in 1946. Both the times, Gandhi did not like the outcomes, and manipulated his followers –

 

(i)              in 1939 and forced the winner out of the party and

 

(ii)            in 1946 and forced the winner to withdraw in favor of his candidate who had obtained no vote, yes zero vote. (we will discuss about it towards the end)

 

Hence it is wrong to say that Gandhi was a democratic person.


In 1938, Subhas Chandra Bose was unanimously elected Congress Party president. The following year he decided that the party should launch a nationwide civil disobedience movement, giving the British six months’ notice. With this goal in mind, he decided to run for re-election as party president. This was completely within precedent; just before his term, Nehru had also been Congress Party president for two terms (1936 and 1937); apart from these two terms, Nehru was Congress Party president in 1929 also. Gandhi, however, was not pleased. He threw his entire support behind Sitaramayya, another senior Congress leader. Despite this, Bose defeated him. Gandhi said publicly that the defeat of Sitaramayya was his own defeat. He then manipulated his followers in ensuing executive committee meetings in such a way that he forced Bose to resign from the party. Commenting on this, Aurobindo Ghosh, the nationally famous freedom fighter turned renunciate, stated (Chapter III Four phases of the Pondicherry Period, pp 185-6; Sri Aurobindo on Gandhi, May 21, 2019; Evening Talks with Aurobindo Recorded by A.B. Purani):

 

The Congress at the present stage—what is it but a Fascist organization? Gandhi is the dictator like Stalin, I won’t say like Hitler: what Gandhi says they accept and even the Working Committee follows him; then it goes to the All-India Congress Committee which adopts it, and then the Congress. There is no opportunity for any difference of opinion, except for Socialists who are allowed to differ provided they don’t seriously differ. Whatever resolutions they pass are obligatory on all the provinces whether the resolutions suit the provinces or not. There is no room for any other independent opinion. Everything is fixed up before and the people are only allowed to talk over it—like Stalin’s Parliament.

 

Ultimately, however, Gandhi and the Congress Party opted for a “Quit India Movement” against the British in 1942 and he spread the slogan “Do or Die,” which in fact Subhas had proposed in 1938 which Gandhi had opposed. The British government arrested all the top Congress Party leaders, keeping them imprisoned until 1945. Sporadic small-scale violence took place around the country, but it fizzled out entirely within a matter of months due to weak co-ordination and the lack of a clear-cut program of action. During 1974-75 the Total Revolution Movement, also called JP Movement, led by the veteran Gandhian socialist Jai Prakash Narayan (also called JP), against Indira Gandhi's misrule and corruption, was a mass movement. Tens of millions took part in this movement all over north India. But once Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency Rule in June 1975 and arrested the top leaders of this movement, there was no JP movement anywhere. The 1942 Quit India Movement had the same fate once the British government arrested all the top Congress Party leaders.

 

Although Bose’s Indian National Army (INA), which drew its cadre from Indian POW’s in Japanese camps and fought along with Japanese forces on India’s eastern front towards the end of the war, failed in its ultimate mission, indirectly it succeeded in causing the British to leave India early. When Japan surrendered, the British charged 20,000 INA men with treason. They decided to hold the trial in public at the Red Fort in Delhi. The first three of Bose’s officers to be tried were a Hindu, a Muslim, and a Sikh. This immediately united Indians of all three religions against the British. While the Muslim League was at that time fighting with the Congress Party and demanding a separate state for Muslims, on this issue it joined Congress in the now-national movement against the INA officers’ trial. Most of Bose’s army cadres were Muslims.

 

On November 21 and 23, 1945, a mass demonstration took place in Kolkata (Calcutta). Participants included members of the Congress Party, the Communist Party, and Muslim League. The police shot more than 200 people, of whom 33 died. Then the British decided to put on trial only those INA men who were charged with committing murder or brutality against other POW’s. However, Kolkata simply exploded when, in February 1946, an Abdul Rashid Khan (a Muslim) of the INA was given seven years’ rigorous imprisonment for murder. The protest began peacefully by students of the Muslim League, but later students of the Congress and Communist parties joined them in solidarity. Both the police and the army were called to put down what came to be known as “the almost revolution.” This time nearly 400 people were shot down, and nearly 100 killed. Since racial discrimination was rampant in the Royal Indian Navy, Khan’s trial gave thousands of Indians the excuse to mutiny. From the initial flash-point in Bombay, the revolt spread and found support throughout British India, from Karachi to Calcutta and ultimately came to involve 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 sailors. Due to the Naval Mutiny, Britain decided to leave India in a hurry because they were afraid that if the mutiny spread to the army and police, there would be large scale killing of Britishers all over India. Hence Britain decided to transfer power at the earliest.

 

The reasons behind Indian independence are nicely summarized by the esteemed Indian historian Ramesh Chandra Majumdar:

 

There is, however, no basis for the claim that the Civil Disobedience Movement directly led to independence. The campaigns of Gandhi … came to an ignoble end about fourteen years before India achieved independence … During the First World War the Indian revolutionaries sought to take advantage of German help in the shape of war materials to free the country by armed revolt. But the attempt did not succeed. During the Second World War Subhas Bose followed the same method and created the INA. In spite of brilliant planning and initial success, the violent campaigns of Subhas Bose failed... The Battles for India’s freedom were also being fought against Britain, though indirectly, by Hitler in Europe and Japan in Asia. None of these scored direct success, but few would deny that it was the cumulative effect of all the three that brought freedom to India. In particular, the revelations made by the INA trial, and the reaction it produced in India, made it quite plain to the British, already exhausted by the war, that they could no longer depend upon the loyalty of the sepoys [low-ranking Indian soldiers under British command] for maintaining their authority in India. This had probably the greatest influence upon their final decision to quit India. ” (Majumdar, Ramesh Chandra, Three Phases of India’s Struggle for Freedom, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay, India, 1967, pp. 58-59)

 

Without loyal sepoys (low-ranking Indian soldiers) it was quite impossible for British to rule in India as it could not have brought enough English men to India to quell any nationalist movement. It is worth noting that Britain were able to suppress the Indian Rebellion of 1857, also called India's First War of Independence, mainly because of the support of the Sikhs and Pathans. Also, the large princely states of Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore, and Kashmir, as well as the smaller ones of Rajputana, did not join the rebellion. The Sikh princes backed the British by providing soldiers and support. In 1857, the British Bengal Army had 86,000 men, of which 12,000 were European and 16,000 Sikhs. The Sikhs and Pathans of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province helped the British in the recapture of Delhi. Had they not supported the British at that time, Britain would have had to leave India in 1857.

 

It was British prime minister Clement Atlee who, when granting independence to India, said that Gandhi’s non-violence movement had next to zero effect on the British. In corroboration, Chief Justice P.B. Chakrabarty of the Kolkata High Court, who had earlier served as acting governor of West Bengal, disclosed the following in a letter addressed to the publisher of Ramesh Chandra Majumdar’s book A History of Bengal:

 

You have fulfilled a noble task by persuading Dr. Majumdar to write this history of Bengal and publishing it … In the preface of the book Dr. Majumdar has written that he could not accept the thesis that Indian independence was brought about solely, or predominantly by the non-violent civil disobedience movement of Gandhi. When I was the acting Governor, Lord Atlee, who had given us independence by withdrawing the British rule from India, spent two days in the Governor’s palace at Calcutta during his tour of India. At that time I had a prolonged discussion with him regarding the real factors that had led the British to quit India. My direct question to him was that since Gandhi’s “Quit India” movement had tapered off quite some time ago and in 1947 no such new compelling situation had arisen that would necessitate a hasty British departure, why did they have to leave? In his reply Atlee cited several reasons, the principal among them being the erosion of loyalty to the British Crown among the Indian army and navy personnel as a result of the military activities of Netaji [Subhash Chandra Bose]. Toward the end of our discussion I asked Atlee what was the extent of Gandhi’s influence upon the British decision to quit India. Hearing this question, Atlee's lips became twisted in a sarcastic smile as he slowly chewed out the word, “m-i-n-i-m-a-l!” (Ranjan Borra, “Subhas Chandra Bose, The Indian National Army, and The War of India’s Liberation,” Journal of Historical Review, Vol. 20 (2001), No. 1, reference 46).

 

Time to Re-write Indian History

 

There is a saying that history is written by the victors of war. One of the greatest myths, first propagated by the Indian Congress Party in 1947 upon receiving the transfer of power from the British, and then by court historians, is that India received its independence because of Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent movement. This is one of the supreme inaccuracies of Indian history. Had there been no Hitler, and no World War II, Gandhi’s movement would have slowly fizzled out as the gaining of full independence would have taken many more decades. By that time, Gandhi would have long been dead, and he would have gone down in history as simply one of several Indian freedom fighters of the times, such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Motilal Nehru, Dada Bhai Naoroji, and C.R. Das. He would never have received the vast publicity that he did for his nonviolence movement. Political independence for India was achieved not by Mahatma Gandhi, but rather by Hitler rendering the British Empire bankrupt.

 

It is worth noting that during the independence movement, Nehru was not considered by his colleagues to have the leadership quality. Mahatma Gandhi projected Nehru as a mass leader. In 1946, 15 Pradesh Congress Committees (PCC) were to choose the party president who would be eventually the first prime minister of independent India. Although before the election Mahatma Gandhi made it clear that Nehru should be the party president, not a single Pradesh Congress Committee, out of fifteen, nominated Nehru for the party president (Patel A Life, Rajmohan Gandhi, Navjivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, Eleventh Print, Dec. 2014, pp. 370-1; India From Curzon to Nehru & After, Durga Das, The John Day Company, New York, 1970, pp. 229-30). At that time, J.B. Kriplani was responsible for collecting the nominations from the 15 PCCs. As per him, twelve PCCs proposed Sardar Patel and rest three proposed him and Pattabhi Sitaramayya, and none for Nehru (My Times An Autobiography, JB Kriplani, Rupa & Co., 2004, pp. 610-4). Then as per Gandhi’s wishes, Kriplani got the signatures of few Congress Working Committee members on a piece of paper to nominate Nehru although only the PCCs were authorized to nominate the president. Then Kriplani gave Patel a piece of paper with the latter’s withdrawal written on it. Kriplani showed this paper to Gandhi, who, despite his preference, gave Nehru an opportunity to stand down in the Patel’s favor. “No PCC has put forward your name,” Gandhi said to Nehru, “only the Working Committee has.” To this pregnant remark Nehru responded with “complete silence.” This was the confirmation of Gandhi’s remark about Nehru made earlier that he would not take second place. Then Gandhi asked Patel to sign the paper which Patel did at once. The incident, describing Gandhi giving an opportunity to stand down in the Patel's favor, is from a book on Sardar Patel by Rajmohan Gandhi, a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi (Rajmohan Gandhi, op cit, pp. 370-1). Subsequently the British Viceroy invited Nehru to form the government with him as the prime minister.

 

But you will find the above mention, i.e. Nehru getting zero vote in 1946 Congress Presidential Election, rarely in any book in India, may be one in hundred-thousand books, because all the history books are written by court historians.

 

The 15 Pradesh Congress Committees were proved to be correct in not nominating Nehru for the Congress Party President post in 1946 as he turned out to be a disaster for the country. His decision to take the Kashmir issue to the UN, despite his entire cabinet against it, has turned out to be a deadly cancer, both in terms of security and financial terms, for India. He was also responsible for the resounding defeat and loss of significant geographical area in the 1962 India-China War. For last couple of decades, India has been trying hard to become a permanent member of UN Security Council and also to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on nuclear weapons as a nuclear power. It is worth noting that the US was willing to give both to India in 1950s and early 1960s. Since 1949, the US and its Western allies did not allow the Mao’s Communist government in Mainland China after the overthrow of Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist government in 1949. According to Sashi Tharoor, a Congress Party’s Member of Parliament and former United Nations Under-Secretary General, Jawaharlal Nehru "declined a United States offer" to India to "take the permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council" around 1953 and suggested that it be given to China. In his book, "Nehru — The Invention of India," Tharoor wrote that Indian diplomats who have seen files swear that Nehru declined the offer (“Nehru declined offer of permanent U.N. seat,” Mahesh Vijapurkar, The Hindu, January 9, 2004). According to M.K. Rasgotra, former Foreign Secretary, Nehru declined the US President John F Kennedy's offer of helping India detonate a nuclear device much before China did in 1964. If Nehru had accepted the offer, not only India would had tested the nuclear device first in Asia, before China, but it would have deterred China from launching its war of 1962 and even imparted a note of caution to [Pakistan's] Field Marshal Ayub Khan's plans for war in 1965 (“Nehru's refusal of Kennedy's offer of nuclear detonation kept India out of the NSG,” Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, The Economics Times, June 14, 2016).

 

Following the independence, the Nehru-Gandhi family ruled over India for nearly sixty years. Initially till Sardar Patel was alive, Nehru had limited control over the Congress Party and of the government. But once Patel died in 1950, Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and finally Sonia Gandhi, who ruled by proxy, controlled the party and government, privileging their sycophants. They cut down people to size whenever anyone would attempt to go against them. During their regimes, media and publishers did not dare to write anything critical of them but projected Nehru-Gandhi family in a way that they were the only ones responsible for the independence and socio-economic growth in the country, belittling all others. We had a similar example in Bihar. During the fifteen-year rule of Laloo Yadav (and his wife) in Bihar, they introduced chapters in school texts, comparing Laloo Yadav to Lord Krishna and the messiah of social justice (“Paean is mightier,” India Today website, Sanjay Kumar Jha, July 12, 2004). Similarly, court historians, appointed by Nehru-Gandhi family, have corrupted the history of India which needs to be re-written. It is true not only with current history. Court historians, like the Marxist historians Romila Thapar, Irfan Habib and RS Sharma, have completely distorted the medieval and ancient history also. There is a need to write Indian history as it happened and not from the Gandhi-Nehru-family perspective.