Recollections and reflections

Reminiscences, Rafi Ahmad Kidwai

I first came in contact with Subhas Bose in 1923 at Delhi when the Congress was divided into two groups over the question of what was known as 'Council Entry.'...Subhas Babu, as the favourite lieutenant of Deshabandhu, was playing a prominent part in the controversy. more>>

No Compromise on Independence, Broadcast from Singapore

Sisters and brothers in India! Yesterday I spoke in a general way about Lord Wavell’s offer and what our reaction to it should be. Today I want to speak to you again on the same subject. But before I do so, I should like to draw your attention to the communique issued by the Provisional Government of Azad Hind on the same topic. That communique has been broadcast to you from this station yesterday and again today. The importance of this communique lies in the fact that it represents the considered opinion of politically minded Indians in East Asia. The communique has also added significance in so far as Indians in East Asia will stand by the policy enunciated therein. In other words, if the Congress decides to accept Lord Wavell’s offer and if, as an inevitable consequence of it, the Congress leaders come at the head of the Indian troops to fight Britain's imperialist war in the Far East, then there will be no option for us but to fight with the Azad Hind Fauj against our own countrymen, who would then be allies of British imperialism.

British and American news agencies have been giving detailed reports of the daily developments inside India. With the help of these reports it is possible to form a correct picture of what is going on inside our country. From the reports coming from India, it is clear to me that most people are absorbed in the consideration of the secondary features and the insignificantdetails of the British offer; while, on the other hand, they do not give sufficient attention to the fundamental issues involved in that offer, as well as the inevitable consequences of it. I would, therefore, beg you to consider first of all what the inevitable results of accepting Wavell's offer will be, because the Congress leaders will have to take the responsibility of sending at least half-a-million Indian troops to fight Britain's imperialist war, not on the Indo-Burma border or inside Burma, but in the regions beyond Burma and in the Pacific. With all due respect I would like to ask Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and other leaders whether they will take the responsibility of fighting Britain's imperialist war in the Far Fast and of sacrificing half-a-million Indian lives for the same.

Our countrymen at home do not perhaps realise what is the real origin of the present offer of the British Government. As I have said in a separate statement, I have definite information obtained from reliable sources that the British Government was asked by the United States of America to provide sufficient men, money and material for the future campaigns in the Far East. The British Government was prepared to produce the required money and material, but was unable to provide the manpower from Britain, for reasons to which I shall subsequently refer. The British Government thereupon called upon Lord Wavell to obtain half-a-million Indian troops from India in order to meet the demand of the United States of America. Lord Wavell, knowing the Indian situation, was unable to comply with this request, because the big portion of the British-Indian Army has been engaged in the war in Africa, Asia and Europe over a long time, and has now become war-weary. Lord Wavell informed the British Cabinet that unless sufficient public enthusiasm was aroused in India, it would be impossible to find half-a-million Indian troops, who would be willing to fight Britain's war in the Far East. Thereafter, communications took place between Lord Wavell and the British Cabinet as to how India's support could be mobilised for the future military operations in East Asia, that is, in Malaya, Thailand, Indo-China, China and Japan proper. The real motive underlying the British offer is to somehow get, with the approval of the Indian nationalists, and the full connivance of the Congress, half-a-million troops with necessary material to fight Britain's imperialist war in East Asia. Hence it is Chungking that will profit greatly if Indian troops are made available for the war in the Far East. It is, therefore, not surprising that the Chungking Government and its propaganda organs are now jubilant over Lord Wavell's offer, and want the Congress to accept it. Itmay be that there are a few Indians at home who know that Indian troops sent out to the Far East in the future will be opposed by the Azad Hind Fauj or the Indian National Army. But, there is no Indian who can be indifferent to this, not can anyone approve of this plan of sacrificing half-a-million Indian lives for Britain's imperialist war in East Asia.

I have already said that there are definite reasons as to why the British Government is unable to obtain from Britain itself the necessary fighting men needed for the future campaigns in the Far East. First of all, the British have suffered tremendous losses during the war on many fronts over a period of five years and nine months. As a result, the British people are war-weary and British troops are not willing to face another long campaign which will have to be fought under conditions much harder than in Europe. Secondly, unlike the First World War, this war has well nigh brought about the financial bankruptcy of Britain. Owing to the pressure of war and the colossal demand for war material British industries had to switch over almost entirely to war production. This was not the case with American industries. The result was that during the war Britain has been fast losing her pre-war markets and these markets were steadily going into the hands of American industry. If this process goes on for a long time during this war then Britain, in spite of an Allied victory, will lose the greater portion of her pre-war foreign trade and will be economically ruined. Owing to this reason British leaders find it imperative to release their factory workers from the fighting forces and war services as soon as possible and thereby restart peace-time industries. It is absolutely impossible for Britain to do both things at the same time, namely, to fight another long campaign in the Far East and to restart her peace-time industries.

Therefore, the other big source of manpower within the British Empire, namely, India, is to be exploited in order to produce cannon-fodder for the future campaigns in East Asia. If it had been possible to get the required half-a-million troops from India without popular sympathy and support, Wavell's offer would never have seen the light of day; but, since the British Indian Army has already been fighting over a long period and is war-weary, it is absolutely essential for Lord Wavell and the British Cabinet to win over the Congress in order to get the required cannon-fodder for their future campaigns.

I have no doubt in my mind that under normal circumstances nobody belonging to the Congress would have even looked at Lord Wavell's offer. In order to give their consideration to that offer Congressmen will have to give a go-by tothe fundamental principles and beliefs of the Indian National Congress. The Congress stands for complete independence. Lord Wavell's offer, as has been rightly pointed out by Mahatma Gandhi, does not even mention the word ‘independence.’ Secondly, the Congress stands for non-participation in and resistance to Britain's imperialist war. Thirdly, the Congress is still pledged to the 'Quit India’ resolution adopted three years ago, and the national slogan for the Indian people since then has been *Do or Die' in the fight for India's freedom. No Congressman can, consistent with his principles, therefore look at Lord Wavell's offer not to speak of giving consideration to it. Nevertheless, the fact that so many Congressmen and leaders are actually considering the British offer it is because a wave of defeatism has swept over India since the Anglo-American successes in Europe and in Burma. In a fit of pessimism and defeatism some Congressmen are forgetting their life-long principles and are now reconsidering the offer which they rejected in 1942.

What I want to tell my countrymen at home clearly and frankly is that the pessimism and defeatism which seems to have overtaken them is altogether unjustified. Whether one considers the international war situation or the international political situation, there is no cause for pessimism or despondency. The war in East Asia, whatever its ultimate result may be, is going to be a long and bitter one. The whole world knows that there is no real unity in the camp of the so-called United Nations. The war aims of Soviet Russia are quite different from those of the Anglo-American Powers and the conflict between the Soviet and the Anglo-American is growing from day to day. Both sides have of late been trying to patch up their differences in Europe, but that is because they are preparing for a showdown in the Far East. Since the collapse of Germany in Europe, Soviet Russia has been taking an increasing interest in the affairs of Asia. Had it not been for this, M Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Minister, would not have declared at San Francisco that the day was not far off when the voice of Free India will be heard in the world.

While the war in the East will be going on, surprising developments are bound to take place in the domain of international affairs. Some of these developments will not be favourable to our enemies, and they will afford India further opportunities for achieving her independence. Syria and the Lebanon, in spite of the Allied victory in Europe, are fully utilising the international situation for achieving their independence.By using England and the United States of America against French imperialism, Syria and the Lebanon are setting an example to India as to how India can utilise the present international situation for winning her freedom. There is no doubt that if today Syria and the Lebanon are using Britain and America against France, the day is not far off when other Arab States will use other friendly powers against Britain. British politicians realise this, and they realise also that India will utilise the support of friendly Powers for winning her independence, and some of these friendly Powers may come from inside the camp of the United Nations. During the course of this war India has become a live issue in world politics, and there is no doubt that in all international conferences in future the Indian issue will be raised. British politicians, therefore, want to prevent India remaining an international issue any longer, and want to convert India into a domestic issue of the British Empire. Let us not forget that the moment there is a compromise between nationalist India and Britain, India will become a domestic issue of the British Empire, and it will then be impossible for foreign Powers such as Soviet Russia to intervene on behalf of Indian independence.

In spite of the recent military successes of our enemies, India has been making rapid progress towards her goal of independence. In addition to what the Indian people have been doing at home, two distinct forces have been working for India's independence. Firstly, those who have been fighting with arms against India's enemies, and, secondly, those who have been advocating India's independence before the bar of world opinion. Those who have hitherto been fighting with arms against India's enemies shall go on fighting in future. So far as the Indian National Army is concerned, it will go on fighting to the last man and to the last round. Similarly, those who have made India an international issue and who have been advocating on India's behalf before the world will also go on doing so. The forces working outside India, coupled with the resistance inside India, are irresistible. If you, my countrymen at home, cannot fight British imperialism with arms, then at least keep up moral resistance to our enemy by refusing to compromise with him or to fight his imperialist war.

In this connection, I want to make an honest appeal to Mahatma Gandhi, to the President and members of the Congress Working Committee, and to the millions of Congressmen and Congresswomen who stand behind them that they should not judge the international situation wrongly at this critical moment. A mistake in appraising the international situation is likely to lead to a wrong step in Indian politics. India is not beaten. We have not fallen yet. The presentinternational situation is not unfavourable to us. On the contrary, it is much to our advantage and will become more so in the days to come. Why then should we think of a compromise now, why then should we accept the offer which we deliberately rejected three years ago?

I speak now as an ordinary member of the Congress, who throughout his whole public life has faithfully served the Congress and the cause of India's independence. Even if you, my sisters and brothers at home, feel that our allies will be ultimately defeated and that the Anglo-Americans will ultimately emerge triumphant, there is still no reason to despair so far as India is concerned. No matter what happens in world politics in future, India is bound to win. India's star is definitely in the ascendant. Do not try to drag it down by a wrong step at this juncture. We have suffered long and have suffered much. Let us suffer a little more and a little longer. But, by all means let us stick to our guns till the end of this war. Sisters and brothers at home, don't you understand why Lord Wavell is in such a beastly hurry? Don't you understand why he has rejected the suggestion of Mr Jinnah to postpone the Simla Conference? To us outside India the matter is very simple and very clear. The general election in Britain takes place on July 5. The Conservative Party wants to prevent India becoming an election issue. That is why Wavell's offer was flung upon us one month before the general elections in England. Nobody knows what the result of the general election may be. But everybody knows that whether the Labour Party gets a clear majority or not, it will, in any case, emerge much stronger in Parliament after July 5. The Conservative Party is afraid that if the Labour Party comes to power and if in the meantime the Indian problem is not settled, the Labour Party is bound to make another attempt to solve the Indian question. Personally, I do not believe in bargaining, because, for me there can be no compromise over India's independence. But if you are keen on bargaining, and if you are determined to compromise over India's independence, then I beg you not to commit yourselves before July 5. I do not know what was in the mind of Mr Jinnah when he asked for the postponement of the Simla Conference, but if he intended to avoid playing his trump card before July 5, then I must express my admiration for his political sagacity and farsightedness. I can make a clear prediction that Lord Wavell will move heaven and earth to arrive at a decision before July 5. If he succeeds, it will be a feather in the cap of the Conservative Party and will help considerably to swell the votes of the Conservative Party's candidates at the elections. Moreover, if Lord Wavell succeeds in arriving at an agreement with the Congress before July 5, and if thereafter the Labour Party comes to power, then the Conservative Party will be able to prevent the Labour Cabinet reopening the Indian issue.

It is not my intention to say that I believe in bargaining with the Labour Party. Far from it. My own plan is clear, and that is to go on fighting with the Azad Hind Fauj to the last man and to the last drop of our blood. But if you are not prepared to go that way because you regard it as a perilous adventure, and if you are determined on bargaining with the British Government, then I should say that the time for bargaining is after July 5. If you do not come to an agreement with Lord Wavell before July 5, then you will help to swell the votes of the Labour Party's candidates at the general elections. We won't forget that both the Cripps offer and the Wavell offer have been made under the auspices of a predominantly Tory Cabinet. The Labour Party has, on both occasions, been a minority party, and the initiative and responsibility did not rest with the Labour leaders. If Lord Wavell fails in his endeavour, it is inevitable that the British public would like to give the Labour Cabinet another chance to tackle the Indian issue. Therefore, to sum up, if you believe in bargaining, then break with Lord Wavell and reject his offer. It will undoubtedly aid the Labour Party at the polls and will enable the Labour Party to come into office. After that the Labour Party will certainly take the initiative in reopening the Indian issue, hoping that it will succeed where the Conservative Party had failed. Remember, my conviction is that if there is any other Cabinet after July 5. that Cabinet will consider it as a matter of duty and necessity to solve a problem which has remained unsolved for a long time. Therefore, with the Labour Cabinet you can strike a bargain which will be much more advantageous to India than a bargain with Lord Wavell dictated by the Conservatives

Sisters and brothers at home! I shall adress you again tomorrow at about this time. Today before I close, I should like to say one thing more. You are now violently condemning the Viceroy and you are criticising him for giving an equal number of seats in the Executive Council to caste Hindus and to Muslims. But why don't you go deeper into the question and find out the idea behind it? So far not one single Indian leader has done so, judging from the reports that are now before me. I regret that the members of the Hindu Mahasabha have taken what appears to be their own peculiar line. Our objection should not be to Muslims getting a majority of spats on the Executive Council.The moot question is what type of Muslims will come into the Executive Council? If we have Muslims of the type of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Asaf Ali and Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, the destiny of India will be safe. And I personally believe that it is only right to give all the freedom to such patriots. There is no difference between a patriotic Muslim and a patriotic Hindu. The British intention in the present case is to give all the Muslim seats to the nominees of the Muslim League. Seats reserved for the caste Hindus should all be given to the Congress. For the remaining seats the Viceroy will appoint his own nominee, who will act according to the Viceroy's directions.

Consequently, with the Muslim League acting in full cooperation with the British Government, the Congress Party in the Executive Council will become a permanent minority. Thus, by a clever stratagem the Viceroy will not only continue to rule India arbitrarily as he has done uptil now, but he will continue to do so in future with the help of the Congress.

Now the question arises as to whether the Muslim League members in the Executive Council will cooperate with the Viceroy. Personally, I am absolutely certain that they will do so because the Viceroy has agreed to give them a weightage in his Executive Council. If the Muslim League cooperates with the British Government in its war effort, then the British purpose of exploiting Indian manpower and resources for fighting Britain's imperialist war will be easily fulfilled.

I have no doubt in my mind that in the offer of Lord Wavell there is a secret understanding, either explicit or implicit, between the Muslim League and the British Government. But it is Mr Jinnah and his colleagues who will outwit Wavell. In the Executive Council the Muslim League Party will carry out Britain's war policy in order to realise their plan of Pakistan as a reward for the Muslim League's cooperation in Britain's war effort. The Congress Party, if it accepts this offer, will become a permanent minority in the Executive Council. Nevertheless, she will have to carry out Britain's war policy as part of the compromise. After cooperation of the Congress has been secured by the British Government through this clever stratagem the British will try to get the Congress to agree to bring about the vivisection of India, namely, Pakistan. In the meantime the Congress will have committed political suicide by accepting a position in which it will have admitted that it is not the representative of the Indian people, but only one party among several parties in India.

"I, therefore, ask you, nay, I implore you, to ponder deeply over the matter and reject this shameless and sinister plan of Lord Wavell. I can understand those leaders who have so far declined to say anything about the merit of Lord Wavell's offer. But I am painfully surprised to find that some of those leaders who have spoken, like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, have not insisted on the release of all the political prisoners prior to the Simla Conference. They have not even criticised the Viceroy for ignoring altogether those who were imprisoned prior to the disturbances of 1942, as well as those who were imprisoned after these disturbances. All that the Viceroy has said is that the Congressmen should behave like good boys and accept his offer, and that the release of those who were imprisoned in connection with the 1942 disturbances should be considered by the new Executive Council. There is not even a guarantee that they will all be released by the new Executive Council.

"In conclusion, I want to say that though I do not agree with the line of approach of the members of the Hindu Mahasabha and of the anti-Pakistan front, I feel very strongly that they have done a great service to India by giving an outspoken expression of their opposition to Lord Wavell's plan. In fact, I should go one step further and say that at this critical juncture it is the duty of all right-thinking and patriotic Indians, particularly of all progressive Congressmen, to start a raging and tearing campaign all overthe country against Lord Wavell’s offer. Mahatma Gandhi has always been responsive to public opinion as a leader should be. By declining to represent the Congress officially at the Simla Conference, he has done the right thing and has kept himself free to adopt the line which he thinks is right and in accordance with the wishes of the people and in the true interests of India. I have no doubt in my mind that public opinion, and in particular, the opinion among the rank and file of the Congress, should oppose this plan without delay. Mahatma Gandhi will not fail to take notice of it and he will then advise the Congress to reject the unwanted offer. Sisters and brothers, the destiny of India now lies in your hands; be up and doing and see to it that Lord Wavell's offer goes the same way as the Cripps offer of 1942.

"Jai Hind.