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>>

Speech Delivered at Bangkok to Celebrate Provisional Government Day

Sisters and Brothers,

After I spoke to you in January last, the war situation has undergone considerable change. In Europe, German resistance has collapsed completely. Here, in Burma, we have lost the first round in our fight for freedom. Nevertheless, there is no reason why we should lose heart. If our enemies did not lose heart when they were expelled from Europe and East Asia—if your enemies, despite such staggering defeat, would continue the war and even launch a counter-offensive, we should exhibit at least as much strength and tenacity as our enemies have. You know that I have always said that we shall deserve to be free, only if we are more courageous, more tenacious, and more far-sighted than our enemies. If our enemies, after being expelled from Burma, could stage a comeback, there is no reason why we should not return to Burma again. The main point is whether our morale has broken down and whether we consider ourselves to be beaten. The Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in the last European War, Marshal Foch, once made a historic remark—"That army only is beaten which considers itself beaten." Among those who have come with me from Burma, there is not one man or woman who considers himself or herself to be beaten. No doubt we have lost one round in India's war of liberation, but many more rounds are to be followed, and the last round will decide the final result of this war. War is in many ways like a match between two wrestlers. When the wrestlers are more or less equal in strength, victory will go to him who can hold out longer. If we have more spiritual strength than our enemies, then only shall we deserve to win freedom. Unfortunately, there are among us a few men who get easily upset and even panicky over slight setbacks. This is the psychological effect of slavery. The Indian people will have to overcome this weakness and to carry on the fight under all circumstances if they are to win in the long run.

There is another thing I should like to tell you in this connection. In a modern war and especially in a war of the present magnitude, many things may happen which are least expected or anticipated. A famous military strategist and one of the founders of the science of the modern warfare, the German General and writer, Clausewitz once said, “Warhas many Surprises." I shall give you a few instances to illustrate the truth of this remark. In the Balkan War of 1912, four Powers, Rumania, Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia made a combined attack on Turkey. Turkey was defeated in one battle after another, until the Balkan Powers almost reached the gates of Constantinople (Istanbul). Everything seemed to be lost for the Turks and there was not even a glimmer of hope. All of a sudden, disagreement and discord broke out among the four Balkan Powers which quickly developed into a war among themselves. Constantinople was saved. The Turkish forces launched a counter-offensive and they managed to recover most of the lost territories. We see, therefore that if Turkey had surrendered when all hopes seem to have gone, she would not have been able to turn the tide of the war as she actually did.

Take another example from the recent history of Turkey. In the last World War, Turkey fought alongside of Germany and Austria-Hungary. But she was ultimately beaten. Constantinople, the proud capital of Ottoman Empire, was occupied by the Allied forces and the Sultan who was also the Caliph, was virtually made a prisoner. Seeing that the war was completely lost, the Sultan submitted to all humiliative treatment imposed by the Allied forces and asked the Turks to cease all resistance. In that dark hour, there was, however, one man who would not accept defeat. Mustafa Kemal Pasha, who was then only one of the able Turkish officers, left Constantinople and crossed over to Anatolia. He got together a band of faithful officers and with their help organised a new Army from among the Anatolian Turks. That Army proved to be invincible and the Turks, by their valour, tenacity and indomitable faith, recovered the freedom and victory that they had lost when they had such powerful allies as Germany, and Austria-Hungary. It is indeed one of the miracles of history that Turkey was badly beaten when she was fighting side by side with powerful allies and that when she put up a fight all alone after her defeat, she cameout victorious in the long run. The secret of this miraclewas that Kemal Pasha and his fellow-fighters did not accept the defeat at a time when all the other Turks headed by the Sultan himself did so.

I shall now give another instance from another part of the world, namely, Ireland. During the last World War, when Ireland's enemy, Britain, was engaged in life and death struggle for her own existence, the Irish revolutionaries made a bid for freedom. True to their motto that "Britain's difficulty is Ireland's opportunity" they rose in revolt during the Easter Week of 1916. The Easter rebellion was, however, crushed inside of a week. At that time, there were Irish people, who called their own revolutionaries "Madmen." But though the Easter rebellion was crushed so easily, the forces of revolution continued to work among the Irish people, and ultimately broke out in a more powerful revolution in 1919— that is, one year after the end of the war. It is a strange phenomenon in history that while the British could easily crush the Irish rebellion of 1916 at a time when they were engaged in a life and death struggle, they had to acknowledge defeat at the hands of the same Irish revolutionaries after they (the British) emerged victorious from the World War. If the Irish revolutionaries had accepted defeat in 1916, the revolution of 1919 would not have taken place and Ireland would not have been what she is today.

Similar phenomenon took place in India. During the World War I the Indian revolutionaries tried to organise a rebellion in order to overthrow the British Power in India. That attempt was easily crushed. But the spirit of the Indian people did not acknowledge defeat. After Britain's victory in the last war and after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919, a political awakening of the Indian people under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi took place on such a grand scale that the British had not been able to suppress it up to now.

The lesson to be derived from all these events is that a nation which loses its morale and its faith in ultimate victory can never hope to be victorious. On the other hand, if in spite of temporary setbacks and defeat we continue the struggle with undiminished faith in our final success, then no power on earth can deprive us of our well-deserved victory. Since we are fighting for justice and truth and for the birth-right of liberty, and since we are prepared to pay the full price of that liberty, freedom is bound to come if only we fight on.

There is no need to hide the fact that we have lost the first round in our war of liberation. But that does not mean that the fighting in Burma has come to an end. On the contrary, the Azad Hind Fauj and the Japanese Army are still fighting on various fronts in Burma and they will continue the fighting so long as it is humanly possible to do so. Those of us who left Burma have not withdrawn from the fight. We have come with the sole intention of continuing the struggle on other fronts. We are moving from one battle-field to another. We have but one goal before us—and only one method of achieving that goal—the method of armed struggle. Therefore, the various reverses we have suffered recently in Burma do not affect our future programme in any way. "CHALO DELHI" continues to be the slogan and the war-cry of the Azad Hind Fauj. It may be that we shall not go to Delhi via Imphal. But the roads to Delhi are many like the roads to Rome. And along one of these many roads we shall travel and ultimately reach our destination, the Metropolis of India.

In all our recent experiences there is one thing which is to us tragic and humiliating. Whatever reverses we have suffered during a campaign of about 15 months, have been due not so much to the British forces, as to the British Indian Army. In the spring of 1944 was the British Indian Army that barred our way to Imphal, Calcutta and Delhi. This year, it has been the British Indian Army, more than anybody else, that has been responsible for the re-entry into Burma of the British. In the lastcentury, it was with the help of India that the British conquered Burma. There is, however, one silver lining in the cloud that has overtaken us and that is that the British Indian Army of today is not the British Indian Army of the last war. Soldiers of the Azad Hind Fauj have had numerous opportunities of coming in close contact with members of the British Indian Army. Very often our soldiers were told by the latter that if they (that is, Azad Hind Fauj) succeed in advancing further, members of the British Indian Army would then come and join them. There is no doubt that at heart large sections of British Indian Army sympathise with the Azad Hind Fauj and its fight for freedom. But the British Indian Army have lost their self-confidence and they are afraid that the British might ultimately win, in which case they would be in a difficult situation. Moreover, they have been influenced to some extent by the propaganda of our enemies that the Azad Hind Fauj (Indian National Army) is a puppet army of the Japanese. After coming into Burma the eyes of the British Indian Army will be opened. They will see for themselves what the Provisional Government of Azad Hind and the Azad Hind Fauj have done and how they have fought for India's freedom. They will hear "JAI HIND"which is the greeting of all free Indians. They will also hear India’s inspiring National Anthem sung by freedom-loving Indians in Burma. The effect of this experience on the British Indian Army, and on all other Indians who have come to Burma alongside of the British, is bound to be great in the days to come.

Friends! I shall once again refer to the war in Europe. There was a time when German armies had advanced inside Russia right up to Stalingrad. I wonder how many people there were who, in those days, could imagine that the tide would turn, that one day the Soviet Army would be in Berlin. Germany's defeat is one of the surprises of this war. Clausewitz was perfectly right when he said that "War has many surprises." But there are more surprises to come and some of these surprises will not be welcome to our enemies. You know very well that I have been always of the opinion that if Germany collapsed, it would be a signal for the outbreak of an acute conflict between the Soviet and the Anglo-Americans. That conflict has already broken out and it will be intensified in thedays to come. The time is not far off when our enemies will realise that though they have succeeded in overthrowing Germany, they have indirectly helped to bring into the arena of European politics another Power, Soviet Russia, that may prove to be a greater menace to British and American imperialism than Germany was. The Provisional Government of Azad Hind will continue to follow international developments with the closest interest and endeavour to take the fullest advantage of them. The fundamental principle of our foreign policy has been and will be: Britain's enemy is India's friend.

It is clear by now that the war aims of the Soviet Union are quite different from those of the Anglo-Americans, although they had a common enemy in Germany. This has been further confirmed at the San Francisco Conference where the Soviet Foreign Commissar M. Molotov refused to submit to the Anglo-American demands. In fact, M. Molotov went so far as to challenge the credentials of the puppets of Britain and America who came to represent India and the Philippines, respectively. The differences that became visible at the San Francisco Conference are only a precursor of a much wider and deeper conflict between the Soviet and the Anglo Americans which the future has in store for the world. While the conflict between the Soviet and the Anglo-Americans is going on we should not fail to understand the real position and strength of our principal enemy—Britain. So long as Britain was without the aid of America whether in Europe or in East Asia, she was badly beaten in every battle. Britain's recent successes have been due first and foremost to American leadership and American assistance. I have no doubt in my mind and I have said so again and again in the past, that thedays of the British Empire are drawing to a close. The British Empire is a decadent and decaying empire, and it is endeavouring now to prolong its life with the help of the United States of America. But though the life of an old man may be prolonged with the help of skilful doctors and efficacious medicines and injections, it can never be restored to useful vitality. The British Empire is endeavouring to march on with the help of the American crutches, but these American crutches cannot help Britain very long. All that we have to do is to deliver a knock-out blow to British imperialism in India which is the basis of Britain's world imperialism.

Our programme in East Asia remains unaltered. I demand from my countrymen in East Asia "Total Mobilisation." We want more money, more men and more materials to replenish the losses we have recently suffered. Above all, we want an indomitable will and unshakable determination. Let me remind you that it took the British full 100 years from 1757 to 1857 to finally subjugate India. Therefore, if we are to fight on for a few years more, inorder to recover our liberty, nobody should grudge it. It is no doubt encouraging to us in East Asia to find that Indians all over the world even in enemy countries are wide-awake. You have seen this recently in the case of San Francisco Conference where Indians in America, headed by Sreemati Vijayalakshmi Pandit, demanded complete independence for India. Even a flunkey of British imperialism, Sir Firoze Khan Noon, had to say in public that nopower on earth could deprive India of her freedom. According to him the forces of Nationalism inside India and world forces outside India, make India's demand for independence irresistible.

In conclusion, I call upon you—my countrymen in East Asia—to come forward and do your duty to India in the difficult days that are still ahead of us. Above all, I want you to cherish the same optimism and confidence in final victory as we have. It is this spiritual strength that is our sheet-anchor. India shall be free and before long. With this unshakable belief let us all continue the struggle for India's emancipation.