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>>

Broadcast from Berlin Radio

Erwin Wickert will now give our German listeners an account of the talk which he had yesterday with Mr Subhas Chandra Bose.

“This fable that India is divided into castes, parties, religions, communities and races and, therefore, cannot rule herself has been invented by British propaganda. Communism has worked in India for British interests ever since 1939, when Germany concluded a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union. The Indian people have proved in practice that they are capable of governing themselves. Just as sure as the victory of the Tripartite Powers is the fact that India will gain her freedom in this war.”

These phrases are the main points of an interview which Subhas Chandra Bose, the leader of the Indian Independence Movement, granted to listeners of the German radio. Calmly and deliberately Bose answered all the questions put in the German language. With sharp, decisive gestures he underlined his words. The discussion was based on the fact that Subhas Chandra Bose employed the radio as the principal propaganda weapon in the struggle for a free India. We in East Asia clearly remember how Bose, following his escape from prison and before his arrival in Germany, spoke over the Free India Radio only a few days after British propaganda claimed that Subhas Chandra Bose was dead. When asked as to which parts of the Indian nation were particularly affected by his movement he answered that like National Socialism his movement embraced the entire Indian population. Then followed these questions and answers:

Q. When the arrival of Your Excellency in Tokyo was announced ten days ago, there was not one among the Indians in Free East Asia who did not welcome this event with great joy. All the great Indian communities in China, the Philippines, Japan, Indo-China, Thailand and Malaya sent you congratulatory telegrams. How does this fact tally with the British claims to the effect that the Indian people are disunited, split up into castes, religions and races which are fighting each other?
A. This is a typical example of lying British propaganda. In my National Movement the religious question does not exist. I have followers among all Indians, in particular among the Mohammedans who, according to the British, pursue separatist aims.

Q. When looking at the political map of India you notice the relatively large states of the Indian Princes besides those parts of the country which are directly under British control. What is the role of Indian Princes in the policy of Your Excellency?
A. The Princes will not be able to stop our movement and its victorious end. They either voluntarily submitted to Britain or are under British pressure. Contrary to what happened in the last World War, they are not playing any political role in the present one. During the last 20 years and under the very eyes of the Princes a national movement for India's independence began throughout the Indian states. It is the people who count today. It is in the Indian states that my movement has found many followers.

Q. Is there any other Indian group which hampers unity to any significant extent? For instance, how about the Communists to whom, apparently on Moscow's pressure, Britain has granted more freedom in India during the last few years?
A. The Third International has been fighting in India for British interests ever since the outbreak of the war in 1939. Since that moment it lost all chances of success with the Indian people. Its political significance has thus decreased. In spite of its alliance with Britain we do not fear to fight against it. The only real danger facing our movement is the desire to bring about a compromise with Great Britain, a wish which is still being voiced by some people in India who have not yet realised facts.

Q. Britain's propaganda bases the claim for domination on the fact that India is not able to govern herself.
Bose only smiled and said that it was difficult for him to take this old British argument seriously. He added: “When the British came to India we had for a long time our own successful governments. We have an age-old history, much older than the British. Apart from this fact, Indian Congress Ministries in the recent past functioned in eight Indian provinces. Though we were not free, we were able to do more for our people during that short period than the British did in the course of their entire domination. Then the social problem of India was, for the first time, seriously tackled. This fact has given the Indian people the necessary self-confidence. We know that we are more capable of administering our country than the British authorities. In 1939, when the war against Germany broke out, the British Parliament took away from the Congress Ministries the rights of self-Government because further progress was considered too dangerous.'

Subhas Chandra Bose then emphasised the similarity between the fate of Germany and India, and pointed out that in the 17th century Britain, according to the motto 'divide et impera’ repeatedly tried to exploit the discord which formerly prevailed in Germany and Europe in favour of her so-called principle of 'balance of power.’ Britain has been doing the same thing in India for a century, and, as formerly in Europe, she plays one Indian party against the other. Though the differences between these parties are not really significant, Britain aggravates them and tells the whole world that India is incapable of governing herself. Britain alone is responsible for the wrong picture which even many well-meaning people still have of India. “I know,” Bose said, “that the Germans, having had personal experience of Britain's policy, understand India and her fight better than any other nation in the world. I am, therefore, convinced that our fight is closely connected with the struggle now being waged by Germany and the other Tripartite Powers. Should we be alone our fight against Britain would be very difficult.”

Bose concluded the interview with the words: “I am firmly convinced that the Tripartite Powers will be victorious, and I believe just as strongly that India will attain independence in this war.”