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>>

First Speech from Tokyo, Broadcast

Countrymen and friends! In April last, you heard my voice over another radio in another part of the world. Now I am in Tokyo, and I am accepting the hospitality of the broadcasting station here in order to speak to you again. Since I spoke to you last no important change has taken place in the general war situation. In the western theatre, the Anglo-American forces have scored a success, and the fighting in North Africa has come to an end. The Anglo-Americans have followed this up by occupying a few small and barren islands in the Mediterranean. As is customary with Anglo-American propagandists, they had been rending the skies with their boasting and bragging, subsequent to this small military success which they achieved. Prior to this, they have been boasting about the Anglo-American landings in North Africa and claiming that an African victory would finally determine the result of the war. Now that Allied victory has been achieved in North Africa they are still as far from winning the war as they were at the end of 1940. These propaganda tactics make it clear that they badly need some success — however insignificant — to bolster up the sinking morale of their people. If one were to listen to the broadcasts from England and America after the campaign in Tunisia, as I have been doing, one would think that the Anglo-American forces have already won the war. This type of propaganda had brought good results during the last world war, when radio broadcasting was virtually unknown. That is why the Anglo-Americans have been indulging in it again. They are however blissfully oblivious of the fact that the world is not as unsophisticated today as it was in 1915 and 1916, and that broadcasting has now enabled people in every corner of the globe to listen to both versions of the story on every point. Moreover, the Indian public, having been repeatedly deceived by cunning and lying British propaganda, has now become extremely cautious, and is not likely to be influenced at all 'by one-sided enemy propaganda. I have, therefore, no doubt in my mind that so far as my countrymen are concerned, they will never be deceived by what London or New York or Boston might say.

After the Anglo-American occupation of some small and barren islands in the Mediterranean like Pantelleria and Lampedusa, enemy propagandists have given the whole world the impression that a landing on and occupation of the European continent is now a question of a few days. When I was in Paris, soon after the first Anglo-American landing in French North Africa, I heard from many Parisians that Anglo-American radio stations had given them the impression that Anglo-American troops would be in Paris in a fortnight's time. Those Frenchmen who were elated over this news naturally suffered a severe disappointment when the Anglo-Americans did not appear in France again after the shameful debacle at Dieppe. I am afraid that all those people who are still hoping for the miracle of an Anglo-American victory have painful disappointment in store for them. These optimists will soon realise that the occupation of the European continent is still as remote as the occupation of the moon.

Friends, you will certainly remember that when the campaign in Africa was going on, I repeatedly told you that for the ultimate outcome of the war, the African campaign will not play an important role, though it has been fully utilised by the Anglo-Americans for propagandist purposes. You will now realise that what I said then was no exaggeration. The campaign in North Africa has ended, but we have not come any nearer to the end of the war, than when fighting was going on in the Cyrenaica or Tripolitania or Tunisia. The fact is, as I have told you more than once, that the fate of the war depends on the situation in Europe, in Asia and on the high seas. And so far as India is concerned, what is the most important of all is the situation nearer India. No amount of Anglo-American propaganda can either ignore or hide the fact that, after achieving brilliant victories in Hong Kong, in the Philippines, in the East Indies, in Malaya and Singapore, and in Burma, the forces of the Imperial Japanese Army now stand on the frontiers of India.

During the whole history of British rule in India, it has never struck one single British general that at some time in the future some enemy of Britain may appear on the Eastern frontier of India. The whole attention of Britain's military strategists had, therefore, been concentrated on the North-Western frontier of India. Hence, with the naval fortress of Singapore in their possession, our rulers thought that India was safe and secure in their hands. But the phenomenal advance of the Japanese brought victory and opened the eyes of the world to the worthlessness of British strategy. Since then General Wavell has been making feverish attempts to put up fortifications on the eastern frontier of India. But what the Indian people today are asking is this: 'If it took 20 years to build Singapore, and only one week to lose it, how long will it take the ever-retreating British Commander-in-Chief or his successor to withdraw from his eastern fortifications ?’

You have seen that during the course of the present war Anglo-American Powers have time and again made themselves the laughing stock of the world by beginning a military campaign to the accompaniment of boastful propaganda and extravagant claims. They are now doing this in connection with their contemplated occupation of the European continent. They did it some months ago when General Wavell started operations on the Indo-Burma frontier and marched into Burma. At that time, it was advertised all over the world that the campaign for the re-conquest of Burma had begun. But what face could the British Commander-in-Chief show when his troops had to run back to India, leaving all their bag and baggage behind as soon as the powerful Japanese Army began its counter-offensive? General Wavell has subsequently invented all kinds of excuses in order to cover his defeat. Even the British Prime Minister, during his recent visit to America, was at pains to explain away the ignominious failure of his Commander-in-Chief to re-take Burma. But what one cannot understand is why the Anglo-American Powers repeatedly indulged in premature bragging. In contrast to them, the Axis Powers talk less, and instead of beginning a military campaign with a bumptious propaganda campaign they leave actual events to speak for themselves. When the German forces occupied the Channel Islands, which lie between the French and the English coasts, in 1940, German propaganda never claimed that through the occupation of these islands, the German Army had come nearer to an invasion of England. If, as Anglo-American propaganda is now trying to make out, the occupation of Pantelleria has made landings on and the occupation of Sicily a reasonable certainty, why could not the Anglo-American forces make that attempt from the island fortress of Malta, which is as near to Sicily as Pantelleria and has been always in their possession? No, friends, the fact is that the Anglo-American Powers are in such a hopeless situation that they have somehow to bolster up the sinking morale of their people, and in order to do that, they feel constrained to resort to premature boasting again and again. Such tactics may be a necessity for their propaganda, but that is no reason why the world, which is now wide awake, should be duped by them. For India, what is of primary importance is not what is happening in Tunisia and Timbuctoo or in Lampedusa and Alaska, but what is happening inside India and across her frontier.

What is of primary importance to us is that the much-advertised re-conquest of Burma has ended in shameful retreat, that the victorious Japanese army is standing on our eastern frontier, that the Government of Japan, through its worthy Prime Minister, General Tojo, has repeatedly declared its fullest support to Indian independence and its firm resolve to see Anglo-American power and influence expelled from India. And, lastly, that Japan's Prime Minister has offered active assistance, should the Indian revolutionaries need it, in their struggle for complete national independence. What is also of direct importance to India is the policy of British Imperialism towards our country.

You know as well as I do that when this war broke out some of our friends thought that since the British Government would soon find itself in serious difficulties, it would feel constrained to sue for peace with the party that controlled the cabinets in eight out of 11 provinces in British India. According to these friends all that the Congress had to do was to hold itself in patience till the British Government was compelled to make the first advance. A year rolled by but there was no evidence of this change of heart on the British side. Then those friends considered it necessary to exert mild pressure on the British Government in order to bring about a compromise. Various steps were taken in this behalf, but no tangible results followed. Even the fall of Singapore, 'the greatest disaster in British military history' according to Mr Winston Churchill, and the loss of Burma did not bring about any appreciable change. British Imperialism remained inexorable. Men may come and men may go, empires may come and empires may go, but British Imperialism goes on for ever. That is what our rulers continued to think. You may call this lack of statesmanship or political bankruptcy or mid-summer madness. But, this midsummer madness has its own explanation. The British Empire has grown out of India. The British people, no matter to which political party they belong, have grown fat on the spoils, the wealth and the resources of India. To them, the empire today means India. They are now fighting in order to preserve that empire. If they are to win the war at the cost of recognising India's Independence, it will amount to winning the war by losing the empire. Consequently, no matter what fate overtakes Britain during the course of this war, the average Englishman will endeavour to the very last to hold on to his empire, that is to hold on to India. Therefore, if I were to speak frankly, I should say that it is not midsummer madness that British politicians refuse to recognise India's independence, though they are in a terrible plight. It is midsummer madness that we should expect the Englishman to voluntarily give up his empire, simply because he has fallen on evil days. There is another factor that accounts for the unrelenting policy of British imperialists. As the Foreign Minister of Germany said the other day in his inimitable style, the British Empire has been losing one part of its territory to its enemies, and another part of it to its friends during the course of the present war. Moreover, in his frantic efforts to maintain his empire, John Bull is now bleeding himself white. The only hope of even partially making up for this colossal loss is to exploit India more ruthlessly when the war is over Therefore, according to imperialistic logic, the worse England's position becomes during this war, the more difficult will it be to retain a firm grip over India. British Imperialism will ultimately break, but it will never bend. That is how empires have always behaved in the history of mankind. Consequently, no Indian should ever cherish the illusion that one day England will be induced to recognise India's independence.

But that is not to say that British politicians will never again attempt a compromise with India. Another attempt at a compromise will be made any time, whether under the pressure of a worsening military situation, or in order to placate the liberal elements in England and America. Personally, I expect another such attempt sometime this year. But what I want to point out more emphatically is that in attempting a compromise, British politicians will never recognise India's independence but will only try to bluff the Indian people, and through protracted negotiations will only try to sidetrack the issue of independence and thereby undermine the national will, as they did between December 1941 and July 1942. The negotiations carried on by Sir Stafford Cripps during the last year did not harm the British Government in any way. It only interrupted our struggle for freedom. Therefore, we should once for all set our face against any compromise with British imperialism. Friends, independence admits of no compromise. Freedom has only one connotation, namely, that the British and their Allies must quit India for good. And those who really want liberty must fight for it, and pay for it with their own blood.

Countrymen and friends, let us therefore carry on the fight for liberty inside India with all our strength and vigour. Let us continue the battle with resolute heart, and with unshakable faith, till one day under the combined attack of our friends and allies, and of ourselves, Anglo-American imperialism will be overthrown, the British Empire will be broken up, and out of its ashes a new India will once again emerge as an independent nation. In this struggle there is no going back, there can be no faltering. We must march forward and forward, till victory is achieved and freedom won. Inquilab Zindabad! Azad Hind Zindabad!