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 over Azad Radio (Germany)

This is Subhas Chandra Bose speaking. I shall now address an open letter to Sir Stafford Cripps, in English.

Dear Sir Stafford Cripps,

The world has been told that you have undertaken a mission on behalf of the British Prime Minister and the cabinet to go to India and try to save India for the British Empire. It is understandable that the present Prime Minister and the cabinet should make use of you for this purpose. But it passes one's comprehension that you, Sir Stafford, should accept such a job. You are well aware of the reactionary character of the present Cabinet. The presence of Labourites in it does not alter its real character. Having been forced to keep company with the Labour Party some years ago, you perhaps know more than anybody how unprogressive that party is, particularly on questions dealing with India and other suppressed nations of the Empire. Mr Ramsay MacDonald's National Cabinet could at least claim to have Labour support, but even that is lacking in the present Cabinet.

In the days when you fought with the British Labour Party in vindication of your own principles and convictions, you commanded the admiration of many people including myself. You have been so anti-Imperialist in your outlook that you even advocated the abolition of the monarchy which has served as the corner-stone of British Imperialism. That fundamental position of yours has altered so radically that you accepted a portfolio under Mr Winston Churchill, than whom a more anti-Indian Englishman it is difficult to find in the whole of Britain. People who know you personally, or who have followed your career with interest, are consequently quite puzzled at your present political stand. One can easily understand Mr Churchill. He is an imperialist, believing in the policy of brute force and he makes no bones about it. Even the British Labour Party's attitude we can perhaps understand. British Labour leaders are in reality as imperialistic as the Conservatives are, though they may talk in a more polite and seductive manner. We have faced the Labour Party's administration in 1924 and again from 1929 to 1931.

On both these occasions we had to spend our time in British prisons, sometimes without any trial whatsoever. India will never forget that between 1929 and 1931 a Labour Cabinet was responsible for putting about 100,000 men and women into prison, for ordering large-scale lathi charges on men and women all over the country, for shooting down of defenceless crowds as in Peshawar, and for burning houses and dishonouring women as in the villages of Bengal. You were one of the sharpest critics of the Labour Party when in London in January 1938, I had the pleasure of making your acquaintance. But today you appear to be quite a different man.

You may perhaps say that your task is to bring about a reconciliation between India and England. But your Cabinet has made it perfectly clear that the offer to India is not one of independence but of Dominion Status within the Empire, and further, that Dominion Status will be promulgated not immediately but at the end of the war. You have just declared in Delhi that your attitude towards India is the same as that of Mr Churchill. We are grateful to you for such frankness, but are you not aware what the Indian people think of British promises? Are you not also aware that the history of British rule In India is a history of broken pledges and unredeemed promises? And knowing as you do that the Indian National Congress stands for undiluted independence is it not an insult to India that a man of your position and reputation should go out there with such an offer in his pocket? Another matter which has pained all patriotic Indians is that your programme is to get into touch with leaders of all possible parties in India, no matter whether they are representatives of the masses or individuals. You at least should be aware that some of these parties have so far been used by British politicians as a counter-blast to the Congress and in order to minimise its influence and importance. It is also surprising that you are reassuring the Princes that they have nothing to fear from the coming changes. Your work in respect of the Princes was already taken in hand by the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, in anticipation of your arrival. To a neutral observer therefore, your role appears to be the same historic role of deceit and duplicity which British politicians have played In the past.

At the beginning of this war British politicians talked very loudly of freedom and democracy. At the same time, they have been bolstering up the claims of minorities in order to exaggerate India's differences, and thereby keep India under perpetual domination. The minorities problem is not something peculiar to India, it is to be found all the world over. If British politicians really believe in democracy why don't they apply the democratic solution to India and solve the Indian problem? British politicians and the British propaganda machine have been continually reminding us since 1939 that the Axis Powers are a menace to India and now we are being told that India is in danger of an attack by the enemy. But is not this sheer hypocrisy? India has no enemies outside her own frontiers. Her one enemy is British Imperialism and the only adversary that India has to get rid of is the perpetual aggression of British Imperialism. It was the British Government that declared India to be a belligerent power against the will of the Indian people and have since then been forcibly exploiting the resources of India for Britain's war purposes. Further, it was the same Government that interned and imprisoned in India the nationals of Germany, Italy and Japan after the outbreak of war. The Axis Powers and the Indian people realise that they are not at war with one another, and the former have not, therefore, imprisoned Indian nationals living in their countries, and have nothing but sympathy and goodwill for them. I am convinced that If India does not participate in Britain's war there is not the least possibility of India being attacked by any of the Axis Powers.