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 broadcast over Berlin Radio

Sisters and brothers! After the fall of the island-fortress of Singapore, the other bastions of British and Allied imperialism in the Far East have been rapidly surrendering. Rangoon has now fallen, and the Burmese people can once again breathe freely as they did in the days of old, when their land glittered with golden palaces and pagodas and their rich green fields smiled in prosperity. The words of Germany's Foreign Minister, uttered on November 26, 1941, have proved to be prophetic, and Britain is losing her positions one after another. Nothing is visible on the horizon that can possibly arrest the collapse and break-up of her vast Empire. Since the beginning of the present war, Britain, in accordance with her traditions, has sought to get other peoples and nations to fight her battles and also to provide the sinews of war. But these tactics have been unavailing, and Britain has, therefore, been beaten in every major conflict, whether in the west or in the east.

From September 1939 onwards, the Indian people have continuously appealed to the British Government to demonstrate their bona fides by applying the principles of freedom and democracy to India. Some nationalists have even gone so far as to offer their full support to Britain's war in the event of India's national demand being fulfilled. The only reply from the British side has been a refusal, not plain and blunt, as we would have preferred, but perfidious and hypocritical. The British, who have endeavoured to create dissensions among the Indian people throughout the period of their rule in India, have put forward these artificially engineered dissensions as an excuse for denying self-determination to India. Not content with such hypocrisy, British propagandists tried to persuade the Indian people that their country stood in danger of enemy attack, and that the frontiers of India were, therefore, at Suez and Hong Kong. On this pretext, Indian troops were forcibly sent right up to Libya and France on the West, and to Singapore and Hong Kong on the East, against the declared will of the Indian people. But as a matter of fact India has no imaginary Wavellian frontiers; she has a national geographical boundary determined by Providence and nature. It is only the British Empire that has frontiers extending from north to south and from east to west, and it is this Empire, whether ruled by a Conservative or by a Labour Cabinet, that has deprived the Indian people of life and liberty as well as bread and arms. To save such an Empire, and incidentally to ensure their own slavery, the Indian people have been asked to give their blood, toil, tears and sweat  in  unmeasured  quantity, though in reality India has no enemy outside her own frontiers.

For some time past there has been a change in Britain's tactics. Indian and other troops are being sent to India and the people are being told that the war is now coming to India. But who has been moving earth and heaven to bring India into the war zone? If the British Government had not declared India a belligerent in September 1939, and had not tried by all means, fair and foul, to exploit the wealth, manpower, the raw materials and the industrial resources of India for feeding Britain's war machine; if the British Government had not converted India into a big military base, and if India had, on the contrary, been allowed to remain neutral, like Eire, there would have been no possibility of India coming within the area of the present war. But by the most cunning procedure, Britain has endeavoured to drag India into the war-zone with a view to ultimately securing India's voluntary cooperation in Britain's selfish war efforts. It is, therefore, high time that the Indian people saw through the dirty game which British politicians are now playing, namely, to bring the war into India, just as in September 1939 they were responsible for bringing India into the war.

Such tactics, however, should not cause any surprise, because since 1939 the British have continually attempted to bring the war into other people's lands. From Norway to Crete and from Libya to Hong Kong, they have instigated and provoked other people to fight, and at the crucial hour they have themselves escaped, leaving others in the lurch as we have witnessed again and again from Dunkirk to Batavia. It is useless to expect the British to keep India out of the war-zone and out of the sufferings, misery and privation which modern war entails. In the course of military operations, they will not hesitate for one moment to apply the scorched-earth tactics to our own country. The Empire, which was born of robbery and greed and which thrives on injustice and oppression, will continue to exploit and terrorise so long as it survives. But if the Indian people want to keep their country out of the arena of war, they must themselves remove Britain's military base from India, and put an end to Britain's exploitation of India for imperialist war purposes.

The victory of the British Empire will mean the perpetuation of our own slavery, and only through the complete overthrow of that Empire is India's emancipation possible. Consequently, any Indian who now works for Britain acts against the best interests of his country and is a traitor to the cause of liberty. Indian nationalists will have to fight not only their imperialist rulers, but also the lackeys of British Imperialism, the Mir Jaffars and Umi Chands of today, and to everybody it should be clear as daylight that to think of compromise with an Empire that will soon disappear is not only futile but ridiculous.

The British Prime Minister, Mr Churchill, has in his recent utterance before Parliament promised Dominion Status to India as soon as possible after the war is over. Under his mandate, Sir Stafford Cripps is to visit India in order to bring about an agreement between the different sections of the people, and to decide what political concessions should be granted at present. Only one who lives in a fool's paradise could imagine that India still cares for Dominion Status within the Empire, and that a single Indian could be found who still has the least faith in British promises which are to be redeemed after the termination of the war. People in India know full well that the much-advertised and so-called dissensions are an artificial creation, and that as long as the British remain in India they will continue their nefarious policy of 'divide and rule'. Mr Churchill and his cabinet will soon realise that political promises thrown at the Indian people from Westminster will not bring them over to the British side. The British Empire is going the way of all other Empires of the past, and out of its ashes will rise a free and united India. The visit of Sir Stafford Cripps or of any other British politician at this late hour is, therefore, of no consequence to India, and will not arouse interest in that country.

In the present Armageddon, therefore, is a desperate attempt on the one side to maintain the status quo that has sprung out of the Treaty of Versailles and similar treaties of the past, while on the other, there is the determination to destroy the old order and usher in a new one. In such a conflict, India has nothing to lose but her chains, and the hopes and aspirations of the Indian people can be fulfilled not through the maintenance, but only through the destruction of the old order — which signifies for them humiliation, slavery and death.

Taking a bird's eye view of modern history, I feel convinced that as the last World War led to the dissolution of some old and decadent empires, so will this War culminate in the dismemberment of the British Empire, the last anachronism in modern politics. The Tripartite Powers — Germany, Italy and Japan — through whom this consummation will be brought about, are accordingly our natural friends and allies. It is the blackest lie to say that these Powers constitute a menace to India. From my intimate knowledge of these three nations, I can assert on the contrary that they have nothing but sympathy and goodwill for India and for Indian independence. If ever there was any doubt on this point, the recent historic declaration of the Prime Minister of Japan, General Tojo, should reassure my countrymen once for all, and no Indian should in future allow himself to be duped by British propaganda. Let us, therefore, rejoice that under the simultaneous blows of the Tripartite Powers, the British Empire, our eternal foe, is fast crumbling. Let us rejoice over the rapid and victorious advance of the Japanese forces in the Far East. Let us rejoice that the old order which was set up at Versailles is crashing before our very eyes, and let us rejoice over the coming dawn, which will bring for India freedom and justice, happiness and prosperity.

Inquilab Zindabad! Azad Hind Zindabad!