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>>

Anti-War Day

It will be remembered that last year the 11th of November was observed as Anti-War Day by Congress organisations throughout the country. Since then much has happened in the Far East and in Europe which has resulted in a progressive deterioration of the international situation. The events of the last few weeks are too fresh in the public mind to need further recounting. Though they came as a surprise to many, those who are in touch with international affairs apprehended such a spring crisis long ago. And there is no reason to think that with the annexation of Memel Land by Germany or of Albania by Italy the crisis has come to an end. All indications point to the conclusion that the international situation will worsen from day to day.

The neo-imperialist powers of Europe seem to have unending schemes of conquest and annexation and are proceeding to give effect to them with planned precision. The old imperialist powers are alarmed for the time being and, to some extent, cowed down. But there is a limit to what they can stand.

The recent moves of Great Britain and France as well as the utterances of some responsible British and French statesmen go to show that these two countries are now preparing to resist.

So far as India is concerned, we have had an indication of this in the Bill recently introduced in the House of Lords to amend the Government of India Act, 1935. The object of this Bill is to make India safe for an imperialist war by empowering the Central Government to rob the provincial Governments of their normal and legitimate powers and functions in the event of a war emergency arising at any time.

I am glad that Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru drew public attention to this all-important matter and the Council of the UP Provincial Congress Committee passed a resolution declaring that any limitations imposed by the Central Government on the existing powers of the provincial Governments would be resisted. I was hoping that the international situation and in particular the situation .created by the amending Bill referred to above, would be duly considered by the All-India Congress Committee and the Working Committee and a definite lead would be given to the country on this matter. But owing to the unfortunate delay in the formation of the Working Committee, I feel it incumbent to do what in my judgment the Working Committee would have done in the circumstances, viz., mobilise public opinion in India in favour of non-participation in an imperialist war.

I, therefore, request that April 23, 1939, be observed throughout India as Anti-War Day. On this day, meetings and demonstrations should be held everywhere at which resolutions should be passed condemning the amending Bill recently introduced in the British Parliament, re-affirming our policy of non-participation in an imperialist war and expressing our solemn resolve to resist non-violently any attempt to involve India in such a war or to exploit India's manpower or natural resources for war purposes. I humbly and earnestly appeal to all sections of the Indian community, regardless of their political creed, to join whole-heartedly in the anti-war meetings and demonstrations on the 23rd of April.

To refresh the public memory I am quoting relevant extracts from the anti-war resolutions passed by the Faizpur and Haripura sessions of the Congress.

The Faizpur resolution declared inter alia: “In the event of such a world war taking place there is grave danger of Indian manpower and resources being utilised for the purposes of British imperialism, and it is, therefore, necessary for the Congress to warn the country again against this and prepare it to resist such exploitation of India and her people. No credits must be voted for such a war and voluntary subscriptions and war loans must not be supported and all other war preparations resisted.”

The Haripura resolution declared inter alia: "India can be no party to such an imperialist war and will not permit her manpower and resources to be exploited in the interests of British Imperialism. Nor can India join any war without the express consent of her people. The Congress, therefore, entirely disapproves of war preparations being made in India and large-scale manoeuvres and air raid precautions by which it has been sought to spread an atmosphere of approaching war in India. In the event of an attempt being made to involve India in a war, this will be resisted.”