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>>

Presidential address at the Maharashtra YouthConference

Youth all over the world is impatient with the present order of things. It has a dream, a vision of its own; avision of a better order of things, and it is now gathering strength everywhere to translate that dream into reality. We may be dreamers and visionaries but we firmly believe that dreams of today can become the realities of tomorrow. Inspired by this faith, we are now engaged in aserious battle with the stern realities and obstacles of the day in order to create for ourselves and our countrymen a new social, economic and political order.

I know there, are some who think that a full dose of freedom is not good for us, as it may lead to license. We have no quarrel with them, but neither shall we waste our time and energy by trying to argue with them. We shall only say this that there is some fundamental difference between them and ourselves. We believe that freedom is for all and that the more of it we can have the better for ourselves and for the human race. But, friends, the voice of youth cannot easily make itself heard. Attempts to muzzle it are often made. But even the muzzled voice can be heard by those who take the trouble of straining their ears. So far as our country is concerned I am constrained to say that even within the partake of the Indian National Congress the voice of youth cannot always make itself heard. As a result of this you sometimes notice a conflict between Congress organisation and youth movement in some parts of this country. To those who are in charge of our Congress organisation, I would earnestly appeal to admit into the Congress fold all the radical elements in our society. These radical elements constitute the strength of a party or organisation and to my mind, it is neither safe nor desirable to exclude from our ranks any element that may be radical in outlook.

The debacle that has overtaken the Round Table Conference is in my humble opinion due largely to the fact that at the time of the ill-starredtruce, the voice of youth was more or less ignored. The Round Table Conference should really have been confined to the 'belligerent' parties. Unfortunately, even the loyalists, communalists and non-descripts were admitted to the Round Table Conference and their main object seemed to be not the promotion of the cause of India's freedom but the creation of obstacles in the path of genuine nationalists. In these circumstances, is it surprising that the Conference should end in smoke? The Round Table Conference of today reminds me of the Irish Convention which was meant to be a trap for Sein Feiners of Ireland. But while the Sein Feiners steered clear of this pitfall, we seem to have walked into it. The position would have been quite different today if at the time of the truce, we had insisted that only belligerent parties should be represented at the Conference and if we had extracted from the British Government the promise that the fundamental demands of the Indian people as embodied in the Karachi Resolution would be conceded and the Conference would meet only for the purpose of discussing details. This was not done. Consequently, the Conference met not to discuss the exact form of Swaraj which India was to get; but whether India was to get Swaraj at all or any fractional dose of it. And all sorts of people were set up to oppose the demand for Swaraj made on behalf of Indian National Congress by its sole representative Mahatma Gandhi.

The responsibility for the mistake committed at the time of truce should attach not merely to the supreme executives of the Congress but also to the Government of India. I should say that the responsibility of the Government was even greater in this matter. At a time when truce terms were being discussed two militant groups in this country represented by the revolutionary prisoners and the Meerut Conspiracy case prisoners were altogether ignored. Lord Irwin was informed and advised that if peace was to be established, it would be neither safe nor advisable to ignore these two militant groups in the country but that advice was of no avail. The proclamation of truce brought about the release of the Satyagraha prisoners but the Meerut Conspiracy case and the other revolutionary conspiracy cases in different parts of the country went on in full swing. And the revolutionary prisoners confined in different jails all over India were either forgotten or ignored. In addition to these two groups the non-release of the détenus who had been imprisoned without trial was the most serious blunder.

Then again, while there was nominally a truce between the Congress and the Government of India, repression went on merrily. The number of détenus in confinement without trial began to swell from day to day. The degree of repression also began to increase as also the variety. Then there was continued provocation offered by the Government, through their policy which the Congress was unable to stop or to prevent. When this provocation caused a feeling of exasperation among the full-blooded youths and led to unfortunate acts of terrorism; the Anglo-Indian press and agents of the bureaucracy whom we regard as responsible for official terrorism, began to throw all the blame on the Congress and the representatives of the Congress. The inability of the Congress to stop what I would call official terrorism is largely responsible for the weakening of the hold of the Congress on the youths in some parts of the country and particularly in Bengal. If the Congress had been able to checkmate the repressive policy of the bureaucracy, the appeal of the Congress in terms of non-violence would have been simply irresistible. But as matters stand it has to be admitted that the repeated appeals made by us in the press and on the platform for maintaining non-violence had not their desired effect.

I am firmly of opinion that as soon as Mahatma Gandhi arrives in India, he should be requested to send an ultimatum to the Government, when the Government have shown by their action that they have ended the truce. I do not understand why the Congress should cling to the shadow of the truce, the substance having vanished altogether.