FDR’s War for Indian Independence

A good percentage of those who paid attention in High School History class probably remember something called the Yalta conference.

Shaping the World to Come

There, FDR, Churchill, and Stalin dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s of a plan which eventually outlined the shape of the post WWII world – particularly a divided Germany and other large chunks of Europe. Yalta, in many respects, resulted in a parcelling up of European territory between WWII victors not unlike the earlier parcelling up of America, Africa and Asia by colonial powers.

Consequently, and perhaps news to many, “arbitrary” borders dividing ethnic groups aren’t just an African / Asian thing. There are a surprising number of European “ethnics” who span “nations” – Finnish-Swedes, Alsation Germans, Baltic Russians, German Poles, Bosnian Serbs, the entire country of Belgium, etc. — many of which trace their predicament to Yalta and various other treaties, wars, forced migrations, and the like.

While Yalta was clearly significant on many levels, the earlier & lesser known Atlantic Conference should be interesting to mutineers because of the key role it played in Indian history… It was there that FDR made Indian Independence a pre-requisite to American involvement in WWII

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p>The State Department’s description of the Charter is simple and to the point -

The Atlantic Charter was a joint declaration released by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill on August 14, 1941 following a meeting of the two heads of state in Newfoundland. The Atlantic Charter provided a broad statement of U.S. and British war aims…

“I think I speak as America’s President when I say that America won’t help England in this war simply so that she will be able to continue to ride roughshod over colonial peoples.”
- FDR to Churchill

Wikipedia provides a nice enumeration of the the specific, shared war goals outlined in the charter-

    1. No territorial gains were to be sought by the United States or the United Kingdom.
    2. Territorial adjustments must be in accord with wishes of the peoples concerned.
    3. All peoples had a right to self-determination.
    4. Trade barriers were to be lowered.
    5. There was to be global economic cooperation and advancement of social welfare.
    6. Freedom from want and fear.
    7. Freedom of the seas.
    8. Disarmament of aggressor nations, postwar common disarmament.
    9. Defeat of Germany and other Axis powers.

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While the official text of the charter makes no specific statement about India per se, lofty language about self-determination and “territorial adjustments” carried clear implications for the future of the British Empire.

Two thorns in Churchill’s side…

Memoirs from FDR’s son & aide, Elliott Roosevelt provide a fascinating window into just how explicitly these implications were recognized by FDR and Churchill alike

…’Mr. President,’ [Churchill] cried, ‘I believe you are trying to do away with the British Empire. Every idea you entertain about the structure of the postwar world demonstrates it. But in spite of that’–and his forefinger waved–’in spite of that, we know that you constitute our only hope. And’–his voice sank dramatically–’{you} know that {we} know it. {You} know that {we} know that without America, the Empire won’t stand.’

Churchill admitted, in that moment, that he knew the peace could only be won according to precepts which the United States of America would lay down.

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p>And FDR had very specific recommendations about what to do with British India back in 1941 -

‘India should be made a commonwealth at once. After a certain number of years–five perhaps, or ten–she should be able to choose whether she wants to remain in the Empire or have complete independence.

‘As a commonwealth, she would be entitled to a modern form of government, an adequate health and educational standard. But how can she have these things, when Britain is taking all the wealth of her national resources away from her, every year? Every year the Indian people have one thing to look forward to, like death and taxes. Sure as shooting, they have a famine. The season of the famine, they call it.’

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p>I’m a bit more nuanced than the NewDeal-esque explanation for India’s poverty but, nevertheless, the man’s heart & goals are clear. Other accounts provide more color into the discussions“Roosevelt, as a matter of absolute conviction, was at war with the British Empire.”

`You mentioned India,’ he [Churchill] growled.

`Yes, I [Roosevelt] can’t believe that we can fight a war against fascist slavery, and at the same time not work to free people all over the world from a backward colonial policy.’

Roosevelt was determined to have the British commit themselves now to the principles of the Four Freedoms, knowing that they were incompatible with the continued existence of the Empire.

…The British leadership now knew first hand, if they had only feared or suspected as much before, that Roosevelt, as a matter of absolute conviction, was at war with the British Empire.

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He Fought for Indian Independence Too…

And Churchill’s accounts provide a fascinating “reverse camera angle” view -

Writing in 1950, Churchill let down his guard about his true feeling about Roosevelt:

The President’s mind was back in the American War of Independence and he thought of the Indian problem in terms of thirteen colonies fighting George III at the end of the 18th century…”

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Unfortunately, FDR opposed the extant British empire far more than the gathering Soviet one. As a result, at Yalta he relented on Atlantic charter diktats when it came to the fate of Eastern Europe under Stalin after the war. Still, there’s no question that on the India question, FDR’s demands shook British expectations about the post-war fate of the empire to the core.

In later statements during the conflict, Churchill tried to backtrack and assert that the Atlantic Charter did not apply to India…. However, with US entry into the war and the Japanese knocking on India’s door, the die was cast and policy pronouncements from Downing street were very much swimming against the tide of history…

[previous SM coverage on India & WWII - here and here]

87 thoughts on “FDR’s War for Indian Independence

  1. Gandhi could have gone on with his non-violence crapola for another 50 years in addition to the first 50, and the British really needn’t have changed a thing besides being even more amused :) .

    Another view is that this “non-violence crapola” resulted in a rapid transfer of defacto power to the Indians anyway, which left Britain with little opportunity to continue the plunder. From the humiliations of the 1920′s we went to Congress ruled states in the 1930′s. The salt march of the 1930′s resulted in the steady refusal of Indian officers to co-operate with the British in ruling whimsically, culminating in the naval mutiny of the 1940′s. All this seems like rapid progress to me. Britian left when the going was good and avoided the humiliations a delay would have caused.

  2. the man’s heart & goals are clear

    vinod, goal seems clear, heart one cannot comment on. In this case US had a lot to gain from loosening of UK’s stanglehold on India. Can you describe some instances in which he choose liberal values over his personal or US interests?

    For example, for the US to campaign for an end to autocracy in Burma is easy, when they do it in Pakistan/Arabistan, we will be sure it is from the heart.

  3. Although I did not learn this in Class X – one of my special subjects was History in Class XII and I remember my History teacher talking about FDR pressurizing Churchill to leave India. This was not in the textbook. Sometimes – pollies do good deeds ;) -compensates for the trouble they normally cause.

  4. someone:

    Except I wasn’t drawing an analogy :) .

    I thought you are being sarcastic, justifying the use of violence in the case of US fight against British ending up “good”. Anyways, “violence” was not the best strategy to be used at that time. Gandhi was a master strategist and did the right things, mostly..

  5. You all make good points and I suppose Indians had no alternative to non-violent non-cooperation, but if the British had shot Gandhi and his band of supporters as they were well within their rights to in the prevailing colonial atmosphere, no one would’ve batted an eye and India would’ve remained as British as ever. I mean Tibetans and the Burmese have been doing (or trying to do) the exact same thing for ages and look where that’s got them. The Chinese are reported to have obliterated all trace of traditional Tibetan culture and replaced it with Han, industrially populating the place with Hans from the East. Whither non-cooperation?

  6. I thought you are being sarcastic, justifying the use of violence in the case of US fight against British ending up “good”.

    Ponniyin, to spell it out, the point was: “violence has its uses” to support the “it’s complicated” statement, without bringing India into the picture anywhere or comparing the US independence movement with India’s.

  7. Also that both violent and non-violent movements can go wrong or right. I was using Amitabh’s quote to point out that violent movements have also gone right in some cases. A lot of factors are involved and one shouldn’t repeat the mantra of violence never solves anything when we have so many examples where it indeed has and does.

  8. Ponniyin, to spell it out, the point was: “violence has its uses” to support the “it’s complicated” statement, without bringing India into the picture anywhere or comparing the US independence movement with India’s.

    First, US independence movement was not that violent either, unless your source of knowledge is Mel Gibson movies. True, some local battles were fought, but also historians believe that less than 50% Americans were even “involved” in the process, most were openly apathetic. Now, American Civil War was really violent.

    Violent independent movements are like Algeria, IndoChina…….which Algerian movement eventually became the precursor to Islamist terrorism, and IndoChina, many decades of wars.

  9. also historians believe that less than 50% Americans were even “involved” in the process, most were openly apathetic.

    Also true of India btw. I’d think the percentage would be even lower for Indians. Many in Indian villages weren’t even aware that the British had ever arrived when told triumphantly that they’d left :) .

  10. Many in Indian villages weren’t even aware that the British had ever arrived when told triumphantly that they’d left :) .

    This is why, when people say the British influenced our aesthetics (like the preference for fair skin or whatever), I think it’s bullshit…they just didn’t have that kind of influence on the ground.

  11. Churchill thought FDR the greatest man of his time but told him that he did not like Roosevelt’s “interference” in what he called the Empire. Roosevelt seems to have thought Churchill, for whom he had considerable admiration, a man of the past in his view of colonies. It is notorious that in 1931 Churchill had described Gandhi as “a half-naked fakir” striding up the steps of the Viceroy’s Palace in Delhi for negotiations. After Independence, Churchill and Nehru met at a reunion of Harrow School, outside London, which both had attended, and was struck that the Indian Prime Minister bore no personal animosity toward him.

  12. Sahlei#32,

    Averell Harriman with his brother was also the founder of Harriman and Brothers which eventually became Brown Brothers Harriman and Co. Till 1938 the bank was the main Wall Street banker for German companies including Nazi backer Fritz Thyssen, more here

  13. bytewords@#49:

    Paras 3 and 4 are a wonderful tribute to the freedom-fighting generation.

    someone@#55: When Dyer ordered the Jalianwallah Bagh shooting, Churchill criticized Dyer: “great slaughter or massacre upon a particular crowd of people, with the intention of terrorising not merely, the rest of the crowd, but the whole district or country”. Therefore British hardliners were not sure of their support.

    A non-cooperation movement can succeed only when the establishment has a liberal component.

  14. “but if the British had shot Gandhi and his band of supporters as they were well within their rights to in the prevailing colonial atmosphere, no one would’ve batted an eye and India would’ve remained as British as ever”

    Congress leaders knew the British character. Give the Congress leaders credit for intelligence and wisdom. Gandhian methods will not work with Communist Chinese. Mao had no remorse about killing millions of his own people.

  15. US pressure played a large part in creating an atmosphere where granting India independence was acceptable. The US also ensured that that decolonization became a top priority and a major goal of the UN. (still hear about it in tours of the UN)

    But the main reason was due to Indian struggles.

    I can’t think of a better authority on Indian Independence than the person who actually granted it. Here’s a except containing Atlee’s views.

    An extract from a letter written by P.V. Chuckraborty, former Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court, on March 30 1976, reads thus: “When I was acting as Governor of West Bengal in 1956, Lord Clement Attlee, who as the British Prime Minister in post war years was responsible for India’s freedom, visited India and stayed in Raj Bhavan Calcutta for two days`85 I put it straight to him like this: ‘The Quit India Movement of Gandhi practically died out long before 1947 and there was nothing in the Indian situation at that time, which made it necessary for the British to leave India in a hurry. Why then did they do so?’ In reply Attlee cited several reasons, the most important of which were the INA activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, which weakened the very foundation of the British Empire in India, and the RIN Mutiny which made the British realise that the Indian armed forces could no longer be trusted to prop up the British. When asked about the extent to which the British decision to quit India was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s 1942 movement, Attlee’s lips widened in smile of disdain and he uttered, slowly, ‘Minimal’.”

    Gandhi’s contribution to the independence of India was probably as much as Janet Jackson’s contribution to the success of the Jackson five.

  16. Atlee was a politician. It is hard to imagine him praising Gandhi to a Bengali. Praising Subhas Bhose to a Bengali is the highest form of sincerity.

  17. Hitler deserves consideration as a contributor to Indian independence. He weakened Britain enough to force them to consider jettisoning some of their overseas expenses.

  18. Somebody ought to do a study of the struggle between various indian communities to dominate national politics. Bengalis have never gotten over the loss of prominence in national politics after Bhose got kicked out of Congress. Gujaratis have never gotten over Nehru being chosen over Vallabhai Patel.

  19. Hitler deserves consideration as a contributor to Indian independence. He weakened Britain enough to force them to consider jettisoning some of their overseas expenses.

    I agree. Even, I deserve to be considered as a contributor to Indian independence.

  20. Dizzy,

    I hope I’m not going off on a tangent but I think Cali has a point, Atlee would probably be loathe to give Gandhi credit for anything. The other thing Gandhi and his movement should be credited for, is that the British were unable to co-opt its leaders. ByteWords in her post at 49 makes a good point,

    second, violence is a stupid idea if you are less powerful or less prosperous than your opponent, unless of course, you purpose is just destruction like with the naxal movement. the american war was between rough equals (british on american soil vs. americans themselves), and the equivalent effort in india did exist—the failed “sepia mutiny” of 1857. india in 1914 was in no position to mount an armed struggle like america did, or even like in 1857.

    There were real wars fought against the British (in the form of the British East India Co.) in the north of India (when the Brits were still establishing themselves in the North) for a good number of years following the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. The british came very close to losing some of those wars and did indeed lose a few battles. (I maybe oversimplifying this next point) – They eventually prevailed in the North due to their ability to co-opt either generals of armies or pit one leader against another. With Gandhi, they were presented with another issue, he could not be bought, and his non-cooperation movement made it very difficult for the British to find a strategic victory as you would say in a decisive land battle.

    This has been a fascinating thread as it raises so many questions and opens my eyes to these “unknown” facts. One question I have is why Chiang Kai-Shek ,of all people, would be sufficiently interested about the Indian Independence movement for him to contact Roosevelt about it. (As mentioned by Bridget Jones at 25 and yes, I’ll go read the book and no, my google isn’t broken – but an answer from anyone on this would be appreciated.)

  21. Gandhi’s contribution to the independence of India was probably as much as Janet Jackson’s contribution to the success of the Jackson five.

    Maybe his wardrobe malfunction led Churchill to underestimate him?

  22. JJ

    One question I have is why Chiang Kai-Shek ,of all people, would be sufficiently interested about the Indian Independence movement for him to contact Roosevelt about it

    A few reasons — an imperial power,Japan, had colonized large parts of China (before WW2) — Chiang Kai-Shek naturally hated colonization. Chiang Kai-Shek and his wife spent some time in Calcutta in 1941 and 1942, in an open letter to India around that time, Chiang Kai-Shek stated that he considered the reason Burma sided with the Japanese was because of the way british ran their colonial policies. (Burma falling to the Japanese was very bad news for China — encirclement) A lot of US supply to China during WW2 came through India. Indian soldiers also sacrificed a lot fighting against Japan The help of people like Dr. Kotnis provided to China could not have hurt either

    Naturally Nehru repaid Chiang Kai-Shek’s help by doing his best to ensure that Chiang Kai-Shek’s (Taiwan) control of a permenant seat at the security council was handed over to Chairman Mao

  23. 69 · Kevin G said

    Hitler deserves consideration as a contributor to Indian independence. He weakened Britain enough to force them to consider jettisoning some of their overseas expenses.

    India was a revenue-earner for them, not an expense. That’s the whole point of having a colony.

  24. Atlee was a politician. It is hard to imagine him praising Gandhi to a Bengali. Praising Subhas Bhose to a Bengali is the highest form of sincerity.

    Actually Atlee was no longer a politician at the time of the remark – he had been kicked upstairs sometime earlier to the House of Lords. (It goes without saying that former British politicians have acted and spoken far more freely / controversially after giving up politics).

    Atlee would probably be loathe to give Gandhi credit for anything.

    Frankly, even discounting the fact that that Atlee was a socialist (and not the Nationalsozialismus kind), I do not see how admitting that attributing the cause of independence to a violent movement led by a (literally) jackbooted supporter of fascism helps Atlee in any way. While speaking to a high official of Independent india (even a bengali one), it would have been far more convienient to praise Gandhi.

    When it comes to the mutineers, it is even less likely that Atlee favored them.

    Atlee’s government had reacted rather nastily towards the INA prisoners and the mutineers (the INA trials were one cause of the mutiny.) The naval mutiny was not a one-off – it had set off a chain reaction and there was unrest in the millitary. Granting Independence was a wise chice — given the size of the Indian millitary at that time, a full fledged uprising by the soldiers, would have destroyed the british empire in a flash. (History bears it out — while Nazis fought till the end in WW2, WWI ended rapidly because of a naval mutiny)

    Post independence India’s lack of recognition for the mutineers is one of the most of the shameful acts of the Indian govt.

    As for Byteword’s theory, do you really think that India would not have gained Independence much sooner, had the mass freedom movement remained violent in 1922 following Chauri Chaura, when, at almost the same time, a tiny nation like Ireland, right at britains doorstep, could overthrow UK?

    (even Gandhi’s supporters and family have said that MKG’s decision devastated the freedom movement, setting it back by at least a decade)

  25. I’m amused by people’s efforts to either belittle Gandhi or praise him to the extreme.

    In reply Attlee cited several reasons, the most important of which were the INA activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, which weakened the very foundation of the British Empire in India, and the RIN Mutiny which made the British realise that the Indian armed forces could no longer be trusted to prop up the British. When asked about the extent to which the British decision to quit India was influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s 1942 movement, Attlee’s lips widened in smile of disdain and he uttered, slowly, ‘Minimal’.”

    I’d not take this as an evidence, It is not even from Attlee directly, through a second hand voice and that too from a Bengali. I won’t give much weightage. If Attlee has written so in his memoirs, we can atleast give a consideration. But I’d doubt if that’s the case. First Subhas Chandra Bose was long dead and his INA was completely defeated. So to claim that it shook the foundation of the British empire is a bit exaggerated.

    Violence would not have worked at all in India. I was just wondering if there is an example of a colony that threw out the imperialists by violence which is as diverse as India. the one example that comes to my mind is of Afghanistan where once the Soviets were expelled, the different ethnic groups turned against each other. Add to that the existing caste/religious divisions in India. Thank Gandhi/Congress for non-violence.

  26. I do not see why the exchange (DizzyDesi 67) between Atlee and Chakraborty, both substantial figures by then presumably free from active politics, should not be taken as useful evidence.

    Atlee served throughout WWII as deputy to Churchill and in political charge of the home and civil aspects of running the British nation in time of war. As an active and committed member of the war cabinet, he would know well the value of the Indian war effort; the INA was a worrying threat to that effort, whereas Gandhi was apparently not. In 1945 Atlee was suddenly in charge of a country virtually broke and of an empire no longer at war; home affairs were all-important. Cutting the ties with India was inevitable and easily resolved upon. The job was delegated to Mountbatten specifically so that it could be completed expeditiously and with minimum input from the beleaguered British government.

    Atlee was not a stupid man, but I think he was never very interested in the British Empire per se and he never had reason to understand Gandhi’s role and achievements.

  27. Atlee served throughout WWII as deputy to Churchill and in political charge of the home and civil aspects of running the British nation in time of war. As an active and committed member of the war cabinet, he would know well the value of the Indian war effort; the INA was a worrying threat to that effort, whereas Gandhi was apparently not.

    hmm.. If Gandhi/Congress was not important, why should Cripps be sent on a mission to convince Gandhi/Congress in 1942 to support the war effort. Even assuming the ridiculous assertion that Brits were frightened by the bunch of INA folks (who never had any major military victory, and was not even trusted by the japanese to be battle worthy), why would they still want to convince Gandhi/Congress after 1945 when they have supposedly won the war. I agree they wanted to cut the losses and run. Why would they think Gandhi/Congress/Muslim league are the parties to be consulted in handing over the power, they could have just handed over the power to the lackeys who have supported the Brits during the war time. The reason is because they knew that the people power was behind the Congress.

    Moreover we are not talking about what Attlee has written in his memoirs. I won’t rely on second hand opinion. You could as well believe that Gandhi raped his grand-niece Manu because it was written by someone who was told this story by the milkman who supplied milk to Gandhi. Did Mahatma Gandhi sleep with virgins?

    The important point to remember is that the attainment of freedom was not a single step process that happened in Aug 15,1947. It is a culmination of around 40 years of serious efforts on the parts of various leaders spearheaded by the Congress movement. Gandhi played a key role in that. There was no WW-II or INA in 1909/1919/1935 where the Brits were forced to relinquish power in certain areas. Why do you think that happened?. I think the most important effort on Gandhi’s part was to convince Ambedkar in the early 30s, that “separate electorate” for “Depressed classes” (called “Dalits” now) is not in their interest. He knew that how the earlier “separate electorate” scheme of the brits had resulted in the great success of the British “divide and rule” plan. Who knows if he had not carried out his fast to pressure Ambedkar we could have ended up with a “Dalitstan” like “Pakistan”.

    Dizzydesi has said in #67.

    Gandhi’s contribution to the independence of India was probably as much as Janet Jackson’s contribution to the success of the Jackson five.

    If you believe this you could as well believe Gandhi is a rapist.

  28. If Gandhi/Congress was not important, why should Cripps be sent on a mission to convince Gandhi/Congress in 1942 to support the war effort

    The QI movement was a real threat, and it came at a time the allies were facing defeat, so Cripps was sent.

    Unfortunately Gandhi rejected Cripps (In hindsight Rajaji rued this because this would have avoided partition).

    This would have been fine if the QI movement suceeded. But it did not. It had some sucesses, but Gandhi did not use this to salvage a deal. He basically conceeded defeat and called off the movement. Again this was a little too late – the war had turned decisively,the british had won at El Alamein and the Russians at Stalingrad before the movement had run out of steam. By the time Gandhi called off QI, midway and Imphal had occurred.

    So at the end of the day, Gandhi landed up with a failed movement, no gains in the negotiating table and a the increased hostility and vindictiveness of a British PM who had no sympathy to begin with. Worst of all, he had no more options in hand. He had played his trump and it had failed.

    Slightly off on a tangent here, but a little better execution, a lot more clarity in his goals, slighlty better consolidation of the gains made, more flexibility in the methods followed, and he could have had a string of sucesses . As such, they were mainly either failures with a few silver linings or unmitigated disasters.

    If you look at his movements, from south africa (fought for not carrying ID cards and landed up with the end of Indian immigration to SA), to Khilafat (why were we trying to be more islamic than the Ottomans?) to QI in terms of what they were supposed to achieve and what they actually achieved, they failed, were inconsisent or absurd to begin with.

    Gandhi created opportunities, then screwed them up.

    Coming back to your question:

    Even assuming the ridiculous assertion that Brits were frightened by the bunch of INA folks (who never had any major military victory, and was not even trusted by the japanese to be battle worthy)

    Enough with the strawman already.

    The INA would have had no impact on Indian Independence, if it did not cause a backlash sympathy and an undercurrent of dissent in the armed forces.Or even if the dissent had been contained instead of blowing up in the RIN Mutiny. Or even if the RIN mutiny had no ripple effects and landed up as a one off. Instead from a position where they literally had millions of loyal troops and police personnel, who were running the empire for them, the british landed up with millions of troops who had demonstrated their intent to revolt.

    The leaky boat certainly sunk, but it did succeed in getting the message across more effectively than the “superb craft”

    The INA suceess was in creating dissent in the armed forces. It forced to british to ask the question that an empire faces the most threats fromQuis custodiet ipsos custodes.(or to use your words the lackeys could no longer be counted on)

    BTW I do not see how a Chief Justice of India is a bad source. If there is a bias or a possible angle he could have been working that you have thought of please post it (just not the bengali angle — that basically amounts to bengali bashing)

  29. 72 · Jangali Janwar said

    One question I have is why Chiang Kai-Shek ,of all people, would be sufficiently interested about the Indian Independence movement for him to contact Roosevelt about it. (As mentioned by Bridget Jones at 25 and yes, I’ll go read the book and no, my google isn’t broken – but an answer from anyone on this would be appreciated.)

    JJ, DizzyDesi@74 has given you the gist of the reasons as to why China’s Chaing Kai Shek became so interested in Indian affairs so as to lobby with Roosevelt for India’s cause – Japanese attacks on China, strong lobbying by Nehru resulting in his 1939 visit to China and Chiang’s & his wife’s visit to India in 1941-42. In fact Nehru established such a strong rapport with Chiang Kai-Shek’s articulate wife Madame Chiang that even she took up the cause of India with Roosevelt by wiring him directly ( ref. Mahatma’s fury, p129, Shadow of the Great game )

    You will be intersted to know Churchill was very angry with Chiang’s lobbying with Roosevelt so in his message to Roosevelt on 13 Aug, 1942 - ” All chiang’s talk of congress leaders wishing us to quit in order that ,may help the Allies is eyewash…You coudl remind Chiang that Gandhi was prepared to negotiate with Japan on the free passage for Japanese troops through India to join Hitler. Personally I have no doubt that in addition that there would have been an understanding that the Congress would have the use of sufficient troops to keep down composite majority of 90 million muslims, 40 million untouchables, 90 million in the Indian states. The styel of his message prompts me to say “Cherchez la femme”. It may well be that ensuing weeks will show how very little real influence Hindu congress has over the masses in India ” Ref: TOP, Vol 2, S. No. 532, Churchill to Roosevelt, 13 Aug 1942 as referenced in the book.

    According to author of the book, La femme in Churchill’s message to Roosevelt was a reference to Madame Chiang and to her influence on the her hsuband Chaing Kai-Shek as well her enthusiasm for Nehru.

  30. DizzyDesi:

    I’m happy with your change of tone

    The QI movement was a real threat, and it came at a time the allies were facing defeat, so Cripps was sent. Unfortunately Gandhi rejected Cripps (In hindsight Rajaji rued this because this would have avoided partition).

    is far better than

    Gandhi’s contribution to the independence of India was probably as much as Janet Jackson’s contribution to the success of the Jackson five.

    coming back to your other points.

    This would have been fine if the QI movement suceeded. But it did not. It had some sucesses, but Gandhi did not use this to salvage a deal. He basically conceeded defeat and called off the movement.

    I have not read anywhere that he has called off the movement. Do let me know if he/Congress has passed any resolution or comments calling off the movement. (like the way he did it in the 1920s when he called off the civil disobedience after the violence in Chauri-chaura). In a few years, british did quit India. I don’t think it failed. You are attributing the feelings of dissent in the armed forces to naval mutiny, the failed INA adventures etc.. but fail to acknowledge the work of Congress / Gandhi campaigns in trigerring those feelings.

    Let’s come to the “naval mutiny”. So who ended the “naval mutiny”. It was Sardar Patel who diffused the situation and what organisation he belonged to.. the Congress. Mutineers respected him and resolved the issue peacefully.

    BTW I do not see how a Chief Justice of India is a bad source. If there is a bias or a possible angle he could have been working that you have thought of please post it (just not the bengali angle — that basically amounts to bengali bashing)

    Nit. your reference claims him to be a Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court, not India. Anyways, it is a second hand opinion. Did Attlee write that in his memoirs?. He has written a memoir and if people are aware that he has written about Gandhi and the Congress movement in the way the Chief justice described, I’d atleast give some thought. But I’d take this insinuation against Gandhi’s effectiveness along with Gandhi is a rapist accusation. :-)

    Also, you conceded just now that QI movement was a real threat. What difference does it make that if Attlee thought otherwise.

  31. Thanks Bridget. Seems as if there were a number of forces conspiring towards Indian Independence.

  32. Insightful post. However, “He ‘fought’ for Indian independence too” may be pushing it just a little, while I acknowledge his supporting the movement. I would much rather recognize several lesser known desis who fought for freedom.

  33. Even if Subhash Chandra Bose’s INA had been defeated or demoralized by the late 1940′s, the damage it had done to British power in India was still irreversible. Indeed, it was precisely because India’s mood was changing after World War Two that a war-debilitated Britain had no choice but to let India go. The forgotten mutinies of 1946 brought India close to the same ugly mood which had resulted in 1857′s Sepoy Rebellion. Josef Stalin would have fished in Indian waters, hoping to harvest the country for communism, which the United States utterly could not have.

    America put pressure on Britain out of a fear that communism could spread to India. Far from Gandhi deserving credit for freedom, it was precisely because Indians were gradually growing ready to turn away from Gandhi and choose mass violence that Britain realized the game was up.