Gandhi-Nehru soft power not sole reason behind freedom
Date: 17 November 2014
Maj Gen G.D. Bakshi (Retd)
15th Nov 2014
[In strictly historical terms, Subhas Bose emerges as primarily responsible for Indian independence, even more perhaps than Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.]
Nation states are constructed around a core of seminal ideas and values. They need a national narrative to sustain themselves and serve as a basis for their collective identity that defines who they are and what they stand for. This national narrative is usually based upon the historical path of evolution of that state.
The national narrative that the Indian state evolved for itself at the time of its independence, averred that unlike all other Westphalian states that are based upon a monopoly of violence and hard power, the Indian state was unique and exceptional.
It was not based upon hard power, but on the soft power concepts of ahimsa, non-violence, soul force etc.
This is how it claimed it had won its freedom — not by any exercise of hard power or violence, but by non-violent persuasion and peaceful agitations.
This national narrative was based upon a falsehood that went against the facts of our recent history.
The 125th birth anniversary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru is an apt occasion for such historical reflection. Nehru’s seminal contribution to India was to make it a viable and functioning democracy.
However, Nehru was a disaster as far as national security is concerned.
It is also vital to understand how the creed of pacifism came to disable the Indian polity.
Before Gandhi came from South Africa, the Congress party was largely an effete, debating society. The Congress asked for home rule and dominion status and sought strenuously to remain on the right side of the colonial regime by trumpeting their loyalty to the King-Emperor.
However, the upsurge of nationalism in India became very strong, especially after the First World War, when over a million Indian soldiers came back from the battlefields in Europe, Middle East and Africa.
It was these demobilised soldiers who spread the nascent idea of nationalism in India and especially the Punjab from where a large segment of the soldiery had come.
The Indians expected gratitude for their participation in the war.
What they got in 1919 was Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
A far more militant response came thereafter in terms of the Ghadar movement of Indian revolutionaries.
Gandhi was an astute judge of the Indian scenario. He gave a mass base and populist impetus to the Congress programmes and mobilised the rural masses.
Mahatma Gandhi, however, was shrewd enough to understand the unpreparedness of the highly fragmented Indian population for an armed struggle to overthrow British colonial rule.
Hence, he tried to make a virtue of necessity by insisting on a non-violent freedom movement based on the psychological tools of satyagraha, fasts, moral pressure and the values of ahimsa or non-violence, designed not to cross the thresholds of tolerance of the colonial power.
Frankly, it is now evident from hindsight that the British tacitly encouraged this non-violent, persuasive form of protest because they were convinced that it was not going to basically endanger their colonial rule.
The extensive press coverage given to Mahatma Gandhi and his non-violent freedom movement based on peaceful demonstrations, fasts and dharnas, was designed to release the pent up energy of popular dissatisfaction with colonial rule, but at the same time, prevent it from turning very violent.
That violence would have endangered the colonial dispensation.
Non-violence did not, and hence it was tolerated.
So even while the Congress tom-tommed its nationalist credentials and abhorrence for colonial rule, they openly admired the British system and were in turn seen by the colonial masters as “Brown Sahibs” and closet anglophiles in a nationalist disguise — who the British tried to exploit as very convenient tools for the perpetuation of the Raj.
They acted as a safety valve for the popular sentiments and prevented the outbreak of large scale violence in India.
Otherwise, the British found this effete and ersatz form of nationalism very convenient and entirely manageable.
The only Indian in the National Congress, who could challenge the overriding authority of the Mahatma, was Subhas Chandra Bose.
He was a realist.
He clearly foresaw that non-violence was absolutely within the tolerance thresholds of the colonial regime.
This could mount media and psychological pressure but never of an order which would really compel the British to leave.
Bose opposed the Mahatma Gandhi strategy of peaceful protest alone.
He became the Congress president despite Gandhi’s opposition. However, the astute Mahatma ensured that Bose did not serve a second term as Congress president.
The Bose thesis was realist and simple.
World War II had started in 1939. 2.5 million Indian soldiers had voluntarily joined the British Indian Army to fight Britain’s wars in Europe, North Africa, Italy and in Burma. The entire Burma theatre was manned by the Indian forces of the empire.
Bose emerges as the most remarkable personality of India’s freedom struggle.
He dared to oppose Mahatma Gandhi’s grand strategy and was marginalised politically. However, he now broke ranks and single-handedly put his ideas into action with emphatic and momentous results.
The key to the colonial control of its empire was the British Indian Army.
The British colonial success hinged upon their ability to “nativise” this Army.
Over 80% of this colonial Army consisted of Indian peasant soldiers, who remained staunchly loyal to the Raj because of the oath of fidelity they had taken to the King-Emperor.
The British organised them in ethnicity/sub-nationality based regiments, focused upon a narrow manpower base in distinct geographical areas of India.
They celebrated and highlighted these distinct local military traditions to evoke fierce regimental/clan loyalties.
Good British officer leadership at the junior and middle levels did the rest and helped to forge good combat units that served as an efficient and infallible instrument of colonial control.
Bose was crystal clear that the key to Indian Independence lay in turning the loyalty of the Indian sepoys of the British Indian Army.
He was absolutely certain that without this native backbone, colonial rule could not last a day.
It was the true centre of gravity of the Indian freedom struggle.
In the classical Kautilyan tradition, Bose decided that an enemy’s enemy is a logical ally.
India must seek the help of Germany and Japan for its fight against the British.
Only then would the fight be effective and stand any chance of success.
Mahatma Gandhi felt this was morally repugnant.
In fact, the Quit India movement launched by him had completely petered out by 1944.
The Japanese meanwhile were causing a major upheaval in Asia. After the conquest of most of China and Korea, Japan now turned its attention to the British and other European colonies in South East Asia. It attacked and captured the Philippines Islands and captured Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. It then invaded Burma and reached the borders of British India. Now, it trained its sights on the brightest jewel in the British Crown.
It is was here that the Japanese Army felt the need for Bose, who alone, they felt, could tilt the scales by arousing the 2.5 million men of the British Indian Army against their colonial masters.
Bose had staged a miraculous escape to Germany where he had raised the 3,000 men strong Indian League.
The Japanese, therefore, asked the Germans to send Bose.
He undertook a perilous submarine voyage and reached Japan. In Japan, Bose met Gen Tojo and other Japanese leaders.
He assumed command of the Indian National Army (INA). He formed the provisional government of Azad Hind in exile at Singapore and declared war against Great Britain.
He went far beyond the prisoner of war pool with the Japanese Army and appealed to the vast Indian diaspora in South East Asia.
He evoked a massive response in terms of recruitment and financial and gold donations to fund the freedom struggle. He expanded this rudimentary force to an impressive size of some 1,500 officers and 60,000 men. This force was organised into three combat divisions. Two of these were to take part in the fighting in Burma and the historic invasion of Imphal-Kohima. The third garrisoned Malaya and later had a contingent in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
A recent poll by the National Army Museum in London, in fact, has described the Imphal-Kohima battle as the most decisive battle of British Military history.
It was “greatest” in terms of its political, social and cultural impact. Some 24,000 men of the INA were killed in the operations in Burma — hardly a non-violent struggle.
Far more important than the immediate impact of a decisive operational defeat for the Japanese-INA combined forces was its aftershock that shook the loyalties of 2.5 million Indian soldiers who were being demobilised at the end of the war.
By then, the INA story had leaked out. There were large scale mutinies in the Royal Indian Navy and in the British Indian Army. Some 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and over 20,000 sailors of the Royal Indian Navy were involved.
The spectre of armed revolts amongst 2.5 million Indian soldiers being demobilized, shook the British Empire to its roots.
There were hardly 40,000 British troops in India then.
Such a massive revolt meant the end of the British Empire in India. The war weary British saw the writing on the wall and decided to leave.
Indian freedom had not come from non-violence but from the very real spectre of large scale revolt and armed violence.
Frankly, in strictly historical terms, Bose emerges as primarily responsible for Indian independence — even more perhaps than Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru.
This is borne out by the testimony of the-then British Prime Minister Clement Attlee.
[ COMMENT : Please see below ]
Despite this, to fight the ghost of the INA and its legendary founder, Nehru created the contrived myth about how soft power alone had single handedly got India its freedom. He actually believed his own myth and this led him to virtually despise the military and he did his best to emasculate it.
As a trained lawyer, he had great faith in his oratory to move the UN and other international bodies. This new legal paradigm, he felt, would rule the discourse between nations and the use of force would be eliminated. Hence, his soft power alone would suffice and India needed no standing armed forces, only police forces.
The J&K war in 1947-48 and the Hyderabad operations made it impossible for him to have his way and realists like Vallabhbhai Patel were able to dissuade him.
After Patel’s demise, Nehru’s pathological dislike for the army came to the fore, especially after the military coup in Pakistan.
He set about emasculating the military leadership, starving the military of resources and set in train the tragic events that would bring about the humiliation of 1962.
He could not live it down and died a broken man.
Fortunately, his successors, especially his daughter, turned realist with a vengeance and saved the Republic.
GANDHI – NEHRU SOFT POWER NOT SOLE REASON BEHIND FREEDOM
From: Satish Chandra Gupta – email@example.com;
I tend to agree with Dear Colonel RPSINGH’s above analysis as I have also been thinking on the same lines for quite some time , rather that owing to Gandhi’s Ineffective non-violence movements had pushed behind our Independence by at least FIFTY years.
Gandhi Had used his popularity In various irrelevant Non-violence movements & for causes to appease the Muslims in particular as he lacked Courage against Muslims , like his “KHILAFAT MOVEMENT ” when Kamal Pasha of Turkey had abolished all the KHILAFATES in Turkey but because Muslims had launched the movement, Gandhi supported it ; again he totally bowed down to the Muslims between 1930 to 1937 when our & world’s GREATEST MOST PATRIOTIC NATIONAL SONG , Namely , “VANDE MATARAM ” was not sung from Congress platforms till Congress had agreed To sing its 1st Stanza only in 1937( as was desired by the Muslims ) , which Formed the basis of our Loving Country’s Partition later in 1947.
And there are so many other examples showing the UNPARDONABLE BLUNDERS OF GANDHI, for example , as in 1931, during the Round Table Conference, He did Not ask Lord Irwin for the release of our Armed Forces Soldiers who were undergoing Rigrous Imprisonment in Peshawar jails then , stating Conveniently that he was against Discipline in our armed Forces and quickly slipped away from the back door of the Battersea Hall Conference in London, in 1931 which he had himself called ; this was reported by a renowned Leader as an eye -witness in his auto-biography .
Thus , I have Not at all any respect for Gandhi .
Our Shri Narendra Modi has certain POLITICAL COMPULSIONS TO USE HIS NAME , that’s all. One should try to understand it in larger perspective with a long term view .
S C GUPTA, MUMBAI.
982 05 876 09.
[FROM THE PAGES OF HISTORY ]
When B.P. Chakravarti was acting as Governor of West Bengal, Lord Attlee visited India and stayed as his guest for three days at the Raj Bhavan.
Chakravarti asked Attlee about the real grounds for granting independence to India.
Specifically, his question was, when the Quit India movement lay in ruins years before 1947 where was the need for the British to leave in such a hurry.
Attlee’s response is most illuminating and important for history. Here is the Governor’s account of what Attlee told him:
In reply Attlee cited several reasons, the most important were the activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose which weakened the very foundation of the attachment of the Indian land and naval forces to the British Government.
Towards the end, I asked Lord Attlee about the extent to which the British decision to quit India was influenced by Gandhi’s activities.
On hearing this question Attlee’s lips widened in a smile of disdain and he uttered, slowly, putting emphasis on each single letter – “mi-ni-mal.” (Emphasis added.)
“Bal Chaudhari” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
One of the myths, which his successors and blind supporters keep selling to the
public is that he was a Great Democratic Leader.
This is absolutely false.
He accepted the partition of the country without any refrendum. He imposed article 370 in Kashmir resulting in Hindus being
deprived of their rights as State Subjects.
He imposed Hindu Code Bill, but allowed Muslims to have their Personal Law.
He was arrogant and in the matter of BERU BARI transfer to Bangladesh, when challenged in the Court,
he threatened to amend the Constitution to do as he wished, (This dangerous precedent was copied by his
grandson Rajiv in the case of Shah Bano alimony).
Jawaharlal Nehru – Busting Myths!
From: Ganji, Shobhan – email@example.com;
Nehru is a blot to India. A selfish leader who wanted to split Khangress if he was denied prime minister position.
From: Achuta Ramaiah – firstname.lastname@example.org;
mohan ji that was good. in our school time we were told Nehru was god almost and we worshiped him like wise !. in fact if he had implemented Hindi right after 1950 as the official language we two would not fight English vs Hindi !! . jai haind
From: Sri Hari Hosmane – email@example.com;
Monday, November 17, 2014
Thanks for bringing the truth of the great JLN And thanks to you that you have brought this in English. If not no south Indians would have understood head or tail of it. I am aged around 75 years and fully agree with you. In spite my age my blood still boils the moment I think of him. If JLN were to have fore thought of our country, till his death our country did not any other models of passenger cars other than ……….fiat and ambassador. Then great companies like HAL, HMT, ITI, BEL were all nationalized . What is their fiat to-day. If our country people still bank on that family, God Almighty alone should help our country.
From: Jay Kumar – firstname.lastname@example.org;
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
An eye opening article. Thanks a million for letting the world know especially people of India the truth about this disgraceful family.
They should be imprisoned for life for all the crimes they committed and looting the wealth of the nation.
10 janpath should be vacated and turn into a museum or someplace useful for general public and Renamed
“NETA JI BHAWAN” in memory of Subhash Chandra Bose
Posted By: Col R.P.Singh <email@example.com>