South Yorkshire Times – Saturday 08 August 1942
Amongst other preoccupations the news out of India is unpleasantly inopportune though the latest revelation of Gandhi’s intransigence is hardly the surprise some commentators would make it out to be.
Gandhi is credited in a Summary of the debate of the Congress Working Committee, seized in a raid on the Congress offices at Allahabad, with the expressed sentiment that “if India were freed her first step would probably be to negotiate with Japan.” That this statement was not ultimately embodied in the Committee’s resolution makes no difference to the validity of the phrase, and in an interview given after its publication Gandhi leaves no doubt that it was propounded in all seriousness. He states that he associated himself with its deletion out of regard for his co-workers, “‘not because I was uncertain as to what I meant to do.”
The pathetic unreality of outlook of the Congress leaders, and of Gandhi in particular, is nowhere more glaringly revealed than in Gandhi’s talk of pleading with Japan to free China. If such ingenuous innocence were not tragic it would be laughable in its absurdity; a modern version of the fable of the wolf and the sheep. Completely blind to every consideration save that of getting the British out of India, Gandhi is content to juggle with such phrases as “non-violent non-co-operation” towards Japan, while at the same time contemplating a campaign of civil disobedience One can imagine the smiles of the Japanese high command as they set themselves to face non-co-operation of this brand. It is difficult to see what else Congress could do if its members were setting their feet avowedly on the path of co-operation with Japan. The history of Anglo-Indian relations has produced nothing more fantastically eloquent of Indian unreasonableness than this.
A study of the documents issued by the Government of India reveals the recurrence in the summary of the Congress Working Committee’s debate of an idea which may throw some light on the attitude of mind of those who are so rabid in their hatred of Britain and yet so ready to parley with the Japanese. More than one member of the Committee expresses the view that Britain’s cause is doomed, and that the forces of the Axis powers will triumph.
Pandi Nehru remarks: “It is Gandhi’s view that Japan and Germany will win,” another member says: “If the battle of India is to be fought by Wavell we shall do ourselves discredit if we attach ourselves to him,” and yet another: “I would reconsider the position if the Allies could defeat the Axis. But I see clearly that Britain is going towards the deep.”
Despite the more practical and reasonable point of view represented by some of the members, of whom Nehru is the most realist, reiteration of this thought strips most of the idealism from the Congress attitude, and suggests, if we are to get at the honest core of the matter, a mere anxiety to be on the winning side. After slipping off the hated British yoke, Congress plans to make a better bargain with new masters, and, divided though its counsels are, it is sufficiently clear that many fancy an early start on the preliminary haggling. Such hopes are of the hollowest. However irksome British rule in India may be it is certain that the Japanese conception of administration would be far less liberal. The ravaged villages of China, quite apart from the horrors of Hong- Kong, cry aloud against such fatuous expectations of Japanese tolerance. Avid for conquest, Japan endows the word imperialism with new meanings, among which pillage, rape and murder are writ large.
Congress toys dangerously with the fate of India. It must not be allowed to drag down the cause of the United Nations by its quibbles and dissensions.