On Oct 2 Gandhiji's birthday time to reflect on the role of RIN muiny in getting Indian independence.
Karan M wrote:http://www.stuff.co.nz/auckland/local-news/local-blogs/dark-matter/7482540/Hero-or-puppet-Gandhi-s-role-in-India-s-freedom
Hero or puppet? Gandhi’s role in India’s freedom
Last updated 12:05 15/08/2012
Independent India is 65 years old today. It is as good a time as any to dissect M.K. Gandhi’s role in India’s freedom movement. He is revered by most people as a great hero who liberated over 300 million Indians and defeated a great empire. Albert Einstein paid tribute to the man: "Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”
The reality, however, is different. In both Britain and India, Gandhi’s role is exaggerated. It suits the British because the Gandhian view is that he shamed them into leaving India. It runs parallel to another myth that after ruling India for 190 years the British became so tired of the responsibilities of civilising a difficult people that they simply wound up their empire and left.
In India, Gandhi’s party, the Congress, has purely selfish reasons for perpetuating such myths because it helps them stay in power. In fact, right from school onwards Indians are taught how a frail old man achieved freedom without firing a shot.
The mythmaking has taken absurd dimensions. There is not a town in India that doesn’t have a square, street or stadium named after Gandhi. In fact, most towns have all three. His face stares at 1.2 billion people from currency notes; in parks and government buildings his statutes abound; his gaze follows you like Big Brother from portraits that adorn railways stations and post offices. You get the picture – in India you can’t escape Gandhi.
Today, government radio and TV channels will be regurgitating the same old lies – how the “father of the nation” used the weapon of non-violence to defeat well-armed colonialists.
There is an ancient Hindu adage – Satyam Eva Jayate or Truth Alone Wins. Precise and true. Millions of Indians are waking up to the fact that Gandhi was not quite the apostle of peace he’s made out to be but rather a misguided man – perhaps a British collaborator – who caused untold harm to India, playing a key role in the breakup of a country that held together through cultural and religious continuity for at least 10,000 years.
The fact is Gandhi’s arrival on the stage upended India’s freedom movement. In the early 1900s, Indian leaders were looking at overthrowing the British by the 1920s, but Gandhi’s arrival delayed it by more than two decades.
Social media and the widespread reach of the Internet are taking this debate to the furthest corners of India. The good money is on Gandhi statues falling like those of Karl Marx in 1991 and Saddam Hussein’s in 2003.
Gandhi vs the revolutionaries
The Indian freedom movement was massive in its sweep. Armed revolutionaries were not only carrying on guerrilla wars at home, they even took the battle to England, where they assassinated British officials.
However, Gandhi severely reprimanded such acts, calling the Indian revolutionaries misguided people. "There should be no malice or vindictiveness in our resistance," he said.
But his statements condemning such acts only hurt India and Indians. One, it cooled Indian anger and two, it made it easier for the British to hang the revolutionaries. It is worth noting that while Indian freedom fighters experienced third-degree torture in jails on remote islands, Gandhi never got a scratch. For all his protests, fasts-unto-death, marches and sloganeering, he only got short-term sentences in comfortable, minimum security prisons, where he could leisurely churn out his theories on non-violence.
Out of Africa
Gandhi started off as a humble lawyer in South Africa. While his supporters argue that he evolved into a saint over the years, few are aware that he joined the ambulance corps of the British Army during the 1896 Boer War. So basically, the man who would go on to lead India’s freedom movement was denying the same freedom to the Dutch Boers.
Again in 1906, during the Zulu Rebellion against the British government, Gandhi served the British army as a stretcher-bearer. The native Africans were victims of colonialism just like Indians and Gandhi’s sympathies should have been with them. But he was a self-confessed Anglophile with a firm belief in the goodness of the British.
In India there is a growing body of scholars that now believes Gandhi was working for the British. Perhaps his Anglophilia convinced the British to prop him up an interlocutor between Indians and the British. While there may never be direct evidence to prove his links to British handlers, there is plenty of indirect evidence that he was serving Britain more than he was serving India’s cause. (There is little or no evidence Hitler ordered the genocide of the Jews, but six million Jews could not have been sent to the gas chambers without a directive from Hitler.)
After he returned from South Africa, Gandhi was in favour of continued British rule in India. In 1907 he wrote, “Should the British be thrown out of India? Can it be done, even if we wish to do so? To these two questions we can reply that we stand to lose by ending British rule and that, even if we want, India is not in a position to end it.” These are the words of a man who was literally thrown out a train for sitting in a whites-only coach in South Africa.
The supreme irony was that Gandhi - the apostle of non-violence and peace - urged Indians to enlist as combatants in the British Army. He set up recruitment camps to enlist Indians during the First World War. For his efforts he was awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind (Caesar of India), British India’s highest civilian award. Other Indians opposed his war efforts. Among them was M.A. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, who said Indians should be put on the same footing as European British subjects before being asked to fight. And secondly, they said, Britain must guarantee independence after the war. Gandhi, however, waved aside all such conditions.
Indian revolutionaries were frustrated by the tardiness shown by Gandhi in demanding full freedom. His non-violence exasperated these leaders because it shielded the British from the wrath of the people.
Let’s hear it from the British side. Clement Atlee, the British prime minster who decided to finally quit India, was very clear that Gandhi is not what he’s cracked up to be. After India’s independence in 1947, the Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court asked Atlee about Gandhi’s influence upon the British decision to quit India. [b\Atlee had only one word to say: “M-i-n-i-m-a-l”. He said the principal reasons why Britain decided to quit India was the erosion of loyalty to the British Crown among the army and navy personnel.
Atlee’s statement is corroborated by Fenner Brockway, political secretary of the Independent Labour Party of England. According to him, the two major causes of Britain’s hasty exit from India were: “One, the Indian people were determined to gain independence. Two, was the revolt by the Indian Navy.”[/b]
It’s easy to see why the Indian Army was the deciding factor and the Indian Navy’s revolt was the tipping point. Over 1.5 million Indian soldiers had fought on the side of Britain in the First World War and 2.5 million Indians during the Second World War.
The UK's History Learning site says:
"When war was declared on August 4, 1914, India rallied to the cause. Offers of financial and military help were made from all over the country. Hugely wealthy princes offered great sums of money. Despite the pre-war fears of unrest, Britain, in fact, could take many troops and most of her military equipment out of India as fears of unrest subsided. Indian troops were ready for battle before most other troops in the dominions.
"They fought in most theatres of war including Gallipoli and North and East Africa. In all 47,746 were classed as killed or missing with 65,000 wounded. The Indian Corps won 13,000 medals for gallantry including 12 Victoria Crosses.
"Such was the cost of the war, that India’s economy was pushed to near bankruptcy."
The Indian support given to Britain’s cause surprised the establishment in Britain. The Times wrote: “The Indian empire has overwhelmed the British nation by the completeness and unanimity of its enthusiastic aid.”
Expectations were high in India the British would leave after the war. They were belied. As a British general told Gandhi: "My dear sir! India is British. We're hardly an alien power."
Gandhi now had little credibility with Indian revolutionaries.
Armed and dangerous
At any rate after the war, these returned soldiers – battle hardened and exposed to the freedom of Europe – were spread across India with nothing much to do. Basically, they were ready recruits for armed revolutionaries, who were engaged in pitched battles with the police and army.
Also, in December 1941, the Japanese Army defeated a British Imperial force comprising over 100,000 imperial troops; 30,000 of these were Indians. The Indian POWs were recruited by the armed revolutionary force formed by Gandhi’s mercurial political opponent Subhash Bose, who had long called for an armed revolution. Bose got help from Japan and Nazi Germany. (To be sure, Adolf Hitler was extremely reluctant about supporting an Indian because it clashed with his racist views.)
This ‘betrayal’ of the Indian soldiers rattled Britain. From that point on, no Indian could be relied upon to defend British interests. Desertions by troops became common.
The freedom movement also impacted the Navy, but the immediate cause of the revolt was something as simple as the right to use the swimming pool. Indians, even of commissioned ranks, were not allowed entry into the Navy’s swimming pools, whereas British sailors of any rank could use them.
The Navy’s Indian officers decided they had had enough. In February 1946 the Indian Navy declared an unprecedented strike. It quickly drew support from the Indian crews of all the 20 vessels anchored in Mumbai port; 20,000 naval ratings revolted.
This revolt, which very likely would have spread to the army, forced Britain’s hand. The writing was clear – thousands of miles from home, and in a new world order where the Americans and Russians were rewriting the rules of empire, safety was no longer guaranteed by Indian soldiers. Indian soldiers – divided by language and religion – had helped Britain build a vast empire. Mercenary Indian soldiers had fought for Britain in Afghanistan, Iraq, China, Turkey and Europe, and now these same soldiers had united to overthrow the colonialists. Wisely, albeit reluctantly, Britain decided the game was over.
At any rate despite Churchill’s rhetoric (“I have not become prime minister to preside over the demise of her majesty’s empire.”) the British had been preparing for such an eventuality. The reason was that unlike most other countries where they encountered Stone Age civilisations, in India they met a scientifically advanced people who were simply too numerous and too warlike to be subjugated forever.
In fact, way back in the 1700s, Warren Hastings, the first British governor general of India, had said with amazing foresight that Britain's empire was over the day the foundation was laid in 1757.
Unlike the romanticised Raj history – which many people are fond of reading – British rule in India was in actual fact a period of constant and brutal wars. The British never quite managed to achieve complete control or total peace in India, and there was hardly a single year in the 190 years of British rule when there wasn’t a rebellion somewhere in the country.
Another little known fact is that the British had to move India’s capital from Calcutta to Delhi because Calcutta had become a hotbed of revolutionary activity. This is yet another fact that has been glossed over even in Indian school books, which portray Gandhi as the lynchpin of the freedom movement.
(It is worthwhile to point out here that the Gandhi family, that has ruled India for almost 60 of the past 65 years, has nothing to do with Gandhi. Yes, they are not really Gandhis and are not related to Gandhi at all. Not only has this family stolen the glory of freedom from the real revolutionaries, they acquired his name too through a bizarre accident. It gets even more bizarre when you consider that the most powerful person in India, Sonia Gandhi, is in fact an Italian named Antonia Maino.)
In the narrative of this dynasty, there is no place for anyone other than Gandhi. India is Gandhi and Gandhi is India. In contrast, the real Gandhi would have begged to differ. He went around the world half naked whereas the current Gandhis are billionaires, who ride roughshod over democracy and donate millions of dollars in grants to Cambridge and Oxford scholars to write hagiographies that belittle Indian history that does not fit in the family’s narrative. It is a circular cycle that feeds on its own tail for sustenance – fake Indian secularists led by the Gandhi family get the history they want from obliging colonial scholars; the Indian liberals and Marxists then pick up this thread and it passes into school history books. The Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels couldn’t have done a better job.
Seeds of fundamentalism
Gandhi played a deplorable role in the creation of Pakistan. Here’s busting another myth – the people living in the current geographical areas of Pakistan did not - repeat did not - want a Muslim country. Muslims comprised a majority in those areas and hardly felt threatened by the Hindus. The demand for Pakistan was made by educated, upper middle class Muslims living in India’s eastern states.
In the 1920s Turkish nationalist Ataturk was involved in a power struggle with the effete Ottoman rulers and the Caliph of Istanbul. At this crucial juncture two Indian Muslim brothers, self-styled religious leaders, distributed pamphlets calling upon the Turkish people to preserve the Ottoman Caliphate for the sake of Islam. This was laughable because Indian Muslims had no locus standi in the matter. After all, who did they think they were, Saladin?
This wound up the nationalist Turks. Says Wikipedia: ‘‘Under Turkey's new nationalist government, however, this was construed as foreign intervention, and any form of foreign intervention was labeled an insult to Turkish sovereignty, and worse, a threat to state security. Ataturk promptly seized his chance. On his initiative, the National Assembly abolished the Caliphate on March 3, 1924.’’
The Caliph was exiled and the Ottoman dynasty, after a 700 year reign, ingloriously ended up in the dustheap. Indian Muslims should feel proud of their contribution to the demise of the Caliphate.
Opportunist at large
Now, here’s what our man did. In order to show solidarity with Indian Muslims, Gandhi launched a protest movement demanding the reinstatement of the Caliph. This was not just rank bad politics but it also shows his muddled side.
One, Gandhi, who apparently wanted freedom for Indians, did not care about freedom for the millions of Arabs who were seething under Ottoman rule. Secondly, he seemed indifferent to Turkey’s search for modernity. And finally, he fanned the flames of fundamentalism among Indian Muslims.
The average Indian Muslim did not care a rat’s tail about Turkey. Nearly 99 per cent of Indian Muslims are forced converts from Hinduism; they were - and most still are - patriotic Indians. But Gandhi encouraged Indian Muslims to be loyal to the Islamic cause. So basically while Turks were preparing for the 20th century, Gandhi was pushing Indian Muslims into the 17th.
The Indian nation is still paying a price for it. For, Gandhi’s Caliphate strategy gamed the Muslim mindset. From that point, extraterritorial loyalties enticed them. He pointed their compass away from the Himalayas to Mecca. Pakistan then became an inevitability.
The British, who were deeply suspicious of Indian Muslims, now discovered an enemy’s enemy and actively sought out key Muslim leaders in Project Pakistan. They assured Muslims that if they asked for an Islamic homeland and if the new country promised to be loyal to Britain, they could have Pakistan.
Even then, it was Gandhi’s ‘peaceful’ strategies that literally disarmed the Hindus and gave away Pakistan. In a way, while India has moved on and prospered, sending spacecraft to the moon, Pakistan is stuck in a cycle of unending violence. India’s Muslim leaders no doubt should take the blame for consigning 200 million people to the tragedy that is Pakistan, but Gandhi is equally culpable for their fates.
In fact, Jinnah, the architect of Pakistan, was a diehard secularist who repeatedly warned Gandhi about the dangers of flirting with fundamentalist Muslims. Jinnah despised fundamentalist Muslim leaders and stayed away from them. It was Gandhi’s arrogance and repeated snubs that left no choice for Jinnah to throw in his lot with Project Pakistan. He died a broken man.
Hello Hitler: Going too far
Gandhi's misguided approach can be seen in his advice to the British during the Second World War. As German rockets and bombs were raining down on them, he recommended the British use non-violent methods to fight Hitler. On December 24, 1938 he wrote, "How can non-violence combat aerial warfare, seeing that there are no personal contacts? The reply to this is that behind the death-dealing bomb there is the human hand that releases it, and behind that still is the human heart that sets the hand in motion. And at the back of the policy of terrorism is the assumption that terrorism if applied in a sufficient measure will produce the desired result, namely, bend the adversary to the tyrant's will. But supposing a people make up their mind that they will never do the tyrant's will, nor retaliate with the tyrant's own methods, the tyrant will not find it worth his while to go on with this terrorism."
Yeah, I can imagine the Nazis getting tired of committing genocide.
But that's not all. Gandhi then wrote an open letter to Hitler, asking the German leader not to go to war.
Do you still believe he was sane?
Stop the lies
On June 11, 1988 the Soviet Union in a momentous decision cancelled all history exams in schools across the country, affecting more than 53 million students. The reason: under President Mikhail Gorbachev’s glasnost the re-examination of Soviet history had gone so far that historians, social scientists and even Communist Party theoreticians were uncertain what was correct. “The guilt of those who deluded one generation after another, poisoning their minds and souls with lies, is immeasurable,” the government said. Remember, this happened at the height of Soviet power.
[b]In stark contrast, in both Britain and India no such introspection seems to be taking place. In Britain, the Raj is all about romance and nostalgia, about civilising a subcontinent. In India, it's all about Gandhi. It seems the elites in both countries want to sidestep the dubious aspects of their relationship.
Independence came through the indefatigable spirit of revolutionaries rather than the charisma of one man.
Rakesh Krishnan's articles have been used as reference at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; the Centre for Research on Globalization, Canada; Wikipedia; and as part of the curriculum at the Anthropology Department of the National University of Ireland, Maynooth. His work has been published by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi; Oped News, Pennsylvania; and Rossiyskaya Gazeta Group, Moscow, among others.
See is as Atlee says that RIN mutiny was a major factor in the British decision to quite, then why did the freedom struggle leaders opt for Partition? they had no role in the Independence decision yet agreed for the country to be divided.