Republic Day Special Series

SHARAD JOSHI'S BOOK: Ch. XI, Part 1

 

WHAT WENT WRONG WITH INDEPENDENCE?

Chapter XI: Flag of Liberation was looted before it unfurled (Part 1)

The United Kingdom paid a heavy price for the victory in IInd World War. Many of its cities and townships were devastated, thousands of young men killed and the economy lay in ruins.

The post-war Great Britain lacked both – the will and the stamina for the massive military operation that would have been necessary for keeping its colonial possessions. The Japanese conquest of Asia had altered the Asian situation. The heroic fight by the Indian National Army (INA), the Naval Mutiny in Bombay and the emergence of leftist extremists groups all over the country had created a situation where continuation of the imperial rule was inconceivable. Britannia had ruled India for over a hundred years with the help of a native army, an indigenous police and locally recruited civil servants. It was no more possible to count on the loyalty of those institutions. In the general elections held in the Great Britain the party of Churchill, the militant leader who won the IInd World War for the allies, was defeated. The Labour Party came to power which soon decided to put an end to the Colonial Empire of the Great Britain.

The partition of India was announced; Those who had proclaimed that the country could be partitioned only over their dead bodies acquiesced in the partition with remarkable agility. What explains this change of heart and the sudden rush to gain power? (If the transfer of power is delayed any further an uprising of the suppressed masses, feared the established leadership, would sweep the country, the leaders of this new revolt may have little respect for Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence. This apprehension of the leadership that had grown under the Gandhi’s movement, had its own logic.)

Gandhi had mobilised unarmed illiterate and poor masses to confront the might of the British Empire by innovating the technique of Satyagraha and by spiritualising politics. His movement had an unprecedented response; millions came out for the struggle for freedom. The Congress leadership feared that the mighty forces released by the Mahatma would no more respect Gandhian discipline and that it would result in massive violence and bloodshed. Revolutions of this type would have demanded iron leadership and skills that were lacking in the then national leadership. If the advent of Independence is delayed the older generation of leaders will be replaced by a new leadership of a different metal coming out of Indian masses that would not shirk to shed blood to gain Independence. The heat of such a revolt would have burnt down the parochial feelings of caste and creed. The whole issue of Pakistan would have become irrelevant and the partition would have been avoided. But, that would hardly have suited the leaders of the Nehru-coterie. The idea that Independence was eminent albeit at the cost of partition and they would finally be able to have power after long years of speechifying and jail--going quite seductive. They had realised very clearly that this was their last chance of acceding to power. It was clear to them that India that had passed through the furnace of armed revolution would pay respectful homage to the Mahatma but would be far from kind to his second-line followers. Faced with this situation Gandhi passed the buck on to Nehru; his eminent disciples accepted Independence with partition. The Mountbaton Plan appeared to satisfy very largely the aspiration of the Freedom Movement under the flag of the Congress party. Their uppermost aspirations was that the British should leave without upsetting the hierarchical structure of the Indian society marked by the backwardness of the masses, domination of the upper castes and expropriation of the fruit of the labour of the helpless masses. Briefly, it was the ambition of the Indian elite to climb on to the throne of political power irrespective of what happened to the down-trodden. The leadership understandably felt that it had achieved its prime objective of acceding to power. It’s a pity that their mandate would not run in the provinces that would go to Pakistan. But, it was not overly concerned.

The Congress accepted the Mountbatton’s proposal not so much with the objective of bringing an end to the British rule as for the purpose of ensuring continued age-old domination of the elite castes. To sum up, in the idiom of Jotiba Fule, “Independence came before the emergence of Indian Nation as of unified people.”

The elite were happy that the old days of glory for them would come throughout the country minus the provinces going to Pakistan. The Indian elite were prepared to accept Pakistan rather than loosing the commanding heights they had occupied for, at least two, millennia.

 

(... continued in Part 2)

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