Who freed India, Gandhi or Bose? New book claims Netaji's INA had more impact on British rulers than Gandhi or Nehru's non-violence.
While the declassification of the Netaji files has sparked a massive debate on the need to rewrite modern Indian history, a yet-to be-published book - Bose: An Indian Samurai - by Netaji scholar and military historian General GD Bakshi claims that former British prime minister Clement Atlee said the role played by Netaji’s Indian National Army was paramount in India being granted Independence, while the non-violent movement led by Gandhi was dismissed as having had minimal effect.
In the book, Bakshi cites a conversation between the then British PM By Rahul Kanwal in New Delhi Attlee and then Governor of West Bengal Justice PB Chakraborty.
The conversation is placed in 1956 when Attlee - the leader of Labour Party and the British premier who had signed the decision to grant Independence to India - had come to India and stayed in Kolkata as Chakraborty’s guest.
Chakraborty, who was then the Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court and was serving as the acting Governor of West Bengal, had written a letter to the publisher of RC Majumdar’s book, A History of Bengal, in which he wrote: “When I was acting governor, Lord Attlee, who had given us Independence by withdrawing British rule from India, spent two days in the governor’s palace at Calcutta during his tour of India. At that time I had a prolonged discussion with him regarding the real factors that had led the British to quit India.”
|Former British PM Clement Atlee had said that the role played by Netaji’s Indian National Army was significant in India becoming independent|
Clement Atlee reportedly described Gandhi's influence on the British decision to leave India as "minimal".
“My direct question to Attlee was that since Gandhi’s Quit India Movement had tapered off quite some time ago and in 1947 no such new compelling situation had arisen that would necessitate a hasty British departure, why did they had to leave?”
“In his reply Attlee cited several reasons, the main among them being the erosion of loyalty to the British crown among the Indian Army and Navy personnel as a result of the military activities of Netaji,” Chakraborty said.
“Toward the end of our discussion I asked Attlee what was the extent of Gandhi’s influence upon the British decision to leave India. Hearing this question, Attlee’s lips became twisted in a sarcastic smile as he slowly chewed out the word, ‘m-i-n-i-m-a-l’,” Chakraborty added.
This startling conversation was first published by the Institute of Historical Review by author Ranjan Borra in 1982, in his piece on Subhas Chandra Bose, the Indian National Army and the war of India’s liberation.
To understand the significance of Attlee’s assertion, we have to go back in time to 1945. The Second World War had ended. The allied powers, led by Britain and the United States, had won. The Axis powers led by Hitler’s Germany had been vanquished. The victors wanted to impose justice on the defeated armies.
In India, officers of Netaji Bose’s Indian National Army were put on trial for treason, torture, murder. This series of court martials, came to be known as the Red Fort Trials.
Indians serving in the British armed forces were inflamed by the Red Fort Trials. In February 1946, almost 20,000 sailors of the Royal Indian Navy serving on 78 ships mutinied against the Empire. They went around Mumbai with portraits of Netaji and forced the British to shout Jai Hind and other INA slogans.
The rebels brought down the Union Jack on their ships and refused to obey their British masters. This mutiny was followed by similar rebellions in the Royal Indian Air Force and also in the British Indian Army units in Jabalpur. The British were terrified.
After the Second World War, 2.5 million Indian soldiers were being de-commissioned from the British Army. Military intelligence reports in 1946 indicated that the Indian soldiers were inflamed and could not be relied upon to obey their British officers.
There were only 40,000 British troops in India at the time. Most were eager to go home and in no mood to fight the 2.5 million battle-hardened Indian soldiers who were being demobilised.
It is under these circumstances that the British decided to grant Independence to India. The idea behind putting these documents in the public domain, is not to in any way undermine the significant contribution of Mahatma Gandhi or Pandit Nehru, but to spark a debate about the real significance of the role played by Netaji’s Indian National Army.
School textbooks are dominated by the role played by the non-violent movement, while the role of the INA is dismissed in a few cursory paragraphs.
The time has come to revisit modern Indian history and acknowledge the immense contribution of Netaji in helping India win its freedom.