DEAR LORD LINLITHGOW,
The Government of India were wrong in precipitat¬ing the crisis.
The Government resolution justifying the step is full of distortions
and misrepresentations. That you have the approval of your Indian
'colleagues' can have no significance, except this that in India you
can always command such services. That co-operation is an additional
justification for the demand of withdrawal irrespective of what people
and parties may say.
The Government of India should have waited at least till the time
I inaugurated mass action. I have publicly stated that I fully contemplated
sending you a letter before taking concrete action. It was to be an
appeal to you for an impartial examination of the Congress case. As
you know the Congress has readily filled in every omission that has
been discovered in the conception of its demand. So would I have dealt
with every deficiency if you had given me the opportunity. The precipitate
action of the Government leads one to think that they were afraid
that the extreme caution and gradualness with which the Congress was
moving towards direct action, might make world opinion ever round
to the Congress as it had already begun doing, and expose the hollowness
of the grounds for the Government's rejection of the Congress demand.
They should surely have waited for an authentic report of my speeches
on Friday and on Saturday night after the passing of the resolution
by the All-India Congress Committee. You would have found in them
that I would not hastily begin action. You would have taken advantage
of the interval foreshadowed in them and explored every possibility
of satisfying the Congress demand.
The resolution says, "The Government of India have waited patiently
in the hope that wiser counsels might prevail. They have been disappointed
in that hope." I suppose 'wiser counsels' here means abandonment
of its demand by the Congress. Why should the abandonment of a demand
legitimate at all times be hoped for by a Government pledged to guarantee
independence to India? Is it a challenge that could only be met by
immediate repression instead of patient reasoning with the demanding
party? I venture to suggest that it is a long draft upon the credulity
of mankind to say that the acceptance of the demand "would plunge
India into confusion". Any way the summary rejection of the demand
has plunged the nation and the Government into confusion. The Congress
was making every effort to identify India with the Allied cause.
The Government resolution says: "The Governor- General in Council
has been aware, too, for some time past, of dangerous preparations
by the Congress party for unlawful and in some cases violent activities,
di¬rected among other things to the interruption of com¬munications
and public utility services, the organization of strikes, tampering
with the loyalty of Government servants and interference with defence
measures includ¬ing recruitment." This is a gross distortion
of the reality. Violence was never contemplated at any stage. A defi¬nition
of what could be included in non-violent action has been interpreted
in a sinister and subtle manner as if the Congress was preparing for
violent action. Every¬thing was openly discussed among Congress
circles, for nothing was to be done secretly. And why is it tampering
with your loyalty if I ask you to give up a job that is harming the
British people? Instead of publishing behind the backs of principal
Congressmen the mislead¬ing paragraph, the Government of India,
immediately they came to know of the 'preparations', should have brought
to book the parties concerned with the prepa¬rations. That would
have been the appropriate course. By their unsupported allegations
in the resolution, they have laid themselves open to the charge of
The whole Congress movement was intended to evoke in the people the
measure of sacrifice sufficient to compel attention. It was intended
to demonstrate what measure of popular support it had. Was it wise
at this time of the day to seek to suppress a popular Government avowedly
The Government resolution further says: "The Congress is not
India's mouthpiece. Yet in the interest of securing their own dominance
and in pursuit of their own totalitarian policy its leaders have consistently
impeded the efforts made to bring India to full nationhood."
It is a gross libel thus to accuse the oldest national organization
of India. This language lies ill in the mouth of a Government which
has, as can be proved from public records, consistently thwarted every
national effort for attaining freedom, and sought to suppress the
Congress by hook or by crook.
The Government of India have not condescended to consider the Congress
offer that if simultaneously with the declaration of Independence
of India, they could not trust the Congress to form a stable provisional
Government, they should ask the Muslim League to do so and that any
National Government formed by the League would be loyally accepted
by the Congress. Such an offer is hardly consistent with the charge
of totalitarianism against the Congress.
Let me examine the Government offer. "It is that, as soon as
hostilities cease, India shall devise for herself, with full freedom
of decision and on a basis embracing all and not only a single party,
the form of Government which she regards as most suited to her conditions."
Has this offer any reality about it? All parties have not agreed now.
Will it be any more possible after the war? And if the parties have
to act before Independence is in their hands ? Parties grow up like
mushrooms, for without proving their representative character, the
Gov¬ernment will welcome them as they have done in the past, if
the parties oppose the Congress and its activi¬ties, though they
may do lip-homage to Independence, frustration is inherent in the
Government offer. Hence the logical cry of withdrawal first. Only
after the end of British power and fundamental change in the political
status of India from bondage to freedom, will the formation of a truly
representative government, whether provisional or permanent, be possible.
The living burial of the authors of the demand has not resolved the
deadlock. It has aggravated.
Then the resolution proceeds: "The suggestion put forward by
the Congress party that the millions of India, uncertain as to the
future are ready, despite the sad lessons of so many martyr countries,
to throw themselves into the arms of the invaders is one that the
Government of India cannot accept as a true representation of the
feeling of the people of this great country." I do not know about
the millions. But I can give my own evidence in support of the Congress
statement. It is open to the Government not to believe the Congress
evidence. No imperial power likes to be told that it is in peril.
It is because the Congress is anxious for Great Britain to avoid the
fate that has overtaken other imperial powers that it asks her to
shed imperialism voluntarily by declaring India independent. The Congress
has not approached the movement with any but the friendliest motive.
The Congress seeks to kill imperialism as much for the sake of the
British people and humanity as for India. Notwithstanding assertions
to the contrary, I maintain that the Congress has no interests of
its own apart from that of the whole of India and the world.
The following passage from the peroration in the resolution is interesting.
"But on them (the Govern¬ment) there lies the task of defending
India, of main-taining India's capacity to wage war, of safeguarding
India's interests, of holding the balance between the different sections
of her people without fear or favour."
All I can say is that it is a mockery of truth after the experience
in Malaya, Singapore and Burma. It is sad to find the Government of
India claiming to hold the 'balance' between the parties for whose
creation and existence it is itself demonstrably responsible.
One thing more. The declared cause is common between the Government
of India and us. To put it in the most concrete terms, it is the protection
of the freedom of China and Russia. The Government of India think
that freedom of India is not necessary for winning the cause. I think
exactly the opposite. I have taken Jawaharlal Nehru as my measuring
rod. His personal contacts make him feel much more the misery of the
impending ruin of China and Russia than I can, and may I say than
even you can. In that misery he tried to forget his old quarrel with
Imperialism. He dreads much more than I do the success of Fascism
and Nazism. I argued with him for days together. He fought against
my position with a passion which I have no words to describe. But
the logic of facts overwhelmed him. He yielded when he saw clearly
that without the freedom of India that of the other two was in great
jeopardy. Surely you are wrong in having imprisoned such a powerful
friend and ally.
If not withstanding the common cause, the Government's answer to the
Congress demand is hasty repression, they will not wonder if I draw
the inference that it was not so much the Allied cause that weighed
with the British Government, as the unexpressed determination to cling
to the possession of India as an indispensable part of imperial policy.
The determination led to the rejection of the Congress demand and
The present mutual slaughter on a scale never before known to history
is suffocating enough. But the slaughter of truth accompanying the
butchery and enforced by the falsity of which the resolution is reeking
adds strength to the Congress position.
It causes me deep pain to have to send you this long letter. But however
much I dislike your action, I remain the same friend you have known
me. I would still plead for reconsideration of the Government of India's
whole policy. Do not disregard the pleading of one who claims to be
a sincere friend of the British people. Heaven guide you!