SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI >  VOL. IV - SELECTED LETTERS > SECTION ONE : SELECTED LETTERS > To Lord Linlithgow
85. To Lord Linlithgow1
The Aga Khan's Palace,
Yeravda,
14-8-1942
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 unfair dealing.
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 non-violent?
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 precipitated repression.
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!
I am,
Your sincerely,
M. K. GANDHI

Gandhiji's Correspondence with the Government—1942-'44, pp. 12-16

1 During the course of the political upheavals of August, 1942 in India, Mahatma Gandhi wrote some letters to the then Viceroy of India, Lord Linlithgow. The Government in their propaganda campaigns within as well as outside the country laid the entire responsibility for August Disturbances upon Congress Leaders, whereas the National circles were unanimous in declaring that the crisis was precipitated by the repressive policy of the Government. The entire country from one end to the other was aflame with unprecedented mob fury, and it appeared as if the Indian action had once for all decided to 'do or die'. The Government on their part were bent upon crushing the movement by hook or by crook. It was in such a sorry state of affairs that Gandhiji addressed the above letter to Lord Linlithgow, wherein he criticized the Government resolution on Congress struggle point by point. While the disturbances were deplored as an unfortunate lapse from the tradition of non-violence set for the country by the Congress there was no disposition to regard them as having been planned by the Congress Leaders.