Sir, – Your leading article “India No Better” makes a plea for a new approach by the Government of India to the more responsible Indian leaders. It names that the Congress leaders are still in jail, and the continued deadlock has wrought grave damage to the British prestige throughout the world.
Quite rightly it deplores, as we all do, the bitterness and distrust that are being fanned into fiercest flame, but it is difficult to see how the Congress leaders can respond to any approach by Government.
We misconstrue the position when we imagine any of these leaders can act apart from Mr. Gandhi, and still more if we think the Indian dictator will swerve from his obstructive course.
Mr Gandhi as Dictator
Any tendency to underrate Mr Gandhi’s power will be corrected by recalling how he crushed Subhas Chandra Bose and obliterated his public life. Mr Bose was elected as President of the Indian National Congress by a very large majority but Mr Gandhi did not approve of his election and Mr Bose was compelled to resign. Actually he had been re-elected to the Presidentship on account of his popularity during the term of his office the preceding year, but as he did not commend himself to Mr Gandhi he had to go. With this in mind no Congress leader is likely to dare Mr Gandhi’s disapproval where his power extends.
The extreme mortification of Indian Congress Nationalists arises from the knowledge that they themselves created the present deadlock, that their leader made a wrong judgement with all the world as spectators, and that they can never recover the advantageous position they held in the spring of 1942.
At the time their leaders were front page names in the world’s press. They led the strongest party in India, and it was everywhere believed they spoke for the overwhelming majority of their fellow-countrymen. Their importance, moreover was greatly enhanced because our fortunes on the field of battle were at their lowest ebb.
Under Mr Gandhi’s direction they felt themselves in the position to reject totally our offer of self-government, and their leader stigmatised it as a post-dated cheque. Going further, he ordered us to leave the country. Our star, as he believed, has fallen. Raising what was virtually his standard of rebellion, he indicated his own choice was made, the die was cast and India must choose for him or for Britain. Commending his position to India, he claimed he was acting under the guidance of a vision that came to him in the night – a peculiarly impressive in that land.
At once there broke out all over India a widespread campaign of sabotage on a scale hitherto unknown. Well-placed and trained saboteurs under cover of wide continental distances had almost every circumstance in their favour. With every one discussing British military disasters – and American – there was good ground to expect overwhelming local support everywhere.
In these circumstances, the Viceroy’s Executive Council, the Cabinet of India, met and decided to put Mr Gandhi and the other Congress leaders in jail. This Council, comprising 11 Indians and 4 Europeans, accepting the challenge to the allegiance to India, made it’s decision with only one European able to be present, but with every Indian in his place to vote. It was, therefore, an Indian decision, and what followed proved beyond all question that it had the support of India.
Mr Gandhi and the Congress leaders were arrested, and the alarming network of sabotage was successfully countered and foiled. The enemy without, flushed with triumph beyond his dreams, found the gates of India securely barred and bolted against his utmost effort to force them, and compelled to stay there while the greatest volunteer army in the world, now 2,000,000 strong is being trained and equipped to take its part in his final overthrow.
We shall keep faith with India. We hat the idea of holding political prisoners under guard, and seek to enhance our prestige by fair dealing rather than by any show of power. India’s adherence to lawful authority has been provided, and her great leaders who held her allegiance in her darkest hour will have an honoured place at the Peace Conference but India has a long road to travel to achieve her national aspirations unless a body with the following of the Indian Congress can find a leadership that will play fair, renounce malign propaganda, and built co-operatively a Constitution under which India will exercise the fullest national sovereignty – I am etc.