This month we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Quit India Movement [QIM] and Indian National Army [INA] or Azad Hind Fauj which 1943 onward was commanded by Netaji Subash Chandra Bose. It is true that the INA commanded by Netaji and the QIM led by the Indian National Congress had serious ideological divergence; both stood for two different strategies for the independence of India. However, both these movements proved to be milestones in the history of the Indian freedom struggle. Undoubtedly, millions of Indians who wished the end of foreign rule in the country participated in these two movements, many of them sacrificing their lives and personal liberties for the cause of national liberation. These two movements became a rage in their times and produced innumerable icons, both women and men, in the history of freedom struggle. In a co-incidence, the two leading female freedom fighters, Mrinal Gore (a close associate of M.K. Gandhi in the QIM) and Captain Lakshmi Sehgal (a legendary associate of Netaji and Commander of the famed Rani Lakshmi Bai Regiment of the INA) died in the same month of July last.
The heroic deeds, on the one hand, of the fighters of the INA against the British forces in South-East Asia and on the north-eastern borders of India, and, on the other hand, by the masses moved by the call of the Congress for the QIM in every nook and corner of the country stirred the whole nation and remain a source of inspiration for the common people even today. These two movements were testimony to the fact that freedom fighters who participated in these two movements remained committed for an inclusive India rising above religious, caste, linguistic and regional divides. There was every likelihood that if these two historic movements had succeeded India would not have been dismembered in the name of religion and we would have successfully responded to the divisive politics of mixing up religion with nationality. It would have been a different India today. Unfortunately the people of this subcontinent had to pay a heavy price when these movements did not succeed: more than 1.2 million lost their lives, 12 million were forced to abandon their hearths and homes and there is no record of the women raped, forced to convert, and the people maimed.
Most of us know that the then Communist Party of India opposed the QIM thus betraying a great phase of mass upsurge in the history of the freedom struggle. However, what role the then Hindutva camp—consisting of the Hindu Mahasabha and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh —played in the QIM is under wraps for reasons unknown. The Hindutva camp not only opposed both the QIM and INA but also provided multi-faceted and multi-dimensional support to the British rulers in suppressing these movements. In this connection shocking documents are available; these should be read to be believed.
Veer Savarkar stood with British Imperialists against Subhash Chandra Bose
THE Hindutva brigade continues to pretend to have great admiration for Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose who attempted to organise a military campaign to force the British out of India. But very few people know about the terrible betrayal of his cause by the Hindu Mahasabha under the leadership of Veer Savarkar. When Netaji, during World War II, was trying to secure foreign support, specially of Japan, for the liberation of the country and seeking to organise a military attack on the northeast of the country, it was Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, known as Veer Savarkar, who offered full military co-operation to the British masters as early as in 1941. While addressing the 23rd session of the Hindu Mahasabha at Bhagalpur, he said:
“So far as India’s defence is concerned, Hindudom must ally unhesitatingly, in a spirit of responsive co-operation with the war effort of the Indian Government, insofar as it is consistent with the Hindu interests, by joining the Army, Navy and the Aerial forces in as large a number…Again it must be noted that Japan’s entry into the war has exposed us directly and immediately to the attack by Britain’s enemies. Consequently, whether we like it or not, we shall have to defend our own hearth and home against the ravages of the war and this can only be done by intensifying the government’s war effort to defend India. Hindu Mahasabhaites must, therefore, rouse Hindus, especially in the provinces of Bengal and Assam, as effectively as possible to enter the military forces of all arms without losing a single minute.”1
When the British Government, in the wake of World War II, decided to raise new battalions of its armed forces, it was the Hindu Mahasabha, under the direct command of Savarkar, that decided to enrol Hindus in a big way in this venture. This is what Savarkar reported to the delegates at the Hindu Mahasabha session at Madura:
“Naturally, the Hindu Mahasabha with a true insight into a practical politics decided to participate in all war efforts of the British Government in so far as they concerned directly with the question of the Indian defence and raising new military forces in India.”2
It was not as if Veer Savarkar was unaware of the strong resentment which was brewing in the ranks of common Indians against such an approach. He brushed aside any criticism of the Hindu Mahasabha decision of co-operating with the British in war efforts as a “political folly into which the Indian public is accustomed to indulge in thinking that because Indian interests are opposed to the British interests in general, any step in which we join hands with the British Government must necessarily be an act of surrender, anti-national, of playing into the British hands and that co-operation with the British Government in any case and under all circumstances is unpatriotic and condemnable.”3
While the Congress under the leadership of M.K. Gandhi declared World War II as an imperialist war and gave the slogan ’naa ek bhai, naa ek pie’ (not a single brother as recruit, not a single pie as contribution), Veer Savarkar strongly criticised this stand in the following words:
“Let it not be forgotten that those who fancy that they can claim of not having co-operated with the government and helped the war-efforts either on account of the demoralising and hypocritical fad of absolute non-violence and non-resistance even in face of an armed aggression or as a matter of policy simply because they do not join the fighting forces, are but indulging in self-deception and self-complacency.”4
His call to the Hindus had no ambiguity: ‘Let the Hindus therefore come forward now and enter the army, the navy and the air-forces, the ordnance and other war-crafts factories in their thousands and millions.’5
Those who declare Veer Savarkar as a great patriot and freedom fighter will surely bow their heads in shame when they read the following instruction from Veer Savarkar to those Hindus who were to join the British forces:
“One point however must be noted in this connection as emphatically as possible in our own interest that those Hindus who join the Indian [read the British] Forces should be perfectly amenable and obedient to the military discipline and order which may prevail there provided always that the latter do not deliberately aim to humiliate Hindu Honour.”6
Astonishingly, Savarkar never felt that joining the armed forces of the colonial masters was in itself a great humiliation for any self-respecting and patriotic Hindu. The Hindu Mahasabha under Savarkar’s leadership organised high-level War Boards in different regions of the country to help the Hindus seeking recruitment in the British armed forces.7 Moreover, the Viceroy accommodated persons of Veer Savarkar’s choice in the National Defence Council to which Veer Savarkar thanked in the following telegram to the Viceroy and General Wavell, the Commander in-Chief of the British forces:
“YOUR EXCELLENCY’S ANNOUNCEMENT DEFENCE COMMITTEE WITH ITS PERSONNEL IS WELCOME. HINDUMAHASABHA VIEWS WITH SPECIAL SATISFACTION APPOINTMENT OF MESSERS KALIKAR AND JAMNADAS MEHTA.”8
[As per the original text]
Veer Savarkar betrayed Quit India Movement by helping the British and Muslim League
IN the wake of the ‘Quit India’ call to the British rulers on August 8, 1942, the British rulers dismissed the Congress-led governments in many Provinces. The British rulers also unleashed a general reign of state terror and repression. While the Congress cadres and large sections of the Indian masses were facing immense repression of the colonial rulers and decided to boycott the state institutions, the Hindu Maha-sabha decided to cooperate with the British rulers. While addressing the 24th session of the Hindu Mahasabha at Cawnpore (now Kanpur) in 1942, Savarkar outlined the strategy of the Hindu Mahasabha of co-operating with the rulers in the following words:
“The Hindu Mahasabha holds that the leading principle of all practical politics is the policy of Responsive Co-operation. And in virtue of it, it believes that all those Hindu Sangathanists who are working as councillors, ministers, legislators and conducting any municipal or any public bodies with a view to utilise those centres of government power to safeguard and even promote the legitimate interests of the Hindus without, of course, encroaching on the legitimate interests of others are rendering a highly patriotic service to our nation. Knowing the limitations under which they work, the Mahasabha only expects them to do whatever good they can under the circumstances and if they do not fail to do that much it would thank them for having acquitted themselves well. The limitations are bound to get themselves limited step by step till they get altogether eliminated. The policy of responsive co-operation which covers the whole gamut of patriotic activities from unconditional co-operation right up to active and even armed resistance, will also keep adapting itself to the exigencies of the time, resources at our disposal and dictates of our national interest.”9 [Italics as in the original]
Hindu Mahasabha led by Veer Savarkar ran Coalition Governments with Muslim League in 1942
IT is not widely known that when the Congress opposed any dealing with the Muslim League in 1942, the Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League ran coalition governments in Sind and Bengal. Savarkar defended this nexus in his presidential speech to the 24th session of Hindu Mahasabha at Kanpur in 1942 in the following words:
“In practical politics also the Mahasabha knows that we must advance through reasonable comp-romises. Witness the fact that only recently in Sind, the Sind-Hindu-Sabha on invitation had taken the responsibility of joining hands with the League itself in running coalition Government. The case of Bengal is well known. Wild Leaguers whom even the Congress with all its submissive-ness could not placate grew quite reasonably compromising and socialable as soon as they came in contact with the HM and the Coalition Government, under the premiership of Mr Fazlul Huq and the able lead of our esteemed Mahasabha leader Dr Syama Prasad Mookerji, functioned successfully for a year or so to the benefit of both the communities.”10
Role of RSS
THE other flag-bearer of Hindutva, the RSS, was not different in its attitude towards the QIM and INA. It openly sided with its mentor Veer Savarkar’s campaign for recruitment in the British armed forces in the early 1940s. It organised meetings with Veer Savarkar as the main speaker calling upon Hindu youths to join the British forces.
The RSS’ attitude towards the QIM becomes clear from the following utterances of its second chief and most prominent ideologue till date, M.S. Golwalkar. While talking about the outcome of the Non-Cooperation Movement and QIM he said: “Definitely there are bound to be bad results of struggle. The boys became unruly after the 1920-21 movement. It is not an attempt to throw mud at the leaders. But these are inevitable products after the struggle. The matter is that we could not properly control these results. After 1942, people often started thinking that there was no need to think of the law.”11
Thus the prophet of Hindutva, Golwalkar, wanted the Indians to respect the draconian and repressive laws of the inhuman British rulers! He admitted that this kind of negative attitude towards the QIM did not go well even with the RSS cadres.
“In 1942 also there was a strong sentiment in the hearts of many. At that time too the routine work of Sangh continued. Sangh vowed not to do anything directly. However, upheaval (uthal-puthal) in the minds of Sangh volunteers continued. Sangh is an organisation of inactive persons, their talks are useless, not only outsiders but also many of our volunteers did talk like this. They were greatly disgusted too.”12
It would be interesting to note what Golwalkar meant by ‘routine work of Sangh’. It surely meant working overtime to widen the divide between Hindus and Muslims thus serving the strategic goal of the British rulers and Muslim League. The failure of the QIM and INA was a tragedy for India’s freedom struggle. No doubt the British were the main culprits but there were other culprits too who need to be exposed.
1. Cited in V.D. Savarkar, Samagra Savarkar Waangmaya: Hindu Rashtra Darshan, vol. 6, Maharashtra Prantik Hindu Sabha, Poona, 1963, p. 460. 2. Ibid., p. 428. 3. Ibid., pp. 428-29. 4. A.S. Bhide (ed.), Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s Whirlwind Propaganda: Extracts from the President’s Diary of his Propagandist Tours Interviews from December 1937 to October 1941, na, Bombay, 1940, p. xxiv. 5. Ibid., p. xxvi. 6. Ibid., p. xxviii. 7. Ibid., p. xxvii. 8. Ibid., p. 451. 9. Cited in V.D. Savarkar, Samagra Savarkar Waangmaya: Hindu Rashtra Darshan, vol. 6, Maharashtra Prantik Hindu Sabha, Poona, 1963, p. 474. 10. Samagra Savarkar Wangmaya, vol. 6, op.cit., pp. 479-480. The Hindu Mahasabha joined a coalition government with the Muslim League in the NWFP also. 11. M.S. Golwalkar, Shri Guruji Samagra Darshan (Collected Works of Golwalkar in Hindi), vol. IV, Bhartiya Vichar Sadhna, Nagpur, nd, p. 41. 12. Ibid., p. 40