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Secret telegram from the Viceroy of India to the British government commenting on Indian nationalist leader Gandhi in 1943
(Catalogue ref: PREM 4/49/3)
  • This telegram was sent in 1943 by the Viceroy (the British official in charge of India) to the Secretary of State (the government minister in charge of India back in Britain). At this time India was on the front line in the war between the British and the Japanese.
  • Hundreds of thousands of Indian troops fought in the British armies against the Japanese in Asia, and eventually the Japanese were driven back.
  • During the war the Indian National Congress continued to press for the British to leave India and for India to rule itself. They continued to use their non-violent methods - refusing to co-operate with British rule, refusing to pay taxes etc.
  • Non-violent methods of protest were very effective. The British found it embarrassing to lock up peaceful protesters, but they were not sure what else to do. They felt this protest was a threat to their war effort and by December 1940 most of the Indian National Congress members were locked up. Congress leader Nehru was sentenced to 4 years in prison. Gandhi soon followed.
  • After being put in prison Gandhi began to protest by fasting - going on hunger strike. This was a way of putting pressure on the government.
  • It caused division among Indian officials in the Government of India. The official line of the Government of India was that they would not release Gandhi because he was a threat to the war effort. However, several government members resigned in protest that Gandhi was kept in prison.
  • This telegram describes a conversation between the Viceroy and an American official called Phillips. Phillips wanted to see the Viceroy because the US President Roosevelt had told him to, suggesting that Roosevelt was concerned about the situation in India.
  • There was a chance that there would be protests and even riots if Gandhi died in a British prison.
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