Cripps, Nehru and Gandhi

Extract from broadcast to United States by Sir Stafford Cripps’ on Britain’s position on India, 27 July 1942 with comments from Nehru and Gandhi (CAB 127/71)


1. Sir Stafford Cripps’ broadcast on India
(i) Text of the broadcast.

“I have always been a firm friend of India and I have done my best in the past to work for the freedom of India. When I joined the British War Cabinet and found the British Government anxious and willing to put forward a proposal for Indian self-government, I volunteered to travel the 20 thousand miles to India and back to put the case directly to the Indian political leaders on behalf of the British Government and people.

We offered to the Indian people complete liberty the moment the war was over, to devise and set up their own form of government. We suggested the broad outlines of how they should proceed. But there was no rigidity in these suggestions. It was left open to the various religions and races to agree upon some other method. But to my regret they neither accepted, nor put forward any agreed alternative.

It was not this future arrangement, however, but the immediate situation which caused the Congress Party in India to reject the proposals.

We offered the representative Indian political leaders immediate office in the Viceroy’s Executive Council, a body of ministers like those who advise your President. Mr. Gandhi has demanded that we should walk out of India leaving the country, with its deep-rooted religious divisions, without any constitutional form of government and with no organized administration. No responsible government could take such a step – least of all in the midst of war.

The Moslems, of whom there are at least 80 millions, are deeply opposed to Hindu domination as are also the tens of millions of the depressed classes. To have agreed to the Congress party or to Mr. Gandhi’s demands would have meant inevitable chaos and disorder. This is not merely my assertion, it is stated by Mr. Gandhi himself. Quite recently he has said: “Anarchy is the only way. Someone asked me if there would be anarchy after British rule. Yes, it will be there, but I tell the British to give us chaos.”

India is now an essential and vital part of the world front against the Axis powers. There are British, American and Chinese forces as well as Indians fighting side by side to defend India against Japan, and if the obligations of the British Government to the American and Chinese allies are to be observed, we must ensure that India remains a safe base in and from which to operate against the Japanese enemy, and we cannot allow conditions to be created by any political party or leader in India which will jeopardise the safety of the United Nations’ armies and air forces or throw the door open to the advance of our enemies into this new and dangerous theatre of war. That is an obligation, not only to the British and American forces in India, it is an obligation to the Indian peoples themselves.

That is why your country and my country find themselves both intimately concerned with the condition of India at this moment. Your sons as well as our sons are helping to defend India and wage war against the Japanese.

Your policy as well as our policy is to defend India. But Mr. Gandhi and the Congress Party have other views.

Mr. Gandhi I have always regarded with respect as a great nationalist and religious leader, but I am bound to say that in the present circumstances he is not showing himself to be practical and realistic.

Certainly the action which is now threatening – mass civil disobedience by his followers – is calculated to endanger both your war effort and our own, and to bring the greatest aid and comfort to our common enemies.

Mr. Gandhi’s views are not always easily defined, or always consistant, but let me read a few of his recent statements:
“We do not want these allied troops for our defence or protection. If luck favours us, the Japanese may see no reason to hold the country after the Allies have withdrawn.

(iii) Jawaharlal Nehru’s comment.
Reuter, Allahabad, 28.7.42

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, in a statement today, declared that “British and American critics have proceeded either on a complete misunderstanding of the Congress resolution or a desire to pervert it.

“The resolution is clear enough and if people refuse to understand it, this simply shows they do not want to understand,” the statement added.

Commenting on Sir Stafford Cripp’s broadcast to the United States, Pandit Nehru said:

“This is full of misrepresentation of the Congress attitude.

Like a clever lawyer, Sir Stafford Cripps picked out phrases from Mr. Gandhi’s statements without reference to their context, and tried to prove the British Imperialist case.

“This is no time for lawyers’ quibbling and no statesman who shoulders responsibility can afford this.”

Referring to Sir Stafford Cripp’s mention of “anarchy and chaos”, Pandit Nehru says:

“The right way to prevent their development is for British rule to cease in India and for a provisional government of free India representing the major groups and parties of the country to take its place.

“India is more concerned with the danger to herself than is Sir Stafford Cripps, for Indians would suffer most if there were an invasion and it would be Indians who would fight and die in defence of their lands and home”.

There is no question, Pandit Nehru declares, of weakening India’s defence, as the whole object is to make India stronger for defence.

“The simple issue is complete recognition of India’s independence now and the taking of immediate steps to give effect to it, and to concert measures for more effective defence of India in cooperation with our Allies.

Answering Mr. Jinnah’s reply to an earlier article in Harijan by him, Mr. Gandhi says:-

“Mr. Jinnah must forgive me for suggesting that his reply leaves one with the impression that he does not want a settlement.

“If he does want one, why does he not accept the offer by the President of Congress that Congress and the Moslem League should put their heads together and never part until they have reached a settlement.

“Is there any flaw or want of sincerity in this offer?”

“Pakistan, according to Mr. Jinnah, is ‘A demand to carve a portion out of India which is to be treated as an independent and sovereign state.’

“This sovereign state,” continues Mr. Gandhi, “Can conceivably go to war against the State of which it was but yesterday a part.

“Mr. Jinnah says ‘Pakistan is an article of faith with Moslem India and we depend upon nobody but ourselves to achieve our goal.’

“How is one to offer one’s services in these circumstances?”

“I cannot speak as a Hindu for my Hinduism includes all Religions.

“If Pakistan, as defined above, is an article of faith with Mr. Jinnah for an indivisible India, it is equally an article of faith with me.”

“Today it is neither Pakistan or Hindustan. It is Englishstan.

“So I say to all India, let us first convert it into an original Hindustan and then adjust all Rival claims. This is surely clear.

“After the restoration of India to the Nation, there will be no central Government. The People’s Representatives will have to construct it.

“It may be one Hindustan or many Pakistans.”

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