[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

A selective memory

A selective memory 

(By M V Kamath), The Hindustan Times, Nov 21, 1998 

The CPI-M leaders' violent reaction to Mr L. K. Advani's revealing
comments on the Communist role during the Quit India Movement indicates
a delightful forgetfulness; or, in the more expressive words of Srimathi
J. Jayalalitha, a selective memory, worthy of better causes.

Methinks the Comrades protest too much. Mr Advani, if he so desires,
could possibly ask his officials to delve a little more deeply into old
British records if any are still extant, considering that our thoughtful
former rulers had tons of them consigned to fire in the weeks preceding
August 15, 1947, in a mid-century version of an ancient yajnya.
Nevertheless if the Comrades still want to know what their party
leaders, in an excess of zeal, did when Mahatma Gandhi called for the
British to quit India, they could do no better than study two volumes
edited by Dr P. N. Chopra titled Quit India Movement: British Secret
Documents, Interprint, and K. K. Chaudhari's Quit India Revolution: The
Ethos of Its Central Direction (Popular Prakashan, 1996).

If the history of the Quit India Movement is a glorious tale of
sacrifice and suffering, it also presents, in the words of Chaudhari 'a
grim scenario of a scamp, a vitriol, a slander, an ire, hypocrisy and
betrayal of the cause of freedom by the Communists'.

In the first place, the CPI organ denounced Gandhiji and Subhas Chandra
Bose as 'blind Messiahs' and accused them of decadence. It charged
Gandhiji of betraying the national cause and the Communist lampooned
Gandhiji's individual satyagraha movement in words that one is ashamed
even to repeat in print. Sarcasm, scorn and abuse were heaped on
Gandhiji, the Congress, Jayaprakash Narayan and Subhas Chandra Bose. The
new mouthpiece of the CPI, The People's War, ridiculed the Quit India
resolution fashioned first at Wardha in these words: 'After nine days of
labour, the Working Committee has brought forth an abortion. The
resolution it has produced has bankruptcy writ large upon it.' The CPI
desperately tried to curry favour with the British and tried to align
itself with the government, though Denys Pilditch, the Director of
Intelligence Bureau, strenuously opposed the idea of releasing
communists held in detention. It was not the British Government which
tried to entice the Indian Communists; on the contrary it was the CPI
which was trying to convince Sir Reginald Maxwell, Home Secretary, of
its usefulness. Sensing the usefulness of the CPI in fighting the
Congress, the British government released B. T. Ranadive, R. S. Nimbkar,
S. G. Patkar, S. S. Mirajkar, Sajjad Zaheer and others.

As it turned out the British Government's hunch proved right. On many
occasions the Communists were indeed more royal than the King. Party
secretary Puran Chand Joshi made many enticing promises to the British.
Thus, he provided his plans of formation of pro-Government guerrilla
camps in Punjab with the collaboration of the military authorities, to
the Home Secretary. Joshi even indicated willingness to set up such
guerrilla camps in other provinces as well.  The idea was to hound out
underground Congress volunteers and betray them to the police. When
Maxwell sought to test the CPI's sincerity in this adventure, it easily
passed the test. Joshi submitted a 120-page report, typed in single
space, on the splendid work that his party was doing to disrupt the 1942
movement in province after province. Indeed, Joshi was so anxious to
prove the CPI's bona fides and its utility to the government that he
claimed that it was doing a better job of stemming the Quit India
Movement, of denouncing Subhas Chandra Bose and the underground leaders
like Jayaprakash, Ram Manohar Lohia and Achyut Patwardhan, than the
Government itself. Joshi argued that Communists were more vigilant in
tracking down 'saboteurs'" than the police and the CID, and claimed that
Communists had 'successfully' divided the nationalists.

Exactly how many nationalists were betrayed to the police to be
arrested, jailed and tortured can probably be checked from records with
the National Archives, if they still exist. But there is no doubt about
communist perfidy. As Chaudhari remarks: 'The 120-page report of Joshi
on the good work by the CPI to finish off the Quit India Movement, could
not have been improved by any other collaborator of the British or by
any Quisling.' After Gandhiji was released on May 6, 1944, numerous
Congressmen complained to him about the treacherous role of the
Communists.  Gandhiji referred the complaints to Bhulabhai Desai who
found that on the strength of CPI's own attested documents, the
Communist members of the AICC had acted in a manner diametrically
opposed to the Congress. A sub-committee of Nehru, Sardar Patel and G.
B. Pant, too, found the evidence true and charge-sheets were served on
the Communist members.

The CPI had submitted to the government that its work against the
Congress workers was so good that concessions and facilities it received
were given to it solely on the basis of its performance. But even worse
than the betrayal of the Quit India Movement was the Communist support
to the Muslim League in its demand for partition of the country. P. C.
Joshi felt impelled to support the League in its demand for the
vivisection of India. The Communist thesis was that (a) India is not one
nation but a collection of several separate nationalities; (b) the
demand for Pakistan is just and democratic (c) the Muslim League is
progressive and secular; and finally, (d) the Congress must concede to
the Muslims their right to self-determination. The CPI, as Chaudhari has
pointed out, complimented itself on how Muslims were flocking to it
because of its espousing the demand for Pakistan. Incidentally, Muslim
Leaguers in Bombay did not betray the Congress in the sense the
Communists did.

Says Chaudhari: 'A scrutiny of documentary evidence in the form of
Bombay Congress Bulletins and newspapers makes it amply clear that no
Muslim in Bombay was found to help the CID in the matter of
investigation of sabotage activity or arrest of Congressmen as was done
by the Communists'. Indeed, it is said congregations of Bombay Muslims
were praying for Gandhiji's life during his epic fast. A good many
Muslims suffered imprisonment during the Quit India Movement.

Nor did the Hindu Mahasabha betray the Congress as the Communists did.
On the contrary, several Sabha members did participate in the movement
in their individual capacities, while others helped underground workers
in many ways. What Communists did to disrupt law and order in Telengana
after independence is another story. Is this the party that the Congress
would wish to team up with to form a new government? Sonia Gandhi should
beware of traitors, who think of the Soviet Union first and then of

This is a posting to India_Policy Discussion list:  debate@indiapolicy.org
Rules, Procedures, Archives:            http://www.indiapolicy.org/debate/