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College of legal studies

Gandhi - A real “Mahatma”?
Submitted to Submitted by
Sam Babu K.C. Vatsal Kishore
Asst. Prof. B.A. /LL.B
COLS, UPES 500012344
Table of Contents
Gandhi: A Real “Mahatma”? .................................................................................................................... 3
WHOS’ AND HOWS’ of GANDHI ........................................................................................................... 4
Gandhian Principles ............................................................................................................................. 6
Satya ............................................................................................................................................... 6
Ahimsa ............................................................................................................................................ 7
Brahmacharya ................................................................................................................................. 7
Simplicity ......................................................................................................................................... 8
Equality ............................................................................................................................................... 8
Love, Faith and Hope ....................................................................................................................... 9
Bhagat Singh (Shaheed-e-Azam): A Biography.................................................................................... 11
Bhagat Singh – Gandhi (The Discontentment) .................................................................................... 13
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose (The Legend) ....................................................................................... 18
Gandhi-Bose and Indian Independence.............................................................................................. 19
Gandhi – Did he really want Independent India?................................................................................ 25
Dominion Status: The concept ........................................................................................................... 26
Conclusion ......................................................................................................................................... 27
FOOTNOTES....................................................................................................................................... 28
BIBLIOGRAPHY................................................................................................................................... 29

Gandhi: A Real “Mahatma”?
When a person makes a project he has to be a good researcher, adept in writing skills and above
all unbiased. At the time of choosing this project, I knew that I‘m putting my hands into a kiln,
which has got very less probability of coming out un-burnt. I don‘t think that it would be
possible for me to come out unbiased, because here I will be judging on the basis of facts and
finally concluding it, which will either move for the great soul ―Mahatma‖ or a wicked ―Traitor‖.
So those who remain against the concept please bear with me, though appreciation is welcomed.

A person appears before the society in the way ―he‖ lets himself to be portrayed before the
society. This portraying turns into notions among the people lastly resulting into a frame under
which he is observed. Every person born; inherits both good and bad aspects; it‘s just the matter
of wit, which side he chooses to flash more.

Year 1920, came up with a new face in Indian Freedom Struggle. A face which was going to turn
the tables for the Indian Freedom Struggle with a new spark which was hard to be believed to be
a tool in a revolution. Gandhi neither erupted with violence nor remained soft like a flower, but
adopted a moderate tarmac directed towards the aim of Independence; which was conceived by
everyone; only in the dreams till then. Gandhi led India to the road of independence, skipping the
obstructions and bringing awe for the British with his every step. Apart from emerging as the
soul of the movement, his path of ―ahimsa‖ garnered him a lot of respect around the globe. Still
Gandhian impact can be cited in places of South Africa, United States, Canada etc. even though
Gandhi had hardly any nexus with these countries; his principles were honored all around. Even
2nd of October is celebrated is a non-violence day all across the globe.

In spite of the popularity, respect garnered by Gandhi, and the reputation preceding him, Gandhi
hasn‘t got a complete rosy picture. Now and then, several people come forward with their critical
opinions and allegations against Gandhi. Some call him a coward; some term him to be a traitor
while some describe him as self centered. Why is it so? A person who brought the flavor of
honor, elation and independence how can he be termed in such a disgraceful manner? There has
to be a strong backing to this concept.

I hope my efforts yield in brushing aside the ambiguity in the interpretation of the connotation
attached with the word; name; the famous public figure, ―Gandhi‖.

It‘s necessary to get a clasp of ―Gandhi‖ before entering into the researching issues. Who was
Gandhi; how was he; what he did and why he did, clearing all the interrogatory marks.
The greatest luminary in the Indian Freedom Struggle; respectfully tagged as ―Mahatma‖ i.e.
great spirit and lovingly called as ―Bapu‖ i.e. father. He pioneered ―Satyagraha” i.e. defiance to
tyranny through mass civil disobedience. He patronized ―Ahimsa” (non-violence) as his basic
principle. Born on 2nd October, 1869; commemorated as World Non-Violence Day; Gandhi is
still memorized as a great inspirer for a world free from violence and weapons . Gandhi first
employed civil disobedience while an expatriate lawyer in South Africa, during the resident
Indian community's struggle there for civil rights. During this time, he wrote articles for Indian
newspapers about black people that some modern readers consider racist. After his return to
India in 1915, he organized protests by peasants, farmers, and urban laborers concerning
excessive land-tax and discrimination. After assuming leadership of the Indian National
Congress in 1921, Gandhi led nationwide campaigns to ease poverty, expand women's rights,
build religious and ethnic amity, end untouchability, and increase economic self-reliance. Above
all, he aimed to achieve Swaraj or the independence of India from foreign domination. Gandhi
famously led his followers in the Non-cooperation movement that protested the British-imposed
salt tax with the 400 km (240 mi) Dandi Salt March in 1930. Later, in 1942, he launched the Quit
India civil disobedience movement demanding immediate independence for India. Gandhi spent
a number of years in jail in both South Africa and India.

As a practitioner of ahimsa, Gandhi swore to speak the truth and advocated that others do the
same. He lived modestly in a self-sufficient residential community and wore the traditional
Indian dhoti and shawl, woven from yarn that he had spun by hand himself. He ate simple
vegetarian food, experimented for a time with a fruitarian diet, and undertook long fasts as a
means of both self-purification and social protest.

Gandhi put his foot into the revolutionary roads when he was in South Africa. Three events are
famously known for igniting him. At Pietermaritzburg Gandhi faced the discrimination directed
towards Indians for the first time, when he was thrown out of the first class of train for denying
moving to the third class; as he was a black even when he was carrying a first class ticket.
Travelling farther on by stagecoach he was beaten by a driver for refusing to travel on the foot
board to make room for a European passenger. Moreover in another incident, the magistrate of
a Durban court ordered Gandhi to remove his turban; this command was a blow to Gandhi‘s
religious sentiments – which he refused to act upon. These events were a turning point in his life,
awakening him to social injustice and influencing his subsequent social activism. It was through

witnessing firsthand the racism; prejudice and injustice against Indians in South Africa that
Gandhi started to question his people's status within the British Empire, and his own place in
society. He understood the strength of ―satyagraha” in the period of his South African
inhabitation. In 1906, the Transvaal government promulgated a new Act compelling registration
of the colony's Indian population. At a mass protest meeting held in Johannesburg on 11
September that year, Gandhi adopted his still evolving methodology of satyagraha (devotion to
the truth), or non-violent protest, for the first time, calling on his fellow Indians to defy the new
law and suffer the punishments for doing so, rather than resist through violent means. Though
Gandhi couldn‘t restrain the passage of the bill; but he successfully managed the Christian Smuts
to negotiate a compromise with Gandhi.

Gandhi made a political entry in the Indian Freedom Struggle with his Champaran agitation and
Kheda Satyagraha. In the former the aim was to demolish the suzerainty of the feudal lords who
were exploiting every bit of the toil of farmers while in the latter the farmers were forced to plant
indigo and other cash crops instead of the food crops which were essential for their survival. The
period from 1919-1947 is also known as Gandhian Era in Indian Freedom Struggle. Gandhi
became the President of All India Congress Committee very soon and actively came up with his
famous aggressive moves such as Non-Cooperation Movement, Civil Disobedience Movement,
Salt Satyagraha and Quit India Movement which got massive support of the public.

Gandhi featured himself mainly on two attributes, non-violence and truth. Gandhi dedicated his
life to the wider purpose of discovering truth, or Satya. Gandhi stated that the most important
battle to fight was overcoming his own demons, fears, and insecurities. Gandhi summarized his
beliefs first when he said "God is Truth". He would later change this statement to "Truth is God".
Thus, Satya (Truth) in Gandhi's philosophy is "God".

Although Mahatama Gandhi was not the originator of the principle of non-violence, he was the
first to apply it in the political field on a huge scale. The concept of nonviolence (ahimsa) and
nonresistance has a long history in Indian religious thought and has had many revivals in Hindu,
Buddhist, Jain, Jewish and Christian contexts. Gandhi explains his philosophy and way of life in
his autobiography The Story of My Experiments with Truth. He was quoted as saying:

"When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won.
There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they
always fall — think of it, always."

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad
destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty and


"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

"There are many causes that I am prepared to die for but no causes that I am prepared to kill

In applying these principles, Gandhi did not balk from taking them to their most logical extremes
in envisioning a world where even government, police and armies were nonviolent.

Gandhian Principles

Satya Ahimsa Brahmacharya

Love, Faith
and Hope

The principle of Satya, as conceived by Gandhi, consists of a notion that transcends all levels and
aspects of human comprehension. Gandhi did not consider himself to be a pacifist, socialist or on
any definable spectrum of politics, yet only proclaimed that he adhered to the truth, or Satya, of
life, a trait of his derived from which were his perseverant and ardent Satyagrahas – non-violent
protests advocating Satya through Ahimsa. Nonetheless, Gandhi does not perceive of truth as the
absolute solution to metaphysical matters, but truth that influences and involves one from one‘s
subjective perspective. Gandhi demands and requires that his disciples do not necessarily abide
by his ‗truths‘ by word, yet by spirit – should one genuinely and authentically evaluates that
violence is, under certain occasions, mandatory and inevitable, it is truthful, and righteously
corresponding to Satya to believe in it. Gandhi‘s lifestyle constituted his constant
experimentations with truth; he was prepared to learn through trial and error, often conceding to
have committed mistakes and altering his behavior accordingly. He would prioritize truth over
political independence— believing that Indians should not become murderers and commit the
very malevolence they were accusing the British of perpetrating in India. Gandhi‘s most
prominent beliefs also encapsulated and comprised his pursuit of truth, which actually consisted
of the main core of his notions, Gandhi conceiving of his life as a journey to discovering his
subjective, arbitrary, yet ‗righteous‘ truth. Satya consisted of Gandhi‘s teachings, and the ‗intent‘
of his whole life - to examine and comprehend for oneself, acknowledging the significance of

Gandhi M.K., The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Navajivan Trust
others, and of truth, which, according to Gandhi, connoted a force greater than any mechanisms
or forces. Gandhi‘s philosophy encompassed ontology and its association with truth. For Gandhi,
"to be" did not mean to exist within the realm of time, as it has in the past with the Greek
philosophers – yet the ontological perception of Gandhi consisted of the existence within the
constituency of truth, within the realm of Satya, and under the protection of ‗God‘ – Truth,
which, in congruence to the Hindu beliefs regarding Brahman‘s omnipotence, omniscience, and
supreme identity, and the Atmas, resembling Brahma‘s existence in all mortals, theoretically
exists within every mortal. With such perceptions and values regarding Satya, Gandhi pursued
this notion through his Satyagrahas, in which the conscientious and virtuous Satya was
assiduously followed and adhered to. Extending past the conventional perception of passive
resistance under Gandhi‘s interpretation, the Satyagrahas of Gandhi truly resembled their literal
implications of insistence on truth: With an initiative approach, Gandhi instigated a notion that
passive resistance differed from his Satyagraha – mass civil disobedience, according to the
allegedly valid beliefs that Satyagrahas adhere to the truth, are solely deployed for benign
intents, and do not, under all circumstances, employ violence. One of the most prominent notions
of Satyagraha consists of the notion that, instead of coercing one‘s opponent, one needs to co-
operate with the opponent to achieve a mutual compromise and the preliminarily set goal. In
addition, no violence or untruthful acts should be perpetuated in the course of any Satyagraha,
for the means shall subsequently controvert the aims, defying the original intent of achieving
Ahimsa and Satya.

Elaborating on the conventional Hindu and Jain notion of Ahimsa, Gandhi implemented ahimsa
onto politics; he was the pioneer of employing non-violence in political protests, conceiving that
non-violence would rid me of one‘s obstreperousness, contempt, and belligerence, suppressing
one‘s anger. Gandhi pursued the notion that the killing of mortals consisted of a highly unmoral
and malevolent act, hence his advocating of vegetarianism. Deploying Satyagrahas based on
notions of non-violence (Ahimsa), and non-resistance, Gandhi urged the orthodox Hindu-Jain
notion of ahimsa to another, comparatively political and substantial level. Gandhi also pursued
most resolutely the notion of vegetarianism, he himself not consuming any meat at all, for he
recognized the Jain belief of vegetarianism as a foundation for his non-violence belief, and a
most economically practical conception. Nonetheless, Gandhi perceived and acknowledged that
Ahimsa required an abundance of audacity and resilience, and hence advocated a vicious yet
intrepid defense, in contrary to chivalrous cowardice.

Gandhi conceived of the significance of Brahmacharya when he was 16; while his father
contracted a disease and deteriorated in health rapidly. Being very dedicated to his parents, he

attended to his father at all times during his illness. Nonetheless, Gandhi was relieved and
exempt from his duty when his uncle came to replace Gandhi‘s vigil over his father. Having
retired to his room, Gandhi imprudently and impetuously committed carnal acts with his wife.
Subsequently, a servant entered the room and reported to Gandhi that his father had just died.
Subjectively perceiving himself culpable, and being substantially influenced by the incident,
Gandhi became celibate at the age of 36, while still married. This decision was deeply influenced
by the philosophy of Brahmacharya — spiritual and practical purity — substantially associated
with celibacy and asceticism, one of the five significant beliefs constituting Jainism, a religion
from which Gandhi had and would acquire his insights and beliefs. Gandhi conceived of
Brahmacharya as a means to near God, transcendence realism, purity, realisation, and truth; he
admitted to having once possessed lustful urges with his childhood bride, Kasturba. Inclined to
control his originally impetuous love through restraining his lustful love to solely pure love,
Gandhi hence perceived of Brahmacharya as his ‗monitoring of senses‘. Gandhi even elaborated
his conceptions to implementing his Brahmacharya practices through intentionally endeavouring
to resist lust, by sleeping next to a woman on the same bed while maintaining and restricting
himself to not conduct sexual intercourse with her.

In correspondence to the aforementioned, conventional, and general perception of simplicity as
being empty, pure, and aloof, and constituting one of Jainism‘s five prominent notions –
Aparigraha – the detachment from others. Gandhi also refuted that success was based on
exuberant pompousness, for he, as a political figure, possessed the attire of the allegedly inferior
‗untouchables‘, without his western suits. He wore the clothes of the poorest inhabitants of the
social hierarchy in India, employing his home-spun cloth, while concurrently encouraging others
to spin their own clothes, plant, and avoid the exuberant ostentation of westerners, and, hence,
their clothes. Avoiding all unnecessary expenditures and gifts, Gandhi endeavored to reduce
himself to such divine and infinite simplicity that he was, according to himself, trying to reduce
himself to zero. Gandhi spent one day of each week in silence, conceiving that abstaining from
speaking brought him inner harmony – a tranquil yet simple state of peace of mind.

Gandhi perceived of equality as a means to reach simplicity and agape love, through which
purity could be attained. Conceiving of the notion of untouchability as ludicrous as unjust for all
men were allegedly equal, Gandhi enunciated the significance of acknowledging the equality of
all humans, regardless of races – Blacks or Whites, ethnic groups, nationalities – English or
Indians, religious groups, social class – Untouchables or Royals, for Gandhi was inclined to
impart the fact that all men were equal, according to the Satya and the notion of Simplicity.
Love, Faith and Hope
Gandhi conceived of love and truth as the two most prominent sectors of his beliefs, and, in
general, of religions. Through the Christian Agape love and Sacrificial love, Gandhi was inclined
to save his fellows through non-violent, yet, consequently, precarious means; should one not
possess agape love (charity), and sacrificial love, how could one, in congruence to Gandhi,
proclaim that one would be willing to sacrifice one‘s life in exchange for justice? In addition,
Gandhi also advocated the notion of faith, as he insisted on the significance of his being an
Hindu, and not actually converting to other religions, notwithstanding his not conceding the
transcendence, omniscience, and the omnipotence of Brahman – the ultimate Hindu deity: In
contrary to allegedly ‗blindly‘ pursuing Gods, Gandhi treated religions as symbols of
portmanteau collections of notions and beliefs, from which, and regardless of which religions,
Gandhi would select beliefs to practice upon – in accordance to him, every different religion has
its advantages and drawbacks. He held no preference over religions, for he recognized and loved
all religions, hence promoting universalism. In addition, Gandhi also evaluated the belief of hope
as highly significant and indispensable in his resistance – for the hope for India‘s independence
was apparently required to be substantial, so substantial that derived from which was sufficient
audacity and resilience to overthrow a prominent empire. 2

Gandhian ideals are still cherished by people all around the globe. His gestation of ―ahimsa” is
still the most famous and unique tool ever used in any freedom struggle. People like Martin
Luther King Jr. and James Lawson- the civil rights leaders drew from Gandhian ideals for the
development of their own principles, Nelson Mandela-the anti Apartheid leader, Albert Einstein-
the great physicist, once said, ― Gandhi is a role model for the generations to come‖, British
musician John Lennon, admitted that his music had the influence of Gandhi, former US Vice
President Al Gore acknowledged Gandhi‘s influence on him, and in the most recent example; the
contemporary US President Barack Obama uttered in his election campaign, ―Throughout my
life, I have always looked to Mahatma Gandhi as an inspiration, because he embodies the kind of
transformational change that can be made when ordinary people come together to do
extraordinary things. That is why his portrait hangs in my Senate office: to remind me that real
results will come not just from Washington – they will come from the people.‖
Amongst other world leaders who found inspiration and hope in Gandhi and his works include
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Philippine leader Benigno
Aquino, Jr.3

There were umpteen credits bagged by Gandhi, but criticisms also tailed them. His non-violent
measures of fighting back gained popularity not only because they yielded much but also
because of the uniqueness possessed in them. This uniqueness also framed a brigade
discontented by his leadership. Subhash Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Sachindra Nath Sanyal,

Brown M. J., Gandhi’s Rise to Power: Indian Politics 1915-1922, p 194
Walker M. Donna,, 25/09/2010
Chandrashekhar Azad adopted a completely different path to embrace independence. These
people advocated the path which was tramped in the Russian Revolution influenced by the
socialistic structure. They believed in action which also contained violent means.

Apart from all the conceptions and reverences for Gandhi, he is a person; universally honored,
but little understood and much less followed. People do cheer his principles, but hardly
understand it. Though they all get the gist, but the Gandhian interpretations are quite different
from the real meaning of those words and are thus wrongly understood. In spite of the large
brigade of the people appreciating him, very few people could be cited tracing his path. Why is it
so? Isn‘t the Gandhian path good enough to be tramped?

During my research for the project I went through various books, novels, articles, newspaper
clippings etc. to refine whatever idea I had in my mind. Various controversial aspects came to
the surface bringing a question mark for the image, Gandhi pursued publicly. Effectiveness of his
principle of ahimsa, his aspirations for India, his view towards women etc.

Before moving into the controversies, I want to spot the light on some other great martyrs who
are still respected and honored for the courage they possessed in their hearts. They‘re also going
to play a major role in this project in the forthcoming events.

Bhagat Singh (Shaheed-e-Azam): A Biography

Life is the biggest struggle as claimed by many but people still fear death. Even death is said to
be the biggest fear of a man‘s life. Sir Francis Bacon, a great English philosopher once said,
―Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased
by tales, so is the other.‖ But for people like Bhagat Singh, death was their embraced destiny.

Bhagat Singh hailed from a small village of Punjab named Lyallpur. Born to a Jat Sikh family
which had earlier been involved in revolutionary activities against the British Raj, Singh, as a
teenager, had studied European revolutionary movements and was attracted
to anarchism and communism. He became involved in numerous revolutionary organizations.
His participation in the freedom struggle invoked the youth, primarily of Punjab where his party
Naujawan Bharat Sabha got massive support. He appealed for Hindu-Muslim unity, wrote
revolutionary articles, and staged plays to ignite the spark of revolution. He became very famous
in Lahore. His influential and motivational oratory garnered him support all over. Bhagat Singh
was seeking a bigger stage to propagate his thoughts. He soon joined Hindustan Republican
Association. An aggressive revolutionary party centered at Cawnpore. The party was founded by
an active revolutionary figure Sachindra Nath Sanyal. Chandrashekhar Azad, Ajay Ghosh, Ram
Prasad Bismil, Ashfaq Ulla Khan etc. were the other popular leaders of the party. Soon after
Bhagat Singh joined the party the Kakori dacoity was performed. Unfortunately, all the
revolutionaries participating in the dacoity were caught except Chandrashekhar Azad. Bhagat
Singh rejuvenated the party with his extraordinary thoughts. He soon became one of the foremost
leaders of the party. Bhagat Singh called for a huge conference at Feroz Shah Kotla in New
Delhi. Revolutionaries from all over the country joined the meet except those from West Bengal,
as they had abandoned the path of violence. In the meet Bhagat Singh well elucidated the
meaning and importance of socialism as the theme of the freedom movement and thus added the
caption in the party‘s name, thus making ―Hindustan Socialist Republican Association‖.
Bhagat Singh was a big follower Vladimir Lenin 4, the Marxist Russian Revolutionary. He was
very much influenced by the incidents of the Russian Revolution and hoped for a replica in
India. Bhagat Singh was an ardent reader. He was mainly focused towards the revolutionary
books which invoked the spirit of revolution in him and also poured him with ideas for staging
his protests.

His first public appearance as a member of HSRA was at the protest led by Lala Lajpat Rai when
John Simon arrived with his commission to study constitutional reform in the Indian colony. The
discontentment was on the issue of not including any Indian member in the commission. Later in
the incident Lala Lajpat Rai was hit hard on his head during the lathicharge on the order of a
British police official, Scott. Lalaji succumbed to the severe blow. Bhagat Singh felt bedeviled

by the incident. He decided to avenge the murder of Lalaji. A plan was formulated by the HSRA

Anonymous,, 25/10/2010
members to kill Scott. Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Chandrashekhar Azad, Jaigopal executed the plan.
Though by mistake Saunders, another British officer was killed in the homicide. Bhagat Singh
and Rajguru bored several bullets in the body of Saunders who died at the spot. Bhagat Singh
and Rajguru successfully absconded after the killing and reached Calcutta to re-integrate and
popularize the party.
The next stride of Bhagat Singh had something much bigger and comprehensive. HSRA neither
lacked the enthusiasm nor the efforts; what it lacked was the support of people. Being forthright,
HSRA had gone exasperated by the tagging they got and the countrywide popularity of the
Congress party. They were seeking a stage to showcase their ardency. Those days the
exploitation of the labor and farmer class was at its peak. Revenues were high, powers of unions
were abolished, and several factories were shut down. New laws were brought up by the
Government to censor settlers from staging their discontentment and thus management was given
complete authority over the employees. On the day of passing of the Public Safety Bill which
was going to wind up the voice of the laborers, Bhagat Singh accompanied by Batukeshwar Dutt;
another HSRA revolutionary threw bombs as the bill was presented in the National Assembly
yelling ―Long lives the revolution-down live imperialism.‖ Bhagat Singh didn‘t run after
performing the act rather surrendered himself to the police. This wasn‘t something which was
incidental; but was well planned. This act was condemned all over. Congress declared the act to
be preposterous and so did the British Government and other regional parties. British
Government had smelled the stuff cooking in Bhagat Singh‘s mind. Therefore they projected the
surrender as a catch to block the attention he could‘ve got by the act. But Bhagat Singh was way
ahead of their range of thinking. During his case presentations, he used the court as a propaganda
office to spread his views and aims. His impressive oratory soon acquired plenty of followers for
him. It seemed as Bhagat Singh wanted to immerse in the revolutionary spirits. It was only
revolution, he cheered for, he toiled for and he lived for. In the jails; the facilities, food and
hygienic conditions of Indians and British varied to a great extent. Bhagat Singh couldn‘t digest
the discrimination. His refute of the jail regulations was again a tool of revolution. He denied
food for continuous 62 days. This hunger strike was completely adopted by all other HSRA
members who were jailed then. British Government took severe measures to break the strike, but
surrendered before the zeal of Bhagat Singh and party. The strike followed deaths of the great
spirits but none of them stopped. Consequently, for the first time in the history of Indian
revolution, British Government had to bow before the spirit of India. All the demands were duly
granted. The British efforts to make him infamous were landing in vain. A very unique and
unjust law was passed by the then Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin, to stop Bhagat Singh. The new
law permitted the case to be carried out even in the absence of the convicts. Most of the HSRA
members were sentenced to life imprisonment while the Saunder‘s murder committers, Bhagat
Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were sentenced to death. It was the popularity of Bhagat Singh
which brought millions of appeals from all over the world demanding the commutation of his

sentence. Even many British MPs appealed for the same. Subhash Chandra Bose actively staged
several protests to get the hanging cancelled. But lastly on 23rd March, 1931, the great
revolutionary embraced death at the scaffold. Sukhdev and Rajguru were also executed on the
same date. British were afraid of the reactions the hanging could have brought; therefore the
corpses of all the three were cut into pieces and burnt, to make them unrecognizable.

Bhagat Singh all through his life was considered and claimed to be a person, very violent,
lacking proper knowledge and a goon desiring popularity, by many national leaders. Even his
ways which generally remained contrary to the track of ahimsa shown by Mahatma Gandhi
brought him criticisms as he didn‘t belong to the general flock. Bhagat Singh faced criticisms
and allegations all through his life, but the truth is that he was a revolutionary with great
intellect, innovative and effective measures and firm ambition. He devoted his life for a free
India and ignited the youths for the same.

Bhagat Singh – Gandhi (The Discontentment)

Bhagat Singh was a huge fan of Gandhi. At the age of 11 when Non-Cooperation Movement was
convened, Bhagat Singh enthusiastically participated in all its events. He became very famous
for his participation in the events in the whole of Lyallpur. But he got badly distressed when the
movement was called off on the account of Chauri Chaura incident. Bhagat Singh found it
completely indigestible. He failed to understand the policy of ahimsa followed by Gandhi.
Hundreds of people were killed in the incident, while 30-40 policemen also died in the arson. But
the movement was called off on the grounds of death of the 30 policemen ignoring the sacrifice
of the people. People who had sacrificed their jobs, education, life just for the faith they had in
Mahatma Gandhi, remained of nowhere. The schools and workplaces they had abandoned didn‘t
take them back. Their career was at stake. For safeguarding the interests of youth Lala Lajpat Rai
opened National College at Lahore, which became the refuge for all. Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and
many others of HSRA were the students of National College only.
The discontentment of Bhagat Singh seems to be justified when it comes to his belief which was
struck hard by the incomprehensible Gandhian methods.
It is implicit, that until the country would‘ve stood in unity, independence was inconceivable.
Bhagat Singh, all through his life remained a big advocator of unity at all grounds, whether it be
communal or religional while at several places Gandhi was found to be quite indifferent with the
Islamic ways. If he wanted to go secular, he shouldn‘t have emphasized on the Hindu and Jain
policies, but many of his speeches can be cited to be filled with religional and communal
Another controversy which raises doubts in Gandhi is his effort to save Bhagat Singh. On
account of this I would like to bring forward a research performed by Paresh R. Vaidya, a
scholar from the Banaras Hindu University.

―It is 70 years since Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were hanged to death at the Lahore

Central Prison. That was on March 23, 1931. The same month witnessed another event of

importance in the freedom struggle, that is, the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. The pact was signed on
March 5, 1931 after a long discussion. The executions and truce between the Congress and the
Raj after an intense spell of satyagraha in 1930 did not merely coincide in history but almost
collided. They influenced each other to some extent. A controversy was generated about
Mahatma Gandhi not getting an amnesty for Bhagat Singh under the pact, and it put him on the
defensive. The controversy also created a strong debate about the inter-relationship between the
peaceful and violent means employed in the freedom struggle. In fact, reviewing the events now
in perspective, one suspects that the British might have timed the execution to create an uneasy
situation for the Congress. It will be interesting to review both the events independently and then
in conjunction. Bhagat Singh. Mahatma Gandhi did plead for the commutation of the death
sentence imposed on Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, but he did not succeed in the bid
because the Viceroy's moves were governed from England and the three were considered a
challenge to the Raj. The chain of events started with the death of Lala Lajpat Rai while
demonstrating against the Simon Commission. Lalaji was injured in a lathicharge; he died on
November 17, 1928, probably owing to shock. This drew many youth closer to the conclusion
that violence is the only means to fight the British. In fact, inspired by the success of the
Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917, many militant groups had been functioning in India.
Bhagat Singh was a member of one such group called the Ghadar Party. Some of these militants
killed Assistant Superintendent of Police John Poyantz Saunders , who was supposed to have
beaten Lala Lajpat Rai. Four months after Saunders was shot, that is, on April 8, 1929, two
young men were arrested for throwing bombs at the treasury benches of the Central Legislative
Assembly in Delhi. One of them was Bhagat Singh. It was possibly this incident that prompted
the police to suspect his involvement in the so-called Lahore Conspiracy Case. The case is
famous because of the draconian provisions incorporated by the British in this context in the
otherwise reasonable laws of criminal procedure. Those detained under the case resorted to
hunger strikes and boycotts in jails. Many a time the accused had to be brought to the courtroom
on stretchers because of physical weakness. It is believed that Jatin Das, a young man, died
during an attempt to feed him forcibly after he had completed 63 days of fasting. Bhagat Singh is
more in the public memory than many other martyrs probably because of the attention this trial
attracted. The trial was discussed so much that the witnesses started turning hostile. Even a
British policeman refused to identify Bhagat Singh as a person present at the time of the murder.
As a result, the government came out with the Lahore Conspiracy Case Ordinance, 1930, which
dispensed with the need of defense counsel, defence witnesses and the presence of the accused
during the trial. After this new-style trial that lasted five months, the judgment came on October
7, 1930. An appeal was made to the Privy Council but to no avail. Some people feel that Bhagat
Singh could have been saved under the Gandhi-Irwin agreement, which evolved during the same
period. This feeling prevailed especially among the leftists who presumed that Gandhiji did not
attempt for amnesty because he hated violence. It will be proper to sit in judgment on the matter
only after knowing the background of the Gandhi-Irwin pact. This first ever agreement between

the Raj and the Congress came after two years of turmoil in the country in the form of a non-
violent civil disobedience struggle. After the Congress passed its Poorna Swaraj resolution in
December 1929, Gandhiji devised the 450-kilometre Dandi March to shake the rural people out
of inaction and break the Salt Law, as a token of disobedience. The chain of events that followed
showed that the extent of sacrifice needed for a non-violent struggle was no less than what was
required for a violent struggle. Apart from making monetary and career sacrifices, the
participants showed, in the face of police torture, a level of physical courage that would have
been required in a violent struggle. By December that year almost all leaders, including Gandhiji,
were rounded up and jails in the country were full. Finally, thanks to the mediation of moderates
like Tej Bahadur Sapru, the government came forward to talk to the satyagrahis. As a
precondition the leaders were released in January 1931. Gandhiji stayed in Delhi where later he
convened a meeting of the Congress Working Committee. Accounts of the parleys between the
Congress and the government between February 17 and March 5 indicate that frequently there
were delicate moments of stalemate, long arguments over a phrase or a word, objections from
colleagues and so on. Many a time Gandhiji was seen off by the Viceroy after midnight and the
former would walk down to his residence at Dr. Mukhtar Ahmad Ansari's house, which was 8
km away. It was on this occasion that Winston Churchill made the nasty remark describing
Gandhiji as a half-naked fakir. Disturbed by the endless discussions, he had said: "It is alarming
and nauseating to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a
type well known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal Palace to parley on
equal terms with the representative of the King Emperor." The outcome of the talks was a mixed
one. Each leader was unhappy about specific parts of the pact. Subhas Chandra Bose, for
example, told the leftists among Congressmen: "Between us and the British lies an ocean of
blood and a mountain of corpses. Nothing on earth can induce us to accept this compromise
which Gandhiji had signed." On the whole, the Congress had to accept the pact because the
Working Committee was with Gandhiji at every stage of the discussions. But the militants and
their supporters would not have it. What is the use of a truce that does not get amnesty for
Bhagat Singh and his colleagues? Wherever Gandhiji went, youngsters with red flags
encountered him with questions; sometimes he was even manhandled. At the All India Congress
Committee (AICC) meeting in Karachi they shouted: "Gandhi's truce sent Bhagat Singh to the
gallows." WHILE parading through history, it would be unfair to Gandhiji if one does not record
his efforts in this case. He was not a mere politician but a humanist at the core. He got 90,000
political prisoners other than satyagrahis released under the pretext of "relieving political
tension". He did plead for the commutation of the death sentence of the three heroes, Bhagat
Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, also. But he did not succeed because the Viceroy's moves were
governed from England and these three were a challenge to the Raj and thus were not thought fit
for pardon. In fact, he wrote a letter to the Viceroy on the day of their execution, pleading
fervently for commutation, not knowing that the letter would be too late. A point to be placed on
Gandhiji's side of the balance is that he was already weak in the truce with the Raj, owing to
incomprehensible reasons. Probably, Irwin was a better bargainer than he; otherwise a leader

who spearheaded a successful, unique, non-violent agitation that attracted the attention of the
press the world over and drew millions, including women and children who showed a rare spirit
of sacrifice, need not have made so many concessions to the government. In such a situation he
could not have been expected to win on the major issue of commutation of death sentences. He
said in Karachi: "I might have done one more thing, you say. I might have made the
commutation a term of settlement. It could not be done so. And to threaten withdrawal now
would be a breach of faith." But this should not be taken as a manifestation of a lukewarm
feeling towards Bhagat Singh. Records are replete with Gandhiji's speeches commending the
spirit of sacrifice of all such youth and their nationalistic spirit. He once said: "I am not referring
to the frothy eloquence that passes muster for patriotism; I have in mind that secret, silent,
persevering band of young men and women who want to see their country free at any cost." He
differed with them only on the merit of their path. He said in Karachi: "If I had an opportunity to
speak to Bhagat Singh and his comrades, I should have told them that the way they pursued was
wrong and futile. We cannot win Swaraj for our famishing millions by sword. The way of
violence can only lead to disaster, perdition. I shall explain to you why. Do you think that all
women and children who covered themselves with glory during the last campaign would have
done so if we had pursued the path of violence? Would our women known as the meekest on
earth have done the unique service they did, if we had violence in us? And our children - our
Vanar Sena; how could you have had these innocent ones who renounced their toys, their kites,
their crackers and joined as soldiers of Swaraj - how could you have enlisted them in a violent
struggle?" It is worth pondering over these words. It is the mass support that decides the success
or failure of a method of struggle. The people of India chose non-violent means over violent ones
so clearly that even after this controversy, whenever Gandhiji gave a call he had millions
responding to it. Perhaps it was this mass support to Gandhiji that made prominent Left-leaning
youth like M.R. Masani, Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayan to stay in his company.
In any case, a violent struggle for Independence could have succeeded only with external armed
help, which came as late as 1942 with Subhas Bose's efforts; by then independence, had already
been conceded in principle. It may take too long to discuss the Mahatma's arguments and
compare the merits and demerits of violent and non-violent means of struggle, but it would
suffice to note that it was not his creed of ahimsa that would turn to violence even "to punish a
dacoit, or even a murderer". Perhaps the following words of Lord Irwin himself might explain
why Gandhiji must have failed to persuade him to commute the sentence: "As I listened to Mr.
Gandhi putting the case for commutation before me, I reflected first on what significance it
surely was that the apostle of non-violence should so earnestly be pleading the cause of the
devotees of a creed so fundamentally opposed to his own, but I should regard it as wholly wrong
to allow my judgment to be influenced by purely political considerations. I could not imagine a
case in which under the law, penalty had been more directly deserved." He has referred to
Gandhiji's personal visit to meet him on March 19. Interestingly enough, on the same day,
Bhagat Singh and two others had sent off a letter to the Viceroy because their friends coaxed
them to do so. But in that letter they had not asked for clemency. Instead they asked the Viceroy

to treat them as prisoners of war and hence to shoot them rather than hang them. With this letter
now available, it is no use lamenting on Gandhiji's stand, whatever that was, because Bhagat
Singh did not relish the idea of asking for a pardon. This is evident from the fact that a friend of
his (Prannath Mehta) visited him in the jail on March 20 with a draft letter for clemency but he
declined to sign it. Four days later the three were executed in Lahore, on the eve of the AICC
session in Karachi. On hearing the news, Gandhiji said that the sudden execution under the
circumstances was like cutting the ground underneath his feet, however technically unconnected
it might be with the terms of the truce. It probably was a cunning move by the Raj to order the
execution just a night before the Karachi session. It was done in the knowledge that the
emotiveness of the issue would put Gandhiji and the Congress in an awkward position at the
AICC as the heat was anyway directed against them. Indeed, that was what happened.

No doubt, it was a queer combination of circumstances that two streams of the freedom struggle
should thus meet in one incident, namely, the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. But queerer yet is the fact that
people who never believed in satyagraha as a tool to achieve freedom should be irked at the
withdrawal of satyagraha by those who started it.‖5

Moreover, in addition to the research I would also like to bring a press notification brought out
by Congress Party, which was an official statement made by Mahatma Gandhi after the hanging
of the three revolutionaries.

―Bhagat Singh and his two associates have been hanged. The Congress made many attempts to
save their lives and the Government entertained many hopes of it, but all has been in a vain.

Bhagat Singh did not wish to live. He refused to apologize, or even file an appeal. Bhagat Singh
was not a devotee of non-violence, but he did not subscribe to the religion of violence. He took
to violence due to helplessness and to defend his homeland. In his last letter, Bhagat Singh wrote
--" I have been arrested while waging a war. For me there can be no gallows. Put me into
the mouth of cannon and blow me off." These heroes had conquered the fear of death. Let us
bow to them a thousand times for their heroism.

But we should not imitate their act. In our land of millions of destitute and crippled people, if
we take to the practice of seeking justice through murder, there will be a terrifying situation. Our
poor people will become victims of our atrocities. By making a dharma of violence, we shall be
reaping the fruit of our own actions.

Hence, though we praise the courage of these brave men, we should never countenance their
activities. Our dharma is to swallow our anger, abide by the discipline of non-violence and carry
out our duty.

March 29, 1931‖ 6

I completely accept the fact that Gandhi laid efforts to save Bhagat Singh and his friends, but is it
conceivable that a pact, on which everything is contingent, is signed without free and willful

consent. There were demands not to ink Irwin Pact unless the sentences were commuted, and

Vaidya P.R., Gandhi-In and Out, Vol XXIII No. 8, 2001
everybody understood the desperation of British to get the pact signed, and then Gandhi goes
there asks for commutation and returns back blank. Is it acceptable in the conditions which
prevailed then? Moreover the words destitute and crippled signifying Bhagat Singh, are they
justified anyway for the greatest martyrs ever, ―Shaheed-E-Azam‖?

Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose (The Legend)

Born on 23rd January, 1897, was one of the greatest Indian revolutionary who led an Indian
national political and military force against Britain and Western Powers during World War-II.
Popularly known as Netaji, Bose is a legendary figure for India even today.

Bose advocated complete independence for India at the earliest, whereas the All-India Congress
Committee wanted it in phases, through Dominion status. Finally at the historic Lahore Congress
convention, the Congress adopted Purna Swaraj (complete independence) as its motto. Bhagat
Singh's martyrdom and the inability of the Congress leaders to save his life infuriated Bose and
he started a movement opposing the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. He was imprisoned and expelled from
India. Defying the ban, he came back to India and was imprisoned again.

Bose was elected president of the Indian National Congress for two consecutive terms, but had to
resign from the post following ideological conflicts with Mohandas K. Gandhi and after openly
attacking the Congress' foreign and internal policies. Bose believed that Gandhi's tactics of non-
violence would never be sufficient to secure India's independence, and advocated violent
resistance. He established a separate political party, the All India Forward Bloc and continued to
call for the full and immediate independence of India from British rule. He was imprisoned by
the British authorities eleven times. His famous motto was "Give me blood and I will give you

His stance did not change with the outbreak of the Second World War, which he saw as an
opportunity to take advantage of British weakness. At the outset of the war, he left India,
travelling to the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, seeking an alliance with each
of them to attack the British government in India. With Imperial Japanese assistance, he re-
organised and later led the Azad Hind Fauj or Indian National Army (INA), formed with Indian
prisoners-of-war and plantation workers from British Malaya, Singapore, and other parts of
Southeast Asia, against British forces. With Japanese monetary, political, diplomatic and military
assistance, he formed the Azad Hind Government in exile, and regrouped and led the INA in

failed military campaigns against the allies at Imphal and in Burma.

His political views and the alliances he made with Nazi and other militarist regimes at war with
Britain have been the cause of arguments among historians and politicians, with some accusing
him of fascist sympathies, while others in India have been more sympathetic towards the real
politik that guided his social and political choices.

He is presumed to have died on 18 August 1945 in a plane crash in Taiwan, though the evidence
for his death in such an accident has not been universally accepted.7

Gandhi-Bose and Indian Independence

After Bhagat Singh I would like to move to another controversy related to the credit of
independence gained by us. Whether there was really Gandhi who consecrated himself and
brought independence to us or some other factors can also be duly projected as the reasons.

I would like to present a research performed by Dr. N.C. Rajaram to find the contribution of
Subhash Chandra Bose in Indian independence.

―There is a story that the late Mao Zedong, when asked his opinion about Napoleon as a leader
replied: ―How can I say? He is too recent.‖ Napoleon‘s career ended in the Battle of Waterloo in
1815 and Mao died only in 1976. So what could Mao have meant when he said that Napoleon
was too recent? He meant that a certain amount of time has to pass before we can view historical
events and personalities objectively. Our reading of recent events is bound to be colored by our
closeness to them. This truth was brought home to me a few years ago when I was visiting
Penang in Malaysia as the guest of some veterans of World War II, but first some background.

In India, people are brought up on the story that Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru—with
others receive grudging notice if at all—led a heroic struggle freeing India from the British rule.
Miraculously, the whole thing was accomplished without resort to violence, by the application of
a mighty spiritual force called ahimsa (non-violence) unleashed by the Mahatma. If true it is a
tribute not only to the power of Gandhi‘s (and Nehru‘s) spiritual vision, but also a lasting tribute
to the spiritual sensitivity of the British rulers. Like the tiger in the children‘s poem (govina
kathe in Kannada), which killed itself rather than eat the calf, the British gave up the empire and

This received a jolt during a recent trip to Southeast Asia where I had occasion to visit some
people who had served with my late father during World War II. Their account of their
experience in the period from 1942 to 45 casts serious doubt on this beautiful story. Here we are
faced with a dilemma— the conflict between what we read in history books and what the people
actually saw on the ground. The usual story is that after some initial reverses the British defeated
the Japanese. But those who actually served there, now in their late 70s and 80s, remember it

quite differently. Uniformly, this is what I heard everywhere and from everyone.

Marshall J. Getz, Subhash Chandra Bose: A Biography, 2002
―When the Japanese attacked, the British ran away. They were very clever. They had a
wonderful life with bungalows and butlers and cooks and all that, but as soon as the Japanese
came, they ran away. And once they got back to India, they sent Gurkhas, Sikhs, Marathas and
other Indians to fight the Japanese. They knew it was too dangerous for them. That is how we got
independence in Malaya.‖ Malaysia was then called Malaya and Singapore was its capital.

Not one of them remembered the British fighting the Japanese— only running away. They
remember also Indian soldiers coming and fighting; some of them stayed back in countries like
Malaya (as it was then called), Singapore and other places. One man, who as a youngster had
been my father‘s orderly during the War, invited me to his home in Penang for the 60th
anniversary of the liberation of Singapore. What he told me took my breath away.

―That is why the British left India also. When the war was over, all the Indian soldiers who had
defeated the Japanese returned to India, and the British got scared. They didn‘t want to fight the
Indians who had just fought and defeated the Japanese. So they ran away from India also.‖

I tried to explain to him that Gandhiji‘s nonviolence was the force that convinced the British to
leave. But this man, not an intellectual but a battle-hardened soldier with sound commonsense
would have none of it. ―If it was non-violence, why didn‘t they leave earlier? Gandhi and the
nonviolence were there before the war also. Did they have to wait for the Japanese to come and
teach them non-violence?‖

One may smile at this simple way of looking at history, but as will be seen later, this revisionist
view has good support. The ‗authorized‘ version with Gandhi and Nehru as central figures
continues to be taught in India because it benefits those in power. It shows the British also in
favorable light as a magnanimous and even spiritual people, which of course they don‘t mind.

But history shows a different picture.

The year 1942 was momentous. It was the year in which the British Empire suffered a massive
defeat at the hands of an Asiatic people (Japanese); it was also the year in which Mahatma
Gandhi launched his famous but ill-fated Quit India Movement. Subhash Bose also entered the
picture at about that time, first in Germany and later in Southeast Asia. But first it is necessary to
get an idea of the momentous impact of the Japanese victory on the psyche of the colonized
people as well as on that of the colonizing powers. What triggered it was the Fall of Singapore.

The fall of Singapore in 1942 heralded the end of the British Empire and of European
colonialism in general. Indian independence came in 1947, but what really ended the Empire was
the fall of Singapore. This has received scant notice by Indian historians who remain trapped in
Eurocentric thinking, but there is ample evidence supporting it. Among Indian historians, only
R.C. Majumdar has seen its significance: the fall of Singapore broke the spirit of Imperial
Britain. As we shall soon see British historians have themselves admitted it. Let us look at what
really happened to the British in 1942.

When the Japanese attacked Singapore in February 1942, its large and well-equipped British
garrison surrendered without a fight. These well-attended ‗pukka sahibs‘—used to good living—
had little stomach for war. For decades, the ruling authorities had avoided facing the truth that
they were not a fighting force. They had deluded themselves with resounding slogans— calling
Singapore the ‗Bastion of the Empire,‘ ‗Impregnable Fortress,‘ ‗Gibraltar of the East‘ and such.
None of it helped when Singapore fell to a Japanese army less than a third the size of the
defending forces.

Yet, so far removed from reality were Singapore‘s British residents, that even on the verge of
surrender, a gunnery officer was refused permission to mount guns on the golf links for
defending the city. He was told that he needed permission from the golf club committee. And the
golf club committee would not be meeting for at least a week, so he better hold off!

In the fall of Singapore, its symbolic significance was infinitely greater than the military
defeat. It destroyed the myth of European superiority over the Asiatics once and for
all. Historian James Leasor wrote in his Singapore, the battle that changed the world:

―Dazed by the incredible superiority of the Japanese, the defenders‘ will to win had withered.
… The psychological damage was even greater than the military defeat— and this had been
grotesque enough. …Under the lowering Singapore sky lit by the funeral pyres of the British
Empire … a door closed on centuries of white supremacy … ‖ Actually the Japanese had
planned it that way— to break the sense of superiority exuded by the Europeans, by the British in
particular, in their dealings with the Asiatics. Leasor wrote:

―At the start of the campaign, each Japanese soldier had been issued with a pamphlet that set out
Japan‘s reasons for fighting the British and the Americans. Her [Japan‘s] claim was that she
would liberate East Asia from white rule and oppression,‖ for since ―We Japanese, as an Eastern
people, have ourselves for long been classed alongside the Chinese and the Indians as an inferior
race, and treated as such, we must at the very least, here in Asia, beat these Westerners to

submission, that they may change their arrogant and ill-mannered attitude.‖
The Japanese attack on Singapore accomplished much more: it ended the British Empire to be
followed swiftly by the end of European imperialism itself. To return to the fall of Singapore, as
with the fall of Hong Kong a few weeks earlier, the only worthwhile resistance had come from
the Indian garrisons— the Sikh and the Gurkha regiments. The prestige and the mystique
associated with the British Empire were shattered by these ignominious defeats.

And this is how my gracious host in Penang and his friends, men who had seen it at first hand,
remember it. As they saw it, the massive defeat destroyed the British morale. It was the specter
of the whole nightmare being reenacted in India, with nearly three million Indian soldiers just
returned from war, which made the British leave India. ―They ran away,‖ the old soldier kept
telling me repeatedly.

I may point out that this is also the view of many Indians who saw action in the war— both in
the Indian Army and those who fought in Subhash Bose‘s INA. Indian soldiers saw that their
British officers were frightened to death of the Japanese, while they themselves were prepared to
fight them.

After the War, the British defeat in Singapore was followed by the French defeat in Dien Bien
Phu at the hands of Ho Chi Min‘s soldiers in Vietnam. This laid the groundwork for the
American defeat in all of Vietnam and their inglorious flight from Saigon. No one today talks
about the superiority of the ‗White Race‘. The first nail in coffin was driven by the Japanese in
Malaya in 1942.

It was this changed perception, that the British were just ordinary mortals like the rest that
allowed Netaji Subhas Bose to recruit Indians in Southeast Asia into the Indian National Army
(Azad Hind Fauz or the INA). Subhas Bose saw that the Indian armed forces were the prop of
the Empire— not just in India but everywhere the British went. But Gandhi and Nehru,
preoccupied with their utopian dreams of nonviolence failed to realize its significance. When the
opportunity arose, Bose seized it to transform the armed forces into a nationalist force, while
Gandhi and Nehru started the Quit India Movement which collapsed in a few weeks.

Before we look further, we need to ask: what support do we have for this revisionist view, that
Subhas Bose and the INA brought freedom to India? The evidence is ample and impeccable.
Several have noted it, but the most distinguished historian to highlight Bose‘s contribution was
the late R.C. Majumdar, one of modern India‘s greatest historians. In his monumental, three-
volume History of the Freedom Movement in India(Firma KLM, Calcutta) Majumdar provided
the following extraordinary evidence:

―It seldom falls to the lot of a historian to have his views, differing radically from those generally
accepted without demur, confirmed by such an unimpeachable authority. As far back as 1948 I
wrote in an article that the contribution made by Netaji Subas Chandra Bose towards the
achievement of freedom in 1947 was no less, and perhaps, far more important than that of
Mahatma Gandhi…”

The ‗unimpeachable authority‘ he cited happened to be Clement Attlee, the Prime Minister of

Britain at the time of India‘s independence. Since this is of fundamental importance, and
Majumdar‘s conclusion so greatly at variance with the conventional history, it is worth placing it
on record (Volume III, pages 609 –10).

When B.P. Chakravarti was acting as Governor of West Bengal, Lord Attlee visited India and
stayed as his guest at the Raj Bhavan for three days. Chakravarti asked Attlee about the real
grounds for granting independence to India. Specifically, his question was, when the Quit India
movement lay in shambles years before 1947, where was the need for the British to leave in such
a hurry. Attlee‘s response is most illuminating and important for history. Here is Governor
Chakrabarti‘s account of what Attlee told him:

―In reply Attlee cited several reasons, the most important were the activities of Netaji Subhas
Chandra Bose which weakened the very foundation of the attachment of the Indian land
and naval forces to the British Government. Towards the end, I asked Lord Attlee about the
extent to which the British decision to quit India was influenced by Gandhi‘s activities. On
hearing this question Attlee‘s lips widened in a smile of disdain and he uttered, slowly, putting
emphasis on each single letter— ‘mi-ni-mal’.‖ (Emphasis added.)

Another point worth noting: after the fall of Singapore that ended the British Empire, the most
dramatic national event was the INA Trial at the Red Fort— not any movement by Gandhi or
Nehru. This led to the mutiny of the naval ratings, which, more than anything helped the British
make up their minds to leave India in a hurry. They sensed that it was only a matter of time
before the mutiny spread to other parts of the armed forces and the Government. None of this
would have happened without Subhash Bose and the INA.

The crucial point to note is that thanks to Subhash Bose‘s activities, the Indian Armed Forces
began to see themselves as defenders of India rather than of the British Empire. This, more than
anything else, was what led to India‘s freedom. This is also the reason why the British Empire
disappeared from the face of the earth within an astonishingly short space of twenty years. Indian
soldiers, who were the main prop of the Empire, were no longer willing to fight to hold it
together. This is the essence of leadership.

This brings us back to Mao‘s half joking reply— that it takes time to get the proper historical
perspective. It is now more than sixty years since India became free. We can afford to look back
and see the real reasons for British leaving India in a hurry. To sum up, by the end of the War,
Gandhi was a spent force, and Subhash Bose was India‘s most popular leader.

Now, sixty years and more later it is time to recognize the truth: first, it was the Fall of Singapore
in 1942, not the Quit India Movement that was the beginning of the end of the British Empire;
and finally, it was Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose more than anyone else who was responsible for
India‘s freedom in 1947.‖8

Rajaram N.S., Who Brought Freedom-Gandhiji or Netaji, Folks Magazine, 10/10/2009
I would like to quote two statements of Gandhiji from his autobiography to make his views about
the independence and his attitude towards the British comprehensible.

"I would give up the finest sons of India to save the British Empire in its dying hour."
"We [Indians] can only be granted the responsibility of freedom once we learn to civilize
ourselves first. [like the British]"

Do you think it acceptable to fight for your own captors and exploiters as was done in W.W.II?
Can you logically conclude that we should lay down our lives for the same people that whipped
our people, raped our women and pillaged our country? Do you regard Indian philosophy of that
era so backward that we should strive to become "British" before we are granted freedom? Why
does Gandhi regard freedom not a right! He himself recruited troops for the British army during
W.W.II. Where was his preaching of non-violence then? His hypocrisy by endorsing so called
non-violence for the purpose of suffocating Indian revolt is clearly demonstrated by his sudden
change in philosophy to recruit troops for the British army during W.W.II. His values, beliefs
and views are clearly hypocritical.

Moreover some facts, which sketch him better. Gandhi's writing, compiled in an uncensored
series of volumes by the Government of India, is liberally sprinkled with verbal violence against
the black South African natives, who he termed "Kaffirs." His animosity towards black
people is almost tangible and his racism is undeniable. A brief but shocking example illustrates
Gandhi's racism. He lived in South Africa prior to Apartheid, but at a time when the nation
still suffered segregation. In the city of Durban, there was a post office with two doors - one for
blacks and Indians and another for whites. Gandhi, of course, was required to use the door for
blacks and Indians. This deeply offended him, not because of the segregation, but because he
was "forced" to share a door with blacks, which he felt was beneath him. Gandhi successfully
lobbied to correct this "problem" by building a third entrance for Indians, thus further
entrenching the South African policy of segregation.

In his Collected Works (CWMG) 9, Gandhi wrote: "For the present our efforts are concentrated
towards preventing and getting repealed fresh legislation. Before referring to that, I may further
illustrate the proposition that the Indian is put on the same level with the native in many other
ways also. Lavatories are marked 'natives and Asiatics' at the railway stations. In the Durban Post
and telegraph offices there were separate entrances for natives and Asiatics and Europeans. We
felt the indignity too much and many respectable Indians were insulted and called all sorts of
names by the clerks at the counter. We petitioned the authorities to do away with the invidious
distinction and they have now provided three separate entrances for natives, Asiatics,
and Europeans. "When it came to pacifism, the quality for which Gandhi is most admired, he
was no better. Shortly before his assassination, as documented in his "Last Phase," Vol. II, p.
326, he said, "If we [India] had the atom bomb, we would have used it against the British." We
can definitely say that the main principle which can be credited for all the popularity garnered by
Gandhi was ahimsa, then how was he of such an opinion of bombing British? There might be
bubbles of surfacing up as this statement seems contradictory to my earlier conceptualization of

Gandhi where I showed Gandhi to be indifferent to the real feature of independence, as a counter

Collection of Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Publications Division Government of India, Vol I, 1999, p 367-368
I would like to state if a person can talk about bombing a state, how can he criticize a person like
Bhagat Singh who hardly went up to such violence stuff and never killed even any British
innocent (which Saunders wasn‘t).

Gandhi's pacifism was eagerly abandoned whenever expedient. Although he once said there were
"no causes that I am prepared to kill for," in 1920 he wrote, "When my eldest son asked me what
he should have done, had he been present when I was almost fatally assaulted in 1908, whether
he should have run away and seen me killed or whether he should have used his physical force
which he could and wanted to use, and defended me, I told him that it was his duty to defend me
even by using violence."10

Gandhi – Did he really want Independent India?

The Simon Commission setup for reforms in the constitution faced protests all over as it didn‘t
have any Indian national. Congress though didn‘t stage protests but brought a parallel completely
Indian commission to seek reforms. The report brought out by the committee was named as
Nehru Report. Nehru Report demanded for complete independence. The demand lacked support
from Indian Liberal Party and All India Muslim League. The British didn‘t accept the legitimacy
of the setup of the commission and the report brought out by it. But the Nehru Report was also
controversial within the Congress. Younger nationalist leaders like Subhash Chandra Bose and
Jawaharlal Nehru (Motilal Nehru's son) demanded that the Congress resolve to make a complete
and explicit break from all ties with the British Empire. Jawaharlal Nehru had introduced a
resolution demanding "complete national independence" in 1927, which was rejected because of
Gandhi's opposition. Now Bose and Nehru opposed dominion status, which would retain
the Monarch of the United Kingdom as the constitutional head of state of India (although in the
separate capacity as King of India), and preserve political powers for the British Parliament in
Indian constitutional affairs. They were supported in their stand by a large number of rank-and-
file Congressmen.

In December 1928, Congress held in Calcutta, Mohandas Gandhi proposed a resolution that
called for the British to grant dominion status to India within two years. If the British failed to
meet the deadline, the Congress would call upon all Indians to fight for complete independence.
Bose and Nehru objected to the time given to the British - they pressed Gandhi to demand
immediate action from the British. Gandhi brokered a further compromise by reducing the time
given from two years to one. Jawaharlal Nehru voted for the new resolution, while Subhash Bose
told his supporters that he would not oppose the resolution, and abstained from voting himself.
The All India Congress Committee voted 118 to 45 in its favor (the 45 votes came from
supporters of a complete break from the British). However, when Bose introduced an
amendment during the open session of Congress that sought a complete break with the British,

Gandhi admonished the move saying:-


Collection of Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Publications Division Government of India, Vol XXII, 1999 p 133
"You may take the name of independence on your lips but all your muttering will be an empty
formula if there is no honor behind it. If you are not prepared to stand by your words, where will
independence be?"11
The reason behind the outcome of election can be understood in relation with the Gandhian
concept. As I discussed previously the blindfolded following of Gandhi, similarly their
adherence towards Gandhi made them go in the favor of the will of Gandhi.
I would like anyone who is through my project to give me a proper justification for the demand
of dominion status by Gandhi. If this was the aim Gandhi wanted to bag, then how was he there
acting as a leader of the people convincing all by projecting himself as the ―independence‖
Though later in 1930, Gandhi had to vote in favor of complete independence amidst the pressure
from his Congress colleagues and consistently increasing popularity of leaders such as Bhagat
Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose who were demanding complete independence Jawaharlal
Nehru in the session held at the banks of Ravi river, Lahore declared the resolution of ―Poorna

Moreover to highlight the aim Gandhi wanted to derive from his demand of dominion status, I
will be discussing what dominion status exactly means.

Dominion Status: The concept

Dominion status was officially defined in the Balfour Declaration (1926) and in the Statute of
Westminster (1931), which recognized these territories as "autonomous Communities within the
British Empire," establishing these states as equals to the United Kingdom, making them
essentially independent members of what was then called the British Commonwealth. The states
were granted pseudo sovereignty, i.e. the Government was composed of the national of the same
country while the final authority of the Government yet remained with the British Government.

The true work of a Government remains to rule the state and give it a political sovereignty. It
acts both as an agency to the state and also a governor considering the welfare of the state, while
the dominion status meant a Government which neither had political sovereignty nor autonomy
which would‘ve resulted in an unstable and unreliable body possessing pseudo political and
authoritative powers.

Just conceive the political aim a person may be trying to derive out from the demand of a
dominion status. I believe any venture can‘t lead to a success unless the target is unambiguous
and achievable. Complete dedication and no compromise with the target remains the sole of
success every time. I don‘t think the efforts of the great Indian leaders ever seemed to be going

in vain which could‘ve led to such an unsatisfactory deviation from the goal. Gandhi‘s deviation

Anonymous, Gandhi and Independence of India, Press Releases of Gandhi
showed how indecisive he was. He justified his steps to achieve independence in steps, as he
didn‘t consider India to be eligible for independence that time. He always emphasized on
civilization of Indian people just as the British were. Even if we accept the concept, it is implied
that if a person will not remain firm on his motives, how can he even conceive of achieving that,
and could he have explained what he wanted to achieve with the bagging of dominion status, just
the Governmental seat and authorities? I don‘t think this was the aim thousands of martyrs
sacrificed their life for and people abandoned their education and families.

Gandhi is an ideal for many. His principles, sayings and experiences are widely accepted and
cherished. But with this project I‘ve landed into a doubt on the authenticity of such beliefs and
notions of people. I don‘t think they‘ve been formulated on good researches. I know, I‘m
implicitly claiming mine to be a good one, but I would really like to name it as an ―honest
effort‖. It might seem that in this project I‘ve projected the grey shades of Gandhi more than his
bright shades, but honestly the brighter shades didn‘t appeal me in context of the Indian
independence, whether it be, the aims he was having, the principles he propounded or the actions
he executed.

As I said at the start of this project, that I‘ve hardly any hope of coming out without the hands
burnt. After the research made I am unable to digest a title of ―Father of the Nation‖ for
Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi definitely made efforts to yield something good, but those efforts
didn‘t make him eligible enough to be on the currency, represent the country as a father and
cherished as a ―Mahatma‖.


Gandhi M.K., The Story of My Experiments with Truth, Navajivan Trust

Brown M. J., Gandhi‘s Rise to Power: Indian Politics 1915-1922, p 194
Walker M. Donna,,
Anonymous,, 25/10/2010
Vaidya P.R., Gandhi-In and Out, Vol XXIII No. 8, 2001
Marshall J. Getz, Subhash Chandra Bose: A Biography, 2002
Rajaram N.S., Who Brought Freedom-Gandhiji or Netaji, Folks Magazine, 10/10/2009
Collection of Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Publications Division Government of India, Vol I,
1999, p 367-368
Collection of Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Publications Division Government of India, Vol
XXII, 1999 p 133
Anonymous, Gandhi and Independence of India, Press Releases of Gandhi

Encyclopedia Britannica
The Story of My Experiments with Truth
Gandhi and Independence of India (Press Releases)
Collection of Works of Mahatma Gandhi
Folks Magazine
School - net of United Kingdom
Researches by P.N. Vaidya and N.S. Rajaram
The Martyr: Bhagat Singh (Kuldip Nayyar)
Subhash Chandra Bose: A Biography, Marshall J. Getz
My NING (Gandhi King)