Demonstrations and Agitations






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Calcutta as one of the birthplaces of modern Indian nationalism, and as host to one of the most educated and advanced of Indian populations had always been a hotbed for political activity and agitation.

Throughout the 1930s, the genteel well chaired debates in public halls became increasingly a thing of the past and political agitation took to the streets to address the increasingly politically aware masses.

Even in the tense and politically repressive situation of the war did not stop the Calcuttans from coming out and making their voice heard.

The quit India movement broke through it and from then on till independence and beyond the political, communal and economic situation always provided enough issues to spark of protest in a great variety of forms.

Small meetings, speeches, mass ralleys, political leaflets and magazines, strikes, protest-marches, sit-ins, riots, mutinies, terrorist attacks and hungerstrikes; all were used to make one's opinions and grievances heard and felt. 

They seemed to be so frequent that almost independently of the actual cause they became a prominent (and in some case permanent till today) feature of life in 1940s Calcutta.

[Please note that some of the greater agitations, namely the communal tensions of 1946, and the Communist agitation are dealt with in separate chapters. ]


          _____Pictures of 1940s Calcutta________________________


Tram workers on strike





Indicative of the resumption of an age-old struggle for decent conditions is this immediate post-war picture of tram-workers on strike.  The strike lasted nine days but employees won par of their demands.

Clyde Waddell, US military man, personal press photographer of Lord Louis Mountbatten, and news photographer on Phoenix magazine. Calcutta, mid 1940s

(source: webpage  Monday, 16-Jun-2003 / Reproduced by courtesy of David N. Nelson, South Asia Bibliographer, Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania)


… and his car was set on fire


Malcolm Moncrieff Stuart, I.C.S. (Indian Civil Service) District Magistrate 24 Parganas, Calcutta, late 1945

(source: personal scrapbook kept by Malcolm Moncrieff Stuart O.B.E., I.C.S. seen on 20-Dec-2005 / Reproduced by courtesy of Mrs. Malcolm Moncrieff Stuart)


Internal security exercise 999


Malcolm Moncrieff Stuart, I.C.S. (Indian Civil Service) District Magistrate 24 Parganas, Calcutta, 1945

(source: personal scrapbook kept by Malcolm Moncrieff Stuart O.B.E., I.C.S. seen on 20-Dec-2005 / Reproduced by courtesy of Mrs. Malcolm Moncrieff Stuart)






          _____Contemporary Records of or about 1940s Calcutta___


The Spinsters

AFTER years of yarn-spinning Congress Committees have become experts in framing the resolutions which, as Mr. Gandhi puts it, "reflect exactly all shades of opinion in the Congress" and therefore put everybody in a flat spin. From this point of view the Bardoii resolution is entitled to the Mahatma's description of it as "flawless". No sooner was it issued than the teleprinters were flooded with statements from leaders of "all shade's" each giving it a different interpretation to suit himself. '' Violence, says Dr Rajendra Prasad, has never settled anything permanently.” Of course not; because nothing is ever settled permanently. The doctor wants a static world, but he will never find it. The world has evolved through a long course of wars on an ever larger scale. Now we have reached total war which is bound to lead to a long period of total world peace. In that millennial period (Hitler on the assumption that his side will win-puts it at a thousand years) the human race will doubtless be devising new struggles, preparing for the conquest of Mars or the moon. "The war of the worlds", interplanetary war, is what most speculators who foresee peace on earth and realize that time with no beginning and has no ending, finish by predicting, e.g. Mr. Wells in "The Shape of Things to Come".

But even that interplanetary war- may, according to the traditions preserved in scriptures of all religions, be a variant in a recurring cycle, the "war in heaven" that Milton chronicled.

(source: The Statesman. Calcutta/Delhi, January 18. 1942)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with The Statesman)


War Attitudes

MAULANA Abul Kalam Azad and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru are reported to have promptly told a questioner that “It is foolish and useless to resort to satyagraha when the enemy threatens,". That, we hope, is the end of that. It is still some what puzzling that, when the enemy threatens, Congress seeks counsel from Wardha.' it would be helpful if at this Juncture Mr Gandhi were to say that the advice he gave "to every Briton" in the critical hours of 1940 to invite Hitler and Mussolini in and offer them whatever they wanted is not the advice he would not give to us in India.

(source: The Statesman. Calcutta/Delhi, March 18, 1942)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with The Statesman)


Letters: In Sorrow


This note is written more in sorrow than in anger, regarding your article on India [TIME, March 16]. . . .

Your article cites that in 1857, during the Great Mutiny, the Moslems were sewn into pigskins before being shot, but it does NOT mention the Black Hole of Calcutta, or what necessitated, in the opinion of those responsible, drastic reprisals. Nor does it point out that it was the religious fear of pigskin, rather than death, which broke further mutiny.

Again, you cite the case of General Dyer's dispersing a prohibited meeting by firing into the crowd; but you do NOT mention that General Dyer was relieved of his appointment in consequence, and died a broken man—in spite of the fact that many of those best able to judge feel that, if he had not taken his drastic action, once again India would have been torn end to end in mutiny and civil war. . . .

Could and should not it have been pointed out that:

There are less than 600 Englishmen in the entire Indian civil service.

The Indian Government has been highly protected AGAINST Great Britain, and that only about one-third of India's trade—import and export—is with that country.

Britain's "loot" from India is about 5% on an investment of some 4 billion dollars.

Great Britain itself has trained the leading Indian politicians in British universities to absorb British ideas of Freedom and Democracy.

The real parasites of India are—

1) The 14 million head of Sacred Cows

2) Child Marriage

3) Lack of Sanitation and

4) Certain Indian Princes and so-called "Holy Men."

To make sudden and drastic changes to India's administration of 352,000,000 semi-civilized people, with over 45 races with 225 languages, many religions, and diametrically opposed ideas, was—and to many people's minds still is—an impossibility; and that if there ever were cause for "the inevitability of gradualness," here is one indeed. . . .


Captain, Lahore Division

Indian Expeditionary Force, 1914

Toronto, Canada

>TIME said there was a British case, and Reader Tuteur states it very effectively.—ED.

(source: TIME Magazine, New York,  Apr. 6, 1942)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Time Magazine)




          _____Memories of 1940s Calcutta_______________________



Revolutionary violence was endemic

It was an exciting and stimulating time for a young man who was ready to burn the candle at both ends. Revolutionary violence was endemic in a small but fanatical minority of a people whose language and culture was different from that of the rest of India; who had an ancient grievance against authority since the days of the Moguls; and who carried the stigma of an unmartial race. It fed on the resurgence of Asian nationalism after the Japanese victories over the Russians at the beginning of the century, was fanned by the discontents flowing from the first partition of Bengal, and later from the liberal and methodical steps towards self-government to which the British rulers were already committed, and which therefore gave the movement the colour of a war of independence.

John Christie, civil servant, Calcutta, late 1930s
 (source: page 52 of Trevor Royle: “The Last Days of the Raj” London: Michael Joseph, 1989)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Trevor Royle 1989)


Trouble on Sealdah Bridge

She [my mother] had been brought up in Ishapore where her childhood had been dominated by a sense of ease and privilege. The club had been the focus of the town's social life where she had learned to play golf and tennis, to ride and dance and to get to know everyone in the tightly knit British community. It was the kind of life which she thought would never come to an end: Her [my mother’s] first inkling that things might be starting to fall apart had come in the late 1930s, shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War.

A boyfriend [of my mother’s] had been bitten by a native dog while breaking up a dog fight and had been taken into hospital in Calcutta for a painful course of rabies injections. The treatment lasted three weeks, so to keep him company she and a party of chums would take him into Calcutta and then go to Firpo's for coffee and ice cream.

It was a short enough trip [from Ishapore] into Calcutta, one that was usually as free from incident as any commuter journey; but one day they ran into trouble. Big trouble.

Approaching the Sealdah Bridge, they were stopped by a crowd of angry Indians, all wearing Congress caps and shouting political slogans.

'Don't drive those people,' they told the driver. 'Get out and let them walk! Don't drive them!'

In the best traditions of British pluck, the young man who had been given the course of injections was equal to the task. Fearing a calamity unless he acted quickly, he drew out his pipe and stuck it in the driver's back. 'This is a gun,' he whispered. 'If you don't drive on, I'll blow your head off!' The terrified driver changed down a gear, slipped the clutch and charged the car over the bridge, spinning several of the demonstrators on to the walkway.

For the party it had been an unnerving experience and their first real taste of the strength of Indian nationalist feeling. Yet, as they drove back to Ishapore, they became aware of the paradox that, however raucously the Indians might have been protesting and however frightening the incident might have been, British rule still stood firm in the face of that discontent, that measured tones and a pipe masquerading as a pistol could still uphold the mystique of the British Raj.

Trevor Royle, writer, Calcutta, late 1930s
(source: page 16 of Trevor Royle: “The Last Days of the Raj” London: Michael Joseph, 1989)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Trevor Royle 1989)






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08 August 1942 - Quit India Resolution




          _____Pictures of 1940s Calcutta________________________






          _____Contemporary Records of or about 1940s Calcutta___


Toward Disaster?

India's week began and ended with deceptive quiet. In the cooling monsoons of central India the Congress party Working Committee met with Mohandas Gandhi at Sevagram. Monday was Gandhi's day of silence, but Tuesday morning the silence was broken. Correspondents were summoned to receive the committee's decision. In a high-pitched, whistling voice, the 90-lb. archenemy of the British Raj declared that, from now on, the people of India would be in open, nonviolent rebellion against British rule.

By Wednesday morning the resolution had reached New Delhi. The Viceroy's Council met in the long, high-windowed council room, darkened against the glaring sun. What they would do was a foregone conclusion. The British Government of India does not possess the authority to commit Constitutional suicide; at best it could refer the decision to His Majesty's Government at London. This it did.

In New Delhi nothing except muted headlines indicated that India was approaching a rendezvous with history. Heat-drugged, half-nude Indians still slept in the shade on sun-baked pavements or sprawled dozing on the grassy lawns of Government buildings and homes of pukka sahibs. From miles away bright British flags could be seen snapping in the north wind above the copper dome of the viceregal palace, as gayly and unconcernedly as if the British Government were not facing the most serious threat to its power since the Mutiny of 1857.

The Threat. The core of the Congress resolution demanded that Britain withdraw politically from India, and threatened to use all the possible nonviolence of the people to compel Britain to withdraw. The resolution did not alter Gandhi's position that he does not wish to interfere with United Nations military forces in India (TIME, July 13). But Jawaharlal Nehru explained that nonviolence envisaged more than industrial strikes—it would be a general strike, peaceful rebellion. Nehru's thesis was simple: only Indians could organize India for war, because anybody could do anything better than the Government of India today—that is a fundamental axiom."

"I think this may be illegal," said one British official after he finished reading the resolution. There was no doubt that, by the law of India, Nehru, Gandhi and every member of Congress was subject to arrest. Gandhi and Nehru, both astute lawyers, knew the law. But both they and the British knew that India's problem was not to be solved by legalities.

How far did Congress represent India? Never had Congress entered mass action with so much of its own press against it. The Bombay Chronicle, Lahore Tribune and Madras Hindu assailed the Congress policy. The great Madras leader Chakravarti Rajagopalachariar ("C.R."), who recently resigned from the Congress, was speaking against its policy publicly, though hissed and booed. Dawn, the organ of the Moslem League, which represents some, but far from all, of India's huge Moslem minority, was crying that Britain's yielding to Congress would result in "the rule of the jungle, anarchy and disorder."

But Congress, the most powerful political group in India, has roots in the illiterate, hungering Hindu peasantry, in Hindu shopkeepers and middlemen, thousands of English-speaking Hindu intellectuals. The silver-haired Nehru, honestly and brilliantly antiFascist, believed that India would repeat the history of Burma and Malaya unless Indians could be persuaded to take part in its defense, and that they would take part only if they felt themselves free, not slaves. Gandhi, with a great emotional understanding of the small peasants, apparently sensed that at last had come the moment of British embarrassment in which to launch his fifth nonviolence campaign.

Hour of Decision. The Government of India and Congress had matched strength four times previously, but this time the result might be different. Congress insisted that it would not yield an inch. So in private, did the British. Like the antagonists in a great tragedy, the two forces seemed to be moving along appointed grooves to an appointed, unalterable end—disaster.

But not until Aug. 7 would the Congress Working Committee's proposal be submitted to the party's general committee. In the meantime many things might happen, many other counsels might prevail. At week's end one of the Congress papers attempted to suggest an alternative. Said the Delhi Evening National Call: "As we look around we find that there is only one man and one country that can save the United Nations from a fatal catastrophe and the cause they represent—that man is President Roosevelt and that country is the United States."

It was a week of history in India, but it seemed that less than 1% of 1% of India's millions realized its implications. Along the fringes of India blackouts reigned in Calcutta, Bombay and Colombo, but nightclubs plied their trade and hotels were fuller than ever. Chief event of the week was the departure of Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester. A conscientious soldier, the Duke had made an exhausting 9,000-mile trip from one end of India to the other, holding countless reviews, eating innumerable dinners with princelings, ministers and soldiers. He was called "Sunshine" by newspapermen.

Despite the heat, the Government hung on doggedly at New Delhi as a gesture to the war effort. Air-cooled movies offered U.S. pictures. But none could compare with Jhoola, an Indian epic of love & song running riot in its 21st week to enthusiastic audiences at the Jubilee Theater.

It seemed impossible for both Americans and Britons, fresh out from home and arriving full of vim & vigor, not to fall into the cushioned grooves of normal Delhi society. Americans were happy with a new batch of air mail, including copies of TIME. But they itched and scratched with prickly heat; some of Delhi's victims treated it with table salt, others used antiseptic solutions; all scratched.

(source: TIME Magazine, New York,  Jul. 27, 1942)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Time Magazine)


Quit India

MR Gandhi is a source of much difficulty. Unquestionably he has made a number of contradictory and irreconcilable utterances. In this week's Harijan he seeks to reassure the British public by paraphrasing the Resolution thus: "India is not playing any effective part in the war. Some of us feel ashamed that is so and, what is more we feel that if we were free from the foreign yoke, we should play a worthy, nay a decisive part, in the world war which has yet to reach its climax". Now this is language that might have been used by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru or Mr Rajagopalacharia , but it is in flat contradiction of Mr Gandhi's "Letter to Every Briton" advising abject surrender to the enemy. That letter he recently reaffirmed, and he said that in the present situation he offered Indians the same advice in relation to the Japanese. He has also recently talked of a free India seeking to negotiate peace in Berlin, Rome and Tokyo.

(source: The Statesman. Calcutta/Delhi, August 5, 1942)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with The Statesman)


So What?

THE finger of fate moves on, and new lines in the Indo-British chapter arc being rapidly written. The Congress has adhered to its resolution, after proving to its own satisfactionthat Britain is in the wrong. The Government of India has replied by arresting the leaders and issuing stern orders for the suppression of the threatened civil disobedience if it starts.

This is a military question. The Allies can and must now think only in military terms. Common salvation is essential. The BBC announcing on Saturday night the passing of the Congress Resolution called it the "Quit India" resolution, thereby refusing to distinguish between it and the Allahabad resolutions of more than three months ago, or to accept the explanations, of the July resolutions given in much detail at Bombay. The Government of India's Resolution issued on Saturday immediately after the AICC had endorsed the July resolution also rejects the face value of this resolution with its offer of cooperation in the war. It pins the Congress to its Allahabad resolution, and it interprets the whole as an invitation to anarchy. The future alone will reveal whether the BBC and the Government of India are speaking for the Allied War Council.'

If they are, if this is the considered view of the supreme military direction, it will, of course, stand. In that case the announcemcnts in the form they have taken are for the information, both of the Allied countries and of the enemy countries and we must assume that it is considered good propaganda to emphasize, elaborate, and insist in front of an enemy which has forced us to quit Malaya and Burma that the Congress has asked us in the literal sense to quit India. On the other hand if what must prove one of the most critical military decisions of the Allies has been taken without reference to the War Council by the Home Department of the Government of India and the bureaucracy of the India Office, and if the Government Resolution and the BBC announcement are arguments addressed to the Allies and the Supreme War Council for the retention of their powers they may be subject to revision in the light of the stern necessities of war.

(source: The Statesman. Calcutta/Delhi, August 10, 1942)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with The Statesman)


Frogs in a Well

A small boy in a tattered dhoti idly dawdled toe marks in the deep dust. Monsoon skies were slate-grey overhead. The oppressive heat gave added pungency to the smell of human filth in the Girgaun district of Bombay's slums. Shopkeepers moved listlessly; talk dribbled in the bazaars. Suddenly everything changed. Word sputtered from mouth to mouth that the British Raj had jailed Mahatma Gandhi.

No longer listless, Hindus in the Girgaun ran riot. Four double-decker busses were wrecked. One was set afire, blazed high in the sky. Traffic snarled. Foreigners were stoned. So were police, who answered with tear gas, then fired directly into the crowds. The small boy ran from one trouble spot to another. Finally he remembered some blackjacks that he knew about. He got them, took up a stand on the street corner, sold them for one rupee each.

Thus last week did a tragic hour, damned by logic and twisted by emotionalism, come to the subcontinent of India. In a crisis caused by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi's threat of open revolt, the British struck first. The slamming of jail doors on the leaders of the Indian National Congress party was their answer to Gandhi's demand for immediate Indian independence.

The Hour. In the dawn's early light, Bombay's police commissioner arrested Gandhi at the home of Ghanshyam Dass Birla, a wealthy Indian industrialist. The elderly Pied Piper, who had been up until 2 a.m. writing reports and memoranda, was sleepy but good-humored. He was given an hour to get ready. During that time he had a breakfast of orange juice and goat's milk. He heard a Sanskrit hymn and a few words from the Koran, read by a young Moslem girl. He scrawled a last-minute message to his followers. Then, with a copy of the Bhagavad-Gita (sacred Hindu poem), the Koran and an Urdu primer under his arm, a garland of flowers around his wizened neck, he was taken in the commissioner's car to Victoria station. "Nice old fellow, that Gandhi," the commissioner said. The train chuffed on to Poona. There the Mahatma was imprisoned in the rambling stone "bungalow" of the rich Aga Khan.*

With Gandhi went Mme. Sarojini Naidu, poetess, and Madeline Slade, the British admiral's daughter who has been Gandhi's devoted follower for 17 years. Mme. Gandhi, older (73), tinier (barely four feet tall) and far frailer than her scrawny spouse who is still tough as nails despite the fiction that he is sickly, was allowed to remain in the Birla home. But that evening, she, too, was arrested when she tried to make a speech before 30,000 persons in a big Bombay park. The meeting was broken up, but not before other speakers read the last message from Gandhi: "Every man is free to go to the fullest length under ahimsa (non violence) for complete deadlock by strikes and all other possible means. Karenge ya Marenge! (Do or Die!)

The Presidents. Nearly 200 party leaders were rounded up and jailed. White-capped Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi's leading disciple and right-hand man, who is also a well-proven friend of the United Nations, was sent to Yeravda, six miles from Poona. Into the same jail went white-bearded Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, President of the Congress party. A few minutes before his arrest Azad smuggled out a message: if party leaders were seized, "every Congress member becomes Congress President."

This message, coming before Gandhi's set off the first riots. It was read by a woman in the canvas tentlike Pandal, where 250 party leaders of the day before had voted (with 13 opposing) authorization for Gandhi to lead his last great civil disobedience campaign. Scattered by police who threw tear-gas bombs and whacked heads with lathis (five-foot bamboo staves), Gandhi's followers quickly reassembled in the streets. Hundreds threw stones and vegetables at police who rushed the Bombay provincial party headquarters and seized all administrative documents. Before nightfall, when reserves of British officers and yellow-turbaned native police were held in readiness for blackout riots, at least eight persons were killed in Bombay alone. In 48 hours police and troops fired "about ten times" into unruly mobs. The list of bullet-wounded soon passed the hundred mark. Bands of men and women lay down on streetcar tracks or piled rubble on the rails. Others hauled passengers out of automobiles and forced cyclists to dismount with the admonition that they must walk "because this is a democracy." Growing nastier mobs began stoning foreigners. A.P. Correspondent Preston Grover's car was shot at, bombarded with bottles, rocks, chamber pots.

Spreading from Bombay, the riots took on increasingly serious proportions. At Poona 14 were injured when goondas (Hindu for hoodlums) threw bottles into windows. At Lucknow, police fired on student demonstrators. Demonstrators stoned trains, cut wires, smashed police lamps. In Ahmadabad police killed one person when they fired directly into a mob trying to burn the police post. In New Delhi a small crowd fought its way past a barricade at the foot of the hill leading to the Viceroy's palace, but later was turned back. Whites in New Delhi said: "It's here," kept close together for mutual protection. In Calcutta there were demonstrations, but no immediate strike call for war workers in strategic factories. The British feared that communal riots between Hindus and Moslems might break out. The stoning of Moslem shops by Hindus in Bombay was one portent of even greater trouble.

The strategy of the British Raj was plainly to strangle what it called "open rebellion" before the rebellion could get organized. The British hoped to quell the riots in a few days, expected support from Communists, Untouchables, Moslems. Their program was ready for the push of a button. During the week the Viceroy's Council met almost daily instead of once a week. It was a period of great decision for the eleven Indians on the 15-man council. If they approved the arrest of Gandhi, it meant that their decision would haunt Indian politics for decades. It would cut them off from any Congress party support. On the fateful Friday they trudged three times up the winding spiral stairs of the Viceregal lodge to the Council Room. They left late at night with their decision made, their plans laid.

In moves that meant total war against the Congress party, with the backing of the Viceroy, the 2nd Marquess of Linlithgow, and the Home Government, the Council: 1) ordered strict control of the national press; 2) gave provincial authorities power over local governments; 3) announced that shops closing their doors as a part of a general strike would be immediately taken over by the Government. When the hour came the British operated with extraordinary efficiency.

August 7. Just as they struck first at week's end, the British struck hard earlier in the week with the revelation of documents seized last April in a raid on the Congress party headquarters at Allahabad. These documents were used to prove that Gandhi at that time had planned, as the first act of Indian independence, to negotiate for peace with Japan. Nehru and Gandhi promptly noted that the raid was illegal, claimed that the documents were misinterpreted by the British to influence

U.S. opinion and turn Gandhi supporters against him in Britain. To the British, the documents were evidence that Gandhi was a traitor. To the Congress party the British action was a dirty trick. Meeting in Bombay, on the fateful August 7, the party gave its answer.

Of all India's cities, Bombay represents the best and the worst that the Raj has brought—from enlightening contact with western civilization to the tragic abuse of industrialism expressed in miles of grimy slums like those in the Girgaun district. In this poverty-riddled, proud, resplendent citadel on the seven interwoven islands at India's gateway, the Congress leaders met with settled purpose. Inside their huge Pandal electric fans hummed. They had the unprecedented extravagance to provide chairs for everyone. They opened their meeting with terrific trumpet blasts. A band played Marching Through Georgia. Crowds surged on Gandhi when he arrived in his loincloth, a narrow white scarf around his neck. Twice he lost his glasses. Each time his admirers tried to put them back on for him. Momentarily forgetting nonviolence, he swung his fists to ward off the overzealous. Inside the Pandal, Gandhi spoke, cross-legged from a couch, into a microphone. A friend explained: "He has some difficulty because he has lost his teeth."

Friends. But Gandhi had not lost his wits. He handed U.S. correspondents a "letter to American friends" urging that the U.S. intercede for Indian independence. "You have made common cause with Great Britain," he said. "You cannot therefore disown responsibility for anything that her representatives do in India." He contended that "false propaganda had poisoned American ears," ended his letter with the salutation: "I am your friend."

At the Pandal microphone Gandhi also professed his friendship for the British: "I know that they are on the brink of the ditch, and are about to fall into it. Therefore, even if they want to cut off my hands, my friendship demands that I should try to pull them out of the ditch." Sadly, as if the British were tired little children, Gandhi explained that the British position in India could be saved only by granting the Indians freedom. "We can show our real grit and valor," said he, "only when it becomes our right to fight. My democracy means that everyone is his own master. . . . We do not want to remain frogs in a well. We are aiming at world federation. It can come only through nonviolence. Disarmament is possible only if you use the matchless weapon of nonviolence."

Nehru. From such lofty thoughts in the midst of a ruthless world war, Gandhi turned to Pandit Nehru, gave him credit as "my guru" (teacher) in international affairs. Said Gandhi: "I do not want to be the instrument of Russia's defeat, nor China's. If that happens, I would hate myself." The voice was Gandhi's, but the sentiments were those of Nehru, torn between his knowledge of the world and his love for the Mahatma. Grave and drawn was Nehru's face when he rose to speak. There was finality in his words. He spoke of a British "defeatist attitude," urged that "valiant fighters" replace the "creaking, squeaking and shaking machinery of the Government of India." He urged that Hindus "give up that attitude of mind which welcomes the Japanese." He drew the session's loudest cheers when he suggested participation of a free India in the ranks of the United


When the session closed, Gandhi had authorization to call for a satyagraha (civil disobedience campaign) which had been recommended by the Congress working committee on Aug. 7. It was a powerful weapon in his hands, a weapon the British called blackmail. To Gandhi, a crusader with a one-track mind, it was a weapon with which to bludgeon immediate independence from the British. He said he hoped President Roosevelt would intercede and announced he would make a last-minute appeal to the Viceroy before leading his followers into action. But there was no time: the next morning the Indian Government cracked down.

Claims. In the British House of Commons, Indian Secretary Leopold Stennett Amery admitted that "Gandhi has his own idiosyncrasies." But Amery thundered that Gandhi's action in calling for civil disobedience was "a stab in the back to all who are fighting in India, or for India, in the cause of the United Nations, whether they be Indian, American or Chinese."

The British position is that, in wartime, Gandhi's mysticism, his saintliness, his idiosyncrasies and his shrewd playing of politics do not excuse treasonable acts. As

blunt as a lathi is the Government's claim that Gandhi is both an appeaser and pro-Japanese traitor.

In Nehru the British have seen a fine mind, an incorruptible honor, an intelligent approach to world problems. But they distrust him because of his faith in Gandhi and an emotionalism which led him to say: "We prefer to throw ourselves into the fire and come out a new nation or be reduced to ashes." To finish off their case against Gandhi and Nehru, the British official position is that Gandhi's voice is not the voice of India. They claim that his party is losing power, that it cannot possibly represent all of India's heterogeneous peoples and makes no attempt to do so. If immediate independence were granted to India, it would mean a one-party political dictatorship, immediate civil war and chaos that would provide easy entry for Japanese invaders.

Counter-Claims. The Indian view, as brought back to the U.S. last week by Correspondent Louis Fischer after a week's conversations with Gandhi, is that the British are "smearing" Gandhi and wooing U.S. public support of an oppressive, undemocratic and inefficient Indian and colonial policy. Sir Stafford Cripps, said Fischer, at first led Indian leaders to believe that they would receive a free rein in running their affairs. Subsequently, said Fischer, Sir Stafford was tripped up by Empire politicians. Amidst a wealth of verbiage and argument, Fischer found a sound point in claims that free Indians would fight invading Japanese; and that, inversely, if India's long-smoldering hatred of the British is fanned, the Indians may be apathetic to "new masters."

Although Gandhi once may have been flirting with the Japanese, either out of unworldly wisdom or as a counterfoil to the British, the final draft of the "Quit India" resolution was pro-Ally. Also on the record is Gandhi's petulant manifesto last fortnight to the Japanese: "Our offer to let the Allies retain troops in India is to prevent you from being misled into feeling that you have but to step into this country. If you cherish any such idea, we will not fail to resist you with all the might we can muster."

The Spectators. Said a leader in the New Delhi Evening National Call: "Britain has opened up a second front. The blitz is on. . . . She has drawn first blood. There is thunder in the clouds and lightning flashes surcharge the horizon." But the green, white and gold banners of the Congress party hung limp and forlorn from Hindu shops in Delhi. Just as forlorn were U.S. officials in India. Quietly, quiet Lauchlin Currie, special U.S. envoy to the Chinese government, slipped into town. After him came Lieut. General Joseph W. Stilwell, Chiang Kai-shek's Chief of Staff and Commander of U.S. Forces in China, Burma and India. Representatives of a nation which 167 years ago rebelled against British imperial rule, they were witnesses to another struggle for freedom. Plain to see was the tragedy of India. Not so plain was the part that the U.S., with all the good will in the world, could play.

It was only a year ago that Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill asked the world's admiration for their Atlantic Charter. It was a pledge of sorts, even if Churchill subsequently announced that it did not apply to India (and Burma) and the British colonies. And Americans, despite a generally pro-British and occasionally miserably misinformed interpretation of the Indian question in press and radio, were aware that in India the Atlantic Charter, and all that went with it, had come up against the first big test. Before he was jailed Pandit Nehru had said: "It is curious that people who talk in terms of their own freedom [the Americans] should level the charge of blackmail against those who are fighting for their freedom."

TIME Correspondent William Fisher cabled: "My own conclusion is that, if an earnest and honest effort were made to settle the India affair today by Britain, or preferably by the United Nations working in cooperation with Britain, it could be done."

* In six arrests for political activity, Gandhi has three times been sent to Yeravda jail. In 1922 he planted a mango tree, underwent a famous appendectomy in which a quick-witted, nimble-fingered British surgeon saved his life when the prison lighting system failed. Back again in 1930, Gandhi built a little brick platform in his cell for more convenient squatting. In 1932, under the mango tree he had planted in 1922, Gandhi undertook his first fast-to-the-death.

(source: TIME Magazine, New York, Aug. 17, 1942)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Time Magazine)



AS the impulse to violence spends itself, and as police (with in places troops) establish control over the lawless, the situation throughout India improves. Sporadic violence is still seen, but comparison with conditions of about a week ago shows much of  India restored to internal peace. Freedom from disorder is not, however, the same as content in mind. India is not happy, and it will take time for the feelings that exploded in violence to pass.

We have from day to day given accounts of what has been happening from which even the most careless reader will have learnt how widely the, disturbance spread. Not often has India seen sabotage, attacks on property, interference with communications, suspension of normal activities, on the same scale, nor so promptly after the stiring cause. How far was there a deliberate policy and prepared programme behind the violence and sabotage? We cannot estimate. Much of it can be explained by infectious example and memories of previous campaigns against Government; what happened in the scenes of the first outbreaks, what was in general remembered of earlier outbreaks, gave the necessary instruction. We doubt, however, whether that is an adequate statement. It is hard to avoid the inference that in several places organizers of mischief had worked out and prepared carefully for a campaign of sabotage.

India has lived through it all. no one is any the better for it, someone must make the damage, unpleasant memories will long remain. Love of country sometimes takes queer forms. Mahatma Gandhi has often said that his movements would not interfere with the war effort. Last week's movement, many believe, was not directly his. We do not know whose it was. But certainly it interfered with the war effort. Transport was impeded, workers were dissuaded from their labours, troops were kept from other duties. Hooligans everywhere had a good time and are probably feeling better for it.

(source: The Statesman. Calcutta/Delhi, August 28, 1942)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with The Statesman)


Inqilab Zindabad

In the first days the full impact of Mahatma Gandhi's peculiar program of civil disobedience had not yet had effect. Riots spread around Bombay, like boils, over the face of the Central Provinces. A few were reported in Bengal, where the Japs may invade from India's northeastern border.

The death of a Moslem police inspector sounded another warning of communal riots. Police had orders to warn crowds to disperse, then use tear gas, then ironbound lathees, then, as a last resort, to fire. Student demonstrators tried to confiscate all hats and neckties—symbols of Western domination—worn by Indians and Europeans in Bombay. Then they seized topees, burned them merrily in street-corner bonfires. This week, with rioting still sporadic, the pressure of an Indian National Congress party boycott and a general slowdown of the war effort faced the British.

Having clapped all Congress leaders into jail, the British were prepared to deal with rioting. The Raj even hoped that prompt action would break the back of the Congress party once & for all. Optimistically, Government officials announced that resistance was virtually under control. Immediately new riots broke out in Madras, where four men were killed trying to attack a railway station. Ahmadabad mills closed. A Karaikkudi mob tried to free an Indian being jailed. Calcutta brooded restlessly, heard threats of work stoppages at vital war plants. Poona, Nagpur, Cawnpore, Wardha reported fresh riots. An airplane dropped tear gas on a crowd of Bombay mill workers. The New Delhi Town Hall was burned.

The British claimed Gandhi's program of disruption called for: 1) closing shops to destroy public morale; 2) interference with telephone & telegraph lines; 3) fomenting strikes in munitions and war materiel factories; 4) interference with A.R.P. services; 5) dislocating transport; 6) a strike by lawyers.

Whether or not these assertions were true, Gandhi could not publicly affirm or deny: he was locked up in a luxurious jail, the Aga Khan's million-rupee "bungalow" at Poona. But the British threatened use of the whip on rioters, execution of anyone sabotaging trains or communications.

Race. No European was killed, but there were ominous undertones of racial antagonism. From a rooftop in Old Delhi a TIME correspondent watched a riot area a mile and a half long in Chandni Chauk, heart of the bazaar district. Exploding tear-gas bombs sent the demonstrators into alleyways, wiping their eyes. Then banners peeked around corners again, lines re-formed and marched forward. The sound of rifle fire or sudden panic would send the demonstrators racing away. When police charged or fired into the crowds, angry roars burst with the hysterical fervor of a high-school cheering section. It sounded like: "Rhubarb! Rhubarb! Rhubarb!" Soon the crowd began chanting "Inqilab Zindabad!" (Revolution Forever!)

At one end of Chandni Chauk troops were drawn up under the old Mogul Fort built by Shah Jahan, who also built the Taj Mahal. (Inside the Fort, where the Shah kept his harem, the walls are inscribed: "If there is a heaven, this is it, this is it!") At the other end of the area, mounted police faced Congress adherents packed in the Clock Tower Square.

Riot. The first Bombay riots were as fierce as those in Delhi. Later they became better organized. Nearly all schools having a majority of Hindu students were on strike. Some Moslem students joined in. Hindus forgot caste and opened their homes to injured rioters of varying degrees of touchability. Members of the Communist-dominated Students Union distributed hastily printed pamphlets urging Congress members and sympathizers not to dissipate themselves in "anarchistic" outbursts.

In the midst of the confusion strange events occurred: a cricket match took place within earshot of a Shivaji Park protest meeting; the Bombay Rotary Club met and heard a lecture on acoustics. The great bar in the Taj Mahal Hotel was as busy as ever, but Americans, numbering 724 in the Bombay consulate area, were warned to leave.

The U.S. State Department announced that U.S. troops were to remain aloof from the trouble. Some Indians hailed this notice as evidence of good will and support from the U.S. Lauchlin Currie conferred with the harassed Viceroy. There were other straws in the wind, pointing either toward further trouble or possible settlement.

Reverberations. One man was heavily sentenced for raising the Congress flag, but an editorial comment pointedly criticizing the British attitude was allowed to appear. As fearfully as Hindus waited for word that Gandhi might try a fast-to-the-death, the Moslems waited for word from Mohammed Ali Jinnah, leader of the Moslem League. In his marble-floored Malabar Hill villa, Jinnah talked for two hours with TIME Correspondent William Fisher. He regretted the interruption in the war effort, said he would be agreeable to any proposition for formation of a national government, provided it gave Moslems "a fair break." This week he threatened to end his "cooperation"'if the British "betrayed" him by making peace with the Hindu-dominated Congress party. Said Jinnah (whom Pandit Nehru attacks as a tool of wealthy landowners and a stooge for the British): "I would do it even if the British shot me down. I would do it even if it meant my own death. All I would have to do would be to give the word to my 80,000,000 followers."

Chakravarthi Rajagopalachariar ("C.R."), who resigned from the Congress party in protest against Gandhi's threatened campaign, and the great Indian Liberal Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru urged mediation. Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Labor spokesman for India's 40,000,000 Untouchables, backed Britain but held aloof. Communists wavered on their party line. Bombay big-business interests begged the Viceroy to attempt negotiation.

The Congress party went underground, changed its headquarters from day to day. Minor leaders still out of jail printed pamphlets urging that the fight be carried on

passively. They drew new support and sympathy when Gandhi's Boswell and private secretary, Mahadev Hiralal Desai, died in custody at Poona (see p. 42).

Gandhi's terrible meekness had sent terrible tremors through Mother India.

(source: TIME Magazine, New York, Aug. 24, 1942)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Time Magazine)


The Time is Now

So serious were disturbances in India last week that General Sir Alan Hartley announced  that it had been necessary "on five occasions to use airplanes to deal with mobs by  machine-gun fire from the air."

In Delhi a tall Indian dressed in pajamas and supposedly representing the Viceroy paraded  through the streets leading a string of donkeys, each of which bore a placard with the  name of an Indian member of the Viceroy's Council. Man & asses were arrested, and the  court debated whether animals as well as man had violated rules banning parades.

Ever since the Indian Mutiny in 1857 the British Raj had managed to deal with such  disturbances. A long line of viceroys, some bad, some as imbued with noble sentiments as  Viscount Halifax, professed that British rule was guiding India through evolution to  eventual dominionhood in the British Empire. But last week it appeared that evolution had  turned into revolution. India held not only jailed prophets but also homemade bombs,  pistols and bottles of acid in the hands of terrorists. From the western world the  Indians were learning the technique of violence, not the technique of self-government.

Contradiction. The supposedly transitional machinery of self-government which the British  set up as the Indian Legislature Assembly met in Delhi (now swept by malaria). The  members, weighted in favor of Government appointees and Europeans (39 Congress party  members were in jail), argued turgidly. Gaunt, scholarly, widely hated Home Member Sir  Reginald Maxwell inadvertently contradicted Winston Churchill's claim of "reassuring"  conditions (TIME, Sept. 21) by an account of railways damaged and of Bengal Province having been for a while "almost completely cut off from northern India." Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Columbia University-educated Untouchable leader, claimed strikes at the great Tata Iron & Steel Works had the connivance of the management, which paid workers  three months in advance.

Conciliation? More likely to bring about a settlement within India—if one is  possible—were meetings between political groups outside the Congress party. Mohammed Ali  Jinnah, the Moslem League's opportunistic president, barking for Pakistan (a separate  Moslem state), came close to agreement on national government with his old political  enemy, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee of the Hindu (Orthodox) Mahasabha. A Government refusal  to allow Dr. Mookerjee to interview Gandhi helped to balk a possible agreement. The  Moslem premiers of Sind and Punjab and Bengal urged conciliation. A millionaire  industrialist and longtime intimate friend of Gandhi, Ghan-shyamdas Birla, said that he  believed Gandhi would agree to allow Jinnah to form his own government.

Optimism. General Sir Archibald Wavell reported on his recent inspection trip to Assam  and Bengal, the northeastern provinces where a Japanese invasion is threatened when the  monsoon rains end in mid-October. Optimist Wavell compared Japan to a boa constrictor  which has swallowed a goat and has to have time to digest it. He spoke of retaking Burma.  Wavell's optimism may have been regarded by some as a military boost to the United  Nations. But there was no cause for optimism in a political situation that, unless  remedied, will endanger the United Nations' dealing with Asia for years. Intervention?  Not so befogged as the British Raj was Frances Gunther of the onetime writing team of  John and Frances Gunther. In Common Sense last week she wrote: "The major event of World  War I was the Russian Revolution. . . . The major event of World War II is the Indian  Revolution. . . . What are we, the United Nations, doing about the Indian Revolution? We  are doing everything possible to hamstring, to frustrate, to spike, to cripple, to  undermine and ultimately to destroy [it] What earthly good will that do?"

But not altogether forgotten was the plight of the Indian people, nor the necessity of  keeping them on the side of the United Nations in Asia. This week 57 U.S. educators,  writers, scholars and civic leaders petitioned President Roosevelt and China's Chiang  Kai-shek to intervene. Their contention: "The time for mediation in India is NOW."

(source: TIME Magazine, New York,  Oct. 5, 1942)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Time Magazine)


The Breach Widens

Ever since Mahatma Gandhi pulled through his fast, Indians and British alike have been standoffishly waiting for a next move—for Gandhi's survival by no means closed the issue for which he failed to die. There were some moves last week, but they only widened the breach.

The British Raj issued a 76-page pamphlet entitled Statement Published by the Government of India on the Congress Party's Responsibility for the Disturbances in India, 1942-43. The pamphlet quoted at length from Gandhi's writings in the paper Harijan, from his speeches and those of Congress officers, from pamphlets and articles. Some were clearly inflammatory: "Leave India to God; if that is too much, then leave her to anarchy. . . ." "If in spite of all precautions rioting does take place, it cannot be helped." But some of the statements which were cited as evidences of treason echoed slogans which have had a certain appeal in U.S. history: "Let every Indian consider himself to be a free man. . . ." "Victory or death would be the motto of every son and daughter of India. If we live we live as free men. . . ."

One impediment to freedom has been the failure of the Indian National Congress party and the Moslem League to reach a common ground which would give India internal peace with her freedom. Last week, despite the differences, the Moslem League rose to the defense of the Congress and answered the White Paper. The League's paper, Dawn, remarked that it was not fair to present one side of the case while the defendant was held silent behind bars. "For the Viceroy to be both prosecutor and judge carries its own commentary."

Publication of the White Paper, said Dawn, "has not been designed to improve relations between the two countries. . . . In the fundamental demand for removal of British sovereignty, Indians are in agreement."

Industry's View. The industrial, if not the human, resources of India have been pretty well behind the war, and they have contributed substantially to Allied strength in the Far East. Nevertheless, a spokesman for Indian industry sharply criticized the British last week. Said G. L. Mehta, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry: "In India, the program of defense, civil or military, is not broadly based on popular will. The demand for application to India of principles for whose vindication the United Nations claim to be waging this war . . . has remained unheeded."

Mr. Mehta's statement was not entirely free of self-interest. Wrote New York Times Correspondent Herbert L. Matthews from Calcutta recently: "Big Indian firms like the Birla Brothers of Bombay finance the All-India Congress. . . . Indian rivals [of British businessmen] want to get their businesses away from them, and in that struggle much is involved, political as well as financial."

Correspondent Matthews also set down the Indian businessman's view: "The British (say Indians) have been overpaid many times for the good will and everything else through the enormous profits made for generations. Moreover, they claim, Indians have proved they are more efficient. . . . As one Indian said, it would have been all right if, like the Parsees from Persia, they had become Indians, absorbed in the country's structure, instead of remaining foreigners who exploit the country for Britain's benefit."

(source: TIME Magazine, New York,  ) Apr. 5, 1943

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Time Magazine)




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August 1942 - Free Tamralipta government




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14-17August 1942 - Calcutta Hartal of Quit India movement




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          _____Contemporary Records of or about 1940s Calcutta___




ON Monday the Government of India released an unsummarized 86-page booklet entitled "Congress Responsibility for the Disturbances, 1942-43". This contains a quantity of interesting material, much of which, despite phrasing often uncongenially laborious or smug, provides in our opinion ample justification for the authorities' administrative policy during the last six months. A horrifying picture is disclosed of irresponsible wrong-headedness or malignancy amidst world crisis. But the moment chosen, for publishing the booklet seems singularly infelicitious. By far the greater pan of it is built up from party resolutions, circulars, newspaper articles, police reports and so forth written last summer or autumn. In terms of current political happenings this material has almost dropped into the category of' history, and we can discern no good reason for its not having been produced weeks ago, in response to the sustained public demand. The worst of disorders was done with before Oct. Between then and Feb. occurred no new development of major importance. Governmental actions in India are widely regarded, here and abroad, as characterized by a peculiar " elephantine” clumsiness and delay. This view of them is not always correct, and we think it is a pity that authority should not be more strenuous in avoiding occasion for its being held.

(source: The Statesman. Calcutta/Delhi, February 23, 1943)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with The Statesman)


Violent Deadlock

The position of the British Raj in the Indian civil-disobedience campaign was summed up by a man in New Delhi: "You Americans think that we are sitting on top of a powder keg. We're not. We're sitting on an anthill. We may get ants in our pants, but we'll ride it out." Committed to smashing the power of the Indian National Congress party, the Raj cracked down harder than before.

Army officers from the rank of captain up were given permission to order their men to shoot to kill anyone damaging property or failing to halt when challenged. Patna authorities threatened to use impressed labor on road work. Two communities were fined 5,000 rupees each because they had not controlled sabotage.

Chubby, pleasant Devadas Gandhi, the Mahatma's third and youngest (27) son, was jailed. A ban on news of rioting and criticism of the Government led Indian newspapers in Calcutta (15), Bombay, Lucknow, Nagpur, Delhi and Ahmadabad to close.

Quit India. Aged (80) Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, nationalist leader and onetime Congress president, declared that rioters "are not only doing a great disservice to the country but are betraying the trust [nonviolence] imposed in them by Gandhi." But in the Wardha district of Ashti, near Gandhi's mud-hut home, four constables and a subinspector were stoned to death. Two other constables were doused with kerosene and burned alive. At Chimur four native police were pounded to death with their own lathees after they refused to join the rioters. Riots were less violent in the industrial cities, but they broke out sporadically from the State of Mysore in the south to the Province of Bengal in the north.

Pamphlets and the rallying cries of "Quit India," "Long Live Gandhi," "Long Live Nehru," "Hindus and Moslems are brothers" showed that, although driven underground, the Congress party machinery was still functioning. Lesser-known and unjailed party workers left the cities to organize strikes, sabotage and boycotts in the hinterland. After 20 years of instilling hatred of British domination in the minds of peasantry and middle-class intellectuals, they worked in well-seeded fields.

Quit Stalling. Caught between two implacable enemies, Bombay industrialists urged an end to an "intolerable situation." The ultra-British Times of India said: "Authorities have suspected for some time the presence of a Fifth Column in this country, and political turmoil has probably given strength to this element* to come out into the open. In one way such activity helps the authorities to locate danger spots, but the urgent problem is to bring about a better frame of mind among the general public."

After eleven days of silence, Gandhi wrote to the Viceroy asking new negotiations. He was curtly informed that agreement on a program of immediate Indian independence was unlikely. Monocled, shrewd, sardonic Mohamed Ali Jinnah, the Qaid-e-Azam (grand leader) and permanent president of the Moslem League, first threatened civil war if the British gave in to Gandhi. Still shouting for Pakistan (a separate Moslem state), Jinnah then sought a conference with Gandhi on the question of a wartime national government.

Chakravarthi Rajagopalachariar ("C.R."), who resigned from the Congress party in protest against violent threats of nonviolence, suggested arbitration by the United Nations.At week's end neither the British nor the Congress party had won anything but turmoil and hatred. The Japanese were pleased.

* Other strength came from German and Japanese broadcasts to India. Germans claimed the British bombed an entire city, burned 24,000 persons.

(source: TIME Magazine, New York, Aug. 31, 1942)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Time Magazine)


Rains and Riot

The British clung to the contention that Mohandas K. Gandhi was a pacifist traitor, an irrational screwball and a menace to India's safety. The Raj would not admit that the plan to crush Gandhi's threatened civil-disobedience campaign by suppressing the National Congress party was a monumental failure.

General Sir Archibald P. Wavell, India's Commander in Chief, broadcast from Delhi that danger was closer to India than it has been for 150 years. But what would save India, said General Wavell, was her "fighting men," not "undisciplined schoolboys" and "ignorant hooligans." Indians groaned at the slipshod arrogance of the military mind. They demanded, as before, that the Indian masses be armed and allowed to defend themselves under their own leaders.

As the breach widened, a growing rumble could be heard through the artificial silence of strict censorship. When it would come, no man knew for certain. But when it did come, three centuries of frustration, dreams, mysticism, misery, disease, corruption, and heat-rotten inefficiency would spew forth. Neither the sanctimonious belief of the Raj in its own exalted trusteeship, nor Gandhi's equally sanctimonious conviction of his own purity was powerful enough to prevent it. The immediate danger was that the internal explosion would coincide with the advance of Japanese armies at the northeastern frontier and sea raids across the Bay of Bengal.

Martyr. Kept incommunicado in the Aga Khan's palace at Poona, Gandhi could scarcely know that his third great mass movement in 20 years was turning into a revolution despite five weeks of ruthless police prosecution. As before, being in jail increased Gandhi's prestige as a legend and a martyr. His followers secretly printed a fiery Congress Newsletter which heated the campaign to halt factory work, disrupt transportation, close down schools, stores and civil administration.

Just how serious the problem was becoming was first revealed in guarded hints. But last week British Correspondent Stuart Emeny cabled to the London News Chronicle: "Bills for the damage done in recent riots in India will total millions of pounds." In the U.S. a report was published that 50,000 workmen at Tata Iron & Steel works had gone on strike.

Maneuvers. In the face of a national disaster, Indian leaders called repeatedly for United Nations intervention and for a formula to rally the resistant attention of the Indian masses against the potential invaders. One possibility was that Moslems would break down the intransigeant demand of the Moslem league, for Pakistan (a separate Moslem state) and agree to a Hindu-Moslem wartime compromise. The small but tightly organized Indian Communist party (suppressed for eight years until two months ago) urged mediation. The Hindu Mahasabe, third largest political party, issued a resolution which stressed the urgency of a national government. J. R. D. Tata, India's Henry Ford, flew from Bombay to Delhi to urge a settlement. The Untouchables favored compromise. India was uniting against the British. Even one of the Princely States was heard from.

His Highness Maharaja Holkar of Indore is familiarly called "Junior" by his American friends, wears canary yellow suits and gives lavish tiger-hunting parties. He is married to an American girl, the former Margaret Lawler. Unlike most of the other 561 princely potentates (see cuts), he is known for his liberalism. He speaks for himself, perhaps not for others whose kingdoms, as Lord Halifax said, are "enshrined in solemn treaties" between them and their King-Emperor. Junior announced: "Isolation of the Indian states is now a thing of the past and I hope they will associate themselves more directly with national aspirations."

Manpower. A subcontinent as big as the area from Hudson's Bay to Key West and from New York to Salt Lake City, India crawls with 389,000,000 people, nearly three times the population of the U.S. Its population is increasing at the rate of 5,000,000 a year.*

The mountains of Baluchistan and Afghanistan guard India at the west and northwest. North, reaching to Burma on the east, are the towering Himalayas. South are the warm valleys of the great rivers: Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra. In the Ganges valley and in the great plateau to the south (see map) the Hindus predominate. They work their own or rented fields with wooden plows, make an average of 4¢ a day and have a life expectancy of 27 years (U.S. life expectancy: 61 years). Seventy percent of all India lives on the soil. Ten percent is crowded in the world's worst slums in the great industrial cities (steel, jute, cotton) of Calcutta, Madras and Bombay. In this vast land of riches, riots, peacocks and poverty the British have invested at least $4,300,000,000 on which they draw an estimated 4.9% annually and pay the world's smallest taxes.

Maybe. None but the Jap knows whether he will attack India when the monsoon ends and the steaming, water-clogged delta lands of the Brahmaputra valley begin to dry. But a quick successful thrust at Calcutta could cripple 70% of India's war effort. From the Andaman Islands the Jap could crack by sea and air at the Trincomalee naval base in Ceylon, at Madras and at Calcutta.

Sea attacks might be hit & run. Last spring's Battle of Ceylon may have made the Jap cautious. A land invasion presents greater difficulties for greater gain and would cut off the last practical land supply route to China.

Last week, as India's transport system, foods distribution, civil administration and war production began to snarl and slump, the Japanese were missing no political busses. They were indoctrinating Indian soldiers captured in Singapore and Burma, training them as an "army of liberation" for the day when the attack came.

* 1941 population figures by religions: Hindus, believing in reincarnation, caste, polytheistic pantheism, soulforce: 239,195,140; Moslems, believing there is no god but Allah: 77,093,000; Sikhs, believing in a hodgepodge of Hindu and Moslem creeds: 4,335, 771; Christians: 6,296,763; Jains, believing all animals are sacrosanct: 1,251,000; Buddhists, believing in the escape from suffering through the "Eightfold path": 12,786,806; Parsis, believing in Ormazd, lord of light and goodness: 109,000: tribal (mainly primitive) religions: 8,280,347.

(source: TIME Magazine, New York, Sep. 14, 1942)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Time Magazine)



          _____Memories of 1940s Calcutta_______________________


One of the things was loneliness

Because of the civilian friends I made at Barrackpore, it may seem that life was fairly comfortable. It could certainly have been worse - and undoubtedly was at many other more remote RAF stations. Still, apart from the climate, there were many drawbacks that home based admin and civilians wouldn't understand. One of the things was loneliness - complete separation from loved ones - as no home leave and even a lack of knowledge of where or what people were doing. Mail was erratic and uncertain. I would estimate that about a third was lost either to enemy action or RAF or P/O inefficiency. When mail did arrive it was a very major event in our lives even though the news could be months out of date. We were not even living in a particularly friendly country. The "Quit India" movement was in full swing and most people wanted us "out". Not for us the friendly reception our forces had in Europe, the Middle East, Australia and the American continent.

Harry Tweedale, RAF Signals Section, Barrackpore, 1943


(source: A6665457 TWEEDALE's WAR Part 11 Pages 85-92 at BBC WW2 People's War' on Oct 2006)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with the original submitter/author)


"British pigs" go home

Beginning to catch us up was the political undercurrent, the unrest, Mr. Gandhi's Congress Party with Pandit Nehru at the helm were making themselves heard and no more so than in Calcutta. "Gandhi Wallahs", we called them, dressed in pure white dhoti clothing with hats to match were squaring up to Mr. Jinnah's Muslim League Party. There were riots in the major cities of India and we the Brits were caught up in the middle of it all. "British pigs" go home they were saying and we were bewildered. We had just prevented the Japs from the big take over of their country. Mind you, we were too young at the time to worry too much about any Indian political intrigue. We were more concerned about getting home, though the prospect of that happening now, was remote.

Cliford Wood, Royal Air Force wireless operator, Calcutta, 1944


(source: A4254103 AN RAF WIRELESS OPERATOR ON THE BURMA FRONT (Part 3 of 3) at BBC WW2 People's War' on Oct 2006)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with the original submitter/author)






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10 March 1944 - Textile Crisis Day




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21 November 1945 - Demonstrations against the Azad Hind Fauz Trials




          _____Pictures of 1940s Calcutta________________________






          _____Contemporary Records of or about 1940s Calcutta___



Jai Hind!

India's smoldering nationalism burst into sudden flame.

In Calcutta a column of students paraded in protest against the treason trials of Indian National Army men. Organized under Japanese supervision by the late Subhas Chandra Bose, the I.N.A. in British eyes is quisling, in Indian eyes basically patriotic.

Police charged the paraders. Shots rang out. From all corners of Calcutta reinforcements, Hindu and Moslem, flocked to the student side. For three days demonstrators stormed through the city.

Angry crowds gathered in Dalhousie Square, shouted "Jai Hind!" ("Victory to India"), the battle cry of India's nationalists. They lay across railway tracks to stop trains, persuaded bus, tram, taxi and ricksha drivers to join them, forced shops to close down. They put up road blocks, set afire British and U.S. military vehicles, stoned Tommies and G.I.s, tossed bricks and a hand grenade into the Thanksgiving dance of the American Officers' Club at Karnani Estates. Adding to the city's chaos was a municipal workers' strike (for more wages) which threatened the water supply and left garbage rotting in the streets.

Unrest spread to Bombay, where students clashed with police. In Delhi, other students marched in protest before historic Mogul Red Fort, the ancient citadel where I.N.A. officers were standing trial for high treason against the Raj.

Indian parties disowned the violence. Congress Leader Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru pleaded for a cessation of "these attacks. This is not the way to gain independence. . . . You are only damaging your own cause."

On the fourth day British troops had Calcutta under control. But there were 37 dead, including one U.S. soldier, and more than 200 injured, including at least five U.S. soldiers.

(source: TIME Magazine, New York, Dec. 3, 1945)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Time Magazine)





          _____Memories of 1940s Calcutta_______________________


‘…they ran towards the police to overpower them’

'Now it struck me: normally whenever there's police firing people run away from it. It's a natural instinct to take shelter. But on that particular day they ran towards the police to overpower them.'

Nikhil Chakravartty, Journalist, Calcutta, November 1945
 (source: pages 203-204 of Trevor Royle: “The Last Days of the Raj” London: Michael Joseph, 1989)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Trevor Royle 1989)


Any Forces building or vehicle was liable to attack

Although we now had peace the situation in India was volatile with the push for home rule and rioting was widespread. Any Forces building or vehicle was liable to attack and we lost two men whilst in Calcutta.

Eric Cowham, Royal Navy, Calcutta, 1945


(source: A7229856 HMS Tyne, Burma and India at BBC WW2 People's War' on Oct 2006)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with the original submitter/author)


The Bandh

In 1945 there was an outburst of anti-British feeling. For the first and only time, Europeans were insulted in the streets of Calcutta, their hats (those signs of foreign superiority) seized and thrown away, their ties (another foreign addition) pulled off, their cars sometimes burnt. Even Behala was affected. “A week ago all was toil and trouble. The boys who wanted to go to school were hindered by their fellows for a fortnight; workmen who wanted to go to work were stopped on their way to it; and when I tried to ride to the Mission House, they stopped me a couple of miles away, burnt my hat, punctured my bike, did not touch me but told me to go home again, which I did.”

He was then in his eightieth year, and he does not mention that he got on to his bicycle again and rode sturdily back on his flat tyres rather than give the rioters the satisfaction of seeing him walk.

Friends of Father Douglass, Missionaries and Charity workers in Behala, Calcutta, 1945.
(Source: Father Douglas of Behala. London, 1952 / Reproduced by courtesy of Oxford University Press)


The Netaji’s Protrait

In any case, he was now too old to accommodate himself easily to Indian nationalist ideas and activities—he had seen the rise of the nationalist movement, and always found it hard to sympathize with it. So when in 1946, in an outburst of exuberance, one of the older boys in the school set up and garlanded a portrait of Netaji Subhas Bose (the Bengali leader of the Japanese-sponsored Indian National Army, raised in Malaya) in the dining-room, and it was not removed at his order, he stuffed the whole thing in the fire. Very largely, he was actuated by a wish to keep political influences from the minds of young boys; but the real result was that a rumour of the burning flew round, the neighbourhood, and at night someone set fire to the chapel roof. The blase was soon put out, and the fiat then went forth that there should be no more portraits of any sort in the school; and photos of old friends, of Father himself, and of the royal family, all went into the furnace where Netaji Subhas had gone. For weeks—even months— afterwards, schoolboys passing along the road by his hut would shout patriotic slogans at him.

Friends of Father Douglass, Missionaries and Charity workers in Behala, Calcutta, 1945.
(Source: Father Douglas of Behala. London, 1952 / Reproduced by courtesy of Oxford University Press)


Surveilance on the INA riots

The next job I did in Calcutta was a very short job — at that time there were problems with the Indian National Army which had been serving with the Japanese and there was quite serious civil unrest at that time. It was decided to send Intelligence people to about four of the main towns. I got some Signals people and trained them up and sent them out, to set a network up to send Intelligence back. And then it was decided that I would be sent to Tokyo to start the main station in Tokyo, in the Embassy in Tokyo.

Dafydd Archard Vaughan Williams, Specialist Wireless Operator, Swanage to Calcutta, Nov 1945


(source: A7889700 Part Two - Under cover in WW2 at BBC WW2 People's War' on Oct 2006)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with the original submitter/author)


Hindu-Muslim Unity Zindabad.

Some 50 thousand had jampacked Wellington Square.  The tri-colour and student’s flags were everywhere.  Suddenly from Wellesley Street, we saw a big procession of Muslim students, carrying Muslim League flags, coming towards Wellington Square.  These were the students of Islamia College.  Hundreds of students from the central rally rushed forward, embraced the demonstrators and tied the Musli League flags together with the tri-colour.  At once the whole rally burst into thunderous slogans: Hindu-Muslim Unity Zindabad.

Gautam Chatterji, Communist Student Leader, 21 November 1945
(Source ????)


I noticed a major fire in some riverside shops near the Kidderpore docks

Did you see any evidence of political agitation? Actually, none until the evening before I departed Calcutta on a ship heading for the US. That had to be about the first of November, 1945. As I watched from the ship's deck, I noticed a major fire breaking out in some riverside shops near the Kidderpore docks. I was astounded that no fire brigades came to fight the blaze. I now know that fire must have been one of the results of the civil unrest about which we American troops were almost completely unaware. I came to the ship from Kanchrapara where an embarkation camp was maintained by the US military forces. Enroute Kanchrapara to the Hooghly, we saw no problem on the streets. In fact, we were hardly aware of civil unrest. If we heard of it, we chalked it up to normal city troubles.

Glenn Hensley, Photography Technician with US Army Airforce, Summer 1944

(source: a series of E-Mail interviews with Glenn Hensley between 12th June 2001 and 28th August 2001)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced by permission of Glenn Hensley)


a mob was approaching

Initially we were billeted in private houses, which had been commandeered, and we found them very comfortable; but the houses were some considerable distance from the Aerodrome and it was decided that we should move onto the Aerodrome to avoid unnecessary travelling. In theory it had to be agreed this was a reasonable move, but we were not so enthusiastic when we discovered that we were now to be billeted in Tents. These were most unpleasant, as they were extremely hot during the day and stifling at night.

The reason for the move became more apparent as the weeks passed. Mahatma Ghandi was preaching for Independence and his followers were all for taking some action. On one occasion a number of us were ordered to take up a position across the road from Calcutta to the Airport as a mob was approaching.

We were issued with rounds of ammunition and told to fix bayonets. In retrospect it is unrealistic for a single line of Airmen — about thirty strong — to oppose a mob of two or three hundred. But it worked. The mob came to within about forty yards or so then stopped and started shouting insults, which in contrast was almost amusing. Eventually they dispersed. Thereafter, it was quite common for R.A.F. trucks, often with Airmen on board to be the target of rocks, bricks etc., when travelling to or from Calcutta. They all had one common cry —Go Home! Which we all wanted for ourselves anyway.

Ken Armstrong, Royal Air Force, Calcutta, late 1945


(source: A4499508 An Airman in South East Asia Command Part Three at BBC WW2 People's War' on Oct 2006)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with the original submitter/author)


We decided to get married in Calcutta

During a trip from Bombay to Calcutta, when we were nearing the station the Ballet-master told all the girls to lie down on the floor as there was a lot of rioting ahead.

Our ENSA residential trucks were burned out and so the company was stranded, but not for long. The Army made room for us overnight and then escorted us to our hotel the following day - we were so grateful to them.

We decided to get married in Calcutta. Tom arrived at the hotel on leave and we went to the church to arrange a time for the service that afternoon. We were asked if we could attend in three hours time. The ring was a problem as all the jewellery shops in Calcutta were closed because of the rioting.


The lead dancer offered her own ring but we eventually found a hotel that sold jewellery. The Best Man shaved himself in toothpaste - I remember - and had the nerve to complain!

The company organised everything from a bouquet to a double room and the Ballet Master acted as Father to the bride. ALL THIS IN THREE HOURS.

I became Mrs Barbara Craig the very happy and honored wife of Lt Tom Craig of the Royal Engineers. I had always tried to help others in the company and now this was returned without measure.

Barbara Craig nee Lang, ENSA, Calcutta, 1945


(source: A3868941 Wartime Romance Memories of an ENSA Ballet Dancer at BBC WW2 People's War' on Oct 2006)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with the original submitter/author)


Generally confined

Monday, 10 November: It seems that dozens of QAs and VADs are getting their release here, but still no news of mine. The PM (principal matron) told matron to tell me not to worry as she felt sure I would get it, so I must be patient a little longer.

Some excitement and a lot of inconvenience has been caused this week by the city’s riots. We have several INA [Indian National Army] sympathisers in the ward, and they have been airing their views in no uncertain manner. Our ambulances have all been victims of brick throwing etc.

Needless to say we are all confined indoors, which isn’t so good. However, nobody feels like being murdered for fun!

With difficulty, the staff who were posted were conveyed from the hospital, and now we are a fairly small family. Each day we wonder who will be the next to be posted and secretly hope it won’t be our own turn — all very unsettling.

Henrietta Susan Isabella Burness, V.A.D., Calcutta, 10th November 1945


(source: A1940870 Life in the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment), 1945at BBC WW2 People's War' on Oct 2006)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with the original submitter/author)


The December 45 riots

The war having ended in August the unit was finally withdrawn from Burma and in December 45 was transhipped to Calcutta just in time for the December 45 riots. The unit was in Alipore transit camp just outside Calcutta. The riots, fortunately, did not get bad enough to have to use our unit. (It was a policy not to use Indian Army units during civil disorder unless absolutely necessary) Although 300 were killed in Calcutta on the first day the situation improved and although we carried out defensive guard duties we took no active part as a unit. Our sepoys were not sympathetic to the rioters.

After calm was restored the unit moved down to Southern India for demobilisation.

John Absolon, Army, Calcutta, December 1945


(source: A2506303 Dost Going On Leave at BBC WW2 People's War' on Oct 2006)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with the original submitter/author)


The Indian Magistrate would walk in front …

I was posted into the King’s Royal Rifles. It was mainly policing jobs — we had to make sure that the problems between the Muslims and Hindu’s didn’t explode, as this could have caused big problems. If there was any trouble we would have to patrol. I remember when I was in Calcutta if there was any problems people would start throwing stones at us while we were patrolling. The Indian Magistrate would walk in front, and when we were given the command we’d fire.

I was actually in India during VE day — we only celebrated it in the army camps. I knew then that it wouldn’t be long before I was sent home again. When my ‘demob’ number came up, I was finally sent home back to my family.

Pete Church, King’s Royal Rifles, Calcutta, 1945


(source: A4057076 Under the Indian Sun at BBC WW2 People's War' on Oct 2006)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with the original submitter/author)



… our convoy was pelted with rocks …

In the fall of 1945, India was in turmoil due to student riots in Calcutta and elsewhere, and many of our American comrades were killed, beaten and injured by students protesting Indian Army Deserter's being tried by British Military authorities, and also at this time Mohandas K. Gandhi was deeply involved throughout India in gaining Indian Independence from the British.

The night I left Camp Hialeah, which was a staging area before departure of our troops to the ships awaiting at the Calcutta Docks, our convoy was pelted with rocks, bottles and other items as we departed for King George Docks and the trip home.

As a 21-year-old staff sergeant who had served the last months of the war In the midst of this situation, I wondered just how and why we ever ended up here and "especially so" when our Armed Forces saved China, Burma and India from being dominated by the Japanese and Axis powers and seemingly no one cared at the time, […]

Arthur W. Sprankel, US Army soldier, 73rd Ord. Depot Co, Calcutta 7th December 1945
(source: CBI Sound-off.Vol.49, No 2 Spring 2003)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Arthur W. Sprankel & CBI Sound Off)


an effigy of a coloured man with his foot on the chest of a fallen white

The next day the stuff was packed in wooden cases and I had a painting job on these. A big blue square and when it was dry, the unit and R.A.F. Singapore, in white letters, was down to my paint brush. I didn't finish all of them, as my leave was sorted out. I went with another fellow Ted Eales. We put up at "Toc H" which seemed something on par with a Y.M.C.A. We had to report each day to an army place, a museum that had been taken over, to see if our papers for home had arrived at Agartala. We got the fourteen days in with no sign of that.

While standing by the curb in Calcutta, which, by the way, was the place of leave, a small procession of men and one boy, who was skipping about and banging that small triangular piece of metal, sometimes seen in a band, went past us. They had lighted fireworks, the sparks of one went down my collar and made me jump. The thing to catch the eye, more than the fireworks, was an effigy of a coloured man with his foot on the chest of a fallen white. My mate suggested we beat it pronto, or we would be in trouble (killed). It wasn't a huge thing, but four men were carrying it. We made our way back to the "Toc H".

The next day we bought an English printed newspaper, the "Statesman", and saw that Army and Air Force lorries and vans had been overturned and burnt and that two A.T.S. girls had been killed on a train. So many of those that you walked among were far from friendly; who was and who wasn't? We had our fourteen days though and then returned to camp.

Albert Augustus Crisp , Royal Air Force, Calcutta, 1945


(source: A6781584 Walthamstow Wanderer 5 at BBC WW2 People's War' on Oct 2006)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with the original submitter/author)








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12 February 1946 - Further demonstrations against Azad Hind Fauz Trials




          _____Pictures of 1940s Calcutta________________________






          _____Contemporary Records of or about 1940s Calcutta___



Mob Rule

ON Tuesday, Calcutta for the second time in two-and-a-half months, was prey to mob violence. What began with demonstrations thus developed—inevitably in present circumstances, when the civil authority is hard pressed and political leader's have little or no control over the passions they arouse and ignore the opportunities they provide for those whose respect for all authority including theirs, is always negligible.

We are not here concerned with the justice of the sentence passed on Mr Abdur Rasnid, once of the Indian Army and later of the I.N.A. The contrast between his treatment and that of his predecessors on trial naturally aroused popular interest and protest. Here, however, our concern is with the sentence passed on a whole city by goondas who sought to wreck the uttermost mischief, on Europeans especially.  Mr Suhrawardy, in the course of a statement which we assume was issued in ignorance of the facts, has said, "Let it not be misunderstood that we are against the individual Britisher". We trust that this is true of his own party and others. But people with white skins have been stoned and beaten; their cars have been destroyed, business premises have been attacked and damaged. It became impossible to move about freely. Decent citizens of all communities have been horrified. Inevitably the riff-raff is to blame, but if it is on them that any party relies to challenge the Government then God help Bengal.

(source: The Statesman. Calcutta/Delhi, February 13.1946)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with The Statesman)



Ellen called about a project which we had planned for taking movies. The day was perfect, but I had these psych cases coming up so couldn’t get away for that long.

We did go downtown for a last lunch at the Cathay (she leaves by plane Tuesday) and because no taxi, rode the street car. Polite Indians immediately gave us seats, which embarrassed me to take, but I had no alternative. A number of street cars passed us flying the Congress flag, with kids and older people carrying on. When they saw Ellen, they yelled, but the people in our car were reserved and made no noise. There were parades, too, but mostly of children. I suspect that they enjoy it; the parading around, I mean. After a leisurely lunch, we returned about 3:00, this time by taxi.

Richard Beard, US Army Lieutenant Psychologist with 142 US military hospital. Calcutta, March 1, 1946.

(Source: pp. 296 ff. of Elaine Pinkerton (ed.): “From Calcutta With Love: The World War II Letters of Richard and Reva Beard” Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2002 / Reproduced by courtesy of Texas Tech University Press)




          _____Memories of 1940s Calcutta_______________________



confined to camp because of the riots

I was in Calcutta some months before that date, waiting for a ship to bring me home. There were riots in that city too, and in fact we were confined to camp because of them.

David Feltham, Calcutta, Mid-Late 1940s


(source: A4670228 Letters to David 1 at BBC WW2 People's War' on Oct 2006)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with the original submitter/author)







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1946 - The Tebhaga Movement



          _____Pictures of 1940s Calcutta________________________






          _____Contemporary Records of or about 1940s Calcutta___






          _____Memories of 1940s Calcutta_______________________



toward unity

Trade-unions and peasant organizations threw their weight toward unity. It is significant that throughout the worst of the disruption in Bengal, five million Hindu and Muslim sharecroppers campaigned together in tile Tebhaga movement for long-overdue land reforms. Wherever there was constructive leadership toward some goal of social betterment, religious strife dwindled to the vanishing point.

Margaret Bourke-White, journalist and travelwriter. Calcutta, 1946

 (source: pages 32-3 Margaret Bourke-White: Interview with India. London: The Travel Book Club, 1951)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Margaret Bourke-White 1951)






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1946 - Naval Mutiny




          _____Pictures of 1940s Calcutta________________________






          _____Contemporary Records of or about 1940s Calcutta___



The RIN Mutiny

DISSATISFACTION, public indiscipline, violence sweep the world. It is sweeping through the Royal Indian Navy, whose outbreak and refusal of duty sets more anxious problems for statesmen in India and Britain. On paper, and at first sight, the causes seem small for so violent an outbreak as Bombay sees and naval establishments elsewhere view with approval, though not all approve the violence. Some comment has been facile ; Indian sailors cannot serve with honour except under a national government. That is a cheap conclusion, insulting to the Indian sailor. He has never said anything of the kind. He has served with honour, distinction, pride under another form of government for many years. He has not suddenly found after splendid service in this last -war, that it has been degradation and that he . has been untrue to his better self. The RIN has a fine name. It is not sensible hastily to assign causes for the present mutiny. For mutiny it is; no longer the smaller thing a strike. Ships with their guns turned on Bombay and used against the shore give the mind, already exhausted by daily clamour and contention and menace, a new kind of shock. Unless the better spirits in the RIN can soon bring the more reckless to heel there may be still other shocks. Mutiny in a fighting service is intolerable. A national government would find it so.

(source: The Statesman. Calcutta/Delhi, February 23, 1946)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with The Statesman)


Ek Ho!

India was ready for a spark. Drought wrote a warning of famine across the country; Russia at UNO had fanned the winds of Asiatic nationalism. A trivial incident at Bombay touched off the British Empire's worst rebellion since the great Sepoy Mutiny of 1857.

Indians said that a British officer had used "insulting language" to a native seaman on a training ship. The British said that the officers had refused to let a political speaker address the crew. Before the sun went down, 12,000 seamen of the Royal Indian Navy had seized a score of ships, 18 naval shore stations and a naval dockyard in Bombay Harbor. For two days their ships, deployed in battle line along the harbor wall, defied the British. At Castle Barracks, where besieging British troops fought barricaded Indians, the mutineers turned their artillery on the Bombay Yacht Club (the very symbol of British racial supremacy), where no Indian may enter. At Karachi, Indian naval ratings seized the sloop Hindustan, dueled with British batteries along the waterfront for 25 minutes before running up the white flag.

Quelled or Quiescent? British troops, ships and planes converged on Bombay, as rioters swept through the town, setting fire to banks, government grain shops, a cotton mill, a train, British cars, British stores. Night & day they fought police and Tommies, stoned British civilians. British authorities declared a state of "absolute rebellion," ordered loyal troops to "shoot to kill" anyone moving on the streets at night. Before the mutiny ended, casualties mounted to 240 killed, more than 1,300 injured. On the other side of India, demonstrators surged through the streets of Calcutta, and sympathy strikers tied up transportation.

India's Britons recalled the horror stories of 1857, when Army mutineers seized seven of India's cities, including Delhi. Would Indian Army troops revolt again? Already Indian Air Force men had staged sympathy "strikes." Like the Navy mutineers, soldiers demand better pay, better food, faster demobilization. Indian troops, the bulk of British overseas forces, are scattered wide in the world's trouble spots: Greece, Indonesia, Syria, Burma, Egypt, Malaya, Iraq and Hong Kong. If the mutiny should spread among them, Britain's weakened voice in the world's councils would scarcely be able to whisper. The Army remained quiescent, but even trusted veterans were attending secret meetings of extreme nationalist groups. The British Government would have to act fast.

Pakistan or War? Last week London announced that three Cabinet ministers—Lord Pethick-Lawrence, Secretary of State for India, A. V. Alexander, First Lord of the Admiralty, and Sir Stafford Cripps, President of the Board of Trade—would go to India to repeat and perhaps to better Cripps's 1942 efforts to reach an agreement with Hindus and Moslems on dominion status for India.

The 1946 negotiations might prove more difficult than the first Cripps mission. Moslem and Hindu had drawn much more closely together in the last few months—but only in their opposition to the British Raj. On the issue of Pakistan —the Moslem demand for a separate state in north India—the Congress party and the Moslem League were still poles apart. Mahomed AH Jinnah, head of the Moslem League, threatened civil war for Pakistan.

The Cabinet delegation will negotiate against a background of famine. The monsoons failed to bring India's seasonal heavy rains; cyclones and tidal waves ravaged fertile Madras Province. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, blaming the British for the food failure, called on peasants to "rebel against the political and social conditions that brought [the famine] about. ... If we have to die, let us die like men and not like rats in a hole."

Not Mutiny but Unity. This was not the normal language of Congress party leaders. Nehru and his fellows no longer denounced violence as if they meant it. They sensed a new mood in India's masses, and swung toward extreme methods lest new leaders arise more in tune with the spirit of rebellion.

In the Calcutta riots the Congress tricolor and the Moslem green flag (and sometimes the hammer & sickle) had floated side by side from windows, from taxicabs, over the heads of marching throngs. Together they had flown from the masts of the mutinous ships at Bombay. At Karachi mutineers scrawled on their ships: "Not mutiny but unity among Indian sailors." A new slogan was heard in India: "Ek Ho!" (We Are One).

If, improbably, Moslem and Hindu rebels could remain one, the British Raj was doomed to go down in violence.

(source: TIME Magazine, New York, Mar. 4, 1946)

(COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Reproduced under 'fair dealing' terms as part of a non commercial educational research project. The copyright remains with Time Magazine)




          _____Memories of 1940s Calcutta_______________________







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21 January 1947 - "Hands off Vietnam" Demonstration at Dum Dum Airport




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