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World War I and Hindu Soldiers

Gandhi, the idealist, did not realize that the subjection of India was one root of the War; that this had for a century determined the British policy, and the size of the British navy, as well as the size of all the navies in the world. Instead, Gandhi saw the War as an opportunity for securing Home Rule by proving the absolute loyalty of India to England. From the beginning to the end the Great Madness he supported the Allies, and India followed him. She contributed at once $500,000,000 to the fund for prosecuting the War; she contributed $7,000,000,000 later in subscriptions to war loans; and she sent to the Allies various products to the value of $ 1,250,000,000. The total number of Hindus who were persuaded, often by means amounting to compulsion, to fight for England in the war, was 1,338,620, being 178,000 more than all the troops contributed by the combined Dominions of Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

None of the Hindu soldiers were granted a commission, however, brave he might have proved himself to be. Yet they gave a good account of themselves in France, in Palestine, in Syria and Mesopotamia; a British historian speaks of "the brilliant performances of the Indian contingent sent to France in 1914 at a critical time in the Great War"; and some say that it was the Hindu troops who first turned back the Germans at the Marne. It has been one of the many misfortunes of the Hindus, who are called unfit for self-defense, that they have been considered admirable military material to fight for any others except themselves.

Never had a colony or a possession made so a great sacrifice for the master country. Every Hindu conscious of India looked forward hopefully now, as a reward for this bloody loyalty, to the admission of his country into the fellowship of free dominions under the English flag. After the war, Lloyd George, then Premier, declared with unstatesmanlike, clarity that Britain intended always to rule India, that there must always, remain in India "a steel frame" of British power and British dominance. This was the best traditions of imperialistic hypocrisy. The Montagu-Chelmsform reform fell short of promises. Dr. Rutherford, a Member of Parliament, wrote: "Never in the history of the world was such a hoax perpetrated upon a great people as England perpetrated upon India, when in return for India's invaluable service during the War, we gave to the Indian nation such a discreditable, disgraceful, undemocratic, tyrannical constitution.

(source: The Case for India - By Will Durant Simon and Schuster, New York. 1930 p. 123-128).

'British military tested poison gas on Indian soldiers'
Are British War Criminals like Saddam Hussein?
 

British military scientists sent hundreds of Indian soldiers into gas chambers to test mustard gas during more than a decade of experiments that began before World War II, a media report said. British military did not check up on the Indian soldiers after the experiments to see if they developed any illnesses. It is now recognised that mustard gas can cause cancer and other diseases. The experiments began in the early 1930s and lasted more than 10 years at a military site. The experiments in Rawalpindi were part of a much larger programme intended to test the effects of chemical weapons on humans, the paper reported.

(source: 'British military tested poison gas on Indian soldiers' - rediff.com and The GuardiBut the turning point came on 3 September 1939. Within hours of Neville Chamberlain declaring war in Germany, Lord Linlithgow, Viceroy of India, without consulting a single Indian, declared India at war with Germany. Though in regional governments there had been a very limited form of self-rule, the Indians felt that on the real issues they were still going to be treated like children. While Indians - and West Indians and Africans - in their millions fought for the Empire, they began to realize they were fighting not, as advertised, for freedom but for preserving their master's empire.

(source: Tell us the truth of the Empire -  By Mihir Bose - Guardian). Refer to Britain's WWII Field Marshal Montgomery liked young boys - shadow warrior

Lord Linlithgow and Nehru

In his book, The Discovery of India, Nehru wrote on Lord Linlithgow, Viceroy of India during the Second World War:

"Over the top of the imperial structure sat the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, surrounded by all the pomp and ceremony befitting his high position. Heavy of body and slow of mind, solid as a rock, and with almost a rock's lack of awareness, possessing the qualities and failings of an old-fashioned British aristocrat........But his limitations were too many; his mind worked in the old groove and shrank back from innovations; his vision was limited by the traditions of the ruling class out of which he came...he disliked those who did not show a becoming appreciation of the high mission of the British Empire and its chief representative in India."

The person who counted most was Winston Churchill. His views on Indian freedom were clear and definite and had been frequently repeated. He stood out as an uncompromising opponent of that freedom.

In January, 1930, he said:

"Sooner or later you will have to crush Gandhi and the Indian Congress and all they stand for." "The British nation has no intention whatever of relinquishing control of Indian life and progress....We have no intention of casting away that most truly bright and precious jewel in the crown of the King, which, more than all our dominions and dependencies, constitutes the glory and strength of the British Empire."  "....England, apart from her empire in India, ceases for ever to exist as a great power." That was the crux of the question. India was the empire, it was her possession and exploitation that gave glory and strength to England and made her a great power. 

(source: The Discovery of India - By Jawaharlal Nehru p. 437-438). 

 

The parting shot on the Indian Subcontinent by the British Empire in 1947 was to break it up into two countries - India and Pakistan . The division, which followed rivers of blood unleashed by the ruling British to prevent the birth of a single nation, was carried out on the basis of religious divisions.

Subhash Chandra Bose (1897-1945) attempted to overthrow British rule by force. 
A Japanese leaflet issued on behalf of Bose's Indian National Army during the Second World War.

"By the end of the War the Indian army was 2.5 million strong and during the conflict the Indian armed forces suffered over 30,000 men killed fighting for the British Empire ."

 - N B Bonarjee, author of the book, Under Two Masters, p. 294.

(image source: British India: 1772-1947 - By Michael Edwardes).

 

 

          

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Updated - October 28, 2008