Reactions Abroad


A strict censorship cast a heavy veil over the happenings in India. Even newspapers in India were not permitted to give publicity to much that was daily taking place, and messages to foreign countries were subject to an ever stricter surveillance. At the same time official propaganda was let loose abroad and false and tendentious accounts were circulated. The United States of America were especially flooded with this propaganda, for opinion there was held to count, and hundreds of lecturers and others, both English and Indian, were sent there to tour the country.

Even apart from this propaganda, it was natural in England, suffering the strain and anxiety of war, for resentment to be felt against Indians and especially those who were adding to their troubles in time of crisis. One-sided propaganda added to this and, even more so, the conviction of the British in their own righteousness. Their very lack of awareness of others’ feelings bad been their strength and it continued to justify actions taken on their behalf, and to cast the blame for any mishap on the iniquity of others who were so blind to the obvious virtues of the British. Those virtues had now been justified afresh by the success of British forces and the Indian police in crushing those in India who had ventured to doubt them. Empire had been justified and Mr. Winston Churchill declared, with special reference to India: ‘I have not become the King’s first minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.’ In saying so, Mr. Churchill undoubtedly represented the viewpoint of the vast majority of his people, and even of many who had previously criticized the theory and practice of imperialism. The leaders of the British Labour Party, anxious to demonstrate that they were behind no other group in their attachment to the imperial tradition, supported Mr. Churchill’s statement and ‘stressed the resolve of the British people to keep the empire together after the war.’

In America, opinion, in so far as it was interested in the far away problem of India, was divided, for people there were not equally convinced of the virtues of the British ruling class and looked with some disapproval on other peoples’ empires. They were also anxious to gain India’s goodwill and utilize her resources fully in the war against Japan. Yet one-sided and tendentious propaganda inevitably produced results, and there was a feeling that the Indian problem was far too complicated for them to tackle, and anyway it was difficult for them to interfere in the affairs of their British ally.

In Russia, what those in authority, or people generally, thought about India it was impossible to say. They were far too busy with their stupendous war effort, and with driving the invader from their country, to think of matters of no immediate concern to them. Yet they were used to thinking far ahead and they were not likely to ignore India which touched their frontiers in Asia. What their future policy would be no one could say, except that it would be realistic and principally concerned with adding to the political and economic strength of the U.S.S.R. They had carefully avoided all reference to India, but Stalin had declared in November, 1942, on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Soviet Revolution, that their general policy was:

Abolition of racial exclusiveness, equality of nations and integrity of their territories, liberation of the enslaved nations and restoration of their sovereign rights, the right of every nation to arrange its affairs as it wishes, economic aid to nations that have suffered and assistance to them in attaining their material welfare, restoration of democratic liberties, the destruction of the Hitlerite regime.

In China, it was evident that, whatever the reaction of the people to any particular action of ours, their sympathies were entirely on the side of Indian freedom. That sympathy had historical roots, but, even more so, it was based on the realization that unless India was free, China’s freedom might be endangered. It was not in China only but throughout Asia, Egypt, and the Middle East, Indian freedom had become a symbol of a larger freedom for other subject and dependent countries, a test in the present and a measuring rod for the future. Mr. Wendell Willkie in his book—’One World’—says:

Many men and women I have talked with from Africa to Alaska asked me the question which has become almost a symbol all through Asia: What about India? … From Cairo on, it confronted me at every turn. The wisest man in China said to me: When the aspiration of India for freedom was put aside to some future date, it was not Great Britain that suffered in public esteem in the Far East. It was the United States.’

What had happened in India had compelled the world to look at India for a while, even in the midst of the war crisis, and to think of the basic problems of the east; it had stirred the mind and heart of every country of Asia. Even though, for the moment, the Indian people appeared helpless in the powerful grip of British imperialism, they had demonstrated that there would be no peace in India or Asia unless India was free.

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The Discovery Of India – Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru

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