Why India Became Independent
Role of the Defence Services for India’s independence
When BP Chakravarti was acting as Governor of West Bengal, Lord Attlee visited India and stayed as his guest for three days at the Raj Bhavan. Chakravarti asked Attlee about the real grounds for granting Independence to India . Specifically, his question was, when the Quit India movement lay in ruins years before 1947, what was the need for the British to leave in such a hurry. Attlee’s response is most illuminating and important for history. Here is the Governor’s account of what Attlee told him:
“In reply, Attlee cited several reasons, the most important were the activities of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose which weakened the very foundation of the attachment of the Indian land and naval forces to the British Government. Towards the end, I asked Lord Attlee about the extent to which the British decision to quit India was influenced by Gandhi’s activities.
On hearing this question Attlee’s lips widened in a smile of disdain and he uttered, slowly, putting emphasis on each single letter mi-ni-mal.”
This ‘unimpeachable’ truth will come as a shock to most Indians brought up to believe that the Congress movement driven by the ’spiritual force’ of Mahatma Gandhi forced the British to leave India.
But both the evidence and the logic of history are against this beautiful but childish fantasy; it was the fear of mutiny by the Indian armed forces - and not any ‘spiritual force’- that forced the issue of freedom. The British saw that the sooner they left India the better for themselves, for, at the end of the war, India had some three million men under arms.
Majumdar had reached the same conclusion years earlier, as far back as 1948 as he records.The most dramatic event after the end of World War II was the INA Trials at the Red Fort — not any movement by Gandhi or Nehru. This led directly to the mutiny of the naval ratings, which, more than anything, helped the British make up their minds to leave India in a hurry.
They sensed that it was only a matter of time before the spirit spread to other sections of the armed forces and the rest of the Government. None of this would have happened without Subhas Bose and the INA.
The crucial point to note is that thanks to Subhas Bose’s activities and the INA, the Armed Forces began to see themselves as defenders of India rather than upholders of the British Empire. This, more than anything else, was what led to India’s freedom. This is also the reason why the British Empire disappeared from the face of the earth within an astonishingly short space of twenty years. Indian soldiers, who were the main prop of the Empire, were no longer willing to fight to hold the Empire together.