Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Mahatma Gandhi and World War-1

In my post titled- ‘Mahatma Gandhi in Defense of Violence’, I had given details of an appeal by Mahatma Gandhi, one of the greatest pacifists the world has known, asking people to join the army for World War 1 (WW-1).  In my subsequent post titled ‘Forgotten stories of Indian soldiers in WW-1,’ I had brought to the notice of the readers that Gandhiji had not received much response to his appeal as per Mahadevbhai Desai’s diary and that this issue has not been covered much in the fifteen volumes of Mahadevbhai’s diaries that I have read so far. 

I am sure that readers will be curious as much as I, to know the outcome of the appeal to the people to join the army by Gandhiji. The following excerpts from the autobiography of Shri. Indulal Yagnik throws some light on the subject. Around the time of the war, the Kheda satyagraha was lead by Gandhiji. It was from this area, active in Kheda satyagraha that Gandhiji expected people to join the army in large numbers for WW-1.  

Excerpts from Shri Indulal Yagnik’s autobiography Part-2, translated from Gujarati by me.

Pages-122-135: “On 6th June, soon after declaring the settlement of Kheda Satyagraha, Gandhiji immediately left on the 10th to attend the regional war (WW-1) convention in Mumbai. As per the instruction given to the Viceroy by Gandhiji in the Delhi convention, Lokmanya Tilak and his co-worker Kelkar were also invited in this convention. Therefore to see the happenings in this convention, I too had gone to Mumbai.

“From the explanations received before the convention by Gandhiji and Kelkar from Governor Willingdon, it was clear that the kind of sportsmanship shown in Delhi will not be shown here; no advise from a senior member representing the people will be taken on the framing of the resolution. People will have the freedom only to speak on it. With all such news, Gandhiji was suggested to speak on one of the resolutions in the convention by the Government. In order to think on the subject, a memorable private meeting was held in Mumbai at Jamnadas Dwarkadas’s office. 

“In this (meeting) along with Jamnadas, Tilak, Kelkar, Horniman, other leading people of Mumbai were present. Tilak presented his strategy in clear words. He said that in order to take the support of people in the war (WW-1), he will recommend giving of self-rule in a humble way. And if he will be stopped from doing this he would quarrel and boycott the meeting. This created a dilemma for Gandhiji. He should also not cooperate with the Government, he should also go to the convention and raise objection against the autocratic policy of the Governor, he should also follow Tilak and boycott the convention- and many such arguments and instructions were placed before him...After listening-thinking on everything he declared his decision: “I should not do anything in the meeting and that itself is equivalent to doing everything.”...

“...Things turned much worse than expected in the convention. The Governor deviated from the main topic and declared that he does not have any faith in the support declared by the members of the organization named home rule league; the conduct of many is a hindrance in the work of the war (WW-1); and their recent speeches have had the same impact on me...In this way the Governor insulted the members of the league...Lokmanya Tilak got up to discuss the first resolution and  soon after declaring his allegiance to the Shensha (King) in the first two sentences, when he indicated Swaraj (self-rule) in the third sentence, the Governor immediately informed that he will not allow any political discussions! ...Lokmanya Tilak tried to speak again and when he failed, like a leader with self respect...he left the convention quietly...after which Kelkar....Shri Jamnadas Dwarkadas ...Mr Horniman...also left the convention...

“On 16th in order to oppose the Governor’s such highhanded behavior a huge gathering of people assembled in the city...strong objection was raised against the Governor for having doubted the honesty of the members of the home rule league to help the empire and for having insulted them publicly. Moreover another resolution was passed that “Till the Hind Government’s current politics... does not change, till then the leaders will find it difficult to get full support from the people for the war (WW-1)."

“Due to this incident in Mumbai my mind was confused. Previous month, during the Kheda struggle...in midst of critical war (WW-1) in order to help the British empire, resolution for recruitment drive for the army was placed before the Gujarat Sabha by Gandhiji and was made to pass...but in Mumbai the insult by... of the league and eminent people like Tilak turned my mind sour...for political workers like us, the step of recruitment for the army felt totally inappropriate and impractical...but on returning to Nadiad when I met Gandhiji, he explained to me that if the work of recruitment (for WW-1) is correct in principle then we should not get deviated from the correct path at all due to some Governor’s inappropriate words or actions. Immediately due to our reverence for Gandhiji, all of us curbed our doubts and changed our minds and accepted this advice. In this way he won over the hearts of all colleagues and on 22nd Gandhiji brought out the first leaflet on this subject and started this new activity (of army recruitment for WW-1)...

“...By declaring such thoughts (in the leaflet), he  expressed the hope of recruiting 12,000 people out of the total population of seven lakh people in Kheda district... he pressed upon the men and women of Kheda to elect able bodied people from the villages and send their names (for army recruitment)...

“... Due to the absence of many colleagues, I completed the urgent work of Navjevan and in the month of July came to Nadiad and as per the advice of Gandhiji got active in the difficult work of (army) recruitment.

“Gandhiji and the camp remained the same. But the strength of our workers reduced a lot. Earlier the crowds of farmers and visitors that remained in the camp had reduced a lot. No invitation came at all from the villages or to hold a public meeting. The interest of those who had enrolled for recruitment also went down. The camp was deserted: The commander in chief (Gandhiji) remained at his place but those heroes and soldiers who obeyed his rule had disappeared. 

“Under such circumstances, Gandhiji’s sight rested on the true satyagraha center Navagam. In the end the farmers of this place had gone to jail with Mohanlal happily and when they were released, a huge public meeting was held there itself. Therefore resting faith on that village, packing golpapdi (wheat, ghee and sugar cake) for food, on the morning of 8th July, along with Mahadevbhai we walked ten miles from Barejdi to that historic village. Out of modesty, old colleagues came to meet and they discussed a lot. But no public meeting took place and Gandhiji for having got a lot of free time, wrote many letters and had to return to Nadiad after walking up to Barejdi again...

“...Tilak, Besant and such eminent people adopted some kind of dual policy and all the prominent people of the Naram (soft) as well as Garam (militant) groups remained aloof from Gandhiji’s activity of army recruitment and so he developed loathing in his heart. He remained detached from the Congress and with concentration and full faith continued to play the tune of army recruitment.

“On July 22, when a month had passed since the time of taking up the work of (army) recruitment, a second leaflet was published by him on the subject. In it ... once again resting older political doubts, in order to get self-rule quickly, all able bodied men were requested to enroll in the army. But the extent of its failure can be brought to light from the new experience at Navagam itself. Once again Gandhiji went to that village with Mahadevbhai and Vallabhbhai. Now even the earlier interest among the people did not remain.  A big person like Gandhiji would sit in the guest house the whole day and write letters.  But except for some faithful people like Himabhai and few others, hardly anyone would go to meet them. Himabhai would get material from the village and Vallabhbhai would cook and all three would sit together and eat. This went on for three four days. Farmers who had gone all out to fight against the Government did not like at all to march in their support. At last Gandhiji had to leave this village empty handed...

“...While Gandhiji was engaged in such tough work of recruitment, he got severe stomach pain on 17th August. He suffered from a long illness...one day he seemed critical...he was taken to Ahmedabad in the Mirzapur bungalow Shantisadan of Ambalal Sarabhai...there he stayed for a few days while being nursed by Ansuyaben after which he returned to the Ashram...

“...This is how the recruitment battle (for army) got over prematurely.  Nadiad’s camp got wound up unceremoniously. After having got a tremendous victory in the district over the issue of Mehsool, the Mahatma gave a new message to the people from the top of the same (victory) wave. But not a leaf turned as a result. The reason for this has been explained by him itself in an implied way. In the public meeting at Mumbai, Gandhiji had said the truth that this battle was not run by him or Mohanlal Pandya but by the farmer of Kheda. In the last gathering Vallabhbhai had honored the farmer as the main worker and winner of the struggle. That farmer was livid at the age old atrocities of the Government and so he was ready to fight himself...but for having been influenced by historical circumstances, the same farmer was not moved at all when he got the order to march in the opposite direction of (army) recruitment. By politely refusing their favorite saintly man Gandhiji, they proved their true fortitude...


Monday, 8 September 2014

Participation of Princely States from India in the World War-1

The following news item in the Times of India that “Indians in South Australia barred from Anzac Day Parade” drew my attention today morning: 

This is not surprising because not many know of the participation of Indians/India in the World War -1. In my earlier blog post (below), I had drawn the attention to the fact that not much information about the participation of India and its people in WW-1 is available in some of the popular books of history. 

 World War -1 began exactly a century ago in 1914 and martyrs are being remembered the World over. Indian soldiers fought bravely in the war. Thousands were killed and wounded:

Here, I bring to the fore the participation of some of the Princely States in the WW-1 from Saurashtra (Gujarat). The information is taken from the book: Saurashtra No Itihas, by S.V.Jani, published by Darshak Itihas Nidhi [originally in Gujarati] and photos are from Wikimedia commons.

Page- 185: “…The 1st World War (1914-18)…The State of Bhavnagar had sent its team of soldiers under the leadership of Col. Jorawarsingh Gohil for the service of the British power. The British Government had praised the service of the indigenous soldiers and their bravery as well as courage. Moreover British Government was helped by (Bhavnagar) by purchasing war bonds…”

Nilambag Palace, Bhavnagar.
Nilambag Palace, Bhavnagar.

Page-202: “…Ranjitsinh [Navanagar-Jamnagar] himself went to the western frontier and gave his service in the 9th Hind regiment of horses under Gen. Kukson. Later he was the A.D.C. of Commander in Chief Field Marshal Lord French. His three nephews, Lieutenant Kumar Savaji Sinhji in the battle of Africa, Lieutenant Kumar Dajirajji who participated in the battle of France died; and Lieutenant Himmatsinhji had worked at the forefront in Mesopotamia. Navanagar State’s … team had gone to the borders of Karachi and later Afghanistan. At the encouragement of the His Highness, the subjects of Navanagar State had invested Rs 26 lakhs in the war loan…”

Page-219: “…In the period 1914-18, during the 1st World War, Lakajiraj [Rajkot State] helped the British Government with people and money. The amount of help was Rs 1, 64,312. The State had purchased war bonds of Rs 53,850 also…”

Page-244: “…In the 1st World War, the State [Morbi] had helped the British Government with both people and money…”

Page-256: “…In the 1st World War, the State (Dhrangadhra) had helped the British Government in different ways. The State had invested Rs 9.75 lakhs in the war loan. The State and the people had made a contribution of Rs 3.83 lakhs to the war…”

Page-283: “…Not only had the State (Wankaner) given monetary help to the British Government during World War -1 and invested money in war loan; but his Highness Amarsinghji himself had given his service for eight months in the Kathiawar [Saurashtra] Motor Ambulance Corps in France between 1915-16…”

Wankaner Palace, Wankaner.