Exactly a century ago, Mahatma Gandhi began his first all-India movement against British colonial rule. Winston Churchill was, and continued to be, unimpressed by those efforts.
Within his homeland, Winston Churchill’s colossal contribution to saving his people from Hitler eclipses all else, and he is widely regarded as the greatest Briton of all time. So it came as something of a surprise when a senior Labour Party politician recently described him as a “villain” for having ordered troops to fire on striking workers in the Welsh town of Tonypandy in 1910. The claim provoked vigorous denunciations from prominent politicians, as well as more sober reflections in op-ed pages. When the dust settles, as it soon must, Churchill will revert to being the figure of sanctity that he has always been.
Within his homeland, that is. Outside the United Kingdom, Churchill has always had a decidedly mixed reputation. This is especially so in India, my own country, where his undying opposition to freedom for Indians is both well known and widely deplored. As is his hatred for Mahatma Gandhi, a figure he repeatedly mocked, callinghim (among other things) a “malignant subversive fanatic” and “a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal palace.”
Churchill and Gandhi met once, in November 1906. The Englishman was then the undersecretary of state for the colonies; the Indian, a spokesman for the rights of his countrymen in South Africa. Back then, Gandhi wore a suit and tie, as befitting a lawyer trained in London. It is not clear whether Churchill remembered their meeting when, in the early 1930s, he began attacking Gandhi, whose Salt March had made waves around the world and established him as the preeminent leader of India’s struggle for freedom from British rule.
At the time, Churchill was out of office and seeking to rebuild his political career by working up British sentiment in defense of the empire. By the time he was prime minister a decade later, leading the fight against the Nazis, he remained implacably opposed to independence for Gandhi’s people. His senior cabinet colleague Leo Amery recalled how Churchill had once referred to Indians “as a beastly people with a beastly religion.” He might have added that their leader was, in his opinion, the beastliest of them all.
In August 1942, Gandhi launched his last great popular struggle, the Quit India Movement. He was immediately arrested and taken to a prison in Poona (now known as Pune). Churchill also convinced himself that Gandhi was acting on behalf of the Axis powers. Archived British documents show that in September 1942, Churchill wrote to Amery, “Please let me have a note on Mr. Gandhi’s intrigues with Japan and the documents the Government of India published, or any other they possessed before on this topic.” Three days later, Amery replied, “The India Office has no evidence to show, or suggest, that Gandhi has intrigued with Japan.” The “only evidence of Japanese contacts [with Gandhi] during the war,” Amery continued, “relates to the presence in Wardha of two Japanese Buddhist priests who lived for part of 1940 in Gandhi’s Ashram.”
The Quit India Movement was marked by protests across the country. A British government report blamed Gandhi for the violence that followed his arrest. Gandhi was hurt by the accusations, since he had always preached and practiced nonviolence. When the Raj refused to retract the accusations, Gandhi began a three-week fast in prison. Once again, Churchill developed unfounded suspicions about Gandhi, this time convincing himself that the Indian was secretly using energy supplements, and therefore not really fasting.
On February 13, 1943, Churchill wired the viceroy, Lord Linlithgow: “I have heard that Gandhi usually has glucose in his water when doing his various fasting antics. Would it be possible to verify this.” Two days later the Viceroy responded, “This may be the case but those who have been in attendance on him doubt it, and present Surgeon-General Bombay (a European) says that on a previous fast G. was particularly careful to guard against possibility of glucose being used. I am told that his present medical attendants tried to persuade him to take glucose yesterday and again today, and that he refused absolutely.”
As Gandhi’s fast entered its third week, Churchill again wired the viceroy:
Cannot help feeling very suspicious of bona fides of Gandhi’s fast. We were told fourth day would be the crisis and then well staged climax was set for eleventh day onwards. Now at fifteenth day bulletins look as if he might get through. Would be most valuable [if] fraud could be exposed. Surely with all those Congress Hindu doctors round him it is quite easy to slip glucose or other nourishment into his food.
By this time, the viceroy was himself exasperated with Gandhi. But no evidence showed that he had actually taken any glucose. So the viceroy now replied to Churchill in a manner that stoked both men’s prejudices. “I have long known Gandhi as the world’s most successful humbug,” Linlithgow fumed, “and have not the least doubt that his physical condition and the bulletins reporting it from day to day have been deliberately cooked so as to produce the maximum effect on public opinion.” Then, going against his own previous statement, the viceroy claimed that “there would be no difficulty in his entourage administering glucose or any other food without the knowledge of the Government doctors”—this when the same government doctors had told him exactly the opposite. “If I can discover any firm of evidence of fraud I will let you hear,” Linlithgow wrote to Churchill, adding, “but I am not hopeful of this.”
This prompted an equally disappointed reply from Churchill: “It now seems certain that the old rascal will emerge all the better from his so-called fast.”
In 1943, Lord Wavell replaced Linlithgow as viceroy. The prime minister warned Wavell “that only over his [Churchill’s] dead body would any approach to Gandhi take place.” Then he joked that Wavell had “one great advantage over the last few Viceroys”: They “had to decide whether and when to lock up Gandhi,” whereas this viceroy “should find him already locked up.”
Wavell, however, stood against Linlithgow and Churchill and believed that India should become independent. He released Gandhi from prison in May 1944. When World War II ended a year later and a Labour government came to power in Britain, Churchill’s reactionary policies were set aside, and formal negotiations for a transfer of power began. The British departed the subcontinent in August 1947, dividing it as they left into the separate, sovereign nations of India and Pakistan. Gandhi was murdered by a Hindu fanatic in January 1948.
These facts are well known. What is not is that Churchill’s dislike of Gandhi persisted even after British rule in India had ended and his adversary had died.
In 1951, Churchill published an installment of his war memoirs, The Hinge of Fate, and made an astonishing charge against Gandhi. The former prime minister claimed that the Indian had conducted his 1943 fast “under the most favourable conditions in a small palace” and that “the most active world-wide propaganda was set on foot that his death was approaching.” Then Churchill wrote, “It was certain, however, at an early stage that he was being fed with glucose whenever he drank water, and this, as well as his own intense vitality and lifelong austerity, enabled this frail being to maintain his prolonged abstention from any visible form of food.”
“In the end,” Churchill continued, “being quite convinced of our obduracy he abandoned his fast, and his health, though he was very weak, was not seriously affected.”
The publication of this volume of The Hinge of Fate created an uproar in India. Gandhi’s secretary, Pyarelal, and his doctor, B. C. Roy, wrote angry letters to Churchill, dismissing the Englishman’s claims as canards. Gandhi had refused to take glucose at any time during his fast—which Linlithgow had written to Churchill—even though a government doctor had warned him that he might die if he did not. Further, Gandhi had always said that his fast would last exactly three weeks.
The Indian press also responded with fury, archival materials show. The Tribune, a newspaper based in the northern-Indian city of Ambala, said Churchill’s charges had been refuted by those who had firsthand knowledge of Gandhi’s fast, and put Churchill’s baseless attacks in a broader context. “Mr. Churchill’s remarks only betray his lack of understanding of the Mahatma’s character and his general ignorance about this country,” the paper wrote. “Mr. Churchill is a great war-time leader. But no man is more insular in his outlook. He has yet to realise that the people of Asia, Africa and the Middle East are entitled to a life of their own. He still thinks in terms of the hegemony of the world by Anglo-Saxon peoples.”
Even sharper in its criticism was the now-defunct Indian News Chronicle. Its editorial on September 27, 1951, titled “Churchilliana,” said the former British leader’s memoirs were full of myths and misstatements, of which the calumnies against Gandhi were representative. Churchill’s “entire political career,” the paper thundered, “is a record of political opportunism, inconsistency, and downright wickedness.” Calling him a “friend of reaction” and “a high priest of British imperialism,” the editorial ended:
Mr. Churchill is incorrigible, hopelessly out of date, and is getting unpopular day by day. His memoirs might be read for their grandiloquent phraseology, bombast, and nineteenth century English, but no student of history will find his version of recent history a safe guide. The odds are that these memoirs, in course of time, will be rescinded to the dustbin. And as for his malicious attacks on Mahatma Gandhi, we are certain that they will deceive no one. Long after Churchill and his memoirs have been forgotten, humanity will continue to regard Gandhiji as a beacon of peace; and cherish his memory with reverence even as they cherish the memory of Jesus, Buddha and Socrates.
The Hindustan Times’ response was less polemical, but arguably more effective. The paper was then edited by Gandhi’s son Devdas, who dispatched a reporter to locate Major General R. H. Candy, the British doctor who had attended to Gandhi during his prison fast. Asked to comment on Churchill’s allegations, Candy, then living in retirement in rural Hampshire, confirmed that he had indeed advised Gandhi to take glucose, but that Gandhi had refused. “From my knowledge of Mr. Gandhi,” he said, “I am convinced that he would not willingly have taken glucose or any other form of food” during his fast. Churchill’s response to these corrections is unknown.
Recent works by Indians have blamed Churchill for the Great Bengal Famine of 1943, in which more than 2 million people died. As prime minister, Churchill could have done more to ensure speedy supplies of grain to the affected areas. But to call him a war criminal and a mass murderer, as some polemicists have done, is surely hyperbolic.
That said, there is no question that Churchill had an intense dislike of Indians in general, and a pathological suspicion of one Indian in particular. His venomous and long-lasting hatred of Gandhi shows that this great Briton could sometimes think and act like a small-minded parochialist.
This essay has been adapted from Ramachandra Guha’s book Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914–1948.
RAMACHANDRA GUHA is a historian based in Bengaluru.
Fayemi defrays N31bn inherited debt
The Kayode Fayemi led administration in Ekiti State said it had completely offset the 31 billion naira inherited debts since assumption of office.
Governor Fayemi while making the state of the state address at the state House of Assembly as part of activities marking the first year in office also assured the civil servants in the state that salary arrears owed them by the last administration will be paid.
According to him, “Our focus now is how to gradually offset the remaining backlogs of salaries, pensions, subvention arrears and contractual debts. To the civil servants, I want to restate again that your arrears are not bad debts”.
The governor maintained that critics have been proved wrong with the administration’s job creation drive as against the rumours that he was coming back to sack workers.
The Ekiti state governor highlights milestones recorded in his first year in office in the areas of agricultural development, international partnerships and industrial growth which will see the state dairy farm produce nine thousand litres of milk daily.
“Our moribund Ikun dairy farm is coming back to life with plans to produce nine thousand litres of milk daily over the next two years. Over the next one year we expect that there will be at least two major cassava processing plants and two major rice mills assembled in Ekiti ” Fayemi disclosed.
PHOTOS: Adelabu Moves To Reconcile Aggrieved Oyo APC Members
Seven months after the conduct of the March 9 Governorship Election in Oyo state, the Candidate of All Progressives Congress, Chief Adebayo Adelabu on Tuesday pledged to champion and support the state executive of the party in reuniting aggrieved members back to the progressive fold
Adelabu made this pledge during the thank you visit to the people of Ibarapa land for their commitment and support given to him earlier, during and after the poll.
The APC guber nominee said despite the result announced by the electoral body, he felt Ibarapa zone remains one of the political stronghold quarter of the progressive in Oyo state hence the need to appreciate the party members and entire people of Ibarapa for their unflinching support.
According to him, “I believe I am the best candidate for the APC in the last general election and we are committed to general wellbeing of the people of Oyo state but somehow our mandate was diverted.
“We believe our mandate can be restored by the judiciary which is the hope of the masses hence the need to challenge the election results announced by INEC from the election petition tribunal to the Appeal court”.
On the reconciliation of aggrieved APC members, Adelabu averred that this is the high time committed members should put their individual differences aside and work collectively for the interest of the party.
The ex- deputy governor, operations of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)/maintained that he believed in Party Supremacy and Ideology which should be strictly adhere to by all members for the advancement of the party.
“I am ready to champion and work harmoniously with state executive for the reconciliation of the aggrieved members in the interest of peace and progress of the party”
He also affirmed the proposed mega empowerment programmes across the state to the members in Ibarapa, saying empowerment of the people would continue to be his utmost priority.
He said the newly commissioned Adelabu political headquarters will served as administrative and liaison office while efforts are on going to establish 14 liaison offices to cater for the three Senatorial Districts and 14 federal constituency in Oyo State.
Oyo APC chieftains from Ibarapa Zone who spoke on behalf of others include Apostle Aderonmu, Alhaji Jinadu and Elder Aderenle appreciated the visit of Adelabu to Ibarapa land in this time of need.
They both claimed that his visit was a clear demonstration of the love he has for the people of Ibarapa land.
The meeting had in attendance, Former Commissioner in the last administration, Alhaji M.O Laide Abass, Hon Ojerinde , Alhaji Fatai Adesina,Demola Ojo aka Ijaya, Former Commissioner for Agriculture, Hon Iyiola Ambali, Alhaji Mufu Adisa and Alhaji Laide Akande,
Other chieftains of APC present include, Elder Dayo Adeola,Chief Babalola,Alhaji Isiaka Asiwaju,Alhaji Tafa SA,Evangelist Olu Abiola,Chief Jimi Agbaje, Samson Dare,Comrade Ojediran Segun,Alhaji Tajudeen,Hon Leke Asela,Hon Olufemi Jacob and former Chairman Ibadan North west Alhaji Adewolu Oluokun among others..
Oyo: Crossfire as Adeduntan, Adelabu groups spit fire over 2019 APC loss to PDP
A political group, the Adelabu Solidarity Group (ASG) has fired back at Dr Azeez Adeduntan, the immediate past Commissioner for Health in Oyo state, following a recent statement credited to him, calling the governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the March 9 election, Oloye Adebayo Adelabu, a wrong Candidate.
The group, loyal to Adelabu has described the statement credited to Dr. Adeduntan as senseless and not expected from any reasonable person who had benefited from the party when APC was in control of the state.
Contained in a statement signed by Comrade Femi Awogboro on behalf of the group, he said Oloye Adelabu will not like to join issues with a political jobber like the former Commissioner for Health, saying it is pertinent for Adelabu Solidarity Group to respond to some of the remarks attributed to Dr. Adeduntan.
“If not for people like Dr Azeez Adeduntan who worked against the APC at the 2019 poll ,despite the hands of love extended to him and Some betrayers by Bayo Adelabu ,the party won’t have temporarily lost the seat of power in Oyo state.
“The former commissioner was quoted as saying, he facilitated one billion naira for Adeoyo Ring Road Hospital out of fifty billion naira which was expected and the self styled “World class Surgeon” bragged with impunity
“Oloye Adelabu who is a silent philanthropist that has contributed a lot to the pace setter state .The Technical University Ibadan, Oyo state ,Security Trust Fund, numerous scholarship awards among countless among others are what chief Adelabu has been shouldering without making needless noise”, the statement added.
Comrade Awogboro who is the Publicity Secretary of APC in Ibadan South East, also urged Dr Adeduntan to be mindful of his utterances in the public , especially on issues relating to the party and should apologise immediately for his misguided and malicious invectives against the respected Chief .
“What ought to be paramount in the mind of any committed member now is to work harmoniously through prayers and commitment to the party towards ensuring the victory of APC at the Appeal court, not making unnecessary and baseless remarks about the party and its leadership”.
Awogboro asked Dr Adeduntan to learn about APC’s ideology and stop tarnishing the image of the party and its real stalwarts, saying “his type of attitude and arrogance displayed by him (Dr Adeduntan) necessitated the then Labour Party to substitute his name prior to the 2011 Governorship elections”.
But, the Adeduntan Support Group (ASG) in a statement issued in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital on Monday described former Deputy Governor of Central Bank Of Nigeria (CBN) and the gubernatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Adebayo Adelabu as a toddler who needs to enroll at the school of Oyo politics for him to excel in his future political endeavour.
The ASG in its reaction to a statement credited to Abiodun Awogboro of Adelabu Solidarity Group also said “the woeful outing of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Oyo State during the 2019 general elections was due to the inability to unite and work with his major opponents who jostled with him for the party’s governorship ticket.”
“Adebayo Adelabu, the defeated candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC)
in the Oyo State governorship election started carrying himself like a governor-in-waiting from the moment he was imposed by Ajimobi as the governorship candidate at a kangaroo primary organized by Ajimobi on September 30th 2018
“Adelabu even after he lost the election passed several insults on the leaders of the party, blaming them for his loss in the election, and how he was involved in fisticuffs with an aide of former Governor Abiola Ajimobi, his main allies who is also a Personal Assistant to the former governor at the Governor’s Oluyole residence.”
The group further advised Adelabu to place his failed ambition in the right perspective, saying the real reason for his thrashing is his aloofness to the party, it’s leaders, co- contestants, and his arrogance.
“On some of the issues raised by Awogboro in his statement, the group disclosed that one of the factors that caused the defeat of APC in the election was also some of the people used during the campaign who have no wherewithal to lead such sensitive and serious business just like Awogboro.
“Awogboro according to our findings is from Ekiti State, as a matter of fact chairman, of recently dissolved Yoruba Youth Council, Ekiti State chapter. In the past eight years with no serious means of survival except politics. He was formerly with Chief Femi Olaore, also a senatorial aspirant of APC and left when the latter can no longer trust him.”
“The said Awogboro who cannot be described as a professional journalist despite his Diploma certificate in Journalism from Institute of Journalism, Iyaganku, Ibadan due to his inability to be engaged by any media outfit can not be taken serious for whatever reason and his not qualified at all in any issues especially politics in Oyo state”.
The statement, however cautioned Adelabu and his team to engage only professionals in the pursuit of his political career and always warn his sympathisers in getting their facts right to avoid been sued in the court of law for libellous statements.
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