845.01/196: Telegram

The Officer in Charge at New Delhi (Merrell) to the Secretary of State

333. For the President, Secretary, and Colonel Louis Johnson. Berry has just received from Nehru the following message with the request that it be telegraphed to Colonel Johnson. Nehru also requests that Colonel Johnson kindly acknowledge receipt of the message (reference last paragraph of my 312, May 25, 10 a.m.).

[Page 668]

“I have visited Mr. Gandhi and discussed the situation with him and have also had occasion to judge public feeling at an important meeting of the Congressmen of our Province (the United Provinces) which is a key Province in India. I propose to return to Gandhi soon for fuller conversations.

Gandhi has no desire to precipitate matters or to embarrass present war effort. He is also firm in his decision that Japanese aggression in India must be resisted. He warmly repudiated suggestion that his recent writings encouraged Japanese. But he was definite that recognition independence India essential now from every point of view, including that of defence, and no problem can be solved except on that basis. Every attempt to postpone this worsens situation and every possible risk involved in independence preferable and safer than certain deterioration otherwise. Present defense artificial and isolated from people and British policy antagonizing every group including Indian officers and army. Only on basis of independence can reality and firmness be introduced in defense and other matters, otherwise likelihood of cracking up as in Burma. Gandhi prepared that India should treat this matter on equal basis as ally of Britain and others but not as a subordinate in any shape. No arrangement possible on basis of India’s subordination or subjection.

Gandhi also agitated both that growing repressive policy of Government and continuing differential treatment of Indian evacuees from Burma and [apparent omission] in India. Official policy greatly resented all over country and adding to bitterness. My closest colleague in my province, well known anti-fascist, recently interned without trial and my request for jail interview with him rejected. Newspapers being suppressed. Large populations in rural areas suddenly ordered leave homes without adequate notice or compensation or provision for transport, housing or land. Gandhi feels that where patently unreasonable and unjust orders passed they may have to be disobeyed by people concerned.

In both these matters public opinion is strongly with Gandhi and Congress supports him. Rajagopalachari likely to make no difference except to stiffen Congress attitude which is one of extreme sentiment against British policy. Future developments uncertain but continuing governmental repression may lead to relatively small local conflicts. Gandhi does not intend starting any big movement unless he is forced to do so by British policy. He feels he cannot remain passive spectator of what is happening and any risks preferable to submission to repression of people and consequent spiritual degradation. While both Gandhi and Congress declared inability to associate themselves with British war effort in present circumstances no intention of impeding military operations in any way. But popular feeling against British Government and policy undoubtedly isolates that effort. Congress’ advice to civil population which is unarmed and untrained is to non cooperate with aggressor in every way and obstruct him. No other method of resistance open to them. This does not refer to military defense which will continue.

Gandhi anxious to help China but says British Government and policy stand in way of effective help given by Indian people. With freedom India will do her utmost to help. Gandhi also anxious that American opinion should not misunderstand him. He has emphasized Indian independence as this is only way both for India and for progressive nations to utilize India’s great resources in cause of world [Page 669] freedom. And he cannot submit to treatment of India as a chattel by others. This treatment demonstrates that Britain determined to obstruct Indian and Asiatic freedom. The larger cause demands completely new outlook towards Asiastic nations and as evidence of this recognition of India’s independence.

My greetings and good wishes to Colonel Johnson. I hope he is rapidly recovering from his illness.”

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