The Officer in Charge at New Delhi (Haselton) to the Secretary of State
[Received 11:16 p.m.]
680. Congress leaders had drawn no detailed plans of campaign prior to their arrest, believing that Viceroy would certainly accept Gandhi’s statement that no movement would be launched before he had made an effort to see Viceroy and reach a settlement. The time that has elapsed since August 9 has accordingly been utilized by Congressmen in drawing up and having distributed throughout country a plan of action. While individual Congressmen undoubtedly participated in the various disturbances throughout India there was no central direction. Although acts of violence, arson and firing by police and military are continuing over wide areas during past few days there has been increasing evidence that movement is becoming less violent and more in line with traditional Congress tactics (reference Department’s 482, September 2 , 5 p.m.). Leaflets are known to have been distributed throughout India and it is believed that Congress movement will become more prominent within next 2 weeks. Due to great organizational problems involved actual Congress campaign is just beginning to manifest itself. Congress news letters indicate that a special effort will be made on September 9 [Page 730]which is just one month since Congress leaders’ arrest. It is extremely difficult to form any complete picture of what is really going on in rural districts because of severe muzzling of press and obvious disinclination of Government to allow true situation to be known not only to overseas public but to foreign Governments as well. Upon inquiry of a high Government official yesterday Berry53a was informed that total number of killed and wounded throughout India was less than 1,000 of which only about 300 had been killed. This figure is believed to be absolutely ridiculous. Same official informed Berry that he believed Congress program was yet to be launched but that he hoped Government would be able to suppress it. He admitted, however, that there is a great danger that even Government repressive measures will not be able to avoid serious dislocations in railway and other communications.
The Secretary of the All India Muslim League stated privately yesterday that he did not believe Government would be able to put down the movement and that despite what the League said publicly it knew that Muslims throughout the country were participating in the movement and were just as much bitterly anti-British as the Hindus themselves. Four prominent members of the Muslim League have issued public statements calling upon Jinnah53b to abandon his present obstructionist policy and make an effort to reach a settlement with Gandhi. There is reason to believe that Muslim Leaguers are frightened that Government will not be able to put down the movement and that it will be forced to reach a settlement with Congress detrimental to Muslim League interests. Everything depends upon how Jinnah himself feels since he is the absolute dictator of the League and is quite capable of saying to his followers that if they are not satisfied with his leadership they are at perfect liberty to replace him with someone else, knowing full well that his followers realize that he is the only one able to hold the League together. An unconfirmed report from a usually well informed source is to the effect that Jinnah has sent word to Rajagopalachari that he is willing to accept him as mediator between League and Gandhi.
I am quite convinced that Government has no desire whatever to reach a settlement and that it is relying on the intransigence of Jinnah in this connection. It is believed, however, that in the unlikely event that Jinnah requested the Viceroy for authorization either for himself or for a mediator to see Gandhi, such request would be all but irresistible.
The Viceroy is seeing Dr. Mookerjee on Tuesday despite efforts of Viceroy’s private secretary to side-track the Finance Minister (reference my 671, September 2, 5 p.m.54). It is almost certain that the [Page 731]Viceroy will not give his blessing to any proposals until Mookerjee has approached Jinnah and received his consent to start negotiations. The Viceroy hopes and believes that Mookerjee will be unable to satisfy this condition. It will thus be seen that Jinnah, who arrives in Delhi about September 10, holds the whip hand and it is impossible to know whether any reasonable settlement is possible until he arrives here and consults with Mookerjee.
Consular officers throughout India report increasing shortages of food.
Consul General in report dated September 3, gives summary of an interview which occurred between an officer of his staff and a civil official of Government of Bihar. According to this official civil Government has disappeared throughout most of Bihar, the civil authorities having been killed or driven out of villages. Leaders of disturbances are controlling villages and collecting taxes. The army has taken control of large areas and it is estimated that at least one division is being used for this purpose. Many military and civilian officers who have gone into rural areas to investigate have been killed. Producers of raw materials are being urged by Congress leaders to conceal their stocks in order not to aid the British. The official said that while situation showed some improvement in last few days it was impossible to tell when and where further disturbances would flare up. Tearing up of railway lines and destruction of culverts are continuing and is repeated as fast as repairs are done.
Consul General has been informed by the President of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, who is a close friend of Gandhi and Nehru, that unless Government opens negotiations soon there will be much more trouble for which many Indian industrialists are prepared to suffer losses if necessary to win independence for India.
Consul General has reported to Department by telegraph the walkout on September 1, of railway transport workers in Calcutta Port.
Conclusion: The Mission continues to hold view that Government will be unable suppress movement and that serious dislocations in railways and other means of communication will seriously interfere with war effort in this country. Government will make every attempt by suppression of news to convince foreign opinion that it has situation under control but if India is to serve as a basis of operations for United Nations, Government must supplement severe repression with a constructive and positive program to reach settlement with Indian people. There is good reason for believing that Government is strengthened in its present attitude because of belief of British and American Intelligence that there is no chance of a Japanese invasion of this country and that Government will be left free to carry on its own war with internal elements.