845.00/1781: Telegram

Mr. William Phillips, Personal Representative of President Roosevelt in India, to the Secretary of State

114. Late this afternoon I called on the Viceroy to ask whether I call upon Gandhi during my forthcoming visit to Bombay, as I was anxious to be in a position to report fully to you the attitude of the Congress leaders, having already talked with leaders of other parties.

The Viceroy informed me in confidence that Gandhi has just expressed his determination to begin “a fast according to capacity” tomorrow morning, February 9th being the 6 months anniversary of his detention. The Government has no intention of allowing the fast to alter their policy but has decided to release Gandhi at the commencement of the fast. The latter has been so informed but has replied that he is not willing to take advantage of this decision, or to regard himself as a free man for the purpose of the fast. In his correspondence with Viceroy, Gandhi repudiated all the consequences which have flowed from the “quit India” demand, and seeks to throw the entire responsibility upon the Indian Government. He writes “I am through with you.”

In his reply to Gandhi the Viceroy has rejected the suggestion of governmental responsibility as preposterous.

Inasmuch as no member of the Government will be permitted to visit Gandhi during the fast even though he is released, the Viceroy has asked me not to visit him, and I have acceded to his request.

In Lord Linlithgow’s opinion “the fast according to capacity” means a period of about 21 days although there is a “loophole” left open. He does not believe that Gandhi’s health will stand 21 days of fast.

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I was shown the press release which is to be published in the event that the fast actually begins. If Gandhi changes his mind at the last moment, which seems doubtful, there is to [be] no mention of the matter. Consequently the Viceroy desires no publicity of any sort in the hope that the fast may not come off. Undoubtedly the consequences may be serious.