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A selective memory - The Hindustan Times

M. V. Kamath ()
November 21, 1998

Title: A selective memory
Author: M. V. Kamath
Publication: The Hindustan Times
Date: November 21, 1998

The CPI-M leaders' violent reaction to Mr L. K. Advani's
revealing comments on the Communist role during the Quit India
Movement indicates a delightful forgetfulness; or, in the more
expressive words of Srimathi J. Jayalalitha, a selective memory,
worthy of better causes. Methinks the Comrades protest too
much. Mr Advani, if he so desires, could possibly ask his
officials to delve a little more deeply into old British records
if any are still extant, considering that our thoughtful former
rulers had tons of them consigned to fire in the weeks preceding
August 15, 1947, in a mid-century version of an ancient yajnya.
Nevertheless if the Comrades still want to know what their party
leaders, in an excess of zeal, did when Mahatma Gandhi called
for the British to quit India, they could do no better than
study two volumes edited by Dr P. N. Chopra titled Quit India
Movement: British Secret Documents, Interprint, and K. K.
Chaudhari's Quit India Revolution: The Ethos of Its Central
Direction (Popular Prakashan, 1996). If the history of the Quit
India Movement is a glorious tale of sacrifice and suffering, it
also presents, in the words of Chaudhari "a grim scenario of a
scamp, a vitriol, a slander, an ire, hypocrisy and betrayal of
the cause of freedom by the Communists". In the first place,
the CPI organ denounced Gandhiji and Subhas Chandra Bose as
"blind Messiahs" and accused them of decadence. It charged
Gandhiji of betraying the national cause and the Communist
lampooned Gandhiji's individual satyagraha movement in words
that one is ashamed even to repeat in print. Sarcasm, scorn and
abuse were heaped on Gandhiji, the Congress, Jayaprakash Narayan
and Subhas Chandra Bose.

The new mouthpiece of the CPI, The People's War ridiculed the
Quit India resolution fashioned first at Wardha in these words:
"After nine days of labour, the Working Committee has brought
forth an abortion. The resolution it has produced has bankruptcy
writ large upon it." The CPI desperately tried to curry favour
with the British and tried to align itself with the government,
though Denys Pilditch, the Director of Intelligence Bureau,
strenuously opposed the idea of releasing communists held in
detention. It was not the British Government which tried to
entice the Indian Communists; on the contrary it was the CPI
which was trying to convince Sir Reginald Maxwell, Home
Secretary, of its usefulness. Sensing the usefulness of the CPI
in fighting the Congress, the British government released B. T.
Ranadive, R. S. Nimbkar, S. G. Patkar, S. S. Mirajkar, Sajjad
Zaheer and others.

As it turned out the British Government's hunch proved right. On
many occasions the Communists were indeed more royal than the
King. Party secretary Puran Chand Joshi made many enticing
promises to the British. Thus, he provided his plans of
formation of pro-Government guerrilla camps in Punjab with the
collaboration of the military authorities, to the Home
Secretary. Joshi even indicated willingness to set up such
guerrilla camps in other provinces as well. The idea was to
hound out underground Congress volunteers and betray them to
the, police. When Maxwell sought to test the CPI's sincerity in
this adventure, it easily passed the test. Joshi submitted a 120-
page report, typed in single space, on the splendid work that
his party was doing to disrupt the 1942 movement in province
after province. Indeed, Joshi was so anxious to prove the CPI's
bonafides and its utility to the government that he claimed that
it was doing a better job of stemming the Quit India Movement,
of denouncing Subhas Chandra Bose and the underground leaders
like Jayaprakash, Rain Manohar Lohia and Achyut Patwardhan, than
the Government itself. Joshi argued that Communists were more
vigilant in tracking down 'saboteurs' than the police and the
CID, and claimed that Communists had 'successfully' divided the

Exactly how many nationalists were betrayed to the police to be
arrested, jailed and tortured can probably be checked from
records with the National Archives, if they still exist. But
there is no doubt about communist perfidy. As Chaudhari remarks:
"The 120-page report of Joshi on the good work by the CPI to
finish off the Quit India Movement, could not have been improved
by any other collaborator of the British or by any Quisling."

After Gandhiji was released on May 6, 1944, numerous Congressmen
complained to him about the treacherous role of the Communists.
Gandhiji referred the complaints to Bhulabhai Desai who found
that on the strength of CPI's own attested documents, the
Communist members of the AICC had acted in a manner
diametrically opposed to the Congress. A sub-committee of Nehru,
Sardar Patel and G. B. Pant, too, found the evidence true and
charge-sheets were served on the Communist members. The CPI had
submitted to the government that its work against the Congress
workers was so good that concessions and facilities it received
were given to it solely on the basis of its performance.

But even worse than the betrayal of the Quit India Movement was
the Communist support to the Muslim League in its demand for
partition of the country. P. C. Joshi felt impelled to support
the League in its demand for the vivisection of India. The
Communist thesis was that (a) India is not one nation but a
collection of several separate nationalities; (b) the demand for
Pakistan is just and democratic (c) the Muslim League is
progressive and secular; and finally, (d) the Congress must
concede to the Muslims their right to self-determination. The
CPI, as Chaudhari has pointed out, complimented itself on how
Muslims were flocking to it because of its espousing the demand
for Pakistan.

Incidentally, Muslim Leaguers in Bombay did not betray the
Congress in the sense the Communists did. Says Chaudhari: "A
scrutiny of documentary evidence in the form of Bombay Congress
Bulletins and newspapers makes it amply clear that no Muslim in
Bombay was found to help the CID in the matter of investigation
of sabotage activity or arrest of Congressmen as was done by the
Communists". Indeed, it is said congregations of Bombay Muslims
were praying for Gandhiji's life during his epic fast. A good
many Muslims suffered imprisonment during the Quit India
Movement. Nor did the Hindu Mahasabha betray the Congress as the
Communists did. On the contrary, several Sabha members did
participate in the movement in their individual capacities,
while others helped underground workers in many ways.

What Communists did to disrupt law and order in Telengana after
independence is another story. Is this the party that the
Congress would wish to team up with to form a new government?
Sonia Gandhi should beware of traitors, who think of the Soviet
Union first and then of China.

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