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The threat of partition had become palpably real just as the great mass of Indians were pushing for independence. Protests over the trials of the Indian National Army rose to fever pitch, as Congress took up their cause. In Deshapriya Park in Calcutta 50,000 people rallied for the INA prisoners. In a speech on 16 August 1945 Nehru had called the INA fighters ‘misguided patriots’ – meaning that, whatever their differences with Congress, they were on the side of right. A popular pamphlet of the time made the point more force-fully, being titled ‘Patriots not Traitors’. The popular nationalist paper The Leader said that ‘the INA men fought for their country’s freedom and their countrymen will continue to look on them as national heroes’ (13 October 1945) Even the Muslim League gave its support to the prisoners. Only the Communist Party objected, so wedded was it to Britain’s war effort. The Communists’ paper, The People’s War worried in its editorial ‘in defending victims of British terror, can we ourselves afford to preach ideas and glorify elements whom we were pledged to resist as pro-fascists?’ (28 October 1945).13 On 5 November 1945 the trials began of Lieutenant Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon, Captain Prem Kumar Saghal and Captain Shah Nawaz Khan for murder or abetment to murder, and of waging war against the King.
Beyond the British Raj, across the Empire Indian Naval Ratings in Cochin China, the Andamans, Bahrain and Aden struck, so that 78 ships and 20,000 men took part in the mutiny. Later there were accusations that the Congress failed to support the strikes, but Madan Singh remembers that they did. The Muslim League by contrast, told the strikers to surrender.16 Yet more destructive for the British position was that a mutiny in the Royal Air Force had broken out just before the naval mutiny. British airmen who were angry at the government’s failure to repatriate them began a strike in Karachi. The strike spread across India and the Empire, taking in Ceylon and Singapore – 50,000 men took part, and the authorities were reluctant to try the men for mutiny. Wavell cabled Attlee in February about the RAF and the RNI actions: ‘I am afraid that example of the Royal Air Force, who got away with what was really a mutiny, has some responsibility for the present situation.’ 17 It was with this level of instability that the British Cabinet undertook a mission to India in March and April of 1946. The Cabinet were trying to square the circle of retaining control over a nation that was determined to be free. Lord Ismay told them that ‘from the military point of view it was as nearly vital as anything could be to ensure that India remained in the commonwealth’ 18 But as Attlee later admitted the Indian National Army agitation and the naval mutiny meant that the British Raj was finished.19 The Congress leaders had been disappointed by their supposed friends in the British Labour Party before, and it was not that encouraging that Stafford Cripps was part of the Cabinet Mission. The Labour Party had trouble accepting that India wanted to be free.
‘Bevin, like everyone else hates the idea of our leaving India’ he is ‘in reality imperialist’, said Viceroy Archibald Wavell of the British Foreign Secretary.20 The Cabinet Mission made two proposals, both of which made communal division the constitutional foundation. The first, in May proposed two autonomous regions, one predominantly Muslim in the North, and the other predominantly Hindu under a central government. This was vetoed by the Muslim League. The Second proposal in June was for partition, which was rejected by Congress.
Nehru made it clear that they would rule through the Constituent Assembly, unbound by any agreement. The Viceroy accepted that only Nehru could command the support to be First Minister and left him to try to form a cabinet.
In July the Muslim League Council voted to empower Jinnah to ‘resort to Direct Action to achieve Pakistan’. ‘Today we have said good-bye to constitutions and constitutional methods’, Jinnah announced, naming 16 August 1946 as ‘Direct Action’ day. When the day came Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Bengal’s Chief Minister and Muslim League member declared a ‘public holiday’ and all police and other officials were withdrawn from duties.
Gangs of Muslims attacked Hindus, and Hindus attacked Muslims. Thousands fled the city, and over the next ten days 10,000 people were murdered in Bengal alone. In October antiMuslim rioting began in Bihar again leading to an even greater number of deaths. Wavell argued that British forces should withdraw from Hindu India and defend Pakistan. By December Nehru was presiding over an Assembly whose Muslim League members had withdrawn.21 Early in 1947, as Lord Louis Mountbatten took over as Britain’s last Viceroy in India, Gandhi made a final plea to save India. He told Mountbatten to call on Jinnah to lead a government of all-India – but the Viceroy was not interested in saving India. Mountbatten’s goal was to divide India, and he directed all his charm into persuading Nehru to accept the premiership of a truncated state of Hindustan: he refused to pass on Gandhi’s offer to Jinnah.22 Having fomented the division between the Muslim League – which it had bolstered as a counter to Congress loyal to the war effort – and Congress, Britain stoked up the communal hostilities that would wreck Indian independence. Inter-communal violence was by no means a natural outcome of independence. Rather it was the product of Britain’s struggle to retain control by dividing the people against each other. In 1937 just three per cent of the population had voted for the Muslim League while most supported Congress – but that was before Britain’s protracted campaign to defeat Congress and to promote the League as a loyal alternative. The Indian Independence Act given the Royal Assent on 18 July 1947 divided the country in two. Inter-communal fighting was severe and 12.5 million people were uprooted, finding that they were on the wrong side of the border, either Hindus in Pakistan or Muslims in India. Estimates of those who died in the fighting that followed range from 500,000 to one million.
Chapter Twenty Nine The Defeated Powers under Occupation On the eve of the invasion of Germany Eisenhower was worried that the foreigners forced to work in German factories would revolt. In two radio appeals, on the 5th and 25th of September 1944 he told them first: ‘Do not let the Gestapo provoke you into unorganized action’ and ‘do all in your power to prevent the destruction of communication lines and industrial plants’. Then later: ‘The need of the moment is not for revolution, civil war and barricades.’ 1 Like Goebbels, Eisenhower feared an uprising by foreign workers for the simple reason that he was about to take Goebbels’ place as chief of security in Western Europe.
With the execution of von Stauffenberg and the July plotters Hitler had closed off all avenues for surrender as the Allies made it clear that there would be no armistice, only ‘unconditional surrender’. From the invasion of Normandy to the final battle for Berlin the cost in the lives of Allied and German troops was great. American troops met their Soviet counterparts on the Elbe on 25 April 1945. Four days later Hitler killed himself. The Russians beat the Americans in the race to Berlin. No civil authority survived the invasion and the Allies became by the new rulers of Germany. Administration of the conquered Reich was divided between Russian, American, British and later French zones.
Allied instructions to their troops demonised the German people. A paper on the ‘German Character’ by Brigadier W.E. van Cutsem distributed to all personnel in the British Occupation Zone warned that ‘Germans are not divided into good and bad Germans’, that ‘the sadistic trait is not peculiar to the Nazis’ and that ‘they exult death rather than life’. The American equivalent ‘occupation booklet’ told GIs that ‘before the German people can learn how to govern themselves’ they have to learn that ‘their acceptance of the Nazi leadership made their defeat necessary’ - not the defeat of the Nazi regime, not the liberation of the German people from the Nazi regime, but the defeat of the German people was needed.2 One way the occupying armies dominated the beaten Germans was to rape them. Rape was endemic. The soldiers of the Red Army raped thousands of German women – which crimes, as we have seen, were later assiduously documented by Federal Government officials seeking to overturn the perception of Germans as aggressors. Though it became a propaganda weapon against the Soviets, the evidence is that rape was indeed widespread.
Milovan Djilas remembered Stalin mocking him for raising the issue of Red Army rapes:
‘Can’t he understand the soldier who has gone through blood and fire and death, if he has fun with a woman or takes some trifle?’ 3 A US Army Intelligence Officer reported that There is a tendency among the naïve or the malicious to think that only the Russians loot and rape. After battle troops of every country are pretty much the same, and the warriors of Democracy were no more virtuous than the troops of Communism were reported to be.4
If you are a decent fellow, you demand a lot of love and you get it. If you are a pig, the girl is unlucky, but can’t say no anyway.5 Upon victory, the army of occupation suffered a severe collapse in discipline. There was, explains John Willoughby ‘an epidemic of crime’ among American GIs, as there was among their counterparts in the Soviet and British Armies occupying Germany, with ‘wanton killing, looting, and threats and assaults on German police and civilians’. In July 1945 the US Infantry payroll was $1 million, but GIs sent home $5 million. The process was called ‘liberating’, and that cars, furniture, apartments, watches were all fair game. Russian troops were partial to watches. Two American soldiers stole the Hessian Crown Jewels.6 War correspondent Leonard Mosley wrote that among the British too, it was ‘surprising how the looting fever attacked even the staidest members of the Army’.7 The Allied Command was not in a strong position to prevent looting, because the official Allied policy was to loot the German economy.