Tortuous history
R.L. Singal

Partners of British Rule: Liberators or Collaborators?
by Mohinder Singh Pannu. Allied Publishers, New Delhi. Pages 856. Price not stated.

Partners of British Rule: Liberators or Collaborators?THE sub-title of the book sums up in two words, liberators or collaborators, the author’s crucial query which he himself seems to answer—collaborators. According to the author, the Indian National Congress, the Muslim League and their allied political groups seemingly fighting for the country’s independence were in fact partners of the British rule. They were not liberators, only collaborators in the ignoble job. Their policies and activities strengthened the hands of the rulers and promoted their policy of "Divide and Rule" culminating in the country’s partition in 1947.

Those whose mission was decimating the British power were not Gandhi, Nehru or Jinnah but Baba Sohan Singh Bhakna of the Ghadr Party, Bhagat Singh of the Socialist Republican Party and Subhash Chander Bose of the Azad Hind Fauj to whom the book is dedicated. These three great revolutionaries and their companions and followers were the real torchbearers of liberation, according to the author.

The book attempts to analyse and synthesise the evolution of the politically operative factors, namely the British home politics, the British Indian Rule, the main Indian political parties and the Indian and the patriotic revolutionary movement symbolised by the great martyrs such as Sohan Singh Bhakna, Bhagat Singh Chandershekhar Azad et al. Bhagat Singh shot dead ASP Saunders on Dec 17, 1929 at Lahore. Saunders had only a month earlier brutally struck fatal lathi blows on Lala Lajpat Rai who was leading a massive demonstration against the Simon Commission. Those actions of Lala Lajpat Rai and Bhagat Singh were really the steps leading to our liberation, but Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent movement was misleading and fruitless. For example, the author ridicules Gandhi’s anti-salt law movement and opines: "There can be no political, peaceful or militant movement the motion of which does not lie in the discontent and the turmoil among the people against the rulers. But the salt tax was neither a public issue nor its repeal an excited demand of the masses."

Jinnah’s persistent and fanatical demand for a separate sovereign state of Pakistan for the Muslims of the subcontinent suited the British rulers’ policy of "Divide and Rule". Jinnah was blind to the fact that 37.93 per cent of the population in his proposed West Pakistan was non-Muslim, whereas in its proposed Eastern Wing (Bengal and Assam) the percentage of non-Muslims was 48.31 per cent, according to the 1941 census as recorded on page 771 of this book.

Highlighting the sufferings of the Ghadr Party and exposing the insignificant contribution of the Congress and almost nil of the Muslim League, the author writes: "The total period of the Congress Working Committee members in jails, including the maximum imprisonment of Nehru and Gandhi, is not equal to the one Ghadrite’s 33 years’ sentence, like thousands other apart from hundred’s hanging to confuse the constitutionally ignorant and politically backward semi-conscious masses to see their anti-revolutionary collaborating leadership as a freedom fighter for independence leadership."

Though the author has successfully proved his thesis that both the Congress and the League were collaborators in the British design to prolong their stay in India, and ultimately to divide the country (as Jinnah and his League conspired to do with British covert support) into two dominions, the book has not been meticulously planned and is replete with grammatical howlers. The narration makes reading both tortuous and torturous. It is simply exasperating. Take for example the following sentence on page 671 of the book as just one sample: "Bose started functioning as an Head of State and the Provisional Government of free India and the supreme Commander of the INA giving the perfect organisationally and disciplinary constitutional in the form of regular exile formal Indian Government having a regular formal Indian army in the form of Indian National Army". Who can understand such language?