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How England Lost India: It Was Not Due to Gandhi

Updated on January 27, 2020
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A senior air warrior, graduate from the Staff College and a PG in military studies. He is qualified to write on war and allied matters.


The British ruled India for nearly 200 years. At that time, the British concept was articulated by Kipling, who in a poem spoke of the "white man burden". The British made themselves comfortable and established sinews of administration and communication to make it easier for them to rule India. Thus, the rail, the post, and the army were established. The most important of these was the army which was the lynchpin of the British rule in India. The British at that assumed they would rule India for at least another 500 years and all their plans were with that in mind. They did develop India, but the aim was to control India better which was the brightest jewel in the crown of the Empire.

Winston Churchill, when asked about the freedom of India replied that he had not become the first minister in the King's cabinet to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire. This about sums up the British attitude. , Yet within 2 years of his defeat at the hustings after the end of World War II, the British packed their bags and left India for good. They administered a parting kick by dividing India into religious lines and created the State of Pakistan.

The British were clever and allowed Gandhi and his civil disobedience movement to carry on. This was a ploy as they were aware that Gandhi's movement was harmless as he believed in non-violence. They were confident that Gandhi could be handled and they cleverly allowed him to run around the country, secure that he would not topple them. It should not be forgotten that in India the British did have a degree of support from the maharajas and the landed gentry who had benefitted from English rule.

Concept of white supremacy
Concept of white supremacy
Royalty supported the Raj
Royalty supported the Raj
A regal life for the English
A regal life for the English

Decision to Leave India

In the thirties of the last century, there was not even a whiff of air that the British would ever leave India. All plans by the British were in the fond belief that India would remain a British colony. Even the First World War had no effect and the support of Indian princes and maharajahs, as well as support from the Congress party, allowed the English to not only win the war, but consolidate their rule over India.

Gandhi was an enigma but the British had assessed him properly. He was a narcissist and he was loathed to rock the boat of British power in case it went against his principle of nonviolence. Thus, even when the revolutionary Bhagat Singh was awarded the death sentence and hanged in the middle of the night, Gandhi was silent and in a way acquiesced with the actions of the Raj. It is worth recounting that earlier Gandhi was awarded 3 medals by the British while in South Africa. The most notable being The Kaiser-i-Hind Medal, a medal awarded by the British monarch for exemplary service to the crown.

One man, however, became a fly in the ointment and he was the firebrand leader Subhas Chandra Bose. He opposed Gandhi and defeated his nominee in the election to the post of Congress party President. Bose was more popular than Gandhi at that stage so Gandhi to consolidate his power started a non-cooperation movement against Bose and a disgusted Bose quit the Congress party. Bose was promptly arrested, but he escaped and made his way to Germany where he joined Hitler and the Axis powers. Later he was ferried in a German U-Boat to japan and there took command of the Azad Hind Fauj( Indian National Army).

The formation of the INA from captured Indian POWs was a shock to the English and this more than anything unnerved them, as they now realized that the army their main source of controlling India was suspect.

The end of the war saw an emaciated England devoid of resources. There were mutinies in the Indian Navy and army and the British just did not have the wherewithal to control India. They were also not sure about Bose, who many assumed had escaped to Russia and Stalin. The disaffection in the army fired by the charisma of Bose now became an anchor around the neck of the English. Churchill had been defeated and the new premier of the Labour Party decided to leave India.

Bose the military leader
Bose the military leader

The Last Bugle

The fear of Bose and the suspect loyalty of the Indian armed forces forced the hands of Lord Attlee. He decided to leave India gracefully, though many maharajahs implored him to stay on. In real effect, the victory over Hitler was a pyrrhic victory and it resulted in England being drained as well as releasing forces like disaffection in the British Indian army.The Royal Indian Navy Mutiny in 1945 end was another nail in the coffin of the Raj.

Gandhi and the Congress were surprised at the British decision to quit India. But in no time, Gandhi donned the garb of having won freedom from India. He conveniently forgot he had been agitating for 3 decades without any result, yet his followers began to tout thatGandhii had expelled the English from India.

The British as a parting kick divided India into two states by creation of Pakistan. This demand had been non existent just 2 years back.History has an uncanny habit of levelling the odds and after the exit from India the British are on a downward spiral. The British Empire broke and there is agood chance that the United Kingdom may also break. Who knows what will happen, but the eclipse of England began after they were forced to exit India.

The Raj was fun for the English
The Raj was fun for the English

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