Westerners support Indian independence

Western Fighters for India’s Freedom
By Ramachandra Guha

Mohandas Gandhi said, “A foreigner deserves to be welcomed only when he mixes with the natives like sugar and milk,” said Mohandas Gandhi in this poignant book. Indian historian Ramachandra Guha. The Guha chronicles the lives of seven Westerners, each of whom left Europe or the United States to aid India’s struggle for independence against the British Raj.

Guha calls them “rebels” and likens them to the International Brigades of the Spanish Civil War, but this leaves the reader unsatisfied as no danger awaits these travelers to India. Degree. Subhas Chandra Bose, who raised an army to challenge Raj, is hardly mentioned here. Instead, Guha’s chosen subjects in “Rebels Against the Raj” were largely inspired by Gandhi’s nonviolence. satyagraha the riots.

The result is a curator’s egg, with some biographical portraits proving more compelling than others. Those among the insurgents who witnessed the drama of the struggle for independence serve to tell more compelling stories than those who ran the ashrams in post-independence India, after honoring the Gandhi’s message.

One of the more fascinating stories is that of the social reformer Annie Besant, who saw the common cause between India’s struggle for independence and Ireland’s struggle with the British Empire. “Once she has chosen to be an Indian, she will be an Indian all the way,” Guha wrote. She was older than Gandhi, which made her interactions with the soon-to-be Mahatma particularly engaging.

Another romantic soul among Guha’s characters is Samuel Stokes, a Quaker from Philadelphia who identified Gandhi’s cause, settled in India, changed his name to Satyanand Stokes, and converted to Hinduism. . In a lengthy letter written before the outbreak of World War II, Stokes challenged Gandhi’s position on nonviolence by offering reasons for the Indians to side with Britain against Germany and Japan. “You and her allies represent the old wave of imperialism as opposed to the new wave that is threatening the world,” Stokes told Gandhi. Unlike the British, he said, the Nazis “have shown themselves to be capable of maximum ruthlessness.” When Gandhi replied two months later, in June 1939, he explained his philosophical differences with Stokes but Guha wrote, “unresponsive to what might be bigger the question raised by Stokes – what is the fundamental difference between German imperialism and British imperialism. ”

A rebel might be familiar to a wider audience than Madeleine Slade, called Mira. She came from England, was treated like a daughter by Gandhi and became his disciple in the struggle for independence. Decades later, at the age of nearly 90, she was consulted by Richard Attenborough as he researched her Gandhi biopic, and was featured in the film in a pivotal role alongside Gandhi.

Lesser known is Philip Spratt, the British Communist, who arrived in India in 1927, helped found the Communist Party of India and was imprisoned by the British authorities. Many readers may find Spratt’s early conspiracies interesting, but his later life as a writer on socialism in India is less compelling.

Guha’s earlier writings have regarded him as an excellent chronicler of India’s modern history. His latest volume offers fresh perspectives on the independence struggle that will appeal to those looking for lesser-known eyewitness accounts. And since the book’s protagonists were born outside of India, “The Rebels Against the Raj” was able to forge relationships with contemporaries outsiders who themselves have been historically influenced. and the culture of India charm.

But the book has a broader message: Guha is being demoralized by India’s current shift towards Hindu nationalism. He wrote: “It is said that the Hindus will now become the Vishwa Guru of the world, the teachers for the rest of humanity. They seem to have nothing to learn or gain from the world. For Guha, this is a complete misconception: It ignores the extent to which the outside world has given modern India.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/books/review/ramachandra-guha-rebels-against-the-raj.html Westerners support Indian independence

Fry Electronics Team

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