Gandhi, Congress and Second World War
The world was plunged into another great war in 1939. The clouds had been gathering for a long time. When the war broke out, Gandhi could not but come back again to the forefront of politics. We have to note that he supported Britain during the First World War. That was because of his commitment as a citizen of the British Empire.
In the Boer War too he supported the British out of his genuine feeling of loyalty to the Empire, though his sympathies were with the freedom struggle of the Boers. But now Gandhi made it clear that his sympathies were with the Allies.
It is needless to say that Gandhi was against all wars. He believed that all wars were wrong wholly. And yet Gandhi supported Britain, though this imperial power denied India its rightful demand for complete Indian independence.
There were many powerful leaders both in the Congress party and outside of it who thought the war provided a most opportune time for India to strike on Britain. For Gandhi such a stance would be unethical and against the spirit of non-violence.
He wrote in his journal reminding the people not to seek the independence of the country out of Britain’s miseries of a war and ruin. This resulted in a debate on the question of participation in the war efforts.
Some leaders thought it better to participate in the war efforts as an equal partner with Britain. Their argument was that Indian National Congress had already declared that complete independence was the goal. If the country participated in Britain’s war efforts as a part of its empire, the sanctity of the goal would be tarnished.
But Gandhi would not agree to the idea since it would mean advancing a condition; and conditional non-violence is not non-violence. And yet he thought it better to stand by the line the Congress took and pleaded with the British accordingly.