Nirad C Chaudhri lived during the time of India’s freedom struggle and had recorded his experiences in the book: Thy Hand Great Anarch. He was a refined man who supported the British regime and was very critical of the fight for freedom.
He begins his memoirs by recording his life as an employee. Having failed his master’s degree, he was unable to get another job. He criticizes the Non-Cooperation Movement saying that it was a massive brainwashing of the people. The non-cooperation movement was a civil disobedience movement started by Mahatma Gandhi to drive the British out of India. The non-cooperation movement included the withdrawal of indigenous people from work areas and civil protest. The aim of the non-cooperation movement was to paralyze the British government. The agitators were illiterate and Chaudhri records one case in which he was physically harassed by uncooperative agitators.
After the Non-Cooperation Movement came the Chauri Cahuri incident when an angry mob set fire to a police station and burned British policemen to death. So Gandhi withdrew the non-cooperation movement. This was followed by the massacre of the Jalian Wallah Bagh incident, where peaceful protesters gathered and were shot dead on the orders of Colonel Dyer. This brutal murder was met with a storm of protests in the country.
Then came the Simon Commission to placate the Indians and offer partial autonomy to India. The Simon Commission met hostile resistance. People waved banners saying “Simon come back” and burned effigies. After the Simon Commission, Gandhi adopted the Salt Satyagraha in Dandi, where people marched to the shores of the sea to make salt. This was done in protest against the severe taxes imposed on commodities by the British. For Chaudhri: Gandhi was not an apostle of peace and he indulged in moral and psychological violence.
The times leading up to independence were tough for India. There was a lot of causation. The British were fed up with ruling India, so they decided to leave. Lord Mount Batten was appointed British representative in India. Along with India, the Muslims of Pakistan wanted a separate nation. Jinnah was vociferous in creating Pakistan. Gandhi was very disturbed. Independent India was beset by many troubles. They were unemployment, poverty, death and hunger. Nehru decided to make India a socialist country.
Chaudhri’s struggle is so poignantly described in pristine language. For the average India, life was uncomfortable. The British exploited India’s economy by taking away its resources and bringing in finished goods. The cottage and cottage industries, the backbone of the Indian economy, were seriously in a ditch. A positive development of British rule in India was the spread of the vernacular press on the development of the railways. The railroads united the country. Post-independence India was one of the quarrelsome princely states. It was the iron man of India Sardar Vallabhai Patel who united India and made it one country. The press played an important role in spreading the gospel of freedom. The partition of India and the creation of Pakistan created many problems. There was a massive exodus of refugees from Pakistan to India and from India to Pakistan.
Chaudhri’s work is highly philosophical and literary, synthesizing India and its confusion in a political catharsis. Nehru commented in his opening speech that we have had a date with destiny. When the world sleeps, India will awaken to freedom. Chaudhri’s wonderful interpretation of the political and cultural landscape of India is essential reading.