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WHY DID THE BRITISH LEAVE INDIA IN SUCH A GREAT HURRY IN 1947 – THE REAL REASON STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH


Left: Lord Atlee; Right: Letter written by Justice Chakraborty


© Utpal Aich

Lord Clement Richard Attlee, who was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from July 26, 1945, to October 26, 1951, paid a private visit to India with his wife Countess Violet Helen Attlee from October 12 to November 5, 1956 [N1].  During his visit to Calcutta, he stayed for two days in the Raj Bhavan on October 21 and 22, 1956. 

It was Mr. Clement Attlee, who oversaw the so-called independence of India and Pakistan in 1947 and the British withdrawal. As the Prime Minister, it was he who had introduced the Indian Independence Bill in the British Parliament. So, he was the most knowledgeable person from among the British who was responsible for granting Dominion Status to India and Pakistan in 1947. 

When Mr. Attlee came to Calcutta in October 1956 Hon’ble Justice Phani Bhusan Chakravartti, the then Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, was the acting Governor of West Bengal [N2]. While the former British Premier and his wife were guests for two days (October 21 -22, 1956) in the Raj Bhavan, the Governor’s residence in Calcutta (now Kolkata), Justice P.B. Chakravartti, their host, asked Clement Attlee the actual reason for the hasty withdrawal of the British from India in August 1947 and Earl Attlee divulged to the Acting Governor the main reasons. MR. ATTLEE TOLD JUSTICE CHAKRAVARTTI THAT THE LOSS OF TRUST IN THE LOYALTY OF THE INDIAN ARMY WAS THE MAIN FACTOR BEHIND THEIR DECISION TO LEAVE INDIA IN SUCH A HURRY IN 1947.

JUSTICE CHAKRAVARTTI THEN SPECIFICALLY ASKED WHAT WAS THE EXTENT OF INFLUENCE OF MR. GANDHI’S ACTIVITIES BEHIND THE DECISION OF THE BRITISH TO QUIT INDIA.  MR. ATTLEE REPLIED TO THIS QUESTION BY UTTERING THE WORD “M-I-NI-MAL”, WITH DISTAIN, VERY SLOWLY. 

JUSTICE PHANI BHUSHAN CHAKRAVARTTI’S FAMOUS LETTER
Hon’ble Justice Phani Bhushan Chakravartti (1898 – 1981), former Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court from 1952 to 1958, had written a letter on MARCH 30, 1976, to the publisher (Shri Sureshchandra Das) of Dr. R.C. Majumdar’s book titled “The History of Bengal”.  A facsimile copy of that letter was published by Dr. R.C. Majumdar in 1978, in the appendix of his autobiographical book in Bengali, titled “Jibaner Smritideepe”. A scanned copy of that letter, written in Bengali, is attached to this Post. Though most of you have read various translated versions of that letter or part of that letter, I append below a literal English translation of the facsimile-manuscript-page, done by me as faithfully as possible: 

“DR. MAJUMDAR HAS WRITTEN IN THE PREFACE OF THE BOOK THAT HE COULD NOT ACCEPT THE OPINION THAT INDEPENDENCE OF INDIA WAS THE RESULT OF SOLELY OR PRIMARILY OF THE NON-VIOLENT NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT. WHEN I WAS THE ACTING GOVERNOR, THAT VERY LORD ATTLEE, WHO HAD GRANTED US INDEPENDENCE BY WITHDRAWING THE BRITISH RULE FROM INDIA, PUT UP FOR TWO DAYS AT RAJ BHAVAN IN CALCUTTA DURING HIS TOUR TO INDIA.  THEN, I HAD A PROTRACTED DISCUSSION WITH HIM ABOUT THE REAL REASON FOR THE BRITISH TO LEAVE INDIA.  I ASKED HIM POINT-BLANK THAT GANDHI’S QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT HAD DWINDLED LONG BEFORE 1947.  IN 1947, THERE EXISTED NO SUCH COMPELLING SITUATION THAT NECESSITATED THE SPEEDY RETREAT OF THE BRITISH FROM INDIA, WHY DID THEY THEN LEAVE?  IN REPLY, ATTLEE CITED A FEW REASONS.  THE PRINCIPAL AMONG THESE WAS NETAJI SUBHAS CHANDRA BOSE CAUSING THE EROSION OF THE VERY FOUNDATION OF ALLEGIANCE OF THE INDIAN ARMY AND NAVY PERSONNEL TOWARDS THE BRITISH RULE.  TOWARDS THE END OF THE DISCUSSION, I ASKED LORD ATTLEE AS TO WHAT WAS THE EXTENT OF INFLUENCE OF GANDHI’S ACTIVITIES BEHIND THE DECISION OF THE BRITISH TO QUIT INDIA.  ON HEARING THIS QUESTION, THE LIPS OF ATTLEE WIDENED IN A SNEER OF DISDAIN AND HE UTTERED SLOWLY “M-I-NI-MAL.”

“I NARRATED THAT CONVERSATION OF MINE WITH LORD ATTLEE, IN DETAILS, IN A LECTURE AT NETAJI BHAVAN.  ALL INDIA RADIO HAD BROADCAST THE NARRATIVE OF THAT SPEECH, BUT ONLY AFTER CENSORING THE WORDS OF ATTLEE ON NETAJI.”

CORROBORATION BY HISTORIAN BARUN DE
Justice Phani Bhusan Chakravartti was an honourable person. But in case anybody has any doubt of his famous narration of what Lord Attlee had divulged to him, here below is a less known corroboration. 

Historian Barun De (b. October 30, 1932, - d. July 16, 2013) got the aforesaid statement of Lord Attlee, as narrated to Acting Governor Justice P.B. Chakravartti, confirmed from the former Prime Minister of United Kingdom himself. Prof. Barun De was then doing his D.Phil. in Indian History at Nuffield College, Oxford, when one morning in 1960, he found Earl Clement Richard Attlee breakfasting at the Nuffield College cafeteria sitting opposite to him.  Clement Attlee was an Honorary Fellow of Nuffield. On being asked, Clement Attlee repeated to him exactly what he had narrated to Justice P.B. Chakravartti [N4].

Shri Barun De had written about this meeting of his in an article which was published on page 13 of The Telegraph newspaper, of January 30, 2007. He narrated this incident matter-of-factly in the following way: “Attlee himself told an acting governor in Calcutta’s Raj Bhavan in 1956 that, compared to the role of Subhas Bose and the Indian National Army as a force to make the British to quit, Gandhi’s role had been “minimal”. He repeated this .... to myself in 1960, one morning in Nuffield College, Oxford."  Prof. Barun De also writes that Attlee was an Honorary Fellow of Nuffield, and, he was, that morning, breakfasting, sitting opposite to him, "with glasses of hot water and a small cup of oatmeal porridge."  Interested readers and doubting Thomases may like to look it up in the archives of The Telegraph newspaper. 

GAG ORDER ON NETAJI IN THE ALL INDIA RADIO 
As diligent readers must have noted, Justice Phani Bhusan Chakravartti had mentioned in the last paragraph of his letter dated March 30, 1976, that All India Radio had broadcast the contents of his speech only after censoring the name and words of Mr. Clement Attlee [N5].

CORROBORATION THAT JUSTICE P.B. CHAKRAVARTTI HAD IN FACT NARRATED HIS INTERACTIONS WITH EARL ATTLEE  AT THE NETAJI BHAVAN
That retired Justice P.B. Chakravartti had narrated his conversation with Clement Attlee during his speech at the Netaji Bhavan on January 23, 1963, is corroborated by many, including Shri Biswanath Bose who has narrated this meeting in details [N6]. 

NOTES:
1. Clement Attlee, by then, had been elevated to the peerage to take his seat in the House of Lords as Earl Attlee and Viscount Prestwood on December 16, 1955. So when he visited India in 1956, he was Earl Clement Richard Attlee. 
2. Hon’ble Justice Phani Bhusan Chakravartti, the then Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court, was appointed the Acting Governor of West Bengal when the incumbent Governor Dr. Harendra Coomar Mookerjee breathed his last on August 7, 1956, while in office. Justice Chakravartti remained the Acting Governor for a little less than three months till Ms. Padmaja Naidu was appointed and took oath of office as the Governor of West Bengal on November 3, 1956. During this period, Justice Chakravartti continued to live in his Chief Justice’s residence only. But he entertained guests at the Raj Bhawan as the Acting Governor of West Bengal. 
3. Justice P.B. Chakravartti narrated his conversation with Earl Attlee to many people including historian Dr. Ramesh Chandra Majumdar, Shri Barun De, and others from November 1956 till his demise in 1981.
4. Shri Barun De, who was doing D. Phil. in History under the supervision of Dr. C.C. Davies, accidentally met Earl Clement Attlee in 1960 in the cafeteria of Nuffield College, Oxford. On being queried, Earl Attlee reconfirmed to Shri Barun De what he had earlier narrated to Justice P.B. Chakravartti.
5. In her book titled “Judgement, No Crash, No Death’,  Lt. Manwati Arya of Rani Jhansi Regiment, INA, did confirm that ‘Pandit’ Jawaharlal Nehru had issued orders for censorship of Netaji’s name on the All India Radio (AIR).  
6. Shri Biswanath Bose was a former Royal Indian Navy (RIN) rating (one of the non-commissioned sailors of the RIN)  and one of the leaders of the RIN Mutiny. He published his book titled “RIN Mutiny : 1946 (Reference & Guide for All)” in 1988 by Northern Book Centre, New Delhi. He has narrated at page 22 of his book the meeting at Netaji Bhawan on January 23, 1963, in great details. 

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