H C Singh

1939-47

I was born in Quetta (Baluchistan) in 1930 and had early education in Peshawar Cantt (NWFP) both provinces are now in Pakistan. Our entire family including myself were lucky that my respected father was transferred to Peshawar Cantt, just a couple of years before the worst ever earthquake in Indian subcontinent in which 80% of Quetta perished. In those days Peshawar was absolutely peaceful as it was ruled by Dr Khan Sahib as Congress Party’s chief Minister and his cabinet included Mehar Chand Khanna a devout Hindu and Ajit Singh sarhadi a devout Sikh. We as family members after 1939 used to listen to discussion about Indian Independence which my father used to have with other friends. We often heard the names of Mahatma Gandhi, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan known as Frontier Gandhi, Dr. Khan Sahib as well as Hindu and Sikh Ministers of NWFP. Often there was mention Subhash Bose and Saif Udin Kitchleu.

As children we used to participate in Congress processions from 1939 onwards led by one of the above mentioned leaders. Slogans like Mahatma Gandhi Zindabad, Inqlab Zindabad, Frontier Gandhi Zindabad, Hindustan Zindabad and Angrezo Hindustan Chhodo. We children just responded as loud as possible ‘Zindabad, Zindabad’.

In 1941 my respected father was transferred to Delhi and at the age of 11 I had for the first time glimpse of India’s capital Delhi as well as of independence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders of Congress Party. I vividly remember going to Gurdwara Sis Ganj in Chandani Chowk, Khooni Darwaza, Delhi Gate Cannaught place was very attractive vast and neat and clean; so was to an extent Jantar Mantar.Viceregal Lodge (now Rashtrapati Bhawan) and adjoining Central Secretariat and India Gate on Kingsway ( now Rajpath ) as children of 11-12 years we felt as if we were in paradise. All Delhi was quiet as there were no scooters, very few cars and only some buses. Tongas plied in old Delhi alone. Mostly office goers used to go on cycles or many on foot from nearby government quarters called squares which were hardly a mile from central Secretariat.
From Rabindra Nath Tagore Speech (Shantiniketan April 1941)

After delivering the speech at Shantiniketan in April 41 Tagore felt that his end was near and he criticized the western barbarity in the war as the British legacy of centuries rule over India:
“Thus while other countries were marching ahead, India smothered under the dead weight of British administration, lay static in her utter helplessness.”
About the death and destruction during Second World War Tagore was shocked and moved and in his speech shows how much he felt and the way he expressed his agony is proof of Nobel Laureates command over English as well as the events:
“In the meanwhile demon of barbarity has given up all pretense and has emerged with unconcealed fangs, ready to tear up humanity in an orgy of devastation. From one end of the world to the other the poisonous fumes of hatred darken the atmosphere. The spirit of violence which perhaps lay dormant in the psychology of the west, has at last roused itself and desecrates the spirit of Man.”
About India’s Independence which in his view in 1941 was quite near Tagore criticized the British administration of India as no Indian leader had done:
“The wheels of Fate will someday compel the English to give up their Indian empire. But what kind of India will they leave behind, what stark misery? When the stream of their centuries’ administration runs dry at last, what a waste of mud and filth they will leave behind them’, I had at no time believed that the springs of civilization would issue out of the heart of Europe. But today when I am about to quit the world that faith has gone bankrupt altogether.”
Had Tagore lived for six years more and had seen the British mischief of leaving India divided and killing of Lakhs of Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims he would have wept and cried.

Sixty seven years ago, when I was under 12, I had participated in the Quit India Movement for India’s Independence, when my school in New Delhi was closed and almost all the students left in the form of a procession towards Central Secretariat Via Baird Road and Gole Dakhana. I vividly remember our dismanteling the trenches on the sides of road and setting in fire the wooden structures and even uprooting a few letters boxes that were considered symbols of British Rule (Royal Mail service) On reaching Central Secritariat we raised slogans like “Inquilab Zindabad” and “Angrezo Bharat Chhodo”. There were rumours or news that police had opened fire in Chandani Chowk on those participating in Quit India Movement and Mahatma Gandhi and other leaders had been arrested.

August 25, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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