Indian Home Rule In World War II Essay Examples


World War II was one of the most destructive and dramatic events in human history, affecting nearly every country on the planet, regardless of whether or not they were actually engaged in conflict. Of no exception is the country of India, whose participation and hosting of American and Allied forces during World War II brought a problematic series of questions and political factors to the country. One of the biggest fights was the one to win hearts and minds in India; to that end, the United States took great pains to make themselves look like the “defender of democracy”to the Indian people through the use of propaganda (Pullin, p. 2). One of the biggest dilemmas that the Americans faced in bringing Indians onto their side in the war was that, as a country that historically fought against colonialism, they were asking Indians to side with the British, their colonial oppressors. As a result, their propaganda campaigns tended to ignore that particular subject and focus on demonizing the Japanese and building diplomatic relations with the West. However, these attempts to bring the Indians over to their side were stymied by the desire for Indian Home Rule, where India became wholly independent of Britain’s colonial occupation, as well as Gandhi’s philosophies regarding war and violence.

The Hind Swaraj, or Indian Home Rule, was written in 1909 by Mohandas Gandhi, and remains one of the most well-regarded tomes on civilization, the issues that humanity faces in the modern era, and other facets of philosophy. In it, Gandhi argues for complete independence from not only Britain, but from western civilization as a whole. It would not be enough for the English to back out of India, as India would still keep the trappings of English society. Instead, the inherent unhealthiness of western civilization is said to be its downfall, and so one only “has to be patient and it will be self destroyed” (Gahndi, p. 22). Gandhi proposed passive resistance as a means to achieve independence for India. Instead of just demonizing violence, he said that violence would actually make matters worse: “The force of love and pity is infinitely greater than the force of arms. There is harm in the exercise of brute force, never in that of pity” (Gandhi, p. 106). Part of this passive resistance involved cutting off all trade relations with the English, not giving them what they want and implicitly giving up their ownership and independence. “If you do not concede our demand,” he tells the British, “we shall be no longer your petitioners. You can govern us only so long as we remain the governed; we shall no longer have any dealings with you” (Gandhi, p. 106). Gandhi’s philosophies, especially as they pertained to the principles of Indian Home Rule, meant unequivocally yielding no quarter to anyone who would support the British colonialism and rule of their country in any way. This led to huge movements in India, including Gandhi’s own “Quit India” campaign, to remain uninvolved in the war, and vilifying both the oppression of the Nazis and the hypocritical ‘war for democracy’ waged by the British.

With the context of Indian Home Rule in mind, the Allies’ attempt to involve India in the Second World War is particularly interesting, as it pits the Indian desire for complete self-rule and autonomy with the Allies’ desire to win the war at any cost. Gandhi’s philosophies regarding war are fairly unqeuivocal; “Ultimately Gandhi’s objections to war and violence and his defense of nonviolence stemmed from his insistence that the quotidian and the mundane had to be evaluated for what they were, without leaning for support on some idealized reckonings of what they could be” (Mehta, p. 136). The idea of a “just war” did not fall into Gandhi’s definition of acceptable violence, as there was no acceptable form of violence.

While the majority of India seemed to fall in line and contribute to the war effort, the efforts of Mahatma Gandhi focused primarily on stopping the hypocrisy of entering a war to protect freedom, while their own freedoms were being diminished through Indian Home Rule not being fulfilled. “The philosophical grounds for Gandhi’s opposition to war and commitment to nonviolence cannot be integrated with the modern tradition that vouched for peace as a form of political idealism” (Mehta, p. 139). While Gandhi did not like war and violence, he was not necessarily an advocate of peace. For Gandhi, peace meant continued suppression of Indian Home Rule by the British; he just decided to win the fight in a different way than violence and warfare. His philosophy of nonviolence was his weapon, and his tactical strategies to sway others into breaking off trade relations with Britain was his way of striking back at their oppressors. No one would get hurt, but no one would be at peace, either. This particular distinction must be made when considering Gandhi’s role in Indian society during World War II.

Gandhi’s relationship to the aforementioned propaganda machine that was raging on the part of the Americans to bring Indians into the war was very hostile; he was “frustrated by diplomacy and propaganda,” and attempted to stymie these efforts to allow India to tacitly support the war effort (Pullin, p. 40). Due to the poor job by which America presented itself in terms of propaganda, as well as Gandhi’s “Quit India” campaign and his ideas of Indian Home Rule, India would have none of it, and attempted to maintain what little autonomy they could muster. While the Americans took great steps to encourage freedom and independence in India, their cooperation with the British as Allies meant that India could not truly ally themselves with them. This would fly in the face of Gandhi’s philosophy that even trade relations with Britain or its allies would tarnish their attempts to be completely self-ruled. During World War II, India had a quite difficult time working towards its independence, as they also had the Americans, enemies of colonialism, attempting to solicit help that would also benefit their oppressors. As a result, Gandhi openly resisted these attempts to great effect. While the Indian people as a whole did contribute greatly to the Allied war effort, the work of people like Gandhi sought to undo this relationship with both the British and the Americans, as they would not be party to World War II as long as it endangered the possibility of Indian Home Rule in the future.


Gandhi, M. (1922). Indian home rule (2nd ed.). Ganesan. Retrieved from,indian home
Pullin, E.D. (2010). “Noise and Flutter”: American Propaganda Strategy and Operation in India
during World War II. Diplomatic History, 34(2), 275-298. doi:10.1111/j.1467-
MEHTA, U. (2010). Gandhi and the Common Logic of War and Peace. Raritan, 30(1), 134-156.