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A.K. Damodaran

By Suhash Chakravarty
India Research Press, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 816, price not stated.


This is the third volume in an ambitious project to analyse the history of the Indian Freedom Movement in the metropolitan country, Great Britain, from the late twenties to the attainment of Independence. The first two volumes dealt with Krishna Menon’s evolution as a social activist and intellectual through various phases—boy scout leader, voluntary theosophist, and a very young probationary political activist in Britain. These volumes take us upto 1932, a few months after the Second Round Table conference, in which Gandhiji played the major role. That volume was most memorable for Krishna Menon’s personal contribution to supporting Gandhiji in London at a difficult moment. In this third volume, from 1932-1936, we see the India League developing into an important political organization in the United Kingdom, fully a part of the establishment, but carefully cultivating the dissentient voices, particularly in the Labour Party, on the central topic of British colonialism in India. Towards the end of the present volume Jawaharlal Nehru, who had been in prison most of the period, comes out of jail and becomes a friend and colleague of Krishna Menon, during his visit to Europe on a purely personal matter—the illness of his wife. The next volume promises to be eventful in the first three years before the beginning of the Second World War, both in the development of Krishna Menon as a major figure in the elite intellectual circles of London, as well as an important participant in the European struggle against authoritarianism.   It was during the early thirties that the India League became a major factor in political propaganda in Britain. Krishna Menon organized a team of young people and published a journal to acquaint the British public about the developments in India. This was a period of some activity on the part of the ruling establishment in Britain and in India—the lengthy period of preparing for a semi-independent Federation, in which the “Native States” would also be involved. There was a detailed controversy about the future of the British Administration, in which the Secretary of State, Samuel Hoare, and the Viceroy in Delhi, Willingdon, were active in an aggressively partisan manner. To oppose them, Krishna Menon had successfully attracted distinguished British intellectuals like Bertrand Russell, the Chairman of the India League at this time, Professor Harold Laski, and the great labour politician, George Lansbury.   In India, there was a vacuum ...

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