World War I was the first major global war in which the European powers were involved after they had annexed countries in Africa and Asia. How that war was fought on the back of the soldiers from the colonized countries is indeed very interesting. We will look at how the British used kid-soldiers from India to fight their wars in France against Germany. But first, a context into the perfidy on India’s own and their collusion that led to thousands of deaths!
Gandhi and his hypocrisy
In a leaflet titled “Appeal for Enlistment”, issued before World War I, Gandhi wrote:
To bring about such a state of things we should have the ability to defend ourselves, that is, the ability to bear arms and to use them… If we want to learn the use of arms with the greatest possible dispatch, it is our duty to enlist ourselves in the army.
Gandhi wanted Indians to get military training so they could fight for freedom some day.
Home Rule without military power was useless, and this was the best opportunity to get it
Quite interesting for someone who is fabled to have given India its freedom via non-violence. One is often struck if Gandhi was a schizophrenic or not for in 1931, Gandhi went on to say –
I would like to repeat to the world, times without number, that I will not purchase my country’s freedom at the cost of non-violence.
What a turn-around for someone who is known as the paragon of virtues. What disturbs one about Gandhi the most is his complete, complicit and pathological carelessness when it came to caring for other’s lives – specially those who believed in his utterances and were ready to follow him and his commands. All those who followed Gandhi’s logic and enrolled for the World War I and got killed, some even kids, were doing a meaningless deed specifically when the one who was extolling the need for military preparation did not mean even one word of what he said. In the deepest parts of his spirit he had NO such intention ever! He just pushed these innocent and believing idiots to their deaths. For no gain at all! That is the real face of a miserable man who pretended to be a leader but was a “butcher by proxy”!
1.1 million Indians served in the World War I along with the British and 74,187 died. Almost 67,000 got wounded. That is why the obvious question – if Gandhi did not wish to “purchase” India’s freedom “at the cost of non-violence, then did he push over 74,000 – many of them kids – to their deaths or a life of without limbs knowingly?
British used kid-soldiers in World War I
What one finds really disturbing is that even kids were used by the British to fight in World War I from India. Kids as young as 10 years were used as canon fodder. In a book titled “For King and Another Country: Indian Soldiers on the Western Front 1914-18”, Shrabani Basu shares how kids as young as 10 and 12 years were part of the cavalry units and were wounded as well.
They were paid a monthly salary of Rs 11.
In one dispatch to Lord Kitchener, secretary of state for war, Sir Walter Lawrence, a civil servant tasked with overseeing injured Indian troops, wrote: “It seems a great pity that children should have been allowed to come to Europe.”
Most of these youngsters fought in France against German troops. One of the Gurkha kids, known as “brave little Gurkha” – named Pim (16 years old) got rewarded by Queen Mary while they recuperated at Dome Hospital. Here are Bal Bahadur and Pim Bahadur (in the picture below) – both were injured by a shell which killed 6 and wounded 10 others on November 18. Bal Bahadur lost his left arm and had his right thigh shattered, while Pim’s right leg was lost.
What one finds incredible is that in the official description of the picture, no mention has been made of the fact that they were kids!
Featured Image: Kids recuperating in Brighton, England with limbs gone (Picture taken by H. D. Girdwood / courtesy British Library archives)