‘When I met the Turks in Paris, in Switzerland and in Rome, they wondered how the same country that had dispatched a large army, which included so considerable a proportion of Musalmans, to fight against them could could also send a delegation like ours to plead for better terms for them after their defeat. When I solved the riddle for them by explaining the paradox that many of the Muslim warriors that were not afraid of the Turkish sword or the German gun and could pass months and years in these death traps called trenches, were yet afraid of the policeman’s truncheon and police lock-ups and prison cells, my Turkish friends told me that in that case I must take the first boat back to India, and instead of endevouring to prevent their enslavement, I should go and break the fetters of my own countrymen. “We have beaten the English”, they said, “on the soil of Turkey and in the Straits, but we could not keep at bay for ever your Indian hordes that pressed us hard in Palestine and in Mesopotamia. Once you are free and no Indian Muslim can any longer be driven to fight against the forces of the Khalifa, both Turkey and Islam will be safe. It is your duty to us as well as to yourselves that you first win freedom in your own country”. But they added: “Let not your Hindu and Sikh fellow-countrymen think that they owe a duty only to themselves and none to us. It is in order to keep them enslaved that British has forged such heavy chains for us”.”
-Excerpted from Mohammed Ali Jauhar’s address to the Indian National Congress Session, held in in Coconada, in 1923, in the capacity of Congress President. From the book, Ali Brothers, Role in Freedom Struggle, pp 196, 197
- At the Khilafat Conference held in Meerut, UP, in April 1921, it was resolved that the “Khilafat question was to be settled in India itself, Swaraj alone could solve problem. Indian Moslems should concentrate energies on winning freedom of India and then liberation of holy places would follow as natural course.” (Khilafat Movement in India, A. C. Niemeijer, page 114)
- For the records, it must be mentioned that most Indian Muslims who conscripted to join the British army were misled to believe they were to defend the Holy Lands against infidels.
- Also, please see my earlier post , which speaks of the uprising of 800 Indian Muslim soldiers, based in Singapore, who refused to fight their Caliph in Turkey.
- An interesting report in the Times of India, datelined Sep 10, 2014, details the bravery exhibited by Indian troops in the Gallipoli campaign, which the Turks eventually won, but goes on to mention that “69th and 89th Punjabis were withdrawn after a while on the grounds that they were Muslims and could have qualms bout fighting Muslim troops of the Ottoman Sultan”.
- A report in the Daily Sabah, datelined February 14, 2015, states, ‘The Singapore Mutiny was not the only pro-Ottoman mutiny of World War I. Less than a year later a similar mutiny erupted in the winter of 1915-1916 when over 400 members unit the Indian Army’s 15th Lancers, another majority Muslim unit refused to fight their Ottomans co-religionists during the Mesopotamia Campaign. Unlike in the Indian Army troops in Singapore the 15th Lancers were not raw recruits. The 15th Lancers had been involved in heavy fighting against Germany in 1914 in France at important battles including Neuve Chappelle, Aubers, Festubert, Loos and Messines Ridge among others. After the mutiny, the unit was sent to patrol bandits in Persia and reorganized after the war.
The report further says, “In 1915, Ottoman forces lay siege to the city of Kut. During the siege scores of Indian Army troops facing starvation in the garrison of all faiths deserted to Ottoman lines. When Kut surrendered in April 1916, the Ottomans captured 13,000 prisoners. A large number of Indian prisoners were formed into the Ottoman Indian Volunteer Corps. Indian Army soldiers who defected to the Central Powers would fuel the growing struggle for Indian independence.”