Andrews on the Doherty Murder

Andrews on the Doherty Murder


by Col. G.B. Singh: regarding the Doherty murder.

From the postcript to Chapter 28 of “Gandhi: Behind the Mask of Divinity.”

While in a cozy habit of touring many countries, C.F. Andrews was in the United States, precisely at the time, when “After Mother India” was published. Obviously he read it, and wrote a rebuttal to the editors of the New Republic, magazine at the time published from New York City. I reproduce here his comments that deal with Mr. Doherty’s murder:

There is one chapter in this book, called “The Messenger,” which has nothing to do with “Mother India” itself, but is a deliberate and provocative attack on Mahatma Gandhi’s private character. It charges Mr. Gandhi with offering hush-money on a certain tragic occasion to an American widow in Bombay, whose husband was murdered brutally in a riot in that city. What Mr. Gandhi really did (as I know fully well) was to offer the poor widow compensation as a token of deep regret from the Indian people, who had been intensely shocked by the crime that had been committed. He spoke out at once himself in the plainest possible manner in his own paper, “Young India,” about the brutality of the crime and did a public penance for it, news of which was published abroad all over the world. How could he then have offered hush-money? Even in saying so much, I feel guilty of an impertinence. For the personal character of Mahatma Gandhi needs no defense from me against such an attack based on an affidavit signed many years after the occurrence without any cross-examination or verification. Surely it is quite time that all this mud-slinging came to an end! (New Republic 61: 199-200, January 8, 1930)

Inherent in the above comments, there are problems:

  1. Andrews says that Gandhi was not giving hush-money; rather compensating the widow as a “token of deep regret from the Indian people.” He goes on to say that because of this crime, the Indian people were “intensely shocked.” Andrews gives us the appearance of himself as a reliable witness since he says he “know[s] fully well.” In what manner did he know of the incident? Did Gandhi and/or his associates tell Andrews? Questions such as these are relevant and important in light of the fact that the record shows that during the time of murder and its cover up, Andrews wasn’t in Bombay or even in India. In fact he was touring Kenya in East Africa.
  2. Andrews says that Gandhi “spoke out at once himself in the plainest possible manner in his own paper, ‘Young India,’ about the brutality of the crime and did a public penance for it, news of which was published abroad all over the world.” Knowing that Andrews wasn’t in India at the time of the murder, why was he laboriously trying to exonerate Gandhi using such a weighty rhetoric? How did he know of Gandhi’s above statement? Did Andrews read for himself an account written in “Young India”? The record shows that Gandhi failed to record anything in “Young India” on this particular murder. Did Andrews lie and if so was it deliberate and what was its purpose? Before we go further on Andrews letter to the New Republic, let us examine some more facts that have a direct bearing on the matter under discussion:

a. In 1930, one of Andrews’s books on Gandhi was published under the title, “Mahatma Gandhi’s Ideas.” This book has a chapter “The Bombay Riots” which runs from pages 276 to 289. Since this chapter was written before Andrews letter to the New Republic, one would think that if Andrews knew of this murder he would have mentioned it in this book. He didn’t. Also in this chapter, Andrews reproduced Gandhi’s statements delivered as recorded in “Young India,” which of course didn’t mention a word on the murder case of Mr. Doherty. Here is an interesting point: Andrews knew that Gandhi never uttered a single word on the murder case in “Young India,” and yet in spite of that, Andrews seemed to have had no moral qualms in telling a lie in his letter to the New Republic. How much money did Gandhi offer to Mrs. Doherty? Where and when did Gandhi collect money while allegedly living under a vow of poverty? Did the Indian people give Gandhi the authority to represent them to compensate the victim(s)? Did Mrs. Doherty take the money? If not, is there an explanation?

b. At the same time of writing a letter to the New Republic, Andrews authored an article titled, “Heart-Beats in India” for Asia magazine (March 1930, pp. 196-217) also published from New York City. Not a single word crossed Andrews’s pen regarding the murder case.

Harry H. Field, author of “After Mother India,” responded in his letter to the New Republic:

I pass over the rest of Andrews’ letter as of a class with that already noted, with the exception of his scornful sweeping away of the sworn affidavit of the widow of that fine young American engineer brutally murdered by Mr. Gandhi’s followers in Bombay in November, 1921. Your readers, I think, will want something better than Mr. Andrews’ statement as evidence that an American woman, widow of a Stanford University graduate, and still in possession of her sanity, can forget, in the brief interval of nine years, the peculiarly hideous circumstances attending her husband’s murder, and the ordeal through which she then lived. (New Republic 61: 303-04, February 5, 1930)

It is obvious Field didn’t know the details of Andrews’s lies. Even so, I believe Field addressed it quite well that readers like us deserved something better than what Andrews presented. Amazingly, Andrews responded in his second letter with the following words:

With regard to Mr. Gandhi, let me repeat that his moral character needs no defense from me in respect to the gratuitous attack Mr. Field has brought against him. (New Republic 61: 304, February 5, 1930)

It seems Andrews decided to shirk out of the controversy that he himself opened in the first place. Why wouldn’t Andrews put forth a defense of Gandhi? After all, in his first letter to New Republic, that’s exactly what he did: defend Gandhi’s private character. Surprisingly in his second letter, he withdraws from the argument as if nothing further is worth fighting for. Had he so desired to protect Gandhi, Andrews could have opted to meet Mrs. Doherty in person while he was visiting the United States.

Interestingly, Andrews continues to write in his first letter:

Tagore and Gandhi represent the noblest among the saintly characters in India today, and their names have a world reputation which cannot possibly be smirched by writers such as these. Yet, all the same, the harm that has been done to international relations by slanderous books of this character is incalculable. They are increasingly stirring up bitterness against America itself in the hearts of young Indian readers, who find it difficult to discriminate between Miss Mayo and her own fellow countrymen. They lead inevitably to retaliation, and inoculate a new racial poison in the Indian mind. (New Republic 61: 199-200, January 8, 1930)

We know the book “After Mother India” (1929) was not introduced to Indian readers. We also know that Miss Mayo’s “Mother India” (1927) caused an uproar among the caste Hindus including Gandhi. It seems Andrews is blaming Mother India for stirring up bitterness and thus poisoning the Indians with racial hate. However, there is a problem here. You see the murder of Mr. Doherty occurred well before Mother India was published. It occurred in November 1921 and at this time there was no American book published to arouse the Indians to hate. Why blame an American connection, and why blame the author Miss Mayo for the murder of Mr. Doherty? In a height of incredible inconsistency, Andrews in his article “Heart-Beats in India” wrote the following words, “The passion for freedom has taken a racial as well as a national turn. There is no longer a mere tolerance of British rule, but a growing hatred of it, which cannot be restrained.” Here Andrews blamed not the Americans or the books they write; he blamed the British for inoculating racial hatred in the Indian minds. If Andrews’s words are accurate then I am wondering: How is it possible that the Indian people be “intensely shocked by the crime” when they hate whites and thus are prone to violence? Can we really rely on Andrews?

Another question arises: Did Andrews share his two letters to the New Republic with Gandhi? Andrews had ample opportunities to meet Gandhi and discuss various issues. Although I couldn’t find any evidence, I suspect Gandhi was aware of Andrews’s two letters and decided to keep silent himself and in all probability asked Andrews to exercise silence as well. In 1939, Andrews wrote another book titled, “The True India: A Plea for Understanding.” This book, as it turned out, was his rebuttal to Mayo’s “Mother India.” What was the need to rebut “Mother India” in 1939? In this book, Andrews availed every opportunity to protect Gandhi. And yet the place where Gandhi needed the most help to protect him was not in “Mother India” but in “After Mother India.” Incredibly, Andrews in his 1939 book distanced himself, and not a single word was written about the murder case as well as the name of “After Mother India,” or its author.

Conclusion: In my opinion, with respect to his two letters to the New Republic, Andrews wrote them without first consulting with Gandhi and took upon himself the mantle to protect Gandhi by telling lies and hoping nobody would be able to pick on them. I also believe that once Gandhi came to know of these two letters, he was not happy and instructed Andrews to keep silent from there on with respect to the murder case—Andrews followed those instructions faithfully. I believe Andrews exercised selective silence, a trait he probably learned from Gandhi.

After completing his North American tour, Andrews returned to London in May 1931 to prepare grounds for Gandhi’s arrival to attend the second Round Table Conference. During Andrews’s stay in London, I question how could he have missed this interview of Gandhi held in September 1931 with Cornelia Sorabji, herself an Indian lawyer? The Atlantic Monthly (April 1932 pages 453-58) provided the details under the title, “Gandhi Interrogated” where Sorabji, knowing Gandhi’s habit of slipping, pinned him down to answer difficult questions. Her efforts paid off when finally Gandhi confessed that he had been passing out the money to the criminal elements. Why? Obviously Gandhi meant to create chaos and bloodshed in India; though he hesitated to implicate himself in this part of the complicity. One wonders why Gandhi who allegedly had taken a vow of poverty and never earned an honest living was handing out cash bounties to the hoodlums during the entire 1920s and possibly beyond?

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