IN my last column, I wrote about Winston Churchill's dislike of Indians in general. Let me now turn to his dislike of one Indian in particular; Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. As an Englishman opposed to Indian independence, Churchill was naturally unsympathetic to the leader of the national movement. But there was more — it was the character of Gandhi, as much as the causes he fought for, that attracted Churchill's displeasure. There was a fundamental incompatibility not just of political ideas, but of personalities as well. As his biographer Robert Rhodes-James has pointed out, "the personal qualities, political capacity and national cause of Gandhi were (all) incomprehensible to Churchill."
Churchill's most famous, and famously abusive, words about Gandhi were spoken to an association obscure in its own time and wholly forgotten now.
It was while addressing the Council of the West Essex Unionists on February 23, 1931, that Churchill remarked of how, to him and most likely to much of his audience, it "was alarming to see Mr. Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well known in the East, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceregal Palace, while he is still organising and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor."