Little known to many, Saudi Arabia significantly supported India’s fight for independence for 150 years. It aided Indian revolutionaries operating from Hejaz during the tumultuous struggle.
During the early stages of World War II, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose secretly sent men for Haj to recruit anti-British individuals into the Azad Hind Fauj. During this period, Indian revolutionaries found a base of operations in Hejaz.
Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi, Raja Mahendra Pratap, and Barkatullah formed a Free India Government in exile in Kabul in 1915, playing pivotal roles in the movement. Sindhi settled in Makkah after the asylum, but British intel suspected him of spreading Indian Nationalism among Muslim pilgrims. Nonetheless, Makkah provided an excellent communication channel due to Haj, making it an ideal location for strategizing.
Sindhi’s grand plan was to send Bose abroad for a final battle against the British. Bose and Sindhi held crucial discussions about the future of India’s struggle for independence. Aligning with the Silk Letter Movement’s larger plan, Sindhi handed over vital letters of reference and documents to deliver to Japanese authorities.
Silk Letter Movement (1915): Ulema, Ghadarites, and Bengali revolutionaries aimed for India’s freedom through armed revolt. Leaders arrested in Hejaz were sent to Malta as POWs.
The legacy of Indian revolutionaries finding refuge and support in Saudi Arabia dates back to the 19th century. Haji Imdadullah, an influential figure, was directed by Shah Muhammad Ishaq to fight for Indian independence during his Haj pilgrimage in 1845. Imdadullah returned to India and raised an army, leading an armed struggle against the British in 1857. After facing defeat, he sought refuge in Makkah, where he continued to spread anti-colonial ideas among pilgrims.
The strong bond between Indian revolutionaries and Saudi Arabia endured throughout the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. However, British intelligence closely monitored the activities of these revolutionaries during their Haj visits to the region.
Though lesser known, the support provided by Saudi Arabia to the Indian Freedom Struggle remains a remarkable chapter in history, demonstrating the shared commitment to achieving independence and the power of alliances forged across borders in pursuit of a common cause.
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