INDIA IN TRANSITION
AN ADDRESS BY COLONEL F. FRASER HUNTER,
D.S.O., MILITARY ORDER OF THE DRAGON, CROIX DE
GUERRE, PERSIAN MEDAL OF VALOUR, F.R.G.S.,
LATE OF THE INDIAN SECRET SERVICE.
22nd October, 1931
PRESIDENT STAPELLS introduced the speaker. COLONEL HUNTER was received with applause and said: The economic crisis in the Western world has dimmed interest in Indian affairs. Mr. Gandhi, his goat, single garment, and the one string of independence to his political spinning wheel have almost faded from our horizon in the past few days. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald's blunt refusal to act any longer as goat for Hindus or Moslems, and the local English election drama have seriously effected Mr. Gandhi's political box-office receipts, and all but extinguished his fame as a head-liner on the stage of the Indian Round Table Conference. Histrionism and limelight have had their day to the profit of journalism, and the delegates to the Conference, free from the vagaries of their star, are able to return to the stern realities of rehearsal for their coming tour in India. When British official communiques and the world press have so accentuated the importance of Mr. Gandhi it is well to assess the perspective of that accentuation. Mr. Gandhi, in the view of the late Viceroy, Lord Irwin, is a very representative person, but it is doubtful if Lord Irwin's opinion is shared by a single British individual with any serious experience in India. The Mohammedans have no use for Gandhi. Recently, in London, Mr. MacDonald's instructions to Gandhi to settle the communal differences between Moslems and Hindus, both of whom Gandhi claimed to represent, were a challenge to Gandhi to make good his claim.
Much water has passed over the political dam since Lord Irwin formed his high opinion of Mr. Gandhi. Gandhi's own Congress Party, by an impartial tribunal, has been judged responsible for one of the worst Indian massacres of recent times-the murder of hundreds of citizens of Cawnpore and the maiming of thousands more. Gandhi's answer to this massacre was a repudiation of responsibility, a mild admonition to the guilty, and a day's fast. The Government of India have recently passed a Press Bill designed to put an end to the wholesale assassination of British officials by Indian youths, instigated to murder by public bodies through the deification of those who commit such crimes in the name of political India. Gandhi himself" at the last meeting of the National Congress at Karachi, placed the crown of martyrdom upon the memory of Bhagat Singh, a most cowardly murderer, and lent his sympathy and support to the notorious "Bhagat Singh Murder Resolution" passed by the Congress in honour of the assassin. The wholesale murder following this approval of crime by India's self-styled leader threatened Gandhi's claim to the title of "a man of peace", and he promptly paid lip service of discouragement to the movement for which he himself was largely responsible. Discouragement took form in the following words:-"The worship of assassins has been carried too far, I am now a nervous wreck!" Gandhi cannot be absolved of responsibility. Over two hundred murders, or attempted assassinations of high and low officials within the past three years, all traced to the instigation of Gandhi's Congress Party, have naturally produced their reaction. Admiration of the idealism and courage of criminals has done much more harm than the good which has been done by a few formal condemnations of their crimes.
The Simon Commission was under no illusions as to Gandhi, for, in its report of 12,000 pages" Gandhi's name occurred four times. Whether he be saint or sinner, demagogue or Machiavelli, he and his Congress Party are in violent opposition to many of their former supporters. Gandhi's vanity and love of the limelight have wrecked whatever constructive faculties he may have possessed. The only practical facts about him, beyond his publicity "properties" of goat, garment and spinning wheel, are his determination to pursue his follies, and his present utter futility. The late Labour Government exaggerated him and frightened themselves with their own bugbear. The revolutionary elements, with a better understanding of Indian psychology" have been successful in building up a false halo about him behind which they have succeeded in developing their destructive tactics. The enormous publicity afforded Gandhi by the apparent novelty of his doctrines all copied from Western precedents-have, as stated by me in "Saturday Night" of the 12th of September, attracted his exploitation by capital. Mr. Winston Churchill a fortnight ago, in condemning the whole business of the Round Table Conference, startled the British House of Commons by exposing the source of Gandhi's campaign fund-i.e., his newly found millionaire friends who would gladly use him in their plans for the exploitation of India. Whatever Gandhi's own thoughts may be, he is a mere pawn in the hands of others and swift-moving events in London after his arrival at the Conference board have rendered him, fittingly or otherwise, to the pathetic role of a mountebank. While the delegates would gladly forget their Conference duties in favour of more vital world contemplations, the ever present fear of what may happen upon their return to India will not permit them to indulge in speculations other than their own, now isolated, preoccupations. They are forced to consider seriously how,, in a new India, to adjust the conflicts between British and Indian business, and to console the growing menace of communal differences. The Indian Princes have declared emphatically that they stand for India's connection with Britain, but they do not affirm that such connection should mean the direct control of India's affairs by Whitehall. Self-interest in their prerogatives, guaranteed by Britain, will cause the Princes to adhere firmly to this conviction. Minorities are positive that they prefer direct British rule to being handed over to the tender mercies of Hindu or Moslem majorities. Hindus and Moslems everywhere are at one another's throats and the weakness of recent Viceregal regimes in India has brought civil war into the realms of probability. New grouping and fresh dynastic aims have, in the militant North and Kashmir, brought the rumblings of warlike adventures in India which threaten the maintenance of essential goodwill in London.
There are those who believe as I do, that, in spite of our pledges, until the present state of flux in India has been altered, and the peoples of India can agree among themselves, we cannot be expected to implement those pledges. There are others who are strong in their belief that firm measures must be resorted to if India is to be saved from herself-for the Empire. Some believe that the record of disorder and murder produced by the forces of destruction in India" and the economic collapse of Europe, have set the principles of nationalism in India and socialism everywhere "on the run", and that sane reaction should be the order of the day. At the present moment, when every atom of goodwill is required, Diehardism and reaction in India would be fatal to all hopes of reconstruction. The elements of destruction, centred in Gandhi's Congress Party who have fostered and glorified hatred, now find themselves bereft of goodwill, for no responsible element in India believes in them. Were Britain, in an effort to re-establish order and confidence, to resort now to repression and reaction, all substantial opinion would desert the ranks of goodwill and reluctantly go over to the Congress Party as a protest against Britain's failure to keep her pledges; all hope of ruling a peaceful India would then be lost. In speaking of the late Labour Government and the Conference, Mr. Winston Churchill uttered a powerful prediction when he said: "If no sincere agreement emerged, the Government would be hampered by its admissions, with its authority weakened and with all those difficulties now grown monstrous from which they recoiled when they were still small." Federalism is the goal toward which all have set themselves; the difficulties are great, but they must be overcome. It is useless for any party, race or creed to think that the old Whitehall Government of India can be resuscitated or aroused to action. There must be a new strong Government born of India, with foundations in India, before a way can be found out of the present chaos. According to a leading Indian daily
"The system of responsibility to the British Parliament has visibly broken down between the legitimate aspirations of Indians on the one hand and on the other the decay of Parliament itself, due to the obvious inability of a democratic party system to produce Governments strong enough to deal with the economic situation in the post-war world."
The weakness of the present position in India lies in the fact that the British of today practically refuse to rule it, and this weakness augurs badly for the welfare of the great bulk of the people-i.e., the ryots, or peasantry. Clamour in India and lack of moral support from England have taken much strength from the British bureaucracy, and destroyed its will to rule. The sane,, representative elements in India, time and again, have offered to support British officials if only they would continue to rule with justice and firmness. The aptitude for compromise has carried British leadership out of perspective. Department after department has had its functions paralyzed and its future rendered chaotic by the weakness of the Supreme Government, which at times has almost abandoned its functions in favour of suicidal concessions to the unruly, and has let down the Services and the people alike. "The Statesman", Calcutta, on August 13th, 1931, holds:-"Until we get a strong Government rooted in India there is no possibility of restoring initiative or confidence to the servants of Governments who are nobly carrying on in most disturbing conditions. They are at present the country's invaluable caretakers in a momentous period of transition, but they have neither the authority nor the confidence that enables them to deal with the terrible economic position and its consequences. The wheels of administration are" all things considered, still turning marvellously, but there is no oil, and they are in danger of running down. Therefore, let the strength of all be put into achieving Federalism and providing a centre of power, such as the Home Government used to provide, but in this age no longer furnishes." That is practically the opinion of journalistic India.
In the view of one of the most experienced and influential members of the Conference: "There is only one way out. We must reconstruct the whole Indian show, from top to bottom, in cooperation with Indians". The half-hearted deliberations of the Federal Structure Sub-Committee of the Conference have so far agreed that there will be two Houses in the Federal Legislature. In the Lower House the Native States will receive a 25 % representation based upon population, and in the Upper House 40%, the Princes being elected in any manner they may choose. Membership for British India. will be by direct election to the Lower House and indirect to the Upper. Special interests such as minorities will be represented for a time by nomination. Divisions of finance between the Federal and Provincial Governments has produced an impasse, there being practically nothing to divide; Federal India will have to build up its revenue from the beginning. Meanwhile, the deliberations of the whole Conference are threatened with futility by the rolling up of the clouds of civil war, due to communalism and agrarian communistic revolution. The Punjab may crash the whole structure, and nonpayment of taxes undermine any system devised, while economic collapse in Europe may weaken the strong guiding hand of Britain in the midst of India's confusions. Surely we are reaping in India the whirlwind of our past weaknesses.
It should be appreciated that Moslems control the six great Northern Provinces.-i.e., the Northwest Frontier, Sind, Baluchistan, Kashmir, the Punjab and Bengal. They realize that India must rely upon itself if it is not to break up into many separate entities, and that it must bind itself together by determined goodwill. But the acme of India's sorrows is communalism, beside which communism pales to insignificance; communalism shelters a smouldering anger which at times approaches despair. Mr. Jinnah, at the Conference, following the example of President Wilson" has presented Mohammedan views in his "14 points," and many of these may no doubt be obtained in agreement with the Hindus, but the keynote of the whole political situation seems to lie in a complete redistribution of boundaries. Brigadier Sir Edward Tandy, the late Surveyor General of India, some years ago suggested a practical method of reorganizing provincial boundaries. Sir Edward's suggestions were voiced last December by Sir Muhammad Iqbal in his Presidential address to the All-India Moslem League in the following words: "Proper redistribution will make the question of joint and separate electorates automatically disappear from the constitutional controversy of India. It is the present structure of the Provinces that is largely responsible for this controversy. The Hindu thinks that separate electorates are contrary to the spirit of true nationalism, because he understands the word nation to mean a kind of universal amalgamation in which no communal entity ought to retain its private individuality. Such a state of things, however, does not exist. India is a land of racial and religious variety." It is easy to see that the Hindu idea of Nationalism is based upon the overwhelming voting power of Hindu population. In this fact we find the vital cause of the utter futility of the Congress.
All history teaches us that religious intolerance is of the essence of human behaviour. Even in America the tragedies of this intolerance-as an example, prohibition -are daily manifested. What hope is there that millions of ignorant, illiterate Indians may, within the coming year, produce soil of peace and security in which to plant the roots of social, religious and economic freedom which are so essential to the political future of Federated India? Is it any wonder that Mr. Gandhi goes sight-seeing to Ireland instead of continuing his futile conversations with the Aga Khan? (Laughter). While religious intolerance would account for communal differences between Hindus and Mohammedans" caste discrepancies among Hindus themselves are now carried into the political field until no two Hindu delegates at the Conference can be found to agree upon what they want in a new India. The result is that the Conference deliberations have degenerated into trivialities, personalities and absurdities which have robbed them of outside respect. The dead hand of India's fearful social past, such as caste, Kulinism, child marriage, suttee and purdah strangles all hope of rejuvenation.
Territorial rearrangements are now under discussion in London. In the Punjab a three-cornered dead-lock between Sikhs, Moslems and Hindus has brought the probabilities of civil war to the forefront. The transfer of the Rawalpindi region to the Northwest Frontier Province has appeared as a solution. In Bengal a redistribution of the Mohammedan areas is a possibility. Moslem opinion, as coming from a minority population, is in favour of most drastic redistribution of boundaries and of full autonomy for the reconstructed provinces. To quote again Sir Muhammad Iqbal: "I would like to see the Punjab, Northwest Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state. The formation of a consolidated Northwest Indian Moslem state with self-government within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, appears to me the final destiny of the Moslems,, at least of Northwest India." He adds, with both Soviet Russia and Afghanistan in mind: "The Northwest Indian Moslems will prove the best defenders of India against a foreign invasion, be that invasion one of ideas or bayonets." However sincere or patriotic Sir Muhammad's convictions may be, his proposal to consolidate a strong war-like province of Moslems on the North of India has thoroughly frightened the Hindu ranks. Sikhs and Hindus, with the fearful example of the American Civil War, which nearly tore asunder the American Commonwealth, want serious reassuring before they will agree to the formation of a Moslem province on "India's inflammable edges". The recent disturbances in Kashmir, a Moslem province ruled over by a Hindu Prince, were caused by a dynastic adventure on the part of ex-King Amanullah's brother-an Afghan. This adventure has quickened the -SikhHindu-Moslem tension and made almost impossible any agreement between Gandhi and Aga Khan in London. A recrudescence of the Pan-Turanian movement uniting Western China, India, Afghanistan, Persia" the Caucausus, Mesopotamia, Arabia, Turkey and North Africa in an all-green belt is not an impossibility in this age of chaos.
Not only have Mohammedan ambitions and plottings in the North thoroughly alarmed the Hindus, but it has shown the Princes of India, who for over a century have been secure in their prerogatives under the protection of the British Government, that in a Federated India they might be forced to deal with revolution and invasion. The semblance of a Federal India may possibly be organized by overworked British officers, but without British guarantee no sane financial or political world would advance a penny on its future. The Federal India, recommended by the Simon Commission and being discussed by the Round Table Conference" will remain a pipedream, a rainbow vainly chased, unless British power in India remains the substance of all polity. The hope that Nationalism may unite all Indians and supersede the prejudices and social discrepancies of their history may well be left to Indians as a bone to chew upon, or a real outlet for Gandhi's activities. Meanwhile, let us hope that the British may still be relied upon to see that, as in China, the intelligentsia of India do not destroy India in the process of her development.
In India itself a powerful political influence known as the Country League has been steadily developing. Its objects and aims include all that is best suited to the progress of a self-governed Federal India along institutional and cultural lines. Its membership is composed of the substantial commercial, financial, industrial and agricultural classes, headed and organized by the British in India. Its intention includes the fullest cooperation, upon democratic principles, of all races, classes and creeds. Its influence has already considerably restored the confidence of the unfortunate officials of India, and stiffened the resistance of the Government of India to the forces of disorder. Its programme would ensure orderly progress and honesty in the internal and external trade of India. Whatever may be the result of the Round Table Conference, this League or its successors will remain a potent influence in India.
A few years ago, upon a Mediterranean voyage when the Indianization of the Indian Army was under investigation by what was known as the Skeen Committee, I showed a copy of the Committee's lengthy report to a fellow passenger, a renowned British Field Marshal with gubernatorial experience, who had never been in India. I asked him what he thought of the report. He read the first sentence, and handed the paper back to me with the remark: "You must increase your Army of Occupation. India's future will be inefficient, but it is their country, and they are entitled to their own form of inefficiency." The first sentence of the report read: "The principle of Indianization is admitted!"
India is at the parting of the ways. America and Russia are converts to the modern materialistic conception of civilization, and have given way to standardized mechanization of human life by scientific insistence of the herd law, which destroys sensibility and spirituality. It may remain for India to go over to the same materialism" and present indications suggest she may be forced to do so, as witness the Congress Party's alliance with capitalism; the rapid industrialization of India along Western lines threatens to uproot Indians from the soil and to set them tending machines. Such an upheaval postulates revolt against institutions and religions, which may destroy all India's cultural ideas. India, on the other hand, with the sympathy and support of Britain, may resist such influences and save our higher human culture.
India should not follow any other Oriental example, for Japan and China have already surrendered to the non-cultural enemy. The importance of the introspective struggle now going on in India cannot be exaggerated for us Britons, for only Indian idealism stands between us and cultural chaos. If India unites herself with the idealism still not entirely overwhelmed in Europe, she may create a new world. She did create a new world by her legacy to the West of the Hinduin--correctly called Arabic-numerical system, which has revolutionized our cultural ideas and made the birth of our scientific age a possibility. Hindu numerals have made our modern Western civilization a fact, as anyone who tries to make out his income-tax statements in Roman numerals will realize. (Laughter.) Science without decimals is an impossibility. Be it fully realized that the whole philosophy of Western history and culture is now undergoing in India the supreme and ultimate test of its practical value. Surely, then" our interest in the struggle should be intense and sympathetic. (Loud applause)
PRESIDENT STAPELLS conveyed the thanks of the Club to the speaker.