THE NEW INDIA
AN ADDRESS BY
THE HONOURABLE SARDAR HARDIT SINGH MALIK, C.I.E., O.B.E., I.C.S.
Chairman: The Third Vice-President, Mr. Sydney Hermant
Thursday, January 20th, 1949
HONOURED GUESTS AND GENTLEMEN
It is our privilege today to hear the Honourable Sardar H. S. Malik, India's High Commissioner to Canada. Born in the Punjab, Mr. Malik was educated at Eastbourne College, England, and Balliol College, Oxford. Mr. Malik went to France from Oxford in 1916, and served with the French Army on the Western Front. In 1917 he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps as a fighter pilot, and saw service in France and Italy. He was wounded in air combat over France in 1917.
After the War Mr. Malik entered the Indian Civil Service and served in the Punjab until 1930. He was then appointed Deputy Trade Commissioner for India in England. In 1938 Mr. Malik came to New York as India's first Trade Commissioner to the United States and Canada. Mr. Malik came to Canada as India's High Commissioner in 1947.
The Empire Club of Canada extends a special welcome to a loyal and true servant of the Empire, and it affords the great pleasure to introduce the Honourable Sardar Hardit Singh Malik, C.I.E., O.B.E., I.C.S., who is going to address us on the subject of "The New India".
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Guests, Members of The Empire Club
I am most grateful for your kind invitation and for your kind hospitality, and also for this opportunity of meeting so many distinguished gentlemen, and of telling you something of India and our people.
Before I tell you about what is happening in India, I would just like to start off by saying that ever since I first came to North America in 1938 I have been very conscious of the friendliness and the great interest that is taken in my country, an interest that has been very greatly enhanced since India became a self-governing Dominion in 1947.
The knowledge about India is sometimes not quite up to the friendliness and the interest, and I would like to relate to you a couple of personal experiences which took place in the United States, but might quite easily also have happened in Canada.
Soon after we arrived in New York, my wife and I were taken to dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and, during the course of the dinner, I noticed that there was very considerable interest being taken in our little party by the people sitting fairly close to us at another table, and I had the feeling that there was something in the air, that before the evening closed there would be some kind of an incident,
Sure enough, as we were having our coffee, one of the girls came up from this table, walked over rather uncertainly to our table and made straight for us. When I saw she was coming to us I got up and she said, "May I sit down?" I said, "By all means", and brought up a chair. She sat down and looked earnestly at me across the table and said, "Can you tell me what is going to happen to me?"
Another experience we had very soon after that: We went down to Pinehurst in North Carolina, I am very fond of golf and was taking a little holiday and I entered for the Tournament there known as The North and South, In New York we had received a great deal of publicity because it was the first occasion on which the Government of India had sent their own representative to the United States, and our pictures were in the papers, in the movies, and so on. We got a little tired of it, so when we got to Pinehurst we were relieved to see that there was no publicity of any kind whatsoever. We never saw newspaper men. We were quite happy. But on the second day we were there we were dining with some old friends and the nurse after dinner came up with a local paper and she said to my wife, "Mrs. Malik, have you seen what is written about your husband in the paper?" She hadn't, nor had I. She produced the paper and there was an article about me and this is how it ran
"By far the most interesting entry in The North and South Tournament is that of the swarthy swell from India--Mr. H. S, Malik. It is rumoured that he has ninety wives. On this occasion he showed up, however, with only one".
I was very puzzled and I said to my friend, George Dunlap, "George, this puzzles me, because I have not met any newspaper men and I don't know any of them here."
He said, "I know the writer of that. Would you like to meet him?"
So he arranged for me to meet the writer the next day. I said to him, "I don't know where you got this story from. Of course, it is inaccurate because I have only one wife. But I hope you realize you are paying me a great compliment because I have neither the constitution nor the financial means!"
I am not saying that everybody in Canada thinks I am a fortune teller, but one occasionally comes across people who still think along those lines!
Well, I propose to tell you today what our experience has been since we gained our independence, what the position is in India today, and I also would like to give you some idea of the plan that we have for the future and perhaps a word or two about our conception of our place among the nations of the world.
We looked forward with very great anticipation to the day when India would become a self-governing Dominion because, whatever be the merits or demerits of the old system under which India was ruled from Whitehall, in India it certainly left a feeling and a sense of being cramped. Our people generally felt that they were not at liberty to plan the future of their country. It was with tremendous anticipation therefore that we looked forward to the day when we could develop our country along the lines that we feel it should be developed so that we could attain within the shortest possible time that position of dignity and of influence among the great nations of the world which we feel is India's destiny,
I say we looked forward to this day with great anticipation and joy. When the day came, there was joy--no doubt about that-but there was at the same time a great sense of frustration and great apprehension regarding the future because our independence was accompanied by the partitioning of India into two countries--India and Pakistan--and you know, because it is comparatively recent history, the terrible tragedy that followed the partition of India, the ghastly communal violence that broke out a little before and subsequently, and the terrible peril that we faced, of India being plunged into civil war.
There was violence on a very large scale in Pakistan and in Northern India, and the danger then was that the same kind of disorder and violence would spread throughout the whole country.
You must remember that the basic cause for this violence was the hatred and religious intolerance that had been preached for some years before, The partition of India was based on the claim that the Moslems in India were not content to live in a democratic state under a majority rule. And in the preaching of this thesis religious fanaticism was deliberately excited for political ends.
Our problem then, when we got millions of our people running away from Pakistan because of what was happening to them there, was a most difficult one. When they came to India and told the terrible tale of their suffering, there was intense resentment, and there was a general demand throughout the country that the people in India--the non-Moslems (Hindus and Sikhs)--should rise against the Moslems still in India--and we had at that time and still have forty to forty-five million Moslems scattered throughout India in groups, and the danger was that the majority community would pounce upon these minorities and mete out to them the same treatment which had been meted out to our people in Pakistan.
It was at this time that our greatest peril existed, because if this thing had gone through and if retaliation had materialized and had been allowed to go into effect, India would certainly have been plunged into civil war, not for a few months or a few years, but for many years to come. In fact, India could not have survived. It was then that the greatness of that wonderful man, Mahatma Gandhi, came into play, because he, having lived throughout his life for the principle of love and toleration and peace, and humanity, was grief-stricken when he saw the state that his country was falling into and he decided immediately on desperate measures. He went, personally, to the worst affected areas, the country where the danger was greatest and he exposed his life a thousand times. He begged the people in the parts where the situation was most threatening; he begged them all to be human beings not beasts or worse than beasts and he, small and weak physically, though he was--and he always refused to be escorted or protected in any way--succeeded in achieving this miracle, even among communities of young men, angry men, who at that time, as you read, saw nothing except the need for retaliation, and these young men and women fell at his feet. They came up there with their guns and tommy guns and swore they would give up this madness and violence.
The Government, our new, young Government, under the inspiring leadership of that very great man, inspired by his example and teaching, worked and succeeded in preventing the spread of communal violence,
When Mahatma Gandhi, himself, was assassinated in January, 1948, then we really touched rock bottom so far as despair and hope was concerned, For a time the whole of India was numbed, People did not know what to do. I wasn't there myself but I have been told by people who were in India that, immediately after his assassination, the radio kept repeating every five minutes, "Mahatma Gandhi has been assassinated", and people really didn't know which way to turn. Then the Government realized and the people generally throughout India realized that, if the violence which was then prevalent could lead to this, that a man who was worshipped and venerated and loved throughout the country was struck down by one of our own people, then we were on the verge of madness, That tragic event was therefore a tremendous shock to the people of India.
The Government of India had the wisdom and statesmanship to seize that opportunity to take the strongest possible measures against such elements in the country as subscribed still to violence and to make it quite clear that they would not tolerate attacks on the Moslem community in India.
In other words, we did set out to establish, once and for all, the principle that India was a secular state in which men and women of all religions and all races and all creeds--Hindus, Moslems, Sikhs, Christians--were equal in the eves of the law. They were all the citizens of India, all protected by the state, and all entitled to live as citizens without any discrimination against any community whatsoever.
It was a tremendous thing at that particular time to attempt to do. But the Government of India won through on this. It was nothing short of a miracle. Anyone who knows the conditions in India and, as I have just said, in the face of the gospel of religious fanaticism that had been preached by Mr. Jinnah on which he had built up Pakistan, will realize what a tremendous achievement it was, and up to a short time ago we still were apprehensive about the situation.
Then something happened which made the victory of the Government complete and final in this field, and that was the case of the Hyderabad State, Hyderabad State is largely Hindu by population, but it is ruled by a Moslem ruler. Hyderabad had fallen into the hands of a gang of wild communalists and a small minority in that State had seized power and were inflicting the greatest cruelty on the majority of the population. The Hindus were running away from Hyderabad, and the danger was that the whole of India might flare up once again. The Government of India asked the Nizam of Hyderabad to control the situation, but he was powerless to do so. Then they went in, and, as you know, within four or five days the problem of Hyderabad was settled. Peace, law and order was established. The gangsters who had dominated the rulers of Hyderabad, in whose hands they were helpless, were driven out and the Nizam of Hyderabad assured that as soon as things were normal again the people of Hyderabad would be called upon to decide about the future relationship of Hyderabad with India.
I say that was the final test, because the danger according to some people then was that the whole of India would be plunged into bloodshed and chaos, because the Moslems of India would resent a Moslem ruler being treated that way,
What happened? Not a single case of any communal disorder at any time, The Moslems realized what the situation was, and came out and supported the action of the Government of India,
That was the most gratifying thing that could happen. It convinced us that we had succeeded, once and for all, in establishing the principle that India as constituted today was for all its people-Hindus, Sikhs, Moslems, Christians, everyone--all with equal rights and equal privileges,
Now, the second great peril that faced us at that time was the Indian Princely States. We had almost six hundred of these States and in practically all of them there prevailed political systems that were feudal or semi feudal. All power was vested in one single individual, the Prince,
In India, on the other hand, we had established a system of representative or democratic government. The danger was that some of the more powerful states like Kashmir, Hyderabad, Baroda, etc., might try to establish themselves as independent entities. Now, if that had happened, India would have split up, not into two countries, but into twenty-five or thirty countries, and India's future would have been bleak,
The Government of India were determined to maintain the integral unity of the country, and they handled this very, very difficult and complicated problem in this way They turned to the Princes and said: We don't wish to interfere with your personal position within your states in any way, except that you must recognize the current that is now running in the affairs of this country and you must establish within your states popular democratic forms of government; and secondly, having done that, the people in each state must decide whether that state will join India or join Pakistan. But they guaranteed to the Princes, provided they fell in with the general demands as advanced by the Government of India as representing the demands of the country as a whole, that if they did that, then their position as constitutional heads of their states would be guaranteed, Within a year this question has been solved. There are either in being today or about to be established in the states, systems of government that are popular, democratic and representative, and every state has either merged with the adjoining province or has formed itself along with other states into large enough groups and joined India or Pakistan.
These two achievements within a year are capital achievements by our Government, and please remember that this great work has been performed at a time of unusual difficulty. In the first instance, as a result of the partition we lost a great many of our experienced British Officers in the Civil Services and in the Armed Forces, almost overnight, and then we lost a great many able, experienced Moslem Officers who left for Pakistan.
In addition to that, the Government of India inherited a situation of severe economic crisis. Shortage of food was of proportions that amounted almost to a famine. There was a shortage of everything--clothes, housing, all the material needs by man, and there was also the ever-present threat of inflation, And, as I have just said, these two great problems, these difficulties that faced us and that threatened our very existence, had to be met at a time by a young and inexperienced government, when they had these other difficulties to face.
The position in India today is that, instead of the chaos and the confusion that threatened us only a year back, we have law and order, peace, throughout the length and breadth of India, and the Government of India are going ahead in various fields of nation building and nation development of which I shall give you a few details,
Another great problem that has been with us ever since partition and is still with us is the problem of our relations with our neighbour, Pakistan. We started off, as you can naturally expect, in great bitterness--bitterness on both sides. Then to make everything worse, when we were attempting to resolve our difficulties, there came the Kashmir problem. I am happy to say there has been a steady improvement in the relations between our two countries. We have had a number of inter-Dominion conferences at which almost every outstanding issue has been satisfactorily settled. The only outstanding item of any importance now is the question of Kashmir, and as you have read in the papers recently, both India and Pakistan have received the praise and the congratulations of the entire world on the agreement-the preliminary agreement-that they have reached as a result of the efforts of the Security Council. In fact, this gesture made by India and Pakistan has been held out as an example to the other nations who, instead of supporting the Security Council and the United Nations, are acting in a way to lower their prestige and to make people feel generally that the United Nations is just a washout.
Now, I come to some of the plans that we have regarding the future. I would describe them in one word. That is our aim is to improve the living conditions of our people. India is a great country in natural resources, but she has a vast population and the great masses of the people live in very, very poor conditions, both of food, of clothing and of housing.
Education, as you must know, is limited to only about fifteen per cent of our people.
Our health standards are deplorably low. The natural resources of our country have not been developed industrially, except just on the fringe.
Our agriculture today is pretty poor, compared to the potential of our great land, and our Government are determined that in all these fields of nation building, work shall go on, not one thing after another but simultaneously, so that India may reach her greatest development within as short a time as possible,
I will give a few instances of the kind of work that is being tackled. Take, first of all, our Agriculture. As I said, it is in a very poor condition today. Our schemes contemplate the reclaiming of vast areas of land that today are not cultivated. The figures came through only the day before yesterday and I will quote them because they are interesting.
Under the reclamation scheme, six million acres of land that can easily be cultivated, but is not at present, will be brought under cultivation. The expenditure is calculated at $300,000,000, part of which will be spent on the necessary equipment which we hope to obtain in North America, the United States and Canada, and partly in Great Britain.
Another field closely allied to agriculture is the development of water power. India has a great area under cultivation but it is calculated that we are using only five per cent of our water power. We have great rivers, but in the past the waters have been allowed mostly to run to the sea. They have done great damage on the way, through periodic floods. The Government have under way--some of the works are under construction, others under planning--the contemplated harnessing of the waters of these great rivers, so that vast new areas of land shall be brought under irrigation and made to produce food for our people. Today we are importing grain. It seems ridiculous, but we are.
At the same time we propose to develop hydro-electric power. We are going in for multi-purpose schemes on the model of the T.V.A. Our present hydro-electric power is half a million kilowatts. These schemes contemplate the production of fourteen million kilowatts and, when India has achieved that, she will rank third among the nations in hydro-electric power--The United States, the U.S.S.R., and India. The potential from this source is calculated at forty million kilowatts.
As a result of this development we look forward to the establishment of new industry and the extension of our existing industries. All this is being done because we are convinced that, with the tremendous population that we have in India, the only way to achieve any real improvement in the living conditions of our people is to develop both agriculture and industry,
While developing our great industries we are not forgetting what has been the traditional industry of India, that is the beautiful handicrafts and the cottage industries, and it is interesting to note that the Government of India have established a special Board of Experts whose responsibility it will be to see that everything possible is done, not only to maintain the existing handicrafts and cottage industries but to develop them by giving every possible support and help.
These are some of the achievements in the economic field. As to our future Constitution, I would like to say a word in passing and briefly mention the Constitution now being worked on by our Constituent Assembly, a fully sovereign body, The principle behind that is that, as I have just said, all the people of India shall be treated equally, with no discrimination against any religion or caste or creed. The removal of untouchability--that great slur on our national life has been removed within a very short time of the Government coming into power, and that one action, I claim, is symbolic of the tremendous change that has taken place in India in this very short time. It is eloquent of the public support enjoyed by our Government that they have been able to go ahead with a measure which was considered so revolutionary that no government in the past has dared even to touch it,
The Constitution provides for a fully democratic, representative system of government, with representative, responsible governments at the centre and in the provinces, and representative assemblies elected on the basis of adult franchise.
In the social field I have already referred to untouchability, which is the greatest social reform, In other fields, in the condition of women, what would have been considered revolutionary changes have been made. The whole status of women has been changed. Women now will have the right to inherit along with men. Polygamy is being abolished. Rules have been laid down that women, when they perform the same type of work as men, shall have the same wage and, as you know, India is the only country in the world with a woman in the Central Cabinet a woman as Governor of a great province, and a woman as Ambassador-and all three are doing marvellous work in their own fields.
I haven't time to go into details regarding the various steps the Government has taken, but let me assure you, whatever field of national life or national activity you look into you will find that India is on the march. We are going through a dynamic period and every department of government is busy on the great plans for the future of India.
Our great Prime Minister, Pandit Nehru, is an internationalist in the true sense of the word, He has a very keen sense of the relationship between the different nations and different parts of the world, and he declared the very moment he assumed office that India would, in accordance with her great traditions, play a part in bringing about peace and understanding among the different nations of the world, She was not prepared to align herself with any group but she would work in her own way, comparatively impotent as she was at present, for international peace and understanding, both in and outside the United Nations. We will continue to play our part, and those of you who have attended international conferences will, I hope, agree that our delegations have made themselves felt at these meetings.
There has been a very important departure so far as India's participation in world affairs is concerned. As you have seen, there is a meeting in New Delhi this month of the Asiatic countries, Australia and New Zealand called by our Prime Minister in order to help the United Nations to settle the Indonesian question. In tackling that question in its latest phase the Security Council had come up against great difficulties, and our Prime Minister felt that it was up to us and the countries of the East to take some united step, always within the framework of the United Nations, to help the Security Council take the step necessary in settling this extremely difficult issue, an issue considered very fundamental by all the people of Asia. It is a very interesting lead that India has given, and I think it is symbolic of the part that India feels is her responsibility in international affairs.
The reason for that is very simple: We are convinced there can be no understanding, no permanent peace until the disparity between the living conditions of the Western part of the world and the living conditions of the East is removed. We feel that is the only way of avoiding those violent movements that threaten the whole existence of Humanity, We are working to that end in India. All our efforts are directed towards an improvement of the working conditions of the masses. We feel throughout the Asian world a similar effort must be made, that it cannot be made under the system of the old-clay Imperial Colonialism, which some of the countries are still clinging to but Great Britain had the wisdom to abandon when she left India.
We feel that one of the ways the threat to the peace of the world can be met is by bringing prosperity to these people. We believe the Western democratic system can bring about that improvement and happiness if there is a sufficient understanding in these Western countries, the powerful countries, of the needs and aspirations of the people of Asia, Just as Pandit Nehru is playing a great part today, there are other leaders in Asia who have the same aims and ambitions, who are deserving of our sympathy, our support and our understanding.
My own personal opinion is that India is placed in a unique position today. She is very conscious of the great heritage that has come to her over the thousands of years. She is conscious of the fact that India gave to the world a great system of moral philosophy, great culture, great science in its own clay, We are at the same time very conscious of the tremendous benefits that have been brought to the world by the progress of Science, by industrial civilization, and this consciousness, of course, has come to us through our long association with Great Britain, During that assocation we have learned to love and admire the great liberal traditions that the British people stand for, the traditions of human freedom and democracy, and we have learned to appreciate the great benefits that modern civilization, with the great material advance, the great scientific progress, has brought and can bring to Humanity.
India provides, therefore, what I might term a synthesis between the old world and the new, and I think it is within that synthesis that future peace, contentment and understanding can be achieved.
At the request of the Vice-President, Major Vincent Price thanked the speaker on behalf of The Empire Club.