ENGLAND CANADA AND INDIA
AN ADDRESS BY SIR T. VIJAYARAGHAVACHARYA, K.B.E.
Chairman: The President, Mr. Eric F. Thompson
Thursday, November 15, 1945
MR. THOMPSON: Gentlemen of the Empire Club of Canada, we are today honoured by the presence of one of India's leading citizens in the person of the Prime Minister of the State of Udaipur.
Our Guest of Honour, who has been in public office in India for almost half a century, has held many important administrative posts, a few of which I would like to mention. In 1912 he became second in command of the Madras City Corporation, which is the oldest Civic Body in India, having a Royal Charter from King Charles the 2nd.
During the first world war, he was India's Deputy Director of Munitions and at the close of the war was made the Diwan of the State of Cochin. He was later delegated by India to organize the Government's pavilion at Wembley and was in charge of that building during the Exhibition period, 1922-1925. In the following year, he came to Toronto and opened the Canadian National Exhibition. In the same year he was honoured by His Majesty the King, being made a Knight of the Order of the British Empire.
On his return to India, he became a member of the India Central Legislative Assembly. He is one of the founders of India's Federal Civil Service Commission.
For 6 years, he was vice-chairman of the Imperial Council of Agricultural Research and is presently on this continent as a member of the India Delegation to the Food and Agricultural Organization Conference held in Quebec recently.
Incidentally, in 1939 he was invited by Mussolini to deliver a course of lectures on Indian Culture and Agriculture in Rome.
At the commencement of World War 2, he was made the Diwan or Prime Minister of Udaipur, which high office he holds today.
He has a stake in this country, having personally purchased, during his short stay, some of Canada's Ninth Victory Loan.
Our guest speaker is a great believer in the British Empire and has chosen as his topic, "England, Canada and India".
Gentlemen--I now have pleasure in presenting to you--Diwan Bahadur Sir T. Vijayaraghavacharya.
SIR VIJAYARAGHAVACHARYA: Mr. President and Gentlemen: I am deeply sensible of the honour conferred upon me by the Empire Club in asking me to come from the United States where I was sojourning to speak at the Empire Club. It is an honour I at once enjoy and it gives me very great pleasure indeed to enjoy this honour at this time.
If I may be allowed to say a few personal words, I would like to say how much I feel I am at home in this country. There are three countries in this world in which I feel thoroughly at home. One, of course, is my own country of India. the other is England and the third is Canada. When I come to Canada I feel I am among kindly and hospitable friends and if I suffer from anything I suffer from the multitude of hospitality and from the quantities of kindnesses they shower on me. I have nothing to complain of and I am busily occupied and I find myself surrounded by as warm and friendly an atmosphere as I should be in my own country or in England.
Then, when your President telegraphed to me in the Tennessee Valley, where I was, asking me to name the subject on which I proposed to sneak to the Empire Club, I said, "I will speak on England, Canada and India." People might ask, why did I choose that subject. Well, my first reason is this: if I am asked to name any three countries nearest to my heart I should mention these ones. I should mention India, Canada and England as the countries which are nearest to my heart. At first appearance people may think that there is very little in common between so old a country as India, and, speaking at comparative distances, an old country like England and a very new, vigorous and young country like Canada. I think I will be able to convince you in the course of my speech that there is a great and subtle bond which connects England, India and Canada together. That is why I have chosen this subject and given it this title.
India is an old country, a very old country. It was old at the time when England was hardly known to civilization. We had a very old civilization at a time when a sailor boy from Genoa discovered what is now called the New World. It was an old country long before that, when the Romans built the Great Wall to prevent the barbarous races of Northern Britain from invading England.
May I remark in passing that it did not keep the invaders out of England and in modern times, if not in a civilized way, in a much more civilized way, the Scotsman has invaded London, and if you find anybody in power in London it is not the Englishman but it is the Scotsman who is in power today.
I remember how an English speaker came to India and said, "What I want is (Tome Rule--Home Rule for India." I got up and ventured to say, "Have you got Home Rule yourself in England? You haven't got Home Rule. You have Scottish Rule."
We have an old civilization, but the old civilization doesn't prevent us from recognizing the fact that we have bonds which connect with a more recent civilization, like that of England, and a still more recent civilization, like that of Canada. As I said, it may appear at first appearance that no two countries could be more different than India and Canada. You are a young democratic race, full of vitality, full of life, full of aspirations toward many things, and I see no limit to the possibilities of this country. Economically, politically, administratively and in every respect I see no limit to the possibilities of the future of this country. You are still in your youth and when you come to vigorous manhood I do not know what great things this country will not attain.
Now, if you ask, what is the reason that I put all these three countries together, and what is the bond of connection, I would say the bond of connection is this. We are all three fellow members of the same great Commonwealth, the Commonwealth known as the Commonwealth of the British Group of Nations.
In India the majority of us belong to a different faith than the people in Canada and England belong. We belong to a different race. We have a different colour, a different creed and we have different traditions, but one capital fact overshadowed them all. The capital fact is that we claim to be as much citizens of the British Empire as you in Canada or the people in the Mother Country do.
When I come to foreign countries with my British passport and people ask me, "What passport have you got?", I say, with great pride, "I have got a British passport", and when they try to write in their books," "Indian", I say, "It is not Indian, the passport is British, not Indian." It is a common thing and that is a fact of which we are proud.
You will ask me, what reason do we find for being proud of being members and citizens of this great Empire. We feel as much pride in it as the old inhabitants of Palestine felt in being a Roman citizen and Rome was in the ancient world, I venture to say, what England is in the modern world, and if Roman citizenship was so prized in those days, I think British citizenship should be equally prized.
You ask me what are the reasons I have for the faith that is in me. I have several reasons. One reason is that. this England has been for centuries the nursery, the home of freedom, and when the Romans at Runnymede in the year 1215 wrung from an unwilling king, King John, that Charter of which I saw the original in the Library of the Congress in Washington-many of you probably know that during the war days that famous document was removed from the British Museum to the Congress Library in Washington for the sake of safety=I looked at that valuable document and I felt, here is a Charter of Rights, which they not only inherited themselves but you, we, all of us, spread over the far-flung British Commonwealth, have inherited. The nobles of King John's time built better than they knew when they got those rights from King John. They did not know that they had inherited those rights not only for their grand-children, but for generations to follow and for nations that they did not know at the time and for countries of whose geography they had never heard.
Today I feel I am a British citizen, as much entitled to the citizenship rights which the Magna Charta confers upon the Englishmen, I am as much entitled as you are entitled, as every member of the British Commonwealth. That is one reason I feel at ease.
The second reason why I feel at ease is that it is a democratic country and the future is for Democracy. Democracy means not only the rule by the best for the best for the people, by the people for the people on behalf of the people, but it also means along with Democracy the rule of the reign of what is called Law.
That is to say no citizen whether born in England or any of the British Dominions or in India, no citizen can have his rights, either civil rights or personal rights taken away from him unless by a regular trial he is proved guilty in the courts set up by the country. No arbitrary power, no official mandate can abrogate the rights of a British citizen and those rights we enjoy to the full in India, just as you do in every other country within the British Empire.
That is why when we have our own quarrels--we have our quarrels with the British people but it is just like those family quarrels. We in India have quarrels with our wives. I take it that you in Canada have quarrels with your wives. May I say, in the absence of the ladies, the ladies would not quarrel with their husbands. But you find the man across the road trying to interfere in your quarrels, and see what happens. It is the same with India. We have our quarrels, but we propose to settle them in our own way. We do not want the neighbours to come in and settle our quarrels for us. We have several grievances but England, I still say, "With all thy faults I love thee still."
I have said why I love England, in spite of so many incidents which it would reasonable for many to forget, and for a wise politician to remember. One should not make too much of the past. One must look to the present. One must look to the future, but it has a still farther and a more important reason for its existence.
No apology is required in a country like this for the existence of the British Empire, but these are days of questioning, days of doubt, when the whole world questions every kind of organization and I might be asked what is the reason for the existence of the British Commonwealth. I would say this, that the British Commonwealth is the one safe unit which makes for world peace, which makes for world reason and which makes for the ideals which make life dear to all of us.
What would the history of the world have been if the British Empire had not existed and all the freedom which it has brought to the world were not forthcoming?
In the old days when the League of Nations existed I used to be told, "The League of Nations has not been very effective. What do you say to that?" I said, "Whether the League of Nations has been effective or not, whether the fault is due to the League of Nations, or due to the States who do not give it sufficient force and strength, I would not say, but this I am bound to say, that the British Commonwealth is itself a smaller League of Nations, but a very much more vital one than the League of Nations ever was."
Now, coming from a meeting of an organization in Quebec where we are trying to build a world organization for world peace, I feel that one of the strongest guarantees of the future working of this organization, one of the strongest guarantees for world peace is the existence of the British Commonwealth. It is not enough to have merely an idea. You have got to work toward it and the British Commonwealth, its existence, enables you to work to reach the ideal which we all hope for, which we all dream about, the ideal of brotherhood of man and the federation of the world. That ideal may be a long time in coming, but the ideal has got to be preserved in our hearts, and I stated that the existence of the British Commonwealth, far flung over every country, and the ideals of peace and order and liberty, for which that Empire stands, is a step forward building up a world organization. So the existence of the British Commonwealth is not only an object of interest to all of us who are Indian citizens, but an object of interest to the whole world, and I am willing to go farther and say if there was more British Empire, and it is in the interests of the world to create something like the British Empire in order that world peace may be.
Now, I have quite often been asked, what are the aspirations of India? What do you expect to be done 'in the future for India?
Our aspiration for the future is that we want to be in the same position as Canada is today. We want to be inside the Empire, and as an honoured and equal partner among the League of Nations that compose the British empire.
How long, they ask, before that will take place? I said, it is not wise to be a prophet but if I am asked if there is a time limit, I would say within the next two or three years, India could occupy a place in the Commonwealth equal to Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We could occupy the same place.
There are difficulties. There are majority and minority problems. I venture to say there is no country in the world in which there are not majority and minority problems. I believe there are some problems. May I say it with all modesty-there are problems in this country. I have studied a little bit of your history--I know it. But those problems have been solved by wise statesmen. There are within the British Commonwealth, within the Dominions there are different races. Look at the history of the whole system of the British institutions, so flexible, so easy to absorb other nations into it. Look at the history of what followed in South Africa after the Boer War. The wisdom of one man, Campbell Bannerman, solved the problem which settled the problems between the Dutch and the English in South Africa. His genius and the system under which General Field Marshal Smuts, who was during the war an enemy of England, but is now one of its staunchest advocates throughout the world, solved the problems there. What other proof do you want of the ability of the British Constitution to solve difficult racial problems than the case of your own country and the case of South Africa?
And in our own provinces in India we have our majority and minority problems, but I feel confident that they will dissolve and one of the strongest reasons for my confidence is the presence of that great soldier, Lord Wavell, the Viceroy of India. Lord Wavell has impressed all the Indian people, including the people of the Indian National Congress who traditionally where what you might call the Opposition, he has impressed them by the force of his sincerity and by the strong conviction that he does intend to bring India as quickly as possible within the fold of the Commonwealth, and in Lord Wavell I think their hopes are justified.
The difficulty in the past has been that British statesmen have made promises, but they have been done in such a way that very often the people in India did not know whether those words really meant words which would be kept or words which would not be kept. Lord Wavell has been able to produce the conviction, even in the leaders of the Opposition Movement, that he does intend and that he is sincere, that he does intend as fast as possible to put India in the same place that other self-governing Dominions are.
That is our aspiration. That is our hope and, personally, I believe that that should be fulfilled in the next two years.
And if we have our majority and minority problems I think English statesmanship, and Lord Wavell's earnestness, and agreeing to solve those difficulties, will do much to bring us together.
There are two parties in India, and in India as, in every other country there is a small party that believes that India should have self-government outside the Empire. I belong to the larger party that believes that India's proper ambition should be to be a self-governing unit within the British Empire.
There are very many reasons why I believe it. There is the fact that now, in another ten years will be 200 years of India's connection with Great Britain. Since India was won for the British Crown it will be 200 years in another ten years. I believe the second century of British rule will be celebrated in a free and independent India. I believe that will be done. I think myself there can be no more honourable position for India to occupy than to be a self-governing unit within the Empire.
There are very many good reasons. These are the days of big units and big corporations. Small countries in the struggle have not much chance of survival. When the war broke out in Europe one small country was overrun in the course of two days. Another small country was overrun in the course of a day. India is a big country but still no country today can afford to stand by itself. We are much better off if we are part of a large confederation and what bigger confederation can we turn to than the Confederation which is known as the British Commonwealth?
What government do we desire for India? Personally, I believe--I am of the deliberate opinion--that the Indian people, the Indian Princes, would approve of a government in which all of us owe a common loyalty to the King of England. It is difficult for me to imagine that the proud Princes of India and the people of India and perhaps practically all citizens of every part of the Empire can find a common throne around which our loyalty can gather, around which our feelings of respect can gather, than around the British Crown.
Can you think of any Royalty that has earned so much regard and has earned so much respect as the present British Monarchy? Think of it. Think of the great Empires. What has happened to the Romanoffs? What has happened to the Hapsburgs? What has happened to the Hohenxollerns? All those monarchies have vanished but the British Monarchy survives more strongly than ever today. It has survived all the difficulties.
India has a proud position as an Empire within an Empire. We are an Empire within an Empire and the British Monarchy is the bond that unites all of us in this Great Commonwealth. Just as the British Constitution has been flexible in so many different countries within its scope, so has the British Monarchy been able by its flexibility, by its wisdom, by its policy, to keep the loyalty of its people in a very difficult and troubled world.
English connections have known how to adapt themselves to circumstances that exist and how to bring them within one common bond of unity and every Indian, whether a Prince or a peasant is proud of being within that bond and observing allegiance to the same power, the same person to whom all of us owe allegiance.
A proposal has been made sometimes that instead of having merely the emotional relationship between the members of the Commonwealth there would be some concrete proposal by which all countries within the Empire can be brought together. If you ask my opinion on that matter, my belief is I would leave the existing thing alone. I would not attempt to write down any Constitution or make any definite Constitution for the Empire I would leave it as it is. Was it any order, any decree that brought the Canadians into the war? Did you get an order that one million of you from your small population of eleven million and a half should go to the Armed Forces on behalf of England, that another million should go to war industry and that the whole country should place its credit, its financial resources and its material resources for the benefit of England?
What was it that made the. Indian soldiers go out? Mind you, there is no conscription in India, it is voluntary. What made two millions of Indians, people who did not know the English language, people who differ from you in faith, what made two millions of them go and fight in every theatre of war? What made the Indians go to an unkindly climate like North Africa and Italy, to fight on behalf of the British Crown? What has that made them? It is the feeling that he is a subject of the English King, and he isn't only the English King, he is the King of India. That is the point. Every Indian felt he might be the King of England, but he was the King of India too, and the Indian soldiers fought in every theatre of war.
I want to speak with due modesty about our countrymen, but I think many of you have read about the way they have discharged their duties in every part of the Empire. I believe it is correct that nineteen Victoria Crosses have been won by the Indian soldiers during this war. To many of them it was their first experience outside of India. It is a large country and to them it was a strange experience to go on what is called the black water--the sea. But that so many of them should be willing to cross the sea and fight on behalf of their country and their King shows what the British Empire can produce without any particular compulsion.
That is why I say you, in Canada, in India, in Australia, in New Zealand and in South Africa, in other territories belonging the British Crown can produce so much voluntarily the moment they heard the country was in danger, if they can go the help of the Empire, there must be something of great virtue, and there is a great virtue in the Constitution and if that emotion is there, I should keep it there and not reduce it to words which may and may not find response. So long as it does not matter whether you have a written Constitution which compels us to do this or do that, if England is in danger you can say in thirty years the same result will follow without a Constitution, and I think more without a Constitution than with a Constitution you will find they will come to the rescue of England. That is the virtue of the British Constitution. They are alive to the needs of the time and what greater freedom can you enjoy? Under the statute of Westminster the Dominions have got the right, not only as British citizens, but the supreme right is given of seceding from the Empire, if you so like. The very fact you can secede from the Empire will probably make very few of us wish to secede from the Empire. It will prevent you from exercising that right when you know you get all the advantages of British citizenship, all the advantages of British protection, and I see no practical benefits for any of us in getting outside of the Empire.
That is why I have got my faith in the British Empire. That is why I feel India's proper place is as an honourable and equal partner within the British Empire, and I believe the vast majority of my countrymen will endorse my words.
Now, may I explain to you why these countries, India; England and Canada are together. We have been brought together by the British Empire. We are there. There is one touch of Empire which makes all of us kin and my concluding words are these: Whom the British Empire have brought together let no man put asunder.