AN ADDRESS BY SIR ROBERT ERSKINE HOLLAND,
K.C.I.E., C.S.I., C.V.O.
Thursday, March 3rd, 1938.
PRESIDENT: Your Honour, Our Guests, Members of The Empire Club of Canada: We are honoured today by the presence of the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, and we welcome him most heartily on this, his first visit of many, we hope, to this Club. (Applause.) It is fitting that His Majesty should be represented here today when one, in the person of Sir Robert Erskine Holland, is our guest-speaker, as his life has been one of service to the Crown.
Traveller's who visit India are amazed at the many beauties and strange customs of that vast Empire, and those travellers who are student of government, while thus amazed, also wonder at and are full of admiration for the personal efficiency of the Indian Civil Service. For many years the best brains of Britain have been directed to this all-important link of our Empire, to assist in directing its course to self-government. The obstacles have been many, the sacrifices great, but success, we hope, is assured.
Our guest-speaker, a brilliant scholar, graduated from Winchester College and Oriel College, Oxford, and entered the Indian Civil Service. He has filled so many high positions in that service with distinction that enumeration of them would form an address in itself. His knowledge of Indian affairs is not surpassed, his honours are many and he has indeed helped to bring about that changing India, that better' India.
I have the great honour to introduce to you Sir Robert Erskine Holland, the subject of his address-"Changing India." Sir Robert. (Applause.)
SIR ROBERT ERSKINE HOLLAND: Your Honour, Members of The Empire Club of Canada: Before I describe to you the political drama which is being enacted on the stage of India, I should like to be allowed to sketch graphically something of India's historic background.
India, as you know, is not a nation and the reason for that is that through thousands of years in the past invaders have constantly streamed down through the passes, over the mighty mountains of the Himalayas and have looted, raided
and carried off their booty, back through the passes until finally, attracted by the wealth of the cities of the plains of the Indus and the Ganges, they settled down and drove the original inhabitants into the mountains and jungles. That happened many times and as a result India is covered with a medley of racial deposits, so that there is no single language spoken throughout India. There are in fact twelve main groups of language and no less than 22o dialects are found in the sub-Continent.
That is the first point I wish to make, that there is no nation at present in India and the difficulty is to weld all those different races into one nationhood before self-government can be given to India. Only through force has India been an Empire in the past. On three occasions-twice there were Hindu Empires, 300 years before Christ, and 300 years after Christ-then came the Mogul Empire which was founded by Baber, and continued by the Emperor Akbar, and it was when that empire was falling to ruins that the British power appeared on the coast of India.
Great Britain, that is to say the East India Company did not go to India for the purpose of conquest, as Japan has now gone into China, but simply for the object of trade and for the first hundred years or so that company was occupied in contending against other rival European powers; first, the Portuguese, then the Dutch, then the French, and it was in the course of that fighting against these powers that the company was led on to territorial conquest of India. But that conquest was made against the will of the East India Company at home. It was not made with British troops but with Indian troops who cordially continued and assisted the company to deliver the countryside from the chaos which had followed upon the disruption of the Mogul Empire. Gradually the East India Company gained a mandate for administration of a large extent of Indian territory and extended its borders, always endeauvoring to keep a ring fence beyond which adventure should not go, until at last in 1784, the British Government decided that the time had come for the Crown to take over the responsibility of the Company as regards the government of Indian races and it was then, by an Act, which was passed in 1784, that the policy was laid down for the government of India which has been strictly adhered to ever since, namely, that the British work in India should be for the welfare and advancement of the people of India and not for purely selfish ends.
That was the prototype of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations and it was the first instance on record of a trusteeship by one country for the welfare of another.
But Great Britain had never conquered the whole of India, as you know. One-half of the area of India is still today under the Indian rulers who are in alliance with the British Crown. Those little kingdoms were fragments which broke off from the Mogul Empire when that Empire began to decay. In some cases they were original little kingdoms which had come under Mogul sway and which joyfully seized the opportunity to renew their individual life. But those rulers have ever since been bound to the British Crown in ties of subordinate alliance and they are today another difficulty in the way of establishing self-government for India, as I shall explain directly.
The British Government by a succession of Acts pursued their policy of trusteeship for the peoples of India. In 1883 by the Charter Act they again laid down their policy and they opened the gates of service in India under the Crown to every native of India, without bar of race, religion, social distinction, or anything else and a few years later they took a still more momentous step in making English the language for entry into the public service in India. After the battle of the languages was fought in Calcutta, and with the aid of Macaulay, it was decided that English should become the official language. The importance of that I shall explain a little later.
I won't worry you with the successive pronouncements made by the British Government which indicates their gradual approach to the grant of self-government to India. I will only mention that in 1909, the Legislative Councils in India were made largely elective. That was at the time of what was called the Morley-Minto Reforms, and then during the war, in 1917, a declaration was made in the British Parliament, explaining that the object of the British Government was to bring about the increasing association of Indians in every branch of the adminstration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions, with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India, as a part of the British Empire.
Two years later that policy was partly brought to fruition in the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms when dyarchy, that is to say a dual system of government, was introduced into the provinces, whereby the Governors ruled their provinces with the aid of Cabinets, chosen from Indian Legislatures, but at the same time certain subjects were reserved and among them law and order, so that there might not be too abrupt a transition from unitarian government to responsible government in the provinces. Those reforms were no heartily welcomed by Indians because they felt that they did not adequately fulfil their ideal of self-government by democratic means.
But, during the whole of the war India remained extremely loyal to the British Government. As you know, Indian troops fought on many battle fields and there was hardly a murmur of discontent throughout India. The
Indian Princes rallied to the assistance of the British Empire as one man and helped with their troops and with generous gifts of money and in many other ways. But about r g t g the atmosphere began to change. As it were, sparks of fire broke out all over India at all the danger points, which were well known to the British administrators. In every district, almost, trouble began. Very often those troubles were not directed in any way against British rule. Hindus turned against Mohammedans. On the railways and in big industrial concerns employees turned against their authorities and the forces of order seemed at one time almost to be breaking down. Then, Mahatma Gandhi, who had been in the head of the Congress Movement for some time came to the front and described the British rule as a satanic government and deliberately led the people behind him in attempts to break down the British administrative system, by means of boycott of British goods, by manufacture illegally of salt, .by tampering with the loyalty of the army and in many other ways. There were terrible rebellions, as you will remember, in the Punjab, and in Malabar, when many thousands of people were unfortunately killed and in the Punjab, as you will remember, the rebellion was largely put down as a result of General Guyer's attack upon the crowd at Amritsar. Diverse opinions are held as to the merits of what he did when he suppressed the trouble which he found in front of him at Amritsar. The general result of that firing was that the rebellion in the Punjab collapsed but throughout India there was a wave of feeling that he had exceeded the needs of the moment and that the firing which had been conducted under his orders had been cruel and unnecessarily punitive. I was then in charge of a province in India and I know what the effect produced in my own province was, that the mind and heart of the people were turned away from the British Government and it seemed as though our system of rule was about to collapse.
But still the government went on. Eventually Mr. Gandhi was arrested and things (began to quiet down after the Simon Commission came out, which wasn't at all welcome by the Indian people. When it came that another installment of self-government was to be given to India the wave of ill-feeling which had spread over India began to subside.
As you know the next installment of reform was given in 1935 by the Act of 1935, when the autonomy in the provinces which had been begun in 1919 was extended by the abolition of the system of dyarchy so that every subject of administration was dealt with by the Governor with the aid of his Cabinet. But still the plan was not wholly acceptable to the Indians because it was found necessary to give to the Governor certain reserve powers which were called safeguards, so that in time of great emergency he might set aside the help of his Cabinet and take the reins of power once more in his own hands. Indians, and especially the Congress, objected to that and they objected also to the fact that the franchise was not a one man, one vote system, but was given on a proportional representation system, so that a fixed number of votes was given to Mohammedans to insure that their interests should not be swamped in the administration.
Various other features of the provincial autonomy were objectionable to Congress but it was absolutely necessary that such safeguards should be imposed. First, because when the Mogul Empire came to an end there was left, not merely chaos, and a disrupted situation in the country, but a mass of Mohammedans living side by side with the Hindus, but thoroughly out of tune with them and disliking their manners and customs. Eighty millions of Mohammedans now live cheek by jowl with the Hindus and work with them but never intermarry, never eat with them, and rarely share their' pursuits. At any moment there is a danger of outbreaks of ill-feeling and especially so since this system of reforms began to be introduced, because before the British arrived in the country Mohammedans held all the offices under the Mogul Empire of dignity and importance and their language, of course, was the language of the court and administration. When, in 1835 or '36, English was made the official language, the Mohammedans at one blow lost the position which they had had under their own government and which they had retained for seventy years under British rule. They feared that they were going to be enslaved by the Hindus whose numbers of course, are vastly superior, and the bitterness of feeling was such that it even contributed very largely to the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny. But, after the Mutiny the Mohammedans settled down and opened their own colleges and schools. They set themselves to learning English and very soon caught up with the Hindus, although, owing to their small numbers of course they could never achieve such a large share in appointments as the Hindus held. When it became apparent that the British were going to hand over rule in India some day to the Indians themselves the Mohammedans were bitterly apprehensive lest they should become the under-dogs and Hindus, similarly, were apprehensive that the superior fighting power of the Mohammedans might succeed in subduing them, in spite of their superior numbers.
That is why these two races are always likely to fly upon one another's throats whenever the situation in any particular spot becomes inflamed. The passions which drive Hindus and Mohammedans against one another are really comparable to those passions which drove European nations into the Great Wax and it is absolutely essential that before nationhood for India can develop they must find some common uniting bond. At present I am sorry to say there is small indication of any unity developing but undoubtedly national sentiment is slowly growing in India and one can only hope it will in time weld them together.
But the opposition of Indians was not only directed against the provincial autonomy part of the new Constitution. Of course, provincial autonomy in India is only a fraction of what Great Britain hopes to bring about. It is absolutely essential that there should be a move toward responsibility at the center before India can become a nation. The intention is that a federation shall be brought into effect but the trouble to begin with is how to federate eleven autonomous provinces together with the Indian states, which, as I mentioned, constitute the other half of India. The provinces are as democratic as they can be made at present and the states areas monarchical now as they have ever been. Great Britain is bound by solemn treaties and by engagements to support the dynasties of these Princes and to perpetuate their system of rule so long as they govern their people reasonably well. If a Prince fails to achieve the standard which the Government of India considers right, he is ruthlessly deposed with the applause of his brother Princes, but although the Princes are wide-minded and tolerant and although their system of rule is not by any means wholly autocratic, they have in their own states a system of responsibility which though not democratic brings them into close touch with the sentiment and wishes of the people and in cases they have actually started legislative assemblies and advisory councils on the model of the assemblies in the provinces. Nevertheless, they do not want to abandon that old system which represents so much of the past to them and which is dear both to them and to their people.
The problem now is to unite together these two entirely dissimilar qualities in a bond which will enable India to hold up its head among the nations. The federal plan is that .the Governor-General shall govern India with the aid of a Cabinet chosen from the Legislature, but that he shall have three subjects reserved to himself, in dealing with which he shall be responsible only to the British Parliament. That, of course, again is dyarchy of the same kind as was originally in force in the provinces and which proved unsuccessful. There are those who prophesy that it will prove unsuccessful speedily at the center if federation comes into force. Indians, naturally, object to the reservation of these three subjects which are concerned with defense, foreign affairs and ecclesiastical affairs. Ecclesiastical affairs, of course, refer to the Church of England and other European churches. But it is absolutely inevitable at present that defense which involves the maintenance of the northwestern frontier which is almost an international boundary, shall be looked after by British troops and that the British Parliament shall be responsible for it. So long as that is so it is quite impossible for the subject of defense to be handed over to the Indian Parliament.
For the same reason foreign affairs must be dealt with by the Viceroy, subject to the authority of the British Parliament.
As regards the states, the Governor-General exercises two functions. He is in relation with the states as the representative of the Crown and the Provincial Legislatures and the Federal Legislature have very little to do with those relations. But the states are to be brought into the Federal Legislature by nominating their own representatives, both in the Upper and the Lower House. They are to have one-third of the representatives of the Upper House and two-fifths in the Lower House, and as they are not democratic bodies in the states, these representatives are to be nominated by the rulers.
That is the second reason why Congress objects so strongly to the Federal plan, and they have said that they have no intention of allowing this federation system to come into force. There are other grounds on which they object to the proposed federation but I will not trouble you with those at present.
The Congress and its adherents at first proclaimed that they would have nothing to do with the elections from the provinces when provincial autonomy came into force, but they actually ran candidates, as you remember, and they were successful in a great number of cases, and they swept the board, practically, in six provinces out of the eleven. Last year, you will remember, they said that Congress Ministers would only take office provided the Governors would give assurance that they would not use their special powers to interfere with Ministers, so long as they were governing constitutionally. Such a pledge could not be given under the Act and a deadlock ensued, until Lord Linlithgow, by a tactful communique managed to induce the Congress to allow their members to take office in the provinces. And they did take office, in spite of the statement of the President, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, that he would only allow a Minister to take office on the understanding that the Constitution would be wrecked from the inside by their doing so. They took office and their government has been during the past few months, extraordinarily successful. There has been practically no friction with the Governors of the provinces or the British authorities. The safeguards which they objected to so much have not been utilized at all and the Congress Ministers have developed an extraordinary parliamentary faculty and have shown great administrative ability, especially in Madras. At first they were handicapped a good deal by some attempted interference by the All-India Committee of Congress who, of course, have their own programme and wanted by means of a kind of dictatorship to enforce it in all provinces where there were Congress Ministers, but the Ministers, very rightly and stoutly, said they were responsible to the people who had elected them and they were going to deal with their provincial problems in their own way. Eventually, the Congress Committee has had to withdraw their dictatorship to a great extent, although some of Mr. Gandhi's pet theories are now being tried out, such as prohibition of alcohol and education of children on vocational lines instead of on purely literary lines.
I have always felt if provincial autonomy could be brought into being that the attitude of Congress toward federation would change a good deal. There is plenty for Provincial Ministers to do in eradicating abuses and starting reforms, reforms of a kind which the British Governments were powerless even to introduce and I hope and believe that they will .no longer be so anxious to achieve complete independence for India outside the British Empire. Mr. Gandhi himself has said that he will be willing to accept Dominion status if the British Government would now confer it but, of course, Dominion status is not a thing that can be conferred. As you know in Canada, it is a thing which has to be achieved by years of work and endeavour and then recognition of the status achieved can be made by the British Parliament, if necessary. Dominion status is not a privilege or a qualification which can be granted by any parliament. But Indians do not appreciate that and are perpetually demanding that this status should be conferred upon them.
Another thing which has emerged from the successful working of Congress Ministries in the provinces is that there is no definite policy of Congress; no leadership, no determination of the goal to which Congress and other Nationalist parties are moving. Congress, which was founded by two Englishmen in 1855, endeavoured for many years to achieve progress in India by Constitutional means Then, it was captured by the left wing and eventually it announced that its object was separation of India from England. But it has shown on successive occasions that it has no definite and fixed aim. It has continually changed its aim as different parties within Congress gained sway and no one can say now who the leader of the Nationalist Movement in India is and what line will be taken when the new President of Congress is elected. The present President is an ardent Socialist and his idea is to destroy the Constitution which the British Government have offered and to make a clean sweep, to incite the people against the British Government, and to make a clean sweep before a new system is evolved by a constituent assembly of Indians will say what the future government will be.
But the only man whose word at present goes with the masses of India is Mr. Ghandi. I mentioned just now that Mr. Gandhi led some subversive movement against the British Government, but it is not fair to blame Mr. Gandhi for the troubles of the past. He has always been an earnest seeker after truth and he has always been ready to acknowledge when his energies were diverted into wrong channels. He became for a time the tool of party politicians and his movement of civil disobedience and civil non-co-operation gave rise to terrible outbreaks and massacres, and when he realized that, he was the first person to acknowledge that he had made a grievous mistake and he did fast and penance for it. He then quitted the Congress membership, finding that sainthood is tarnished by too close contact with politicians. He is an elder, statesman whose advice is taken by the active politicians in moments of crisis and whose word goes with the masses of India because they reverence his ascetic life and the pure and lofty ideals which he has worked out for himself. He has not so far made any pronouncement on the subject of federation but he has said that parliamentary mentality has come to stay in India and he has hinted that he will not in future be a party to civil disobedience. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and others, on the other hand, have openly hinted they will try and start civil disobedience again if the British Government tries to bring about federation.
It remains to be seen, first, whether a sufficient number of the princes will join in federation to enable it to be inaugurated. If they do not then the provincial autonomy will have to continue as it is with representative government in the provinces and unitarian, self-totalitarian government at the center. That, of course, cannot last long and it is up to the Indians themselves to try and find an alternative to this federation if they don't like it. So far, they have found no alternative because they cannot sink their own differences.
Sir Rabindrarnath Tagore, speaking at Calcutta a little while ago, and he is one of the clearest and greatest thinkers in India, said, "Our obstacles lie within our own hearts. We must clear away these misunderstandings. We must get rid of our own hatreds and jealousies. We must somehow settle our own differences before we can go together to any power, that is to say the British Government, and ask for a further installment of reform."
And, Indians, I think, are beginning to realize that now. They are taking a tremendous interest in international affairs. They realize what it is going to be for them to be a nation among other nations. Hitherto, they have always been content to shelter under the aegis of the British power. They thought their problems could be solved under that shelter.
I remember once an Indian statesman who is now Prime Minister of an Indian state told me in London several year's ago, "You British will shortly be going. We shall be governing our own country." He was an old friend of mine. I said, "Yes, what about the British army? Who will protect the frontier?" He said, "Oh! the British army, of course, will stay." I said, "Not at all. No British army can be left in a country at the beck and call of an Indian Ministry. It must always be under the authority of some one who is responsible to the British Parliament.
Indians are just beginning to see that defense means more than the massing of a certain amount of material, mote than the enrolment of a militia, more than the attempt to stem invaders who come down through the northwestern passes, by the doctrine of a hymn, say, or by offering love, as Mr. Gandhi suggested. Indians have been watching very closely the progress of affairs in the Far East and also in Europe. They are, of course, in sympathy with the Government of Spain. The Congress have sent an ambulance unit to Valencia. They sympathize deeply with the Abyssinians in their sufferings under the Italians. They sympathize deeply with the Chinese in what they are undergoing at Japanese hands now. They have been boycotting Japanese goods in Bombay and in Singapore there was a riot of Chinese and Indians against the Japanese. They are developing a mentality which, I hope, will stand them in good stead when they come to take over charge of the government of India. They realize that money must be spent if you want to have effective defense. Formerly, their only contribution to the subject of defense was to complain that the British Government were always spending the greater part of the revenue of India on troops and munitions for the northwest frontier. Now, they realize that India must some day have a navy of its own and must some day have a thoroughly up-to-date air force, and must have an army which will not fight within itself but will be devoted to India's cause.
The great trouble about Indians taking charge of the Indian army, of course, is this Hindu-Mussulman rivalry which penetrates every walk of life and activity and forms such a barrier to progress.
I should like to read you what Sir Rabindranath Tagore said about Japan's present action. He said, "With the rest of India I once admired Japan and fondly hoped that in Japan Asia had at last discovered its challenge to the West and that Japan's new strength would be concentrated in safeguarding the culture of the East, but Japan has betrayed that rising hope and repudiated all that seemed significant in her wonderful and, to us, symbolic awakening and has now itself become a menace to the defenceless peoples of the East." (Applause.)
The realization of that is one of the most important things, I think, of the present day. A gentleman asked me two or three days ago at the place where. I was lecturing, if there was a combined movement among the yellow and brown peoples of the East to sweep Europeans out of their borders. I said, "Not at all." It seemed to me to be quite a stupid thing to say. First of all, how could the yellow peoples combine together. There are innumerable different yellow peoples, all thinking different ways and, as I have explained to you, there are innumerable races in India by no means combined about anything. Japan has antagonized China for many years to come. Take Siam, for instance, which is a yellowish brown race. The Siamese are not Indians and they are not Chinese. They have been extremely friendly with the Japanese but they are fully alive to the dangers of Japanese conquest and I think that Japanese action in China will do more to stem Japanese intrusion into Siam than anything since the Japanese were in Siam. Between 1592 and 1632, I think it was, they were in Siam and they were expelled finally by massacre. They have come back again recently and have absorbed a great deal of trade in Siam abut I don't think the members of the Siamese Government at present have any intention of being led astray by Japanese or of handing over their country to them. They are immensely jealous of their national individuality and they are very pro-British because their currency is linked to sterling. Many of them have been educated in England and America sand France and I am convinced they will never allow the Japanese to cut that Isthmus of Kraw, of which you have been hearing so much.
But that is rather digressing from the Indian problem. I wanted to insist upon that point, in particular, that there is no combined movement of eastern nations, I feel perfectly sure, to get rid of western civilization and to turn out European peoples from their borders. I am sure that, take it all round, the people in India are immensely grateful for' British rule and that they are quite certain they can only survive in the national race of they depend on British might for some time to come.
I feel I must say there is some doubt as to how the Indian people will regard recent political happenings in England. They have always considered that England stood for staunch adherence to principle and for the rights of democracy and for justice to smaller peoples, for the defence of the oppressed. I can't help feeling that the change over in British policy will come as rather a blow to our best well wishers among the Indian people. They are always strong themselves upon the question of "izzat". "Izzat" means your honour. An Indian will cheerfully sacrifice his property, his house, his wife or his children or anything for the sake of the maintenance of his honour and he considers that the British people will always do the same. My own personal opinion is that the rapprochement with Germany and Italy is perhaps rather an unfortunate thing. It somehow doesn't smell right. It suggests a compromise. It suggests that there has been some surrender of principle and it reminds one rather of the time when England was liable to attack by the Danes and when the Dane-geld was paid to induce the enemy to go away for the time being. I dare say you remember a poem of Kipling's, in which he said
It is always a temptation to a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say:
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have
not the time to meet you,
We will therefore pay you cash and go away."
And that is called paying the Dane-geld,
But we've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld,
You never get rid of the Dane."
It is best to say
We never pay anyone Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!"
It looks rather to me as though having paid the Danegeld, we are going to be asked to pay some more. The Italians don't seem to be going to withdraw their people from Spain, as was expected until the frontiers are closed, and Germany is loudly saying she wants colonies. The policy of giving way never pays where there is a question of principle at stake. (Applause.) I can't help feeling that our cousins sand neighbours feel very much the same and that the only solution of the terrible mess in which the world has got at present is for the great Anglo-Saxon nations, side by side, to take their stand and tell the rest of the world what they stand for. (Applause-prolonged.) PRESIDENT: Sir Robert, the objects of this Club are the advancement of the interests of Canada and a united Empire. By addressing us today you have greatly helped in our aims, as you have brought the problems of India closer to us.
On behalf of the members of The Empire Club of Canada and our guests I extend to you our' grateful thanks for your interesting address. (Applause.)