- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 31 Jan 1935, p. 229-245
- Raja-Singham, A.I., Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- Why the speaker chose this topic. Self-determination. Different approaches that have been taken to the problem of India. Words from the Ex Lord Mayor of Calcutta and from Rabindranath Tagore, representing different views of India, between which lie the view of the vast majority of the people of India. The speaker's response to these views. Words of Lord Macaulay from 100 years ago. What has happened to India during those 100 years. Grievances against the British. The difficulty of discovering the underlying problem in the heart of India. The speaker's pride in being a member of the British Empire. Mistakes that Britain has made in India. The greatest duty for Great Britain. The villages of India as the major problem. Speaking to the people in the villages about politics when their greatest problem is eking out a living in their own country. Problems with the method of agriculture. The factor of religion. The influence of Mahatma Ghandi; twenty years ago mistaking his call in India. The lack of understanding between the West and the East. Suggestions for change. Lord Irwin and what he has done for India. Putting Christian prestige before British prestige. Asking the Western World to rise to the opportunity that the Eastern World gives for moral leadership.
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- 31 Jan 1935
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- Full Text
- INDIA AND THE EMPIRE
AN ADDRESS BY MR. A. I. RAJA-SINGHAM
Thursday, January 31, 1935
The guest speaker was introduced by the President of The Empire Club, Mr. Dana Porter.
MR. DANA PORTER: Gentlemen, not many months ago the Marquis of Lothian spoke to the members of this Club and in the course of his speech he predicted that at the next general election in Great Britain one of the chief issues would probably be the White Paper as to the government of India.
The importance of the situation in India is not only apparent to the people who vote in Great Britain itself but it is, obviously, of very great importance to the people of this country, and merely because India is a part of the British Empire it is also a subject of intense interest to us and a subject about which we are all anxious to learn more.
'Mr. Rajah-Singham, our guest of honour today, tells me that except for this visit in which he is now engaged, he has never before left India. This is the first time he has ever left the shores of India. He was educated in India, although possibly by his command of English you may be unable to detect that, and his whole life has been spent in the southern part of that country.
He comes to us, and we always welcome a variety of points of view in this Club, he comes to us expressing a point of view which„ perhaps, we have not quite had before. His point of view is at once British, it is Indian, and it is Christian. We have had speakers at this Club who have represented the purely British point of view and those who have represented the Indian point of view and perhaps we have had those who represented the combination of those two points of view, but in Mr. RajahSingham, we have a native Indian who is a Christian and who is a believer in the institutions of the British Empire and in the maintaining of India as a part of that Empire.
I have very great pleasure in calling on Mr. RajahSingham.
MR. A. I. RAJAH-SINGHAM: Mr. President and Members of the Empire Club: I thank you for this privilege you have given me of letting me be your guest today.
I want to speak as plainly and as briefly as I could on this important question of "India within the Empire." I have chosen the subject because of the fact that during the last twenty years, or rather after the cessation of the Great War, in the west, the word that has swept people off their feet has been 'self-determination'. In the East, the word that swept people off their feet, especial ly in my country, has been 'swaraj'. Self-determination and swarai have swept people off their feet and I come to you„ asking to open a new avenue of thought altogether and the new avenue of thought is this: That people could be self-determined, people could govern themselves, people could have a say in the government of their own affairs and yet remain as an important and contributing and cooperating partner of the great Commonwealth of Nations. (Applause)
The problem of India has been approached from different angles. My friend, Chandra Bose, Ex Lord Mayor of Calcutta, would like everybody to approach the problem of India in this way; he would say about India "Had she not once been the High Priestess of the Orient? Had not her civilization left its ripple mark on the furthermost limits of Asia? India still had a soul to save which the parching drought of modern vulgarity threatened daily with death; she alone in a pharisaical world, where every one acclaimed God in speech and denied him in spirit, India alone offered him the worship of her heart; she alone gave birth to the choice spirits who cast aside the highest of earth's gifts in their enraptured pursuits of the life of life . . . Was India to deform herself from the Temple of God into one vast inglorious suburb of English civilization?"
Those words are not my words. Those are the words of Mr. Chandra Bose, Ex Lord Mayor of Calcutta. He represents a school of thought in India which would like to approach the Indian problem in that way.
Again, I would like you to approach the problem from the words of a much better man, a man I admire greatly--Rabindranath Tagore. His prayer for India is contained in these words
"Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free, Where the world has not been broken up by narrow domestic walls, Where words come out from the depth of truth Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way in the dreary desert sand of dead habit Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever widening thought and action, Into that Heaven o f Freedom, my Father, let my country awake."
In between those two great points is the gulf wherein lies the vast majority of the people of India. There is Chandra Bose who would like to lead India through a revolution into freedom, whatever that freedom might mean in the end. There is Rabindranath Tagore who would like India to work to that ideal place where everybody is stated as a human being and nobody has special privileges.
I would like to stick to Rabindranath Tagore's idea, but I would like to alter the last words and say: Into that Heaven of Freedom, my Father, lead me to take my country.
I don't want my God to work miracles just because a group of human beings had become important, and ninety per cent of India's population lies in that gulf of impotency. Their problems have never been watched, their words have never been brought to the public's attention, they have never been given an opportunity to speak for themselves. Why? Because eighty-five percent of the people of India are still illiterate. Just because of that their voice has never been heard. Where there is illiteracy, no politicians go. There is rumour, gossip, talk here and there. They are swept off their feet by every passing crowd, every passing show that comes along, and they march along and say, "Here we are, marching toward freedom." That will never bring us to the true freedom we are longing for.
A hundred years ago, Lord Macaulay made a statement. You had sent to India an English gentleman, a hundred years ago, Lord Macaulay who had made a mark by his military education, a prominent man, and he made this statement: "The destinies of our Indian Empire are covered with thick darkness. It is difficult to form any connection as to the fateful result for a state which resembles no other in history and which forms by itself a separate class of political phenomena. The laws which regulate its growth and decay are still unknown to us. It may be that the mind of India may expand under our system till it has outgrown that system; that by good government we may educate our subjects into a capacity for better government; that having become instructed in European knowledge they may in some future age demand European institutions. Whether such a day will ever come I know not, but never will I attempt to avert or retard it. Whenever it comes it will be the proudest day in English history."
A hundred years have passed by. The laws which regulate India's growth and decay are still unknown to many people. A hundred years have gone by. Institutions have stood for their purpose; institutions, Indian and Western, have tried their level best to solve the problems of the people of the country and today, after a hundred years, it will be right to say, the laws which regulate its growth and decay are still unknown to the vast majority of people handling the problems of India.
India has had a type of education, based on the minutes of Lord Macaulay, and after a hundred years of that type of education, we find two and a half million of vociferous millions whose voice is heard. Unfortunately, I belong to that group. They are people who go about the whole world and would like India to be run exactly according to their wishes. Two and a half million people who would not consider how best it is possible to bring out the great majority of ninety per cent as a co-operating partner in the government of the affairs of the country. No country can become independent until the vast majority of the people are willing to co-operate in the government of its own affairs and India is not in that prepared state to be able to co-operate in that government, the large majority of them.
Why are the large majority of the people in India unable to co-operate? Because the two and a half million men that are educated in English were taught that if they imitated the Englishman, if they became the perfect Englishman, that the salvation of the problems of India would have been reached. They came to that stage twenty-five years ago. Two and a half million of the people were purely imitative Indian gentlemen. They had education, scientific and otherwise, everything that western institutions could give them, but they lacked the philosophy back of the Englishman, the philosophy that made his country, that still makes him hold himself through the greatest and most difficult trials of the world and steer clear and bring out something that is best for the human world. That philosophy was lacking in India.
The philosophy of the Indian man was quite different. It was something like this: "The world in which I live is a mirage; why worry myself to do anything to improve this world? All these things are created by God and have got to be in the state in which they are created. I have nothing to do in the ordering of these things." Naturally, the people are like that. When they have attained that imitative education, after they are given the capacity to voice their own sentiments, to be able to see a foreign government in India is difficult.
Indian people are often expected when they come to western countries, if they want to make a good speech, to be able to put out a catalogue of grievances against the British. I do not want even you, even though you belong to the Empire, even though you are members whose heart is tied down to the Empire to a great extent, T do not want you to be under the hallucination that all English people are a group of angels dropped from Heaven. Neither do I want you to be under the illusion that every Indian man who has a grievance is speaking his grievance out because he is prejudiced against the Britisher. There have been causes for grievance in India and it stands out because some of them are outstanding causes. When people, for a hundred years, have imitated the people who have considered themselves superiors, the faults of the people they imitated and considered superior always stand out, they predominate, and those faults have been found in English people, administrators, here and there. Fortunately, I am in a position to say they are not numerous. Fortunately, I am in a position to say they have been not intentional. They have been errors of judgment and because of this, the English people still haven't found out what is the underlying problem in the heart of India. It is a difficult problem to find out because India is a country of bewildering diversity.
Somebody in the paper put me up as an authority on South India. It is all right for newspaper men to travel in India five days and become an authority on India, but it is not possible for any man, who has lived in India thirty years to be able to stand up and say, "I am an authority on India."
India is a country of bewildering diversity, and no man can himself, be an authority even in one province. How do you expect a whole group of people, diversified in language, diversified in religion, diversified in social custom, in so many unimaginable little things, how do you expect a foreign people to go into India and be able to imbibe and see through the culture of forty centuries and bring out what will be the finest and best for the good o f India?
Let me say this about the British people; in spite of all the mistakes they have made, in spite of everything that might have happened there, I am proud to be a member of the British Empire. (Applause). I do not say that merely because I have to be a member of the British Empire. I say that because of this: If you analyze the contacts between the West and the East especially in the East today, Great Britain will stand out as the nation, making due allowances-I want to rub that in as much as possible--making due allowances for all the mistakes that have been made, England will standout as one nation whose contact with the East is predominantly full of fair play and justice and I am glad to be able to say that. But that does not in any way exonerate England's great responsibility to that great country. A good statesman is not a person who is able to keep 360 millions of people under the British flag. A good statesman is not a person who is able to suppress extreme movements in the country. A good statesman is one who will direct the 360 millions of people, to the betterment of the whole human race. A good statesman is one who is able to direct extreme opinion and extreme channels of thought into constructive action. That is the greatest duty for Great Britain, and to find out the plan of being able to do that will be the greatest duty that Great Britain has to face.
How is this going to be faced? Indian people are not willing to look at the major problems of India. The major problem is in the villages of India. What are the villages of India? I can speak with authority at least about a little bit of the part of South India in which I live. They are unimaginable to the Western villager. The Western villager cannot easily think what a village in India is. Apart from the larger cities, I don't think there is any comparison I can take back to the towns. The small cities are something like the big towns of India. To compare the villages would be difficult. They consist of little mud huts, thatched roofs, one room, in which live families of four or five, cattle, and all poor people must have a dog-I don't know why they always must have and feed a dog. I don't know why. And all these things are cluttered together in one place.
Now, speak to them about politics. What right have they to think about politics? Speak to them about important social movements. What right have they to think about it. Their greatest problem is to eke out a living in their own country. Their greatest problem, after working hard, is to subsist on the meagre earnings they can get. They are unable to do it. Why are they unable to do it? Because their methods of agriculture, their modes of living, their hygenic conditions are all tied up in the villages, not with what is called religion, because religion in the vast majority of the villages could be called superstition. I would not like you to believe-I see a lot of clerical gentlemen here-I don't want you to believe the whole of India is a heathen country. I have changed my explanation of the word 'heathen' since I have come over to the Western countries I no longer think of heathenism as having any geography in any part of the world. Heathenism is rampant everywhere and I no longer want you to think of India as a whole block of heathen people. But there is a superstition, just as bad or worse than having a heathen religion. There is a superstition that does not allow them to take one step in their life, birth or marriage, or cultivation or government, all affaris, everything has got to be in connection with religion and tied up in that thing is the problem of India.
Introduce any method of agriculture; they at once want to find out how it is going to work as far as the religion is concerned. Introduce new hygienic methods; they have to ask the question, "Is it all right? Will the priest O.K. this business?" Introduce anything, everything has got to be touched by religion. Sometimes it is a good thing when life is touched by religion, provided religion is not superstition. I am a great believer in the fact that the whole of life is sacred. I am not a believer in the fact that life can be divided into compartments--a Sunday department, and a week day department; business, secular; and Sunday, religious. I am not a believer in that. I am a believer in the fact that every plan of life should be touched by religion. I am a believer in the fact that God should be introduced into every path of life and men should consider themselves right in the hands of God, whether doing business or preaching in the pulpit.
But in India, unfortunately, this sacredness of life has been thwarted and instead of a conception of God working through the different branches of life, what has come into India is a superstition, a fear-"I won't lift this"; "I won't do that"; and "I won't do the other thing"-just because something is going to happen to irritate my god or goddess and I am going to be punished.
That has got to be removed. What is going to remove it? No foreign power, no outside force can remove it. The reform, that movement has to come from the roots of India and the reform will come when its two and a half million of educated young men and women who are thinking in terms of government jobs, when they recognize by themselves that they are forgetting the problems of their own people down below, when they begin to recognize that the education they have received, that the education that has become possible to them has got to be put into instructive channels in the villages of India; when Indian young men and women begin to see that they have to go back to the villages and bring into action the thing brought to them by foreign people from outside, when they can adopt the educational systems, when they can adapt knowledge, when they can adopt the teachings of science to improve village conditions and when it comes naturally in the only Indian way, the thing will work. That is the greatest problem before the people of India.
We have wasted now, twenty years in propaganda. The last twenty years in the history of India will go out as a most important period. When you touch the last twenty years of Indian history, you come to the period when the great Mahatma Ghandi launched into India. Mahatma Ghandi came fortified by the power of reputation in South Africa; he came fortified by his successes in South Africa; he came fortified by the good opinions of some of the outstanding English people in the Old Country. Naturally, when he came to India twenty years ago, when everybody was expecting some great movement in India, Mahatma Ghandi mistook his call. I make this statement with all due reverence to Mahatma Ghandi, for I am a firm believer in the fact that India has not produced a greater man than Mahatma Ghandi during the last fifty years. I want to give due credit, because of the fact that one man goes into public life and tried his level best not to draw something out of public life; that is to say, not to gain something for himself, not to pay himself, get a position in life, and he also tried the most impossible thing in politics--he tried to combine politics and honesty. Mahatma Ghandi has tried to do it, but Mahatma Ghandi has not been successful. It is an almost impossible thing to combine honesty and politics and that is one of the difficulties Mahatma Ghandi has reached.
Giving Mahatma Ghandi all due credit for what he has done, I would like to say that twenty years ago he mistook his call in India. Instead of going as the leader of the .high caste people, instead of trying to turn the channels of high caste people's thinking and opinion into political ideas, if he had started out as the redeemer of the untouchable people in India, India would have been a different country today. If he had done twenty years ago what he is trying after failing in five different schemes and having lost the respect of the people in India, itself; for, being a practical man, if he had not done that but had gone right into the problem of the Indian people in the villages of India and started the reconstruction and the commandeering of all the young men and women who are educated into service in the villages for the untouchable people for the education of the people, to bring about better sanitary conditions and better ways of living, then
India would be in a better condition today. And I want to say this: if Ghandi had done that for twenty years, if the high caste people of India had given Great Britain the proof that they were willing to work for the untouchable man, that they were willing to work for the underdog, that this was not a passing, flittering thing, this question of political freedom, that this was not an empty cry but permanent business, I say this, I have sufficient faith in Great Britain to say that Great Britain would be the first person to stand up and say that India is able to do something for herself and would be willing to walk out and leave her more power. I believe in it but that thing has not been done.
There is no use crying over spilled milk. We have got to get to action. One of the greatest difficulties between the West and the East is this: the lack of understanding between the West and the East. We, in the East, move in a slow way. You, in the West, can create a new nation and forget it in twenty years. We, in the East, slumber and sleep and by the time we turn over in our sleep, it has been twenty years for us. That is our problem. Any movement in India would be slow and the Western people have got to be careful not to expect us to rush, for after all, I find that those who rush so are in the same mess as we are. In our country we have to do things in a real constructive way and we want that to be done in India. What is the best way of creating understanding between the West and the East? I say this, I want the Anglo-Saxon race, and especially every Britisher, to recognize that you came into India and started a schooling for the people of India. They were good students under you. Foreign people must now recognize the fact that the students now want to be school masters among their own people. Don't hold up your hands in holy horror when you see Indian people wanting to take up the problems of their own country and wanting to do certain things, but be patient with them and encourage them to go on in that for therein lies the solution of the problems of the Indian people, in using Indian people to solve Indian problems and I am also thankful at this stage to be able to say that Great Britain has done quite a lot in creating Indian leadership in that country.
The real problem. Mahatma Ghandi looked at the problem of village reconstruction. The real problem is this: Ninety per cent of the people have no sympathy with the political movement in India. When the new movement is set on foot, when the new Constitution comes into force, at best, six and a half per cent of the adult population of India will be having a vote. Six and a half per cent of the adult population in India will be having a vote under the new Constitution when it comes.
You see how difficult it is to work such a problem. One of the things I would like to urge also on the Anglo-Saxon people would be this, that the Anglo-Saxon people recognize that India is a peculiar unit in the whole of the Asiatic countries. India has nothing in common with the rest of the Asiatic nations. Somehow she is unable to fit in with the Asiatic philosophy and India has more in common with the people of the British race than they have in common with the Chinese or the Japanese people. That does not mean that we have no sympathy for the aspirations of the Chinese or the Japanese people. Unfortunately, we find we are unable to go whole heartedly into the philosophy of China and of Japan. Fortunately, there is one way out. The one way out is this to utilize, without destroying our culture, the things that will revive our culture and in that way we can find cooperation between the Western culture and the Eastern culture. I don't want to run down Western culture; I don't want Westerners to run down Eastern culture. If any Easterner runs down Western culture, I have no respect for the Eastern culture he represents; if any Westerner runs down Eastern culture, I have no respect for the Western culture he represents. (Applause.) If any man has got to make his culture stand shoulder high above another man's culture, by running the other man's culture down, there is something fundamentally wrong with that culture. The only thing to do is to bring the best out of India for India's use and make here a cooperative partner in the Empire.
I am a Christian. And I make no apology for being a Christian. (Applause.) I say that because I have met very few people who are willing to talk politics in the terms of the Lord Jesus Christ. I have met very few people who are willing to put into action the principles of Christ in every day life. I have met very few people who think it is practicable to try to bring Christ down to every day problems today, and as I stand here, I can think of only one instance in the whole of India which would justify my bringing this question up before a Club like this.
Out of all the chaos and misunderstanding that has taken place in India, there rose up in the midst of India an English gentleman, during the last seven years, who has turned the tide of Indian affairs to a great extent. This gentleman was present at the Round Table Conference in England, and there was present at the Round Table Conference in England all shades of opinion--Mahomedan, Hindu, Bengalian, all kinds, diversified as they were--amid the clash of opinions, the lack of unanimity as to the future of India, there were people willing to pay the highest tribute to this one man. Man after man got up and said this: Thank God for one man.
Our great Mahomedan leader who had said that he wouldn't go hack to India as a land of bondage, who wanted freedom for India before he left the shores of England. And he stood up and said, "If George the Third lost America for England, George the Fifth would have lost India for England had it not been for one man. Thank God for that tall, thin Englishman, Lord Irwin, who came into the situation at the most critical moment."
Lord Irwin did more for India than any number of Indian people or any number of English statesmen put together. What did he do? He approached the problems of India in a human way. He did not play the problems as a game of chess. He did not say, "This I can sacrifice, and that I can sacrifice, as long as I can save the King and the Bishop and the dignitaries there." He said that every man has a personality to be respected and the Indian people have a personality to be respected and I am willing to go out every length to try and solve India's problems in a human way, recognizing him as a Christian man. Lord Irwin was willing to put Christian prestige before British prestige.
A very modern thing to do. The day we begin to put our national prestige in the background and try and put the prestige that is most important, that is the prestige of recognizing that the last and least of the human race bears the image and superscription of Him whom some of us so reluctantly call our Creator, the moment we recognize that then our problems will become simple. Lord Irwin did that, I am thankful to say that many other British statesmen are willing to do that and therein is found the salvation of the problems of India.
Yesterday I read that one of the missionary ladies said this: The reason why they were not molested in India as they were in China was because of the fact of British rule in India. May I correct that statement? The Indian man never wants to molest any man who comes in the name of God. Irrespective of colour, race or what their personal qualifications may be, the Indian man will always sit and listen to a person who comes in the name of God. With all due respect to the lady, I would like to say that the Indian people do not molest people who come to them because they recognize that they come in the name of God--not because of British military power or anything else, but because they recognize them as people who come in the name of the Prince of Peace.
And I say, repeatedly, the problems of India can only be solved and I do trust, as I know in the press of this country there seems to be a great deal of lack of courage, as is evidenced when a man comes 15,000 miles from India and speaks about Christ in this country and they at once make it a point to drop off the things he said about Christ as if there were a law made in this country that the name of Christ should not appear in the press, and I do trust what I say will appear if anything appears in the press, and I say, the solution of the problems of the whole world is, in my mind, the recognition of the fact that no human being in the world is a pawn. Every human being has a personality and we cannot play in the game of chess any longer. The sooner you and I--business men, people in religious work all over the world--begin to recognize that human beings have a personality and that every personality has got to be respected and that we should do the very best to our neighbour as we expect our neighbour to do to us. Then our problems are solved and Christ has brought the salvation of the prestige of this country and that country and I am a firm believer in that fact.
Many people have asked the reason why I am here. Many people thought I came over to entertain people or give them political ideas. I have come over to this country that the Western World might rise to the opportunity that the Eastern World gives for moral leadership. You have called yourselves Christians and the Eastern World wants you to be Christian. If you are Christian first, British second, and Canadian third--or you may put it in any other order you like, you will become the leaders of the people in India. I want that to be done. I am come to this country, representing probably one of the worst groups in India, a group of people, especially in the Island of Ceylon, who have been thrust into this world without a nationality, without a name, without a loyalty, a group of people come into the world because my people did not have the conception of the respect that is due to personality, because a few of your representatives-fortunately, not all--a few of your British who came to my country did not have the respect for personality and as a result of that in the Island of Ceylon there is the problem known as the Eurasian problem half white, half Indian„ a man of no country, the speckled bird of society--and I want Christian people to recognize that if you want leadership, moral, in the Eastern World, those patches, those sores, those scars on the side of India must be blotted out. There are Indian, people who are willing to stand back of you to blot out those scars. An Empire built by the blotting out of those scars we have created will last much longer than an Empire built by military force and the constructive part of the whole thing is this: There are Indian people today seeing through the eyes of Christ, thinking through the mind of Christ. There are Indian people willing to co-operate with you.
You listen to speakers; you would think that an Empire was built by calling each of you by your first name, by patting each other on the back in service clubs. I want a group of Western people who are active men, not fact finders. You have all the knowledge before you. What you lack is this: You don't want to take action.
Christ says, if a man wants to be a master of the world, he has to be a servant of the world. An empire built on service will stand much longer than an empire built on aggression. I do not for a moment use the word 'aggression' with any connection to the British people.
I want to sum up by saying this: The finest and best that has come to us has come to us from the British people and I would be the sorriest, saddest man on the face of this world, in the British Empire, to see England sever connection with India. I would also be the sorriest, saddest man on the face of this world and in the British Empire, if Christian people who know the truth fall down on their job in moral leadership in the world, and today is the day for moral leadership in the world.
I appeal to you business men, and I appeal to you men in this country, to recognize that the problem of India is just a human problem, not a problem of a brown race to be solved by the white western race, but the problem of a human race, that can be solved by human beings if they possess the spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Prolonged applause.)