Britain in India
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 18 Oct 1938, p. 55-68
Noon, Sir Firozkhan, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club.
Bringing before the public in Canada what India and its people are and what they mean to this great community of nations. The unfortunate impression by many that it is not possible for us all to work together. The speaker's belief that this is based on a lack of knowledge, and misunderstandings as to what India stands for today. Some history of India since Great Britain took over the administration in 1858. Imbibing from British colleagues the idea of the sovereignty of the people. Relations between Britain and India. The present Constitution. Central Government. Struggle for political control. Criticism advanced against the British Government in India. Independence in the way of Canada, South Africa and Australia. Making known to the world that in the case of trouble India is behind the Mother Country. Valuing the great economic and industrial connections of Great Britain and India. The Indian heart with England, and reasons for that. India negotiating a trade pact with England as a free and independent partner of the Empire. Industrial prosperity. The hope that while India continues to arm itself for defence, yet the love of God may continue to live in the hearts of the people.
Date of Original
18 Oct 1938
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Tuesday, October 18, 1938.

A joint meeting of the Canadian Club and the Empire Club of Canada was held on Tuesday, October 18, 1938, at which the guest-speaker was Sir Firozkhan Noon, K.C.I.E., M.A. (Oxon.) The meeting was presided over by Mr. D. M. Gowdy, VicePresident of The Canadian Club.

MR. D. M. GOWDY: Gentlemen, before we go on the air it is a very great privilege to have a few words from Major Ney, Executive Secretary of the National Council of Education, under which body our guest-speaker is travelling today. Major Ney.

MAJOR NEY: Your Honour, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Attorney-General: The visit of Sir Firozkhan Noon has as its background that great rally of youth representing every country of the Empire, which was held in the Royal Albert Hall on May 18th, in connection with the Coronation. Many of you may not know that that gathering, together with the services in Westminster Abbey, in Westminster Cathedral for Roman Catholics, and in. the Central Synagogue for Jewish youth, on the following day, were all organized by the National Council of Education.

At the evening rally in the Albert Hall your guest today was one of the speakers who spoke on behalf of different parts of the Empire. He received a reception from our young people which was second only to that received by Mr. Baldwin himself.

Now, The Times, referring to that gathering on the following day, said this. After describing this gathering of youth, nearly 10,000 in number, The Times went on to say: "'To them the Duke of Gloucester brought the message from the King, and in words as simple as true described the Empire as a great partnership, doing things together for the common good. This partnership is based very largely upon friendship. Pride of Empire he conveyed as pride in its power for good in the world and also for peace."

Then, The Times goes on to say: "When Mr. Baldwin's turn came he spoke as one handing on to another generation the task of government which unfolds in varying forms from one age to the next." This is quoting Mr. Baldwin: "I have had my hour. I pass soon into the shade but as for you, your life lies before you. In the next quarter of a century, as you come to play your part in the great world, the great problems will be problems of government. We vest in you the duty of guarding what is worthy and worth while in your past and our heritage and our traditions. You are in charge of our honour and of all our hopes."

The Times then goes on to say: "There is a great variety of youth movements in the world. Political parties are seeking to involve the groups and sectarian movements. States administered on totalitarian principles are bringing up their youths in rigid drilling of minds and bodies, with a stultifying uniformity. The youth movements that suit our British temper must be those that safeguard youth, its freedom, its originality and its enterprise, both in the realm of the spirit and in the realm of affairs, and inculcates the works of social service with a single motive of enriching and uplifting the level of human happiness and well being."

The Times then goes on quoting Mr. Baldwin as saying that it is a memorable occasion when all must realize the duty and the grandeur of the responsibility that rests on the citizens of a free country. The rich inheritance of the past is a trust to be held for future generations and not the least valuable part of this inheritance is our democracy, crying to the youth of the day for the leadership of the next generation, leadership that might go forward or backward.

Mr. Baldwin spoke of peace and preparation for war and glorification of war as an ideal and affirmed that as long as the British Empire lasts we shall raise our voices against these false gods. Also in the speech, in its finest phrases, was the characteristic proclamation of a pertinent faith in freedom, the sanctity of personality and the brotherhood of man, which implies the Fatherhood of God. "The brotherhood of man today," he said, "is often denied and derided and called foolishness, but it is in fact one of the foolish things of the world with which God has chosen to confound the wise and the world is confronted by it daily. We may avoid it, we may deny it, but we shall find no rest for our souls, nor for the world, until we acknowledge it as the ultimate wisdom."

That, Gentlemen, was on an occasion when we laid the foundations of an Empire Youth Movement. Since then definite strides have been made. I haven't time to tell you anything about it, except one particular item which I hope will interest everyone here today. Last year we brought to Canada a group of British boys and a group of New Zealand boys. They went into camp together with another group of Canadian boys at Banff. It was such a great success that we have decided to set up there a permanent camp to which the boys of western and eastern Canada may come as time and occasion permits, and where the youth of the Empire can gather and as time goes on one hopes the youth of the world, where they may learn something of our essential love of freedom and of the friendliness which is characteristic of our people. That camp we hope can take the form of, shall I say, an acknowledgment of the great service which Mr. Chamberlain has just rendered the youth of the Empire in preserving peace.

My time is up and I can only say, in conclusion, when the time comes to press forward for the inauguration of that camp, to be known, I hope, as the King's Camp, at Banff, I hope that all of you here today will lend it your aid and your enthusiasm.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. (Applause)

MR. D. M. GOWDY: Thank you very much, Major Ney.

Your Honour and Gentlemen: Today we are holding a joint meeting of The Canadian Club and The Empire Club, and it is our privilege to welcome as guest-speaker, Sir Firozkhan Noon, who will address us on a very important subject, "Britain in India."

Unfortunately, the President of The Canadian Club, Mr. Victor Smith, could not be present, but he sent a special message which I would like to read to you on this occasion:

"The occasions when we are afforded the opportunity to welcome visitors from our sister members of the British Commonwealth of Nations are all too few. As members of this great family we naturally have much in common and we should see more of each other. But even with today's advanced means of travel our boundaries are still too widely separated to permit of that free intermingling of our peoples which so promotes knowledge and understanding of each other. It therefore gives us the greatest pleasure when we are able to greet citizens of India when they visit our shores and, particularly, when they come, as does Sir Firozkhan Noon, as leaders of their country, and a representative of a civilization thousands of centuries old bringing a message of goodwill to the citizens of Canada."

A few details concerning our guest-speaker would be in order, particularly for our invisible audience on the air. Sir Firozkhan Noon took his degree in history at Oxford University and proceeded with his legal training at the Inner Temple, London. Shortly afterward he proceeded to India to practise his profession. At a very early age he was elected to the Punjab Legislative Council, where he remained as a member for some sixteen years. He resigned that body to become High Commissioner for India in England. Gentlemen, he is the youngest High Commissioner ever to represent India in England, and besides his office as High Commissioner he acts on Imperial and International bodies for India.

Sir Firozkhan is the guest of the National Council of Education and since his arrival here one month ago he has travelled this Dominion from coast to coast. We feel that his has been a notable contribution toward interpreting India in Canada, and we hope that as he returns shortly to his post, that we may have served our part in interpreting Canada to India.

Your Honour, and Gentlemen, I present to you Sir Firozkhan Noon. (Applause)

SIR FIROZKHAN NOON, K.C.I.E., M.A.: Your Honour, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Conant and Gentlemen: First of all, please allow me to thank you all for very kindly sparing time to come here and listen to me. My sole object in coming to Canada has been to try and bring before the public in Canada what India and its people are and what they mean to this great community of nations. We, in India, form seventy-five per cent of -the subjects of His Majesty, and naturally, when belonging to a different climate and perhaps a different race, many feelings arise in the minds of not only people living outside the British Empire, but also living within the British Empire, as to what the future holds for India within the Empire, and as to whether the future generations of this Empire will be able to hold together for their own defence and betterment and for the good of mankind, or whether for differences of race and economic benefits they are likely to fall asunder. That is a point which is likely to arise in the minds of all of us, no matter where we live.

Unfortunately, there is an impression, not only in Europe and the New World, but also in the minds of some of our brother citizens living in other parts of the Empire, that it is not possible for us all to work together for all times, because of the feeling that there is nothing in common between themselves and ourselves to keep us together. That, I feel, is based on a lack of knowledge. That is because you do not understand what we are or know what India stands for today.

Great Britain took over the administration of India in the year 1858, by a proclamation of Queen Victoria. I shall not say a word about the connection of the East India Company with the Indian public, because you know it as well as I do, and the less said the better. But since the day when His Majesty's Government took over the administration of the Company a new era dawned on India, and that unity has been able to establish throughout the whole of that great continent law and order, and peace, which are so essential for the educational, moral and economic progress of any nation in the world. It is that form of government which has united India into one people and in which we can now dream of calling ourselves one nation. That government has provided us with a common language which is foreign to us, and yet today it is ours as much as it is yours. That is the English language. We may not be able to understand each other when we come from the Northwest down to Madras. Yet, when we speak English we do.

During the whole of these eighty years our educational system has been based entirely on the English educational system. Our institutions have been planned by Englishmen, imported from England, and by Indians who have been educated in England.

We have for the first time in the history of the East imbibed from our British colleagues the idea of the sovereignty of the people. Before that we only knew the rule of one man, but since our connection with the British people this new thought has pervaded the whole of our country with the result that for the last seventy years representative institutions have been working in India successfully.

Some of you might think that the present Constitution which exists in India today has been born in a day because of certain political education put forward by ourselves to have the country ruled by our own people. No, that is not the work of one day. British association in India has built up a system of local bodies since the year 1870. There have been municipal committees working successfully throughout India since that time. We also have had representative institutions in our rural areas since that time. We call them District Boards, as you call them rural municipalities, which means they are composed of local people looking after their own local affairs and serving as a training ground for higher legislatures.

Since 1910 we have had legislative councils of varying degree and power. In 1919 we started a system of government that we call diarchy. We had elected representative houses with half of the Ministers responsible to the people and half of the Ministers responsible to the Crown; and in the year 1935 the new Constitution came which has eliminated that system of diarchy in the provinces. We have elected houses with no official members in them, and ministries which are responsible to the elected house, and ministries which can be turned out by an adverse vote of the Legislature; all departments in the provinces have been handed over to the Provincial Administrators, in the same way as is the case in Canada.

For the Central Government, a Federal Parliament has been provided which will exercise all its powers, except the control of the army and foreign relations.

However, our struggle for political control of the country has been a long one. Gradually one by one these things have come into our hands, just as it has been the case with all other countries, including your own.

We have a saying in India which is to the effect that your mother doesn't give you milk until you cry for it, and that is a very sound principle that has been found

to exist in all countries in the world. You had to fight your Mother Country in order to get your political freedom, and in the same way in India we have had to fight for our political rights. These rights have come to us much easier than they have to you. Today in India you find the government of the whole continent has been allowed to pass into the hands of the people, without a fight or without a revolution. I think when history comes to be written it will be the greatest glory of England that she has trained nearly 400 million people in her own ways of freedom and democracy, with the result that today, after a short space of eighty years, they are able to take their place in the ranks of self-governing nations in the world. (Applause)

There may be criticism, and very justifiable criticism, advanced against the British Government in India. We all know, even now when we have national government in India, that there have been similar criticisms advanced against them. Criticism will be advanced against all governments in all countries, but in India, on occasions, it has been magnified. But we also know that but for this British control of India's problems, India would not be where she is today. We have only to look to other countries in the East. Show me one country which has such a democratic constitution today as India--even among those countries which are self-governing in the East. Show me one country under the suzerainty or sovereignty of any of the other European nations where you can find even the signs of self-government in its small municipalities. Not one. (Applause) And we know these things as well as the world knows them. But we don't talk of these things very frequently because it might give the Englishman a swollen head.

This political struggle against England, wherein some of our advanced politicians have threatened to go out of the Empire and proclaim independence, is exactly in the spirit of the Persian proverb that I am going to quote to you: "Threaten a man with death and he will be content to have fever." They wanted Dominion status like other sister Dominions, and they thought they would never get that unless they threatened England that they were going to desert her. Beyond that nobody in India wanted to leave the great Commonwealth of Nations, the boons of which we all know and which we all appreciate.

Mahatma Gandhi was asked one day what he meant by independence, and he said, "Independence in exactly the same way as Canada, South Africa and Australia."

Now, in this Nationalist Party, Mr. Gandhi's party, which has put up a very strong fight for political control of the country, the members have suffered enormously by going to jail and on account of peaceful strikes. Today out of the eleven British Provinces you have this party in power in eight, and all the Ministers, pledged to the National Congress Party, have sworn allegiance to the King. Only the other day, about three or four days ago, I received some newspaper cuttings and from these I learned that the Prime Minister in the Punjab, where I come from, had made a speech at a dinner party in Simla, stating that the Punjab would stand by His Majesty's Government in case of war. There also came news that the Congress Ministries had all declared that they would stand by the Mother Country in case of war. I am quoting these things to you only to show that the heart of India is sound, and that India will always be within the Empire. (Applause)

If there are any people who think that, because we have a difference of opinion with Great Britain regarding the pace of advance to our self-government, and that on account of that, we shall fall out with her or other sister Dominions, they are very much mistaken. Our future is cut out and decided, and that future lies within the British Empire. (Applause)

We in India have lost no time in making known to the world that in case of trouble India is behind the Mother Country; and, I have no doubt, that even those parts of the Empire, which have not opened their mouths so far, still have their hearts with the Mother Country. People who don't know us wonder why it is that in spite of India being declared a discontented country, according to the gutter press of most countries--with due apologies to the press here--we are a discontented revolutionary, yet when the occasion arises India's heart is found to be sound. The reason is not far to seek. Firstly, the outside world knows nothing about India, except what they learn from the nonsense written by some who travel through our country in three or four days and then come home and write about us. They also don't know what friendships, what economic friendships, and political ties exist between Great Britain and India. They don't know how much we value the great economic and industrial connections of Great Britain and India.

Why was it, if India were a discontented country, that during the last war she gave 1,400,000 men to fight for the King? Why was it, if India was a discontented country, that from my own province alone, the Punjab, there were 500,000 men who were recruited during the time the war was going on? And, let me tell you, that was without conscription that you had to have in Canada.

I know of several instances in the Punjab where leading men from the villages were called up by the District Officer and asked, "What can you do for your King in this hour of trial?" One man went home and brought both his sons, and he said, "I have nothing more valuable than these. Take them with you." And it is in this manner that those 500,000 men were found. That wasn't the contribution of an oppressed race. That was a gift of a willing and friendly heart, and it is that heart which exists in India today. Let me assure you that should there be another occasion India will not be found wanting.

Now, why is it that the Indian heart is with England? Has England done anything to deserve their loyalty and friendship? If so, what is it? Today we stand at the threshold of a new era in India, where the Government has been handed over to the elected representatives of the people, except for those two subjects, our army and foreign relations. Is there anything in that connection of eighty years which the Indian people appreciate and value? Yes, if you knew. Today England has handed over to India as a trustee of the people the entire wealth of the nation, undiminished--nay, not undiminished, but enhanced. You go down and ask the worst critic of Great Britain in India, and outside India, and not one man will be able to tell you that England has taken away an ounce of gold or a pound of corn unless it was paid for in the open market at market prices. (Applause) No cash contribution has been levied by England on India throughout that connection of eighty years, except for one instance, and that was during the war when India willingly contributed about £70 million for the common chest, because we were all fighting a common enemy. Otherwise, every anna realized in India by way of taxation has been spent in India. All the land belongs to the State, all the mineral wealth which is under the ground belongs to the State, all the forests and all the natural wealth in the way of social services; in India, eighty per cent of the railways belong to the State-the others are coming into the hands of the State when their leases expire, on payment of full compensation-and all the projects into which millions of pounds have been sunk to make people secure against famine belong to the State. All these have been handed over, by an honest trustee, in the most flourishing condition, to the children of India.

What else has England handed over to India that we value? It is the system of government. Our judicial system, our civil services, our co-operative, medical, and other departments. All our permanent servants of the Crown are recruited through Public Service Commissions, with security of their services ensured against all ministerial attacks (with due reverence). This system of administrative services is such that, you will find, the world has no example to show which can compare in efficiency and service to the public.

Besides these services, what else has England given to India? I think her greatest gift has been the training of the mind of the Indian people in ways of democracy and freedom. Now, Gentlemen, we are human beings, just as much as you are. We may not speak, but yet we appreciate what services have been rendered to India. By way of industry, today India is one of the first eight industrial countries of the world, enjoying a permanent seat on the International Labour Organization in Geneva; and just to give you an example of what industrial progress we have made I shall only quote one or two instances. You all know that India produces all the raw materials we need and we have a consuming market at our door. Gold and iron are plentiful. We have at the moment complete physical autonomy. (People in the New World or in Europe may be thinking today that India is being economically or industrially drained by England. There is nothing farther from the truth. Today, India is negotiating a trade pact with England, renewal of the trade peace, as a free and independent partner of this Empire.) And it is physical autonomy that has enabled India to build up her industry.

To give you one example. You hear so much about Lancashire and the row they make in the papers. In India today we are producing eighty-five per cent of the cloth, machine-made cloth, that we consume in India. During the course of the last ten or twelve years we have increased the number of our sugar-cane mills, with the result that we produce a million tons of white cane sugar in India today, and we are not importing an ounce from the Dutch East Indies, fifty per cent of whose factories are now closed because their market is gone. (If any of you here are interested in India, come and pay us a visit. We are not a hot country, full of snakes and mosquitoes, as some of you might think. We have some of the best climates in the world in the months of November, December, January and February. If you come to Delhi, you will come back and say, "Well, India by way of climate has as good a climate as Canada.") Now, all this industrial prosperity is appreciated by the public.

Don't run away with the idea, if you have been looking for Paradise on earth, that I have now found you one. We have many shortcomings in India. We are a very poor people. We are an agricultural country. Ninety per cent of us depend on the agricultural products of our land, and as there has been an agricultural slump, the purchasing power of the people is low; yet we feel that money is not everything in the world and without money, even though poor, we can yet be happy and contented. That contentment is given to us by a deep and a living faith in the living God. People say that God is on the side of the biggest battalions in the world. We do not believe in that theory of brute force. We believe that God is on the side of truth, and God lives in the minds of the humble and the meek.

Two years ago in England, one evening I was listening to my radio when the Archbishop of Canterbury issued an appeal to the people of Great Britain.. He said, "During this night King Edward is going to make up his mind what to do. Let us all pray that God may give him true guidance." There was an Indian friend sitting by me and I said to him, "Take it from me, whatever King Edward does tomorrow, will be in the best interests of the nation," and he asked, "Why?" I said, "A nation that still believes in a God, the prayers of that nation will never remain unanswered when they seek guidance."

If there are any people in this modern age of materialism, greed and aggrandisement who still believe in God, you will find quite a few of them in England; and during my travels through this country, I am paying no lip compliment to you, it has been a source of great joy to me to find that the heart of the Canadian people is still with God. It is my sincere prayer that if this Empire of ours and its people wish eventually to succeed they must never give up their faith in God. Today some people may appear to be successful. They may be successful, but we, in India, as do you in Canada, know and realize that eventually truth will shine. It is our sincere hope that while we continue to arm ourselves for defence, yet the love of God may continue to live in our hearts.

One of our well-known ascetic poets has said: "A human heart without the love of God is like a sugar cane without sugar, like a nightingale without song, like an organ without music, like a flower without scent." (Applause-prolonged)

MR. D. M. GOWDY: I am going to ask Mr. J. P. Pratt, the President of The Empire Club to express the thanks of this audience.

MR. J. P. PRATT, K.C.: Your Honour, Sir Firozkhan, Mr. Conant, Gentlemen: My first word of thanks is to the wise Indian Government which selected Sir Firozkhan Noon as its High Commissioner. But for that wisdom we would not have had the great privilege of listening today to what I consider has been one of the most illuminating and inspiring addresses that has ever been presented to a Canadian audience by a representative of our sister Dominion. Sir Firozkhan has come to us at considerable personal inconvenience, because during the luncheon he told me that during the entire three weeks he has been in Canada he has not even had a Sunday to himself.

We trust that Sir Firozkhan, in accepting our sincere thanks will take back with him to England, his present homeland, and convey to his fellow citizens in our sister Dominion, the best wishes of the Canadian and Empire Clubs for their long continuance with us in the British Empire. (Applause)

MR. D. M. GOWDY: The meeting is adjourned.

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Britain in India

A joint meeting of The Empire Club of Canada and The Canadian Club.
Bringing before the public in Canada what India and its people are and what they mean to this great community of nations. The unfortunate impression by many that it is not possible for us all to work together. The speaker's belief that this is based on a lack of knowledge, and misunderstandings as to what India stands for today. Some history of India since Great Britain took over the administration in 1858. Imbibing from British colleagues the idea of the sovereignty of the people. Relations between Britain and India. The present Constitution. Central Government. Struggle for political control. Criticism advanced against the British Government in India. Independence in the way of Canada, South Africa and Australia. Making known to the world that in the case of trouble India is behind the Mother Country. Valuing the great economic and industrial connections of Great Britain and India. The Indian heart with England, and reasons for that. India negotiating a trade pact with England as a free and independent partner of the Empire. Industrial prosperity. The hope that while India continues to arm itself for defence, yet the love of God may continue to live in the hearts of the people.