Table of Contents
"This is the first and most essential thing to learn about India-that there is not and never was an India, or even any country of India, possessing, according to European ideas, any sort of unity, physical, political, social, or religious; no Indian nation, no `people of India' of which we hear so much.
We believe that Sir John Strachey is profoundly wrong in his assertion that India is not a nation in the "physical, political, social, or religious" sense. On the contrary, it can be proved easily that geographically, historically, culturally, and spiritually India is fundamentally one. Cut off from the north and the east by the snow-clad Himalayas, and surrounded on the south and the west by the mighty Indian Ocean, India is geographically, one country. Every part of the interior is freely accessible from all sides. No natural boundary lines within the country divide it into different parts; nor do any high mountains obstruct the free passage from one part of the country to the other. In fact, India is a physical unit, much more distinct than any other country in Europe or America.
When we study the history of India, from the ancient Vedic period to modern times, we find again the whole of the Indian peninsula, from Bengal to Gujrat, and from Ceylon to Kashmir, mentioned always as one motherland. "The early Vedic literature contains hymns addressed to the Motherland of India. The epic poems speak of the whole of BHARAT as the home-land of Aryans." We hear nowhere any account of separate nationalities within the country. The literature of India is full of thoughts about Indian nationality; but there is no mention of separate Bengal, Madras, Gujrat, or Punjab nations, based upon geographic divisions. Powerful emperors in ancient as well as modern times have ruled over the entire peninsula in peace and security. "In fact, the belief in the unity of India was so strong in ancient times that no ruler considered his territories complete until he had acquired control over the entire peninsula." Asoka ruled over the whole of India in perfect harmony. Akhbar's power spread to the farthest ends of the land. And when, later on, the different governors of the border provinces rose in revolt and refused allegiance to the successors of Akhbar, it was the great distance from the capital that suggested revolt to the population of these distant provinces, and not a feeling of separate nationality.
Culturally, again, India is one nation. In their daily habits, their ethical standards, and their spiritual responses the Indians of every religion and locality are fundamentally alike. "Their family life is founded on the same bases; their modes of dress and cooking are the same. Their very tastes are similar." They respect the same national heroes and worship the same ideals. They have the same hopes and aspirations in this life and in the hereafter. As a result, their mental and spiritual behavior is similar. In fact, they are fundamentally one in mind and in spirit.
It is true that more than one dialect is spoken in the country. Until 1920 the business of the Indian National Congress itself was carried on in the English language because no other language was common to the whole of India. It was really tragic that a people who were so profoundly proud of their national heritage and who aspired to political freedom were obliged to use at the meetings of their national assemblies an utterly foreign language. That the variety of languages was in fact a very slight difficulty was demonstrated at the session of the Indian National Congress in 1920. From the Congress platform at Amritsar in 1919 Mahatma Gandhi had announced that at all subsequent meetings the business of the Congress would be conducted in the Hindi language, which is spoken by more than a third of the population of the country. Teachers were sent immediately to different parts of the country to instruct the people in the Hindi lan- guage and when the Congress convened again in 1920 its business was carried on in Hindi. Delegates from Bengal, Madras, and Bombay made their speeches in Hindi as fluently as those from the United Provinces and the Punjab. Every one felt satisfied at the change. A miracle had happened; India had acquired a common tongue in the course of a year.
The population of India is composed of many different peoples, who came to the country originally as invaders, and later settled there and became a part thereof. Through the process of assimilation and adaptation extending over generations, the original Afghan, Mongol, and Persian conquerors of India have lost their peculiar characteristics, and become one with the rest of the population in their language, ideas, and loyalties. The position of these foreign types in India is exactly analogous to peoples of different nationalities, who migrated from Europe into America in the early times. The interval of a single generation was usually sufficient to transfer the loyalties of Euro- pean immigrants from their native countries to the United States. The difference between India and the United States in this respect is merely that the Indian must go back many more generations to reach his immigrant than must the American.
The chief barrier in the way of spiritual unity among the people of India, is religion. Hinduism and Mohammedanism are the dominant religions of the country. The main portion of the population is Hindu, but seventy millions of Mohammedans are scattered over the whole country in small groups. The Mohammedans came to India originally as invaders and conquerors, and now occupy a position in the country of mixed authority and subjection. Wherever they form the majority group, they dominate the followers of other religions ; while in other places they are held down as minorities. Since the beginning of their contact the Hindus and the Mohammedans of India have never agreed. Intervals of peace and harmony between the two communities have occurred occasionally during the reigns of benevolent emperors like Akhbar and Shah Jahan; but their hearts were never joined in true companionship even before the beginning of English influence. The modern rulers of India have helped to strengthen the differences between the Hindus and the Mohammedans in so far that the animosities between the two religious groups were no less bitter in 1918 than they were three hundred years ago. Since the days of Gandhi's leadership, however, a great deal has been accomplished in building up a feeling of genuine comradeship and love between the Hindus and Mohammedans of India. When the Moslems all over the world were in a state of deep distress at the Khilafat issues after the Severs treaty, the Hindus of India made common cause with the Moslems of the world. Khilafat was included in the Congress program as one of India's main issues. This liberality helped to win the hearts of the Mohammedan population of India toward their Hindu compatriots, and the Hindu Gandhi was idolized by both religious groups, as leader and savior. It was an auspicious beginning of friendship between these two isolated factions in India, and ever since it has been enthusiastically followed up by the younger generation of the country. It may be confidently expected that as the youth of India acquire influence in the affairs of the country, the friction between the Hindus and the Mohammedans will cease, and their age-long battles based upon superstition and error will come to an end.
Worse still in their ethical and spiritual significance are the differentiations between the caste groups among the Hindus. Numerous social reform societies are working at the present time to remove the barriers of caste within Hindu society; and until the work of building up a human fellowship among the different caste and religious groups of India, based upon the highest moral teachings of the Hindu sages, is completed, the political as well as spiritual regeneration of the country will remain an idle dream.
We have seen that in the cultural sense, on account of the sameness of feelings and instincts, the Hindus, Mohammedans, Sikhs, Parsis, Bengalis, Mahratas, and Madrasis are fundamentally alike. Yet the bitterness between these warring elements of the country had grown into such immense proportions at one time that a communal feeling of neighborhood and human decency among them seemed inconceivable. Two hundred years ago, when the English first began to acquire control over the country, the people of India were divided into perfectly hostile groups; and no power then existed which could bring together these warring factions. Among the causes that have secretly conspired to develop a spirit of unity among the different religious and social groups of India, the foremost has been British imperalism in the country. Britain gave to India, in the first place, a long reign of peace. This enabled the people of different parts of the country to have a more direct and steady intercourse than was possible in earlier times. The English also gave to the higher classes of India a knowledge of English history and classical literature, whose study breathed into the minds of the educated Indians a love of liberty. Acquaintance with the spirit of European nationalism created a desire for Indian nationality. A national consciousness soon sprang into existence and found expression through the medium of the Indian National Congress.
Greater than everything else, however, in its direct consequences of uniting the people of India into one nation has been the universal antagonism toward British rule. As the tyranny of foreign rule gradually began to be felt, hatred against it increased. The different factions in the country were forced to unite for the purpose of driving out of the country the arrogant intruders. Whatever else may be doubtful, one thing is certain about India : "The sentiment of antagonism toward British rule and of resentment against its iniquitous character is both universal and profound."
The principal grievances against English rule are its alien character and its exploitation of the country's wealth. Mahatma Gandhi calls it "Satanic," because it is founded not upon the consent of the governed but upon the military strength of the ruler. "It is based not on right but on might. Its last appeal is not to reason or to the heart but to the sword." Gandhi writes:
"I came reluctantly to the conclusion that the British connection had made India more helpless than she ever was before, politically and economically. . . . The government established by law in British India is carried on for this exploitation of the masses. No sophistry, no jugglery in figures can explain away the evidence the skeletons in many villages present to the naked eye. I have no doubt whatsoever that both England and the town-dwellers of India will have to answer, if there is a God above, for this crime against humanity which is perhaps unequalled in history."-Gandhi, Speeches, pp. 753-4.
We said just now that one of the main grievances against English rule in India is its alien character. It may be asked : "Why should the alien origin of a rule itself be such a strong argument against it?" "Is it not true that England has given to India peace and efficiency in government? That constitutes the chief function of governments everywhere, and the rule which has successfully achieved this purpose justifies its existence. If it is true elsewhere, it should be true in India also." Our questioner may be both profoundly right and profoundly wrong. However, the acceptance or rejection of a foreign lordship by the heart is a matter of such subtle sentiment, that the only way to explain its meaning to the reader is to create a situation where he shall be called upon to judge in the matter.
Let us suppose that by some trick of fortune Japan obtained mastery over America. Let us grant, at the same time, that the Japanese rule over America was more efficient than the American rule, and in the light of our modern knowledge it is not beyond the limit of probability to imagine that Japanese efficiency in government could be greater than American efficiency. How would our reader feel about the situation? Would he be willing to discard his own indigenous native government for the sake of a more efficient rule under the Japanese Mikado? What would be his reaction if he saw his own "stars and stripes" replaced by the Imperial flag of Japan? Certainly, he would not feel at ease about the matter. The condition of the native of India under British authority is exactly similar in cause and consequence. In its fundamental aspect the rule of a country by an alien power is essentially wrong in principle. It is unnatural and hence utterly immoral. Whether it is the Japanese in Korea, the United States of America in the Philippine Islands, or the English in India-it is all unnatural and immoral. There can never be any ethical, moral, or spiritual justification of an other than native rule in a country. "The government of a people by itself," says John Stuart Mill, "has a meaning and reality; but such a thing as government of one people by another does not, and cannot exist."
So far there have existed only two principles for the government of any country in the world, one is the government of a country by its chosen representatives, who are held responsible to their constituents, and are necessarily required to rule the country in the interests of the governed. This system was described by an American emancipator as "government of the people, by the people, for the people." When we look back over the histories of the different countries of the world, we find that, without a single exception, the countries which have advanced in their material and cultural possessions, during the past two hundred years, have been those whose governments were based on the principle of "government of the people, by the people, for the people."
In the modern world we find that the governments of the United States of America, England, France, and Germany are typical for their representative characters. It goes without saying that the progress which these nations have made during recent times would not have been possible under any other system of government. Take the case of any of these countries, America for example; you will find that "America has been made great by the democratic character of its governmental institutions. Its colossal achievements in the mechanical arts, the high advancement in its cultural and artistic life, the mammoth nature of its commercial and industrial progress, the magnitude of its educational equipment, its institutions of learning and research, and its high standard of living-all these owe their origin to the beneficent character of the American government," whose foundation was laid upon the noble principles contained in the Declaration of Independence:
" . . . That all men are created equal; That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; . . "
There is still another principle (or lack of principle) on which the government of a country could be based. This occurs where the country is governed by an alien power, which derives its authority not from the consent of the governed, but from some outside source. As a natural consequence of this system the rulers of such countries are not concerned with the benefits to be derived by the ruled country. In such cases the interests of the subject nation are completely subordinated to those of the master country. "The commerce of the ruling power is expanded at the expense of the ruled; the industries of the governing country are enhanced at the cost of the extinction of those of the governed." "The material, cultural, and moral life of one people is enriched at the expense of the life sources of a more helpless and unfortunate people." The process begins with the impoverishing of the subject nation through a system of economic exploitation of its wealth resources by the dominant powers. Poverty in its turn degrades the character of the people, and the nation becomes morally flabby. The degeneration of an impoverished and suppressed people is assisted by the deteriorating influence of the other policies of the foreign ruler, such as the disarming of the subject people, the introduction in their midst of an alien system of education so designed as to form in its higher classes a group of miseducated "snobs" and to create in the upper sections of the country contempt for its past history and culture.
This kind of government has existed in India for the past two hundred years. To begin with, England carried away all the tangible wealth of the country "in the form of indemnities, grants, and gifts from its princes, and assessments and taxes from the people." At the same time the industries of the country were destroyed, and its commercial prosperity was checked by a selfish policy of enriching the manufacturing classes of England at the expense of those in India. The entire population of the country was disarmed as the next step. Thus were the natures of the people degraded, their martial spirit was crushed, and "a race of soldiers and heroes converted into a timid flock of quill-driving sheep."
The introduction of an utterly alien system of education was still another step in rooting out of the country the remnants of national honor and pride. According to the scheme of English education in the country, formulated by Lord Macaulay, English was made the medium of instruction for all branches of study. English history and English literature received preference over Indian history and Indian literature. The text-books for schools and colleges were prepared by English agents of the government; and from them sentiments of love and admiration for Indian civilization and culture on one hand, and respect for the character and behavior of its princes on the other, were rigidly excluded. In its place the English kings, the English people, the English religion, the English government, the English institutions, in fact everything English was held up as ideal. According to the history texts, whenever a battle was fought between the English and the native princes, the former were always in the right and the latter forever in the wrong. The English were always the victorious, and the natives always the beaten party. Mir Jafar, the arch-traitor of the country, was a noble and worthy prince, while Mir Kasam, the benevolent protector of his subjects against the injustice of the East India Company's agents, was a hypocrite and a debauche. The reason for the exaltation of Mir Jafar and the execration of Mir Kasam is, however, easily understood. Mir Jafar was the commander-in-chief of the army of Siraj-ud-Daulah, who stood against the forces of Lord Clive on the battlefield of Plassey. At a suggestion of bribery from Clive, Mir Jafar led the whole of his army over to the side of the enemy, and thus secured for the English the victory of Plassey, which was the beginning of their real power in the country. On the other hand, Mir Kasam was continually fighting against the encroachments of the East India Company over his own territories and the rights of his subjcts. Which of the two princes was a real man and a worthy hero among his people, Mir Jafar or Mir Kasam? Mir Kasam, according to every kind of moral and ethical standard of nobility and courage; Mir Jafar, according to the corrupt standards of British Imperialism in India.
After the Indian youths had finished their scanty education, the future that lay before them was of a very uninviting nature. As all the high offices in the service of the country were monopolized by the English, the only positions left for the educated classes of Indians were those of low-paid clerks and assistants in the government offices. No prospect of fame, or wealth, or power opened before them. There was no great stimulus for the pursuit of higher knowledge. The young scholars no sooner began to know their positions in the world than they realized the uselessness of great attainments. Of what use was their learning if they were not to have employment as responsible public administrators of their country and so use their knowledge in the service of India? The extent of the exclusion of the native inhabitants of the country from offices of dignity and high emoluments in the government service may be realized from the following figures. According to the figures of 1913, out of 2,501 civil and military offices in British India carrying monthly salaries of 800 rupees ($266.00) or more, only 242, less than ten per cent were held by Indians; out of the 4,986 appointments carrying a monthly salary of 500 rupees ($166.00), only 19 per cent were held by Indians; and out of the 11,064 appointments carrying a monthly salary of 200 rupees ($66.00) only 42 per cent were held by Indians. Conditions have not changed much since 1913. [Quoted from Lajpat Rai.]
In order to enable the American reader to realize fully the magnitude of injustice involved in the wrong policies of the English government in India regarding the country's systems of education and public employment, we shall use our previous illustration once more. Let it be supposed that simultaneously with the consolidation of Japanese power in America it was ordered by the Mikado that henceforth the Japanese language should form the sole medium of instruction in the schools and colleges throughout the United States. The American children would be required to learn the Japanese language before reaching school. The texts given to the youths of the country to study and digest would be books written and published in Japan, from which the names of such national heroes as Washington and Lincoln were excluded, but in which the praises of Japan were sung in high chorus. Shakespeare, Milton, Emerson, Longfellow, and Hawthorne would be excluded from the American school curriculum, and Japanese literature substituted in its place. The business of all governmental departments would be conducted in Japanese, and its official circulars and reports would be printed in Japanese. All the higher posts in the service of the country would be reserved for the Mikado's own countrymen. The president and his cabinet; supreme, district, and superior court judges; the governors of the states,-all would be appointed in Tokyo from among the Japanese in favor with the government of the Mikado. Native-born Americans would be employed only as stenographers, postmen, grammar school teachers, and street car conductors, and then only at starvation wages. Buddhism would be made the state religion of America. What would any self-respecting American say if all this were done to his country? What would he do when his children and his grandchildren raised a cry against the injustice done to their country and its manhood, and this cry was drowned by the declaration of the Japanese imperialists that Japan was carrying the Yellow Man's burden in the United States of America.
The feeling of a deep and passionate resentment felt by the people of India regarding these matters was expressed by the late Mr. G. K. Gokhale thus:
A kind of dwarfing or stunting of the Indian race is going on under the present system. We must live all our lives in an atmosphere of inferiority, and the tallest of us must bend, in order that the exigencies of the system may be satisfied. The upward impulse, if I may use such an expression, which every schoolboy at Eton or Harrow may feel, that he may one day be a Gladstone, a Nelson, or a Wellington, and which may draw forth the best efforts of which he is capable, that is denied to us. The height to which our manhood is capable of rising can never be reached by us under the present system. The moral elevation which every Self-Governing people feel, cannot be felt by us. Our administrative and military talents must gradually disappear owing to sheer disuse, till at last our lot, as hewers of wood and drawers of water in our own country, is stereotyped."
If, therefore, the world sees the spectacle of an indignant India in revolt against the English rule, it should not be surprised. It is only natural that the English should resent the attempts of the Indians to secure their independence. It is hoped, however, that the other nations of the world will not feel hostile against the battle cry of the Indians against the British oppression in their country. If the English imperialists try to prove the virtue of their rule in India, please remember that the question is not whether the English rule is good or bad, but whether the principle underlying it is right or wrong. No self-respecting American citizen desires to see Japanese lordship established in his native land; he would call a condition intolerable in which the Japanese held all the positions of power in the government of his country. The full-blooded inhabitants of India feel in much the same way about the British supremacy in India. The reason of this attitude of both American and Indian nationalists is the same. The self-respect of an honest man revolts against foreign domination. The eyes of Modern India have been opened, and her people realize "that they are men, with a man's right to manage his own affairs." As was expressed by Mrs. Annie Besant in her presidential address before the Indian National Congress in 1917: "India is no longer on her knees for `boons'; she is on her feet for Rights."
The first voice of organized Indian nationalist opinion demanding reform in the British government of India, was heard in 1885. In that year the first session of the Indian National Congress was held in Bombay. The Congress began as a gathering of a small group of progressive nationalist leaders from different parts of the country. Gradually, as its function became known, the ranks of the congress were swelled by delegates from all sections of India, and soon its responsible character as the representative organ of Indian progressive opinion on political matters was recognized in both England and India.
The Congress began its career as a critic of British policies in the country. It submitted a request to the English nation for an inquiry into Indian affairs and presented claims for reforms in the irresponsible and autocratic character of the British Government in the country. As time passed and the real nature of English rule began to be disclosed, the Indian nationalists became "bolder in their criticisms and more ambitious in their claims for reform." Except for minor concessions granted through the courtesy of a few sympathetic viceroys nothing positive in the direction of the better government of India was accomplished by the Indian National Congress until the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909. Yet in spite of its enormous difficulties, arising from the stubbornness of British bureaucracy in India and the cold, unconcerned attitude of the English Parliament towards Indian claims, the Congress had done excellent work in arousing the educated classes of the country to a realization of their political wrongs.
The Indian nationalist movement received a great impetus during the harsh reign of Lord Curzon as the high-handed Viceroy of India. One of the acts of Lord Curzon was the partition of Bengal in 1905,-"an act which aroused in the entire population of Bengal a violent outburst of popular disapproval." The purpose of the English Vceroy in dividing the province into two portions was to destroy the unity of Bengal, and to sow at the same time seeds of bitter Hindu-Muslim feuds. But the Bengalee youths were determined not to accept the dismemberment of their ancient land of Bengal, and the entire province was in a state of anarchy for a period of six years. In spite of the attempts of the English to quiet the agitation, it gradually spread all over India until at last the hated act was repealed by royal proclamation at the Delhi coronation Durbar in 1911.
In the meantime the Morley-Minto reforms, sponsored by John Morley, the noted biographer of Gladstone and at that time Secretary of State for India, and Lord Minto, the Viceroy of India, had become law by the India Council Act of 1909. The reforms were accepted by a few moderate leaders as "generous," but on the whole public opinion in India regarded them as inadequate and petty. For the first time seats in the executive councils of the provinces as well as those in the Indian government were thrown open to Indians. The provincial and central legislative councils were enlarged and made to include more "elected" Indian members. Henceforth the provincial councils were to contain a majority of "non-official" "elected" members as distinguished from the "official" and "non-official nominated" members, the official being the officers of the Government who sat in the councils as ex-officio members and the non-official nominated who were nominated to their positions as council members by the governor of the province for provincial councils and by the Viceroy in the case of the central council.
The powers of the reformed councils, however, were limited. "The councils," says Prof. Parker T. Moon, "could pass resolutions subject to the British Parliament's overriding authority; they could discuss the budget and other measures; they could criticise and suggest. They could not oppose and propose, but neither depose nor dispose. They could not overthrow the administration, or tighten the purse strings. They were, in short, experimental debating clubs." [Imperialism and World Politics, page 300.]
Those who had put their confidence in the Morley-Minto reforms were soon disappointed. The real nature of the new councils as mere "debating clubs" was discovered and found unsatisfactory. The people of India had demanded the right to control the affairs of their country's government, and they had been granted merely the right to discuss and to criticize, with no authority whatsoever to alter the policies of its officials. The helplessness of the Indian members in the Councils was proved after the World War during the agitation over the Rowlatt Bills. The uproar against this piece of repressive legislation was so strong that all Indian members of the Central Legislative Council, including those who were nominated by the government, voted against its passage. But in spite of the solid opposition from Indian members in the Council and an unprecedented revulsion against the Bills among all classes in the country, they were made law by the Viceroy. That legislation was a "direct slap in the face of nationalist India." It is a matter of com- mon knowledge that it led to the satyagraha of Mahatma Gandhi, which in turn crystallized into the nonviolent non-cooperation movement.
After the reforms of 1909, the Indian National Congress continued to arouse the masses of the country to a national consciousness and to a demand for representation in the government of the country. In 1914 all groups of Indians joined in a spirit of loyalty to assist the British Empire during the World War. India made heavy contributions to the war-time needs of England in both man-power and money power; as a recompense for her loyalty the people of India were promised liberal home rule after the war. In the mean- time the Indian National Congress and the All-India Moslem League (founded in 1912 by the Mohammedans of India) had agreed to present the joint claims of all communities in the country for home rule. The scheme formulated by these two organizations at Lucknow in 1916, and known as the Congress-League Scheme, had for its aim the attainment of Swaraj (home rule) within the British Empire. They proposed a plan by which India within a period of fifteen years should acquire the same rights as the self-governing colonies of the Empire.
Before the end of the war, the Secretary of State for India, Mr. Montague, was sent to India by the British Parliament for the study of the conditions of the country with a view to launching a scheme of wider influence for its people. A joint report prepared by the Secretary, Mr. Montague, and the Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford, was published in 1918, and after slight modifications was passed by the British Parliament as the Act of 1919.
Although the Montague-Chelmsford reforms were an improvement over the reforms of 1909, all sections of the Indian people except a few isolated moderates at once declared them to be unsatisfactory. Besides enlarging the existing councils and providing for more elected members in them, the reforms of 1919 introduced the new principle of "dyarchy" into the provinces. The various departments of the provincal government were known as "reserved" or "transferred." The control of the "reserved" departments remained in the hands of the governors, who were not responsible in any way to the legislatures. These included law, order, justice, and police. The class of "transferred" subjects included among others education, agriculture, and public health. Their control was placed in the hands of ministers elected by and responsible to the provincial legislatures, which contained a majority of elected members. The system of "dyarchy" in the provincial governments, however, was not a success. No sooner had the new scheme begun to function than difficulties over the budget a arose between the ministers in charge of different departments. The ministers of transferred subjects were given the privilege of managing their departments according to popular demand, but they were not provided with the funds necessary to make possible the proposed reforms. "The strings of the purse were still held by an outside power," a condition which made work of these responsible ministers wholly ineffective. "In defiance of Lincoln's principles regarding the fate of a house divided against itself," comments Prof. Moon, "the British Government made it a principle to divide the administration of India. India was to be `half free, half slave.' Autocracy and self-government were to be twin columns supporting British imperialism. It is interesting to note the subjects which were reserved as of interest to Great Britain-the repression of disorder was a prime interest. Ingenious as it was, the scheme was by no means an unqualified success." [Imperialism and World Politics, page 303.]
Yet it must be admitted that the reforms of 1919 were never given a fair trial by the people of India. Before the time came for the installation of the new councils, the Indian nation had already launched upon its career of non-violent non-cooperation against the British Government. How the agitation against the Rowlatt Bills led to martial law in the Punjab and to the massacre at Amritsar, which in turn drove Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress to the policy of boycott against English rule, has already been explained in a previous chapter. One of the items in the non-cooperation program of the Congress was the boycott of councils, and as a consequence of this item all the responsible nationalist leaders withheld their names and support from the council elections. When after the arrest of Mahatma Gandhi in 1922, one wing of the Indian nationalists under the leadership of Mr. C. R. Das, decided to go into the councils, they did so with the purpose of breaking them up. The avowed object of followers of Mr. Das, who were henceforth called the "Swarajists," was to capture the councils with a view to breaking the machinery of the government from within by obstructing its business at every step. Even though the "Swarajists" finally did succeed in holding the majority seats in different legislative councils of the country, and in causing considerable annoyance to the government officials by their obstructionist methods, yet they were far from being able at any time to halt the government machinery.
The point at issue between India and England is this: India has outgrown its old habit of submission. It does not bend its knee to beg for reforms and concessions. It is standing on its feet and demanding its rights, and the methods it is using to secure the rights of the people to govern themselves are of its own creation. The surprising thing in this whole affair is not that India has lost faith in the British sense of justice and has decided to boycott its English rulers; the amazing thing is that it took the people of India so long to find out the truth about England's interests in the country and their own welfare. It is a sad commentary upon the genius of Indian leadership that it took the Indian National Congress thirty-five years to discover the path of non-cooperation towards Swaraj (home rule). To expect from the English nation, which rewarded General Dyer for his massacre of 800 unarmed civilians with a purse of £10,000 ($50,000), a grant of self-government was stark nonsense. And yet until the new path was struck out by Mahatma Gandhi in 1920, Indians of all shades of opinion persevered in their belief that freedom could be acquired by begging. Mahatma Gandhi was the first man among Indians to realize the fact that freedom is never got by gifts of the rulers, but on the contrary is won by the might of the ruled. Freedom is a thing which cannot be given to a nation from outside; the ability to acquire it must be developed from within.
It is really amazing how old habits stick with beings long after their uselessness has been established. A case of this occurred in India after the incarceration of Mahatma Gandhi in 1922. The Mahatma had started the country on the lines of non-cooperation, and they were proceeding quite successfully, when he was suddenly arrested and sentenced to six years' imprisonment. Soon after he had disappeared from the scene of the Congress, there sprang up in its midst a new party which at once resolved to go back into the councils, as if they had not had enough experience with the council business in previous times. What prompted the "Swarajists" to this action has always remained unintelligible to me. Did they really believe that they could conquer the English bureaucracy of India through speeches in the council chambers, or frighten them into submission through their obstructionist terrors? If they did, it was a typical case of the triumph of hope over experience. If ever anyone made the English rulers of the country quake in their shoes it was Gandhi. He did not do this by the politician's tricks. He who fights against the English nation with those weapons works against heavy odds, because the English are already past masters in the art of diplomacy. The bureaucrats were terrified by Gandhi because he used the weapon of passive resistance, which was native to himself and his countrymen but foreign to the British militarists. The rulers of the country were completely baffled by Gandhi's methods. They simply did not know what to do. If it had been an armed insurrection of a rebellious nation, they possessed enough military force to suppress it with success; but their best strategists failed when they had to encounter a mass of three hundred million disobeying and yet non-resisting people, who had risen in sudden revolt against their established authority at the bidding of a saintly leader.
Gandhi's non-violent non-cooperation still forms the creed of the Indian National Congress. The masses all over the country have been made conscious of the loss of their national dignity under the rule of the British; the blood of the martyrs at Jallianwalla Bagh has made the heart of India bleed; and it is hoped that before the present agitation in the country is slackened, India will have achieved its national freedom, and have become able once more to offer its contribution of art, beauty, and culture to the rest of the world.
Other outside influences besides the injustices of the British rule in the country, that have conspired together to strengthen the nationalist movement of India during the twentieth century, were the Japanese victory in the Russo-Japanese war, and the lowering of the white man's prestige in the minds of all Eastern nations during and after the World War. The crushing defeat of the Russian forces at the hands of the Eastern islanders during the Russo-Japanese war broke forever the spell of the invincibility of white man's arms against Eastern foes; and this incident gave a great impetus to the nationalistic movements in all countries of the East.
Again when during the World War native regiments from the different colonial possessions of the fighting powers were gathered in the battlefields of Europe to witness the "white man's holocaust," their respect for his supposed superior civilization disappeared. At the same time the World War weakened the potential powers of the imperialistic white nations, thereby increasing considerably the chances of success for the rebellious peoples in the East. The high-sounding sentiments of "Self-determination" for weaker nations, and "a world made safe for democracy" uttered by the allied statesmen, during the period of war, had, ever since the ending of the World War on Armistice Day, quickened the hopes not only of India but of other dependent nations as well to seek in every direction for the realization of the ideals expressed by these eloquent orators of the allies. What will the end be?
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Since this was written some developments of a momentous character have taken place in the political situation of India, of which an appropriate notice may conveniently be taken here.
At the 1928 session of the Indian National Congress held at Calcutta a scheme of self-government, jointly prepared by all parties in India, was presented to the British Parliament for enaction into law. This scheme, known as the Nehru Report, was accompanied by an ultimatum to the effect, that if Dominion Status equivalent to that of other self-governing dominions of the Empire like Canada and South Africa was not granted to India by the British Parliament before the midnight of December 31st, 1929, the Indian National Congress would henceforth declare complete independence as its immediate goal. Since no satisfactory response was made to this ultimatum by the British Parliament within the prescribed time limit, the Indian National Congress at its annual session held at Lahore during the last week of 1929 committed itself to complete independence and a severance of all relations with the British Government. The Independence resolution of Mahatma Gandhi was carried by an overwhelming majority of 2,994 votes against only 6. Jan- uary 26th, 1930, was chosen by the Indian National Congress as the day of Indian Independence. It was observed by all Indians, in India and abroad, amidst spectacular demonstrations, during which the national flag was hoisted with ceremony, and the Declaration of Independence read to the masses. Resolutions of approval were passed at nearly 750,000 meetings, and pledges of support given to the Indian National Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, by the enthusiastic crowds, everywhere. At a later date the All-India Congress Committee consisting of 300 members transferred its authority to guide the policies of the Congress to a working committee of ten chosen leaders of the people, who in turn have expressed their implicit faith in the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.
After all efforts at reconciliation with the British Government had failed, Mahatma Gandhi embarked on his campaign of Civil Disobedience on March 9th, 1930. On that day he left his home at Ahmedabad with a batch of 79 volunteers to reach Jalalpur, a village on the ocean shore and 150 miles distant, where he and his followers will start manufacturing salt in open defiance of the British Government's monopoly of salt manufacture in India. This will be symbolic of Gandhi's program of Civil Disobedience. On this historic journey Gandhi and his followers have been greeted with tremendous enthusiasm by the general populace, who have gathered in numbers of hundreds of thousands and lined Gandhi's march all along his journey.
The plan of Gandhi is very simple. He, with his batch of volunteers, will start manufacturing salt at Jalalpur. Since this involves the disobedience of the civil authority of the British Government, it will be compelled to arrest Gandhi and his followers. The volunteers in case of their arrest will be replaced by other batches of equal numbers. In this way the campaign will continue until one of the parties withdraws. The Government will either succeed in breaking up the power of Gandhi's followers or yield to the demands of nationalistic India. On the one hand Gandhi has openly defied the British Government to arrest him, and on the other hand he has strictly enjoined his followers to maintain a spirit of non-violence. In a recent statement to the press he declared that he was not afraid so much of the wrath of the British Government as of the mad fury of his own countrymen bursting forth into open violence.
Gandhi's march to Jalalpur has aroused universal enthusiasm all over the country. Huge demonstrations are taking place everywhere. Indication of the British Government's policy of repression has shown itself already in the arrest of Gandhi's chief lieutenant, Mr. Vallabhai Patel, and the mayor of Calcutta, Mr. Sen Gupta. The masses have so far maintained the spirit of non-violence. Gandhi has given to the British Government of India the choice between a peaceful settlement and violence. He has been able so far to hold his countrymen in a calm mood of peaceful agitation. If he is arrested and the Government starts repression with its customary display of violence, the revolution in India may take a different course. In such a case the responsibility will be all England's.
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