HC Deb 31 July 1931 vol 255 cc2682-6

I desire to turn the attention of the House for a few moments to a subject of supreme importance—namely, the fate of 300,000,000 of the subjects of Great Britain in India. During the debate on India which took place some weeks ago I rose ten times but was never called. Any remarks which I wanted to make on that occasion have been considerably strengthened by what has happened in India during the past few weeks. When I reminded the Secretary of State during that debate of the atrocious events which were happening in India, he was good enough to ask me to stop licking my chops for blood. It was true that the right hon. Gentleman withdrew that insulting remark, but there is a quotation which I think is infinitely more appropriate to the Secretary of State for India than was his remark to mo, and that is "woe unto those that cry peace where there is no peace." There is no peace in India. The right hon. Gentleman has asked us not to talk about trouble, and has said that those who talked about trouble were provoking further trouble. It is not in the least necessary to talk about trouble in India, because India is talking about her trouble in a far louder tone than we are. I have letters in my postbag from various people in India pointing out the dreadful condition of affairs that prevails there owing to the way affairs have been conducted by the present Government, and by the Government of India presumably under the pressure of the Government at home.

The whole Moslem community is riven by fear. They believe that they are going to be handed over to a new Government which is altogether alien to them, the Government of a hated majority. I cannot read all my letters, but there is one from an important member of the Legislative Council of one of the Provinces of India saying that "if these things go on, if there are more Cawnpores, there is no room for the Moslems in India any more than there is any room for the English." The saintly Mr. Gandhi observed that there are minority problems in India which may be ended by the disappearance of the minorities. Think how comforting that is to a Moslem. There we have Mr. Gandhi at his best. The saintliness of Mr. Gandhi is very puzzling. It partly consists, as far as I can make out, in having adopted a primitive form of dress. He has thrown off the European garments which used to cover him when he was a student at the Temple and has renounced a meat diet for a vegetarian diet. This seems to be no more than the saintliness referred to in the famous verses of Lear on the old man who took off his boots and subsisted on roots. But in addition to this ostentatious reversion to very scanty costume, there is his continual statement that there must be no violence. His no violence slogan would be much more convincing if, when his followers practice violence, he did as he has promised to do, withdraw permanently from politics. Up to the present he shows no signs of doing that.


Does the hon. Member recall the circumstances of some years ago—


Order, order!


Mr. Gandhi always deprecates violence—


Will the hon. Member allow me?


If the hon. Member does not give way the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Knight) cannot interrupt him.


On a point of Order. May I ask whether it is possible to conduct this debate if the Secretary of State for India has not the courtesy to be present in the House?


That is no point of Order. It is a matter with which I have nothing to do.


Mr. Gandhi has always deprecated violence. In fact, he reminds me of that famous character in Pickwick, who when his political opponent was being mishandled by the mob hovered on the edge of the mob crying, "do not put him under the pump." Mr. Gandhi's whole policy is to say to his followers, "abstain from violence," but when an Indian magistrate was burnt alive by his followers he contented himself by saying that if that sort of thing went on he must think of withdrawing from politics. It has gone on. We have had Cawnpore. Would not anyone think that Cawnpore was a big enough example of what his followers can do to induce Mr. Gandhi to say to his unhappy children, as he sometimes calls them, these too energetic persons, that he is going to withdraw his support from them? Not a bit. What is he doing at the present time? He has written some words of wonder on that extraordinary document which has been produced by the Congress National Council, trying to prove that England owes India, I forget how many thousands of millions of pounds, for the privilege of having ruled India for the last 150 years. It includes the price of the old wars of Clive, of Lord Lake and Sir Arthur Wellesley, and the Indian Mutiny. The whole charge of the Indian Mutiny is to be put down to England.

The Indian Mutiny, as everybody knows except a few Members of the Liberal and Labour parties who spoke during the last Debate, was not, as one of them called it, the last attempt of India to* free herself, but an attempt of the Bengal Sepoy army to establish a hegemony in Northern India, using the name of the defunct Mogul Power as a cover for its ambitions. Not one-sixth part of India was affected by the Indian Mutiny. It may be said that practically the whole of the Bombay and Madras Presidencies were untouched by it. Of the Princes, only two or three persons, discontented for particular reasons, had anything to do with the rising, which was essentially a military rising. As a matter of fact, the Mutiny, so far from being the last attempt of India to make itself free, was put down by an army, the greater part of which was composed of the inhabitants of India—mainly from the newly-annexed Punjab.

I am very sorry that the Secretary of State for India has not been here to hear the beginning of my speech, but now that he has entered the House I may remind him that I have been putting to him the problem of what Holy Writ says about those who "cry peace when there is no peace." I consider that there is no peace in India, that India is quaking from end to end. India's present state is very far worse than anything else we have known even in recent years. Cases have been cited in support of the statement that communal friction always existed. There was the Moplah Rebellion; there was the sacking of 122 Mohammedan villages in the United Provinces in three days. That is so, but proves nothing. The true point of view is that at the present time the State of tension in India is far worse than anything we can remember in recent times.

Let me mention two facts which show what is the state of tension. They are very deplorable facts. The Secretary of State for India knows that during the last two days two young Mohammedans have been condemned to death for falling upon and slaying a Hindu publisher and his two assistants, for publishing an illustrated life of Mohammed, which, among other things, sinned against the Mohammedan view by having pictures of Mohammed and unappreciative remarks on him. There were the awful riots in Kashmir. The allegation there was that a Hindu had torn up and spat upon a copy of the Koran. Seven thousand people at once began a riot and there were many deaths. A similar state of affairs is prevalent all over India. I have already referred to a letter from a gentleman who is serving on a Legislative Council. He stated: "We Moslems feel that we are in danger. We are as doomed as you Europeans." If that is the state of feeling of one of the great sections of Indian life, is it any use thinking that a little question of whether there shall be a certain percentage or a larger percentage of Moslem or non-Hindu representatives in legislative assemblies will settle fundamental and ancient enmities which to-day have cropped up worse than ever? They are very fundamental enmities indeed. They started a thousand years ago.

1.0 p.m.

The Hindu population of India cannot forget even now the first conquest of India by the Moslems. They cannot forget how Mahmud of Ghuzni went through India breaking the temples and smashing the Hindu idols. They cannot forget the attempts at forcible proselytism of Aurungzebe and Tippoo Sahib. If that is the feeling between the two religions, is it any use whatever to think that it can be cured by small concessions as to the number of deputies or Government representatives, or anything of that kind, in Provincial legislatures? What you have to face is an entire recrudescence of the old time-honoured or time-cursed hatred between the monotheists and the polytheists.

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