Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £150,492,000, be granted to His Majesty, on account, for or towards defraying the Charges for the following Civil and Revenue Departments (including Pensions, Education, Insurance, and other Grants, and Exchequer Contributions to Local Revenues) for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1933, namely:
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Sir Samuel Hoare)
Three weeks ago I was asked over 50 questions at this Table—a record number of questions to be asked of any Minister. It seemed to me that this interest in Indian affairs showed, in an unmistakable way, that the Committee was anxious to have a Debate in the course of which I could give them a full statement of the present position. So far from deploring this interest, I welcome it. So far from resenting any request for information, I am glad whenever I can to satisfy it. I issued a fortnight ago a Blue Book in which are set out in great detail the events of the last few months. I set those events out in detail because I was anxious that every Member should have a comprehensive picture of Indian affairs before him. If I speak at some little length, if I cover more ground than I naturally should in any ordinary Estimates Debate, it is because I realise that I am dealing with grave and serious questions on which every Member of the House has the right to have information and the duty to express his judgment upon them.
Fortunately, I need not go into great detail in the matter of past history. The Blue Book sets out very fully and comprehensively the events that led up to the decisions that were taken at the end of last year, and shows in great detail the position in which we find ourselves at the end of the Round Table Conference, and it carries on the history up to a few weeks ago. When last I addressed the House upon Indian affairs it was at the moment when the second Round Table Conference came to an end. The delegates had parted on the whole in an atmosphere of good will. Only the representative of Congress stood apart, and even he sometimes seemed to dislike the discordant note that he was striking. It may, therefore, be said that at the beginning of December, when last we had an Indian Debate, there was a general atmosphere of good will and there was a general desire to advance along the road of co-operation. If I had been asked then to make a forecast of coming events, I think I should have said that the forecast was changeable, but that it was not immediately stormy. Then, within the space of almost a few days, the storm burst, the reverberations of which we are still feeling. Whatever may have been 795 Mr. Gandhi's personal inclinations, the fact remains indisputable that, in the second half of December, the leaders of the Congress organisation were determined to renew war with the Government of India. If any hon. Member will study the Blue Book that I have circulated, he will see instance after instance showing in an indisputable manner that a war mentality had possessed the leaders of Congress.
The Blue Book shows in detail how the Red Shirt movement had been stimulated by Congress in the North West Frontier Province and how, in that very inflammable area, a critical situation had arisen which threatened the very basis of Government. The Blue Book again shows how, in the United Provinces, Congress stimulated a revolutionary movement which looked like leading to an agrarian revolution. There is also evidence in plenty—if I had the time I could give it in detail—that in the Province of Bengal the leaders of Congress, and particularly the left leaders of Congress, were in close contact with the terrorist movement. Look where you may, from the North of India to the South, there was overwhelming evidence that Congress was bent upon renewing the war against the British Government. Ever since the Irwin-Gandhi agreement, there had been signs that many prominent Indians in the Congress organisation were using the settlement not as a period of peace but simply as a period of temporary truce during which they were preparing for a renewal of war and taking every opportunity to magnify their own organisation at the expense of the established Government, and of setting up a parallel and a revolutionary government against the established forces of law and order.
I claim that, in view of these indisputable facts, there was no course open to any Government worthy of the name to take any action other than that which we did take. The Government was faced with this direct threat to its existence instigated, not by a comprehensive movement covering the whole of India, but by a sectional organisation which admittedly only represents a small portion of the great populations of India. Any Government worthy of the name, if government 796 was to continue in India at all, was bound to accept the challenge.
But I am aware—it has been borne in upon me at Question Time in the House—that there are some Members who, while accepting the general claim that the Government had to take action to meet this threat, yet think, first of all, that the action that we are taking is excessive and, secondly, that we are abusing the powers under which we are acting.
Those are serious charges and they need to be answered. Let me take them in turn. Let me take first of all the charge that the powers that we have taken are excessive. I admit that the powers that have been given to the Government of India and the provincial Governments are very formidable. They are set out in detail in the Appendices to the Blue Book. They cover, and they are intended to cover, the whole field of possible attacks upon the Government. I believe that they should cover the whole of that field. I believe that it would have been a derogation of our duty if, faced with this critical situation, we had taken only inadequate powers. I believe, further, that we are much more likely to reach the point when emergency powers can be brought to an end if we act over the whole field and leave no openings to this hostile organisation to make our action unsuccessful. I therefore claim, first of all, that so far from its being a cause of criticism against us that we have taken full and comprehensive powers, criticism would have been just if the powers that we had taken had not been comprehensive.
There is another consideration that I would like to put to hon. Members on the benches opposite. The attack that has been launched by Congress was not an attack upon the British Government but an attack on any government, and more than that it was an attack upon the whole community. I will tell hon. Members why I make that claim. If the machine of government had broken down it would have been apparent to the great populations of the Indian Continent that action such as Congress had launched had been successful, and it would have been a direct incentive to this community or that community to have undertaken the same kind of direct action. Every hon. Member of this House knows how inflammable is the material in India when anything touching the communal question 797 arises. During all these weeks I have been terrified lest a breakdown of the machine of government should be a direct incentive to the renewal of communal strife. Let hon. Members constantly remember those terrible events at Cawnpore last year. On no account must we run the risk of any repetition of that kind of catastrophe. I do urge upon every hon. Member of this Committee that at a time of crisis such as this it is essential that the central Government and the provincial Governments should have the greatest possible powers, drastic though they may be, to make a repetition of that kind of catastrophe as impossible as we can make it.
I come now to the second criticism, to the criticism that the authorities are abusing the powers that they possess, that they are using them ruthlessly, and that they are using them in such a way as not only to deal with an actual emergency, but also in such a way as to suppress the legitimate expression of public opinion. There, again, I ask hon. Members to look at the actual facts of the situation. I am just as fully alive as they are to the danger of uncontrolled administrative action, and I tell hon. Members that the Viceroy and his Government are just as alive to that danger as am I. But when I look at the facts of the situation during these last weeks, and when I think of the dangers in India, when I think of the great difficulties with which the authorities, great and small, are faced, I do inevitably come to the conclusion that upon the whole these powers have been used with common sense and with moderation. It may be that here and there, probably in the face of great danger and difficulty, some individual may have misused his authority. If that be so, investigation always follows action of that kind in the ordinary course. So far as I myself am concerned, and it is also the attitude of the Government of India, we have been ready to look into a number of specific charges made in individual cases, and the result of our inquiries goes to show that, speaking generally, the authorities, and particularly the police, have behaved exceedingly well in a very difficult situation, and that upon the whole these drastic powers have not been abused or used to an excessive degree.
Let me take the two charges that have been made in this House in this connec- 798 tion during the last few weeks. There is the charge that we have suppressed the expression of opinion by a censorship. There is no censorship in India of any reputable foreign newspaper correspondence. At one time there was a restriction for military purposes in the North-West Frontier. That restriction, I understand, has now been removed, and no check to-day is placed upon any foreign newspaper correspondent in sending news to this country or to any other country. That that is so, I think may be easily checked by the fact that many most inaccurate reports as to what has been happening in India have appeared in the foreign and the American Press. As far as the Indian Press is concerned, hon. Members will see in the Press Act and the Ordinances the action we have taken. Speaking generally, the action taken is designed for one purpose, and one purpose alone, namely, to stop incentives to disorder and terrorism, and not to stifle the expression of public opinion. There, again, I would invite the attention of hon. Members opposite to the Indian Press itself, for I think that if they will study the Indian Press themselves, they will see that a very wide latitude—some would say, much too wide latitude—has been given to the Indian Press as a medium for the expression of opinions hostile to the Government. So much for the Press.
Now let me say a word or two about the police. Charges have been made against the police. It would be very surprising if in a situation of this kind charges were not made. But, upon the whole, the police have acted splendidly. They have acted often under the greatest provocation. They have acted against tremendous odds at great risk to their own lives and to the lives of their own families, and they have acted, speaking generally, with admirable restraint and conspicuous moderation. Charges are being made against them. I am aware of that, but I would venture to remind hon. Members that, in an emergency of this kind, there is a staple manufacture of atrocities in order to discredit the various servants of the Government generally. I would venture to remind hon. Members of what took place only last year in a situation not altogether dissimilar from the present situation. Case after case was trumped up against the police, and 799 when we came to examine into these cases, nine out of ten were discovered to be fabricated. Let me give the Committee an instance or two of this creation of atrocities. A long and circumstantial story of police brutality of a particularly disgusting nature to a volunteer in Rohtak was printed in the Congress Bulletin, and brought to the Secretary of State's notice. It was stated that the complaint had been made to a magistrate on oath. On inquiry, it was found that the magistrate, an Indian, had investigated the complaint and found it to be a tissue of lies. The volunteer was also examined, the day after the alleged assault, by two doctors, who failed to find any trace of injury of any sort.
Again, it was alleged that the police in Borsad had dispersed a peaceful procession of women with great violence, beating them with lathis, kicking them, and pulling their hair. The procession had been organised to protest against the alleged ill-treatment of two women, mentioned by name, by the police. On inquiry it was found that the facts were entirely different. The police had taken action only when a crowd of men, collected behind the women, had started throwing stones, and the small force of 30 police was in danger of being overwhelmed by a mob of 2,000. It was inevitable in the scuffle that some women should be injured, but the worst injury sustained was a hurt to the knee. Of the two women said to have been ill-treated, one did not exist at all, and the other was subject to fits and had injured herself in a fit. It is also relevant, as an instance of fabrication of evidence by Congress, to refer to the report of the special officer appointed to inquire into allegations regarding the use of lathis in connection with the collection of land revenue in Bardoli. After a most patient inquiry into these allegations of police excesses, Mr. Gordon found that there was no evidence at all of police persecution. The witnesses put forward by Congress broke down under examination, and were one and all found to be lying.
I cannot avoid the conclusion that one of the main objects of Congress in making these accusations was to discredit the police by making them appear as the persecutors of harmless and defenceless peasants. In one case, in fact, Mr. Gordon finds that there was a definite 800 conspiracy to bring a policeman, Sitaram Ganpat, into trouble. Charges of brutality were trumped up against him from three different villages. In no case was there found to be a shred of evidence against him. In fact, in the case of one village it was discovered that Sitaram was not even among the party of police on the occasion mentioned. This continual misrepresentation of the police is a fact that must be taken into account in judging of the behaviour of the police now. During the last campaign the police were in many places subjected to extreme provocation. Often they had to submit to personal abuse of the most offensive character, while every effort was made by members of Congress to make life intolerable for them and their families by means of the social boycott, and other devices of the same kind. Often they were in danger of their lives from infuriated mobs, and many of them received injuries, more or less serious.
An example of what the police have to suffer is given in the Bombay fortnightly report that I have just received. After the dispersal of a crowd, a mob of 500 proceeded to the house of a brother of a police sub-inspector and assaulted him. There is another instance which I will give. I think that the Committee is entitled to have these instances. I take it from the events of the last few weeks to show how widely inaccurate are many of the reports circulated as to what is happening in India. Here is an example of the sort of exaggeration to which I have referred. A Lahore newspaper stated that 481 Red Shirts had been killed and 651 wounded—hon. Members will notice the detailed figures—on certain date in or near Kohat. The actual facts were that 14 had been killed and 28 wounded, and these figures had already been published in an official communique. To such an extent are exaggeration and falsehood possible!
In view of this evidence, I suggest to hon. Members of this Committee that they should be very careful in sifting the evidence of charges for which now and then certain hon. Members make them-selves responsible. But when I say what I have said about the inaccuracy of many of the statements that have been current during the last few weeks, I should not like it to be thought that the Govern- 801 ment of India is not watching the situation very carefully, and is not as anxious as any Member of this House to avoid the possibility of any excessive action. Perhaps I cannot do better than quote to the Committee one or two extracts from a despatch of the Government of India to the Provincial Governments issued as recently as 9th February, dealing with the whole question of the use of the emergency powers. The instructions that it contains show the caution and moderation with which the Government of India are acting. I will quote one or two of the more important passages.
First the Government of India, recognising the responsibility attaching to the assumption of extraordinary powers, would again bring to the notice of local governments the great importance of exercising control and supervision over the exercise of those powers, and, second, that they would request local governments to satisfy themselves in regard to alleged instances of abuse brought to their notice, which is, of course, the normal practice and procedure.Some of the powers contained in the Ordinances are drastic, and the Government of India attach great importance to the control by local governments of their exercise. At the same time, the Government of India would request local governments (a) to satisfy themselves in accordance with the usual procedure, as to the facts of particular complaints or allegations brought to their notice, if they appear to be of such importance as to require such action; (b) to counteract false or exaggerated accounts of particular incidents by giving publicity to the actual facts; (c) in genuine cases of abuse to take such action as may be necessary by way of redress or by disciplinary measures.I am to make it clear that what is said above is not to be interpreted as representing in any way any deflection from the policy of Government to take firm and strong action in dealing with the civil disobedience movement. Such action is not prejudicial but rather confirmed by the avoidance of excess, and experience time and again has, in fact, shown that the best results are achieved by the observance of the strictest discipline. Nor is it to be interpreted as indicating any desire on the part of the Government of India that the servants of Government should not be assured of receiving the fullest support in all reasonable measures which are necessary in dealing with the civil disobedience movement. On the contrary, the Government of India will give their full support to local governments in all such measures, and they are confident that local governments will give similar support to their officers.These are the instructions of the Government of India to the Provincial Governments, and I think I can claim as evidence 802 that these emergency measures have been, on the whole, accepted as necessary in India, the fact that not. a single Vote of Censure either in the Legislative Assembly or in any of the Provincial Councils has been carried against the Government action, and that we have received many expressions not only from politicians, but from business men and particularly from persons of influence in country districts, that in their view these emergency powers were essential, were inevitable and are being used with caution and moderation.
Before I leave this part of my subject, I should like to say a word or two about one phase of the situation that naturally causes us great anxiety—the position in Bengal and the terrorist campaign that has been launched against the Government during recent months. The most drastic powers contained in the Ordinances are powers that have been given to the Government of Bengal to deal with terrorism. Terrorism, as every hon. Member knows, has had a hold in Bengal for many years past, and in recent years, indeed in recent months, the terrorist threat has become far more serious. In the past few months there have been 19 serious terrorist outrages, for the most part against British officials. There have been outrages against women and children. A new and sinister feature of these outrages is that women and girls have been brought into the service of the terrorists. Only last week I had the painful experience of hearing from Mrs. Stevens, the widow of one of the most popular, one of the most intelligent and one of the most sympathetic officials in the whole of the Indian service, the story of her husband's murder at the hands of two girls.
I will not repeat the details to the Committee nor will I give them extracts, of which I have pages, from terrorist leaflets that until recently were everywhere being circulated in Bengal, for the express purpose of inciting to the wholesale murder of British officials. Perhaps even more sinister than some of these other features is the undeniable fact that many of the more extreme Congress leaders in Bengal have been hand in glove with certain of the leaders of the terrorist movement. Do we need any further justification for the action that we have had to take in Bengal and elsewhere? It 803 would have been a surrender of the elementary duty of any Government if we had not invested the Government of Bengal with the fullest and most comprehensive powers possible to make an attempt to cut this blot out of the life of Bengal.
I claim, in view of what I have said to the Committee, that we have had ample justification for the measures that we have taken that we have used those measures with caution and moderation and that the Government of India, from the highest official, from the Viceroy down to the most junior police constable, have acted with courage, with caution and with common sense, and that the machine of government, in the face of great difficulties, has functioned with remarkable efficiency.
May I now sum up the situation as I see it to-day in India? I will begin with the North-West Frontier Province. All my information goes to show that the Red Shirt Movement there, which a few months ago was so imminent a danger to the Government as a whole, is beginning to collapse. From all sides there is evidence of a great change of opinion in the Frontier Province. Men who a few weeks ago stood out in an attitude of hostility are coming in to co-operate with the Government. Revenue is coming in better than it has come in for several years. I think it may be claimed that, speaking generally, the position in the North-West Frontier to-day is far more stable than it has been for many months past. Then there is the second danger zone, the United Province, a great province almost entirely agrarian, a, province in which there are more than 1,000,000 landowners, many of them very small landowners, and in which in the few weeks before Christmas there was every evidence of a movement so serious as almost to be an agrarian revolution. My information, confirmed in the last telegram that I received to-day from India, goes to show that what is called the no-rent movement is now virtually at an end.
In most of the other Provinces the position is, on the whole, satisfactory. There are, however, two exceptions to which if I am to make a candid survey of the situation, I want to make allusions. There is the position in Bengal, where we have not yet been able to crush the terrorist 804 machine. It will take time, but I have no reason to suppose that we shall not succeed. Then there is Bombay. The position in the Presidency is definitely better, but the position in Bombay City itself is still unsatisfactory in the matter of picketing and the economic boycott. Even in Bombay City itself I think I should be right in saying that the position is improving. The Government of Bombay has full powers to deal with the situation, and I should very much hope to see a more marked improvement in the weeks to come than we have seen up to the present. On the whole, it can be claimed that the drastic measures that we have taken have achieved the results that we expected of them and that the position to-day is immensely better than it was in the weeks at the end of last year.
There are still two serious difficulties before us. There is, first of all, that ever-present difficulty in Indian affairs, the communal trouble, and, secondly, there is the difficulty, particularly formidable in a great peasant continent such as India, of the economic depression. Of the communal position I intend to say not more than two or three sentences. I realise the deep anxiety that is felt by the minorities communities, particularly by the Moslems and the Depressed Classes. I know how anxious they are to be satisfied that their legitimate claims will be met before they agree to the provisions of a future Constitution. I also know, from long months of discussion, how many dangerous reactions are involved in the communal question, and I can only say to-day that the Government realise the importance and urgency of the question, that on no account will we repudiate our obligations to the minorities communities that we have most solemnly undertaken, and that we ask the representatives of the minorities, particularly the representatives of the Moslem community that has with great faith and loyalty abstained from non-co-operation, to believe in our sincerity and to be patient if, in the inevitable process of events, we do not rush into a premature decision. His Majesty's Government and the Government of India, are in close consultation over this thorny question, and until we have completed our discussions I cannot make any announcement of our immediate intentions.
Then there is the second formidable difficulty that faces us, the economic posi- 805 tion. I do not know whether it is always realised in this House how great is the economic crisis through which India has been passing. India, as we all know, is a country for the most part of small and poor peasants, and the fall in prices has hit them as hard as it has hit any community in any part of the world. The prices of primary commodities have fallen in some cases by 100 per cent., and when we take into account the smallness of the income of most of these peasant proprietors and that nine out of ten of them owe considerable sums to moneylenders—there are no fewer than 45,000 moneylenders in the agrarian province of the Punjaub—we realise their grave position. The burden of debt upon their shoulders owing to the fall in prices has gone up sometimes to the extent of 70 per cent.
To complete the picture, when we also take into account the fact that provincial revenues are to a great extent dependent upon the land revenue, it will be realised how very serious is the economic crisis through which India has been passing. Fortunately, however, there are signs that the prices of primary commodities in India are beginning to rise. Since September, raw cotton has gone up in price by 75 per cent., that of ground nuts by 58 per cent., that of jute and gunnies 50 per cent., and in the last few days there has been a jump in the price of paddy.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Sir S. HOARE
Yes. The result is that the burden of the present fixed charges is gradually being reduced and buying power is being increased. This change is already showing itself in a better market for manufactured goods. Thirty million square yards of cotton goods were exported from the United Kingdom to India during January, this figure being 12,000,000 higher than that for December and 9,000,000 higher than that for last January. The figure for cotton yarn in January was the highest for more than a year past, and, indeed, only 15 per cent. below the monthly average of 1928. I do not wish to exaggerate the extent of these improvements. I mention them rather as signs, still uncertain, but none the less hopeful, of better times.
806 It is satisfactory also to note, at a time of such general economic depression, that there has been a striking improvement in the financial situation of the Government of India. Last September the financial position in India was as serious as it was in any part of the British Empire. On the one hand there was a serious Budget deficiency, and on the other hand the export trade of India, on which we are dependent for remittances to London, had fallen greatly. Indian credit stood very low in the City of London, and, to make matters worse, there was the certainty that in the near future certain short-term Indian loans were maturing, and it would have been very difficult for anyone last September to say bow exactly these maturities were going to be met.
I am glad to be able to tell the Committee that we are no longer faced with so black a prospect as faced us last September. On all sides there has been a remarkable improvement. Ever since the rupee was linked with sterling last September things have been steadily improving, prices have been rising, and a new and unexpected feature has shown itself—the vast sums of gold which have been exported and have produced a striking improvement in India and in the rest of the world. No less than £38,000,000 sterling of gold has been exported from India since last September, and the export looks likely to continue. Gold has been exported from India since last September at a higher rate than it has ever been exported from the goldfields of South Africa. This export has greatly helped to strengthen the rupee exchange and the position of Indian credit in the markets of the city of London, and the world.
If I needed evidence of this I would point to the fact that only a few weeks ago the Government of India was able to repay without further borrowing a loan of no less than £15,000,000 sterling which was raised in 1921 and 1922. Has any other great Government in any part of the world during the last six months repaid a big loan without having to borrow further for repayment? If I look at the quotations of the Government of India stocks in the City to-day I see the greatest possible improvement as compared with the quotations of last September. Let me give the Committee an instance. The 4½ per cent. sterling stock, 807 1950–55, which in September, 1931, was quoted as low as 61 now stands in the neighbourhood of 84, and the 5½ per cent. sterling stock, 1936–38, has risen from 80 to 97 in the same period. Thus a great step forward has been taken towards winning back for Indian credit the high place it formerly held in the estimation of the investing public. If I may sum up the economic situation in a sentence, I would say that India is through the worst of the crisis and is in a, better position to take advantage of a general recovery than almost any other great country in the world.
The Committee has now borne with me for an unconscionable time while I have exposed to them the Indian situation as I see it to-day. Hon. Members will not wish me to take up their time further, but it may be that many of them will be saying to themselves "You have spoken to us of the India of to-day at great length, but you have said nothing to us of the India of to-morrow." Let them not think, if this criticism is in their mind, that I am not constantly pondering over the India of to-morrow. If I have not spoken of it to-day, it is because this Debate is for a specific purpose, to discuss Indian administration during the last few months, and I should have been out of order if I had plunged into a discussion of the constitutional changes of to-morrow.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Do I understand you, Mr. Chairman, to rule that any discussion of the Round Table Conference is out of order? I see that there is a sum of £36,000 in this Estimate on account of the Conference?
§ The CHAIRMAN
Certainly such a discussion cannot be entirely out of order on this Vote, but I do not know how far I can allow a discussion on the India Round Table Conference to go, and I must see what direction the discussion takes. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, like the Secretary of State for India, knows that on this Estimate I cannot allow a discussion on any matters which involve legislation.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Surely we shall be able to discuss the expenditure on account of the Conference dealing with the future constitution of India? That is the whole point.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I do not dissent from the right hon. Gentleman's view. I was saying that perhaps many hon. Members may be under the impression that, while I am dealing with these questions of detailed administration, I may not be thinking of the bigger issues of tomorrow. I can assure them that that is not the case; whether in the field of administration or in the wider field of constitutional change we are just as anxious for co-operation with representative Indians as we have ever been in the past. The committees, composed as they are of representative Indians and British public men, that are working out certain details of the Indian Constitution in India to-day are the outward and visible sign of the sincerity of our desire for this co-operation. The emergency powers that we are discussing are not a sign of the end of a policy of co-operation. They are not a gage of war between Great Britain and India; they are not even the evidence of a conflict between the British Government and Indian political aspirations. They are neither more nor less than the bulwark of any Government against anarchy and revolution. They are as much needed for Indian constitutional progress in the future as they are for the avoidance of strife and bloodshed in the present. Let Indians of all sections of opinion realise this fact, and let them constantly remember the evidences that we have given them of our desire for co-operation, the long months of patient forbearance while the Government was subjected to threats and insults, the continuous and high-minded efforts of Lord Irwin for peace, the help that we have ungrudgingly given in trying to solve the constitutional problems of the future. Time after time we have proved our readiness to work with them provided that they sincerely desire to work with us and are prepared to work upon the lines of the policy that was approved last December by an overwhelming majority of the House of Commons. Upon these lines, we are ready to go forward. It is a crime against the future to put obstacles in our path.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I beg to move, "That Item Class II, Vote 11 (India Office) be reduced by £100."
We on this side, like the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, welcome this opportunity of discussing cur- 809 rent affairs in the great Dependency of India. I should have rejoiced very much in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman if it had been a little more helpful and encouraging. If he had not made the explanation he did in his concluding remarks I should have been disappointed with so meagre a reference to the subject of the Round Table Conference and the present position in relation to it, but I gather that the right hon. Gentleman deliberately excluded it from his observations in order that we might apply our minds particularly to the question of administrative actions and reactions, as we now see them.
In his opening remarks, the right hon. Gentleman avoided—quite understandably—any elaborate review of the history of the present disturbances in India. I might perhaps be permitted to address to the Committee one or two facts that are worth recalling. When the Government of India Act was passed, the Committee will recall that here was an explicit undertaking given that within a certain period of time a Commission should be appointed in order to examine how far changes could be introduced into the constitutional arrangements as between this country and India. In view of that undertaking, the Simon Commission was appointed. The Committee may also remember that at the constitution of the Commission there was great disappointment in India—rightly or wrongly —by reason of the fact that the Commission remained, if I may call it so, a white Commission and did not contain in its membership representatives of the Indian people themselves. I cite these simple facts because I am going presently' to lead up to a proposition which I hope to be able to prove. What is happening in India and has happened in recent months has tended very largely to extend the degree of alienation as between the various sections of the peoples of India and ourselves, and I cite this simple fact concerning the constitution of the Simon Commission, not to re-open ancient history, but in order to show how easy it was on the slightest provocation to add to the degree of alienation which was then experienced in that great country.
That difficulty was in some measure got over by reason of the fact that a Round Table Conference was ultimately arranged in this country. Unfortunately, 810 however, at the first Round Table Conference the Congress party, which, as we know, is Mr. Gandhi's party, remained outside participation in the Conference. Then, largely because of the—as I consider it—wise approach to the problem of the Labour Government of those days, the Delhi pact—the Irwin-Gandhi Agreement—was arrived at, and at the second Conference we had the very remarkable demonstration of the representation at the Conference of almost every school of thought, and that is most important. There were present, for instance, on the right, shall we say, representatives of the Princes, of the Europeans, of the Moslems, of the Untouchables and of the Anglo-Indians; and on the left there were the Liberals, the moderate party, and Mr. Gandhi himself representing the Congress party.
Here, while the Conference was still sitting, we in this country passed through a General Election, and I want now, Sir, to make this observation: that my researches in the public Press have led me to the conclusion that it is obvious that as soon as the election was over, there was a steady drive embarked upon to close down the Conference as speedily as possible. That movement again, I think—for it was observed and even talked about, not among the Gandhi element alone, but even among the moderate element represented at the Conference—added to the element of alienation to which I have just referred. A large number of non-essential subjects were discussed, very important but not fundamental; the big, fundamental problem which should have been discussed, according to the Irwin-Gandhi Pact at Delhi, from the standpoint of the best interests of India, namely, safeguards, was not discussed at all. The Conference came to an end leaving a feeling of grave disappointment in the minds of those who had been present at the two Round Table Conferences.
At the end of the Conference we were presented, as Members of this House, with a statement on behalf of the Government, and, if the Committee will permit me, I shall recall to their minds the sentiments which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister expressed at the final meeting of the Round Table Conference before its members dispersed. I propose to ask questions on this matter 811 presently, and I hope therefore that I may have the attention of the Secretary of State, who, I gather, will reply later on.We intend to go ahead.That was, with the Round Table method; with a method of discussion; with a method, if possible, of conciliation. Then, further on, the right hon. Gentleman said:I propose, therefore, with your consent, to nominate in due course a small representative committee—a working committee —of this Conference which will remain in being in India, with which, through the Viceroy, we can keep in effective touch. I cannot here and now specify precisely how this committee can best be employed. This is a matter which must be worked out and must to some extent depend on the reports of the committees we propose to set up. But in the end we shall have to meet again for a final review of the whole scheme.The Prime Minister said:We intend to go ahead,and to that end some three committees, whose functions were specifically defined, were noted by the Prime Minister, and in addition to these a fourth committee, which he then called—I invite the Secretary of State's attention to this—and is called in a White Paper, a "working committee." But since then the working committee has undergone some little transformation. It seems that it is not now called a working committee; it is called a consultative committee.
§ Mr. JONES
Let us see if it is the same. Before you can have a consultative committee there must be somebody consulting. Who is consulting on this consultative committee? As I understand it, the only spokesman who is known in India at this moment is the Viceroy himself. He is the spokesman of this committee. I am not speaking now from the standpoint of people here in England, but I invite the Committee to try to put themselves in the position of people who are somewhat suspicious of the Indian Government. Is it not natural that they will assume immediately that a consultative committee whose mouthpiece and spokesman is the Viceroy will, in fact and in practice, be merely the mouthpiece of the permanent officialdom in India? With whom is this committee consulting? In England, as I understand it, there is some sort of committee sitting under the 812 chairmanship of the learned Lord Chancellor, Lord Sankey, who work with him in this country. So far as I understand, again, only permanent officials—very excellent people, I have no doubt in their way—sit on that committee.
The understanding at the beginning of this business was that when you use the word "conference" you imply conference, not between officials—for that is no change at all from the old practice—but rather between statesmen, and representatives of the different organisations. It is for that reason that the various parties were originally invited to participate and co-operate in common action. If, therefore, we are to be reduced to having a working committee—or, under the new denomination, a consultative committee—whose members are all, on that side and on this—I mean in India and here—merely permanent officials, what change is there from the old condition of affairs? Absolutely none, as far as I can see. The whole idea of conference as originally visualised is entirely abandoned, so that, so far from "going ahead," as the Prime Minister proposed to the last meeting of the Round Table Conference, we are in point of fact, seemingly, moving backwards. If you look at it from the point of view—if you like—of the suspicious Indian mind, clearly we are making no progress forward. There is no "going ahead."
That brings me to the general proposition which I want to put before the Committee this afternoon. I want to try to bring home to the Committee that everything that is now happening in India indicates that there is every reason to assume that there is a change in approach, a change in outlook, concerning this problem. I have no doubt that this change will be a very welcome change to many Members of this House, but, if there is a change, let us be frank about it and accept it; do not let us pretend that we are still carrying on with the policy of the previous Government, which believed in the principle of conference. Do not let us pretend that we are doing that, when in fact we are doing something exactly the contrary.
I need not recall to the Committee some incidents—in my judgment most unfortunate incidents—which have happened to strengthen the suspicion in India that there is a change in the Government's approach to this problem. I 813 myself am not anxious to take sides with Mr. Gandhi's party, or with the Moslem party; I am merely desirous of doing whatever I can to help forward the demand of the Indian people as a whole for a larger measure of self-government. I cannot, however, deny myself the opportunity of referring to what I suppose must have arisen from some measure of misunderstanding on both sides, namely, the extraordinary celerity—for I cannot call it anything else—with which Mr. Gandhi was suddenly clapped under lock and key soon after he returned to India. I heard the Secretary of State for India explain—and I listened with patience and with every desire to give a fair hearing to the presentation of his point of view—that he does not recall having given certain of the pledges which he is alleged to have made to Mr. Gandhi. If he says so, I accept it quite cordially. On the other hand, let us bear in mind that there clearly was an idea on the part of Mr. Gandhi that there was some sort of understanding that when he arrived in India there would be an opportunity for him to consult with the Viceroy regarding these Ordinances in various parts of the country. I do not press that point any further. I merely say that Mr. Gandhi thought so.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I do not think that Mr. Gandhi since his arrival in India has suggested that there was any kind of understanding.
§ Mr. JONES
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not misunderstand me. I am quite willing to give way to him in order that this matter should be made clear. I myself do not presume to pass judgment on the matter, one way or the other. The sole point I am making is that clearly there was a feeling in India, and I think in Mr. Gandhi's mind, that there was some sort of understanding that when he arrived in India he would be allowed to approach the Viceroy with a view to discussing these ordinances. However that is comparatively immaterial. But what was the reason for the extremely sudden and swift decision, before Mr. Gandhi had a chance even to look round in India or to exercise any moderating influence whatever, to put him speedily under lock and key.
Whether we like Mr. Gandhi or not, according to our respective points of view 814 we must, as reasonable people, acknowledge that he represents a substantial body of opinion, be it misguided or well-guided. There is a solid body of opinion behind him, and if you are anxious to preserve the spirit of co-operation, it seems in the highest degree desirable to retain his willingness to co-operate to the last minute possible. I submit that clapping him into prison in such an unceremonious way has contributed in some degree to the exacerbation on both sides which has been so manifest in the last few weeks. In my opinion it is not for Mr. Gandhi or anybody else to claim a right for his organisation to be equal in power and authority to the Government of the day. That, I frankly admit to be a fair and sound proposition. But I have read these letters with some care. I admit that they have not been, in all senses, happily framed. I think that if I were writing them I should have written them differently. On the other hand I think that the Viceroy and his advisers showed a little too much punctilio in this matter. If they could have given way slightly, if they could have overlooked a little excessive zeal on Mr. Gandhi's part, they might thereby have saved considerable difficulty for India in the succeeding weeks.
Let me turn to the present administrative situation. The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon has frequently used the word "war." The word "war" in the mouth of the Secretary of State for India, in regard to India, is a dangerous word. The right hon. Gentleman also used it in his broadcast speech. He is constantly harping upon that sentiment of war. Nor am I able to congratulate him upon the felicity of some of the other phrases which he has used. Let me take the last phrase in his broadcast speech.As to the threats, I will answer them in the words of the Eastern proverb, 'Though the dogs bark the caravan passes on.'The right hon. Gentleman has been very much impressed by that Eastern proverb. He has quoted it over and over again.
§ Mr. JONES
But is it a good one to use in regard to India? What is the effect of that phrase? People who have been cordial supporters of this country have resented bitterly a reference to them as though they were dogs. [HON. 815 MEMBERS: "No!"] It is no use denying it. No doubt we shall have explanations that that is not the sense in which the words were used. But the repeated use of that phrase has given real ground for offence to people who regard themselves as having every right to be spoken about with the same measure of courtesy as the right hon. Gentleman would desire himself. In the course of the broadcast speech he also used these words:The fact is that the great majority of men and women in India are heartily tired of political upheavals. They do not want revolution, they do not even want political agitation. They want to get on with their awn jobs in their own way with as little interference as possible.Let us see how far that very delightful sentiment is carried out in fact. A question was asked the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon as to whether hon. Members of the House of Commons had a right to receive communications from India or not. Before I came here this afternoon, I received a cable message. It was not sent directly to me. I shall be perfectly frank with the Committee, and I shall tell them from whom this message came, though it is quite irrelevant to my point. It was sent by Mr. Malaviya. He was requested to cable a long message for the purpose of this Debate, giving his views of the situation in India. He drafted a message of 1,100 words, and the result to-day is this message from him:Cabled 1,100 words yesterday. Withheld, technical ground.It is easy for the right hon. Gentleman to get up in his place in this Committee and say, "All is well in India. You need not worry. I am in complete charge; everything is going quietly. The caravan passes on." But how am I to check the right hon. Gentleman's statement? Have I not the right to check it? If people have a grievance against the right hon. Gentleman have they not the right to approach me and other Members of Parliament? Are we to be told that we are not to have access to information, because it is uncomfortable or inconvenient for the Government of the day that we should have such access? That is what it means. Mr. Malaviya was here at the Round Table Conference. He was distinguished enough to be invited 816 to this country to discuss matters with the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, but when he proposes to send Members of Parliament information on the state of affairs in India he is told that his message is objectionable. To whom is it objectionable?
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
Does the hon. Member recall that under his Government the messages of the "Morning Post" correspondent were censored?
§ Mr. JONES
I do not know of the messages to which the hon. Member refers, but the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon has said that messages to the Press are allowed. Apparently it is only messages to Members of Parliament which are disallowed. The right hon. Gentleman said, in set terms, that no messages to the foreign Press are interfered with—no messages from English correspondents.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
What we are here concerned with, however is the fact that a distinguished Indian has by request prepared 1,100 words specifically to enable us to put a case in this Committee this afternoon, and he has been denied the right to send the message because a permanent official declares it to be objectionable. I saw a cable the other day which I shall read to the Committee and ask them to compare it with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. It reads as follows:Whole nation under rule of drastic ordinances. India-wide response to national call despite wholesale arrests leaders. Seventy-nine Congress bodies declared unlawful Bombay, forty-five Calcutta. Editor Bombay Chronicle arrested"—The Press is free—Strangulation of Press expected. Lathi charge and curfew order, Cawnpore. Lathi charges and firing Benares. Here Principal and two leading professors arrested dead of night. National College and Mahadevbhai Desai Ashram as suspects. Mrs. Kamatadevi Chattophadhyaya and eight other lathes arrested Bombay. Secretary, Government of India has issued long and misleading statement in which he makes no mention Gandhiji's efforts to secure interview with Viceroy besides other serious mis-representations. In view of developing situation would suggest Bertrand Russell joins deputation contemplated by Horace Alexander.817 That does not sound a very terrifying telegram. I do not observe the Secretary of State to tremble in his seat at hearing it read.
§ Mr. JONES
I should say that she knows the Noble Lord, and that his view would be equally acceptable to her. But how am I to know if it is untrue? The statement of the right hon. Gentleman is the only statement that I have, and he has no right to withhold from Members of Parliament access to information, even though it comes from those who are critical of his administration.
I apologise for having to read a passage now which I dislike reading, but which I think it is in consonance with my public duty to read. This is the sort of happening at a district called Kairi. Certain men, whose names I will not bother to pronounce, were seized under an order by the Taluk Revenue Officer of Anand, the officer's name being Naik. The men were of these ages: 65, his son 15, the next 25, the next 60, the next 40, the next 30, the next 55, and the next 60. They were ordered to be taken, according to this document,to the village tank, there stripped completely naked, and make to stand on all fours,a very common form of treatment, judging from the documents that I have received. I have not been in India, and I can only judge of these things in relation to what the right hon. Gentleman says by way of contradiction or otherwise.As if this were not enough, passers-by, including women, were brought from the village to see this humiliating spectacle.… One of the victims states thus regarding the incident. 'They attached from my house a buffalo and calf, all the brass pots they could find, a chair, a mirror, a cot and two quilts. They removed from the 818 person of my daughter-in-law two earrings, two toerings, and a small gold ornament. They drove out the children who were sleeping, and sealed my house. They then took my son and me to the police station and kept us there for an hour, after which time they took us to the tank, and there stripped us and made us stand on all fours. They kept us standing in that fashion for two hours. The Mamlatdar ordered the police to beat me every half hour, and I was beaten in all five times. I received no less than 30 kicks all over my body, not excluding my stomach. I was then taken to the lorry, and ordered to hold the wires of the battery in my hands. This was too much for me, and I agreed to pay up my dues. Thereupon they took me back to the village and returned the attached property belonging to me.'Of course, I cannot speak of this thing at first hand, but neither can the right hon. Gentleman deny it, neither can anyone here deny it at first hand. They were not there any more than I was, and therefore it seems to me that there is an overwhelming case for inquiry. I think the right hon. Gentleman said that wherever cases are put up to him he will have them examined, but, with all respect, that is not enough for me, for the people in charge under these Ordinances now are his permanent officials of one sort or another. Indeed, the reports he gets from India are the reports necessarily of the people in charge, and they are not going to report to him, "I put these people in the tank and stripped them naked." We cannot expect it. Therefore, it is quite possible that every case may be well grounded. On the other hand it may be ill grounded. I cannot tell. All that I ask is that an impartial inquiry be conducted into these allegations for the sake of the good name of the Government of this country, as well as for future co-operation in that land. I observed the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) a minute ago indicate an unwillingness to listen to these things, because presumably this information—
§ Earl WINTERTON
I indicated no unwillingness to listen. I did not interrupt the hon. Member. What I had in mind was that before the hon. Member gives these figures, he ought to state what is his authority for them, who has sent the information, and whether he is a reputable person.
§ Mr. JONES
It may very well be that these allegations may be deemed to come from tainted sources. All that I ask is that if these allegations are made let us remember that similar allegations were made 10 or 11 years ago in regard to the treatment of Irishmen in Ireland, and there is a dangerous similarity, a striking similarity, between the allegations that are now advanced in this House concerning the happenings in India to what happened in Ireland not so many years ago. But let me assume that a statement of Indians is tainted, and let me pass to a source of information which I think will not be tainted. I refer to the treatment of a Christian missionary of the name of Dr. Forrester Paton. This is what is said of him, that the House may know the sort of person he is:There is no missionary more respected and loved by Indians than Dr. Forrester Paton. He is the guide and inspiration of hundreds of students. His life of sacrifice and love of his hospital at Tirupattur is a most eloquent sermon of the beauty of real Christianity. A man of great wealth, he has, like St. Francis, adopted a life of poverty and wears as its outward sign the simple homespun dress of the villager. The other day he went to Madras to see whether it was true that the police were ill-treating the picketers and whether he could open a hospital for the wounded. As he was going through the bazaars, a police sergeant came to him. What country do you belong to? 'Scotland,' was the reply. Why are you wearing the uniform?' (wearing the Khadi clothes). Dr. Paton said he was working among the poor. 'Are you a missionary? Yes!' The sergeant then seems to have told Dr. Paton to go away. The doctor refused, and two sergeants beat him with lathis. He was wounded on both wrists, below the knees and in the forearm. A water-hose was then turned on him, and he was drenched. He tried to avoid the hose and took shelter behind a handcart, but the cart was pulled away and the full force of the hose directed on the unfortunate missionary. At last, severely beaten, wet through, exhausted, Dr. Paton escaped to the Y.M.C.A., where his wounds were dressed,The sequel is interesting. Dr. Paton, in spite of that, was prosecuted.
§ Mr. JONES
Will the Noble Lord allow me for one moment? Dr. Paton was haled before the courts on the ground that he had defied the Ordinances, and so overwhelming was the case in favour of Dr. Paton that the charge was not proceeded with. They abandoned the charge. If this can be done, with regard to people who are anxious to help distress, by those who administer the Ordinances, is it not obvious that the extreme powers vested in them by these Ordinances are not being fairly or dispassionately used? Similarly I could go on showing how a woman was attacked, how hospitals have been seized and closed, that there is scarcely any type of citizen—
§ Mr. KIRKPATRICK
On a point of Order. As it is a fact that these statements made by the hon. Member will be published abroad all over India, are we not justified in demanding that we should know whence these statements are produced?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I do not think that that question is quite properly raised as a point of Order, because I understand that the hon. Gentleman who is speaking is not suggesting that he is quoting from official documents. If he were, of course, it would be in accordance with the general practice that they should be produced.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Has it not been generally held to be in accord with the ordinary practice of the House that an hon. Member who quotes from a document should be prepared to make himself responsible for it? Would it not, therefore be in order to raise the point as to the origin of these documents?
§ The CHAIRMAN
In a matter of this sort the question really rests mainly with the House, but I think the House itself will naturally be an assembly which will treat quotations of this kind according to the evidence which is adduced in support of them, and as to where they come from or who may be the author of them.
§ Mr. JONES
That is quite all right. As a matter of fact, these statements concerning Mr. Paton appear in a whole series of newspaper cuttings, not from 821 papers run by the Congress party at all, but run by, say, the Servants of India Society and like organisations, which are entirely moderate in their outlook, which are anxious to co-operate with the Government, but which are alarmed at the effect upon the spirit of co-operation which these incidents are generating in India. If I am to be asked for chapter and verse for every single case that I cite—I do not complain of it—if I am to tell who said this and who said that, may I ask the Secretary of State if he will give me the names of all the people who made that reply in the Blue Book? After all, the answer provided to-day, which the right hon. Gentleman extolled so much, from the Blue Book, must have been compiled by somebody. The information must have been given by somebody, and for aught I know—I do not say that it is so—the information may have been given by the very people against whom charges might have been made. So, if I am to be asked for the names of individuals, I shall ask for the same from the Secretary of State.
Now may I take another case? I am sorry to detain the Committee, but it is important to put these points, because we have been assured that there is no case. Let me take the question of boycotting. There is a grave objection to the principle of boycotting. But what is boycotting? Let me read to the Committee what the Ordinance says that "boycotting" is:A person is said to 'boycott'"—I am reading from the Ordinance, let the Noble Lord opposite remember—another person who refuses to deal or do business with, or to supply goods to, or to let a house or land to, or to render any customary service to such person or any person in whom such person is interested, or refuses to do so on the terms on which such things would be clone in the ordinary course, or abstains from such professional or business relations as he would ordinarily maintain with such person.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
Let us put it in that way. Suppose the Noble Lord opposite does not desire to do business with me. Under this Ordinance, if it were in operation here—
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
If this were in operation, and the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord opposite were in England, and it was operated in the same spirit in which it is operated in India, they could be mulcted in imprisonment for refusing to do business with someone with whom they did not desire to do business. I ask the Committee, is there any vestige of liberty left under conditions such as those, where people are mulcted in damages for the duration of the ordinance because they refuse to do business with someone with whom they do not desire to do business? Liberty! The caravan, indeed, passes on!
I will give another illustration, and take the case of the Indian Mr. Sen Gupta. Mr. Sen Gupta may have been an extremely inconvenient person when he lived in India. I do not know. But Mr. Sen Gupta was in this country for months, and was associated with people at the Round Table Conference. Long after the Conference was over, he decided to return to India. He had not set foot in India. He was still on an Italian ship in the harbour. He could not have said a word in India. He was arrested on an Italian vessel, and the captain of the vessel refused to hand him over until the Italian Consul had given his consent to his arrest. There was no charge of his having said anything, and no accusation of having done anything. He merely happened to be Mr. Sen Gupta, and on that ground, apparently, and on that ground alone, he was arrested before he reached his native land, and before he could say a word. On that ground he has been taken away to some remote prison, the location of which is entirely unknown. We on this side happen to be interested in trade unions. Under the Ordinance in a certain district in India, secretaries of trade unions have been called upon to turn up every morning with a book of accounts for the local police to inspect. I should like to see the Chairman and the Treasurer of the Conservative party compelled to turn up every morning and to see how they would like it. Perhaps we may come to that some day.
I must add another observation. There is no class—I am sorry to have to say this, but it is true—young or old, rich or poor, Hindu or Modem, Christian or non-Christian, which has not independent 823 people who have been visited with dire punishment as a result of the application of these Ordinances. The most cruel thing of all, in my judgment, is the fact that boys of 13 and 14, because they have simply circulated pamphlets, which their fathers regarded as the last word in wisdom, no doubt, have now been hauled before the courts and sent away as a punishment for two or three years. I regret to say that in one case the magistrate actually ordered the boy to be whipped in court in the presence of all who cared to see it. It gives me no pleasure to say these things. Honestly and sincerely, I would infinitely have preferred not to have raised these matters at all. But I have done so for the reason that I am profoundly convinced that this kind of thing, even though it be limited to a few individual instances here and there, is bound to wreck every attempt at reconciling the various groups in India.
After all, do not the Government desire some day or other—perhaps early, perhaps later—to be able to build another bridge between those various sections in India? If you apply your force you will win undoubtedly. You can prohibit their organisations, imprison their leaders, seek to restrain and to punish their followers, but you cannot win in the end. The only way of winning over these people is, not by the method of force, but by the arbitrament of reason. I invite the right hon. Gentleman, therefore, at this very late hour, in spite of the provocation's, which he may feel on his side the Government have had, and which others may feel on the other side that they have had, in spite of the exacerbation of feeling on both sides, once again to review the situation as it now exists and to limit speedily the exercise of the arbitrary powers of those in control in India, lest, perchance, in a year or two we may find that not only have we no friends of the Government, but that we may not even have friends of Britain left in India.
As I have said, I regret very much to have had to say some of the things which I have said this afternoon. I would far rather have been in the position of being able to hold my tongue and say nothing if it were possible, but I have conceived it my duty to declare these things to the Committee, so that hon. Members may know what is being done in the name of 824 liberty in that country. I remember an old political leader once saying this to me. It is appropriate to proclaim that the people of this country have done such great things in that vast continent of India, and I do not take second place to anyone in my admiration of the achievements there. We have built waterways, it is true, we have built railways, and we have done enormous things. Tremendous things stand to our credit out there. But this old politician told me that the bird does not sing more sweetly because you gild the bars of its cage. The thing that is necessary for these people is that they should feel that liberty knacks at their doors, and I invite the Committee, and especially the Government, not to embark upon a policy in the belief that they can in any way by force crush the spirit of liberty, for liberty will live whatever governments may pass.
§ Mr. LLOYD
I would like to say at once with what great satisfaction and warm approval we have heard the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State this afternoon. I listened very carefully to the hon. Member who has just sat down, and in particular to his strictures upon the facility of the phraseology used by the Secretary of State, and I cannot help thinking that he put a wrong construction upon, and made too much of, casual phrases used by the right hon. Gentleman. In general I do not think that the hon. Member made out a strong enough case to cause us to modify our attitude to the right hon. Gentleman, which I would define as one of admiration for the way he has administered the affairs in India during the past six months. I only hope that India herself realises the overwhelming support which is ready to back him through all difficulties. In any case, it is clear that we can rely upon the efficient administration of India as long as the right hon. Gentleman is the Secretary of State. In these circumstances, I wonder if there is not a danger of our giving too much of our time to purely political discussion. We hear a great deal of the political ferment in India, but I cannot help feeling that the Indian trader thinks much less of these matters than he does of the disastrous fall in the price of tea, jute and rice.
825 Surely it is hard economic questions such as these which are the urgent problems of our time, and I therefore ask the Committee to consider for a, moment the present prospects of commerce and industry in India. This subject is one of special interest at the present time because it is dominated by the approach of the Ottawa Conference and by the great benefits which, as I believe, India may well get there for her trade. But for the very reason that we centre such hopes upon the Conference we must face frankly some of the difficulties which exist. One of these undoubtedly is that there remains the old suspicion in India that her fiscal policy is administered, and, indeed, dictated from Whitehall in the interests of the trade of Great Britain. This of course has been expressed in the Fiscal Autonomy Convention. Thus, in recent years, although she has imposed differential duties on cotton, iron and steel which favour us, India has not felt able to give us a general preference. Perhaps this was inevitable in view of the Free Trade policy of this country. But to-day this has changed, and it is my purpose to emphasise that, as a result, the whole basis of the trade relations between India and Great Britain has changed as well. Now we can go to India and say that we are in a position to do a reciprocal trade deal giving advantages for any they may give to us. I do not mean that a narrow bargaining spirit should prevail at Ottawa. On the contrary, I hope that they will take a large and enlightened view. Mutual concessions there must be, but I hope that it may be possible to have a general survey of the commerce of the Empire with a view to considering how best to bring about the fullest possible development of production by all members of the Commonwealth. Possibly the great industrialists of the Empire themselves could come together to consider the allocation of markets in the Empire and outside to particular Empire industries.
In such discussions I think that we should look to see India taking a prominent part as a country with a great commercial future. It is interesting to note that the British Trade Commissioner in India, in his last report, drew attention to the great advantages which would result from a mutual under- 826 standing between British and Indian iron and steel industries. In all these circumstances, I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would consider the desirability of including in the Indian delegation to Ottawa unofficial members, and, in that case, whether he would not consider inviting some of the representatives of the great Indian industries themselves? If the Committee will bear with me, I would ask them to consider the concrete possibilities for India at the Conference. Of course, one turns naturally, at first, to the consideration of Great Britain, which is India's largest export market. Last year we took more than twice as much of her products as any other country. Tea is the commodity of which we take the largest quantity, and there can be no doubt that if we were ready to give a preference, it would be of substantial benefit to India. The Imperial Economic Committee have shown conclusively that a great increase in the imports of Java teas has occurred simultaneously with the reductions and abolition of preference on Empire tea. In India a prosperous tea plantation industry provides much employment and local orders, and it is worth while pointing out that, while the managing agents are British, the ownership of the tea gardens themselves is far more largely in Indian hands than is generally supposed in India. Putting tea on one side, if we turn to the rest of the imports we take from India we find they amount to about £26,000,000, and no less than £17,000,000, practically two-thirds, will from tomorrow be receiving the benefit of a preference over imports from foreign countries. The list is made up to about a half of manufactured goods, including carpets and pig iron.
In my view, there can be no doubt that the continuance of these preferences would be of very great value to India. But that is by no means the limit of possibilities at Ottawa. There India will have the opportunity of reviewing her trade not only with Great Britain, but with the Crown Colonies. She attaches a great deal of importance to her trade with East Africa, where, for example, many of the Colonies take nearly one-half of their cotton goods from foreign countries, principally Japan. It is true that at the present time these Colonies are unable to grant a preference because of the Congo Basin Convention, but I 827 am sure that if India expressed a desire for a preference in those markets, it would carry great weight when the general question came to be considered. India might also be able to obtain substantial benefits from the Dominions at the Conference. For instance, Australia at present grants no preference to India. Australia buys only 10 per cent. of Indian tea, while taking nearly half her tea requirements from India's chief foreign competitor. There is one last but important benefit which I should like to see India obtain at the Conference. She is not, perhaps, in a very strong position to bargain for tariff concessions from foreign countries, while we, on the other hand, with our new elastic protective system, have a strong bargaining lever. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it might not be possible for the British Government, in negotiations with foreign countries, to take into consideration not merely the interests of Great Britain, but also those of India, with a view to obtaining tariff concessions for her goods in foreign markets?
I apologise to the Committee for devoting so much time to this aspect of the question, but I think it is vital that we should give the most careful consideration to the interests of India herself in these matters. I would not conceal for a moment that there must be two sides to these transactions, as to any other useful ones. The Committee will readily appreciate the advantages which India can give us in return. Even when we take into account the great losses of trade in that market, she is still our greatest customer, and, leaving cotton on one side there is no question that a preference on machinery and general manufactures would be of the highest value to us. Here, again, I do not think we should do justice to the subject unless we remembered the great poverty of the ryot to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, and the vigilant eye which the Government of India always keeps upon anything which may possibly affect the price of the articles he consumes. But I think it is open to us to point out, on our side, that the Indian revenue tariff, owing to the pressure of financial considerations, has now reached a level at which it would be possible for preferences to be largely given by a reduction or 828 abolition of the duty in the case of the United Kingdom goods.
In recent months there have been some very interesting developments in Indian trade, with which I can best deal by giving concrete illustrations. The City of Birmingham does a great and representative Indian trade. One of our factories alone sometimes sends 75,000 Birmingham bicycles to India in the course of the year, and even in 1931 a single factory sold well over £100,000 worth of electrical goods to India. In recent months Birmingham manufacturers have found that their competitive position in the Indian market has been greatly improved by reason of the higher prices of goods from Gold Standard countries. As a result, they have produced larger quantities for the Indian market, and in some instances that has enabled them to reduce their prices. For example, Birmingham send £40,000 worth of suit-case locks to Bombay, and in that case it has been possible to reduce prices; and I am informed that larger orders would mean further reductions. This is, undoubtedly, a tendency of first-rate importance in a market where low price is nearly always a vital factor, and it has an interesting application to the question of preference. We, in this country, are aware that the reduction of price following long, continuous runs in the production of one article has reached an extraordinary development, such as was not contemplated a few years ago. Great progressive distributive organisations have found that under these conditions the British manufacturer can produce as well and as cheaply as any in the world. Is it not possible that by a carefully organised attention to the Indian market British manufacturers, under the shelter of a preference, might be able to supply the Indian consumer more cheaply than under the present haphazard system? With an improvement in the demand it will be difficult to set a limit to the development.
We hear from distinguished Englishmen, who have spent their lives in the sub-continent, of the great economic changes of India. We learn that Indian village life is not immune from those changes which have transformed the countryside of the Western world. The spread of electricity and irrigation, the increased use of the motor car, the 829 generally greater availability of modern appliances, are having their effect. In the Punjab, especially, the ryot is at least to some extent changing his manner of life, and is taking to the simpler forms of agricultural machinery, and the use of cheap water pumps has spread with remarkable speed. Some of those, whose experience gives weight to their judgment, hold that this is the beginning of an economic revolution which will spread across India. If they are right, let us realise at once the industrial importance of this gradually increasing demand on the part of one-fifth of the population of the world for the attractive commodities of modern industry, and let us realise that in such a movement the interests of Indian and British industry would be complementary, and not antagonistic. For, while it is clear that much of the demand would be supplied from Indian factories, it is equally obvious that many of the articles could only be supplied at the minimum price, which is essential, by a country with the most highly specialised industrial organisation.
The conclusion of the matter would seem to be that there is real business to be done between Britain and India, and, in the future, perhaps very great business indeed. Is it too much to hope that the two great countries will approach this matter in a practical spirit? I do not know whether hon. Members read a very interesting speech made a few days ago by Mr. Mody, a prominent Indian business man in Bombay. He was protesting against the disruption of the commerce and industry of the city by political extremists. I think that we, in view of our experiences here, can listen to that protest with some sympathy. Indeed, I think it is true to say that both countries, Great Britain and India, have in the last year nearly ruined themselves by allowing the intrusion of politics into the proper sphere of commerce and finance. We have settled that matter here, and are ready waiting for India to join us in a business enterprise for mutual profit.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I am afraid that it is too much to expect that India will consider the proposition put forward in the extraordinarily interesting speech of the hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. Lloyd). India is not interested in manufacturing and trade at the present time. India will not approach Ottawa from the 830 point of view of developing trade. It is lamentable that it should be so, but it is so. The hon. Member himself must know that the tea trade in India is not in Indian hands, but almost entirely in British hands, and that the ryot, about whose industrial development he is so hopeful, is far too poor to buy anything. The difficulty in India is not in finding work, there is heaps of work to he done in India. The difficulty is to get the work done. The difficulty in India is want of capital, want of opportunity, want of land. I agree very largely with the speech made by the Secretary of State. I think the position in India is such today that probably the policy he outlined was the right one. But he, too, seems to be under the mistaken impression that there are 1,000,000 landowners in the United Provinces. There are no peasant proprietors in India; they are all tenants either of the State or of the great landlords. None of them is in a position to buy electrical power or anything else, and they are all on the verge of starvation.
That is, as the Secretary of State rightly said, one of, if not the chief cause of, our difficulties in India to-day. Agitation springs up and finds good soil among people who are reduced to desperation by poverty, and the cure is not ordinances to repress, though they may be necessary, as I believe they are, at the present time; the cure is to give a chance of prosperity to the people of India. That prosperity will not be achieved and will not be forwarded by inducing India to go in for tariffs. They have had plenty of examples of tariffs in India—tariffs and bounties on steel and tariffs on cotton goods. The people of India, the poor unheard of people of India, are complaining, and even getting their complaints voiced in Congress, of the high prices which they are paying in order to protect Indian factories in India.
I have said to myself over and over again during the last few months, What can one do in the situation in India, as it is to-day? I am less hopeful about the future than I ever have been. I am inclined to think that what Lord Irwin did, and what Gandhi did in conjunction with Lord Irwin, was probably the best thing that has happened to the relations be- 831 tween England and India. They have failed, and Congress has declared war. It is not only that Lord Irwin failed, but Gandhi has failed as well, and the possibilities of that co-operation, of which one hoped so much, has come to nothing. They would not have come to nothing if it had been only Gandhi who had had to be considered. They have come to nothing because Congress and the Congress leaders were determined that they should come to nothing, and I think that it is right that that should be stated in this House. Congress asked for trouble and they got it, and I do not think that they can complain of the action that the present Government have now had to take. Police are always the same, always white-washed saints to one side and blackguards to the other. We have seen plenty of police action in Europe during the last 12 years. We know what the police are. Here, I suppose, they are better than in most cases. I am not one of those who are frequent victims of the police. Wherever you get a population held down by the police, the police are bound to act, often with violence, and universally to deny that violence when it is questioned. The number of people who have been shot while attempting to escape exceeds the number who have been executed since the Flood. That is the inevitable result of oppression. You cannot help it. You can check it by a vigilant executive, but while the police are faced with angry mobs and are being stoned, you may be pretty certain to get a certain amount of violence.
I want to utter a very serious word of warning to all who really hope for a free democratic India in the future. I am afraid that the Round Table Conference and the Commission sitting in India today are going to leave us worse off, so far as a democratic India is concerned, than we are to-day or than we were when the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms were put on the Statute Book. I have all along mistrusted this federal plan, this alliance with the princes and, the rich of India. I have seen, all along, the intense anxiety of many of the professed Nationalists in India, lest the reforms contemplated an India where the common people would have control over the intelligentsia. Fear of the people is often a good enough excuse for extravagant racial hatred. It 832 is easy to rouse the mob against the Englishman, the Moslem or the Hindu, and to distract in that way the more sober people from the real economic issues that face India. Your federal solution would bring in the princes—what an assistance to Indian democracy !—the Princes of India, who, in their own petty realms, rule much as did the princes of Germany in the 18th century. The story of Jew Süss is repeated ad infinitum in the Indian realms.
These are the people you bring in. Why? They are being brought in by the Government of India, by the rich and by those who have a stake in the country and are fearful of what might happen if India governed itself. We ought to see whether these princes of India understand in their own territories the elements of democracy before we put them in charge of British India, 200 years ahead of their intellectual and political development. The danger is that the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms were for the people, and we all pressed for them at the time in this House. At any rate, they were on sound democratic lines. There was special representation for the rich and for the different religions, the different "communities," as they are called, but it was reduced, so far as the India Office and Mr. Edwin Montagu himself could manage it. Now we see that communal representation has a feast all on its own in every legislature in India. There is the priest, the fiery partisan elected solely on account of his hostility to every other crowd. There you will, indeed, get a useful democratic court! Those elections depend upon their bitterness, their intransigence, and upon stirring up voters against other people on purely communal lines—what a chance for democracy.
What we are seeing to-day, and what we are reading daily in the papers, of the proceedings of the Commission in India under Lord Lothian, fill one with fear rather than with hope. If the Secretary of State for India were here, I would beg him to withdraw that Commission, which is only wasting money, and which can lead to no solution, for it is obvious that the Round Table Conference settled only one out of 20 points, and even that it referred back to the Prime Minister to enable them to make up their minds. Nothing could come out of the Confer- 833 ence. Here you have a Commission going round, deciding, making up their minds, not on the issue of a central government for India, for I do not think any person who has studied the question believes that there will be any considerable change in the central government, but considering the problems of local government in all the great provinces. In all those provinces the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms have worked fairly, and the Simon Commission made recommendations about the Provincial Governments which met with the acceptance and approval of most Radicals and democrats who knew much about the subject. They proposed greater decentralisation, greater powers for the local parliaments, more complete responsibility to the elected bodies of the executive, all moves in the right direction, and based on what we had done in Ceylon.
Now the Lothian Commission is going through India considering these problems, and finding that with almost childlike candour, nearly all the witnesses that they see would like to change the system of voting in India. Curious that they should not have known it before! One of the features of the Round Table Conference was that all parties, and all those great and good that sat around that Table, were agreed on one point, and one point only. Even Gandhi had to put up with it. They were agreed on the point that the ryots of India should not have a vote. [Interruption.] I have only the "Times" report. The extension of the franchise was one of those things which were vested in the central government. Now we are seeing what the Commission is doing. They are finding that the people who give evidence before them would prefer a system of indirect election rather than direct election, that change which was, to my mind, most unfortunately suggested by the Royal Commission as to the election of the legislature at Delhi, where they recommended that direct election should be dropped and indirect election substituted for it. They are experiencing more pressure to change the system for the provincial councils to indirect election, which is regarded as so much better, productive of much better results and much safer than direct election.
Of course there are plenty of good arguments for indirect election, the size of the electorate for one thing—an awful drawback, particularly when you have communal representation superimposed upon 834 the general electorate. The real objection to indirect election is that it is not democratic and it is not English. You have never seen it in this country, and you never will. We have had proposals that the House of Lords should be elected by the county councils, borough councils and city councils of this country. That, indeed, would be a system of indirect election. I think everybody who has studied the question knows that under that system you would get a permanent Tory representation of any body so elected. You would get the governing classes there. These people who are giving evidence before the Commission are the governing classes in India. They want to have power permanently in their hands. In the extension of the electorate, why, you might even get untouchables elected. You might, but it is almost impossible.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
No, only on the communal system. They are never elected by a General Election. You might get them elected, however, if the franchise were extended. What is to stop that? It is to have indirect election. The hon. Member who speaks in favour of Indian protection might have had a glimpse, if he had studied the way in which these matters have been debated in Delhi recently, of the power exercised in India to-day by the financial magnates of India, by the steel magnates, by the jute magnates, by the cotton magnates. These people have power already. They have almost more power than the officials in India. They get their way about tariffs and bonuses. They might lose that power if there were an extension of the franchise, but they will solidify it for ever, in alliance with the Princes and the central Government, if they can found it firmly on indirect representation in the provincial councils; and, instead of the next step forward for which we have hoped—the advance from the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms to something a little better, even to the reforms advocated by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs —we shall, if this Committee, in the present reactionary wave of sentiment about India which is going through this country, reports in favour of these things, have taken a step backwards instead of 835 forward, and India will be saddled firmly with a system which will perpetuate poverty beneath and wealth and extravagance above.White parasols and elephants mad with pride,These are the flowers of a grant of land,as the old Indian writer put it. They are also the flower of an undemocratic system imposed upon a people uneducated and helpless, imposed upon them at the bidding of those whose politics consist of denouncing the English, and whose economics consist in keeping down the working class in India.
§ Sir REGINALD CRADDOCK
This subject is so vast that one can concenttrate only on a few salient points. To begin with, I would warmly congratulate the Secretary of State for India and the Government on the firmness they have displayed and the manner in which they have "called" the Congress's "bluff." The Labour party seem to be unable to shake themselves free from the belief that the Congress really represents the people of India. As a matter of fact, the Congress consists of only a few of the intelligentsia; it does not by any means include them all, or any large number of them; and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and his friends behind him, are persistently deceived by the Congress, or deceive themselves, as to its value and as to its right to speak for the people of India. What, perhaps, has never yet been grasped sufficiently in this House, is that the swaraj to which people agree in theory means something very different to all the parties who agree to it. They may theoretically agree to such phrases as, "responsibility at the centre," "federation," "provincial autonomy," "democracy," and "safeguards;" but to them the swaraj which they seek means quite different things from what it means to us. To the Sikh, "swaraj" means Sikh-raj; to the Moslem it means Islamic-raj; to the high-class Hindus—the Brahmin and the bunnia—it means Hindu-raj. The Rajput has his own ideas; the Mahratta his; and, as things are at present, men of all these different classes are in doubt and anxiety as to what the future has in store for them.
In the meantime, the one thing needed in India is the removal of fear and the 836 restoration of confidence. Congress during the last few years, and under the last Government, has attained a position to which it was never entitled, and which it had never before attained. It was allowed a latitude which resulted in the people of India being doubtful as to who was governing the country. Only the other day I was informed that the labourers in some mines with which I am acquainted said, "We never had a bad time under the British raj, but we now get lower wages and no price for our produce, and we do not want any more of this Gandhi-raj that has brought these troubles on. us." They were not altogether fair to the Gandhi-raj in this case, but, as Mr. Gandhi gets so much credit in cases where he does not deserve it, there is not, perhaps, much harm if he gets a little discredit where he does not deserve it.
I am afraid that the Labour party do not understand in the very least what they are doing when they speak up for the Congress and the interests at the back of the Congress. They have stood, and we always understand that they will stand, for the benefit of the poor and of the masses, but they are acting in exactly the opposite way; they are putting forward proposals as to what the Government should do, and schemes which the Government should follow, which certainly be absolutely destructive of the happiness of the masses. When they only see one set of people in this country, why cannot they believe those who have spent their lives in administering the country, the people who have been friends of the poor? The other day a young gentleman, a recent acquaintance of mine, said to me, "The difference between us is that you care for the masses, while I do not." I confess that I was shocked for the moment at what appeared to be a rather callous statement, but, on reflection, I said to myself, "This man is probably just as humane as yourself, but the masses to him mean nothing but vast, blurred multitudes in whom he can take no real interest."
The masses to us administrators, however, are men and women with whom we have talked, whose grievances we have tried to redress, whose courage under adversity we have admired, whose sufferings we have witnessed, with whose desire for help we have tried to comply, 837 and who, although they may commit many bad deeds, are very often capable of generosity which would shame many of us in this country. We stand for those masses. The British raj and British officers have always been the friends of the under-dog; and yet the party who always stand for the under-dog in this country are the very people who decry our efforts, who disbelieve what we tell them, and who listen to every word that the Brahmin who comes across here may say. They do not seem to understand that the advanced politician of that kind is a very crafty man. He is a great judge of character, and he is absolutely perfect at concealing his own thoughts; and, with these two qualifications, he gets round our people in this country and deceives them entirely. His talk is that which will please the listener. He talks divine stuff to the divine; he talks Socialism to the Socialist, or Communism to the Communist. He catches the listener's ear with whatever will please the particular listener to whom he is talking, and he winds up with sob-stuff of all kinds to those who are susceptible to it.
Members of the Labour party are always falling victims to this kind of talk, and they really think that they have got at the truth. I am not accusing them of anything but being readily persuaded by people whose veracity or judgment they cannot readily discern. That party, by its policy during the last two or three years, has brought about the situation in which the present Government have had to act so firmly, and to resort to ordinances of various kinds. Had the ordinary law been administered with firmness during the last three years, there would have been no necessity for any of these ordinances. Members of the Opposition still seem, however, to persist in the idea that Congress can be conciliated, and that Gandhi can still be persuaded. That great soul—I do not know how else to describe him—is what I might call a synthetic saint. He believes to his own satisfaction that he has solved the great problem of how to serve God and Mammon at the same time. But he carries no real influence with the Congress, and they will discard him as soon as he ceases to be of use to them.
We have to deal, in the Congress, with one of the powers of darkness in this 838 world, because they are leagued with all kinds of sinister movements—the reddest Bolshevism, the terrorists, and so on. They are absolutely unscrupulous. To give an instance, only the other day, when the Red, Shirts were tackled at Kohat, and the commanding officer of the cavalry regiment, who had made some prisoners, asked some of these Red Shirts why it was that they had been acting as they did, and had been hostile to the Government and mutinous, the answer that they gave was this: "We were informed that every mosque in India had been closed, and that no Mohammedan was allowed to read the Koran; and, when our religion was interfered with in that way, what course had we left except to resist the Government?" These are the devices by which, not the Mohammedans, but the Hindu Congress have used their influence to excite Mohammedans against the British raj. There is no limit to the use that they will make of every opportunity given to them, without the slightest scruple or regard for truth. In fact, this persistence in the effort to win over the Congress is about the same as would be the release of all the Dartmoor convicts in the hope that burglars and motor bandits over the country generally would be so touched that they would abandon their crime. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) seemed to see light every now and again in the course of his speech, but afterwards to go back into the dark. I find the greatest difficulty in ascertaining what it is that he really wants for India. Nothing seems to satisfy him. It is no good pleading for democracy if democratic institutions can take no root in that country. You cannot go forward on those lines until democracy establishes itself by reason and education. That must inevitably take time and, indeed, in a country of that magnitude, and with nationalities and races so distinct, it is inconceivable that you can have one democratic unity for the whole country.
I was very much interested in what the hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. Lloyd) had to say about trade in India. I am a great believer in the possibilities of India, and I echo what he said. What I feel about it is that we cannot expect 839 India to agree to a fiscal system to the prejudice of her own industries. The greatest mistake ever made in our dealings with that country was the cotton Excise Duty. That mistake we must never repeat. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] You do not in any country put an Excise Duty on the necessaries of life, or on your budding industries, as they then were, But I know that there are millions of people in India who are perfectly willing and happy and anxious to trade with us, and that very liberty of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke was denied to them so Icing as Congress had the upper hand, owing to our own weakness. I can only hope that the discussions at present going on will bear some fruit, although I feel that progress has been extremely small towards union. It has really been disunion, and the inability of the Hindu-Moslem question to settle itself by agreement may resolve itself into an attempt by the Government to settle it for them. An autocratic Government might be able to do it, but it is extremely difficult for, a Parliamentary Government, based on democracy, to interevene successfully in a radical dispute of this kind. Every section of the poulation wants its own raj under the name of Swaraj. There is no common desire to be ruled by anyone else except themselves and, if they cannot rule the whole, they would rather be ruled by the British than by any other section, or nation or group of nations in India itself.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The hon. Gentleman has described to us what Swaraj is. It struck me it was something very like a National Government. It is one word, and it expresses a desire for a nation doing something or other, but each person interprets it according to his own particular predilections. We have here a Swaraj body. Some think it is Free Trade and some think it is Protection. Its supporters all interpret the word "National" in their own sense. I agree that in the Swarajist movement you have this extraordinary collection of people with very varied ideas. You have perfect idealists and you probably have thoroughpaced blackguards as well. But you cannot condemn a movement for its worst people, and you cannot merely dismiss a movement like this by suggesting that it 840 is mixed up with all sorts of things. I thought the hon. Gentleman was very interesting when he talked of Red revolutionaries, elders of Zion, and so forth, and was celebrating the great Reform Bill of 100 years ago, for he had more or less placed himself in the part of the Attorney-General of that day, who made the same sort of speech about the French Revolution. I do not disguise in the least the difficulties that the Secretary of State has to face. I know perfectly well the intransigence of the Congress party, and I am not in the least taken in with a good many of the professions that are made of democracy by people who do not know what democracy is, or of a wonderful love of mankind by people who have a very shrewd idea of their own interests. I have no sympathy whatever with anarchy and murder, and I fully recognise that the Government has got to be carried on. But what I want to know is, what is the Government policy? What do they intend to effect? It is no good the right hon. Gentleman saying that everything in the garden is more or less lovely now. I suppose to-day is more springlike than two months ago, but it is pretty bitter all the same. The right hon. Gentleman has got his prisons crowded with people.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I quite agree, and that is the trouble. Whatever Government you have, you have this difficulty. But the point is that the right hon. Gentleman does not seem to have any other idea than putting them in prison. The late Government developed, I thought with the approval of the right hon. Gentleman's leader, a method of conciliation and conference which, I believe, was leading to good effects. The right hon. Gentleman talked of war. He said the Swaraj had declared war. I rather thought he had declared war himself. He thinks somehow he is going to repress the Congress movement by force. I believe that that is a profound mistake. I agree that you have to suppress such things as the anarchist movement in Bengal. I quite agree that you have to preserve law and order. But that is a very different thing from condemning the whole Nationalist movement, and thinking that you are going to stop it by force. The right hon. Gentleman is making the same kind of mistake that has been made with regard 841 to every national movement there has ever been. The kind of mistake that they made on the Continent in 1848 is the same sort of mistake that he is making now.
May I call attention to some things that are reported, so that before the evening is out we may know whether they are true. Is it true that petty, childish attacks on national flags and national uniforms are indulged in by the right hon. Gentleman's Government? The Indians have what they call a national flag. There are always parties that try to make the national flag their party colour. The right hon. Gentleman knows that quite well. It is very awkward for their opponents, because, if they tear it down, they are supposed to he traitors to their country instead of to the Tory party. It is precisely the same in the case of India with regard to their party flag. Then you have small boys run in for waving flags. Then you have the Gandhi cap. I do not admire it, but it is the uniform that has been adopted by the nationalists. Is it true that they are forbidden to wear it? I know that the police were found knocking them off people's heads when I was in India. I am not concerned to lead an attack on the police—the police always have a very difficult duty —but neither am I inclined always to applaud the police. There are some people on the back benches who believe that a policeman is always right as long as their Government is in power. All police forces make mistakes. They are all apt to get out of hand. But I am very doubtful whether the kind of way this business has been gone about by the right hon. Gentleman's Government is not going to make far more trouble than he has had already.
There is a very great variety of opirrion in Congress. It ranges from extremists —anarchists if you like—right the way down to people who, if they were in this country, would be considered rather reactionary Conservatives, and every grade of Liberal between. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman's action is driving everyone into the Congress party. If you allow it to be believed that the Nationalist movement is solely represented by the Congress party, if you proscribe every agitation of the Congress party or any action of the Congress party, you lead everyone who has any Nationalist sentiment in him at all to identify himself with the Nationalist 842 party. It seems to me that the statesmanlike line to take was to say, "We recognise this nationalist movement. We recognise its strength and its weakness. We will endeavour to work with all that is best in the Congress movement." The right hon. Gentleman below the Gangway said Congress did not represent all the people of India. There is very little need to be told that. He said it did not represent the whole of the intelligentsia. We know that. But the fact is that sympathy with the Congress point of view is extremely widespread. When I was in India, I found it in quarters where you would not expect it at all. I found it widely spread among Government servants, among every class of intelligentsia and business people of every kind. They did not go actually with Congress, but they realised the strength of the Congress case., and they had a feeling for the Nationalist movement and you found it expressing itself in different ways. I am afraid that, if you take the action you say you are going to take, to suppress all Congress activity, all the young and more active people will seek to identify themselves with Congress. One never knows whether to speak of the Secretary of State or of the whole Government. It is a limited liability company. I should like to ask whether the Prime Minister is with the Secretary of State?
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I fail, then, to Bee any particular effect on this Government of persons other than members of the Conservative 'party. It seems to me there is a danger that the Government are proceeding with the idea of brushing aside Congress. I recognise very well the position of the Moslems and the Depressed Classes, but the danger is that in seeking to placate minorities, you may estrange the majority. It is a difficulty that almost everyone seems to fall into in dealing with India. They always admit that minorities should have such a large representation on this, that and the other, that they turn a minority into a majority on every representative body. I am rather afraid that the Government are trying to rule by placating the minorities. I am rather afraid of that with regard to the introduction of the constitution in the North-West Frontier Province. I think it is dictated by a de- 843 sire to placate the Moslems. You are doing it while various Ordinances are in force in that province. It was a most unfortunate thing that the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms came in while special Ordinances were in force. When the North-West Frontier Province is being given reforms you are governing by ordinance; you are trying to introduce democratic institutions. I do not think you can do it under circumstances like that.
The next point is with regard to the economic factors that underlie this discontent. In my view all these political and nationalist movements, while they have a considerable pull on the purely sentimental and political mind, if they are to be effective, always have to base themselves on real economic grievances. I think that that is profoundly true of India. Anyone will recognise that there are profound economic evils from which the mass of the people of India are suffering, and Congress as a revolutionary movement will of course exploit them. Take the case of the United Provinces. It is a landlord province. You have a number of very wealthy landlords, and we are told that there is a no-rent campaign. It may be partly a no-tax campaign, but there is also a no-rent campaign. It is not a new thing started by Congress. It was going on strongly when I was in India. The Government were trying to face it with a Bill to be agreed on between landlords and the Swarajists to give some sort of tenant right, some justice for tenants. The difficulty of the whole situation in India is that you are brought up against an economic position which is attributed to this country by people in India. There are great economic difficulties that alien Governments cannot remove and which can be removed only by Indians taking action themselves.
That is why we on this side are a little disturbed at the line the Government have taken. We have said—that is myself and the other signatories to the Simon Report—that in our view the Nationalist movement had a force that might be used to save India. It seems to me that the Secretary of State is challenging the National movement. If he wants to work with the Moderates he is going the wrong way about it. I believe the danger is that he will 844 estrange group after group of Moderates. I do not think he will be able to govern by minorities. I think the danger is that he will get the whole of India against him.
Take another case. There is the question of the trade of India, the boycott of British goods. I do not pretend for a moment that it is entirely a genuine patriotic movement. There are interested parties. It is extraordinarily useful to the Indian cotton trader to get rid of British competition. There is, too, the rivalry of Ahmedabad and Bombay. But there is something more than that. I do not think anyone can deny that in times past Indian commercial interests have been sacrificed to British. I certainly think, and I have abundant evidence on the point, that a large amount of discontent amongst commercial classes was caused by the rupee exchange. I know that there is considerable irritation at the present time owing to the Secretary of State having ordered the rupee to be linked to sterling against the wishes of all the chief trading people in India, and against the wishes of the Indian Government, I believe. It is represented and will be represented all the time as a fact that India is used for the interests of this country and not of Indians. Anyone reading the Secretary of State's speech will find in every single instance he gave, whenever he used glowing language, that things were better, not for the Indians but for investors in Indian stock. He took the instance of the tea industry, which is mainly in British hands.
I suggest that there is a great danger in the point put by the hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. G. Lloyd), and that is on the question of the Ottawa Conference. I would like to know how India is to be represented at Ottawa. Are the Indian people to be represented by the Secretary of State or is Indian trade to be represented there? It is a very dangerous thing if at a conference like that you attempt to deal with India from the standpoint of British interests. She has not full power like a Dominion. She is not a Colony. She has in a limited degree control through the fiscal convention. But I am a little afraid lest if you try to fix up any Empire agreement of that sort, unless you have a representation there that really represents the interests of India, you will only add fuel to the flame, and cause Indians 845 to say again that India has been sacrificed to British interests. Therefore I am a little disturbed at the idea of the Secretary of State going to the Ottawa Conference to make bargains on behalf of India which the Indian people may repudiate. I am very doubtful as to whether we ought to proceed on those lines.
My final words will be these: I certainly did not catch a very hopeful note in the speech of the Secretary of State. Indians are apt to complain of a lack of sympathy and understanding. A great deal of our trouble is caused by the fact that we do not understand the Indian mind; and the Indian mind does not understand the British mind. I think Congress has done a great many foolish things because Indians do not under-stand British psychology. I think the Secretary of State does just the same. There was hardly a word that he said of sympathy with Indian aspirations. It was businesslike, cold, and I thought quite unsympathetic. There was very little at all of recognition of the fact that after all there was some case for India. There was no touch of warmth about it, but only a cold official and rather self-righteous recital, and it is a fatal thing with regard to India to be self-righteous. I think the present position is extraordinarily unsatisfactory. The experiment of trying to crush Congress is likely to fail. I believe that so far from it succeeding you will get only class after class joining in the movement until eventually you find yourselves, despite yourselves, creating a united India, united by a common hostility to the British connection; and that is the last thing I should wish to happen.
§ Sir JAMES DUNCAN MILLAR
I feel certain that the Committee as a whole have realised the extreme difficulty of the task with which the Government is confronted in dealing with the situation in India. I wish to pay my tribute to the sincerity of the Secretary of State in his desire to do what he thinks is best and most helpful in securing better relations between this country and India. I have risen to deal with one point which was referred to by the hon. Member for Caer-philly (Mr. Morgan Jones) in connection with the administration of the Indian police. The hon. Member referred to the case of Dr. Paton, and I ask the Com- 846 mittee to allow me to say a few words about it. Dr. Paton is a distinguished graduate in medicine, who for many years past has devoted himself whole-heartedly to the service of the Indian people. He established a medical mission in South India, and his work has been recognised all over India as being most helpful, both in the medical and other services provided. In fact he is one of the many Britishers who have gone to India, and have helped to sweeten the lives of the Indian people and to improve the relations between the two great nations.
Dr. Paton has never in any way associated himself with any political movement. His actions and his work have been entirely inspired with the one object of serving the poor and the afflicted and bringing home to them the 'New Testament lesson. There can be no shadow of doubt whatever that when the assault was made upon him by the police on the occasion in question, it was not only entirely unwarranted, and that the subsequent charge which was made against him and which was ultimately withdrawn, that he had been in the company of Congress volunteers who were picketing foreign cloth shops and that he had assisted in the boycott of foreign cloth, was also entirely unfounded. His statements are on record in the Presidency Magistrate's Court in Madras. Reference has been made to the need for producing documents. That statement, which was filed in court by Dr. Paton, remains on record, as he has had no opportunity of stating his defence publicly owing to the fact that the case against him was withdrawn. I venture to submit that the statement he there made is one which will be not only fully substantiated, but one which sets forth correctly all the facts.
Although Dr. Paton was attacked with lathis and was twice placed under a watercart and treated in a fashion which this Committee would deplore, he has no feeling whatever of vindictiveness against the police or those who were concerned in the assault. While he could have lodged a complaint against them for unlawfully assaulting him he has refrained from doing so, and he does not desire in any way to complicate the political tension in India. His only concern is as to alteration of the present system and of the police instructions so 847 far as these were responsible for what took place on that occasion. There are two questions raised by this case. One relates particularly to the question of the assault upon a British subject. That is a matter which calls for full and adequate amends being made to Dr. Paton, and I have every hope that the Government will see their way to make such a statement along with a suitable apology when they have completed the negotiations which, I understand, are now taking place in India. The second question is a much more important one, and relates to the means which the Government propose to take to prevent the possible recurrence of such incidents and the use of force by the police in circumstances which make it unwarrantable and illegal.
While we must sympathise with the police in India in the great difficulties and dangers so often associated with the discharge of their duties, I feel sure that the occurrence of such an instance as this is bound to suggest that to-day excessive force has been used outwith the powers of Section 128 of the criminal code and that beating with lathis and other forms of force have been employed in certain cases with unhappy consequences. I make no general charge against the police, but the instructions which have been issued, some of which have appeared in an official communique by the Government of Madras, with regard to the use of force in dispersing a crowd appear to me to require reconsideration. I understand that is a matter which the Secretary of State is prepared to look into. There is too large a discretion left to the police to-day in regard to the use of force outwith the actual provisions of the ordinances and of the criminal code. I am glad to say I had the opportunity of discussing the matter with the Secretary of State, and I am confident that the Government in this matter are principally concerned to see that justice is done and are prepared to take into account the necessity in such cases of taking some form of appropriate action. I am certain it is their desire to see that excessive force should not be used and, where it has been or where it may well be used under existing instructions, I trust and believe that they will take im- 848 mediate action to make that impossible in the future.
I hope the Secretary of State will be able to make some further statement with regard to this case at an early date. It is very desirable that that should be done. Such instances as this case are bound to create a great amount of uneasiness and are easily calculated to alienate loyal opinion in India. It is in the interest of the Government and of the people of India as a whole that these incidents should be carefully investigated and steps taken where, as in this case, there undoubtedly was an excessive use of force and an attempt made upon a gentleman, whose sole object and interest has been to promote the best interests of the Indian people and to secure in every way their advancement. In conclusion, I hope that the result of this incident may he not to create additional bitterness, but, instead, to lead the Government of India to remove causes which may lead to increased bitterness. I hope that Dr. Paton may find that the sufferings inflicted upon him have at least saved others from similar treatment and that they may lead to a new spirit of reconciliation in India which will bring men together instead of drawing them apart.
§ Sir W. SMILES
This Debate has gone a long way from where it was started by the Secretray of State. I did not expect to hear the question of franchise raised by the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). Although he has read the report of the Simon Commission, he has evidently not read seine of the reports of the provincial committees which co-operated with the Simon Commission, because one of the provincial committees advised adult suffrage and open voting, which goes a long way beyond anything that I heard mentioned by the right hon. and gallant Member. The fact is that when I discussed this very question with one of the members of the Simon Commission, who has, unfortunately, passed away since then, he said: "I agree with this preposition, although it would never go down in England where they support the ballot box." The ballot box is not so suitable for the East, where so large a proportion of the population cannot read. Very often at present, when people go to vote, they have their cards marked outside by 849 a babu, and, when you ask who they are going to vote for, they say: "I don't know, but the babu will mark my card." In my opinion, the only two courses are open voting or electoral colleges. I worked at the franchise for some few years in one of the smaller provinces, and at the end I could only suggest that as the nearest thing possible. I agree that it is not perfection by any means.
I must begin by congratulating the Secretary of State for India on what he did when he took office. I was one of those who voted against the Government on that Division. I did it because for the first time I could not make anything out of that White Paper, which made me believe that the Government were neither going to keep order nor to push on fast with snore self-government in India. Both those things are now carried out very fully. For that reason, if there were a Division again, I should be very happy to vote with the Secretary of State. I certainly think that those two things must go hand-in-hand, and I do not agree with the hon. Member who spoke on this bench, who disagreed with me entirely and thought that extension of self-government and keeping law and order properly do not go hand-in-hand. We must remember that we are going to hand over the government in the future to the Indians, and it would be most unfair if we left the country in a state of chaos, riot and anarchy, which was what the country was rapidly drifting to.
Speaking the other day about our trade relations in Shanghai, the Foreign Secretary said that he hoped that British trade would never wish to profit by the boycott of other people. I wish the same sentiment prevailed in Bombay at the present moment. I would ask the Secretary of State for India if he has any knowledge of the tenders of the Bombay municipality, in which it is stated on every tender form:Intending contractors should note that the Corporation have expressed the opinion that no article manufactured in any part of the British Empire outside India should be used by any of the departments of the municipality or by any of its contractors except when they are not available in any other part of the world.It is all very well prosecuting these pickets, who only get four annas a day for picketing, if you let a big municipality like Bombay defy the Govern- 850 ment. This municipality's tenders are seen by a member of the Indian Civil Service. It is a very grave wrong that is being done to British traders. That is not the British idea, of fair play at all, and, when the Foreign Secretary said that we did not wish to profit in China by the boycott of the Japanese, I hope that the Secretary of State for India will bear the same thing in mind when dealing with these tenders of the Bombay municipality.
A few weeks ago I asked the Secretary of State for India a question about the reduction of the Police in the United Provinces. My opinion is that the economy in the police forces in the United Provinces has been cut to the bone. If the right hon. Gentleman will look up the statistics of murders and crimes in 1931 and compare them with those of 1930, he will find a very serious increase. The fact is that the police have been badly overworked owing to this civil disobedience movement and that they have not been able to look after their proper duties. We did have an assurance from the Secretary of State in a debate some time ago that in no case would the pay of the lower ranks of the police be reduced. There are two ways of reducing pay: one is by actual wages and the other is by giving the police too long hours to work. If you pay them the same wages for working too long hours, it is exactly the same as cutting down their pay. Already I see in the paper that the police force in Delhi is not too good and that some of them refused duty the other day. I hope the Secretary of State for India and the governors of those provinces will be warned in time that there is such a thing as carrying economy too far. It is all very well having a balanced Budget, but it is no use handing over the provinces with a dissatisfied police force.
The treatment of the prisoners in the gaols was also mentioned, but I think that the surroundings of the gaols at the present moment are healthy and comfortable, although we are informed that there are not so many people in gaol at present as under the late Government. My opinion is that in some cases the treatment of prisoners under trial and of political prisoners is a bit too good. I spoke to an Indian friend of mine about this. He is not a bad chap and went to prison in 1921 and suffered imprisonment for what he thought were the in- 851 terests of his country. He said that he had a jolly good time in prison. I saw him coming by train from one prison to another, and as he went down the platform he had two constables behind him, one of them carrying his suitcase. That is all right in the case of an aged gentleman, but not in the case of a young man, who ought not to expect the same amenities of life when he goes to prison as he would enjoy in the Taj Mahal Hotel in Bombay.
The Debate has gone a long way from the course I expected it would take, but I would point out that in my opinion our only chance is to start by provincial autonomy. I have unfortunately not been long in the House of Commons, but I have a very good memory for the speeches I have heard, and I have not acquired the happy knack of forgetting them as soon as I hear them. I well remember a speech made in Delhi by the Foreign Secretary when he was summing up matters to the provincial committees just before he left India. He said that, when we were dealing with these provinces, we should not say that, because a certain province has not tried to work the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, it will always not try to work them. He put it in another way and said that, because a certain province has been a good boy, we must not assume it will always continue to be a good boy or that the province, which has been a bad boy, will always be a bad boy. I disagree with him in that view though I disagree with him in few things. I think the best thing would be to single out the provinces which have definitely and honestly tried to work the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms and to advance them to a further situation of responsibility. It is absolute madness to think of giving any extension of self-government to Bombay or Bengal at the present time. If the Secretary of State would look at the record of provinces like Madras or Assam, the smallest Province, he will find that they honestly and consistently try to work the reforms. The best method of procedure would be to offer self-government first to certain selected provinces, and to postpone it in those in which anarchy, riot and terrorism are rife, until things are quieter again.
852 As regards law and order, what one would have advised a few years ago is not safe to-day. We find that terrorism and the Congress party have got such a hold, due to the administration of the past two or three years, that what might have been safe and proper a few years ago is unsafe and improper to-day. It would be best to wait until a three-fourths majority of the Provincial Councils have voted in favour of giving powers to preserve law and order. If the Government would consult moderate opinion it would say, let the question of law and order be put on one side for a time, so that we may see how we get on, and later we might consider taking over the police force. One of the faults of our Administration has been that we have never supported our Indian friends. A statement has been made that more and more Indians have gone to the Congress party because they have seen them insult the British Government with impunity, defy them and make popular heroes of themselves.
As the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock) said, the people who have been strong enough to stand up for the British Government in the past have not been properly supported by the Indian Government. These people have had terrible pressure put on them in every way. In their caste people would not eat with them and would not associate with them. It is that sort of thing that has made people diffident in coming forward to stand up for the British Government. It is a common saying that the moderate Indian has no backbone. One feels that the British Government have never stood up for the moderate Indian.
In speaking of the economic situation the hon. Member for Ladywood (Mr. Lloyd) made an excellent, speech, but the right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) completely disagreed with him in regard to the question of tea growing. The hon. Member for Ladywood said there were a good many Indians interested in tea growing, but the right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme said that none of them was interested in tea growing. Two or three years ago, before April, 1929, there were lots of Indians interested in tea growing, but on account of the depression in the 853 last two or three years they are bankrupt and broken to-day. They have been selling their gardens for anything they could get. The English companies have more liquid resources than the Indians and have been buying up a good many of these poor fellows. The very last thing that the British people who are out there desire is to see the Indian tea grower ruined. They want to see him prosperous. It may be a case of wishing good for themselves eventually, because if the Indian tea growers are making their profits, perhaps they will influence Government not to tax the tea industry when a further measure of self-government is given to India. For that reason we want to see plenty of Indians interested in tea, making a decent profit, and paying their labour properly.
In regard to the extension of self-government, it is better to build from the bottom, and to start with provincial autonomy first. I find myself in complete agreement with the right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme when he says that be does not believe in the Federal system. I do not believe in it. How can you expect a central Government to have a tremendous efficiency at the very start. There will be inefficiency at the start. I know of municipalities, for instance, which were completely taken over by Indians. As soon as a man was elected to the municipality he thought that that was a good reason why he should pay no more rates. Therefore, for two, three or five years the people who were elected did not pay their rates. Everybody thought that the best thing to do was to be elected to the municipality. Eventually one municipality, which I have in mind, went bankrupt. It was taken over by an Indian civil servant who made everybody pay up their rates. He got the place solvent again, built a new waterworks, and when he had put everything straight he handed over the municipality again to the municipal authorities. That municipality will go on well in the future. If we start extending self-government in India, we must expect inefficiency at the beginning. Hundreds of Indians have said to me that good government is no substitute for self-government. They expect inefficiency themselves and I think they should be allowed to try it in the Provinces. You cannot take a short cut to any political evolution.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
These benches have not been exactly vociferous in support of the National Government during the last few weeks. Therefore, it is with peculiar pleasure that I rise to give general support to the Government policy in India. The only thing that gives me any cause for doubt is the company that I shall have to keep in the Division Lobby. The hon. and gallant Member for Blackburn (Sir W. Smiles) said that he voted against the Government policy last year, but he felt that now he could vote for it. That seems to indicate some change of policy on the part of the Government, but I hope that it exists only in the mind of the hon. Member for Blackburn. If there is one great success that the National Government have achieved it is, in my judgment, the way they have handled the Indian situation. Their policy has been liberal and firm. At the Round Table Conference they pledged their support to the simultaneous extension Of provincial autonomy, with responsibility at the centre. Since the Round Table Conference they have shown that, while willing and anxious for the help and advice of advanced liberal opinion, they are determined to meet and defeat the forces of disorder.
We have had from the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) a formidable list of atrocities, and no doubt he quoted one or two very bad cases. But I suggest to him that you can get stories of atrocities like those by the bucketful in India. I have had them myself. I had from Indians last year the most detailed accounts of atrocities that had taken place, riots which I actually witnessed, and from personal evidence I was able to prove that there was not a shred of truth in the stories. The hon. Member for Caerphilly mentioned the case of Mr. Sen Gupta. He said that he did not know anything about that gentleman. I suggest that in India they do know something about that gentleman. I heard Mr. Sen Gupta praising the murderer Bhagat Singh. Bhagat Singh was finally executed for having thrown a bomb into an assembly and having murdered Mr. Sanders. I heard Mr. Sen Gupta state that he wished there were more Bhagat Singhs in India. A man of that sort no Government can tolerate, whatever the complexion of the Government.
The hon. Member for Caerphilly also mentioned tragic instances of boys who 855 were being imprisoned. I agree that it is a tragedy, but what about the Congress who encouraged those boys to break the law? The Congress in India are directly creating a class of law breakers which any Government, however Indianised it may be, will have to deal with when it comes into power. The methods that will have to be adopted to crush the civil disobedience movement are repugnant to all decent people, and no doubt a formidable indictment can be brought against the Indian police, but one ought to realise that these Indian policemen do work under the most extraordinary difficulties in maintaining order. I have myself seen supporters of the Congress trying to hold up civic life in Bombay by lying in front of the trams. As fast as the police cleared one line of trams, the Swarajists would rim along the tramlines, lie down again and hold up the trams there. That went on hour after hour, and in the end the police did use perhaps unnecessary violence. It is a terrible business. Many of these demonstrators were women. We have to remember that they have a very different view of women than we have in this country. Morever, these Indian police in their own homes are subject to every kind of persecution. We hear a great deal of persecution by the police, but there is a great deal of persecution of the police.
The hon. Member for Caerphilly complained that the Secretary of State for India had used the word "war." Who used the word "war" first? It was the Congress who declared war on the Government. The Congress itself is a menace to law and order and it cannot expect to be treated as if it were a Sunday school. The Government is being justified by results. English friends of mine in India, by no means friendly to the National Government, tell me that the civil disobedience movement this time is a very different movement from what it was last time. A great many Indians, hitherto staunch supporters of Mr. Gandhi, feel that the Congress has behaved very stupidly in declaring war, when they were offered the most generous terms of peace. The very success of the present policy of suppression, necessary though it may be, has its dangers. I am sure we all miss the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and we all wish him a speedy return to 856 health and strength. A Debate on India is a very tame affair without him. What I am afraid of is that the Government's policy is strengthening the hands of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends and giving them the excuse for insisting once more that resolute government can be a substitute for responsible government. There could be no more disastrous delusion.
It is not merely the ordinance and the lathi that are keeping India comparatively quiet, but the belief that Great Britain intends to stand by her bond. It is becoming increasingly fashionable to ridicule the policy of conciliation adopted by Lord Irwin and to contrast it with the severer methods of Lord Willingdon, but surely one policy could not succeed without the other. It is only because Indians remember that the British Government have gone to the utmost limits of conciliation that they are willing to acquiesce in the temporary policy of repression. I suggest that this policy must be temporary. The problem of Indian advance is not solved when Mr. Gandhi re-turns from gaol. In a sense it is made much more difficult, because if you shut a man up one day you have to let him out, and, while I do not suggest that Mr. Gandhi is India, he is to a larger extent than is generally realised Hindu political India and without his cooperation I doubt whether there will ever be a permanent pacification of India. It is vital that the Government should proclaim once again their intention to proceed as speedily as possible with reforms. It has been lightly said in some quarters that the Government now believe that they can govern India for 30 years by Round Table Conferences, and an echo of that idea is being spread in India to-day. Moderate opinion, represented by Sir Tej Sapru, Mr. Jayakar and Mr. Sastri, is still fearful lest their legitimate demands will be side-tracked once more into the mere grant of provincial autonomy. I am certain that the Government intend to stand by their promises both in the letter and in the spirit, but the best answer to this unfortunate suggestion is a clear statement as to when the new constitution is likely to be ready. I hope that whoever replies for the Government he will be able to give some rough and ready idea as to when we may expect an opportu- 857 nity of discussing a constitution in this House. Such a statement would in my judgment do more than anything else to maintain and strengthen those new forces that are now rallying behind the Government in its policy of peace with order.
§ Mr. JOHN
One must be surprised at the difference in the temper and direction of this Debate as compared with that which took place when this question was last before this House. We have listened this evening to a justification of the policy pursued by the Government in India. For the last Debate a White Paper was issued giving a comprehensive survey of the difficulties which confronted the Government and the Round Table Conference in the process of building up a constitution for India, and in that White Paper there was also a certain measure of appreciation of the progress that was being made. In the Debate itself a wave of optimism prevailed as to the possibility of some good things coming from the Round Table Conference, and the House affirmed its belief in an all-India constitution as being the only solution of the problem and approved a resolution saying that the utmost would be done to surmount the difficulties in the way. The Debate terminated in a spirit of good feeling and mutual desire on the part of the majority to do the utmost for India.
In the White Paper the Prime Minister indicated that they intended to go ahead; time was pressing. The machinery for working out the details he said would be set in motion and the British representatives would be sent to India as early in the new year as possible. He also said that there were many obstacles in the way, but mere technicalities were not to stand in the way. Everyone realised and agreed that the task of building up a constitution for India required care, and courage and co-operation, and indeed that the success would depend very largely on the measure of co-operation which would exist. Those were the fears which existed during the last Debate. Since then the atmosphere has materially changed, it has become more cloudy, and, however much we may deplore it, there exists in the minds of Indians a great deal of suspicion as to the intentions of this Government, as to whether they really mean what they say. What is there to account for that change in the atmosphere and for the difference in the nature of the 858 Debate this evening and on the last occasion. Unfortunately the policy pursued by the present Government is entirely foreign to the spirit which prevailed in the last Debate and to the spirit which was dominant in the Round Table Conference. We appear to be returning to a retention of British domination in India. The policy pursued by the present Viceroy is entirely different from that pursued by his predecessor Lord Irwin.
If the present Viceroy had shown a greater spirit of toleration it would have been far more effective than the policy adopted by him. If a meeting had taken place between the Viceroy and Mr. Gandhi to discuss the general situation in all probability it would have led to a mutual understanding and the present situation in India would in all probability have been avoided. Mere technicalities, said the Prime Minister, were not to stand in the way, but on this occasion a mere technicality was allowed to stand in the way of a fundamental principle. It as argued that the last Viceroy could not meet Mr. Gandhi because of the Civil Disobedience movement, the boycott and such things, but the Civil Disobedience movement was in existence when Lord Irwin met Mr. Gandhi. Lord Irwin believed that the best policy was to release Mr. Gandhi and his followers from prison, and as a result of that policy, negotiations were opened and a settlement arrived at, and it became possible for representatives of the Congress to come to this country to the Round Table Conference.
To argue that these has been a change in conditions is to blind ourselves to the fact that there has been no variation of the conditions in which Lord Irwin met Mr. Gandhi and those which existed when the present Viceroy refused to meet him. Indeed, there was more justification for the present Viceroy to meet Mr. Gandhi than there was far Lord Irwin, because the present Viceroy had the experience of Lord Irwin as a guide. If the experieno of Lord Irwin in meeting Mr. Gandhi was such that the Civil Disobedience movement was discontinued, negotiations were opened and the Delhi settlement reached, that it became possible for Mr. Gandhi to represent Congress at the Round Table Conference, it is natural to assume that, if the present Viceroy had met Mr. Gandhi, the atmo- 859 sphere would have been, aleared, a mutual understanding arrived at and no need at all for the terrorism which exists in India at the present time. The Secretary of State has told us that the terrorism in India is being rapidly abated. I do not know whether he has considered the effect of the terrorism, so far as the Government are concerned, upon Indian opinion which is not directly interested or which has no sympathy at all with the activities of Congress.
There is sufficient information available to show that a condemnation of the policy of the present Government is spreading outside the ranks of Congress members. Indian moderate opinion, which has no sympathy at ail with Congress or with the Civil Disobedience Movement, is condemning the Government for the policy they are pursuing. Take the Servants of India Society, which is not connected with the Congress movement, and of whom the leader is the Hon. Scrinivasa. Sastri. That particular society has passed a series of resolutions deploring the action of the Viceroy in refusing to allow Mr. Gandhi to discuss the ordinances as inadvisable and unjustifiable, and whilst condemning the resumption of Civil Disobedience, have protested against the ordinances, particularly their drastic character, which bring the public into conflict with the authorities, leading to lathi charges, which create widespread resentment in the country. The right hon. Gentleman has said that there is no suppression of the Press. The journal of this particular organisation, the Servants of India Society Journal, of 21st January, pointed out that misgivings of the public against the sweeping nature of the ordinances and the extreme hardships and humiliation to which the people are subjected had not proved groundless.
Take the United Provinces Liberal Association. They have protested, not only against these particular ordinances, but to the Viceroy against the action taken under them, and the lawyers of Madras have questioned the legality of the use of force in dispersing pickets. They say that the police in India at the present time are doing far more than they are really entitled to do under these ordinances. The complaint has been made against them, with regard to the lathis, that they have outdone or over- 860 stepped their duty. The Government argue as a justification for the use of lathis, or even for the beating of the pickets, that it is much less disgraceful to beat the pickets than to send them to prison. Not a bit. If the right argument were used, it would be that there is no room for them in the prisons. In all probability the prisons are full, and if they have no room to send offenders into the prisons, then, they might argue, the only alternative is to beat them. Probably the explanation is, as I said, that there is no room in the prisons at all. Then there are other opinions. The Indian Social Reformer quotes from a letter of a British missionary, who says:As British people, who supremely value and need the personal friendship and fellowship of Indian people and desire for them a full and free life, the present situation is for us one of pain and keen regret.I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman believes that it is part of the evangel or of the gospel of this country to send missionaries to India, but some of us believe that the foreign policy of this particular Government ought to be Christianised, as well as India. Then there are the American missionaries. They have spoken and written in the same strain, and a number of them have even cabled to the Prime Minister and complained of the terrorism that existed in India on the part of the Government.
§ Mr. BRACKEN
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but he will recall that the missionaries have not devoted much energy to enforcing these principles in Honolulu, a colony of the United States.
§ Mr. JOHN
Probably, if the hon. Member had come under the influence of missionaries, it would have been to his advantage. Then take the Moslems. They say that they have offered cooperation to the Government provided that pressure is withdrawn and a general amnesty is granted to all those not convicted for violence. What has disturbed the feelings and agitated the minds of these people, missionaries to India, American missionaries? The Moslems, the members of the country societies, have no connection at all with the activities of the Congress. Surely the conditions in India must be much worse than they have been reported. What is reported in the Press to such an extent 861 as to agitate the mind of these people who, at the same time, condemn the civil disobedience and the activities of the Congress I These are the reports that have been brought into this country, which only shows that the disaffection extends outside the pale of the movement itself and those directly responsible for the activities complained of. The right hon. Gentleman said that there was no suppression of the Press in India in any shape or form, even of the Indian Press. Actually, a large number of papers, including three members of the Nationalist Press, have been suppressed. Editors have been imprisoned, and a large number of them have had to pay large sums of money as security against their participation in any criticism, however moderate, of the policy pursued by the Government. To argue that this is a small movement, confined within a very small area, is to blind ourselves to the fact that there are practically 900 Nationalist papers in India at the present time, and that some of them have been suppressed and compelled to bind themselves not to criticise the Government. It is significant that one or two papers have been suppressed for criticising the Government's policy; it suggests that the Government itself is ashamed of it and that it is not prepared for the public Press to report it, or that it does not want information to come here to this country, so that an opportunity may be given for a full, free and frank discussion upon the general situation in the House of Commons.
The hon. Member far Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) referred to the suppression of telegrams and cablegrams addressed to hon. Members of this House. What power have the Government to prevent hon. Members of the House of Commons from receiving the fullest information possible with regard to the general situation in India? The Indian Government compel the Nationalist Press not to give moderate criticism of the policy of the Government. If nothing at all is to be printed in the Nationalist Press of a critical nature, and if cables containing information sent to hon. Members of the House of Commons are prevented from coming over, how in the name of common sense are we to get a full, a frank, and a free discussion upon the Indian situation? We only get one 862 side of the report. I do not suggest for a moment that the report of the Secretary of State was coloured in any way, but, after all, it is one-sided. He has only got one particular side, and naturally he is going to defend the policy of the Viceroy in India; but there is no question that there are two sides, and it is only fair that the information that is being sent should be allowed to come through.
Assume for a moment that it may be exaggerated, that it may be wrong. The place to decide whether it is exaggerated, whether it is untrue, whether it is wrong, is not in India; the place to decide that is on the Floor of the House of Commons, by discussion and argument. We can put forward the information we receive; the hon. Gentleman can then put forward the information he gets, and it can be left to the common sense of hon. Members of the House of Commons to judge what is the real situation in India. In fact, the suppression of these telegrams and cablegrams means that the people responsible for it are also attempting to curtail the scope of discussion upon the Indian question in the British House of Commons. They have no right to do so. The British House of Commons must be given an opportunity to discuss this question with the fullest scope and the fullest expansion possible. You may argue that that is not so unless the information is forthcoming. How are we going to discuss it? And if the Viceroy or the Indian Government are going to be the deciding factors, are going to arrogate to themselves the responsibility of saying what is and what is not to come, logically they will also decide the questions that are going to be discussed or not to be discussed in the House of Commons.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State referred to one or two great difficulties with which India is confronted at the present time, and one of them was the economic situation in the United Provinces. He said that the Indians in that area have been hit as hard as any community in the world. Prices have fallen by as much as 100 per cent., and as a consequence debts have increased up to about 70 per cent.; nine out of every 10 of the people are in the hands of the moneylenders, of whom there are about 45,000: These people, suffering from these economic conditions—these economic hardships; 863 —improperly fed, scarcely clothed, suffering from the exactions made upon them by the tax-collectors and by the moneylenders, found it impossible to pay the exactions that were made upon them. The result was a natural revolt of the peasants of the United Provinces against the economic conditions of to-day.
It was not a political movement, it was not a movement against the Government, it was not even a movement in which Congress had any hand, for although the Viceroy condemned Mr. Gandhi because of the No-rent Strike in the United Provinces, Mr. Gandhi categorically denied the accusation as far as Congress was concerned, asserting that they had no connection with the No-rent Strike. The No-rent Strike was a spontaneous outburst on the part of the peasants of the United Provinces against the economic conditions that prevailed, and because of an economic problem. Even the Government, even the right hon. Gentleman admitted that the conditions were miserable. The Government in India admitted the miserable conditions, because they had already taken steps and made negotiations, and it had ultimately been decided that there should be a scaling down of the rents to 22 per cent. But how in the name of common sense were the peasants going to pay, even assuming that the rents were scaled down to 22 per cent., when their debts to the moneylenders were up to 70 per cent. and the prices had fallen by 100 per cent.? Nevertheless, notwithstanding the admission of the poverty-stricken conditions of the peasantry, what did the Government do? They introduced ordinances practically an the same lines as those in Bengal. The right hon. Gentleman said that they were forced to introduce an ordinance in Bengal because of the terrorist movement and because of the murders that had been committed. There were no murders in the United Provinces, there was no terrorist movement in the United Provinces, and still the ordinance that was introduced into Bengal in order to meet an organisation—or an alleged organisation—of terrorist assassins was also introduced in the United Provinces in order to meet a natural spontaneous outburst of revolt among a poor, downtrodden peasantry.
We could go on giving descriptions of the conditions in India; we could also 864 quote from the reports in the Press, but I do not believe that any purpose could be served in that particular way. I think that the hon. Member for Caerphilly has already traversed that ground. But if the intention of the Government at the present time is to kill a nationalist movement, to kill a movement with a nationalist ideal, then it is doomed to downfall. Governments of all ages have tried and failed. You have failed in Ireland, and you are going to fail in India. [An HON. MEMBER "You have failed in England."] There is a law, both scientific and historical, that every-thing that is unsuitable and incompatible with life must die, and the converse is also true, that everything that is suitable and compatible with life must live. A movement that is going to serve its age and its country, a movement that is going to be of use and of service to men, will not only live but will demand a place in the growth and development of civilisation. You cannot suppress it. The history of India and the development of the Congress organisation is a clear demonstration of that fact. Originally your Congress movement was not even a party; it was not even an organisation. It was merely a platform for Indian political opinion. But to-day it is an organisation, a strong organisation with a political purpose, and so long as that organisation has a national ideal, it is going to live. Every movement has the instinct of self-preservation. You cannot kill that movement; it will live. What is required is the attempt to understand the Indian mentality; to try to ascertain the ideals of the Indians, and to try, by mutual co-operation and mutual understanding, to make those ideals practical in the history of the Indians; to try to bring about the creation of a popular democratic government for the Indians. The argument of a previous speaker was that we should go in for a policy of provincial Governments but even if you did adopt the policy of provincial Governments and a central Government and worked out a constitution for India on those lines, what hope would there be of working that constitution, with a large section of the nation sullen and indifferent? A constitution will not work, even if it has been agreed to, if you have a sullen and defeated section of the nation. We want 865 to get all the nation into co-operation with the Government and I suggest that we ought not to continue the policy of imprisonment of repression and of suppression. We ought to release Mr. Gandhi and his followers.
It may be said that civil disobedience, unlawful assembly, boycotting and subversive propaganda must stop. It may be said that by resolute government we are going to change the temper of the people. But we cannot do so. We cannot obtain a loyal people by compulsion. We cannot secure co-operation by coercion. Co-operation is dependent on one cardinal principle, that all the parties concerned have one definite objective in view. If you release Mr. Gandhi and his followers there is the probability of arriving by mutual understanding at a solution of the problem. It may be said that that is impossible. A large number of people prior to the Round Table Conference scoffed at the idea of agreement and said that the result would be confusion. A right hon. Gentleman to-night has said that that prophecy has come true, but, if so, it has only come true because we have departed from the spirit and the real intention of the Round Table Conference. If we had operated in that spirit the expectations held of that Conference would have been realised. What we required to do to-day is to hammer out a Constitution for India, to get all parties to work together in a clear atmosphere and with that deliberation and freedom from passion which the problem demands.
§ Mr. MOLSON
I feel a little sorry that so much eloquence should have been devoted by the hon. Member for West Rhondda (Mr. John) to trying to prove what is, I think, universally admitted, and what would certainly be admitted by the Secretary of State. It is not the case that those who support the National Government in their present policy in India believe that a policy of repression can ever solve the problems of India. At the present time a two-fold policy is being pursued. To-day in India there are those who are willing to co-operate with the Government in working out the details of the Constitution which was adumbrated at the Round Table Conference. How are we to take seriously the suggestion that Mr. Gandhi should now be released, when only a few weeks ago he had the 866 opportunity of sitting on the consultative committee at Delhi and co-operating, but rejected it? We had for months been cooperating with Mr. Gandhi. It is he who has refused to continue co-operation. No Government, of whatever political complexion, could continue to ignore the fact that the Congress in all parts of the country, but particularly in Bombay and the United Provinces, was deliberately stirring up agitation against the Government.
I only say that in passing because I wish to invite the Committee to devote attention to the terrorist movement in Bengal. I was very glad that the Secretary of State dealt at some length with that subject. It is, I think, not recognised as widely as it ought to be in this country, that there are still in Bengal the two terrorist organisations which were founded in 1907. They are identical organisations; in some cases the same men occupy posts in them. Chiefly in Western Bengal there is the Jugantar movement, which was started by Barindra Ghose who, shortly after the foundation of that organisation, was interned. In Eastern Bengal there is the Anusilan Samiti founded by Pulin Das. We know the apostolic succession has continued from that day to this. Having taken the advice of senior Members of the House, it is not my intention to give the names of three prominent Bengali politicians, men who have been active in the political life of Bengal and who have, in recent years, been connected with these terrorist organisations. The Secretary of State himself, however, has stated what it had been my purpose to prove that certain Bengali politicians have been terrorists. Although I do not think that Congress, in other parts of India, has been implicated in crimes of violence, in Bengal the conditions are entirely different and persons who have exercised great influence over the Bengal Provincial Congress, and also over the Calcutta Corporation, have been involved in these terrorist conspiracies. No Government, Indian or British, democratic or bureaucratic, which was responsible for the administration of Bengal could forbear from taking the most stern and resolute measures to root out this evil which, has been in existence for 25 years.
We are asked by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) to sympathise with the lot of a boy who was 867 tried in Bombay for picketing. I would like to draw attention to the serious problem of the corruption of boys and, as we now know, of girls, by these murder conspiracies in Bengal. For five-and-twenty years certain schoolmasters and others connected with educational establishments in Bengal, have been getting hold of young boys, initiating them into these organisations and gradually leading them on to become docile tools in the commission of political assassinations. Under some of the rules of these societies which have been discovered there are provisions for admitting to membership boys under the age of 12. There are four different grades of membership and the principal promise which is made by the new member on his initiation is that he will not in any circumstances ever leave the organisation. The penalty for breaking the rules is death and many boys, not knowing on what they are embarking, are induced to join by appeals to their sentiment and their religious ideals. Once they join they are unable to free themselves from these conspiracies. At the risk of wearying the Committee, and because this is first-hand evidence of great value as to the nature of these organisations, which I am asking the Secretary of State to deal with resolutely, I propose to read an extract from a confession made by a lad called Birendra Nath Gupta, who murdered Deputy-Superintendent Shams-ul-Alam on the steps of the High Court in 1909. He said:I was introduced to a gentleman named Jatindra Nath Mukharji … By reading Jugantar I got a very strong wish to do brave and violent works, and I asked Jatin Mukharji to give me work…He asked me if I shall be able to shoot Shame-ul-Alam, I answered that I will be able … I make this statement so as not in injure Jatin, but as I have come to understand that anarchism will not benefit our country, and the leaders (that is the Government) who are now blaming me, now thinking the deed that of a head-cracked boy, to show them that I alone am not responsible for the work. There are many men behind me and Jatin, but I do not wish to give their names in this statement. The leaders who are now blaming me should be kind enough to come forward and guide boys like me in the good ways.
§ Mr. MOLSON
I think the boy's age was about 18. The Committee will for- 868 bear from smiling at the naive English of that statement when I say that it was made by the boy the day before he was hanged for the murder of Shams-ul-Alam. If that were the case in 1909, the virus has been spreading steadily ever since and I appeal to the Secretary of State to regard it as a duty to the boys and girls of Bengal and their parents to eradicate the evil. It is not merely a question of the assassination of policemen and British officials. It is the accepted doctrine of these organisations that dacoity, or robbery with violence, upon the most innocent people is justified if they are seeking funds for their organisations and not for their personal advantage. This has gone so far that even the venerated guardian of a Hindu shrine was murdered in a dacoity in order that one of these organisations might obtain funds. We cannot, with a clear conscience, introduce provincial autonomy in Bengal—as I hope may be possible in the not too distant future—if we are to hand over to Indian statesmen the damnosa hereditas of a province corrupted by desperate crime of this kind. I have an uneasy feeling that during the last few months and years the action of the Government of Bengal has not been sufficiently vigorous; and I am sorry that the Secretary of State is not here, because there is a special question that I want to put to him, which I shall hope to have answered. It is this: Had the Government of Bengal no information beforehand about the raid upon Chittagong on the 18th April, 1930? Had they no previous information that terrorists intended to carry out that raid? If they had that information, what measures were taken; and, if no measures were taken, why were no measures taken? I do not ask for an immediate off-hand answer to that question. I am prepared to put it down as a question in a week or a fortnight's time if it is necessary to communicate with India upon the subject.
The Committee may ask how it comes about that these organisations have been allowed to persist in Bengal for so long. The answer to that is that if you follow the graph of this revolutionary crime, you find that it always goes up when there are no special measures in force in Bengal, that it is then suppressed or driven underground when the necessary emergency powers are taken by the Government, and that as soon as those 869 powers come to an end, it revives. From 1907 to 1916 it went on increasing, and then special measures were taken; in 1922 most of the detenus were allowed out, and there was a revival of crime; in 1927 emergency measures were taken again, and it was suppressed; and in 1931, down to the present time, you have bad a further recrudescence.
It may be asked, Why is it that the ordinary criminal law in force in Bengal is not adequate for dealing with these conspiracies? There are three reasons: The first is the question of evidence. There have been numerous cases of dacoities where the police have been in full possession of the facts, where they have received confessions from four and even five men who had taken part in a dacoity, where they have subsequently captured one of them and have known in advance where to look for wounds upon their bodies, and they have found the wounds in the place where their associates had said they bad been wounded on the occasion of such and such an affray. There have been full particulars known, and yet, because of the law of evidence, it has not been possible to obtain a conviction, because no admission made to a policeman is ever evidence.
In the second place, another great defect of the ordinary law is that overt acts are necessary. In order to establish a conspiracy, there have to be a number of acts of violence extending over a certain time. It is hardly any exaggeration to say that, although the police may know that a certain gang is intending to commit a certain crime, they have to wait until the bullets have been fired before they can take action, and when they do take action the effect of waiting for overt acts is that they only get hold of the tools, excitable boys from schools or colleges, used for the purpose of assassination while the men who are responsible, the men who, as I have said, are some of them occupying the same positions in the organisations as they held in 1908, get off without being convicted.
Thirdly, under the ordinary law of the land, trials have to take place in open court. In this country we are naturally attached to the principle of trial in open court, but trial in open court can, in certain circumstances, become either a 870 farce or a tragedy; and where you have conspiracies which do not hesitate to intimidate and even to murder judges, counsel, and witnesses, there you very soon find the courts reduced to impotence. Bimal Das, who has recently been convicted of the attempted murder of Mr. Villiers, would have been put on trial for the murder of Mr. Peddie had it not been that for some unaccountable reason all the Crown witnesses were unwilling to appear in court. In other cases it turns out to be, not a farce, but a tragedy. The first case was where an informer called Narendra Nath Gosain was murdered—that was, I think, in 1908. Soon afterwards another informer disappeared, and in a train a body was found with the features of the corpse obliterated with acid; and, in order to bring it up to date, it was last month that Ashutosh Neogy was shot in the streets of Calcutta because he was an informer against a certain gang.
The Government of Bengal use, as one of their principal manuals, Mr. Dan Breen's "My Fight for Irish Freedom," and I would suggest that when the gunmen of Bengal are imitating the example of the gunmen of Ireland, the British Government might do worse than follow the example of the Swaraj Government now in power in Ireland. There, they did not use this temporary legislation, which, as I have shown, has never got to the roots of this conspiracy. In October last, in order to obtain power to set up secret tribunals for dealing with political assassination, they did not pass a temporary Act, they did not pass a permanent Act, but they passed the Seventeenth Amendment to the Irish Constitution, in order to enshrine those powers in the most permanent form possible.
I have said that the Calcutta Corporation has been under terrorist influence. I am sure that the Government are fully aware that the Calcutta Corporation is an inefficient, a corrupt, and a purely political body. I need not go further than to quote what Mr. Subas Chandra Bose, the first chief executive officer of the Calcutta Corporation, and subsequently mayor, is reported, by his own organ "Liberty," to have said, about the hanging of Bhayat Singh. "India," he said, "was required to produce thousands of Bhayat Singhs before 871 she could attain Purna Swaraj," And in ease anyone questions my fairness in criticising the Calcutta Corporation through the sayings of even an ex-mayor, I would invite attention to the attitude of the Corporation itself in the case of the hanging of Denish Gupta. He was executed for the cold-blooded murder of Lieut.-Colonel Simpson, and the "Calcutta Municipal Gazette," of 11th July, 1931, contained on its front page a portrait of Denish Gupta, and the following report of a meeting of the Calcutta Corporation:Execution of Denish Gupta. Corporation's tribute. Meeting adjourned. The Corporation of Calcutta expressed its sorrow at the execution of Denish Gupta and adjourned its meeting on Wednesday, the 8th July. When the Corporation assembled Councillor Bhupendra Nath Banujee moved This Corporation records its sense of grief at the execution of Denish Chandra Gupta, who sacrificed his life in the pursuit of his ideal. The House adopted the resolution standing. On the motion of Councillor Madan Mohan Burman the meeting was adjourned till Friday, the lath July. The Mayor, in associating himself with the resolution, paid a tribute to the courage and devotion of the deceased.I do not know how much longer the Secretary of State intends to leave the affairs of the second city of the Empire in the hands of a body of men who see fit to record their regret at the execution of a common murderer.
I wish to say a word about the Press, particularly because of what the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Rhondda (Mr. John) has said about the suppression of free criticism. I do not think that he perhaps realises the stream of virulent and deliberately fabricated falsehoods which certain organs in India emit day after day and week after week for the express purpose of arousing racial hatred.
§ Mr. MOLSON
The nearest example which I can think of in this country would be the "Daily Herald," but even that, I assure the hon. Gentleman, has much to learn from the Indian Press. I should like to give a personal example. In 1928 "Forward," the Swaraj organ in Calcutta, came out with a paragraph stating that after a railway accident had taken place near Calcutta and as Indians 872 lay injured on the ground, Englishmen went around and gave directions for their murder. The Editor was sentenced to the wholly insufficient punishment of three months' simple imprisonment. While the appeal was pending, which I rejoice to say was unsuccessful, I was taken round the office of "Forward" by a young Bengali friend of mine who was on the staff, and the Editor was introduced to me. Inevitably his residence in the near future came up for discussion, and I said to him, "I suppose that a busy editor does not see everything that goes into his paper, and I feel quite sure that you did not yourself personally authorise that particular statement to be made in your paper." He said, "Oh, I did most certainly. I read it carefully before I allowed it to be put in." I asked him point blank if he believed it to be true. He evaded the question by saying that I did not realise what awful things sometimes were done in India. It is because of this deliberate fabrication of facts for the purpose of misleading thousands of Indians who have no means of finding out the truth and who never come across an Englishman from the beginning of one year to the end, that I claim that something should be done, not so much in the interests of the British Raj, as in the interests of those readers to prevent these untrue stories from being put about.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
Is the hon. Gentleman also aware that we in this country were informed of a bomb outrage in regard to a group of our own Round Table Conference delegates in India, and that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State declared that he knew nothing at all about it.
§ Mr. MOLSON
I was not aware of that alleged fact, and, in the second place, I do not see what bearing it has upon my statement.
§ Mr. JONES
Not only was the statement circulated in the Press but it had been broadcast on the wireless during the afternoon that a bomb outrage upon a party of members of the Round Table Conference and others who were travelling in India had taken place, and my point is, that it was so inaccurate that the Secretary of State for India, when invited to reply with regard to the matter in the House, said that he had heard nothing about it; he could find no evidence.
I do not recollect that the Secretary of State for India ever denied it. He said that it was uncertain whether the bomb was placed there purposely or not. There has never been denial.
§ 8.30 p.m.
§ Mr. MOLSON
I really did not recognise that the hon. Gentleman for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) was referring to the question put this afternoon. That was not my understanding of the matter in the least. [Interruption.] No, I think it could not be. In any case it has absolutely no bearing upon the point which I am making unless the hon. Gentleman goes on to allege that when the statement was made by the newspapers in the country they knew it at the time to be false. I was about to say before I was interrupted that the difficulty in the past had been that under the ordinary law there has only been a power of procedure against the printer and publisher of a newspaper. The seditious organs in India keep constantly a number of dummy printers and publishers who go to gaol one after another while the organisers behind who are really responsible for the policy of the paper are never reached at all. The only way to deal with them is by having permanently a power of confiscating the Press.
I want to refer to the treatment of the detenues in gaol. I myself at Mandalay Gaol have seen them enjoying themselves playing tennis, and with an unlimited number of books. I have no objection to their enjoying some of the amenities of life there, but the allowances which at present are being made to them are totally excessive. It is in many cases profitable for some of these people to be interned. Far more serious, however, than the fact that their allowances are excessive, is the extremely slack discipline which obtains in many of these camps. There is communication between many of these detenues, and here I come to the next point. In the conspiracy to murder the district magistrate of Barisal, the Government of Bengal considered itself to be unable to protect him. He received a telegram from the Government 874 telling him to proceed on leave at 48 hours' notice. That was because it was known that an attempt was going to be made to murder him. I ask, can it really be regarded as a Government when it admits its inability to protect its own officials in the discharge of their duty? It is made almost absurd by what I believe to be a fact that the conspiracy to murder Mr. Donovan was arranged by three detenues already in the Government's hands, one in the detention camp at Calcutta, one in the detention camp at Hijli and the other in the detention camp at Jalpaiguri. I hope there is an opportunity now of dealing with this evil which has existed in Bengal for a quarter of a century.
Another Governor is going out, and I am sure that we all wish him the best of luck. We all admire him for his enterprise in taking on one of the most difficult responsibilities in the British Empire, and I am sure that most of us hope that he will be strong and of a good courage. As far as physical courage is concerned, he cannot hope to excel the present Governor of Bengal, whose conduct the other day, I am sure, made us all proud to be able to call him a fellow countryman. But with regard to the future, I hope that Sir John Anderson will make his governorship memorable, and that the right hon. Gentleman will make his Secretary of Stateship memorable, by sweeping away what has been a blot upon the fair name of Bengal and what has been for a quarter of a century a reproach to the British Government.
I wish to congratulate most heartily the Secretary of State and the Indian administration on having at long last taken the strong line which they have taken. It was absolutely essential that law and order should be maintained in India, and that the law should apply equally to the Indians and to the British—apply to all, irrespective of nationality or colour. Congress has no more right to lay down the law and endeavour to lead India than has the Trades Union Congress in this country. There is a Government in India, and it is the duty of all who live in India to obey the law. Congress has been given ample opportunities of showing their ability and their willingness to help. What have they done x Instead of helping by suggestions, by trying to bring people together, by co-operation, they 875 have acted in every way contrary to what might have been expected of people who have told us they are out for the benefit of India and the Indians. The policy they have pursued has been they very policy which is going to be more damning to the future of India than any which anybody else could have brought in. They have advocated civil disobedience and the non-payment of taxes. Is that going to do the Indians any good? Are they by that means going to get self-government any sooner? No, Sir. They have advocated the boycott, and picketing, which, to my mind, has been far from successful in this country, should be absolutely forbidden in India. By picketing they have tried the native and the British police beyond endurance.
Perhaps it is not realised in this country that for many years now the police in India have exercised great patience and forbearance in very difficult times, In this country we have from time to time had riots, but they have not been of long duration, whereas in India the patience of the police has been tried to the uttermost, and for my part I hope to see picketing forbidden by law. Added to that there have been violence and murder. Is that going to help the cause which these gentlemen tell us they are more keen about than we are ourselves? I fail to think so, and therefore I welcome the policy of the Government, and sincerely hope they will maintain it; because in India, even more than in this country, it is useless to be strong one moment and lenient the next. We must have a policy, and it must be a just policy, and that policy must be maintained, not in our interests, but in the interests of the Indian people. We must realise that the large majority of the people of India want no change at all, they are perfectly content. It is just a few, by way of being better educated than the rest, who are telling the people, "You may think you are happy, you may think that you are under good rule. Not a bit of it! Let us rule you, and then you will have a sort of heaven on earth."
That is perfectly true, and it will doubtless be proved true in another three and a-half hours. But we cannot afford to tolerate law-breaking 876 and violence in India. This political warfare in India is upsetting trade and industry, which must be given a chance to revive, because it is on trade and industry that India must depend. Therefore, it is necessary that somebody should maintain law and order. We have beard a little to-night about propaganda. When I addressed the House in December I raised the question of propaganda. In the "Manchester Guardian" only a few days ago a writer complained that the restrictions are too severe. He said:India to-day is in the grip of fierce and ruthless ordinances.I totally disagree, and believe there ought to be a far stricter censorship than exists already. We know that the newspapers in this country are exceeding fond of sensational information, and seemingly do not always strive to verify the information which they receive. The more sensational it is the more likelihood there is of its being printed. If a contradiction is sent, however, there is far less chance of that getting a place in the newspaper. In India the position is still worse. The local vernacular press reaches many Indians who are not well educated, who have no other source of information, and who are likely to swallow the information contained in those papers, which the editors of them, as the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson) has said, know is not true. Therefore, I would like to see far stricter censorship. Those who are loyal and wish to be loyal are purposely led astray by these exaggerations in the local vernacular press, which do a great deal of harm.
I wonder whether people in this country who talk about "opinion in India," and say that India wants self-government realise that there are 70,000,000 untouchables in India, one-fifth of her population, who have said that they will never have Gandhi or any of the Congress people as their rulers. They wish to remain under the British flag and no others. And there are many others who are in a similar position. We were told to-day from the Opposition benches that we are ruling India by force. What does force mean? We have in India an army numbering some 60,000. There are 1,280 civilians to every soldier. And yet we are told that we are using force! During the last few years we have re- 877 duced the number of Europeans in the Indian Civil Service, in the Medical Service, and in the Police Service by one-third, and have replaced them by Indians. Have we not thus shown Indians that we are willing to help them and that we would like the Indians to try to help themselves? What is their reply to us? Murder, assassination, boycott and picketing. We remove white civil servants and replace them by Indians. During the last few years, no less than one-third of English civil servant categories has been replaced by Indians. We are, therefore, gradually allowing the Indians to administer their own country, or to endeavour to do so. We look to them to show their willingness, and unless they do, the present resolution of the Indian Government must be maintained. We have shown our willingness.
There are at present following up the Round Table Conferences, of which many people in this country did not approve, three committees sent out from this country, looking into the administration of India. For the sake of the unprotected and those who are anxious to remain under British rule, who form a great majority of the Indians, we must not relax the present methods until we are sure that it will be for the benefit of all India and for the benefit of Britons in India. I am afraid that that state of affairs will not come about for many years. The present position, which hon. Members of the Opposition, have criticised, is entirely the result of the work of the Congress. For my part I congratulate the Secretary of State for India. The hon. Member for Doncaster said just now that the name of the Secretary of State for India would be known hereafter as one who had helped towards maintaining law and order in India. I maintain that the name of the Secretary of State for India will be famous as having brought in the present regime in India. He has put things right, and he is doing his very utmost to help the Indians. If hon. Gentlemen of the Opposition want to help the Indian they will say to them: "You have the law. The law is the same, whether you are a black man or a white man, and it is up to you to obey it." When the British Government and the Indian Government realise that the law will be obeyed and that assassination, murder and picketing, and such things, 878 are to stop, then, and then only, can we begin to discuss the business again.
§ Mr. J. JONES
This Debate reminds me of the time when, as a callow youth, I used to sit in the Gallery and first began to take an interest in politics. At that time the subject was Ireland. The old tales of woe that I have heard here this afternoon remind me of those Debates in the days of the Crimes Act, when Irishmen were looked upon as assassins, and when every organisation to which they belonged was looked upon as beyond the pale. All I live needed to do this afternoon has been to transcribe in my mind "India" for "Ireland" and "Ireland" for "India," and then I was brought face to face with it. I find that some hon. Members who have been to India and have made good salaries out of the exploitation of the Indian people, acting as magistrates, counsel or judges, have come back here to malign the people out of whom they drew their salaries.
We were compelled to surrender co far as Ireland was concerned. What English Government would not give to reason, it finally gave to force. Ireland for 700 years carried on a guerilla warfare; I will admit, not very particularly refined as to the methods pursued. India has now taken a lesson from Europe, because countries in Europe have been discovered to have adopted all sorts of methods which are not considered moral and legal by the dominated country. All Empires base their powers over other countries, particularly over smaller and more helpless countries, upon the sheer force of their weight, upon their power to dominate by the force of arms that which they have attained. Suppose the Indians take us at our own word, and use force against force. What right have we to grumble I There are 300,000,000 of them, and there are only about 50,000,000 of us. I happen to be one of them. [Interruption.] The world will change, but some hon. Members will never change. They are like the Bourbons; they forget nothing, and they learn nothing. The people of India are just beginning to feel their feet. Many years ago hon. Members opposite would not treat an Indian as an equal. Thirty years ago an Indian, even if he belonged to a higher caste, would not be looked upon as being equal to a back-bench Member of the Tory 879 party, unless he was an upholder of English policy. If he were opposed to that policy, if he were liberal-minded, he was an outcast, and he would not be invited to the King's garden party.
We believe that the people of India have the same rights as the people of Ireland. They may be different in their race, their colour and their religion, but in their country there is the same condition of things as existed in Ireland. English Governments have put the North against the South in Ireland. They have used the North as a barrier against the aspirations of the South. When hon. Members talk about the barriers that divide one section of India against the other, let them remember that. When hon. Members start talking about murder we have to ask, have not the British Imperialists committed murder Have Britons not murdered all over the Empire to get some of it under control I It is all very well, but we have shot down the natives of Africa in cold blood. Unarmed men, women and children have been destroyed for the purposes of making this Empire great and prosperous. We can say what we like about it, but that is true. History demonstrates it.
The Indian Empire was built up by raids and murder by armed troops against defenceless men and women, and the history of this country wilt prove it. In Westminster Hall there is a tablet commemorating the trial of a gentleman whose crimes were so great in India that we had to try him here for treason. The treason was against the will of the State. At that time he murdered the people of India. He had committed a crime against civilisation. We tried him. I am not guilty. [Interruption.] He was acquitted, yes, but he would not be acquitted now. He was acquitted in the days when trials were arranged so that if they wanted to get a certain person off, and there was Royal influence behind him, he could get away with it. Let him now come along. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Campbell case?"] Yes, there was the Campbell case, but he did not get off; he was sent to prison. I want to remind hon. Members that no man who fights against the governing class of this country ever gets away with it.
§ Mr. JONES
That is the reason why my hon. Friend belongs to the governing class. If he did not belong to that class, he would have been in prison long ago. [Interruption.] It has been proved to-night beyond the possibility of doubt that you are now trying to show the Indian people your strong hand; but remember that India is not the only country of the East. A great ferment is now going on in the East. How long are you going to live in the security which you imagine exists? The mailed fist is not going to dominate for ever. The East is gradually awakening. The hon. Members who spoke just before me asked the Government of India, and particularly the Government of Bengal, to use its mailed fist, and I hope that that message will go out to the people of India and to the other nations of the East, so that they may realise what they are up against—domination from the West. How long do you think it is going to continue? How long do you think that we, a small body of people here in the West of Europe, are going to dominate 600,000,000 people in the Eastern parts of the world? It may last your time, but it will not last all the time, and the sooner you make up your minds to be clean about the business, the better. [Interruption.] I am one of the untouchables in this House—untouchable in the sense that I am not expected to join in polite society; but, so far as the Indians are concerned, the untouchables belong to my class. I do not care who is against them; I am for them.
§ Mr. JONES
I know you are, but you do not touch them much. We look upon all the Indian people—not a special section of them, but all of them—as fellow-citizens, and we are asking them to co-operate with us as far as possible. Our part in this Debate has been in that direction. No section of the Indian people is against us, and we are not against any section of the Indian people; we want to treat them all as partners in this great Empire. You have done all you can in the way of punishment. Those whom you consider to be guilty are being punished now, and what is to be the end of it all I Have you made them more amenable to your discipline? Are you going to make them obey your laws more easily? Are you going to achieve any 881 result as a consequence of this policy It is all very well to talk here in London about being strong in India, but remember that chickens come home to roost. We want to let the people of India know that, so far as the great democracy of this country are concerned, we are with them in their desire for control over their own affairs, and we are not going to stand for any domination, for any mailed fist business, or for any flag-wagging in this connection.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Captain FULLER
As a new Member rising to address the House for the first time, I hope I may claim the indulgence which the House is so willing to grant to those who have to face this ordeal. I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) in the peculiarities of his argument, because I feel that at this early stage in my political education I am not capable of any political gymnastics. Probably later, when I am more acquainted with things as they seem to he rather than as they are, I may be able to follow the hon. Member more closely. I would like, however, to say, with regard to one of the historical instances which the hon. Member gave to us, that the gentleman whom he mentioned, the first Governor-General of India, did not secure his acquittal through influence, but that it cost him some £80,000, and ruined him, not only financially, but in health as well.
It is not my intention to follow the political argument of this Debate, but rather to bring to the notice of the Secretary of State what I consider to be a grievance in connection with another of those great Services in India, which, fortunately—or unfortunately—are very seldom heard of in this House. I refer to the Indian Army. Before I do so, however, I would like to make mention of the speech delivered by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones). I listened to it with very great pleasure, because the first part of it, anyhow, showed that the hon. Gentleman was slowly retreating from some of those extreme views which I have always thought he held, towards the realm of fact. The first part of his speech impressed me a great deal; it is a matter of regret to me that I cannot say the same of the second part, in which he appeared to be endeavouring to emphasise that all our actions and all 882 the actions of His Majesty's Government since the Round Table Conference, and even before, were directed towards alienating the Indian National Congress and the Indians from co-operation with us in further constitutional advance in India.
I do not think the facts bear out that assertion at all. If we consider briefly the period when the present form of government was introduced into India, under the Act of 1919, we shall see one long story of non-co-operation on the part of the Indian National Congress. When the Act was introduced—an Act which, it is only fair to say, disturbed a great many of us, but was undoubtedly a great advance on the road to self-government—we saw a manifestation of a most remarkable desire for non-co-operation on the part of the Indian National Congress. Then came that remarkable movement for which Mr. Gandhi cannot escape criticism. I refer to the way in which he played on the ignorance and credulity of the great mass of the Muhajarin in India, and launched them on to the Hijrat which ended in such disastrous results. Then came the boycotting which took place during the first of the Indian elections, and, subsequently, when the extremists saw that there was a desire among the moderates and the Liberal members in the country to co-operate with the Government in order to make the reforms a success, they gave up their non-co-operative attitude outside, and entered the Councils in order to wreck them from within.
Then came the Simon Commission, which is fresh in the memory of all. I do not think that anyone can say that it was greeted with the co-operation which the facts and conditions of the time demanded. I well remember the day when the Simon Commission's Report was due to be published. Almost every vernacular paper in India published reports and statements condemning it and saying that in no circumstances would they co-operate in the scheme that it might contain, and this was before the contents of the report were known. That has invariably been the attitude of the National Congress. The suggestion has been made that we should give way to this body of men who have been the cause of so much distress, bloodshed, and disorder during the last decade. The real trouble is that 883 the Government have been too long-suffering. They have delayed too long in taking action against these people who would defy the law in any country and in any circumstances to suit their own ends. If Congress had its way, the result could be nothing else but chaos and bloody revolution. One of the greatest blessings of British rule is that we have been able to maintain law mid order in that great country and, not only that, but respect for one another's religion and that is only possible because we have determined in the past that we would govern.
References have been made to the Press. It was one of my forms of mental recreation in India to read these vernacular newspapers. That form of pleasure is denied to a good many people. I can say without any hesitation that all the statements that have been made tonight in regard to the matter that appears in the vernacular Press are absolutely true. I had as my assistant an Indian who was himself an extremist, and on many occasions he had to admit that he was surprised that the Government should allow such horrible stuff to be printed against us. These were reputable papers and not the scurrilous rags that we hear so much about. Propaganda has reached very serious proportions indeed. Not only is it rife in every hole and corner in the provinces, but it has permeated into the Army itself. Commanding officers now have the unfortunate duty of countering this propaganda by issuing weekly statements of Government policy and explaining them to their men. It is, indeed, an extremely serious matter and one which should receive much more attention than it does. There is nothing wrong with the loyalty of the Army, but, when we remember that men go on furlough a distance of a thousand or two thousand miles away from their station into areas that are affected by this dreadful canker that has grown up owing to the activities of the Indian Congress, it is but human nature to listen, if not to act.
Think for a moment how different things might have been had there been the co-operation that we are asking for. There would have been hardly any need for the Simon Report at all, because we should have had a manifestation of the 884 desire on the part of all sections to cooperate with us, and the constitution that we are haggling about to-day would have been an accomplished fact, to the satisfaction of all parties. So far from the door of co-operation having been slammed from this side, I am still firmly of the opinion that it is very widely open to all those who would care to enter to co-operate in working out this very serious question of another constitution.
I did not mean to follow the political argument, but to bring to the notice of the Secretary of State one or two things in connection with the Indian Army itself. I refer particularly to the instructions issued last year in Army Instruction 132 as to compulsory retirement of officers from the service. What strikes me is the very arbitrary manner in which inefficiency is to be determined under the terms of this instruction. We read in paragraph (5), sub-clause (a), that it affects those who are inefficient in their present rank. The next sub-clause says it affects those whose retention is uneconomical to the State through no specific fault of their own. It has taken the Army authorities a considerable length of time to discover the inefficiency and the uneconomical effect in connection with these officers, because this schema affects captains who have from 15 to 18 years' service and colonels who have as much as 28 years' service, and one must admit that it is a considerable time to elapse before the Government have made up their mind that these officers are in-efficient. Moreover, these must be men who survived the extensive axe of 1922, when some 1,500 or more officers were compulsorily retired from the Service. While there appears to be no essential difference in their status and inefficiency, there is a very great difference indeed in the treatment that they are to receive. The first category that I mentioned get more than the second. It cannot commute any part of its pension, while the second may. This is a very serious thing for men who have spent the best years of their life in the service of the Crown and are now to be told that they are inefficient and uneconomical and, if they cannot be given some form of relief, they are likely to return to this country with nothing but a very meagre pension indeed.
885 I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will consider bringing to the notice of the Army authorities the desirability of mentioning the coat of living index in this country. Cost of living indices in India are unknown, and it will be an unpleasant surprise to them to find that their pensions are subject to an 8 per cent. cut owing to the cost of living. Moreover, this cut may increase to as much as 20 per cent. without any reference or appeal to anyone. I hope this matter may be further considered. I would like to pay a tribute to the many efforts which the Army in India has made during the last few years to economise; and I would say also that if they abandon some of their old ideas and the doctrine of indispensability, of which we heard so much the other day, they might be more successful in this direction than they have been. But out of this need for economy comes one rather serious question, and that is that it has been made a pretence for a further disbandment of units of the Indian Army. I understand that this House is responsible for the Government of India, and yet I have never seen or heard of any reference to this matter in this House. If the principle of economy is to decide the strength of the military forces in India it is a matter of very grave concern. Under this economy scheme, during the last two months or so, two Indian regiments and a number of ancillary units have been disbanded. I hope that the Secretary of State will be good enough to give us some information on the matter. I ask him whether the Committee of Imperial Defence was consulted, or whether the views of the Chief of the Imperial General Staff were obtained.
One other question I wish to raise relates to the insurance fund which exists in India both for the Civil Service and for the Indian Army. The contributions of the officers who are to be axed under the recent scheme are not being returned to them in any way. Take the case of bachelors. It is quite impossible for them to participate in any benefit whatever. When the bachelor retires, as he will do under this scheme, no sort of return is made to him of the contributions which he has made over a large number of years. There is also something very unsatisfactory about the two insurance funds as they exist to-day. They are in essence and in effect insur- 886 ance funds for the families of Indian Civil servants and Army officers. In effect the contributions are treated as current revenue and are used for current expenditure—a most extraordinary thing to happen to moneys which are contributed for insurance purposes.
Then, although the existing annuitants under both schemes have a right of suit against the Secretary of State to enforce payment of their claims, and while the Secretary of State's immediate control does remove a good deal of anxiety from those who have contributed and do contribute to the fund, at the same time there is a growing feeling of uneasiness as to what will happen to the money in the fund by a change of Government, if the contributions are still to be treated as revenue and the expenditure as expenditure in the ordinary annual Budget. Here is a question which has caused a good deal of anxiety in India for many years. I suggest that neither of these funds is at all on a satisfactory basis. I hope the Secretary of State will be good enough to look into the matter and see whether he can do something towards relieving what is really a grievance both on the part of the Indian Civil Service and the Army.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
The absence of the exhilarating personality of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) makes our discussion to-night seen rather like Hamlet without the Prime of Denmark, but I think we must agree that what the Debate has lacked in excitement has been made up in interest. I am sure the Secretary of State cannot complain that there was any lack of interest displayed by the Committee when he was making his statement on the general situation. The Debate has naturally centred round the fundamental change which has come over the administration in India during the last few weeks. Whatever the result may be that that change will yield, it must be conceded by anyone who has given the matter any consideration that any change in our method of administration in India is not inconsistent with the undertakings that we have given to modify the constitution. The very fact that we are pledged to teach Indians to govern themselves, imposes upon us an obligation to ensure that Congress 887 leaders, or anyone else, shall discontinue teaching Indians to be ungovernable. I do not mean "ungovernable" to-day under the British Raj, but "ungovernable" in the future when and if, as we all hope, Indians will control their own destinies. That is a point which is apt to be lost sight of by those sentimentalists who are at pains to supply us with resolutions passed by obscure societies denouncing what are alleged to be the repressive and tyrannical measures of the British Raj.
I must apologise to the Committee, and particularly to the hon. and gallant Member for Ardwick (Captain Fuller) for being ignorant of the fact that the extremely interesting speech to which we have just listened was a maiden speech. As it is the very pleasant duty that always devolves on a subsequent speaker to congratulate an hon. Member who has made a maiden speech, I hope he will forgive me for my omission, and let me make it up to him now by saying that I am sure the whole of the Committee listened to him with the utmost interest, and that we hope he will often give the Committee and the House the benefit of his knowledge upon India and upon other subjects.
The Congress leaders, until they were put out of harm's way, had been busy teaching the unsophisticated millions of India no better lesson than to flout constitutional authority, inculcating the devastating principle, which is peculiarly inappropriate to the mentality and tradition of an Eastern people, that if the law of the land is unpalatable to any section of the community it may be stultified by a process of passive resistance, which in India, or indeed in any other country, invariably develops into one of active violence. For the Government to stand immobile and to allow such ideas to gain currency among the villagers of India, who compose 80 per cent. of its population and admittedly are illiterate, would surely be criminal. To allow the virus of these anarchical ideas to affect the body politic of India before its gristle had hardened into the bone of manhood—surely that would mean that the body politic would be suffering from a grave malady before it reached maturity.
Before we hand over law and order in India let us be quite sure that those to 888 whom we relegate this awful responsibility are capable of inspiring respect for authority. The Congress leaders up to quite recently were relying upon mob rule, civil disobedience and the other expedients of mob rule. Surely the tyranny of the Moguls would be preferable to that. They failed to see that they were forging a weapon which, if they found themselves in a position of power, would be snatched from their hands and employed against them. The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) adduced the analogy of Ireland, but he forgot that it was not the British who murdered Michael Collins. That is the point. These agitators so often forge weapons that can be used against themselves. It is for that reason—if for no other—that the present Viceroy is justified in demanding that the law of the land shall be respected.
A certain number of Members in the last Parliament, few of whom survive in this, were always anxious to impress upon us that the Congress leaders exclusively represented the political mind of India. If that were true, there would be small chance for the reforms. Even when Edwin Montagu endeavoured to meet them on their own ground, it was manifest that they were incapable of displaying any statesmanship whatsoever. When Lord Irwin went to the extreme limit of a policy of conciliation, they still evinced no proof of statesmanship and refused him their co-operation. What were the ostensible grounds of their refusing to work with Lord Irwin? That he could not be trusted. If I could not trust Lord Irwin, I could not trust the Archangel Gabriel. The real truth is that the Congress leaders were more actuated by motives of personal ambition than by motives of disinterested patriotism. It seems to be more easy to acquire a name in India by sedition, privy conspiracy and rebellion than by undeviating adherence to the slower and more legitimate process of adopting an honourable calling. I assure the Committee—if it needs any assurance —that Congress have no monopoly of all that is best in statesmanship in India. There are many Indians, some members of provincial governments, others in commerce or in the Services or in the legal profession, who, although their names may not be so familiar to us as those of the noisy agitator or the political assassin, 889 now that the latter are under lock and key, will be able to establish a claim to our regard. Many politicians there are in India of acknowledged wisdom and ability who have co-operated with us, and it is our duty to stand by them as they stood by us.
We cannot blame Lord Irwin for having pinned any faith to the policy of conciliation. Had he been dealing with those who have an eye to their own interests, that policy would have been successful. We cannot blame Lord Willingdon for having dropped that policy when it had failed. It is noteworthy—and I do not think any Member in this Committee has alluded to it and I was rather surprised that no allusion has been made—that Lord Irwin in a speech he made recently in Leeds, which has made a profound impression all over India, a speech which proved his knightly chivalry, affirmed that, had he been in Lord Willingdon's place, he would have adopted the same policy. He added that the responsibility for recent upheavals in India had been due to the Congress leaders whose attitude had been quite unjustified. That was the one great risk which Lord Irwin took when he adopted that policy, that it might be manoeuvred for the purpose of creating a false impression on the Eastern mind. The late Lord Salisbury once said:Where there is a suspicion you're your conciliatory methods are extorted from you by the violence they are intended to put a stop to, the policy of conciliation proves of no avail.I presume he made that remark in reference to Mr. Gladstone's Irish policy. If so, it was appropriate to its purpose, but it is still more appropriate to Indian affairs to-day. Conciliation is in the nature of a contract and requires the concurrence of two parties. If he, whom it is intended to conciliate, refuses to be conciliated, the contract is void, and he cannot complain if other methods are substituted. I am not so regretful as some hon. Members that the policy of conciliation has failed because conciliation has served its purpose in that it has eliminated an element which, far from advancing reforms, has tended to retard them. There are far better Indians outside the ranks of the Congress party who have got a political equipment more than adequate for the demands that self-government will make upon them. I had only two or three days ago a letter from 890 an Indian, who has been for some years a member of a provincial government, in which he says:You may rest assured that Gandhi's non-co-operation cannot succeed provided' you people in Parliament give the Government out here the backing they desire, but a policy of indecision leads to bad consequences, and the time has arrived when the impression on the public mind, which has been created in the last few years, that Government takes strong action to-day and shows weakness to-morrow should be removed once for all.9.30 p.m.
I am in hearty agreement with him, and one of the reasons I rose this evening was to ask for an assurance from the Secretary of State. There are rumours to the effect that the experiment of a year ago is to be repeated and that the Viceroy is being manoeuvred into parleying with those who prove themselves untrustworthy and disloyal and are now deservedly languishing in various gaols throughout India. How far that experiment was justified a year ago when Lord Irwin parleyed with Mr. Gandhi I am not prepared to hazard an opinion, but we all know it was fruitless, and it was only valuable in that it proved the complete lack of statesmanship that characterises Mr. Gandhi and his adherents. We have had much of that kind of experiment. When Mr. Gandhi came to London he disappointed everyone, even his own friends. As a Mahatma he may be everything that is expected of a Mahatma, but as a politician he proved a mere obstructionist without any constructive policy whatsoever. As we have got irrefragable proof of the futility of these parleys, I should like some assurance that the Government at any rate at present have no intention of parleying with the Congress leaders.
There is another matter closely connected with the one to which I have referred and on which again I should like an assurance from the Secretary of State. It concerns Bombay where, as the Committee knows, there has been an industrial boycott which has been up till recently successful in a large measure. There is a rumour that there is an attempt being made to use the British industrial community as a catspaw and that British business men are being asked to join in a policy for the cancellation of the Viceroy's ordinances, the release of Gandhi, and a renewal of these negotiations. I trust that it is mere idle 891 rumour, although I understand that representations have been made to the Prime Minister. I can only hope that any such efforts will be unconditionally refused.
I have only one further matter to raise on this Vote, and it is that the Moslem situation seems somewhat obscure. We have to congratulate ourselves that the situation in the North West Frontier Province is ameliorated and that the adherents of Abdul Ghaffar Khan have given in their red shirts. Perhaps they have come to the conclusion, like the man to whom the Lord President of the Council referred in his speech last week that happiness does not lie in possessing a shirt. The working Committee of the Moslem community does not seem to be drawn into line with our present policy. Moreover, the recent development with regard to the communal trouble is hardly reassuring. I cannot help feeling that we have in the past rather mishandled the Moslem community. The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) warned us not to make too much fuss of the communities which appear to be loyal to us, in case we estrange the majority communities. In our efforts to conciliate the majority communities we have not only been unsuccessful in the venture but we seem to be well on the way to estrangling some of the minority communities.
In long arguments that I have had with Moslems since the publication of the Simon Commission's Report, on what they considered our ignoring of their just demands in that report, I have often been at pains to remind them that there are 120,000,000 Hindus in British India. No one knows better than I do how difficult it is to strike a just balance between the two major communities and how much a solution will depend upon compromise. Still, I have an uneasy feeling that we cannot rely upon the Moslem community to endorse our policy, and it will be accounted to us for folly that we have estranged those who stood loyally by us when those whom we have supported have done nothing but thwart our efforts in the administration.
I desire, in conclusion, to pay a tribute to the conduct of Indian affairs by the Secretary of State, under most trying and difficult circumstances. Having myself been in close association with this difficult Indian problem for three years 892 prior to his advent to the India Office, it was extremely interesting for me to note his reactions to that problem as each day he became more familiar with it. I am glad that he has not allowed himself to be led away either by the extremists on one side or the other but that he has felt his way circumspectly along the middle course. I trust that a combination of his wise statesmanship and the vast experience, the courage and the manly virtues of the present Viceroy, will, if anything can, guide the destinies of the Indian Empire to a happy issue out of the present crisis.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I would remind the Committee, as I did on a previous occasion, that we are discussing the affairs of over 300,000,000 of people, a vast Continent, which has been under the rule and jurisdiction of the British people or the British Government for nearly a century. I would also remind the Committee that at the end of that period we are discussing whether we should give self-government to that country, which was promised, when it was taken over from the old East India Company, that our sojourn in India was for the purpose of leading the Indian people along the pathway to self-government. We are discussing, in the language of one hon. Member, whether they are willing to be taught self-government. Remarks of that kind are an outrage to educated Indians. To talk of Sastri, or Sapru, or any of the Indian politicians as people who require us to teach them how to govern India, is a piece of impertinence, and I think it is high time that we dismissed that sort of thing from our minds.
The real criticism of British administration lies in the fact that we are discussing it under the terms and conditions which apply this evening. If any historian wishes to record the failure of our Administration he has only to look up the record of the discussion this evening, because from first to last it has been one long tirade against people in India who are struggling for that freedom which Queen Victoria in her Proclamation declared to be the ultimate goal of the British connection. The discussion has ranged over a very wide field. Those who wished to make the greatest impression on the Committee have been at some pains to prove that the Congress members are associated with such persons as those who were mentioned by the 893 hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson). I understand that the terrorist movement has been in existence for 25 years. I do not think that anyone here would say that Mr. Bownaggere, who was a good Conservative Member of this House, a member of the Indian Congress, with being in sympathy with assassination or that Nairoji, who was a Liberal Member of this House, believed in assassination.
§ Mr. MOLSON
I did not make the allegation that the whole of the Indian Congress was connected with the terrorist organisation. All that I said was that the Bengal Provincial Congress has of recent years been associated with the terrorist organisation in Bengal. I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman did not mean to misrepresent me.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
No, but the hon. Member grossly misrepresented the Congress. I shall be extremely surprised if the Secretary of State charges the Congress with fostering the terrorist movement in Bengal. He is as well aware as I am that it is a peculiar and particular sect of people who believe in a form of assassination and terrorism quite foreign to ordinary propaganda and even ordinary violence. I would remind those hon. Members who represent the Liberal party that it was the late Mr. Spence Watson, of Newcastle, who received into this country terrorists from Russia who had just escaped after assassinating sometimes a Czar, sometimes a Prince, and sometimes a Governor. They recognised in these men and women people who were fighting for national freedom, even if they did so in a mistaken manner.
Congress, through Mr. Gandhi, has again and again done its level best to keep the Indian Nationalist movement on peaceful lines. Everyone who has studied the history of any nationalist movement knows that it starts in a perfectly peaceful way. They believe that by peaceful means they will attain their ends, but as the years pass and nothing happens a few break away and start on other lines. That happened in Ireland. In this House there was an Irish Home Rule party which for years worked in association with the Government of the day, and in the end accomplished nothing. First it was Parnell and his group which broke away and took on a different form of agitation and, finally, a Home Rule Bill was forced through this House. The 894 hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Cadogan) is glad that the period of conciliation is at an end. Other hon. Members have said the same thing. It was said by Conservative speakers that 20 years of resolute government would see an end of the Irish Home Rule agitation. This is what the late Lord Salisbury said:Parliament should give the Government of England the power to govern Ireland.That is what the hon. Member for Finchley and the hon. Member for the English Universities (Sir R. Craddock) have said about India. They want no more conciliation, no more discussion, but a period of resolute government—Apply that recipe honestly, consistently and resolutely, for 20 years and you will find Ireland will be fit to accept any gifts in the way of local self-government or repeal of the coercion laws England may wish to give her.Exactly 20 years passed and the Tory party after having been in for 20 years were swept ignominously out of power. In 1906 Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman came in and two years afterwards the Liberal Government brought forward their Home Rule Bill, which again was wrecked in 1914, to be followed in 1917 by the Easter Rebellion. That is the story of a little over 20 years of resolute government in Ireland, a tiny country—
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
Really the story is inaccurate from beginning to end. In the first place, there was not 20 years of Conservative resolute Government. There was an interruption by the Liberal Government under Mr. Gladstone, when his Home Rule Bill was introduced. In 1906, after 10 years of resolute Tory Government, Mr. Birrell, speaking in this House, had to acknowledge that Ireland had never been more contented and prosperous for six centuries than it was at that time; but four years later the Liberal Government, owing to the fact that they had to keep their majority, brought in a Home Rule Bill in 1910—
§ Mr. MARJORIBANKS
On a point of Order. The right hon. Gentleman gave way and invited me to make a statement. Am I not entitled to finish my statement? 895 I am perfectly willing to give way to the right hon. Gentleman, but I think it is extremely discourteous of him, after he has invited me to make a, statement, to interrupt it. I will sit down with the greatest pleasure and courtesy, but I do not think the right hon. Gentleman is behaving very courteously in not allowing me to finish the statement which he invited me to make.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Captain Bourne)
If the right hon. Gentleman gave way the hon. Member is entitled to make his statement, but at the same time I must point out that the right hon. Gentleman is in possession of the House, and he gave way to the hon. Member to make a statement not to make a speech.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I am perfectly willing to give way to anyone who desires to make a mere correction, but not to the hon. Member to make a, speech which is full of inaccuracies. The hon. Member must learn to sit still and listen to other people. The statement I made was that in 1886 Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bill was rejected, and in that year the late Lord Salisbury said that 20 years of resolute government was required—[Interruption.] There was a short interregnum in 1892 for a couple of years—[HON. MEMBERS: "Three years!"] If it. was not 20 it was 17 years, and I am willing to give hon. Members the benefit of that slight correction. But the point is that at the end of the period a Liberal Government passed a Home Rule Bill which was held up in 1914. Then came the Irish rebellion, and at the end of it Great Britain conceded to Ireland much greater reforms, in fact a revolution in the government of Ireland, than those which Mr. Gladstone or Mr. John Redmund or any Irish Home Ruler ever imagined. That leads me to the point made by the hon. Gentleman. He thinks that weakness produces anarchy. No such thing; it is coercion that produces anarchy. If this country in 1886 had settled the Irish question along the lines of Mr. Gladstone's Bill, I think it is pretty certain that we should not have had the difficulties that we went through during the War.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Well, I think that proves my point. The argument of the hon. and gallant Gentleman—[Interruption.] Well, you can only argue from one thing to the other. The problem in India is exactly the same. The people of India want self-government, and they have been promised self-government again and again by this House, by the Crown, and by the representatives of the Crown. No one can get away from that. The Irish people used to be told exactly what the Indian people are told: "You are not fit for it." The hon. Gentleman says that you make a mistake when you pursue a policy of conciliation, because that produces anarchy.
§ Mr. CADOGAN
No, I did not say that; I said that you pursued the policy of conciliation and that it did produce nothing but anarchy.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I think it is rather unfair for the hon. Member to continue to interrupt and then to repeat the same thing over and over again. I only repeated his words, and he has repeated them over again. My argument against the hon. Member was that had this House pursued the policy of conciliation which Mr. Gladstone asked it to accept in all probability we should not have had the terrible happenings in Ireland that followed the Easter rebellion. Now hon. Members say, "What about India?" It is exactly the same. I listened to the hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Bernays) this evening, and I could not understand where he stood in this position. Here are the people of India, standing, as it were, at that Bar; all that is vocal in India, both moderates and extremists, are united in this demand. Otherwise, why did they put forward the demand at the Round Table Conference? It is no use for hon. and right hon. Members to stand up and say, "Oh, the Congress do not speak for India." But that Round Table Conference stood for India, and every resolution passed there dealing with the constitution of India confirmed the principle of a central administration, free of any interference from this country, responsible for the Government of India. About that there is no question.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Very well; if that is so, let us have an end to this nonsense 897 about the Congress not representing this, and the people of India not wanting that. If that conference at St. James's Palace was not representative of India, I should like to know of what it was representative. [Interruption.] Very well; that is the policy of the people of India. They are demanding, in contradiction to what has been said here to-night, self-government. That is their demand to this nation.
The next question is: When are they to be fit for it? I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman to tell me categorically, if he will, what these words mean in the memorandum of the Indian Round Table Conference. This is what the Prime Minister said at the Round Table Conference:At the beginning of the year I made a declaration of the policy of the then Government, and I am authorised by the present one to give you and India a specific assurance that it remains their policy.That is, the policy of the present Government.I shall repeat the salient sentences of that declaration.'The view of His Majesty's Government is that responsibility for the Government of India should be placed upon Legislatures, Central and Provincial, with such provisions as may be necessary to guarantee, during a period of transition, the observance of certain obligations and to meet other special circumstances, and also with such guarantees as are required by minorities to protect their political liberties and rights. In such statutory safeguards as may be made for meeting the needs of the transitional period, it will be a primary concern of His Majesty's Government to see that the reserved powers are so framed and exercised as not to prejudice the advance of India through the new constitution to full responsibility for her own government.'Then he goes on to say:As I say, my colleagues in His Majesty's present Government fully accept that statement of January last as representing their own policy.This I commend to the notice of those who have been talking about the fitness of India to rule herself.In particular, they desire to reaffirm their belief in an all-India Federation as offering the only hopeful solution of India's constitutional problem.Does that statement mean that at a given point the people of India will receive an all-India federation, have absolute control in their own country in the same manner 898 as South Africa, Canada or Australia? The right hon. Gentleman and Mr. Gandhi discussed various questions between themselves, and I understand also that the Prime Minister took part in discussions. I saw Mr. Gandhi many times when he was here, and there was one thing about which he was never satisfied—I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree about this—that these statements meant what by their words they should appear to mean; that is, that the safeguards about the Army, the safeguards about finance, the safeguards about police, and the safeguards about other things that we all agree are necessary for the transitional period, were meant by this Government to apply for the transitional period only, and that at the end of the transitional period they would disappear altogether. The reason why Mr. Gandhi was never satisfied was because of the notion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and—if I may say so—the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India, who spoke, as we all know, on the first night in closing the Debate, and hoped that his speech would satisfy the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping. It did not satisfy him, but all the same, there is, in my judgment, just a little ambiguity in the right hon. Gentleman's statement. That, however, can be cleared up to-night, and I should like to have it cleared up.
The further point which was raised during that Debate was that if India is to be a partner—a free partner—in -the Commonwealth, will this Government, if it is in existence—for we can only pledge one Parliament at a, time—be willing, when the moment arrives for the granting of full powers and the taking away of the transitional safeguards, to visualise India coming into the Statute of Westminster in the same way as the other Dominions The Committee may think that I am labouring this point, but I am emphasising it because I think that the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that it is the rock on which Mr. Gandhi and his friends have split with us. They do not believe that we mean the same things as they mean. They do not believe that we want India to be a, free and equal partner, on the same terms and conditions as the other Dominions within the British Commonwealth of Nations.
899 There is nothing to be surprised at in their doubts in that respect. Even English statesmen have often disagreed in the past as to what they meant. I well remember that the late Duke of Devonshire when Lord Hartington, in discussing Irish Home Rule with Mr. Gladstone, finally said "We do not mean the same thing." Mr. Gandhi says that when he and the right hon. Gentleman talk about Dominion status and self-government they do not mean the same things. Mr. Gandhi means first that India should have the right to self-determination. We who go into the Lobby to-night in support of this Amendment, whether we be few or many, will do so on behalf of the principle of self-determination for the people of India—the principle that the people of India themselves shall determine whether they wish to remain with us or part from us and that they alone have the right to give that reply. I believe, once that right is conceded to them, that everything else can be satisfactorily arranged. I do not believe that many people in India think that to-morrow they could take over the Government of India. I do not believe that many people in Congress would like the British Army, the British police and British Civil Service to pack up and go without any notice whatever. But I believe that a very large number of them think that they have the right to rule in their own country in their own way.
The only other big question with which I wish to deal is that of India's fitness to rule herself in view of the existence of various communities in India and racial and religious differences of which we are told. I think that that is all beside the question. I do not think that it is for us to decide. I expect that like the people in Canada, who, for years, could not live peaceably together, they will probably find a way of doing so. It is well known that in the United States there are people of every nationality under the sun. Even in Canada, although we are often told about helping our own kith and kin there, I am very doubtful whether there is a majority of people of the British race. Every European nation under the sun is represented there. There are people of all religions and of no religion. In India it is perfectly true that there are Moslems and Untouch- 900 ables. By the way, somebody here tonight said that the 70,000,000 Untouchables would never come into this federation. I met representatives of the Untouchables and the Depressed Classes, not once but several times when they were here, and they are perfectly willing to come into this federation. They are just as keen on being part of an India governed by Indians as any Moslem or Hindu. I never heard any talk about taking care of these people until the question of self-government reached its present stage.
The real point is that we arrogate to ourselves the right to say, "We know better what is good for you than you know yourselves." Good individualists never say that except when they want to rule somebody else. We are, I admit, a great individualist nation. We have done many big things in the world, and we have done many despicable things in the world. That, I suppose, is because we are human beings. But this doctrine that the British race is the only race which knows how to govern is sheer egoism of the worst description. We talk about having given self-government here and having given it there. We gave self-government in South Africa when we were obliged to do so, but we only gave it to the whites there. We have not given it to the Kaffirs or the Zulus or the black people of those countries. This nation of ours which boasts of having given self-government has never yet conceded the right of self-government to a nationality other than our own or a European nationality. Of that there is no question, and every step of self-government has had to be fought for before it was given.
A reference has been made to sentimentalists in connection with this matter. I do not quite understand what the hon. Member for Finchley meant by sentimentalists, but up to the present, during my time, the sentimentalists have won in the fight in which they have been engaged. I have always held very strongly and hold still, in spite of the disillusionment that comes from listening to the speeches in the House of Commons, the belief that this country of ours would eventually transform the autocracy of our rule in India into a rule of self-government in that country. I believed that we would do it by peaceful means. I have often been laughed at for saying 901 that we would transform our relationships peacefully. People have said to me, "Look what has happened here," and "Look what has happened there." I have held that belief until now. I am just begining to think that this country of ours, having made all the promises that we have made to India, is going to allow a great and golden opportunity to go past.
Instead of listening to the hon. Member for Finchley, instead of not wanting to enter into negotiations with Mr. Gandhi, I had hoped that the Secretary of State would have told us that the door was always open for negotiation. I believe that the door has been shut by sheer misunderstanding. I know to my own knowledge that Mr. Gandhi went from this country full of the belief that after he landed he would be able to go straight to the Viceroy and discuss what the ordinances were expected to accomplish. Whatever hon. Members may think of Mr. Gandhi he is certainly nonviolent, and he certainly believes in the things in which he says he believes He has had no chance this time. He was never allowed to go to the Viceroy or to have any discussion whatsoever. About that, there is no question, and had he been allowed to discuss, I believe that they would have found a way out; but as I see things going in India, you talk of trade, of commerce, of having business relationships, but I would like to ask any hon. or right hon. Member who has been standing up during the last four weeks telling us that this country of ours is now going to be master in her own house, Have not the Indian people the right to be the masters in their own house? Have not they the right to say, "Buy Indian," or "Buy Japanese" or "Buy American," or to buy anything else that it suits them to buy? What right have we to say to them that we will impose on them the obligation of buying what we choose?
What I see in all this is a gradual deterioration in our relationships, a gradual sliding down the slippery slope, and I can see no way out but that you will lose India, and you will lose her because you have not the real statesmanship to bold her. We lost America for no reason at all that any sensible people could ever understand, but here is India, and I believe that even now, if we could 902 show her that we really mean that she shall have the right to come into the British Commonwealth as a free partner, we could get peace. But you have to establish confidence, you have to make them believe that you believe what you say you believe, and if you cannot do that, it is hopeless. Someone this evening talked about our 50,000,000 holding down the 300,000,000. What good will it do us to hold them down? What advantage shall we gain by holding this vast mass of people in subjection? You will just do what every conqueror has done, and that is, reap Dead Sea fruit and nothing else.
I repeat what I said at the beginning, and that is that the greatest judgment on British rule in India is this Debate to-night. The greatest censure on our administration for all these years is the fact that, instead of India being contented, she is discontented, instead of being able to live peaceably under the British flag, you have to employ all these despicable methods of holding the people down, stopping their voice, stopping their Press, keeping them in subjection. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether there is not a more excellent way, the way that the hon. Member opposite does not like, the way of conciliation, the way of recognising the right of a great people to determine its own affairs.
§ Sir S. HOARE
The Leader of the Opposition has spoken with very great heat. I do not resent that feeling. I agree with him that sentiment often counts very much in the conduct of affairs, and I would be the last Member in this House to under-rate its value, but I am sure he will forgive me if I tell him, in a few sentences and very simply, why I cannot altogether follow the line of argument that he has just put to the Committee. He seemed to me to be carried very far away from the actual facts of the situation, and I do not say that so as to put up facts and arguments in order to make any advance impossible. I say rather that we shall not make any advance at all, unless we actually face these facts. He seemed to me to assume from the very beginning of his argument that Congress was India and that India was Congress.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Excuse me. I took the Round Table Conference and its decisions as representing Indian opinion.
§ Sir S. HOARE
I am in the recollection of the Committee, and I certainly thought the right hon. Gentleman went further, but the fact is that in many of these big questions upon which he touched there is no unanimous opinion in India at all. He has just said to us, "Give self-government to India, and give it at once." As a general phrase that may sound very attractive, but the difficulty comes when you try to analyse it. What kind of self-government? What kind of self-government is going to satisfy not one community, but all the communities in India? It is just those practical facts that we were facing at the Round Table Conference, and those practical facts were ever present to all of us, British delegates and Indian delegates alike. This is an extraordinarily difficult problem, and it cannot possibly be solved by phrases and generalities.
The right hon. Gentleman asked me whether in spirit and in letter we still accept the statement of the Prime Minister at the end of the Conference. I give him an unqualified affirmative, and I would suggest to him that we lost no time whatever in sending the committees out to India at once—and committees, I would remind hon. Members, on exactly the lines which were suggested at the Round Table Conference—and upon those committees all the Indian parties are cooperating, with the single exception of the Congress. It does show that we are carrying out our intentions to the letter, and that we are definitely determined to proceed along the road of co-operation which we described to the House in the Debate last December. Let me further remind the right hon. Gentleman that it takes two to co-operate. He seemed to think that we had broken down the line of co-operation. I totally and unreservedly deny that charge. If there has been any obstacle placed in the way of co-operation, it has been placed in the way by the action of Congress at the end of the year. To-day we are just as ready as we ever have been to co-operate with all or any section of Indian opinion which is prepared to co-operate with us. But they must co-operate with us, and they must also do so on the lines of the Government statement which we have twice repeated, and which was endorsed by an overwhelming majority in both Houses of Parliament last December.
904 I pass from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, although I shall refer to it again at the end of what I am going to say, to one or two other speeches which have been made in the course of the Debate. Many of the speeches have been very interesting, and I totally disagree with the Leader of the Opposition when he said just now that this Debate was of a very disappointing character. I think that it has been a most useful Debate, and we have had suggestions of the greatest value from every part of the House. I take, for instance, the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ladywood (Mr. Lloyd). My hon. Friend, we all remember, made a maiden speech which very much impressed the House before Christmas. It is much more difficult to make a second speech which equally impresses the House. In a maiden speech everyone is ready to give a welcome to a new speaker, to give him the best possible chance and to pay him every kind of compliment. In his second speech an hon. Member stands entirely on his own merits. I venture to think that any hon. Members who heard my hon. Friend this afternoon will say that his second speech was every bit up to the very high standard of his maiden speech. He broke new ground. He said, and said very truly, that in these Debates we are apt to exaggerate the political side of great questions, and not to think sufficiently, in this modern world, of the economic side, and he made to us a series of concrete and very practical proposals with reference to the economic development of India, and particularly to that economic development in connection with the Ottawa Conference. I will tell him in a sentence or two that, like him. I regard with the keenest anticipation the results of the Ottawa Conference.
At the present moment the Government of India and I are in the closest communication as to the Indian representation at that conference. We are most anxious that India should play a prominent part at Ottawa. We are most anxious, also, and I am sure he will agree with me when I say it, that the paramount interest to consider at the Ottawa Conference in the ease of India will be Indian interests. We have not the least intention of dictating an economic policy from here, of saying what India should do or should not do at the Ottawa Con- 905 ference. We wish Indian interests to be constantly kept to the fore, and we believe that when Indian interests come to be considered it may well be found that there is a definite line of advance for India to take, in her own interests, in the matter of commercial agreements with other parts of the Empire. My hon. Friend alluded not only to the possibilities of greater Indian trade with this country but also to greater opportunities in the Colonial markets. I can assure him that that side of the question will be constantly kept in mind at Ottawa. I can assure him, also, that we shall keep in mind the other suggestion he made, namely, that it may be that after the discussions at Ottawa we may be able to help India materially in our negotiations with foreign Powers. I hope I have said enough to show both to him and hon. Members generally that we do regard the discussions at Ottawa as of the very greatest importance to India and to the whole economic future of the Indian Continent.
I come to one or two other speeches of a different character. I cannot help mentioning the very interesting and independent speech of the right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). I was delighted to receive a tribute from so independent a Member. I felt that there, at any rate, was the kind of impartial tribute to which one really attaches great value. Although I agreed with much that he said, I am not sure that I agreed with everything. He made, for instance, a very formidable criticism of the evils of indirect election. I have always thought that it might he possible to get a wider representation, especially for the villages of India, by means of some kind of village election, and this is, perhaps, one of the few questions upon which Mr. Gandhi and I agreed. The western method is more applicable to an industrial community like our own in Great Britain.
I do not wish to get into an argument with hon. Members on questions of this kind. I will pass to another speech, made by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee). While the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme complimented me, the hon. Member for Limehouse told me that I was moving towards every kind of calamity. I was putting the whole of India against 906 us by linking the rupee to sterling and I had done great injury to the economic life of India. I can only say in passing that, to judge by results up to the present moment, it does not seem as if that criticism has very much foundation. The hon. Member said that my attempts to satisfy the minorities was sure to fail, and that in that failure I was sure to turn the minorities against me. I thought I might appease right hon. Members and hon. Members opposite by the policy I adopted in giving a new Constitution to the North-West Frontier, but there, again, my action was doomed to failure. In view of these formidable prophecies of evil, I have no reply to make, except that the future will show which of us is right.
A series of other interesting speeches was made by hon. Members in all parts of the Committee. There was a speech made by the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Molson). He made a very interesting speech also in one of our recent Indian Debates. To-night he gave a quantity of first-hand information about the state of affairs in Bengal. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition criticised him for identifying Congress with the terrorist movement. I wish the right hon. Gentleman's criticisms were justified. It is true that there are many supporters of Congress that have no connection whatever with the terrorist movement, and that many members have repudiated terrorist methods, but it is equally true, so far as Bengal is concerned, that several branches of the Congress organisation are hand-in-glove with the terrorist movement. It is also true that several of the most prominent Congress leaders in Bengal have given their blessing to the terrorist movement. If I had the time I could quote to the Committee chapter and verse to prove the point that I am making. I have at my disposal a mass of material proving the truth of what I have just said. In view of these facts, I maintain that the statements made by my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster were well justified, and that, so far as Bengal is concerned, there has been much too close a connection between the Congress organisation and the terrorist movement.
I now come to a very interesting maiden speech by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ardwick (Cap- 907 tain Fuller). I venture to congratulate him upon the success of his effort. He was very wise, if I may say so, to concentrate upon certain definite points in regard to which he asked for information. He raised, in particular, a series of questions connected with Army administration. At this late hour I will not go into those details this evening, but I will undertake to look into the points which my hon. and gallant Friend raised, and possibly, if he will allow me to do so, discuss them with him at some later time.
Then there was a speech made earlier by the hon. and learned Member for East Fife (Sir J. Duncan Millar). He raised a case which he had already discussed with me before, and which seemed to show that a well known Scottish minister of religion in India had been maltreated by the police. The hon. and learned Member raised the case in a very impartial and friendly manner, and, as he knows, I am looking very carefully into it. To-night I can only tell him that, from the information that has been given to me in the Debate to-day, it looks as if a mistake was made; but I would say, in justice to the authorities in India, that I have only heard one side of the case, and that I must keep my judgment open until I have the whole of the facts of the case before me. I can, however, assure the hon. and learned Member that, if a mistake has been made in this case, or in any other case, I shall admit it, and the Government of India will admit it. I would tell him, further, in answer to the more general case that he made about the administration of law and order in the Province of Madras, that only to-day I received a telegram stating quite categorically that the Government of Madras are carrying out, both in the letter and in the spirit, the instructions of the Government of India which I ventured to read out in my earlier speech this afternoon.
§ Whereupon, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod being come with a Message, the CHAIRMAN left the Chair.