§ The Secretary of State for India (Mr. Amery)
I beg to move,That this House approves the continuance in force of the Proclamation issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, by the Governor of Madras on 30th October, 1939, and of his Proclamation varying the same issued on 15th February, 1943, copies of which were presented to this House on 28th November, 1939, and 16th March, 1943, respectively.This and the other Motions on the Order Paper are concerned with only six out of the 11 Provinces of British India. In the remaining five Provinces, comprising a population of over 112,000,000, Indian Ministers responsible to Indian Legislatures have continued in control of the vast majority of subjects which affect the daily life of their fellow citizens. It is only in the Provinces controlled by the Congress Party's organisation that self-government was suspended by the Order of the so-called "High Command" of the Congress Party in October, 1939, and the Governors have been compelled to shoulder the direct responsibilities of government. They do so under the provisions of Section 93 of the Government of India Act. These are emergency provisions and as such properly come before this House for periodic review. I need not add that they are also under constant review by the Viceroy and the Governors concerned. In two Provinces where Ministries were originally ordered out by the Congress dictatorship self-government has been restored. The resumption of self-government in other Provinces can take place whenever Ministers can be found in a position to conduct affairs and co-operate in the common war effort. The door remains open, and the whole situation remains under constant review.
The origin of that situation and the reasons for its present continuance can only be understood in the light of the nature and policy of the Congress Party. Originally democratic in its organisation and constitutional in its methods, the Congress Party has progressively become a dictatorship, aiming at the expulsion by revolutionary, though professedly non-violent methods, of the existing British Raj 70 and its supersession by a Congress Raj. For the detailed story of that evolution I can only commend to the House the masterly and objective survey of the last seven years of Indian politics embodied in the second volume of Professor Coup-land's Report to the Nuffield Trust. For myself, I would only go back over the past sufficiently to make the events of recent months intelligible. The particular character and methods of the Congress Party have largely been shaped by a single man, Mr. Gandhi. I will not attempt here to assess the qualities of that remarkable and enigmatic personality. Many Members have no doubt read a recent book, "Grey Eminence," in which Mr. Aldous Huxley describes the combination in one person Father Joseph—Francçois du Tremblay—of the devout mystic with the unscrupulous political adviser who helped Cardinal Richelieu to keep Europe distracted by a generation of disastrous war. Enough for me to say that Mr. Gandhi's peculiar appeal to the Hindu veneration for the ascetic has helped to make him the unquestioned dictator, the "permanent super-president," to use Mr. Nehru's description, of by far the largest, best financed and most rigidly-drilled party organisation in India.
In the Provincial elections of 1937 the Congress Party secured 711 out of 1,585 seats, that is to say, less than a majority even in British India. But it was enough to give the Party an absolute majority in five Provinces and the control of three others. This unexpected result would seem to have intoxicated the Congress Party leaders with a sense of new-found power. Overriding and ignoring the growing intensity of the opposition which they were piling up in India itself, they persuaded themselves that they and they alone were India. Only a relatively small effort, so it seemed to them, was still required in order to displace British rule at the centre and for the Congress Party, to use Mr. Gandhi's phrase, to "take delivery." The imminence of war came as a shock not only to Mr. Gandhi's sincere pacifism, but also to those dreams of early power. At the first sign of preparations to meet the coming danger 71 the Congress members were ordered to boycott the Central Legislature. In their absence that Legislature unquestioningly accepted the brief statement in which Sir Muhammed Zafrulla Khan, as leader of the House, declared that all present were determined to do their duty to King and country. The far-reaching provisions of the Defence of India Act were passed without a division. The Ministries and Legislatures of the Punjab, Bengal, and Sind endorsed the attitude of the Central Legislature, as did the Liberal and Mahasabha Parties. The Ruling Princes of India, both individually and afterwards by unanimous vote of the Chamber of Princes, vindicated their traditional loyalty to the King-Emperor by their pledges and their actions. The part India has since played in the war is known to all the world. It is as well that I should remind the House of these facts. They are the conclusive answer to the wholly untruthful legend promulgated by the Congress Party and since, I regret to say, too readily swallowed outside, of a reluctant India dragged into a war in which she had no voice and in whose issues she felt no concern. During the next few weeks Lord Linlithgow strove with unwearying patience to persuade the Congress leaders to co-operate with the Government and with the leaders of other parties in support of the war effort. The only answer was the summary edict, to which I have already referred, of the "High Command" suspending self-government in the Congress Party's Provinces. In the following August the Viceroy issued a far-reaching Declaration which, in fact, pledged us to the acceptance, at the earliest possible moment after the war, of India's completely free and equal partnership in the British family of nations, under a Constitution of her own devising. At the same time, it invited the party leaders, on the strength of that pledge, to co-operate in the war effort by joining the Viceroy's Executive. Mr. Gandhi and his colleagues contemptuously refused even to discuss that offer, and Mr. Gandhi followed up that refusal by launching a campaign of individual protest against India's participation in the war. That campaign proved a complete fiasco and petered out in the course of 1941.
In March of last year my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Air- 72 craft Production went out to India. The proposals which he was charged to explain were so far-reaching, so generous and so explicit that it at one time seemed almost inconceivable that they could be rejected. Even within the ranks of the Congress Working Committee influential elements were known to be strongly in favour of its acceptance.
§ Mr. Amery
They are well known. The Minister and others have publicly mentioned them. Why were those proposals rejected? The first reason was the same as that which had caused the contemptuous rejection of the Declaration of August, 1940. It was the assumption underlying both Declarations that India can only be free under a Constitution system arrived at by agreement between the main elements in her national life. Both in fact denied the claim of the Congress Party to "take delivery" of India at our hands. The last-moment Congress demand for the immediate setting-up of a National Government with full Cabinet powers was, in fact, an attempt to snatch that delivery. My right hon. and learned Friend was bound to reject it, for acceptance would have wrecked all prospects of agreement with the minorities.
There was, however, another, and at that moment probably even stronger, reason for rejection. What was that moment? It was the moment of our worst defeats in the East. My right hon. and learned Friend's mission was announced by the Prime Minister on 11th March, three days after the fall of Rangoon. While the negotiations were in progress the Japanese were advancing rapidly. Not only Ceylon, but Indian coastal ports, suffered bombing raids which looked like the harbingers of far worse to come for the great cities of Eastern India. It never occurred to us here that there was any connection between these events and the sending-out of my right hon. and learned Friend, but for Mr. Gandhi the connection would seem to have been only too obvious. In his eyes, the mission of my right hon. and learned Friend was the hoisting of a distress signal, a belated appeal to Congress to commit itself to a war policy which could only help to bring upon India 73 the horrors of invasion. Our offer was, for him, nothing more than—I quote his own words—" a post-dated cheque on a falling bank." During the weeks that followed the rejection of our proposals, weeks of continuous reverses in Burma, Mr. Gandhi concentrated all his efforts on a campaign by which the British Government of India was to be forced to "quit India," and hand over the control of a continent to such Government as might or might not emerge, or to abandon it to anarchy. How far he really believed that the Government of India could be driven to surrender, in view of the precariousness of the military situation——
§ General Sir George Jeffreys (Petersfield)
I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend, but would he be kind enough to speak a little more loudly?
§ Mr. Amery
Certainly, Sir. I am very sorry if I have not spoken loud enough. I was asking how far Mr. Gandhi really believed that the Government of India could be driven to surrender in view of the precariousness of the military situation or how far he was mainly concerned with reinsuring Congress with the victorious Japanese invader. It is impossible to say. Hon. Members will have read the White Paper in which Mr. Gandhi's original draft resolution of last April is included, beginning with the conclusion that:Britain is incapable of defending Indiaand going on to state:Japan's quarrel is not with India",and that a free India'sfirst step would probably be to negotiate with Japan.The House will also have followed the successive stages by which the original resolution was modified in deference to those elements, like Mr. Nehru, who were not only committed by their sincerely expressed past utterances to sympathy with China and Russia, but who are also far more alive to the desirability of conciliating opinion here and in the United States. With the one exception of Mr. Rajagopalachari, whose earnest and prophetic letter of appeal to Mr. Gandhi will, I hope, have been read by every Member—it is in Appendix II of the White Paper—the doubting Members of the Working Committee seem to have been content with an improvement in the façade of the 74 resolution. What is more significant is that they seem to have acquiesced in its conversion from a general demand that the British should quit India to the specific threat contained in the resolution of 14th July last that this demand was to be enforced by a campaign of mass civil disobedience or, to use Mr. Gandhi's own words, by "open rebellion."
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
Is it not also quite clear that the Working Committee did not in fact endorse Mr. Gandhi's intention or desire in regard to peace with Japan?
§ Mr. Amery
I daresay not. I have explained the reasons why that resolution was amended; but they did endorse that there should be open rebellion unless their claim was admitted. On 8th August, the All-Indian Congress Committee gave its definite endorsement and sanction to that rebellion. It may help the House to understand all that lay behind that decision when I remind them that the month which preceded it had seen us driven in retreat to within 50 miles of Alexandria and had recorded the fall of Rostov and the imminent threat to Stalingrad and the Caucasus, while only the monsoon due shortly to break seemed to stand between India and Japanese invasion.
Happily there was better and sterner stuff in India than the Congress leaders reckoned upon. Not only India, but the whole Allied cause, owes a deep debt of gratitude to the Indian Members of the Viceroy's Executive, whose swift and resolute decision to arrest the organisers of mischief caused the rebellion to go off at half cock. It owes no less to the loyal Indian Civil servants, policemen and soldiers who stood faithfully to their trust during the anxious and trying weeks that followed, and also to the vast majority of the Indian public, Hindu as well as Moslem, who stood aloof or even gave their active support to the authorities.
With the actual character and course of the Congress rebellion I dealt at some length in the Debate in October last. The whole subject is, of course, dealt with comprehensively in the White Paper, and I shall not weary the House by going over the same ground. If there are Members who, having studied the White Paper, can still believe that a really non-violent movement of national protest 75 was all that was ever intended or that Mr. Gandhi can have had any illusions as to the nature of the conflagration which he was determined to spread over India—well, I have really nothing to say to them. Nor is there anything I could say to those who are still prepared to argue that the concentrated and technically skilled attacks upon vital centres of communications and upon all Government buildings, associated as they were throughout both in person and in public estimation with the Congress Party, were a mere spontaneous manifestation of public indignation at the arrest of popular political leaders. There is a limit to credulity. No one who has taken the pains to go through the White Paper can remain in doubt as to what was intended and as to what was in fact attempted. The case against Mr. Gandhi and his associates is overwhelming. I have seen it asserted in certain quarters that the White Paper is a mere case for the prosecution, unsupported by the evidence required for a conviction.
§ Mr. Amery
It is a statement of facts, many of them elicited in the course of actual investigations before the courts. These facts have not been used to obtain a conviction, for there has been no trial, still less a conviction, of Congress leaders. They are facts which, at any rate, have afforded abundant additional justification for the Government of India's decision to detain the leading mischief makers in innocuous isolation. I say, "additional justification," for I must remind the House that the declared decision of the All-India Congress Committee to paralyse the Administration at a moment of grave national peril by a campaign of mass civil disobedience was in itself ample justification, and would have been so if not a single drop of blood had been shed or a single rail torn up. Flickering remnants of the conflagration still occur sporadically. The need for watchfulness remains, but, broadly speaking, it can be said that the Congress Party's rebellion has been successsfully dealt with by the Government of India, by the Provincial Governments concerned and by India at large.
Since then, there has been the curious epilogue of Mr. Gandhi's fast to capacity, 76 happily successful in that respect, happily unsuccessful in the attempt to coerce the Government of India into granting his unconditional release by the creation of an emotional crisis. It is to be regretted that three members of the Viceroy's Executive, men who had done eminent public service and not least in dealing with the troubles of last autumn, should have allowed themselves to be swayed by that emotional crisis. Their places, I understand, will be filled in the near future by no less capable Indian public men. There is no question of any going back on that expansion of the Council which Mr. Aney, one of the resigning members, has since his resignation described as "an outstanding reform," offering—I use his words:enough scope for solid service to the Indian people by the Indian members even under the existing system, and still more by the conventions which steadily and slowly grow up.To return to Mr. Gandhi, I understand the Viceroy has agreed to receive a deputation arising out of a recent meeting of non-party leaders in Bombay. These leaders apparently wish to suggest that Mr. Gandhi may now be disposed to be more reasonable if allowed contact with his detained Congress followers and with political leaders outside. I think the full account I have given to the House of Mr. Gandhi's attitude and of that of his party throughout the war, culminating in the reckless and defeatist action of last year, must have convinced the House how difficult, and indeed dangerous, it would be to consider any concession of that nature in the absence of the most explicit assurances and effective guarantees of a complete change of attitude and of conduct on the part of those who have already brought so much unhappiness upon India and who might still be capable of so much danger to the whole Allied cause in those future operations for which India must be the base. I can only say that no sign of any such change of heart in Mr. Gandhi can be traced in his recent correspondence with the Viceroy.
Where, then, do we stand? Is there no conciliatory gesture, no sympathetic initiative that might serve to break the deadlock, if not with the Congress leaders, at any rate between other Indian parties? I do not believe it is fair either to Lord Linlithgow, who has been unwearied in endeavouring to bring the parties together, or to those parties themselves, even to the Congress Party, to suggest that the dead- 77 lock is something which can be resolved by mere sympathetic handling or by some happy expedient that may have been overlooked in the framing of last year's Declaration. The differences are far too deep and too sincerely held. Mr. Jinnah, on the one side, and the Mahasabha leaders, on the other, to take the two extreme points of view, are each contending for what they and millions behind them believe to be vital principles between which, in their present mood and in the situation as they see it, they can see no compromise. It is no use blaming them. Let us rather see where the difference lies and what has so intensely aggravated it in recent years.
The Hindu majority of all parties—Congress, Liberals, Mahasabha—are substantially agreed in one thing, in insisting upon the maintenance of the unity of India, at least for the most essential common purposes. The Moslem attitude was clearly and unequivocally defined by the Moslem League's secretary and spokesman in a recent debate in the Assembly when he declared thatthe Moslems of India will never accept any form of central government which will place them at the mercy of the majority community.Are these two points of view really incompatible? They have not proved incompatible so long as the ultimate control has rested with the impartial authority of this House. Are they really and necessarily incompatible under that democratic freedom which not only all Indian parties but all parties in this House wish India to enjoy? The conclusion to which I personally have been driven ever more definitely by my contact with this problem over the last three years is that the problem is not insoluble. But it cannot be solved unless we, and still more Indians, can get away from the idea that there is only one sealed pattern of democracy, namely, the particular form of Parliamentary Executive which we have developed in this country. I believe with all my heart that ours is the best type of democracy in the world, the most flexible and yet also the strongest and most stable. But it can only exist in a relatively homogeneous country where free discussion can convert the minority of to-day into the majority of to-morrow, and where a strong tradition of national unity and of Parliamentary give and take transcend the exigencies of party passion 78 and the dictatorship of party organisations. Imposed as the central government of a Continent so deeply divided as India, that system would only spell the tyranny of an immovable permanent majority or else, in the alternative, disruption.
Would anyone dream of making our system the basis of a Federal Government for Europe? Let me take Switzerland. With its three separate races, Switzerland lives in happy unity under one of the most democratic federal Constitutions in the world, but a Constitution under which no one race and no one party can secure control of the Executive. I wonder whether even Switzerland could have hoped under our system to have escaped the contagion of nationalist conflict outside her borders.
Twenty-five years ago this House pledged itself to the progressive attainment of responsible government for India. We intended then, and we intend it even more directly and immediately today, that India should live under a Government responsible not to Parliament here, but to her own people under her own Constitution. What however we too lightly assumed and what we led India to assume was that this Government would necessarily be of our own particular type. The nearer we have come to the fulfilment of our pledge the more acute has become the internal deadlock in India. Experience of responsible government in the Provinces as controlled by a totalitarian Hindu oligarchy enormously accentuated it. Our recent declarations have only widened the breach. Yet I firmly believe there may be more than one way round. Like wasps buzzing angrily up and down against a window pane when an adjoining window may be wide open, we are all held up, frustrated and irritated, by the unrealised and insuperable barrier of our constitutional prepossessions. If only our mind, and above all the mind of India, could emerge from the rut of our accustomed lines of thought and look for fresh constructive solutions, wherever they may be found, adapted to Indian conditions, I am optimist enough to believe that the way round the present deadlock may be found, and perhaps found more rapidly than now seems possible. It is for Indians themselves to find the way. They alone can find a solution, for it is only when they have found it for themselves that they will be minded to make it succeed.
79 There is one thing more I want to add. The House has been very good to me during these last three years. It has, I think, given me credit for attempting to make such progress as the difficult circumstances have allowed. It has I hope given me credit for endeavouring to maintain a positive and constructive outlook in face of a baffling and bewildering problem. So I trust it will bear with me in what I am now going to say. We have no reason to be ashamed of our past record in India. Never, if I may venture to echo certain great words used by the Prime Minister in a different context, never have so few done so much for the well-being of so many, so much to dispel fear and alleviate want, as was done for the toiling millions of India by a handful of British administrators in the last century. (Interruption). The work was done, it is true, within the limitations of the outlook of the age and of the local conditions of the India of that time, but it was good and enduring work for all that. It succeeded because those who did it believed in their task and believed in themselves, and because we who sent them out believed in ourselves and had faith in our mission in the world. Because we believed in our mission, India believed in it, too, and responded.
To-day we live in a very different age; we are dealing with a very different India; our own outlook upon all these problems of government and of racial relationships has undergone, and rightly undergone, a profound change. Have we brought into that new age the same faith or the same confident vision that inspired an earlier generation? There was inspiration in the old vision, and no one can deny it, of a beneficent paternal Empire. How much more splendid, more inspiring, is the vision of a Commonwealth of free nations, freely associated in equal partnership, regardless of all differences of race or of creed, a partnership not merely for mutual defence or mutual trade, but a partnership and, what is more, a lead to the world, in all good living, in all right thinking, in all generous striving. If we have failed to inspire India with that vision, if our response to Indian nationalism has looked to Indians too much like a reluctant yielding to pressure, if our desire to keep India within the Commonwealth has seemed to them a mere instinctive 80 hanging-on to some last indefinable shred of past authority, may it not be due to the fact that we have not ourselves realised sufficiently vividly the vision of a united Commonwealth? How can we expect the Indians to share that vision of a united Commonwealth in all its range of opportunity, in all its breadth of freedom, if—I hope I may be allowed to quote two lines of Francis Thompson:'Tis we, 'tis our estrangèd faces,That miss the many-splendoured thingAs for faith, surely what we in this little Island, what we of this loosely bound yet amazingly coherent Commonwealth, this youngest yet infinitely hopeful experiment in super-national co-operation, what we have already shown to the world in the darkest hours of the present struggle—surely that should give us faith in ourselves and in the ideals and the possibilities of that Commonwealth in facing the tasks before us.
Of those tasks none can compare in importance to every member of our Commonwealth as well as to the future peace of Asia and of the world, with the solution, on a stable and enduring basis, of this great and difficult problem of India. We cannot solve it by shirking our responsibilities to the peoples of India, and of the Allied cause, while the enemy is at India's gates. We can help to solve it only by our continuing good will to India, by our active interest in India, by our encouragement of every effort that Indians may make to find their own way out of their present deadlock; above all, it may be, by imparting to them some measure of our own faith in our common future.
Mr. Amman (Camberwell, North)
Whatever differences of opinion might emerge on some points between the right hon. Gentleman and myself, I bear testimony, without any qualification, to the undoubted interest and sympathy which the right hon. Gentleman has shown towards India for many years. Many of us remember the struggles that took place in 1935 and the very gallant part that the right hon. Gentleman played in connection with India's interest. I think it is only fair that I should pay testimony to that at the outset. There are one or two very small points which I would like to clear out of the way. I hesitate sometimes to raise very elementary questions for fear that they 81 might seem so obvious as to be not worth while, but I find on talking to people that things which seem to need no explanation often are not understood. I think some trouble would be saved if in documents published by the India Office, and even in speeches like that to which we have just listened, it was made clear that the word "Congress" does not mean a Parliamentary Assembly, but a party. I have been very much impressed by the fact that one or two American friends to whom I have talked recently have thought that when we spoke about the Congress of India we were talking of something like their own Congress, whereas we were really talking about something like our own Labour Party, Conservative Party, or Communist Party. I know that there were even Members of this House who at one time were confused on that issue. That is a little thing, but it is one of those things which count, especially overseas, among people who are not well versed in these matters.
Another thing to which I wish to call attention, and which I think is worth while referring to, having regard to some interruptions which occurred during the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, is the point made in the statement of the Party with which I am connected. In our statement of August last we made it quite clear that we wanted to see thatthe establishment of a free India in the postwar world is secure.The statement went on to condemnthe present attempt to organise a civil disobedience movement in India as certain to injure seriously the hope of Indian freedom and give encouragement and comfort to the common enemy.However circumstances may vary, that is still the policy of the Labour Party. That should be made quite clear. I welcomed very much the published White Paper. I am bound to say that, after reading it, I regretted its format, as likely somewhat to acerbate the ill feeling existing, because it conveys the impression of being purely an ex parte statement. It seems to me that it would have been better had the letters been published without comment. I do not suggest that that was done intentionally, but there it is. People, like myself, who have none but the best intentions in regard to India and who acknowledge the great part this country has played, see just a trace of some special pleading, which gives a handle to people in other parts of 82 the world. I hope that that suggestion will be taken in the spirit in which I present it. We are living in such difficult and dangerous times that we do not want to do anything which is likely to widen the breach and to acerbate feeling or to make the Indians think that they are not getting a fair deal. Having said that, I realise that no good purpose could be served by harking back to past disagreements, if India is to be saved from a spiritual blackout without precedent in history.
When we are told by people like Mr. Gandhi that the British presence in India is an incentive to the Japs, we have only to answer with the single word "Siam"—where we were not. With the best will in the world, and with a desire to have a sympathetic understanding of India's case, I cannot see how the Government in the midst of a life-and-death struggle could have done otherwise than they have. One of my hon. Friends who interrupted has now gone, which is a pity, as I wanted him to listen to this. Not only would any other action by the Government have endangered the British Empire, but it would have thrown open the door to attacks on China and Russia. There is also our duty to other sections in India—the Moslems, the depressed classes, the Sikhs, and the Indian Christians, all of whom have indicated in no uncertain tone that they are not prepared to come under the rule of the Congress Party in India. We always compare the numbers of the Congress Party and the Moslems; but when you add those other groups, you will see that the Congress Party do not represent more than about half of the population of India. Probably it is the largest and the strongest political party that has ever been organised, but its methods are dictatorial.
It was underfortunate that the Cripps mission came at a time when the British Army had had a severe setback and when there was also a spectacular Japanese advance in Malaya and other parts. That had an undoubted influence on Congress party opinion. Mr. Nehru decidedly changed his opinion. There is no desire on my part to minimise the black pages in the British Government's record, but it is difficult to understand why the offer of August, 1942, should have been turned down, except, as one sees it now, in retrospect, because of the fear that Britain 83 was beaten and the Allied cause lost and that we should not be able to implement our policy. Mr. Gandhi probably had that fear, and thought that it was best to agree quickly with his enemy, or, perhaps more likely, he saw the sands of time running out and was in haste to come to some agreement before he was called to pass on. Let me quote Mr. Gandhi's own words:The voice within me tells me I shall have to fight against the whole world or stand alone…Even if the United Nations oppose me, even if the whole of India tries to persuade me that I am wrong, even then I will go ahead, not for India's sake alone but for the sake of the whole world…. I cannot wait any longer for India's freedom. I cannot wait until Mr. Jinnah is converted…. If I wait any longer God will punish me. This is the last struggle of my life.We want no further evidence that this is a man who feels that time is against him. Up to a certain point, Mr. Nehru had been more or less successful in winning the approval of the party for the point of view he took. Let there be no mistake in the mind of any hon. Member. Sir Stafford Cripps—if I might use the name—put to India an offer which was clear and explicit. There was no dubiety about it. He offered perfect freedom and liberty, full recognition and Dominion status, and explicit assurances were given that they would be free to secede from the Commonwealth of Nations if and when they thought it necessary. Surely there could have been no call for anything more explicit. Only idle fear or a desire to take advantage of the difficult position of this country and the Allied Nations could have led to the offer being turned down. A question was put directly to the right hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) as to whether there was any difficulty about India participating in the Atlantic Charter. The answer was clear and specific—"None at all." During all this time the war position was steadily deteriorating, and that undoubtedly lent a good deal of colour to, and had a good deal of influence in, persuading the Congress Party to take the line it did. The parties made no effort to settle their own disputes, nor did they even confer as to any agreed response to these proposals. It is impossible to carry on negotiations in that way.
The tragedy of it all is that in this country there was never a greater and a more genuine desire that India should be 84 free to work out her own salvation. But you cannot do this if the other side will not play up. That is the position in which we find ourselves at the present time. They pressed for immediate self-government, but how could that be given when the Japanese were already at the gates? That was not the only concern of this country. We had our debt to China and Russia and the rest of India, who had looked to us for protection in past times. Against all that we had the very explicit statements by people like Dr. Ambedkar, the President of the National Democratic Union, and the President of the Indian Communists, all in most unequivocable language, saying that in no circumstances would they agree to come under a Government wholly consisting of the Congress Party. We cannot get away from that. The statements are set out in Professor Coupland's Report without any doubt whatever. Dr. Ambedkar says:I yield to none in my desire for the freedom of this country…but it would be madness to weaken law and order when the barbarians are at our gates.The President of the National Democratic Union said:We will not allow this country to be betrayed by a misguided visionary like Gandhi.There is the voice of India itself, to which some heed must be given and of which account must be taken. In looking through an old book the other day, I came across this quotation from Dr. Max Müller, who said:If I were to look over the whole world to find out the country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power and beauty that Nature can bestow—in some parts a very paradise on earth—I should point to India. If I were asked under what sky the human mind has most fully developed some of the choicest gifts, has most deeply pondered on the greatest problems of life, and found solutions of some of them which well deserve the attention even of those who have studied Plato and Kant—I should point to India.Surely then, everything should be done that is possible, and we hope that India will come into full partnership and discussion of the new order that we are trying to set up in the world. We should say that, whatever mistakes and blunders we may have made, we now open the door, and it is surely for India to enter as and when she will. What can we do to link up the potentialities of the people for world freedom? One does not deny 85 that the Congress Party were at one time a constitutional party. Mr. Gandhi seemed to be well disposed towards Britain, but he appeared to dissemble later. In the last war we had no cause whatever to complain about his attitude. Perhaps it is our fault. If it is, it is certainly our responsibility to give the lead as far as we can. I am sure that to a certain extent the right hon. Gentleman made suggestions himself in his speech. We have to appeal with imagination, generosity and faith to the men of good will in India, who want strengthening in order that their position may be upheld in the fight that they are putting up. The position has undoubtedly altered since the rejection of the Cripps mission, when there was a feeling that this country was going to be defeated and that we would be unable to defend India, and there was probably the understandable position that they wanted to make the best possible terms with the invader. Now, with a somewhat brightening position, there is an opportunity for us yet again to enter into further discussions. We might, even at the risk of a certain loss of face, take the initiative in this connection. It is no good always criticising and declaiming unless we are prepared to make some suggestions even though they may not commend themselves.
There is one person who could do a great deal in this connection—the Prime Minister himself. One curious thing has developed in the prosecution of the war. It is the tremendous reliance which has been placed by people of different nations on the spoken word, and on none more than that of our own Prime Minister, whose word has carried great power and authority, and who knows the meaning and value of words. All that he has said about India was during the discussions of 1933, when he was most strongly against the proposals, and by a curious turn of the wheel of fortune the right hon. Gentleman was his opponent. Here is an opportunity for them to link up forces and for the Prime Minister to help in that respect by making such an appeal that there will be no question as to where he stands. He gave us a certain lead recently. I wonder how many hon. Members noticed it. In his broadcast appeal he made a suggestion about a Council of Asia. There is a beginning; the door is slightly ajar. A United States broadcast commentator the other day rather deplored that he did not say 86 a little more with regard to China, and I say the same with regard to India. Let the right hon. Gentleman develop that theme a little more. India and China in the Council of Asia can do a tremendous lot and can take the whole leadership of the Far East in Which we hope to rebuild the world. I suggest one connection in which that can be done. We have tried and been successful in this sphere. Canada and South Africa are outstanding examples. There we have had the racial problem, and, looking back, we can thank God for the foresight of men like Campbell-Bannerman, who took the step he did with regard to South Africa, The Prime Minister himself then took a prominent part, and he should now play his rightful role.
But having said that, the problem is not quite the same. There was a large admixture of Europeans, and there was to a large extent a common language, although we recognised the Dutch and the French. There is a great psychological difference here. We have to remember that, in regard to the Eastern question, it is not an easy thing to overcome. It can only be overcome by patience and a determination to be friendly and to work together. Here is an opportunity again, with the brightening of the prospects of the United Nations, of which we have had good news to-day. There is an opportunity for high statesmanship and good will to make a step in this direction. The right hon. Gentleman anticipated something that I was going to say with regard to the Swiss Government. Pakistan will not and cannot be accepted in India. Nevertheless, there is an opportunity to put something into the arena which may form something around which people may discuss and from which something may evolve. The Swiss Government have something in this respect. In their cantons they can fight on party lines, but party has no effect in the higher Federal Legislature. Surely, we can try and find a way out of our difficulties along similar lines, so that we may come together. If we could get together and talk I have no fear of what the result would be, with patience and helpful influence on both sides. It was Mr. Nehru who first pointed out that Mahatma Gandhi's line would make India a passive partner of the Axis, though he altered that view afterwards when Mr. Gandhi's star was in the ascendant. All 87 the conditions which brought about that state are no longer there. It is necessary that India should stand up and realise those great attributes and qualities in the quotation from Dr. Max Müller. That can be done. We want to do nothing in this Debate to stir up ill-feeling or ill-will in India or elsewhere. Rather, we should send out a message to-day that, whatever mistakes may have been made in the past and whatever suspicions they may have with regard to the White Paper, as far as this House, Parliament, and the majority of the people are concerned, there is no desire other than that India shall be free at the earliest possible moment to play her great and undoubted part in establishing a new and better order of society, and that she can hasten that time if she will bend her will and her energy in order to overthrow the power and forces that threaten everything that is worth while in India and in the rest of the world.
§ Captain Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
The House has had the privilege of listening to two speeches remarkable for the spirit of statesmanship which inspired them. I am glad that the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) paid such a tribute to the Secretary of State for India. I was grieved to see in a London daily paper this morning an attack upon him, implying that he was backward in imagination and an obstructionist. Anyone who has listened to his public utterances, and even more anyone who has had private conversations with him, must know that Indian nationhood has no warmer friend than the Secretary of State for India. I would like that to be said and put on record. As far as I am concerned, in the few remarks I am going to address to the House it seems to me the matter of statesmanship lies in dealing as little as I can with the White Paper and with recent events. The White Paper may serve to point a moral or adorn a tale, but it does not present anything fundamentally new upon which we can base our future policy. It deals, in all conscience, with tragic and serious events, tragic because they entail much human suffering and because they testify to much misplaced human idealism, and serious because they deal with open rebellion in time of war because they imply that a large part of India was in a state of open unrest. For 88 that very reason I would not dwell upon it too much, because it would distort the truth.
I doubt very much whether a quarter of one per cent. of the population of India has been involved in the recent disturbances; indeed, I have heard people who have said that the right figure should be a quarter of that. It seems to me that the White Paper deals rather with personalities and symptoms rather than with fundamental causes. There is much we can learn from it, but there is little we did not know before. There is much we can learn about Congress in its trend towards totalitarianism, and in its divisions, as shown in the varying views expressed by Mr. Gandhi, Mr. Nehru and Mr. Rajagopalachari. It makes one wonder what would happen if Mr. Gandhi retired or was removed from the political scene. We can learn plenty from the White Paper about the development of Mr. Gandhi's activities and a possible explanation of those activities. It is a not uncommon type of case, the mystic who goes in for politics. The mystic knows that suffering for him is a means of grace, an essential means. By a distortion of reasoning he is willing that humanity should suffer, in order that others may ultimately benefit. This is contrary to Western ideas. This quotation from Mr. Gandhi shows what I mean:I have not asked the British to hand over India to the Congress or the Hindus. Let them entrust India to God or in modern parlance to anarchy. Then all the parties will fight one another like dogs, or will, when real responsibility faces them, come to a reasonable agreement.Clearly he believed that out of the suffering will come great benefit for the rest of India. But the main impression I received from the White Paper is that Indian politicians live in a miasma of unreality. If there was ever a case in the world that demanded a spirit of realism it is the Indian problem. We must at all costs not be deflected by symptoms and by day-to-day events from the root causes that underlie the nature of the situation. For that reason I deplore what I regard as a major heresy held by many people in this country, who seem to think that our main duty is to keep the ball rolling, to keep conversations open. It is a frame of mind that implies that a solution is round the corner if only we have the wits to find it. I am convinced that there is no easy solution 89 of the Indian problem, no quick solution. I pray that there will be a solution within a measurable time, although I very much doubt whether the Indian problem is different from any other political problem. By which I mean that the only thing to do is to make the best of a very difficult job. The Indian situation, like every other, is governed by hard intractable facts, and one stands out above all others. It was dwelt upon by the Secretary of State and by the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Camberwell. It is this: that Indians cannot agree with Indians. Critics of the Government may say that this is a mere debating point, an excuse, for not leaving India. But it is not; it is the crux of the whole problem. Everything depends upon it, and will do so, in my opinion, for as long as we can foresee.
The more I think about India—and I think a lot about India because I am convinced that India is the most important single political subject with which a Member of this House has to deal—the more I am convinced that history may well judge this country by the way in which we solve the Indian problem. The more I think of Indian matters the more I am convinced that the problem in a nutshell is the word "Unity." We are concerned not with the relations between this country and India, but with relations between Indians and Indians. That cannot be said too often. Our objective has been made perfectly clear. It is the free and equal partnership of India in the British Commonwealth of Nations, and by "free and equal" we mean the right to contract out if they wish. That implies some form of democracy. Both my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Camberwell went over some of the various alternative forms of democracy. All I would commit myself to saying is that we are committed to some form of Indian Government which has the consent of most Indians and of most Indian sections of opinion. I still do not think that the Act of 1935 was a bad Act. But if India thinks that it was, then let us repeal it. Democracy does not demand uniformity if it is to function, but it does demand the spirit of unity. With the great diversity of races, religions, cultures and levels of civilisation, you will never get uniformity in India.
90 But one must have that spirit of unity that believes that the whole is greater than the part. Let us remember that. We are trying to do for India what We should like to see done for Europe. We, in Europe, know all about minorities, the different races, the different religions and the different opinions all intermixed closely in this continent. But there is no intermixture in Europe which can compare with that in India. The whole future of India depends upon the development of Indian unity. Our duty is to face the ugly, unpalatable fact that the spirit of unity, far from increasing, seems to be growing less. A few years ago there were constitutional Governments in every Province. Now you have constitutional Governments in five Provinces, and not in the remaining six. It is a serious situation. It does not mean that Indian statesmanship is bankrupt, but it emphasises that India is being increasingly led to sectional differences. For example, for what proportion of India can Congress speak? I think Congress is the focus of discontent far wider in appeal than it is representative of Indian opinion. For I doubt very much whether Congress represents the opinion of more than 20 to 25 per cent. of the Indian population to-day.
Again, take Pakistan, perhaps the most significant phenomenon in political India. As hon. Members know, it means, ostensibly, independent Moslem States with Dominion status. It is envisaged that there should be an independent State in the North-West covering Sind and the Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province. For the time being Hyderabad would be an independent State, and there would be an independent State covering three-quarters of Bengal. I welcome the Pakistan idea as a symbol of Moslem resurgence for I believe our Moslem fellow-subjects in India have not contributed all that might be expected of them towards Indian culture and progress during the last 200 years, but politically the idea is fantastic. You have in Bengal a bare majority of Moslems, but 80 per cent. of the wealth and education of Bengal is in Hindu hands. Can anybody who has any knowledge of Indian history say he is prepared to face acceptance of the Pakistan idea? It has been made more fantastic recently by the latest suggestion of Mr. Jinnah that North-West and North- 91 Eastern India should be joined by a sort of corridor. This is indeed the miasma of unreality. The hon. Member for North Camberwell said that Pakistan could not be accepted. Whom cannot it be accepted by? If Mr. Jinnah and the Moslems say that they insist on Pakistan, who is to tell them that it cannot be accepted? What overriding power is there in India that can say that it cannot be accepted? What overriding power is there to say that the Sikhs cannot have a Sikhistan in the Punjab? What overriding power can say to any other minority that they cannot have their own independent State? There is only one, and that is that power which gave unity to India. Unity came to India with us. It may be possible that just as unity was given by Britain, so it may not be able to survive the British connection. Are we prepared to contemplate the possibility of those for whom we are trustees and for whom our primary responsibility rests being subjected to the conditions that existed before we came to India. Our primary responsibility is for the great masses of the peoples of India. They are our creation; we may almost be said to have begotten them. For we created the circumstances in which they could be born and live. The primary responsibility of any government is to see that their citizens survive, and continue to survive. Are we prepared to go back to the old disunited condition of India, having due regard to our responsibility for the great masses of the Indian people? I beg the House to believe that this is not a debating point. It is the crux of the whole situation, upon which everything depends.
I may seem to be speaking in a pessimistic frame of mind. I am, if one means by pessimistic that I do not see any quick easy solution of the Indian problem, but I am optimistic, if one means by optimistic that I still have great faith in Indian statesmanship, if the situation is properly handled. If this country follows a wise policy there may still be an epoch of happiness, progress and contentment in front of India. What should our policy be in the light of what I have said? It must be this: We must resolve to do what we believe to be right without regard to criticism. I have an uneasy feeling that our Indian policy has been and is being dictated by the spirit of placating our critics at the expense of those for whom 92 we are responsible. We are not responsible to the American people. It is no good trying to get a fleeting popularity there, and to appease anti-British feeling, which has always existed and always will exist in America, at the expense of our Indian fellow subjects, by doing what we do not quite think absolutely right in regard to India.
There are critics in India. Are we quite sure that we have not been guilty of appeasement in India? I am not calling for a policy of blood and iron, but are we sure we have done justice in India? Is my right hon. Friend quite sure, in the light of all that comes out in this White Paper, that Gandhi ought not to have been charged with treason? Is he quite sure that justice is being done? Are we quite sure that we have not tried to placate ill-informed criticism in this country? Are we quite sure in our own hearts that we do not try to placate cowardly consciences? Having convinced ourselves that we have made up our minds from the highest possible motives, we should go forward bravely. Having made up our minds as to our course of policy, we should carry it through, not trying to placate weakly and sickly consciences by doing what we believe is not 100 per cent. right. We must do what we believe to be right without regard to criticism from any quarter whatever. We must stick by our friends in India, by which I mean the friends of ordered liberty. Let it be known in every Indian village that we will have no truck with tyranny, but that we believe that our responsibility to those for whom we are trustees demands that ordered liberty shall be maintained. We must give of our best. No second best can possibly do. If we bear in mind this approach on the basis of trusteeship, we cannot go wrong. It is the safest touchstone if we ask ourselves, "How will this affect the masses of India?" not "How will it affect America?" "How will it affect elections in this country?" or "How will it affect ourselves?" Let us always bear in mind that we are trustees for hundreds of millions of the masses of India.
There is one other subject with which I want to deal. I do not believe that political India is the only India. There is the military India, the India which is fighting a war, and here it would be churlish indeed if I forbore to pay a sincere tribute to the magnificent and outstanding 93 achievement of the Indian Forces. Then there is commerce, there is education and there is what I might sum up under the head of culture. I regret to say that all these are fields where there may still be a certain amount of bitterness and suspicion. Is India convinced that we mean to Indianise as large a portion of the Army as possible? Some years ago I visited the Indian Military Academy at Dehra Dun, and I was immensely impressed. Let us make it clear to India that we mean to press forward the Indianisation of the Indian Army as far as possible. Then what steps do we take to see that our young men who go into commerce in India are equipped for the task, that they know something of the languages, and that they are sent there to understand India as ambassadors of this country? There is education. I wonder how many Members realise the vast field of education in India. I was there a few years ago, only for a short time, I am sorry to say, and was amazed to learn—I speak from memory—that there are something like 1,200 high schools in Bengal. How many of them have contact with British educational establishments? They need it terribly. Then there is what I call culture. What do we know in this country about Indian civilisation, whether alive to-day, in language and folk-lore and village industries, or as the civilisation of the past? Has it struck anyone to compare our attitude towards those countries for which we are responsible in the Orient with the attitude of the Netherlands and France? Has anyone taken the trouble to see how carefully the Netherlands before the war trained men to play their part in the East Indies? I have studied it very superficially, and it fills me with shame.
What does the ordinary Englishman know of Indian history? Does he know that Indian history is as ancient and romantic as that of any civilisation that has ever existed? It is a most fascinating subject. Has it occurred to anyone to inquire how much the Government in this country spend on Indian art in this country? There are lectureships in Indian history at Oxford and Cambridge, and about an eighth of the money spent on the Victoria and Albert Museum goes to Indian subjects, but hardly anything else is done for India. Not a single Rhodes scholarship goes to India. There is no Indian centre in this Metropolis at all, the capital of the greatest Oriental 94 Empire in the world. We have to take some trouble about India. We have to put ourselves out to learn, understand and sympathise. I wonder how many Members agreed with me when I said I thought India was the most important single subject with which we have to deal. If we are to serve India—and indeed we must—we must put ourselves out a little. It seems to me that India is rather like the Sleeping Beauty. We woke her from her age-long sleep and introduced her into the modern world, a world difficult and complex. It will not do just to leave India to drift into the modern world by herself. The Sleeping Beauty in the story married the Prince, who gave her love and understanding, and they lived happily ever afterwards. Have we given India love and understanding? What India needs is understanding and sympathy and comprehension, and that will take trouble. I am convinced that this is by far the greatest of our responsibilities. I am convinced that, together, Britain and India could go a long way to bridge the gulf that exists between East and West. I am convinced that the chance is before us, now, and I beg the House as a whole to grasp it with both hands.
§ Mr. Graham White (Birkenhead, East)
I agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman that India is one of the most important matters with which we have to deal at present. I am no less in agreement with him when he hopes that we shall not be unduly influenced by opinion in America or other countries. I hope that in all our relations with India in the future we shall be true to what is the special mission of our people. Let us remember that the conception of colonial government, proceeding to independence, is a British invention in which we have every reason to take pride. If, so far, our transactions with our Indian fellow citizens have failed to achieve that purpose, it is a matter for profound regret, not an excuse for not going further, but to strengthen us in our intention to build the bridge between East and West to which the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred. It is perhaps no bad thing that this discussion is taking place on the Motions for the confirmation of these Orders, because they serve to remind us of the great part in Indian life which Indians are playing at present. The House has no choice in the circumstances in which we are met to-day but to confirm these Orders. They are, like the Bill that 95 we passed in October, a regrettable necessity in present circumstances. The House will not wish to spend much time on the Orders but will wish to discuss the situation dispassionately. I hope I shall say no word which will darken counsel, but will try to discuss it in the hope that the House as a whole, by dealing with the situation realistically, may perhaps bring us closer to the day when some solution may be found.
The White Paper is indeed a lamentable document, because it contains no proposal which carries us nearer to a solution of the Indian problem. It is a lamentable document on account of the deplorable story of violence, murder and crime which it unfolds. In that respect it is a tragic document. I think it would have been a better document if there has been no element of advocacy in it, for the element of advocacy adds nothing to its strength. On the contrary, it raises elements of controversy of a minor character in regard to the problem as a whole. My knowledge of events in India, even apart from what is contained in the White Paper, leaves no doubt in my mind that the leaders of Congress, or some of them, in spite of the efforts which Pandit Nehru and his friends, brought to bear on the discussion, were in some measure committed to acts of violence and revolution on a wide scale. To any dispassionate and impartial mind I think there can be no doubt of that. It is a deplorable conclusion to have to come to, and I can imagine that it must be a cause of the greatest possible sorrow to Gandhi himself. The Secretary of State said he would not attempt to assess that enigmatic figure, and what the Secretary of State would not attempt I am less likely to attempt to do. Mr. Gandhi is a great figure in India, and his great achievements which will be judged by history to his credit. He has been responsible more than any other man for the stirring of the Indian conscience politically and the development of national feeling and patriotism in India. Those who have made any study of Indian politics and Indian conditions cannot fail to be moved, even if they are not astonished, by the fact that he at any rate has met with considerable success in altering the conditions and outlook for the depressed or scheduled classes in India—a very remarkable achievement. Now we come to what must distress every friend 96 of Mr. Gandhi, the breaking of his plans and the failure of his life's work. He has professed throughout his life allegiance to non-violence, whatever non-violence may mean. I regret that there has moved from Europe to Asia an attack of that cloudy thinking which finds its outward verbal manifestation in the fixing of some innocent prefix such as "non" or "pre" before an adjective.
What exactly does "non-violence" mean? It does not help me to think straight when I see expressions of that kind. The opposite to violence, if I know my own language, is peace and gentleness and not a state which permits you to be violent on one day and peaceful on the next. It is the same line of expression which the Italians adopted when they said they were non-belligerent, a state which allows you to do the maximum amount of damage to your opponent while hoping to escape the consequences. God forbid that I should attribute motives of that kind to Mr. Gandhi, but this is on the lines of the same habit of sloppy unconsidered thinking which is working so much mischief in the world, and I profoundly regret that Mr. Gandhi should see realised under the policy of non-violence the things which he has deplored most.
I am a little puzzled to know why in these discussions and in the White Paper no reference is made to the activities of Mr. Subhas Bose. From Berlin he is engaged, through the powerful ruthless propaganda machine of Germany, on an attempt to persuade the Indian people to come within the sphere of Axis influence. He is inviting them to come within the new order, which will give them precisely what it has given to the people under Hitler's heel, the right to do what they are told and to die if they refuse. I should like to know what place the activities of Mr. Subhas Bose take in the development of these lamentable events. It is one of the saddest aspects of the development of affairs in India that, whatever may or may not have been in the minds of Congress since the mission of the Minister of Aircraft Production failed, the events which took place—the attacks upon railways, upon police stations, upon Government houses, and a general attempt to paralyse the war effort—are precisely the same steps that would have been taken by Mr. Subhas Bose or any other agent acting under German instructions. That is the sad and lamentable fact which I hope 97 the Congress leaders and others will take into account when they go over these transactions in their minds and when as patriots they must be thinking how they can help India in her distress.
I do not know what we can do in this country to help India, but it is clear that with the increasing desire in this country for freedom for India, keeping pace at last with the desire of India itself, the difficulties seem to grow greater. It is, indeed, a difficult situation, but we cannot stand still. We cannot rest upon a period of repression. That is quite impossible. We must, therefore, be alert to do everything we can to promote a situation from which fluidity may come. It may be, as the Secretary of State pointed out, that on the old set lines in which politics and parties have been working in India for so long no solution can be found, but we should do everything we can to prevent the growth and the maintenance of bitterness which may lead to the permanent estrangement of ourselves and Indians as well as the estrangement and bitterness of parties within India itself. A deputation which the Secretary of State referred to is to interview the Viceroy in the near future. It is to be led by Mr. Rajagopalachari, Sir Teg Sapru and others. Let me in passing pay a tribute to all those men who, with scant encouragement, have persisted in trying to find an accommodation in India. If these men in their judgment think it will serve a useful purpose to have a discussion with Mr. Gandhi, as he has suggested, on the course of events and to endeavour to show him the error of his ways, the Viceroy would take a heavy responsibility if he stood in the way.
I take the same view as the Secretary of State with regard to the future of India's affairs. He says that a solution can be found. I think so too. It may well be that it will need new men to find it, new ideas and a new approach, but there is now a new element in the situation which was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon). He spoke of the part which India must play unless she is false to herself in the new Asia which will be part of the world when war comes to an end. The Prime Minister in his broadcast speech referred to the possibility of a Council of Asia. That may very well be part of the mechanism or the machinery of world control. A free India would be 98 an essential part of that machinery. Freedom is the greatest gift in life because without it life is worth nothing. The greatest attribute of freedom is the opportunity it gives of co-operating with other free peoples for the advancement and maintenance of peace and the gradual building up of those higher standards of human conduct which are necessary if the world is again to be a fit place for human habitation. If there is to be a Council of Asia at the end of the war India, with her population, her culture and her natural and industrial resources, must play a leading, indeed, a decisive part in co-operation with China and Russia. If India is to play that part to which she is called it can only be on the condition that she is free and united.
Here is a great mission standing out before all Indian statesmen. Is it not time that they began to review the paths they have trodden and to see whether they cannot fit their country to play the great part for which she is destined? I rather take the view that we can outside India do far less for India than can be done within it. There is no question that this country wishes to see India free and enjoying, as the Secretary of State said in a happy phrase, the same amount of freedom we enjoy ourselves, neither more nor less. That is, I think, what possesses the mind of every Englishman at the present time. We must remember, and I ask our Indian friends to remember, that our honour is pledged to freedom for India. The offer that was taken to India by the special mission last April holds good until it is replaced by something which is more practical and better. Therefore, we must continue to be careful that in this country we do nothing and say nothing which will increase the difficulties, and we must not leave any doubt in the minds of Indians as to where we stand. Straight thinking and a facing of realities are, indeed, essential in the Indian situation, and I regret to observe that from time to time observations are made which seem to be calculated to create a false impression as regards the attitude of this country.
I have received by the courtesy of friends several copies of an address which was recently delivered by an eminent prelate, who speaks with authority whenever he addresses his friends and fellow countrymen. In an address which, if I may be allowed to say so, was admirable 99 in spirit and in sentiment above criticism, and made a powerful plea for friendship between ourselves and our fellow citizens in India, the right rev. Gentleman allowed himself to say:I personally am convinced that as regards India such a slogan as 'What we have we hold is out of date. The mental attitude Which it suggests is that of an early nineteenth Century nabob.An assertion of that kind which suggests to the people of this country and the people overseas that there are a considerable number of people—if there were only one or two surely the observation would hot have been made—who do believe in the slogan "What we have we hold" and that there are a large number of people whose mental attitude is that of the nineteenth century nabob is not wise. If there is in this House anybody who believes that our policy in India should be based on the slogan "What we have we hold" I hope he will say so before the end of this Debate, and if there are people with the mental attitude of nineteenth century nabobs I hope an expression of those views will also be made.
I speak as one who would be the sincere friend of all India. My ambition would be satisfied if I could make some contribution towards the solution of what is a most perplexing and difficult problem, the most baffling problem. It is by no means easy to do so, but I would appeal to the Government to watch the situation most carefully, so that on the slightest indication of any step they can take which would do anything to relieve the tension and soften bitterness they will act. There may be opportunities at the present time. There is the opportunity which comes from the disaster of the threatened famine in India. The relief of that situation is a difficult task for us, but one which I believe we are tackling with vigour and energy. Surely to that task we can gather in all classes who are willing to help. With special reference to what the Secretary of State said with regard to new ideas and new studies, is it impossible even at this stage, to set on foot some method by which the development of the Constitution may be studied, studied through either the Indianisation of the Viceroy's Council or some other body. A little ingenuity and a little determination ought to suggest means whereby daily contacts can be 100 kept up and mutual confidence in some measure restored.
I cannot conclude these observations without making sympathetic reference to the position of the Viceroy, who has for so much longer than he had any reason to expect been called upon to maintain a heavy burden of anxiety such as has fallen, I think, to the lot of no Viceroy before. Five years was considered to be the longest time for which it was reasonable to expect a Viceroy to carry his burden in normal times, but the times are not now normal, and the Viceroy has been advised to stay at his post in conditions of anxiety and difficulty which allow little relaxation from his burdens. One can only hope that before very much longer relief may be found for him. I trust that in this and other ways we shall take a somewhat more optimistic view than the Secretary of State for India, and go forward with good will, determined that a solution shall be found.
§ Captain Gammans (Hornsey)
I wish to make only one point, and that briefly. It is to urge on the Government to do more than they are doing at present to explain our Indian policy to the United States of America. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is aware, I have recently come back from the United States, and I would say without the slightest hesitation that the greatest point of difference between us and the American people is the future of the British Empire in general and the question of India in particular.
I think it is true to say that our American friends tend to over-simplify the whole issue. Their attitude can be summarised somewhat as follows: They say, "We, the Americans, do not like Imperialism in any shape or form. We do not think that any nation should rule another, and quite frankly we are not prepared to shed American blood to restore Imperialism of any kind in any part of the world. If you, the British, want our sympathy and our co-operation in post-war reconstruction, you too must show that you share these views." I think most of us here would agree that that is an over-simplification of the whole problem, but it is sincerely held, because it represents the fundamental idealism of the American people. It is true to say that they tend to think of the whole issue of Colonial Empire in the terms of their 101 own limited experience in the Philippines. Ignorance on the subject of India in particular is frightening. In my experience very few Americans have ever heard of the Statute of Westminster or realise that it is as fundamental to our present-day conception of relationships as was Magna Charta of 700 years ago.
As to India in particular, almost all events are personified round the antics of Mr. Gandhi. Very few Americans have ever heard of the Indian Army or know what it has done in this war. Very few realise the Mohammedans have a point of view or that there are more Mohammedans in India than there are Germans in the world. Quite a number of them think of the Congress party as a sort of legislative assembly and view our recent action with regard to it in the same light as if the House of Commons had been locked up. They certainly do not understand that there is not one India, but many. There is the India of the Congress Party. There is the India of the Princes, the India of the Indian Army, and above all, there is the India of the 700,000 villages. I feel that this misunderstanding by our American friends is very serious, and we should ask ourselves what we can do about it. It is not much good our taking the easy way out and blaming our Information Services in America. I do not know what they were like in the past, but in my experience they are at this moment extraordinarily keen and extraordinarily efficient, and I am pleased to be able to pay tribute to them in this House. But it is no good our expecting them to do in five minutes what we have neglected to do for 20 years, and that is to make known either our ideals or achievements.
There are, I think, three specific things which should be, done. The first is that we have in this country large numbers of American troops and a sustantial contingent of the Indian Army. Before the war is over our American Allies will in all probability have to fight alongside the Indian Army. I suggest we should take this opportunity of introducing those two Forces to each other, so that the American troops may realise what the Indian Army consists of. For example, they might meet that Indian Risaldar whom some hon. Members have met in the Lobby, whose great grandfather fought for the British in 1843 and in whose 102 family there has never since been a male member Who was not in the Indian Army.
Secondly, can we not do more to make use of the films to portray India and its problems? The greatest agency of propaganda in the United State to-day is not the Press or the radio, but the film. The two British films, "Mrs. Miniver" and "In Which we Serve" have done more to spread in America a knowledge of the British way of life than whole boatloads of lecturers. What a wonderful story there is in our association with India, if we only have the imagination to portray it. The early history of the East India Company, the life history of Clive, Nicholson and Lawrence, and in this war the exploits of the Indian Army at the siege of My Keren and in the sands of Libya.
The third suggestion concerns the personal position of the Prime Minister. A reply given by him to a Question in this House concerning the application of the Atlantic Charter to India has been very widely misunderstood in the United States, and, I am sorry to say in Canada as well. He appeared to qualify in some way its application to India and to the Colonial Empire. In point of fact, our declarations to India far antedate the existence of the Atlantic Charter in point of time and are very much more specific in their provisions, but that fact is not entirely understood in America, Most Americans do not understand our system of joint Cabinet responsibility. Under the American Constitution there is not the same sense of Cabinet responsibility, and statements are made by members of the American Government which are not binding to the same degree as statements made by our Cabinet Ministers. If anything can be done to-day to make it clear that the Atlantic Charter does apply to India and our Colonies, it will do very much more good on the other side of the Atlantic than can be appreciated here.
In conclusion, I cannot too strongly emphasise my own point of view that hope for civilisation must depend in the end upon Anglo-American co-operation. We and the Americans have the same way of life, and our Constitutions are grounded in the same conception of individual liberty. We speak the same language, more or less. If we cannot understand each other, what hope is there of either of us getting on with Russia or with China and the conception of international rela- 103 tionship based on the United Nations? And with it the hope of the human race falls to the ground. Good relationship between ourselves and the United States cannot rest solely upon sentiment. Sentiment, emotion and good feeling there must be, as a first step. But there must also, however, be knowledge, understanding, and complete frankness, and that is why I urge the Government to make these points clear, for by so doing we shall be doing more good than some of us may realise.
§ Mr. Sloan (Ayrshire, South)
In discussing this question, and especially the White Paper, we must consider the facts calmly and with restraint. I do not think any complaint can be made about the restraint that has been exercised up till now. I listened with considerable interest to the speech of the Secretary of State. If he has really worked himself into believing the glowing picture he painted of conditions in India, it is the most amazing incident in my experience. If he can believe what he told us of how we had brought happiness, comfort, cheer and an economic existence to the Indian people, I do not understand it, when we know, and he must also know, that the contrary is the fact. We are in a situation in which any untoward action might have serious consequences.
Secondly, restraint ought to be exercised because the White Paper is so grossly unfair that it is difficult to restrain one's emotions about it. It might be using language too strong to classify this Paper as a clumsy forgery, although many of the quotations have no foundation in fact, but it is not extravagant to describe it as a vicious, mischievous and fraudulent work, to be compared only with the Red Letter of 1924. In spite of the nature of the document, it is still necessary to discuss it without heat, because what we say in this House may have serious repercussions, as is always the case when we are dealing with people labouring under a sense of deep wrong and injustice. We realise that very clearly when we are considering the peoples in Occupied Europe. We know with what inflammable material the Germans have to deal and with what underground movements. We glory in the knowledge that some day, when opportunity presents itself, there will be an uprising in which the inhabitants 104 will join with us in overthrowing the brutal forces that invaded their country. To that end we have built up elaborate machinery and we have guaranteed to those people that we shall never sheath the sword until we have driven those enemies from their lands. We offer them all kinds of advice—all the advice that we are prepared to condemn when considering the people of India. We ask them to sabotage industry, quite openly; we encourage them to hold up production; we would like them to blow up munition factories; we suggest that they should impede transport and that they should assassinate their enemy occupiers or Quislings. Then we will consider them worthy of the highest praise.
§ Flight-Lieutenant Raikes (Essex, South Eastern)
If I may interrupt the hon. Member on one point, can he give any example of any orders given to any occupied nation to indulge in assassination? If so, I should like to have it.
§ Mr. Sloan
Can the hon. and gallant Member state any time when we have condemned assassinations when they have taken place? [Interruption.] I think I have answered the hon. and gallant Member's question. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] In any case we view with horror, and rightly so, the German jack-booting across Europe and the inseparable bitterness which the oppressed populations must feel. As India is also an occupied country, as India is also under foreign domination, as Indians have also suffered tortures and whippings, imprisonments and concentration camps, as Indians have also suffered from bombing and machine-gunning, men, women and children having been slaughtered, the situation demands that we should approach the matter in a chastened mood and take care that we do not add to the difficulties under which the Indian people suffer. What is the whole of this document which has been placed in our hands? It attempts to prove that Gandhi has suddenly and mysteriously, when nearing the end of a long life of steadfast advocacy of non-violence, swung round to the opposite viewpoint and become an advocate of violent revolution. What is the evidence adduced in support of that contention? The document makes no attempt to deal with the political and economic issues of the Indian situation at a time when we ought to be dealing with them. Neither is there in it one sentence containing any statement of policy or any 105 suggestion for handling the deadlock and reaching a settlement with the Indians.
My right hon. Friend made a complaint about statements that the White Paper was the speech for the prosecution. Well, the "Manchester Guardian," in a leading article on Thursday, said that this White Paper is the speech for the prosecution. So the Congress leaders are in the dock, and this House has constituted itself a jury to decide on ex parte statements of counsel for the prosecution. The case for the prosecution—no speech for the defence, no opportunity of examining the evidence; a collection of statements torn from their context, gathered together over a period and all served up together, many of them without date or place, many of them having been submitted to Indians who are well acquainted with the situation and who are unable to trace them, yet they are put into this document, presented to the House of Commons, and the Members of this House are expected to swallow them. It would be interesting indeed to have the opinion of my right hon. and learned Friend, who is a distinguished lawyer, in regard to the contents of this document. I wonder to what sort of ridicule he would be able to reduce the people who presented it. I wonder whether he has examined it, and if he has examined it, I think it would be very interesting for this House to hear his views upon the method of presenting this type of evidence to this House of Commons. It would have been money for old boots for him if he had to defend the Indians on the basis of the contents of this document.
It is, however, unfortunate that there is not a lawyer prepared to riddle it and expose the shallow fraud. There is one distinguished lawyer who sometimes sits on the Government front bench who would have been very capable of doing so. All his background gave him that opportunity to do so, his sympathy with the Indian people would have given him the right to do so, his knowledge of the Indian question would have given him the right to do so, but unfortunately, like many others, he has become so tied to the chariot wheels of the Government that on this question he is as inarticulate as the dumb man of Manchester. I ask Members on this side of the House whether they are prepared to accept the negative policy of this White Paper instead of the more enlightened policy in to-day's "Daily Herald," their own official paper. It is 106 rather a pity, I think, that my hon. Friend who led on this side of the House did not quote a great deal more from the "Daily Herald's" leading article of to-day. The White Paper contains documents in its Appendices which, in so far as they are genuine Congress documents, contain nothing new. Those that are genuine have been published in India. Many of them have been published in this country. The Government never took any exception to them until now. What they prove is that the essential and consistent policy of Congress is as revealed in Gandhi's letters to the Viceroy. I think we ought to ask the Secretary of State for India why, when he was publishing this White Paper, did he not include the correspondence between Gandhi and the Viceroy. This correspondence is now published in this country. Why was it not included in the White Paper?
§ Mr. Sloan
Why was it not included in this White Paper? Surely that is a vital question. The letters distinctly proved that Gandhi was reiterating India's demand for independence. They have never denied that they want independence. Secondly, the letters ask for the immediate establishment of a Provisional Government. They have not denied that. Is Gandhi in gaol for demanding that? Thirdly, they prove that he was in favour of unity with the Allies against Fascism. The author of the White Paper is forced to this same conclusion which he gives, but apparently dismisses these aims as being merely the ostensible policy of the Congress.To remove foreign domination over India. To check the growing ill will against Britain, with its danger of passive acceptance by the masses of aggression against India…. To achieve communal unity, by the removal of the foreign power, with its policy of divide and rule….To bring all subject and oppressed humanity to the side of the United Nations, thus giving these nations the moral and spiritual leadership of the world.All these things are mentioned and reviewed in the correspondence, and Gandhi to-day stands upon those grounds. It is absolutely untrue that at any time the Congress have ever attempted to raise the question of revolution in India.
§ Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)
Would my hon. Friend look at Mr. Gandhi's own 107 statement, that his action was rebellion? It is not our language, but his own word.
§ Mr. Sloan
Why have we not the correspondence with the Viceroy, which would have certainly removed many of the doubts and difficulties among which this House flounders to-day? The Congress is charged with a desire to dominate India. It is argued that the Bombay resolution, about a future national Government aiding the war effort in alliance with the United Nations, implied that the Congress thought in terms of a Congress Government. It is the stock in trade of Imperialist politicians to talk about the Congress as authoritarian. The demand was for a coalition Government. That is emphatically stated in both documents which my right hon. Friend says are now lying in the Library, but which were not published in the White Paper. I gave a promise to a certain individual that I would not occupy too much to-day, because there are a number of Members who want to speak and it is not my intention to stand in their way. But I want to say to my right hon. Friend that all his special pleading to-day, all the Sunday-school lectures he has given us, do not in any way improve the Indian situation. India stands where she did. She still demands a national Government, and if there is any sincerity in us why have we not given it to her?
§ Mr. Bartle Bull (Enfield)
I have only been here a short time myself, but will my hon. Friend tell us——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Charles Williams)
The hon. Member has been interrupted several times, and he has just said that he wants to finish his speech soon.
§ Mr. Sloan
What does my right hon. Friend say about the people who are languishing in prison to-day. Is it not inconsistent to condemn the concentration camps in Occupied Europe when we have the same thing in a country which we ourselves dominate? What about the 50,000 prisoners behind bars in India today? Is it his intention to release those prisoners from the prisons and the concentration camps? Is it his intention to abolish the whipping order that was introduced, to the eternal disgrace to this country? We have it in our power now to make a new approach to this problem. It 108 now rests with us, not With the Indians. The leaders of the Indians are in gaol, they are not free to discuss this matter. It rests with us to re-open those negotiations, which were so perfunctorily closed when my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Aircraft Production so hurriedly left India. The Indians themselves claim that they were on the point of reaching a settlement when the negotiations were so suddenly brought to an end. Is it the intention of the Government to re-open those negotiations and to make a new approach to this matter. We have heard references to-day to the settlement of the South African problem after the Boer War, and the part played in it by my right hon. Friend the present Prime Minister. Why, then, close one's mind to the possibility of a settlement of this question?
We can do one of two things. We can state categorically our desire to settle and the basis on which we want to settle. We can offer negotiations for the basis of a Provisional Government; and I do not think it is worth while making proposals for anything less, because anything less has been categorically rejected by the Indians themselves. They do not want an extension of the Viceroy's Council by the addition of a few picked persons. We can release the prisoners and show a real desire to settle, or we can continue on the rule of force. We can continue to suppress and coerce. We can go on with our shootings and bombings, with our whippings and torture. But that leads to disastrous consequences. It is one of the immutable laws that nations, as well as individuals, reap what they have sown. If we sow the wind, we shall reap the whirlwind. In our pride and arrogance, we can continue to defy the laws of God and man, but let us not forget that it is written thatVengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.
§ Sir John Wardlaw-Milne (Kidderminster)
As I see it, the position in India in the last seven or eight months has clarified Very much. At first sight that may seem a strange statement, but I believe it to be true. As some Members know, I have been for something like 18 years connected with discussions upon Indian questions by the Conservative Members of this House. I took an active part in supporting the legislation which led to the 1935 Act, after the long deliberations for 109 something like 18 months, not always in the happiest of conditions in another place. While I realise that these controversies at that time were legitimate and natural, they were not controversies between one side of the House and the other so much as between different sections of the Conservative Party. In spite of the fact that they were honest, whole-hearted differences of opinion, I personally feel, and, I think, many Members who did not support that Act feel, to-day that it is a matter of regret that the 1935 Act could not have been put into operation fully, in which case India might have been working by this time under a Federation and much closer to that Dominion self-government which she has been so ardently seeking for so many years. I mention these matters of past history merely to emphasise what I want to say next.
I was almost staggered with the generosity of the offer which the British Government sent to India last year through the right hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), now the Minister for Aircraft Production, and as a result of the deliberations and decisions of the War Cabinet. That was a most remarkable offer, which ought to have received not only assent but have fired the imagination of every Indian. It was more than any Indian to whom I have ever spoken in the days previous to the war would have believed would have been spontaneously made to India. [Interruption.] I have every respect for the Princes. Their attitude is often much misunderstood, but I assure the hon. Member I have had no consultations with them or anyone else. The offer, I repeat, was of an epoch-making character. It is a matter of the deepest regret that an offer of that kind could not be accepted because of the difficulties in the different sections of Indian opinion working together. In saying that, I want also to say that I and, I think, almost everybody who has lived in India fully appreciate the difficulties which faced the leaders of different sections of Indian opinion. It is extraordinarily difficult to realise the depth of the disagreements and the difficulties of reconciliation if you have not actually lived among these people. There are differences and difficulties which do not exist in any other part of the world.
But there has been one good result. I appreciated the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hornsey 110 (Captain Gammans) regarding the question of our propaganda upon India in the United States of America. I hope he will not disagree with me when I say, that difficult as the situation is in the United States, and continuous as has been the insidious misrepresentation of our intentions and our acts through many years in America, I think that this offer made to the people of India a year ago has blown some of the mists away. At least I very much hope so.
We have arrived at a situation in which we have to face the fact—and let the House of Commons face it—that it is not possible for the Indian people to set up a Constitution-making body by agreement at the end of the war. We may deeply regret this. We may say that in any other country it would be possible, but the fact is that it is not possible in India. Under any system of the counting of heads the large majority must always be Hindu, and the other religions and even sections of the Hindu population will not agree to work under that system. Therefore any idea that Indians themselves will be able to set up a body which by agreement will draw up a Constitution for the future Government of India is to my mind ail impracticable supposition.
Do not let us blame anybody, but let us face the situation. I will go further and say that there is the danger that not only is it not possible for them to set up a constitutional system by agreement, but there is the danger of our being told "You are suggesting this because you know we cannot do it." That feeling exists to-day, although there is no truth whatever in the suggestion that it is with that idea we set up the proposal—far from it. Our proposal is an entirely genuine one, and there is no thinking person in this country who is not worried because it cannot be carried out. But we still have to face the fact that it is impracticable, and we are in danger, if we leave the situation where it is, of being blamed. I am sorry to have to repeat it in this way, but we shall be told, "You suggested our setting up a Constitution knowing we cannot do it and that there is no possibility of doing it."
What, then, is the solution? That is the practical problem that we have not faced. Is there a solution? The solution of the Government was and is to leave it 111 to India. Theirs was a most generous offer, and I do not in the least blame them if they say, "What more can we do? The Indians themselves must decide." I do not think, however, that we can leave it there. They cannot decide. Therefore what happens? In the end, whether we like it or not, the problem returns to the House of Commons and to Parliament to decide. We do not want it. There is no kudos in our having to do it again. There will be continuous misrepresentation. We shall be continually blamed and misrepresented. But what is the alternative? If India cannot do it, it has to be done by someone. Some act of this British Parliament must bring about a system in which the Government of India in future can carry on.
Our work in India is one of the most remarkable probably that any nation has written in history. We are far too fond of under-rating what we have done. We have brought India to peace and order from complete chaos. We have saved India from the worst effects of disease and famine. We have brought her great prosperity as a nation, and that in spite of handicaps caused by ancient customs in which we have had no desire to force changes and which only Indian opinion can alter. The greatest evils in India for zoo years, as I see it, have been three—the fragmentation of land caused partly as a result of the otherwise excellent Hindu family system, the grip of the Bunnia or moneylender, and the inability, even to-day, enlightened as many of them are, of the Indian people to advance quickly enough in getting rid of too early marriage, which results in low physical standards. India, we say, is a poor country individually. Individually it must be so, and why? You are dealing with a population which has grown by 50,000,000 in the last few years, although they have not the same physical standard that many of us would like to see. The system under which education is carried on cannot in many cases be imparted by female teachers at all. India is the most difficult place in the world in which to get the progress we would like to see. But in spite of all these difficulties the advance in India under our jurisdiction has been remarkable. We have nothing whatever to be ashamed of and we can publish everything to the world. Financially, India has always been treated 112 generously. Indeed, in the last three years she has been treated more than generously. Although she has been in deadly peril from Japan, she has become a considerable gainer from the war. India has become one of the great arsenals of the Allies, largely at the expense of other people, and her war-time developments will be of great post-war value to her. However, nobody grudges any of that, and it is outweighed by that splended loyalty, devotion to duty and courage which her soldiers have shown and which is traditional of Indian regiments.
A great deal has been made to-day of the position of Mr. Gandhi, and a great deal has been said about this White Paper. I first met Mr. Gandhi many years ago, and I have always looked upon him as a very genuine, but very misguided, man. I see that in one of his statements he said that his patience was exhausted. I wonder whether he has ever thought that the patience of the British Empire might also be nearly exhausted, or the extent to which and how long this country and people have tried to do right by India? There comes a time when even the patience of India's best well-wishers becomes exhausted. I cannot be accused of being one of those who have not been willing to move fast along the path towards Indian self-government. I have strongly supported this and previous Governments in their moves in that direction, but there is a time when we are entitled to say, "We are tired of misrepresentation. If it is the case that you cannot do anything—as I believe it is—do not try to throw the blame on the British people and Empire but face the fact that we have to start again and try to find a solution." We cannot afford, whatever our feelings may be, to accept the idea that we should leave India to her fate. We cannot do that kind of thing; our duty is much more serious. Our business is to try to establish India in an independent position, able to take her place among the nations of the world and with a settled form of government, in peace and good order. We have been trying to lead India to that for 150 years, and the task must be fulfilled.
It is not a nice idea for many of us, after all these Round Table Conferences, all the work of the past, that the whole matter should come back to the British 113 Parliament to try to decide again what is right for India as a whole. Is there an alternative? I believe there is, and I ask the House to consider it. After this war is over the whole economic system of the world will require reconstruction. Post-war financial and economic questions will have to be decided, not only between the Allies, but probably between the Allies and most of the other countries in both hemispheres. Could we not invite—we have nothing to conceal but everything to be proud of—our Allies at the end of this war to sit down with us and help us to try to find a solution to this Indian problem? I do not believe that to do so would be in any way derogatory to our dignity or would be misrepresented or misunderstood. The responsibility is ours, but we might ask our Allies to assist us in coming to a decision on what is one of the most grave and difficult problems that has ever faced any governing race or, indeed, the human race. There are many forms of government possible.
It may be suggested that to do that is beneath the dignity of the British people. The future of India is a very serious problem, but I am not sure that it is the greatest problem we may have to settle after this war. There may be still graver problems, and I suggest that a move of this kind might secure confidence where confidence is lacking, might bring prosperity, happiness and the opportunity for service to a large number of people who are at present in doubt and might, above all, set the seal of world approval on the wonderful work which the British people have done in India.
§ Mr. Edmund Harvey (Combined English Universities)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) speaks with a long and intimate knowledge of India, and I think we must have felt that he has brought home to the House the fact that there remains an immense question to be solved and that we cannot settle it simply by saying that it must be solved by India. We British must do our utmost, even in these immensely difficult circumstances, to make a contribution towards a solution. I wish I could feel that the publication of the White Paper had been such a contribution. I am sure that all of us who have read it have been saddened by the picture it has given of the terrible acts that followed after the decisions of Congress. 114 Yet it has been presented in such a way as to suggest that these happenings were foreseen by the leaders who made the decisions. That is the old fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc.It is not always the fact that because a certain decision or resolution has been followed by terrible and regrettable acts that therefore the authors of that resolution intended such results.
One of my regrets about this White Paper is that it has been presented not just as a series of factual occurrences but has been presented as a very complete, cumulative argument tending to place the whole burden of responsibility for what has happened upon Mr. Gandhi. I have had pointed out to me that this argument is really fallacious to some extent, in that in the quotations from Mr. Gandhi's newspaper "Harijan" we have had put into a single paragraph statements made by Mr. Gandhi on different occasions and to different people. On page 52 of the White Paper there is this passage:Strikes can be and have been non-violent. If railways are worked only to strengthen the British hold on India they need not be assisted….Then come three dots. Anyone would imagine that we went on to another part of the same statement. Then follows:What I am hoping and striving for is an irresistible mass urge on the part of the people and an intelligent response on the part of the privileged classes to the popular demand. But because I know that this picture is for the time being imaginary I am quite prepared for the worst. Hence my statement that I would end the present state of things even at the risk of anarchy reigning supreme in the land.The first statement was made to an American journalist referring to strikes on the railways. The second is from a written answer to a question by another person dealing with the position of the Princes. Is it right or fair to put those two things together and present them as though they were the considered view of Mr. Gandhi on one point? If we can find that kind of treatment in one part of the White Paper, have we any assurance that there has not been similar misrepresentation in other parts? I am sure the Secretary of State would never have approved of such telescoping, and the effect of it, and I would ask that, as the White Paper has been issued in this form, an opportunity should be given to have something on the other side put fairly, so 115 that we may see not merely one but both points of view. We cannot judge simply by hearing this very strong case that is put forward by the Government of India, unless we have also an opportunity of hearing the other side.
But we ought to go further than a question of the examination of the White Paper. Reference has been made more than once to the extraordinary personality of Mr. Gandhi. The Secretary of State has spoken with respect of him, and the conduct of the Government of India shows that they too respect Mr. Gandhi, because he has not been put in prison; he has been interned in as comfortable circumstances as possible, in order to show to everyone that the Government are doing this with respect and recognise that he is a great man, although his action is mistaken, and that if he were not so set apart for a time, it would be disastrous to India. That is a great recognition on the part of the Government, and it shows that their action is in no way comparable with that of the Axis Powers, and we ought not to confuse the issue for a moment by comparing action which we may even disapprove of on the part of the Government of India with the action of the Axis Powers.
§ Mr. Harvey
No one could compare the treatment of King Leopold with the treatment the Government of India have felt they had to take with regard to the Congress leaders. The position is utterly different. What I want to make clear is that this shows that the Government of India respect these Indians, and I feel convinced that they look forward to the time when an understanding, which seems impossible to-day, will be come to. They want still to get the co-operation to which the Government have looked forward when they sent that memorable mission to India. We too must look forward to co-operation in the days that are coming. Cannot we make an appeal from this House, on the one hand to the Government of India, to open some way of communication which is closed to-day, and on the other hand to Mr. Gandhi and his colleagues to meet and act in a spirit of understanding? Mr. Gandhi has said 116 that if the Viceroy wished for renewed negotiations, he should put him with the leaders of the Working Committee of Congress, who are interned elsewhere. Surely the Aga Khan's palace is big enough to contain all these interned leaders. They could be put together, and it would be possible to set up communications. If it is desired that there should be on the part of the Congress leaders an expression of regret and sorrow for the terrible events that have taken place, how can we hope to get it if they are not allowed to communicate with one another, and if people of good will from outside are not allowed to communicate with them and act as intermediaries to do their utmost to bring about a change of spirit?
I would therefore beg the Government to give this opportunity to Mr. Gandhi and to the leaders of Congress, if necessary, without for the time being lifting the arrangements for internment, and allow leaders of moderate opinion to get into touch with Mr. Gandhi and to use their influence in the work of reconciliation. We surely can make our appeal to this great man, one of greatest not merely of this century, but of many centuries, a man who is loved and revered as no one else has been in India for many a long year. In this White Paper we read how he felt that the time was short and he must act urgently. Life was drawing to a close, and he needed to act now for the freedom of India. We can understand something of this, and yet we can ask him to do something even greater than he has done yet. There was a time when he had the magnanimity to admit that he had made a Himalayan blunder in believing that the Indian people would act non-violently, following his advice, and finding out, as he did, that terrible things happened.
He is perfectly capable of making a similar admission to-day. May there not come to him as the crown of his life an act like that which came long ago to St. Francis of Assisi? When he lay dying in his little hut at Portiuncula the news came to him that the mayor and the bishop of his native town, which he loved, were quarrelling and that faction and bloodshed had broken out. He sent his disciples from his death bed to sing to them the song of the sun, and, in it, a verse that he had written for the occasion 117 which praised God for those who show forgiveness for love of Him, and the mayor and the bishop, both in the wrong, were so touched by the message that they made peace with one another, and the last hours of St. Francis were crowned with the blessing of peace making. I earnestly hope that Mr. Gandhi may have, as the crown of his life, a great act of reconciliation for the good of all in India, for the good of this country and for the good and the peace of the whole world.
§ Sir George Schuster (Walsall)
I agree with the hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. Harvey) in one thing, and that is that the form of the White Paper is not entirely fortunate, but I am afraid that, although I have often discussed these matters in sympathy with him, I differ strongly from what he said in other respects to-day. I am in fact profoundly convinced that he is mistaken. It is unfortunate that we should have to dwell on the past in India. We ought really to be directing our attention to the future. But if we are to consider the next steps we have to know where we stand and for that purpose at times a stocktaking of the position is valuable. A stocktaking is timely and is particularly necessary to-day, for I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) when he said that in the past 12 months a great many realities had been made clear. I therefore want to brush aside all the argumentative parts of the White Paper and to direct attention to definite facts, and the realities that emerge from them.
The first of the important realities that has been made clear in the past 12 months concerns the attitude of the Congress Party. The Congress Party from the beginning of the war have taken the attitude, "We will not co-operate with you in any provisional government. We say to you, 'Give us power now and leave us to settle the Constitution.'" That was an intelligible attitude and although we could not accept it, it did not at the beginning lead to trouble since they did not seek to interfere actively with the conduct of the Government or the pursuit of the war. But after the visit of my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Aircraft Production to India last March they changed that attitude. They said, "Quit India, and hand over to us without settling the Constitution." And then in August they went one step further and 118 said, "If you will not quit India at once we will stage a revolt and we will try by unconstitutional means to force you to put the whole Government of India into our hands, leaving us to settle the future." There is no possible getting away from the truth of that analysis of what has happened.
For that last step, Mr. Gandhi carries the sole responsibility. It seems evident that Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru and other experienced and realistic members of the Congress Party would not have taken that step. In saying that I am under no illusion as to Mr. Nehru's attitude, his hostility to us and his determination to do everything he can to get rid of British rule as quickly as possible. But he has a sense of reality. He saw the danger of chaos in India at that time and that it might mean the betrayal of causes which he himself holds very dear—the cause of Russia, the cause of China and, indeed, the protection of India itself from any domination by Axis Powers. But unfortunately Mr. Gandhi carried the day, and as the "Spectator" well put it this week.With the enemy at the gate he presented an ultimatum first and then proceeded to organise revolt.That is the bare truth. It does not matter whether he intended that that revolt should be violent or not. All the argument as to whether Mr. Gandhi knew that it must lead to violence is irrelevant. It is enough that it was intended to paralyse the Government, to compel a surrender to the Congress Party, and to force constitutional change by unconstitutional means. The fact that that was done in the gravest hour of peril not only for India but for democracy in the whole of the world is something that we cannot—certainly I cannot—forget. So I think it right to say certain things.
I have always been an ardent sympathiser with Indian aspirations and I have always had a high regard as well as a personal affection for Mr. Gandhi. I still respect him as a great spiritual leader whose unshaken belief in the ideal of non-violence and world pacifism, will, I believe, remain a beacon to India and all humanity long after these sorry events are forgotten and his own span of life is ended. But as a political leader concerned with the daily handling of practical policy I can now only regard him as a disaster—a disaster to his own party, a disaster to India, a disaster to the world. 119 Let him continue to proclaim his distant vision and preach his ideals for man's ultimate goal. But for the safety of present-day humanity let him keep out of daily political affairs. Bismarck, to one of whose "more sensible remarks" the Prime Minister recently called attention, once said that the only thing more dangerous than an extremely short-sighted statesman was an extremely long-sighted one. I do not think he can have contemplated a statesman whose view was fixed quite so far ahead as Mr. Gandhi's. It seems to me that the conclusion is inevitable that there can be no negotiation with such a man. It is not merely that his long-sighted views are impracticable. His immediate advice is disastrous and reckless of human suffering. It is utterly impossible to deal with a man who said in the midst of this war, with an enemy like the Japanese at the Indian frontier,Let them entrust India to God, or, in modern parlance, to anarchy. Then the parties will fight one another like dogs or, when real responsibility faces them, come to a reasonable agreement.My hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities suggested that we should address an appeal to Mr. Gandhi. I ventured in a book which I wrote on India two years ago to address just such an appeal to him. I sent it to him personally and I understand he read it. I appealed to himto make it the crowning event of his life to be the peacemaker at this supreme crisis, and instead of fencing with the British Government or asking for the fulfilment of extreme conditions, which he knew in fact could not be fulfilled, to use his great influence to make his followers realise two things—first, that this is a war of right against wrong and India's war just as much as ours; and secondly, that here in this war emergency is a challenge and an opportunity to make a fresh start in the approach to all our joint problems.But instead of that he has talked as in this passage of which I quoted and he takes his party into the wilderness. And we must make no mistake. The man who talked thus is the man who controls the most powerful single political organisation in India, and, whatever the unworldliness of Mr. Gandhi's own views, that organisation knows quite well what it wants in terms of immediate wordly policy. So I feel bound to make clear my own view, first, that there is at present no possibility of negotiating with Congress, that is to say, no possibility by any political con- 120 cessions of arriving at a settlement with them in the interim war period; and, secondly, I can see very little hope of ever reaching a practicable solution with Congress as long as Mr. Gandhi remains at its head to decide its policy. Therefore, for what it is worth, I say to the Government they will have my support in standing firmly on the position that they have taken up. I believe, in fact, that it would be better for Mr. Gandhi and better for India it that were made clear.
As I see it, the Congress Party, containing as it does among its members some of the most forceful personalities in India, must take part at the end in any satisfactory final settlement. But they must take their part with other elements; they must be reasonable—otherwise the only arbiter will be force. Anyone just now who by well-meant sympathy encourages them to take any other line, and seeks peace and appeasement with them in that way, is, in my view, unwittingly no doubt, but surely, helping to courses which in the end will bring about violence and bloodshed. I venture to put that to the House as the first reality that emerges. The second reality is that this Congress attempt at revolt has failed. That points to the existence of elements in the situation far removed from anything that is represented by Congress. The first important element is that the force of tradition has prevailed. The Prime Minister the other day reminded us of that very wise saying of Disraeli thatnations are governed by force or tradition.All who know India must view with horror the possibility of that country passing into a stage where the tradition of law and order no longer runs. Any one who risks that is gambling with the fate of millions. I should like to have heard more in the White Paper of all those faithful servants of established authority on whose sense of duty and bravery the maintenance of that tradition depended. I am glad therefore that the Secretary of State referred to them. I confess that I am greatly moved when I think of those men—junior officials of the Government, police officers or police rank and file—in remote places in India, faced by furious mobs, and standing to their duty at the risk of being burnt alive. And remember these men are just as fervent patriots and just as anxious for the advance to freedom of their country as those who incited the mobs to attack them. But they were 121 ready to uphold established authority, and we should remember, as should Indian Ministers who may succeed us, that without loyalty to the established authority of the law there can be no security for democracy.
Then, again, as the Secretary of State reminded us, there were many other elements who stood by the Government and were ready to go on with the war effort—the Moslems, a vast majority of the Hindus, other communities, and last and very important, the Indian States. I think we should pay a special tribute of respect to the Princes. The Indian States in this war, as in the last, have been a very powerful help to us, and I venture to say that we do not hear enough of the Indian States in our general discussions on the Indian situation. It is not of course popular in these democratic days to speak well of the States which are often represented as survivals of reaction and medieval darkness. To anyone who takes that view, I say "visit the leading Indian States." And I would add that the time has not yet come, nor can I see it coming, when humanity will not be wise to cherish the survival of ideas of courage and chivalrous devotion to duty which are the tradition of the Indian Princes. I hope that in considering this situation in the future we shall give weight to the position of the Indian States.
The third important reality that emerges concerns the position of the Moslems. It seems clear to me that the feeling among the Moslems about Pakistan has gone too far for it ever to be ignored. I regret it, but no realist can now ignore that it is necessary to turn to the search for means to provide some form of separate administration for the Moslems by which they will be enabled to order their own affairs according to their own way of life. The plain fact is that Mr. Jinnah has been able to acquire great power for his Moslem League, and if one faces reality one has to recognise that it has been mainly the policy of the Congress Party which has given him his opportunity to do so. The practical difficulties of dealing with this problem are immense. But they must be faced realistically and to ignore the need to search for the best solution will, I believe, lead to inevitable disaster.
The last reality to which I wish to draw attention has regard to the British position. I hope it will be recognised un- 122 alterably, and clearly understood in India, that after a long series of concessions and attempts at compromise we have come now to bedrock principles. There are two principles. There is the principle of self-government to which we subscribed in the Atlantic Charter and which has been confirmed beyond all possibility of doubt in the declaration of March last year. On the other hand, there is the principle, equally valid and right, that when we surrender our responsibility for government, it must be left to rest on the foundations of a Constitution which commands the agreement of the main elements in India. We do not want to retain power, but we are not going to walk out and leave India to chaos or civil war, or to abandon our pledges to various of the Indian community sections. It seems to be absolutely essential that we should make it clear that this is a principle which has the united support of the British nation, and that no British Government will betray it under threat of trouble from any Indian political party.
There is another reality which I should like to touch upon, and which has nothing to do with the political situation. That is the reality of the surrounding world. It seems to me that politicians in India tend to talk without any true appreciation of the realities of the world as it will be after the war. They have been sheltered from realities. They start to think and talk in terms of old controversies. But how far from reality are they if they think that India, after her long dream under British tutelage, is going to awake as an independent national unit into a world of Victorian security, guarded from all possibility of external interference by the British Navy. Not only India but all of us members of the United Nations will have to re-arrange our ideas about independence. Interdependence is a much more important idea. That idea has a direct bearing on the Indian problem. And moreover it is not a matter only between the British Government and India but is one with which all the United Nations will be concerned. The strategical security of India will be one of the key points in the peace structure of the world, and as to that aspect of the matter, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), that it will be one in which the whole of the United Nations will be interested and which we may well discuss with them. 123 Those, it seems to me, are the main realities of the situation.
What then ought we to do now? I recognise that there may be times in the affairs of nations when the wisest course is to do nothing—to wait on events and not attempt to force them. But I cannot feel satisfied that such a course is adequate to the present needs of the Indian situation. However fully I appreciate that just at the present time it is important that India, after these disturbances, should settle down to orderly administration and getting on with the job of the war, nevertheless I feel profoundly that we cannot be content with doing nothing. I agree with the hon. Member for Kidder-minister that for us to take the line that it is for the Indian parties to reach agreement and that until then we need do nothing is a position upon which we cannot stand. I want to urge, on the contrary, that just now, after the failure of the Congress revolt; after the termination without excitement of Mr. Gandhi's fast; after the Prime Minister has broadcast to the world and has shown to India that British statesmen are now seriously thinking of post-war problems and lastly after the recent developments from which India and all the world can see the rising tide of our war strength and the encouragement of our recent successes in Africa—after all these things, now is the time to take a new initiative in India. To take advantage of this opportunity and to give an inspiring lead needs statesmanship. There is occasion now for a great statesman in India. I may be asked to say just how exactly and what exactly such a man should do. It is not possible to Specify in precise and material detail just what a great man who rises to an occasion will do. But let me say this. We know what happened in this country when our present Prime Minister took the lead. You cannot describe in detail or analyse what happens. It is a psychological influence. Now is the time when we need great statesmanship in India. And there are many other things besides to be done in a practical way.
Has not the time come when we could get together representatives of various important sections to work out plans prior to a Constituent Assembly? Take the Muslim problem as the chief one. If, as I have urged, we accept this obligation not to hand over our responsibility until there 124 is a Constitution which commands agreement among all parties in India, are we not entitled to say to the Muslim League that we cannot protect their position unless they come forward and say what they want? They too must be reasonable. Has not the time come when—behind closed doors—realistic discussions can be started to work out practical details of possible solutions? If such discussions can take place I should like to bring into them also the Indian States and all the other elements who take a responsible view of the situation, men who recognise that there must be an agreed solution and who are prepared to make efforts to reach agreement in a statesmanlike and cooperative way. There are available in India to-day men of great intelligence and practical experience in statesmanship, men who have sat as members of the Government of India, as Provincial Ministers, as Diwans of Provinces, who should be encouraged and helped in every way to get down to the preliminary study of these constitutional problems.
On our side, too, there are things to be done. It was an essential feature of the plan propounded in our Declaration of last March that there should be a treaty between this country and the new Indian Union. Have the British Government started to consider this complex matter? That would be a very realistic step and would have an encouraging effect in India as practical evidence of our determination to implement our pledges without delay after the war.
In conclusion—passing over many other possible lines of action—I want to say this: I have in the past ventured to appeal to the Prime Minister to broadcast a special message to India. I want to renew that appeal. I have not in mind—I never had in mind—any Weak conciliatory statement promising concessions and compromises. We stand on principles, and I want to have those principles clearly stated. They are just principles, but they are also generous principles, and I want Indians to hear them from the Prime Minister himself. I want them to know that he personally is taking an interest in the Indian problem. Words from him could have a powerful effect in making Indian public opinion face realities.
In many ways of this kind I want to see evoked the best 125 qualities of British statesmanship to take the lead in a new initiative. But above all we must be clear and firm about our bedrock principles, which I have tried to state. Only in this way can we encourage men of responsibility to feel assured in coming forward to give their best efforts to find a solution. So long as they think there is a chance that we, in a moment of weakness, might make concessions to the extreme demands of Congress, we can never create this assurance. That is why I feel that the next step is to make clear that we will never do that. Although that may sound like fighting language, in the end it will, I am convinced, prove the most sure way to peace.
§ Mr. Ridley (Clay Cross)
The hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) speaks not only with knowledge, but with authority in these matters such as few hon. Members can rival, and even fewer hon. Members would think of challenging. In the light of that fact the first part of his speech in which he-drew attention to what he regards as the realities of the Indian situation, was all the more impressing. I cannot help thinking that his remarks will act like a breath of fresh air, when what he said is read by responsible leaders of Indian opinion. It is a great thing that in the middle of the existing situation we should be able to have a Debate like this entirely without acerbity or acidity. I would make a mild demurrer to the remark made by my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) who said there were statements in the White Paper which were not founded on fact and which were fraudulent and only equalled by the "Red Letter." I am not saying that those charges were not justified, but they are of such a serious character that if they were found to be true, they could lead only to the impeachment of the Secretary of State and other people responsible for them. My hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon) addressed the House as to the policy of those for whom he spoke without equivocation and with complete clarity. It is the case that the policy of the people for whom he spoke is embodied in the declaration made in the summer of last year. I say, with no sense of rivalry in these matters, that there is probably no group in this House of Commons that feels more 126 profound disappointment than the group with which my hon. Friend is associated. It seems too bad that just as we had managed to construct a political platform in the terms of the Cripps offer, its supports should have been kicked away by the very people for whom it was purposely erected.
There are two very unfortunate approaches to this matter. There are those who regard the difficulties as so trivial and insignificant that they could be immediately resolved if the British Government only had the will to do so. I beg my hon. Friends, the friends of Indian freedom, not to be led away by that view. There are others who take the view that the problem is so complex and so intractable as to offer no solution of any kind, and that a policy of impassivity is the only one in face of such a situation. I do not believe that either of those two policies should be pursued. On the contrary, I think that although unilateral action by this country cannot solve this deadlock, it can help to do so. But I am in no mood to goad or badger the Government in this matter. Certainly to badger a Government who have been responsible for such substantial policy advances as those described by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne) would almost equal the impertinence of an urchin. There must be a reciprocal attempt in this matter, on this side and on the Indian side as well.
I am bound to confess to a pessimistic view—here I join with the hon. Member for Walsall—as to the possibility of inducing Congress to join in that atmosphere of reciprocity. What strikes me most after carefully reading the White Paper is not so much the organisation of the civil disobedience movement, bad as that was, and its effect on the purely British cause, but the almost complete inability of the leaders of Congress to take a world view of the political and war situation, their inability to see the Indian situation as a part of larger events. They are further unable to see that the future of Indian freedom depends conclusively and entirely on the seats which we occupy at the Armistice table. If we should be in the seats of the vanquished and not those of the victors, the prospect of Indian freedom would have gone for how long nobody knows.
127 I do not rely too hopefully on reciprocity from the Congress side, but I do suggest to the Secretary of State that if that is not a hopeful prospect we must search for such prospects as are open. There are, as the hon. Member for Walsall said, certain responsible leaders of Indian opinion who are not closely associated either with the League or with Congress who have offered themselves in the last year or two, in the hope that they would be able to assist in the provision or development of a solution to the Indian problem. It is understood that conversations are now taking place between the Viceroy and members of the group to whom I have referred. It is sometimes suggested that it is a group composed of people with little or no representative capacity. That may well be so in the existing situation, but nobody can say what representative capacity might be acquired in the event of helpfully developing and in the end successfully concluding conversations between themselves and either the Viceroy or the Secretary of State. Mr. Rajagopalachari's integrity and courage are evidenced by his resignation from Congress and the reason for which he resigned. I have heard constant tributes to the persistent patience of the Viceroy, and we heard that again from the Secretary of State to-day.
As to the Viceroy, I have to say with great respect, that patience may not be enough. It may have to be accompanied also by warm cordiality. I would like the Secretary of State to tell us once more with clarity and precision—and as to this I think there is still some misunderstanding—that what is called the Cripps offer still stands as an offer, and that discussions on the basis of it can freely take place between those people who want to consider those proposals. I also desire—and this is an important point—that conversations, if they appear to offer a hopeful prospect, should be in London and not in Delhi. I believe that the transfer of these conversations to the Secretary of State himself and the Prime Minister would have a profound effect on opinion in India as well as on opinion throughout the world. I was impressed by the appeal which the hon. and gallant Member for Hornsey (Captain Gammans) made as to the steps which should be taken in order to create a more accurate American view of our present attitude to India. It has been 128 a happy experience of mine lately to have had a good deal of contact with American troops and to have invited questions from them. I have been surprised at the amount of interest taken by them in the Indian question, and have noted their surprise at an accurate description of our attitude to the problem. Speaking from that narrow but not inadequate experience, I believe it to be important that we should take every step open to us to cultivate the right attitude towards this matter in the United States. I am quite certain the people of the United States want to understand the situation in as happy and favourable light as possible, and I beg my right hon. Friend, with great sincerity, to see that any prospect of hopeful conversations with any body of opinion in India will be not merely cultivated but warmly welcomed and vigorously pursued.
Mr. Wedderburn (Renfrew, Western)
It seems fairly plain from the evidence now before us that the majority of the Congress Committee had reached the conclusion last summer that the United Nations had little hope of bringing this war to a victorious end. After issuing a series of conflicting statements and resolutions, which betrayed a good deal of perplexity about the attitude they should adopt towards a Japanese invasion, the political leaders of Congress, with few exceptions appear to hive decided that they must act on the assumption that the war would probably end in an Allied defeat. At the time when the civil disturbances began in August, the Allied position did not present a very favourable prospect in any part of the world. The large and wealthy Empires held by the Dutch, the Americans and ourselves in the South-West Pacific had been conquered with incredible ease and swiftness by the armies of Japan. The Russians did not then seem likely to hold Stalingrad or the oilfields of the Caucasus. The Eighth Army had just concluded a headlong retreat almost to Alexandria, in which they had lost 80,000 men and the best part of their equipment. When the Minister of Aircraft Production went to India Mr. Gandhi is reported to have told—I think it was repeated to-day by the Secretary of State—that he was offering him a post-dated cheque on a bank which was doomed to crash. If he held that view in April, his convictions were not likely to be modified by the events of the next few months, 129 which brought a fresh series of disasters to the Allied cause. No doubt it must have seemed to many Congress politicians that India might get off more lightly if the British could be prevented from offering an armed resistance which had no reasonable chance of success.
But it is equally clear that the work of destruction which was planned by the adherents of Congress to inflict the greatest possible amount of damage on the defences of India and on all the instruments of public administration did not enjoy any great measure of support among the general public. The Indian police, some of whom were cruelly put to death by organised rioters, who had been incited to acts of murder, carried out their duties with courage and faithfulness to the law. I hope their conduct has been suitably recognised by the Government of India. There was nowhere any kind of general insurrection. When my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson) and I passed through India on our way to China in November, and again on our way home before Christmas, we spent some time in the cities of Calcutta, Delhi and Karachi. Neither in the streets nor in the neighbourhood of any Government buildings or anywhere else did we ever see any soldiers on duty, and the only police we saw were those engaged in traffic control at the crossroads. There was nowhere any sign of tension or alarm. The designs of Congress might have had the most serious consequences if Japan had been ready to invade India in August or September, and they may still be dangerous if they are not vigilantly controlled, but they have failed in their main purpose, and the defences of India are now much stronger than they were six months ago. As for the Indian Army, the campaign of civil disobedience coincided with record figures for the voluntary recruitment of the Armed Forces.
It has usually been our custom to act with leniency towards our political enemies in those countries for whose government we have from time to time been responsible, and our experience has proved that clemency is generally a wise policy. The only serious crime of Mr. Gandhi has been that he has made the same miscalculation about our chances of winning the war as was made by Signor Mussolini, and his endeavours to profit from the situation have been almost equally ineffectual. The 130 fact that it may be necessary in a time of grave danger to intern the members of a treasonable faction, and to proscribe its activities, does not mean that the party should be permanently suppressed, or denied its proper weight in the discussions which must be held when the danger is over. But to release the Congress leaders while the war is still far from its climax, or to negotiate with them before they have been released, would deeply offend and dishearten the great mass of loyal Indians in the Army and the Civil Service, who are fighting and labouring for the success of our arms, and the majority of the ordinary population who do not desire to attain their political ends by methods of violence and revolution.
All the different parties in India, whether their policy is constructive or obstructive, whether they are willing to fight against the Japanese and the Germans or whether they prefer that their physical valour shall be restricted to assaults on the representatives of the law in their own country, are equally desirous that India shall be governed by Indians, with the same sovereign freedom as we ourselves possess. That is also our own intention, to which the Government and people of this country are fully committed. It would probably not be very difficult for all parties in this House to agree on the main principles of a settlement which would do justice to the different communities of India, since we are often better able to sympathise with the aspirations of all of them than they are to sympathise with each other's.
Let me refer in particular to the Depressed Classes, since they are the least vocal section of opinion, although they have now one very able representative on the Viceroy's Council. They have formulated a number of demands, which are neither extravagant nor unreasonable. First, they ask that a guaranteed proportion of all public funds spent on education shall be used for the education of their own class. They do not think it likely that under native rule anything would be spent on their own education, unless there were some statutory warrant to that effect. Next, they wish for a scheme of land settlement, with security of tenure. Many of them at present are living in small communities outside the villages—which they are not allowed to enter—where they are employed, on the most menial tasks, at a miserable wage, 131 and if they occupy any land their tenure of it is precarious. Thirdly, they wish for some assured representation, by members of their own caste, in both the provincial and the central legislatures, and some fixed ratio of posts in various branches of the public service. These are fairly modest ambitions, in comparison with some of those which are presented by some of the other parties. We should all agree that any satisfactory plan for an Indian Constitution ought to contain some legal provision for the education and the social security of these unfortunate victims of an undemocratic religion. We can also understand, and indeed are most willing to meet by almost any imaginable expedient which can command acceptance, the anxiety of the Moslems to secure the continuance of their own particular way of life in India, and the similar desire of Hindus and Sikhs for equal protection in those districts where there is a Moslem majority.
It seems to me that in Great Britain political opinion on the subject of India has grown much more united in the last 10 or 12 years. Those who were opponents of the India Act are now persuaded that it is necessary to go much farther, and more quickly. I think that criticisms now made against the Government's policy are more concerned with methods of approach than with our ultimate destination. But it would be extremely foolish that if we did not recognise that in India itself exactly the opposite process has been going on. Political parties there, instead of becoming more united, have become more divergent and less disposed to concede anything to those from whom they differ. There was a time, many years ago, when Congress did have some claim to speak for the majority of politically-minded Indians outside the native States. Mr. Jinnah was at one time a member of the Congress Party, and his colleague, Mr. Chowdri used to play a prominent part as a Congress leader in the United Provinces. But Congress has long ceased to be a national organisation. It is difficult to say how much popular support it would now enjoy if it were deprived of the personal sway which Mr. Gandhi is still capable of exercising over large numbers of religious people. The Moslems of India, until very lately, were hardly organised at all for political action Their 132 experience in those provinces where Congress obtained a majority in the elections of 1937 enormously stimulated the membership and popular support of the party now led by Mr. Jinnah. Although the Moslem League is still relatively weak and badly organised compared with the wealthy and efficient political machine of the Congress Party, it has immeasurably grown in strength in the last four or five years. The claims of both sides have become more intransigent and less easy to reconcile with each other.
Let us try to picture for a moment what the situation in India may be like at the end of the war, when the power of Japan has been finally destroyed. Perhaps we may accept the hypothesis of the Prime Minister in his broadcast the other night, that Hitler may be defeated in 1945, and that we shall then have a period of several years in which all our Forces for whom transport will be available shall be sent to the East, while other people remain here to carry out a Four Years Plan under some political combination whose complexion is still a matter of some uncertainty. The Indian troops who have fought so gallantly and so successfully in the Western Desert and Abyssinia are a very small fraction of the total number of Indians now serving with the Colours. Probably the great majority of them are still in a not very advanced stage of training and it may be a fairly long time before they can all be fully equipped. It may be expected that, when Germany is beaten and the Mediterranean is open and all our war supplies can be sent to the East, the training and equipment of the Indian Army will proceed very rapidly and that Indians will play a major part in the military operations which will then finally develop against Japan. We may, perhaps, have at the end of the war 1,500,000 or 2,000,000 Indian soldiers capable of sustaining perhaps 25 or 30 Divisions in the field. Over 50 per cent. of the Indian troops are Moslems. Of the remainder, a good many come from the native States, and those who are recruited from the non-Moslem fighting races in British India like the Mahrattas in the Bombay Presidency, are not at all interested in the political contortions of the. Brahmin oligarchy which now controls the Congress party machine.
That may be the situation at the end of the war. You may have in India perhaps 133 2,000,000 well-trained, well-equipped soldiers, none of whom are willing to obey, and most of whom are hostile to, the Congress leaders. In these circumstances, we shall have to decide how we are going to implement our pledge to give to India Dominion status with complete freedom, to become entirely divorced, if she so desires it, from our connection. There are several methods by which we can do it. We can do it by abdication. We can do it by an imposed settlement like the Act of 1935, or we can go on continually repeating the offer made by the Minister of Aircraft Production on his mission last year, a mission whose total failure in no way detracts from the credit due to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the zeal and patience with which he carried out his thankless task. I have no time to discuss the relative merits of these courses now. Abdication would be the easiest. I could never support it myself, yet I would not rule it out as altogether absurd.
I do not hold the view that the standard of life of the bulk of our people here is dependent upon our connection with India. We could say, "We have built up peace and law in India for 200 years; we have brought it successfully through the greatest war in history and now to show the world that we are free from Imperialism, we are going to quit." The reason why I should always be against doing that is that we would have the moral responsibility for the civil war which would undoubtedly follow our departure and would probably continue indefinitely until some other Power decided to intervene. I would give the Congress leaders a life of something like six weeks; perhaps that is rather a generous estimate. The objection to an imposed settlement, an expedient to which one may always have to resort, is that, if you impose a settlement which is not accepted by the different parties, you must have the responsibility of remaining in order to impose it and see that it is carried out. You cannot give real independence to India until those who have refused to work the settlement have changed their minds. It is far better, if it is possible, to achieve agreement first. It would be thoroughly dishonest to pretend that there is the slightest prospect of immediate agreement now, but the Secretary of State did not seem altogether unhopeful in his speech. Perhaps at the end of the war the atmosphere may be more congenial than it is now. Certainly there 134 are plenty of men in India with the highest qualities of statesmanship and patriotism.
It may be that if we act with consistent sincerity, showing that we are not going to allow any one party to be subjugated by another, but are willing to agree to any reasonable proposal, then the credit of those Indians who have the wisdom to respond with equal sincerity may be very much raised. Whatever kind of arrangement may be made for collective security, in which India must have her part and her commitments, the defence of India can never be unrelated to ours, and Indian statesmen who sincerely desire the well-being and social improvement of their country, can never be indifferent to the benefits which they will derive from their membership of the British Commonwealth. It is not for any love of the forms of Imperialism that I believe the British connection with India must continue, but because I believe that wise statesmanship in India will always see that it will not be a good thing either for democracy or for the peace of the world that the British Commonwealth should be dissolved.
§ The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)
I have taken part in a great many Debates in this House on the Indian problem, and some of these Debates have been marked by a good deal more heat than light. But as the years have passed, one can note, first of all, a greater knowledge on the part of all Members of the problem and its difficulties, secondly, a greater appreciation of the need for satisfying the aspirations of all the people of India for self-government, thirdly, a more practical approach, and fourthly, as the hon. and gallant Member said just now, a far greater unity of outlook on the part of Members in all parts of the House. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Sloan) struck a slightly discordant note. I would to-day have liked to have had present to, hear this Debate leaders of Indian opinion of all communities. I am sure that they would have been struck by the spirit of the speeches, and I have seldom heard a Debate on India in which the Debate has not been conducted at a lower level than this. The present Debate has reached one of the highest levels of Debate I have ever heard. There were the admirable speech of the hon. Member for North Camberwell (Mr. Ammon), that of the 135 hon. and gallant Member for Farnham (Captain G. Nicholson), and that of the hon. Member for West Renfrew (Mr. Wedderburn). That is only taking out three where there have been so many good speeches.
The Debate has really tended to be forward looking rather than backward looking. It arose primarily on the publication of the White Paper, but the greater part of the speeches has dealt with the main features of the Indian problem. I think everybody realises that the Government of India, faced with this conspiracy, had to act, and I think the evidence in the White Paper has reinforced the views that hon. Members formed. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire greatly exaggerated the number of arrests, even at the peak, and even those arrests must be taken in their due proportion in relation to the enormous population of India. He seemed to ask why it was necessary that there should be arrests. The fact that some people are put in prison is not proof that a totalitarian State is being carried on or anything of the kind. I am sure that my hon. Friend, if he were carrying on a Government, would have to put people in prison. But my hon. Friend did make one wise comment. He said, "Those who sow the storm are apt to reap the whirlwind." That is a matter Mr. Gandhi might think about, because the terrible thing in this account to me was not merely the acts of violence but the incredible levity with which a man of Mr. Gandhi's experience contemplated the falling into anarchy of that great subcontinent of India.
Think for a moment of the population of India, nearly 400,000,000, increasing at the rate of some 50,000,000 in a decade, in highly artificial circumstances. Until British rule came to India she was always apt to be subject to famines in particular districts. Only elaborate organisation in the matter of transport, government and irrigation allows millions to live. Anarchy would condemn many of them to death. To hear a pacifist inviting anarchy is a terrible thing. Remember, we have had examples over and over again that those who seek to win power through the bomb and the revolver are apt to find it difficult to get rid of the bomb and the revolver afterwards.
136 My hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey), in his interesting speech, rather animadverted on the form of the White Paper. I do not think he was quite correct in his assertions. The part he objected to was really a summary, a conclusion, of Mr. Gandhi's statements which were set against Congress's 12-point programme, and if he looks at the body of the document, he will find the proper quotation set out in its proper context. So I think he can acquit the Government of India of any attempt to deceive. I think there is no disagreement in the House as to the general desire of all of us to see that India should as soon as practicable obtain self-government. We want government of India by Indians, but that does not mean that we want government of India to be in the hands of some one person, or a few people of a particular race. What we are pledged to is to give India democratic government. Mere majority rule alone does not give you democracy. In a country which is not homogeneous democracy can work only if there is due regard to the right of minorities, and it is no good blinking the fact that India is an enormous country, full of great varieties of people who hold their views with as much tenacity and vigour as my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire holds his views. Hindus, Moslems, Sikhs, Parsees, high castes, low castes, outcasts—all those people have their feelings; they have their ways of life, to which they cling passionately. Political systems cannot easily be transferred from one country to another. Terms that are used in one country may cross the sea and be used to cover something quite different. We are accustomed in this country to think of our political parties. But we are becoming very well aware that the word "party" can have quite a different connotation in other countries. The Nazi Party and the Fascist Party have little in common with the democratic parties we have over here, and it is one of the troubles in India that there is a tendency for political parties to be much more like the totalitarian parties of the Continent than the parties which we have here.
§ Mr. Sorensen
Is not my right hon. Friend aware that on page 44, Appendix III, the Indian Congress Committee make it quite clear that the Government they visualise is not to be exclusively a Congress 137 Government, as has been suggested, but an all-party Government?
§ Mr. Attlee
I am quite aware of that: I have read all the documents carefully, but if my hon. Friend has read Professor Coupland's very fair survey, I think he will agree that there is a degree of totalitarianism in the Congress Party which would be foreign to this country. Besides that, superimposed on that system, is the curious position of Mr. Gandhi. You can take what view you please of Mr. Gandhi, but in fact he does on occasion act as a dictator of the Congress Party. Personally, as a democrat, I object to the dictatorship of a reputed saint quite as much as to the dictatorship of a notorious sinner. To take the kind of action he has taken goes quite against the democratic conceptions which I believe are deeply and most sincerely held by the leaders of Indian political parties. That is where you get this curious, different atmosphere from this country, in which the religious position of Mr. Gandhi is intermingled with the political conceptions of democracy.
Generally speaking, as in so many past Debates and discussions on India, everybody has realised the difficulties, but no one was very clear on the solution. I know I found that when I had to go round India. I heard at great length every possible difficulty, but nobody could tell me the way out. All would come and say, "One thing is certain, we cannot go back; another certain thing is that we cannot go on as we are; but still another certain thing is that we do not know where to go."
The Secretary of State was, I am glad to say, hopeful. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster (Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne), I thought, was rather despairing. I do not believe, and I think it is quite wrong to encourage Indians to believe, that this country can decide the Indian constitutional difficulty. I do not think we can even call in our Allies to decide, because the essential thing about democracy is not just its form but its spirit. You must have a willingness to work a democratic system. I think the hon. Member for Walsall (Sir G. Schuster) was right in saying we ought to stand firm where we are. It is no good constantly changing. I think he was right in saying that we made a magnificent gesture—more than a gesture: a magnificent offer—when we sent the Minister of Aircraft Production to India.
§ Sir J. Wardlaw-Milne
I had no intention that, whether ourselves or with our Allies, we should consider a new Constitution without the help of India. In every consideration of this matter for years past it was obvious that we must have Indian opinion with us.
§ Mr. Attlee
I quite agree. I hope I have not misrepresented the hon. Gentleman. But I do not think we ought even to encourage Indians to think that this is a decision that can be made by someone else. The responsibility is theirs. Our first offer to them was made in dark days. It may have been suggested that it was made because the days were dark, but we have reaffirmed that offer when our position is vastly improved, and I suggest that it still holds the field as the only practicable proposal that has been put up whereby all sections of Indian opinion will be able to act together and frame their own Constitution.
I should like to say a word to correct something which is often misrepresented. It has been suggested that the Prime Minister has deliberately excluded India from the Atlantic Charter. On the contrary what he has pointed out is that the Atlantic Charter did not qualify the various statements that have been made from time to time about the development of constitutional government in India. In fact our declarations of policy towards India anticipated the Atlantic Charter and are really far more precise than the necessarily rather general phrases there. I was interested in the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for North Camberwell which was also made by the Secretary of State. Is it not possible to work out some Constitution for India other than one framed exactly on the model of our Constitution in Britain? It is well worth exploring, and when I had to look into this matter I came to exactly the same conclusion, but the attempt to fit a suit of clothes made in this little Island to that enormous sub-Continent was an impossibility. One could devise many forms of constitution. By borrowing perhaps from the Continent or from the United States, you would get something much more suitable and much nearer to the Indian tradition of government. I discussed it with them over and over again. The Western model is not really suitable, though the Indians believe that it is the right form of democracy. They look on this House as the supreme example of democracy in 139 action, but, if one tried to devise something of that kind, the only answer would be, "We do not like it." It is no good giving something which would not be worked. The fact is that words and gestures do not really answer the ineluctable facts of the situation. My hon. Friend suggested that the Prime Minister should say a word. I should be the last man to undervalue the power of the Prime Minister, but he cannot alter the facts of the Indian situation.
I said just now that forms of democracy may vary but no forms are of any use without the spirit, and, if people of varied race, varied language and varied religion are to live together as one community, there must above all things be tolerance. There must not be a spirit of domination, whether by one section which says it is intellectually superior or by another which claims to be physically superior. The misfortune of the last 20 years has been that Indian political parties have taken the wrong road. They have taken the road towards an exclusively totalitarian outlook. I should like to see them return to the older and, in a broad sense, the more liberal tradition of the earlier Congress leaders, who are the real democrats. If we could bring about such a return, while it is impossible to deal as long as people are in rebellion, we are still prepared and ready, should any favourable opportunity offer, to work to the best of our ability to help our Indian friends to find a solution of their problem.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
That this House approves the continuance in force of the Proclamation issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, by the Governor of Madras on 30th October, 1939, and of his Proclamation varying the same issued on 15th February, 1943, copies of which were presented to this House on 28th November, 1939, and 16th March, 1943, respectively.
That this House approves the continuance in force of the Proclamation issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, by the Governor of Bombay on 4th November, 1939, and of his Proclamation varying the same issued on 15th February, 1943, copies of which were presented to this House on 28th November, 1939, and 16th March, 1943, respectively.
That this House approves the continuance in force of the Proclamation issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, by the Governor of the United Provinces on
3rd November, 1939, and of his Proclamations varying the same issued on 1st December, 1939, and 12th February, 1943, copies of which were presented to this House on 28th November, 1939, 16th January, 1940, and 10th March, 1943, respectively.
That this House approves the continuance in force of the Proclamation issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, by the Governor of the Central Provinces and Berar on 10th November, 1939, and of his Proclamation varying the same issued on 2nd December, 1939, copies of which were presented to this House on 28th November, 1939, and 16th January, 1940, respectively.
That this House approves the continuance in force of the Proclamation issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, by the Governor of Bihar on 3rd November, 1939, and of his Proclamations varying the same issued on 3rd December, 1939, and 13th February, 1943, copies of which were presented to this House on 28th November, 1939, 16th January, 1940, and 10th March, 1943, respectively.
That this House approves the continuance in force of the Proclamation issued under Sec-ion 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, by the Governor of the North West Frontier Province on 10th November, 1939, and of his Proclamation varying the same issued on 2nd December, 1939, copies of which were presented to this House on 28th November, 1939, and 16th January, 1940, respectively."—[Mr. Amery.]