§ 3.52 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Sir Stafford Cripps)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the statement on India made on nth December by the Prime Minister and expresses its hope that a settlement of the present difficulties between Indian Parties will he forthcoming.The range of the Indian problem today is so wide, and the points of interest and of dispute are so many and so varied, that it would be quite impossible for me to cover the whole ground within any reasonable compass of time. I must, therefore, of necessity select those matters which seem to me to be the more important, and which I believe will be of most concern to hon. Members on both sides of the House.
I would like to start by reminding the House that the historical moment, which we have now reached in our association with India, is the climax of a long history between the two countries. The happenings of today are not the outcome of some sudden action or reversal of policy, but are, rather, conditioned by the logical carrying through of the policies which have been pursued by successive Governments for many generations. It has always been the avowed object of this country to develop its Indian policies so as to lead eventually to the freedom of the Indian people. Sometimes that objective has been pursued more rapidly, and sometimes more slowly, but the direction has been a constant one. Now we are reaching the goal that we have set before ourselves, and we are encountering all those difficulties which have throughout been inherent in the situation, but which have increased in intensity as we approached nearer and nearer to the realisation of our objective.
We have now, for over a century and a half, been intimately associated with the development of India. We have, indeed, been largely responsible for shaping her destiny and deciding the course of her history. Whether we have conducted ourselves well or ill, we have carried the responsibility in a large measure, and today we find that India and her people, like ourselves, are confronted with the most grave problems that arise out of that historical development. And do not let us under-estimate the difficulty of their solution. It is some 1347 times suggested that, but for the intransigence of this or that Indian party, the matter could be easily solved. That, I do not think is in accordance with the true situation. Everyone who has shared in the responsibility for the past of India must likewise share in the responsibility for the present and we, as a people, share that responsibility. That is why we are all of us most anxious to try to find a way out of these present difficulties.
The time has come when we want to hand over power to the Indian people; the difficulty is how to accomplish that objective. There are two principles, both of which are democratically sound, but which it is very hard to match together in a single process. The first is the right of a majority to determine its own future without any veto or prohibition from any minority; and the second, is the right of minorities to enjoy freedom and a full voice in the determination of their own future without suppression by the majority.
The only way in which those two rights can be worked out is in a democratic assembly, where there is the give and take that we know in this House of Commons, and a degree of toleration between the opposing parties. The fundamental difficulty, I believe, in India today is that the principal parties have not yet shown themselves prepared to trust one another, or to work together on a democratic basis. Deepseated tensions, accentuated by the approach of the handing over of power, are bitterly separating those who alone can determine the future of India. It is no use our girding at the facts of history; we must acknowledge them and try to overcome them or to get round them.
I do not propose this afternoon to repeat what I said to the House after the return of the Cabinet Mission from India. I then attempted to give an account up to that date of what we had tried to do, and of what had actually happened. I shall have to revert to some of the documents that were then laid before the House in order to explain subsequent events, but I will not repeat the whole story. I will proceed from that point in history.
The next incident after our return was the attempt by the Viceroy—to whom I think we should all like to pay a tribute for his hard and unceasing labour at this task—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] 1348 —to form an interim Government. He started, after a short respite, towards the end of July negotiating with the two main parties. Already, at that time some of the public statements that had been made as to the Cabinet's Mission's scheme in India had raised doubts and had increased the feeling between the parties. On 29th July the Muslim League passed a resolution withdrawing their earlier acceptance of the Mission's scheme. I need not go into the reasons in detail which are set out in that resolution; it will suffice to say that they felt they had been misled, and that they would not be safe in proceeding to join in the scheme laid down by the Cabinet Mission. It was in that resolution of July 29th that the Muslim League declared for what they termed "direct action." Their declaration was in these words:The Council of the All-India Muslim League is convinced that now the time has come for the Muslim nation to resort to direct action to achieve Pakistan, and get rid of the present slavery under the British, and contempated future caste Hindu domination.They added that, while they would prepare for such a campaign, it would not actually be launched, or brought into operation, until they deemed it necessary. In view of that withdrawal by the Muslim League, the Viceroy invited the Congress to make proposals for the formation of an interim Government, in accordance with the statement of 16th June, in the hope that afterwards the Muslim League might be persuaded to join that Government. On 24th August it was announced that an interim Government of 12 Members would shortly be forced, consisting of five Hindu members of Congress, one Congress Scheduled Caste member, one Congress Muslim, two independent Muslims, a Sikh, a Christian and a Parsee. On the same evening that the announcement was made, the Viceroy broadcast to the Indian people. He stressed the need, with which Congress agreed, for a Coalition Government. He stated that he and the new Government, that was about to be formed, would try to get the Muslim League into the Government, and that the offer to the League to propose five names for places in a Government of 14 remained open. He added these words:The Muslim League need have no fear of being out-voted on any essential issue. The Coalition Government can only exist and function on the condition that both main parties to it are satisfied.1349 Then he stated that he would see that the most important portfolios were equitably shared between the parties. He also added these words, with regard to the Constituent Assembly:I can assure the Muslim League that the procedure laid down in the statement of 16th May regarding the framing of the Provincial and group Constitutions will be faithfully adhered to. There can be no question of any change in the fundamental principles proposed for the Constituent Assembly in paragraph 15 of the statement, or of a decision on a major communal issue without a majority of both major communities.He added that the Congress were ready to agree that any disputes of interpretation of the statement of 16th May might be referred to the Federal Court.
That interim Government took office on 2nd September without any Muslim League member. In the middle of that month, the Viceroy saw Mr. Jinnah, who, after several interviews, entered into direct discussions with Pandit Nehru, His Highness the Nawab of Bhopal acting as mediator. Those conversations, unfortunately, broke down. They broke down on two points, first because Congress insisted on their right to propose a non-League Muslim as part of the Congress quota of the Cabinet, and, secondly, because they insisted upon the inclusion in the agreement between the two parties of a provision in these terms:All Ministers of the interim Government will work as a team for the good of India, and will never invoke the intervention of the Governor-General in any case.With neither of these proposals could the Muslim League find themselves in agreement. The Viceroy again picked up the negotiations, and Mr. Jinnah asked him for certain assurances. The most important I think were probably these three. First, that the Congress should not include a Muslim in their quota—which has been a very hotly disputed question for a very long time. Secondly, that there should be a convention within the Government that on the major communal issue no decision would be taken unless there were a majority of each community in its favour. Thirdly, that an alternative, or rotational, vice-president should be appointed, from amongst the Muslim League members. The Viceroy, in reply, maintained the position which was taken up by the Cabinet Mission before, that each party must be equally free to propose its own representatives, whoever they might happen to be. On the second point, 1350 he replied that both he and his colleagues in the Government were agreed that it would be fatal to allow major communal issues to be decided by a simple vote of the Cabinet. As regards the third point, he stated that the Muslim League member would preside over the Cabinet in the absence of the Viceroy and the vice-president, and would also be nominated as vice-president of the all-important Co-ordination Committee. Subsequent to that, Mr. Jinnah was told, in answer to a question put by him, that the Muslim League could propose a non-Muslim for their quota, if they so desired, and, on receiving that assurance, the Muslim League decided to enter the interim Government. They nominated five persons, of whom one was a member of the Scheduled Castes from Bengal.
So was formed the present Coalition Government, which is now in office, and which consists of 14 persons. Perhaps I might remind the House of the composition. It is, four Congress Hindus, two Scheduled Caste Hindus, one nominated by Congress, and one by the Muslim League; five Muslims, four nominated by the Muslim League, and one by Congress; one Sikh, one Indian Christian, and one Parsee. That Government is functioning satisfactorily today, and I am glad to say there have been no major difficulties within the Government itself, although, unfortunately, the position is not helped by speeches made in the country by the supporters of the two parties. It is, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition will know, difficult, if not impossible, to maintain unity within a Coalition Government if an active and bitter struggle is proceeding throughout the country between the partisans of the two sides to the Coalition.
§ Sir S. Cripps
The position has, of course, been made far worse by an outbreak of violence upon a large scale throughout many Provinces. Bengal, Bombay, Bihar and the United Provinces are those in which the worst trouble has occurred. It is right to say that the leaders of both sides have roundly condemned these disturbances, and have tried, by visiting the areas and otherwise, to influence their followers to a more calm, and less violent, frame of mind. In Calcutta, these riots 1351 broke out after the decision of the Muslim League to set aside 16th August as "Direct Action Day." I think those riots shocked the whole world by their intensity, and they resulted in some 4,000 deaths and 10,000 people injured.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am coining to that. Next, came the outbreak in Eastern Bengal on 10th October when gangs of roving Muslim hooligans carried a reign of terror into those parts resulting in the driving out of 50,000 evacuees and causing the death of 200 or more persons. That was accompanied by abductions, rape, and forced conversions. As a result, wild rumours circulated greatly exaggerating even that position, which in itself was bad enough. Shortly afterwards, even worse violence and murder broke out in Bihar, and spread to the United Provinces. It is not possible to give the figures of dead and wounded in Bihar with any accuracy—practically all of them were Muslims, and many of them were women and children—but it is probably not an exaggerated estimate to put the number of the dead alone at 5,000. In the United Provinces there was a very serious riot in the Meerut district, and other connected outbreaks of a lesser degree. It is estimated that since the beginning of September there have been 445 deaths in that Province. In Bombay too, communal outbreaks have been continuing since 2nd September, and down to 18th November, 622 persons have been killed. This terrible toll of casualties is an index of the intensity of the communal feeling that has come into being, and though it will be deplored and condemned by everyone who has the interests of India at heart, nevertheless it is a stark and naked fact. It settles nothing; indeed it only makes settlement more difficult; but it is a factor which none of us can ignore.
The members of the Constituent Assembly, under the Cabinet Mission's plan of 16th May, were elected in July and August both from the Muslim League and Congress, in addition to those representing minorities. At this stage, as the House will remember, the Sikhs had decided not to take any part in the Constituent Assembly, as they felt that their 1352 special and a very difficult position had not been adequately dealt with in the Mission's proposals. Later, however, they relented, and their representatives were duly elected. After 29th July, the meeting of the Constituent Assembly was postponed until 9th December, in the hope that the Muslim League would be prepared to participate, a hope which was later encouraged by their entry into the interim Government, because at that time the Viceroy had expressed to them his understanding that if they came into the interim Government their Council would reconsider the question of their entering the Constituent Assembly. However, the League Council was not summoned, and it appeared certain that they would not attend the Constituent Assembly. That fact was, of course, liable to create further and deeper tension between the two parties.
It was then that the representatives of the two parties were invited to come to London with the Viceroy to consult with His Majesty's Government. It was hoped that even at this eleventh hour, some accommodation might be possible in the calmer atmosphere of London. At those meetings, the leaders on both sides stated that they genuinely desired co-operation in the Constituent Assembly, and they realised that some agreement between the parties was essential as the basis for a happy and progressive future for India. Nevertheless, they were unable to come to any agreement on how the Constituent Assembly should proceed. Consequently, the statement of 6th December was put out by His Majesty's Government.
I should perhaps here revert to the statement of 16th May in order to explain exactly what the most obvious point of difference is between the two major parties. It may seem on the surface, to some people, a small one, but it is, in fact, fundamental to the whole scheme. The object of the Cabinet Mission was to find means whereby they could balance the desire of Congress of a strong unitary federation on the one hand, with the Muslim League's desire for autonomy of the Muslim-majority Provinces on the other. That balance was attained by a limited centre, the Constitution of which was to be worked out by a Constituent Assembly, in which Congress would have a clear majority—on the basis of population on which it was constituted—on the one side, and Sections B and C, in which 1353 the Muslims would have a bare majority on the other hand, and in which, of course, the Provincial Constitutions and, if so decided, the group Constitutions could be worked out for the two groups of Provinces—Bengal and Assam on the one hand, and the Punjab, the North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan on the other. Thus each party had a majority where it was most deeply interested. It was, however, provided, that no Province could be forced into a group against its will since, when it saw and could judge of the group Constitution, it could, at the first election after the new Constitution was settled, opt out of that group if it so desired.
The operative part of that statement was in two main sections. Paragraph 15 laid down the desirable form of the ultimate Constitution. Paragraphs 17, 18 and 19 gave the suggested procedure of a Constituent Assembly to arrive at some such Constitution. The two paragraphs thus dealt with entirely separate subject matters. The dispute which arose on how, according to the document, the decision should be arrived at in the sections, was already a matter of difference when the Mission was in India. Could a Province vote itself out of a grouping, and thus determine its own Constitution for the Province, or were both these matters to be decided by a simple majority vote of the sections? The latter view is clearly the correct one, in the opinion of the Cabinet Mission, His Majesty's Government and their legal advisers. This view was suported by the Muslim League. Congress took the contrary view, on the basis that words in paragraph 15, which dealt with the objectives of the Constitution, overrode the explicit words in paragraph 19, which dealt with procedure.
As I have said, Congress said they were prepared to submit this question of interpretation to the Federal Court and to accept its decision, but on this, to them, fundamental point, the Muslim League were not prepared to take that risk. There the matter still remains. The Government have asserted definitely their understanding of the document, and have said that if the Constituent Assembly, whose actions they can neither control nor wish to control, should desire to refer it to the Federal Court, they hope that they would do it quickly so as to remove any doubts in their minds. The Government 1354 had already envisaged the possibility dealt with in the final paragraph of their statement. This is perhaps a statement of the obvious, that if the Muslim League cannot be pursuaded to come into the Constituent Assembly, then the parts of the country where they are in a majority, cannot be held to be bound by the results. That position has always been realised by Congress, and they repeatedly stated that they would not coerce unwilling areas to accept the new Constitution.
I do not wish the House to gain the impression that the position is, therefore, hopeless. We understand that Mr. Jinnah is prepared to put the matter before his Council with a view to ascertaining whether, on the basis of the statement of 6th December, they are now prepared to enter the Assembly. We hope that the Constituent Assembly will show their statesmanship and their desire for accommodation with the Muslim League by not committing themselves irrevocably to anything that will make it more difficult for the Muslim League to come in at a later date. For the moment, therefore, I cannot take that matter any further. It is, perhaps, a little unfortunate at this very tense and delicate moment that we should have been induced to stage a Debate in this House of Commons.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I hope not. We still have hopes that, despite the mutual suspicion and fears which reign, the two parties may eventually find themselves side by side, both in the Constituent Assembly and in the sections, for we are as convinced now as ever we have been that it is only by such cooperation that a satisfactory new Constitution for India can be hammered out.
So much for the difficulties of the two main parties. The House may wish to know how the matter stands with the States and the minorities. I will deal first with the Indian States. The Mission laid down two principles as to the relationship of the States to the Crown during this period of transition: first, that while during the transitional period of the interim Government paramountcy would remain with the British Crown, the British Government could not, and would not, in any circumstances transfer that para- 1355 mountcy to any other Government of British India; and, second, that when the transfer of power takes place in British India—and then I quote:As a logical sequence, and in view of the desires expressed to them on behalf of the Indian States, His Majesty's Government will cease to exercise the powers of paramountcy. This means that the rights of the States which flow from their relationship to the Crown will no longer exist, and that the rights surrendered by the States to the paramount power will return to the States.[An HON. MEMBER: "What is the reference?"] The reference is the statement that was circulated while the Mission was in India. It is in Cmd. 6835. Certain proposals were also put forward as to the participation of the representatives of the States in the Constituent Assembly and also for a negotiating committee representing the States, which could settle various outstanding matters with the representatives of the major communities of British India. These arrangements were welcomed by the Standing Committee of the Chamber of Princes, in a Press statement which they issued on 19th June last, and the negotiating committee has now been set up. In that statement they expressed the view that the Mission's plan:Provided the necessary machinery for the attaining by India of independence as well as a fair basis for future negotiations.Not unnaturally, the Indian States are most anxious that all the major communities should be represented in the Constituent Assembly as they do not wish to be in the position of having to deal with one community only. Their ability, indeed, to cooperate must depend, to some extent, upon what happens as regards the entry of the Muslim League into the Constituent Assembly.
Now I turn to the question of minorities. The minorities in British India—and I am giving the figures for British India and not India as a whole—are the Scheduled Castes, of whom there are 40 million—
§ Sir S. Cripps
As I have said, I am giving the figures for British India and not for India as a whole. Then there are the Sikhs with 4.1 million; the Indian Christians with 3.2 million, and the Anglo-Indians with 114,000. It will be remembered that, in the proposals of 1356 1942, it was laid down that one of the conditions of acceptance by this country of a new Constitution was that there should be a treaty which, among other things, would contain provisions for the protection of minorities. In the proposals of the Cabinet Mission this year, the conditions as to minorities were stated differently. That is, it was stated that satisfactory provision for the protection should appear in the Constitution. This, we believe to be the most effective way. Indeed, it is in line with the demands put forward by Dr. Ambedkar in a long memorandum which he addressed to the then Viceroy, in 1942, when he stressed the ineffectiveness of treaty protection, and the need for the incorporation of protective provisions in the Constitution itself.
The second point of interest is the provisions suggested by the Mission for seeing that proper protection of the minorities should be incorporated in the Constitution. At first sight, it might appear that this could be done by giving them weightage in the Constituent Assembly, but when the position is examined it will be found that if sufficient weightage is given to make the representation really effective for each of these minorities in the Constituent Assembly or in the sections, then it places the major parties in an impossible position. It would, for instance, deprive the Muslims of their majority in Sections B and C. In fact, quite a lot of minority representatives have been elected to the Constituent Assembly by proportional representation and with some assistance from the majority parties. There are six Indian Christians, three Anglo-Indians, 29 Scheduled Caste representatives of Congress sponsoring, and two of the other sponsoring. The Sikhs, of course, have been dealt with as a major party in the Punjab, which is their stronghold, and, therefore, they have themselves selected their own quota of representatives.
The Mission, however, felt that this was not, in itself, enough and so proposed an advisory committee on, among other things, the question of minorities, to contain a full representation of all the minorities, especially those not otherwise represented in the Assembly. It was the intention that this should be an authoritative body, whose recommendations would carry weight both with the Constituent Assembly and the sections. Those were the general provisions as to minorities. 1357 But I should like to mention two of the special cases, the more important perhaps one might say—the Sikhs and the Depressed Classes. The position of the Sikhs is, as everybody knows, a very difficult one, because they do not have a majority in any single Province or area of the country. It is, therefore, impossible to devise any method of giving them any form of autonomy. They are, however, a very important community almost entirely centred in the Punjab, and they wished, in that section which contained the Punjab, to be given the right to veto any provision which affected their community, just as the Muslim League had the right on any major communal issue in the Constituent Assembly itself.
That, however, was not possible, because a similar right would have had to be given to the other minorities, notably the Hindus, in that section, and, if two such vetoes had existed, it would have been almost a certainty that the section would never have arrived at any decision at all. In fact, by avoiding partition, which would have divided the Sikhs into two halves, they have at least been saved what was the worst solution from their point of view. Weightage could not be given, either, for if they had been given a weight, the Muslims, though a majority of the population, would have lost their majority of votes.
The Sikhs are not, perhaps, in so bad a position as they may think, for both the other two communities must be anxious for their support, and both have stated that they are willing to meet and deal effectively with the fears which the Sikhs express. I feel sure that, if that very valiant community exercise patience, they will find that they will come very well out of it. So far as the Scheduled Castes are concerned, the House will realise that they are divided into two main sections, those who adhere to the Congress organised body and those who adhere to Dr. Ambedkar's organisation. The Mission, when it was in India, was, of course, proceeding on the basis of the recent Provincial elections, and we were bound to accept the result of those elections. Undoubtedly, as a result of the Poona Pact of 1932, which the House no doubt remembers, the method of election of the representatives of the Depressed Classes favours the Congress organisation. That pact, it is said, was entered into under duress by Dr. Ambedkar, but, however it 1358 was agreed, the procedure there laid down is incorporated in the Constitution.
The actual results of the Provincial elections were as follow. Of the total of 151 seats for Depressed Classes in all the Provincial Legislatures, as to 45, only one candidate was nominated. Therefore, he was automatically elected. That was, 43 Congress and two Independents. As to 63, there were no primary elections, as less than four candidates were nominated. In the main election, 60 Congress and three Independents were elected. As to 43 only were there any primary elections, and in only 22 of these were there any representatives of Dr. Ambedkar's organisation and they won in 13 of the 22. Congress won 20 of the 43, and Independents won 10. Taking all the votes cast in this primary election, which, as the House knows, is the only election which is exclusively by the Depressed Classes themselves, Congress hold 29 per cent., Independents 44 per cent. and Dr. Ambedkar's organisation 26 per cent. In the final election, only two of Dr. Ambedkar's candidates were successful. In the result, therefore, only two members representing Dr. Ambedkar's federation, and 123 representing the Congress, the rest being Independents, were returned to the Provincial Assemblies. As it turned out, the Scheduled Castes have got two representatives in the interim Government, one from the Congress organisation and one an Independent from Bengal who is, in fact, a sympathiser with Dr. Ambedkar's federation. In the Constituent Assembly, there are 29 Congress Scheduled Caste representatives and two others, one Dr. Ambedkar himself and one from the Punjab. That, of course, on the electoral figures, is a high proportion, but, here again, we hope that representation will be given to both organisations in the advisory committee on minorities.
After a careful re-examination of the scheme that was put forward in May last, we are convinced that it is not only fair but feasible. Whatever the scheme however, it is clear that it can only succeed by cooperation and a certain degree of tolerance. Whether it is in the Constituent Assembly itself, or in the sections, neither community can force the other to accept its decisions unless there is sufficient mutual trust in the basic democratic intention of both parties. We still hope that both the main parties may 1359 accept this statement of 16th May in its original intent and form, as an agreement between them, by which they are both honourably bound, not only in the letter but in the spirit. We can see no other way by which the disaster of civil strife can be avoided. Nor has either party been able to suggest any alternative method which is acceptable to the other party. We hope very much that nothing which will be said in this Debate, will accentuate the differences that exist, or make more difficult the coming together of these two great communities for the future benefit and glory of their country.
I have attempted to lay before the House some of the main facts of the present Indian situation as I think it might form a useful introduction to this Debate. I tried to be objective, in a summary which must, of necessity, omit many incidents. His Majesty's Government are, of course, most deeply concerned at recent developments in India. Anxious as they are to see a rapid and smooth transition to self-government, they believe that it is still possible for the plan of the Cabinet Mission to be carried through, and I am convinced that it is essential that all parties in India should call a halt to the violent propaganda that has stirred up the people over the last few months. The first conditions for a successful outcome of cooperation in the interim Government, and, if it comes, in the Constituent Assembly, is that all parties should show by their conduct outside those bodies, the reality of their desire to cooperate within them. If this degree of mutual trust can be engendered, there is no reason that we can see why, within the next year, a new Constitution should not be worked out which will then enable the British people to hand over to the Indian people, with dignity and completeness, the power which they have so long exercised in India. By so doing, we shall complete a great chapter of world development, and realise the hopes of many of those British citizens who have served India so well in the past.
§ 4.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
The House is indebted to the President of the Board of Trade for the careful, lucid and comprehensive statement which he has made, and we all associate ourselves with him in his appeal to the leaders of the various 1360 parties in India to abstain from violent propaganda or invective against each other, which may have the effect of bringing about a recrudescence or intensification of the grave disorders which have occurred. The right hon. Gentleman deplored, in moderate terms, the fact that we were having a Debate on this subject today. But it would be a pity if the British Empire in India passed out of life into history, without the House of Commons seeming to take any interest in the affair, and without any record, even in HANSARD, of the transaction.
It is several months since we have even discussed the Indian drama, which is unfolding itself remorselessly. So far, in this Parliament, we have never voted in a Division on these issues, momentous though they be to Britain, to the British Commonwealth of Nations, to the world at large and, even more, to the 400 million who dwell in the Indian Continent. Words are almost inadequate to describe their vastness. But memorable as these issues may be, we have never divided the House on them, nor shall we do so on this occasion. We must still indulge the hope that agreement will be reached between the two great Indian religions and between the political parties which give modern expression to their age-long antagonisms. We should, however, be failing in our duty if we in this House gave the impression to India that we were inattentive, or even indifferent, to what is happening, and what is going to happen out there. For many generations, Parliament has been responsible for the government of India, and we can only relieve ourselves, or be relieved, from that burden by the passing of a solemn Act. While we are responsible, it would, in my opinion, be disastrous and be discreditable to the House if the whole Session passed away, with nothing but a casual reference being made to these tremendous and immeasurable events which are taking place.
There is another aspect. If we remained silent after all these months, it might be thought that we were in agreement with His Majesty's Government, and that the policy which they were pursuing was a national policy, and not a party policy of the forces which they represent. It might be thought that this was a policy of Britain as a whole, and that the execution of it was endorsed by the British people as a whole, whereas, 1361 for good or ill, the responsibility rests with His Majesty's Government. On their heads lies the responsibility, not only for the execution of the policy, but for the powerful impulse they have given to a great many tendencies which are dominant in this matter today. I say nothing to derogate from any utterances or statements which have been made by the Members of other parties. They are all extant, but I should be very sorry indeed to feel that, as matters unfold in India, there is any question of our being held accountable at the present moment for the course of events. Therefore, we are bound to take an opportunity to challenge the Government on this matter by bringing the affair to the light of day.
The newspapers, with their alluring headlines, do not do justice to the proportion of current events. Everyone is busy, or is oppressed by the constant cares and difficulties of daily life. Headlines flicker each day before them. Any disorder or confusion in any part of the world, every kind of argument, trouble, dispute, friction or riot, all flicker across the scene. People go tired to bed, at the end of their long, bleak, worrying days, or else they cast care aside, and live for the moment. But, all this time, a tremendous event in Asia is moving towards its culmination, and we should be unworthy of the times in which we live, or of the deeds which we have done, if, through unduly careful restraint, we appeared to others unconscious of the gravity or careless of the upshot of events which affect the lives of vast numbers of human beings who, up to the present, have dwelt for well or ill beneath our protecting shield. My colleagues and I were convinced that if we put off all notice of Indian affairs until the end of January —because that is what it would have come to—or, possibly, February of next year after ail these months of silence, the immense accountability of the House of Commons and of the British nation might slip, with so much else, uncared for, away. For these leasons, I am sure that we ought not to separate without making at least a passing comment, to put it mildly, upon the main new features of the Indian problem which have presented themselves to us to prominently in the last few weeks.
There are three main new features to which I would direct the attention of the House this afternoon. There was, and 1362 there still is, a general measure of consent here and throughout the island to the final transference of power from the House of Commons to Indian hands, but that that transference, if it is to take place, must be based upon the agreement and the co-operation of the principal masses and forces among the inhabitants of India. Only in this way could that transference take place without measureless bloodshed out there, and lasting discredit to our name in the world. Those who are content with the general movement of our relations with India over the last 20 years have hoped that the desire of many Indians to be rid for ever of British rule and guidance would have brought about a melting of hearts among the vast populations inhabiting the Indian continent, and that they would have joined together to maintain the peace and the unity of India, and stride forth boldly into their independent future, on which we impose no bar.
Those are not my views; they are the views of a very great number of people. But it is necessary to place on record the undoubted fact that no such melting of hearts has, so far, occurred. I think that that would be considered in harmony with the habit of understatement which has often received acceptance in this House. On the contrary, all the facts and all the omens point to a revival, in an acute and violent form, of the internal hatreds and quarrels which have long lain dormant under the mild incompetence of liberal-minded British control. This is the dominating fact which stares us in the face today. The House will probably be of the opinion that it is too soon for us to accept this melancholy conclusion, or to regulate our conduct by it. To me, however, it would be no surprise if there were a complete failure to agree. I warned the House as long ago as 1931, when I said that if we were to wash our hands of all responsibility, ferocious civil war would speedily break out between the Muslims and Hindus. But this, like other warnings, fell upon deaf and unregarding ears.
I have always borne in mind the words my father used when he was Secretary of State for India 60 years ago. He said:Our rule in India is, as it were, a sheet of oil spread out over a surface of, and keeping calm and quiet and unruffled by storms, an immense and profound ocean of humanity. 1363 Underneath that rule lie hidden all the memories of fallen dynasties, all the traditions of vanquished races, all the pride of insulted creeds, and it is our task, our most difficult business, to give peace, individual security and general prosperity to the 250 millions of people"—there are now 400 millions—who are affected by those powerful forces, to bind them and to weld them by the influence of our knowledge, our law and our higher civilisation, in process of time into one great united people and to offer to all the nations of the West the advantages of tranquility and progress in the East.That is the task which, with all our shortcomings and through all our ordeals, we have faithfully and loyally pursued since Queen Victoria assumed the Imperial Crown. That is the task which we have now declared ourselves willing to abandon completely, provided that we have such assurance of agreement between the Indian races, religions, parties and forces as will clear us from the responsibility of bringing about a hideous collapse and catastrophe. We have no such assurance at the present time. Agreement in India, which was the basis of all our policy and declarations, was the indispensable condition. It was the foundation of the Cripps Mission in 1942; it was the key-note of the Cabinet Mission sent out this year, but there is no agreement before us yet; I stress "yet". There are only strife and bloodshed, and the prospect of more and worse. That is the first point of which we must take note—the absence of agreement which, it was common ground between us, should stand as the foundation of the future transference of power in India.
The second point to which I would like to draw the attention of the House is the cardinal error of His Majesty's Government when, on 12th August, they invited one single Indian party, the Congress Party, having made other efforts, to nominate all the members of the Viceroy's Council. Thereby they precipitated a series of massacres over wide regions, unparalleled in India since the Indian Mutiny of 1857. Indeed, it is certain that more people have lost their lives or have been wounded in India by violence since the interim Government under Mr. Nehru was installed in office four months ago by the Viceroy, than in the previous 90 years, or four generations of men, covering a large part of the reigns of five Sovereigns. This is only a foretaste of what may come. It may be only the first few heavy 1364 drops before the thunderstorm breaks upon us. These frightful slaughters over wide regions and in obscure uncounted villages have, in the main, fallen upon Muslim minorities. I have received from high and credible witnesses, accounts of what has taken place, for instance, in Bihar. The right hon. and learned Gentleman gave us his report. What happened in Bihar casts into the shade the Armenian atrocities with which Mr. Gladstone once stirred the moral sense of Liberal Britain. We are, of course, cauterised by all that we ourselves have passed through. Our faculty for wonder is ruptured, our faculty for horror is numbed; the world is full of misery and hatred. What Mr. Gollancz, in a remarkable book—which, I may say, shows an evident lack of peace of mind—has called "our threatened values," do not stir us as they would have done our fathers or our predecessors in this House; nor, perhaps, after all our exertions and in our present eclipse, have we the physical and psychic strength to react against these shocking tidings, as former generations and earlier Parliaments, who have not suffered like us, would certainly have done.
The official figure of the lives lost since the government of India was handed over to the interim Administration of Mr. Nehru is stated at 10,000. I doubt very much whether that figure represents half the total racial and religious murders which have occurred up to date. An outbreak of animal fury has ravaged many large districts, and may at any time resume or spread its devastation through teeming cities and Provinces as big as England or the main British island. It in some comfort to recall, and I was glad the right hon. and learned Gentleman reminded us of it, that both Muslim and Hindu leaders have joined together to arrest, or at least mitigate, this appalling degeneration. I have been informed that it was Mr. Nehru himself who gave the order which the Provincial Government of Bihar had been afraid to give for the police and troops to fire upon Hindu mobs who were exterminating the Muslim minorities within their midst—for so long had they dwelt side by side, if not in amity, at least in peace. That was certainly to his credit and may be taken, so far as it goes, as an encouraging sign.
Nevertheless, I must record my own belief, which I have long held and often 1365 expressed, that any attempt to establish the reign of a Hindu numerical majority in India will never be achieved without a civil war, proceeding, not perhaps at first on the fronts of armies or organised forces, but in thousands of separate and isolated places. This war will, before it is decided, lead through unaccountable agonies to an awful abridgement of the Indian population. Besides and in addition to this, I am sure that any attempt by the Congress Party to establish a Hindu Raj on the basis of majorities measured by the standards of Western civilisation—or what is left of it—and proceeding by the forms and formulas of Governments with which we are familiar over here, will, at a very early stage, be fatal to any conception of the unity of India.
The right hon. Gentleman gave us some account of the differences that had arisen about the declaration of 15th May, as between the two parties and so forth. But the technical and procedural points now in dispute in Delhi are not the issues at stake; they are only the tactical and argumentative counters; they are only the symbols of passions and hatreds deep in the soil of India, and measured by the standard of a thousand years. The unity of India is of superficial appearance, imposed, by many generations of British rule, upon a mighty continent. It will pass away for long periods of time, once the impartial element of guidance from outside is withdrawn. Whatever may be thought of these conclusions—and I have no doubt there is great difference of opinion about attempts to draw conclusions in regard to matters of such vast, vague and obscure a character—the facts upon which they are based should, I am sure, at this stage not pass without occasional mention in the House of Commons, which, as I have said, until other arrangements are made bears a lawful, legal and inescapable responsibility for what happens in India.
The third new and important fact, of which we must this afternoon take notice, is the declaration by His Majesty's Government—made, I think, by the Prime Minister last week—with which the departure of some of our visitors was accompanied. Let me read the last paragraph of the declaration:There has never been any prospect of success for the Constituent Assembly except upon the basis of an agreed procedure. Should a Constitution come to be framed by a Constituent Assembly in which a large section of the Indian population has not been 1366 represented, His Majesty's Government could not of course contemplate—as the Congress have stated they would not contemplate—forcing such a Constitution upon any unwilling parts of the country.If this is at last the settled policy of His Majesty's Government it will carry them far. It comprises within its scope, it seems to me, the discharge of our obligations, both to the Muslim inhabitants of India and to those who are called the Scheduled, or Depressed Classes, or the Untouchables as they are regarded by their fellow Hindus, which obligation we have long been pledged in honour. How this policy will be carried into effect it is not possible to foresee, and still less to foretell, at this moment. It is indeed a formidable programme after so many slowly grown loyalties have been repudiated, and so many bulwarks cast away. I take note of that declaration, because it seems to me to be a most important milestone in this long journey, which combines the pangs of uphill progress with the evils which beset us upon downhill progression.
The Muslims, numbering 90 million, some in separate States and the rest intermingled in an extraordinary manner with the Hindus, comprise the majority of the fighting elements in India. The Untouchables, for whom Dr. Ambedkar has the right to speak, number, as I contend, anything from 40 to 60 millions. It is to them that His Majesty's Government owe a special duty of protection. At present in these negotiations they are not regarded, in a technical sense, as a minority, so I understand. There is a technical sense. If you are a minority, certain treatment is open to you; but if you are not a minority, then you are denied that treatment. They have been outwitted and outmanoeuvred in various ways, through the Poona Pact form of the elections, as the right hon. Gentleman admitted with candour and sincerity, and the affectation of pretence is put forward that they are merely a part of the vast Hindu community, and are not entitled to be considered as a minority entity in India's life. I must particularly ask the Prime Minister, or whoever is to speak for the Government, to state the Government's view and intentions upon this point. Are the 60 million Untouchables to be considered as an entity by themselves, entitled to the consideration which is to be given to entities; or are they merely to be used to swell the numerical size of those 1367 whom they regard as their oppressors? I should be very glad if a clearer pronouncement could be made upon that point. I do not anticipate that it will be an unfavourable one.
I have already remarked, earlier in the Session, that the word "minority" has no relevance or sense when applied to masses of human beings numbered in many scores of millions. When there are many scores of millions the word "minority" really does not apply. We are only 46 million in this island, but we do not consider ourselves a minority; we consider ourselves an entity—at least so far. Ninety million Muslims and 60 million people of the Depressed Classes are not relative facts, but actual and absolute facts. The Depressed Classes are fully entitled to be considered as an entity, and I repeat my request to the right hon. Gentleman that a very clear statement should be made on this point.
I must now draw the attention of the House to the character of the Constituent Assembly, which apparently is to proceed to make a republic for India, and engage upon it at once. I have not today the intention of scrutinising the electoral foundation upon which this rests—30 million out of 400 million.
§ Mr. Churchill
They are dealing with the fortunes of all India. Large parts of it are not represented at all. There are 30 million electors, who have not much experience with modern political methods, and that is the foundation. I say that that is not necessarily capable of giving a complete democratic verdict such as would be required in other more advanced communities.
§ Mr. Churchill
Yes, certainly. I have always been in favour of extending the franchise. I believe in the will of the people. I do not believe in the perversion of the will of the people by actively organised and engineered minorities, who, having seized upon power by force or fraud or chicane, come forward and then use that power in the name of vast masses with whom they have long lost all effective 1368 connection. I say that as to the general foundation. A decision is to be taken, as a result of which the British connection with India will come to an end. I am not at all admitting that that decision represents the wish or expression of the people of India; nor do I admit that the minorities who are going to utter that expression can claim the democratic title which, in modern days, attaches to those who speak for the large majorities of universal suffrage elections. The Cabinet Mission's proposal of 15th May for the setting up of a Constituent Assembly was essentially a proposal that the main political parties of India should meet, and through their representatives—70 Muslims, 220 Hindus in which were absorbed the unfortunate Untouchables, and four Sikhs—endeavour to work out the proposed Constitution. Do His Majesty's Government consider that the meeting now taking place in New Delhi, which the Muslim League are not so far attending at all, is in any sense the meeting of a valid Constituent Assembly? The fact that the Muslims are refusing to attend remains a fact, whoever is to blame for it, and a meeting of one side without the other is not a conference. Indeed, the text of the proposals of the Government and the right hon. and learned Gentleman, whose ability has been devoted with such disastrous effects to furthering the whole of this policy—
§ Mr. Churchill
I remember well when the right hon. and learned Gentleman went out as representative of the Government of which I was the head, and how we had to pull him up because— [Interruption.] I do not want to say anything—
§ Sir S. Cripps
If the right hon. Gentleman intends to disclose what passed between me and the Cabinet on that occasion, I hope he will disclose it all.
§ Mr. Churchill
The right hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right in what he says, and I shall not pursue the point. [Laughter.] What is all this laughter? No one impugns the conscientious integrity and virtue of the right hon. and learned Gentleman, but I must say that in the Cabinet Mission, of which we have the results published, which has taken place under the present Government, his 1369 influence has, I have every reason to believe, been used for an altogether undue emphasis being placed upon the advantages being given to the Hindus. At any rate, the right hon. and learned Gentleman can defend himself. No one more than he has taken responsibility in this matter, because neither of his colleagues could compare with him in that acuteness and energy of mind with which he devotes himself to so many topics injurious to the strength and welfare of the State.
To return to the validity of the present Constituent Assembly, on which I trust we shall have some statement, the document of 15th May states that if the President of the Assembly should decide that a matter raised is not ''a major communal issue," the party which objects and maintains that it is a major communal issue may claim that the matter is referred for the opinion of the Federal Court. How is it possible that this procedure can work if the party which objects is not there at all? The meeting in Delhi is not, therefore—I wish to hear a statement from the Government on this —the proposed Constituent Assembly which they put forward. Let me take a more homely analogy. If the bride or bridegroom fails to turn up at church, the result is not what, to use an overworked word, is called a "unilateral" wedding. The absolute essence of the matter is that both parties should be there. While we hope that this may still be the case, it is still pertinent to inquire if His Majesty's Government consider that their proposed conference of a Constituent Assembly has begun.
I am grateful to the House for listening to me after we have had so full an account from the responsible Minister of the Crown. I feel bound, however, to end upon a positive conclusion, although I will express it rather in terms of negation. In all this confusion, uncertainty and gathering storm, which those who have studied the Indian problem over long years might well have foreseen, there appear at the present time to be three choices—the proverbial three choices—before the British Parliament. The first is to proceed with ruthless logic to quit India regardless of what may happen there. This we can certainly do. Nothing can prevent us, if it be the will of Parliament, from gathering together our women and children and unarmed 1370 civilians, and marching under strong rearguards to the sea. That is one choice. The second is to assert the principle, so often proclaimed, that the King needs no unwilling subjects and that the British Commonwealth of Nations contemplates no compulsory partnership, that, in default of real agreement, the partition of India between the two different races and religions, widely differing entities must be faced; that those who wish to make their own lives in their own way may do so, and the gods be with them; and that those who desire to find, in a variety of systems, a means of association with our great free Commonwealth may also be permitted to take the course which, ultimately, they may show themselves ready to take.
It follows, of course, from this course, this second alternative, that anarchy and massacre must be prevented and that, failing a measure of agreement not now in sight, an impartial Administration, responsible to Parliament, shall be set up to maintain the fundamental guarantees of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" to the millions, nay, the hundreds of millions, of humble folk who now stand in jeopardy, bewilderment and fear. Whether that can be achieved or not by any apparatus of British controlled government that we can form from our dissipated resources is, again, a matter upon which it is now impossible to form a final judgment.
One thing there is, however, that, whatever happens, we must not do. We must not allow British troops or British officers in the Indian Army to become the agencies and instruments of enforcing caste Hindu domination upon the 90 million Muslims and the 60 million Untouchables; nor must the prestige or authority of the British power in India, even in its sunset, be used in partisanship on either side of these profound and awful cleavages. Such a course, to enforce religious and party victory upon minorities of scores of millions, would seem to combine the disadvantages of all policies and lead us ever deeper into tragedy, without giving us relief from our burdens, or liberation, however sadly purchased, from moral and factual responsibility. It is because we feel that these issues should be placed bluntly and plainly before the British and Indian peoples, even amid their present distresses and perplexities, that we thought it our bounden duty to ask for this Debate.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
No one could deny the right of this House to discuss and to debate any matter of public control. Nobody would deny that duty to this House, and certainly nobody would deny that we have a duty to debate such a serious matter as the position of India and its future Constitution. Let me assure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) that no one is indifferent or inattentive to the great problems that are now confronting India. We all realise to the full the gravity of the situation. We all realise that we are now face to face with an entirely new situation. First and foremost, we have made it clear to the Indian people that we desire complete independence for India. That is an entirely new situation. We are now ending a long and very honourable association that has existed for many generations between this country and India. Undoubtedly, during that association mistakes have been made. We should be more than human if we had not made those mistakes. I am sure that no Western nation could have done for the Indian people what this great British people has done for them. We have brought justice to them, toleration, and understanding, and have done our best with regard to education. Above all, we have brought to them peace for a series of generations, within their own lives. Looking back upon that history, I imagine that there could be nothing but gratitude to the great and noble people who have done their best not only to serve this country but to serve the people of India. About that, there can be no doubt.
What I would ask, therefore, is whether it is going to be helpful at all, if this matter is to be discussed at this moment. We have heard from the President of the Board of Trade a factual statement, as objectively made as he could make it. I do not think he added a single fact that the people of this country and of India did not already know. It was a masterly summary of the documents and of the letters that have passed between the Mission, the Viceroy and the leaders of the two major parties. It contained no comment of any kind with regard to the situation or with regard to any of the parties. The only thing that the right hon. and learned Gentleman did suggest was to pray earnestly and sincerely that a settlement might at last be reached of this grave 1372 matter. I am wondering, however, what good purpose was served by the speech to which we have just listened from the right hon. Member for Woodford. What good purpose could be served by the suggestion that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, who has given us such an unbiased report, was biased? The right hon. and learned Gentleman is perfectly capable of, and I would not dream of attempting, his own defence He is capable of defending himself as to the propriety or impropriety of that charge, but I am entitled to say this to the Leader of the Opposition, that I can imagine nothing which will do greater disservice to a settlement than the suggestion that any one of the three members of the Mission was moved by bias towards one side or the other.
We have now to recognise that we have promised complete independence to the people of India. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the unity of India as if it were something superficial. Politically, it may be. One realises that there are deep religious and cultural divisions. But it is, nevertheless, a great sub-continent, where the welfare of the people depends, and even their food depends, upon the close contact of all the Provinces within that sub-continent. While we are discussing, and while the parties are discussing the political set-up, and the future Constitution of India, to my mind the most important fact is the economic fact that there are 400,000,000 people there, half of whom are all the time on the brink of starvation, and whose very food depends upon, not merely the season and the production in a particular Province, but, if that fails, upon some amount out of the surplus of another Province. Therefore, the unity of India is there, geographically as well as historically.
The position, so far as we are concerned, is that we are trustees, anxious for the welfare of all the beneficiaries, taking no sides with one against another. We are anxious only that they shall now take over the burden we have had to shoulder so long, and bring peace and prosperity to their own people, and raise their standard of life. It can be done It should be done. We must realise that, whereas the population of India in the last 30 years has increased by 100,000,000, the cultivated land which supplies them with food has not increased at all during those 30 years. It was 1373 insufficient for 300,000,000 30 years ago. It is, therefore surely, insufficient for 400,000,000 today. That is only one of the economic facts. What is to happen with regard to their industries, their education, their health? Those are matters which should be the concern of the Indian peoples and of the Indian Governments. We are anxious to hand over trusteeship to them; we are anxious to hand it over at the earliest possible moment. We all deplore recent events. Words fail us in expressing our horror at the riots, murders, butchery that have taken place. We would also say to India that we realise that there have been no wars more horrible in Europe in the past, than the wars caused by religious differences. Let that be a warning, so that they may do their utmost to act in the most statesmanlike manner, remembering that they are responsible, not only for the party which they represent, but for the whole of India, and that they have a duty towards all.
I asked that this Debate should not take place. I do not want to add any more today, except again to express our gratitude to His Majesty's Government for what they have endeavoured to do, and especially to the three members of the Mission, who did their very best to bring the Indian leaders together. So far as we are concerned, we hope that even now, at this hour, these people can come together, not only for the benefit of the peoples of India, but for that of the peoples of Asia, and, indeed, for the peace of the world. It is with that hope that I would conclude. I am sure all the people of this country have but one desire—to see this great question settled at the earliest possible moment with fairness and justice to all.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Hamilton (Sudbury)
I speak as a very old friend of India; perhaps, the oldest in this House, seeing that I was born in that country and served for a great part of my life there. Not only that, but four generations of my family have served India in varied capacities, military, administrative and missionary. Speaking against that background, I should like, first, to emphasise how completely the Leader of the Opposition misunderstands the position in India. He served there as a young officer 40 or 50 years ago; and it is evident to me that he still regards India as being in a state 1374 rather similar to that in which he found it in those days, when the ordinary Indian regarded the British officer, deputy-commissioner, or collector and his paternal administration, with utter, unquestioning respect. But those days have gone. I have seen an extraordinary change take place in the last 30 years or so. It is perfectly true, even now, that, as the Leader of the Opposition said, the number of Indians who are politically conscious is a small percentage of the whole population; but it is untrue to say that they cannot influence the masses of India. They can and do influence them. They have learned to do it in this last 30 years, and they have got across to them this simple idea: that it is a humiliating position, to be dominated by a people of an entirely different colour and race; and they have given them the feeling that the one thing they want is independence under a Government of their own nation.
I could give simple, little illustrations-episodes—that I have seen, to show that. I remember well in the early nineteen twenties travelling on a train through the Mahratta country. On the same train was the prominent nationalist, Tilak; and I shall not forget the way in which crowds gathered at the village railway stations to welcome him, and sing their newly-invented national song, "Hail! Motherland." Many years later, in very different country, in the Punjab, I remember that when I was taking a meal at a railway station, the waiter suddenly rushed off because of a commotion outside. He came back to tell me that the Congress Leader—he used the English words—was being seen off at the station. He was quite wrong, I found afterwards; it was somebody quite different; but I shall never forget the gleam of enthusiasm which he had in his eye. These simple folk, both in the North and in the West, knew very little of politics, but they did feel that here were men of their own race and colour who were going to achieve independence for them.
I have no doubt that they were full of wishful thinking, also. They anticipated that the result would be happiness for themselves. It may be quite different. There may be disillusionment in store for them. The road will, probably, not be easy at all. But that does not affect the main principle, which is this: that no Government can continue satisfactorily 1375 unless there is complete good will between governors and governed. We had it in the past, but we cannot expect to continue having it now. I am one of those who think we have done a good job in the past, taking it by and large, although there are some bad spots on our record. But, however good a job we have done, we cannot go on doing a good job in the psychological conditions which prevail in India now. I am quite certain of that.
There is a further very important point. I have always felt that, at the best, our job in India was purely a preparatory one, because real progress cannot be made until the Indians get their affairs into their own hands. I say that because real progress depends on a number of reforms which are intimately connected with Indian customs, culture and religion, subjects in which we cannot possibly interfere and which can only be adequately dealt with by an independent India acting in her own right. I have not the time to embark upon this subject, but will refer only to the prevalent custom of child marriage, which devitalises India so much, and also the principle so strongly held among the masses of Indians, that a woman ought to begin bearing children as soon as nature lets her and go on bearing them, as long as nature lets her —with the result that the population is increasing at an incredible speed, bringing, as the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) has pointed out, frightful pressure on the means of sustenance. Those are the kind of problems which can only be tackled by an independent Indian Government.
We were warned by the Leader of the Opposition that there may be trouble next year, communal disturbances, possibly civil war, and so on. I must admit that that is perfectly possible, but if those do happen to be inevitable steps along India's path towards full nationhood, well, they must be accepted as such. We must keep a sense of proportion in these things. Are we the people to cavil at India's leaders because they are prepared to face this sort of trouble? We have had our civil wars; the United States had an exceedingly bloody civil war. Could anybody say that that was a reason for some foreign country coming in to dominate either us or the Americans? In our own generation we have plunged into two tremendous struggles 1376 and poured out our blood like water— over a million dead from our own small population—and why? Simply because we were not prepared to be dominated, either by Hitler or by the Kaiser. We wanted to live our own sort of life in our own sort of way. And Indians may feel that, whatever troubles are before them, they would rather face them than continue in a state of subjection to a foreign Power. We are not the people who can cavil at that sentiment.
I sincerely hope, and of course we all hope, as the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery said just now, that that will not happen, and there is no reason why it should happen. After all, let the Indian leaders look at the past. India, I believe, whatever temporary arrangements may have to be made now, is one unit; it can never be permanently divided. You cannot draw a line across India and say that the people on one side are quite different from the people on the other. As a matter of history, more than 2,000 years ago, with all the terrible difficulties of primitive communications, the great Buddhist King Asoka did succeed in establishing unity over the greater parts of India. Coming to a much later period, the Emperor Akbar did the same thing. Both these great rulers were distinguished for their tolerance in matters of culture and religion. May we not hope that the modern leaders of India will take an example from these great men of the past? They could also take an example from the Indian Army. In the Indian Army in the last few years, a most remarkable comradeship has sprung up between Indians of all religions and all races. If it is possible in the Army, it is possible in other walks of Indian life. We must most earnestly hope that this will come about, and whatever troubles India has to go through in the immediate future, I earnestly look forward to a happy future for India. Not only that, but I think this hope may probably be fulfilled in a close link and friendship between India and this country, if we do the right thing now.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Sir Stanley Reed (Aylesbury)
In the few moments of the time of the House which I shall take up this afternoon I speak under a very deep sense of responsibility, and I trust that nothing I say will be a source of embarrassment to the 1377 Government which is carrying this terribly heavy burden, or to the Viceroy and his colleagues who are pursuing their task with unexampled patience in India. It has been said, and very truly, that no man who has been five years out of India is qualified to speak on the Indian question. It is eight years since I was in India, and I, therefore, speak with a sense of reasonable humility. Perhaps my excuse is that before those eight years there were something like 30 years of close and active work in India, and in all phases of Indian life, which led me to a great and rich friendship with Indians of all sections of the community.
I want to say in the clearest terms that I think the Government have approached this great problem, bristling with difficulties from every single aspect, with courage, wisdom and imagination, and I want to give them, on all the broad outlines of the policy they have pursued, my cordial and humble support. I think they were wise in sending the Cripps Mission, although it came at a tragic moment in India when the Japanese were knocking at the gates and it seemed, as it were, a counsel of despair. I think they were wise in sending the Cabinet Mission to India, and I pay a humble tribute to its members for the patience and wisdom with which they pursued their task in the heat of Delhi and in the heights of Kashmir, against a series of rather hairsplitting problems which were thrust upon them from day to day.
When we come to look at the work of the Cabinet Mission we are confronted at once by the great and fundamental problem in India today, namely, the hammering out, in the light of new and changed conditions, of a Constitution which will carry the good will and the cooperation of the great mass of the people. I sometimes ask myself whether the people of this country, including, with all respect, hon. Members of this House, really appreciate the immensity of the problem they are facing in attempting to deal with the Indian question. We argue over points of detail in the Constitution; we argue over representation and over this method and that method, but what are all these? They are only means to an end, and the end is the peace, happiness, tranquillity and prosperity of 400 million people, whose total is growing at the rate of 5 millions a year: 400 million people whose standard of living is far below that 1378 which we desire to see established; 400 million people who have to be raised many steps in the social and economic scale before anybody can be satisfied, and who may be set back for generations by any false step or great disturbance now. That is the immensity of the problem which besets us, the Government and the House.
Then again, I sometimes wonder if there is a full appreciation of what is meant when the President of the Board of Trade, in his very clear, reasoned and objective statement, spoke about this being a logical development of our connections with India. Sometimes I think that people are almost taken by surprise with this striking development. Yet it is not a new development of today or yesterday. Its seeds were sown well over a century ago, when higher education in India was based on the English language. No one can read English history or English literature without finding the breath of freedom in every sentence. Then there is the steady move to representative government. The first step was taken as long ago as 1865 and the principle has been gradually developed. The electoral system was introduced in 1879, and stage by stage we have pursued the path of reform. As long ago as 1917, we had reached the stage when, in the Montagu-Chelmsford Report, it was stated, in the most categorical terms, that progress was such that the demand for self-government in India was bound to arise, which found expression in the Act of 1919, with the germs of responsibility.
These are the seeds which we have sown; this is the spirit which we have created, and which is now finding expression in the task which confronts us today, and in the legislative steps we are taking. I hope that many Members in the House will refresh their memories by reading that remarkable book on India by Thompson and Garratt, "The Rise and Fulfilment of British Power in India." It is a fulfilment which we have to face today, and if we can handle that fulfilment with courage, wisdom and sagacity, it will be one of the proudest moment in our history. There is a phrase in that work which has often struck me; it is that, owing, perhaps, to our tardiness in the past, we have to do a great many things rather more quickly than we should like, and more quickly than is politically expedient But we have had two great wars, shaking 1379 civilisation to its very foundation; we have had great changes in the spiritual and political sense in the whole of Asia. India could not remain immune to these stirrings, and could not but be profoundly affected; and if anyone thought they would not bring us new problems, with tragic suddenness, then he must have strangely misread the history of our times. I come back now to the point I ventured to put —that the Cabinet Mission and the Cabinet Scheme, and the further steps taken by the Government should command the general support of all parties in this House. When we come to the greatest problem of all, the problem of minorities, let us be quite clear in our minds; what is not always appreciated is that the minorities in India are the majority. At the second Round Table Conference it was shown that the minorities together form 52 per cent. of the whole population of India, and it is those with whom we are dealing. Do not let us shut our eyes and burke the fact that the greatest problem of all is reconciling the Hindus and the Mohammedans to a co-operative programme of self-government, and here we come to the great movement crystallised in what is called "Pakistan." What is meant by Pakistan? Let us be clear over its origin and meaning. Do not think it is new, because it goes back to the Turco-Greek war of 1897, inducing the spiritual renaissance of the great Islamic brotherhood; the Pan-Islamic movement; Pan-Turanism; and the Khalifat agitation. Finally, it assumed the form of Pakistan as we know it today. Pakistan is not just a word; it is the expression of the intense desire of the Mohammedan community for security for their religious, cultural and economic status under the changed form of the Indian Constitution.
The economic problem is just as important as the religious and cultural problems, and it has a profound influence on the feelings of the Mohammedan community. If I thought for one moment that Pakistan, in its full expression, was a possible solution of this vivid question, I would give it my complete and unhesitating support, and commend it to the consideration of this House. Quite apart from the clear and lucid description of Pakistan in the Report of the Cabinet Mission, one has only to look at the map to see that between the Eastern zone and the Western zone there is that gap of 700 miles; this is such 1380 an inexorable geographical fact that Pakistan could not conceivably be a practical administrative proposition, apart from its economic aspect. I think that the Cabinet Mission's grouping of Provinces does produce the only possible solution to this otherwise perfectly impossible situation. I think that if that grouping were carried through with sincerity we might see an enduring solution of this thorny question, and one which should, and would, ensure the cooperation between these great communities in the future self-government of India. Doubts as to the interpretation of this part of the Cabinet scheme having arisen, I think that the Government should be congratulated on having invited the Indian leaders to this country in order to clarify the whole situation in the calmer atmosphere of London; and that clarification was complete and unequivocal in the statement issued on Saturday last.
May I touch on the question of the Scheduled Castes? That, to my mind, is one of the tragedies of India. For over a quarter of a century I was in close contact with the Scheduled Castes in association with the early social reformers. When I have been in Indian villages, sitting under the banyan trees, or in the village Chaura, I have remarked the handful of scarecrows, remote and isolated from the elect; these were the Scheduled Castes. One of the most distinguished members of that community was not only refused a room in the capital of an Indian State, but assured me that he could not even find a decent dwelling in the comparatively free atmosphere of Bombay. No one who has come into contact with the Scheduled Castes can fail to be profoundly moved by their deplorable position, and to feel a burning desire to improve and strengthen their status. I was hoping that their future would be comparatively assured by the franchise under the communal award of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, at the second Round Table Conference. I am only too painfully aware of the melancholy effect of the Poona Pact in emasculating this safeguard—a deplorable illustration of the mischief of legislating by the threat of starvation.
I do not think that at the moment we can go beyond the measures, the assurances, the steps embodied in the Cabinet Ministers' recommendations. Yet one would hope that it might be practical, 1381 even now, that some change in the Constitutional system and franchise could be made, which would give them more direct representation than they have under the Poona Pact, which is a travesty of a protective franchise—and it is protective franchise we all have at heart. After all, the Scheduled Castes have to live in India, among the Indian people, and the final solution must be worked out by themselves, within the fabric of Indian society.
I have listened with great respect to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wood-ford (Mr. Churchill), and I have appreciated all that he has said about the grim results of the riots, killings, and murders in Calcutta, Bombay, Bihar, and the Provinces of Bengal. We must remember that there is one great difference between our own society and civilisation and that in India. When we have a row, what does it mean? It means a few broken heads, a few people rushed off to gaol. I have been in Trafalgar Square when there was a baton charge, and I have been chased around the Haymarket in Bristol by a squadron of dragoons. But in India conditions are totally different. Once the thin crust between law and order is penetrated, it is not a matter of a baton or lathi charge; it is murder, arson, and, very often, rape. These are tragic results. I want those Members who will speak later, with intimate knowledge of India, to ask themselves this sober question: Should not the Government of the day, faced with a position such as His Majesty's Government were faced in Bihar, Bombay and Calcutta, have the right to use all the forces at their disposal in order to suppress disturbances promptly? I say, "All the forces at their disposal" and I await an answer.
I could wish that my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford had given us a constructive alternative to the Government's programme. Although I did not hear clearly everything he said, I did not detect such a constructive alternative. Nor can I join entirely with him in saying that a cardinal blunder was made when the interim Government was constituted entirely from the Congress Party, because the Muslim Community decided to abstain from taking those offices which were earmarked for them. After all, government has to be carried on and the temporary Government is not one with which anybody could be satisfied for a moment 1382 longer than it could be avoided. Therefore, I cannot share the criticism of the Viceroy and the Government for the step which they took. We must remember the tremendous importance, at this juncture, of keeping behind any Government a substantial body of public opinion, reflected in the Central Legislature and the Provincial Legislatures. I am old enough now to hesitate many times before I advise other people what their line of action should be. I feel a sense of profound regret, however, that representatives of the great Muslim community did not immediately join the interim Government. Anybody familiar with our Administration knows what was bound to happen; the de facto cabinet formed a cohesive body, and that those adhering to it later found it took some little time to fit into it. I hope that the Muslim community, among whom I have life-long friends, and among whom I have spent half a century, in intimate contact, will consider entering forthwith into the Constituent Assembly. I cannot share the view that the early meetings of the Constituent Assembly will be dealing only with questions of procedure. Those who have studied the not distant events in Paris will realise that questions of procedure may assume a dominating importance and powerfully influence all later proceedings.
Looking back on the years of my life in India, and on the precious memories which I bring thence, I dreamed a dream; I dreamed of the day when India, happy and contented, would be a full member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, attaining her fullest stature within it. I feel anxious and depressed today. Some breathe the word "Empire," and think they have used an argument. I remember the words of a great Indian patriot, the right hon. Srinavasa Sastri, after journeying around the Empire coming back to India, and electrifying audiences by saying, "The British Commonwealth and Empire is the greatest instrument for the progress of human freedom the world has ever seen." I am convinced that India will find her future and status far more secure within the Commonwealth than without it. But she might opt to remain without it; the choice is hers. There are special aspects of the situation with which I will not detain the House; but anybody who has followed the proceedings of the United Nations in America must appreciate what they are.
1383 I feel, today, very sad at heart. I cannot see my path clearly. I seem to be trying to see "through a glass darkly." At the same time, I find no alternative to the broad lines of policy which the Government have pursued, and for which I tender them my respectful admiration and gratitude. Through all these difficult days, my mind goes back to a phrase used by a Member of this House not many years ago, when the Indian problem looked not quite so dark, so grave, as it is today. He said, "All we can do is to ponder the path at our feet, and look straight on." I commend that to the House. With courage, confidence, let us ponder the path at our feet, and look straight on.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Richards (Wrexham)
We always listen to the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) with great interest when he talks on India, because he speaks with great knowledge, having spent many years in the service of that country. We admire the sober way in which he approaches this very difficult question. I think that we are all glad that we have the opportunity, for a short time today and tomorrow, of discussing the stupendous problem of India. I am afraid that we are too apt to be critical in regard to the difficulties which confront India at the present time, when we consider what little measure of success we have achieved in establishing anything like unity, or even peace, on the continent of Europe. We are bound to admit that the problems of India are not analogous to the problems of this country, where we have for many years been accustomed to constitutional Government rule. We have, however, in India a problem analogous to, and even more difficult than, the problem of establishing unity on the continent of Europe.
When we regard the problem in that way, we must admit that there are stupendous difficulties in the way of any Government achieving something like unity in India. On the other hand, we must not despair. As the hon. Baronet pointed out, one of the great changes that has taken place in the East, not only in India but in other countries, is the extraordinary awakening to a sense of their own individuality and responsibility. I think that it would be true to say that 1384 most of the representative Indians, particularly those who have been to this country, are as well versed in the constitutional traditions and methods of this country as anybody sitting in this House. I was astounded, in the short time during which I was out there, to find that all the books indicating modern authors were on the shelves of most of the representative Indians. I might say that they are more steeped than we are in the traditions of Western civilisation. That being the case, it was inevitable that, sooner or later, we should hear an insistant demand for a measure of independence and home rule on the part of the Indian people. We can look back to a long association with these wonderful people, with their great divisions, racial, linguistic and religious, and we are proud, I think, or we ought to be proud, of the fact that we have led them to the point where, we believe, they can henceforth go forward and govern themselves.
The President of the Board of Trade has given us, as has been pointed out more than once today, a very clear outline of the position, and I was interested to hear the hon. Baronet pay him the tribute which he did, which shows that the hon. Gentleman is a man of courage as well as of knowledge in matters of this kind. His speech contrasted very strangely, if I may say so, with some parts of the speech delivered earlier by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). In certain circumstances it requires a great deal of courage to stand up for a country when one thinks that its demand is justified. The Government, particularly the Cabinet Mission which went out to India earlier this year, made a tremendous effort to bring the parties together. It is an extraordinarily difficult task, and we must not congratulate ourselves too readily. We have had problems of this kind in this country. We have only to consider the great difficulties which we had for 50 or 60 years over the position in Ireland. The division there was a religious one, and, unfortunately, it still persists. The way we got over that difficulty was exactly the way that is suggested now in India; that is, to divide the country into two separate parts. The hon. Baronet quite rightly emphasised the extraordinary difficulty of Pakistan. I think that we all feel that India, as a result partly of our rule, is a unity, and that what we 1385 want to achieve is that the various interests and minorities which have been referred to today get their rightful place in a united India and not a divided India. I think that we all agree that the Cabinet, particularly during the last week or two, have striven as hard as any body of men could strive for one thing, and one thing only—to get these people to work together for the benefit of a united India.
Some of the chapters in the history of India are particularly dark, and we are proud of the fact that we have done something to lead the people in the direction of democratic rule and government. We ought to be particularly proud of the men who have assisted us in doing that. I think that one feeling, which we all have in common—and I was glad that the leader of the Opposition emphasised this fact—is that we should do everything in our power to encourage India to take her rightful place among the great nations of the world. Nothing, I am sure, will be said here tonight which will retard the wonderful progress made since the end of the war in achieving this object—an object which, as we all know, the British Empire has always placed before itself—of extending to India, so different in race, in outlook and tradition, the benefits of democratic government which has worked so admirably in the other parts of the Empire. I am sure that is the desire of all of us, and I look forward hopefully, despite the great difficulties which are facing the Cabinet on this question, to that achievement.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Hollis (Devizes)
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) I approach this Debate with a grave sense of responsibility—he from the depth of his knowledge, and I from the depth of my ignorance. I do not propose to say very much on the great overriding question of the Muslims and Hindus, or Pakistan, because there are many other hon. Members who can speak with much greater authority than I can on these matters. I should like to express, however, a word of anxiety lest our minds be wholly dominated by this great Muslim-Hindu problem to the exclusion of all other problems. I think that there was a certain amount of concern in this country that at the recent conference in London, invitations were not sent to the members 1386 of the Scheduled Castes and members of minorities such as the Christians. There was a general welcome to the Government's assurance that minorities would not be coerced. The actual phrase in which that assurance was given was that coercion would not be applied to "parts of the country." That was an assurance of great value to the Muslims, but it was also slightly disturbing to the other minorities who are not in a majority in any particular part of the country. The President of the Board of Trade very truly said what seemed to me a most happy and most important phrase, that the great gift which we were seeking to give India was not primarily the freedom of the nation so much as the "freedom of the individual." I entirely agree with the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. Richards), whose eloquent speech we so much enjoyed, that it is the great glory and paradox of British rule in India that we have brought to the Indians this notion of freedom, which was entirely alien to them, and that from Lord Macaulay's time, with our eyes open, we knew that inevitably would come the day when that gift which we had given them would be used to our disadvantage.
It would have been very strange if the President of the Board of Trade had said nothing in his speech about the other minorities. He was not guilty of that by any means. He spoke of the other minorities and he listed them in four classes. He listed the Sikhs, the Scheduled Classes, the Christians and the Anglo-Indians. As to the Sikhs, he gave us an admirable and lucid explanation of their position which I need not impose again upon the House, and he reached a conclusion with which I think few would disagree, that the Sikhs are likely to be able to look after themselves tolerably well. As to the Scheduled Classes, a number of hon. Members have spoken of their difficult situation. The situation is difficult, not because of the fault of this or that statesman or the particular miscarriage of an election, but because there is a gigantic paradox to be faced in offering democratic institutions to the Hindus, because nothing is more directly contrary to the whole spirit of democracy than the caste system. It remains to be seen how it will work, and whether it will conquer this spirit of democracy or whether the spirit of democracy will conquer the spirit of caste, breathed through countless ages. 1387 However, enough has been said by hon. Members about that problem.
What I was disturbed about was that, having truly listed these four classes of minorities and having spoken at some length upon the first two, the President of the Board of Trade said not a word about the third and fourth but passed on to other topics altogether. I think these two classes, the Christians and the Anglo-Indians, are classes which have peculiar demands upon our concern, and who are in a peculiarly difficult position. The Christians in India are a small minority, but a minority with a profoundly romantic history, tracing their religion, as they believe, back to St. Thomas the Apostle. In the Travancore State of India, where they are most numerous, they are at present suffering a regime of very considerable hardship. The Prime Minister there, Sir Ramaswami Aiyar, has definitely said that he will not abate that policy whatever an Indian Government or any British Government may say. On 1st June, 1946, he said:Any approach to the Paramount Power or Indian leaders will be absolutely ineffective as against himand thatTravancore would cease to be a Hindu State if Christians were allowed to have a free hand.Therefore, it is not unnatural that Christians should view with alarm the position in which they will be left when British paramountcy ceases to run in that country. It is not unnatural, too, that the Anglo-Indians should view with a certain amount of alarm the situation in which they will be left.
According to the previous proposals, the right hon. Gentleman said that the treatment of minorities was to be a matter of treaty. Now that has been changed by the action of the late Cabinet Mission and insteada satisfactory provision for protection is to be inserted in the Constitution.I cannot feel at all happy as to whether that change, which the right hon. Gentleman has defended, is really a change for the better. I can see how it may be possible to have some clause inserted in the Constitution about religious freedom, but I find it very difficult to see how we can 1388 persuade the Christians in India and, indeed, the Scheduled Classes, to feel secure under the verbal assurance of such a clause in the Constitution. It seems to me not a step forward, but a step back that these things should be guaranteed merely in the Constitution rather than by international treaty.
After all, we are continually saying that narrow nationalism is to be transcended. We are continually paying lip service to such institutions as U.N.O., but when we come to ask for practical decisions it is apparently thought more progressive that there must be no international control of these delicate matters other than to say there must be international control. It can hardly be interpreted as being unfriendly to the Indians if we say that the rights of the minority should be subject, if they cannot be subject to the Paramount Power, to the judgment of U.N.O., because the Indians were the first people to invoke that principle against the South Africans. Therefore, if they wish to be safeguarded by U.N.O. where they are in a minority in South Africa, there is nothing unfriendly at all in seeing that the minorities that are in India should seek that protection, too. Anyway, I hope very much that the right hon. Gentleman, who is to reply, will be able to speak some words which will give these minorities a very strong assurance that they will in no way be left to suffer under these new arrangements. I hope that he will be able to give them every confidence to enable them to play their full part in the future life of India, as the hon. Member for Wrexham so rightly looks forward to them doing.
§ 6.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
I am one of those who often regret that this House has not the opportunity of debating important events in the Empire overseas. I, personally, asked for a Debate on the extraordinary event which occurred recently when the Ceylon Constitution was radically altered, and I was supported by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), a former Colonial Secretary. No Debate came our way. I am not blaming the Lord President of the Council, because I know how difficult it is to find the time to have these Debates.
I agree entirely with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford 1389 (Mr. Churchill) that India should be debated, but why debate it today? Why, when most delicate and dangerous discussions are taking place, when there is a proposal to refer a vital Clause about the new Constitution to the Federal Court, should we debate a topic which is practically sub judice? I think the time could not possibly have been more ill chosen, and I am really astonished at hon. Members opposite allowing their leader to demand this Debate today. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford gave us some very graphic descriptions of killings that have been taking place in India—and in that he confirmed what had been told to me by people who have come from India recently and saw them with their own eyes. The right hon. Gentleman went on to suggest rather that all that was due to changes brought about by the Labour Government here. Towards the end of his speech he suggested that one of the alternatives was to restore an impartial British rule of India. Then he very wisely began to think things out—he is a marvellous strategist—and asked whether we had the means to do it, and so on. The latter part of his speech was quite right because it would require enormous military operations and untold expense to do it.
The day has passed when British administration can function in India, as everybody knows, and the real point is not to blame the Government for the disorders which have resulted from the policy adopted, but to consider what would have been the enormously greater disorders which would have occurred if the Government had not adopted the policy they have adopted. It is some years since I left India, but I know the country well, and I am constantly in touch with people who have recently come from that country, including my own son who has been in the Army there. I can assure the House that everybody who knows India, approves the step taken by the Cabinet Mission when they decided to adopt the bold and imaginative policy of going to India to settle the difficulties on the spot. Our Government then and since prevented major disorders occurring in India. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition more or less misled the House, perhaps unintentionally, by stressing that Mohammedans suffered worse in this 1390 matter of assassination than Hindus, and he went on to speak about what happened in Bihar. Those who know India are aware that the vast majority of people in Bihar are Hindus, whereas in Eastern Bengal and the rural parts of Bengal the vast majority are Muslims. The weaker side naturally suffered most in each event. I do not want, however, to dwell on the details of these horrible happenings, because by doing so, and by talking about the tragedy in Bihar or that in Calcutta and talking loosely about civil war we should only be inciting Indians to carry on disorders of civil war. Whatever motive underlay the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I regard it as tantamount to an incitement to the minorities to continue to block the way to self Government. What he meant I do not know, but I am perfectly certain that that is how it will be read in India.
Like all hon. Members on this side of the House, and I think, some opposite, I can claim to be a friend of India, and if my voice can carry out to that country, I am sure that it expresses the opinion of this House. I should like to tell the minorities not to trust the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford because they do not represent the views of this country, and the minorities would be very misguided indeed if they tried to resist the irresistible trend towards self-government by refusing to co-operate in the formation of a new constitution for India. The hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hollis) seemed to indicate that a way out of this impasse was to establish international control of some kind over India.
§ Mr. Hollis
I did not suggest anything like that. I simply cited the particular case of minorities.
§ Mr. Reid
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. He is quite right, he suggested international control—in the case of minorities. But there are various parts of the British Empire, India included, where if we suggested to the Indians or other peoples of the Empire—those in the West Indies, Ceylon and other places— international control of any kind, and proceeded to implement it, I can guarantee that we should have a first-class war at once.
§ Mr. Hollis
I gave the example that the Indians brought their own case in 1391 South Africa before U.N.O., and said that what could be done in South Africa could be done in India.
§ Mr. Reid
That is true, but the analogy is misleading. The Indians, in a quarrel with South Africa, appealed to U.N.O. That is a different thing from imposing international control in respect of the minorities in India. They may be quite willing to use international control for international purposes, but would be unwilling to allow international control on the national peoples of India. It is an entirely different thing. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford, whose words I noted, ascribed to the Labour Government responsibility for the hideous collapse and calamity, in asking Mr. Nehru to form a Provisional Government.
§ Mr. Reid
I may be telescoping it, but I think that is a fair representation of what the right hon. Gentleman said; I took it down at the time. Mr. Nehru was the leader of the largest party in India, and when the Provisional Government was about to be set up, it would not have been proper to appoint the members without consulting Mr. Nehru and inviting him to form a Government with the Viceroy's approval. The real cause of the trouble was what the right hon. Gentleman referred to as the age long divisions between Hindus and Mohammedans and other parties in India. Here again, if the voice of a mere back bencher could carry out to India I should like to tell them that the views of the British people, almost to a man, are entirely behind the policy of His Majesty's Government. The views expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford do not represent the views of the British people. I do not think they even represent the views of his own party, which I think accord more with those expressed in the remarks of the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Sir S. Reed) which showed a very long and personal knowledge of India. He, I hope, represents the views of the Tory Party, although I do not know. The people of Britain are almost entirely in favour of the bold and vigorous policy of the Labour Government. The Government's record in this matter is 1392 one of the most brilliant of all the records which we have achieved up to date. They have been bold. The Prime Minister has stated in a speech in this House that if the Indians want Swaraj they can have it, and if they want Purna Swaraj they can have that. Anyone who understands India, will realise that that was a high form of statesmanship, and has done a great deal of good in India.
There has been talk of the necessity for communal cooperation. Communal cooperation may not be necessary to get rid of the British in India—perhaps the British in India may be driven out without it—but I would say to my friends in India in all seriousness that the attempt to set up a democratic, efficient, and beneficial democracy in India without communal cooperation will be a failure. There is a dispute at the moment about the terms of the Cabinet Mission's plan, the exact wording and its meaning. That is a mere detail compared with the consideration that the price of getting democracy established efficiently in India is communal cooperation. Whatever the divisions are— religious, social, and so on—between the various communities, I would say to my friends there, "Unless you get communal cooperation—I do not care whether the Muslims win or the Hindus win—you will have every kind of disorder." Therefore I would beg them to cooperate, to enter the Constituent Assembly, have out their battles round a table, and evolve some sort of Constitution.
Finally, I would express the hope that the Indians, whatever they may do in their social, religious and private life, will cooperate politically. In this country we do cooperate politically. We have separated sectarian religion from politics, and the sooner the Indians do it the better. I hope that before long, when they have set up this Constitution, these wretched communal divisions will be replaced by political divisions which will be not according to caste, custom, race, or religion, but based on political realities.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) came to this House with a very properly established reputation for having been a very successful administrator. All the speeches he has made until this last one, showed 1393 that the reputation he had earned in another field was well-deserved. Today, the swirling London fog which has come into this Chamber seems to have affected his clear and lucid mind, because in the course of his observations he has not made one constructive addition to what has hitherto been said, and has not attempted to deal with one of the most dangerous situations with which this country and any of His Majesty's Governments have ever been faced. What he has said has resembled far too many of the speeches which have been made in the last 25 years in this House—pious aspirations, eloquence about gifts which we are conferring upon India, and beliefs that in the almost immediate future India will realise self-government. That has been said for the last 25 years, and we are seeing some of the results at any rate in the present situation. I shall pursue that later in my speech.
If I may begin on a somewhat egoistic note, I would say that no one can accuse me of not having had full regard for India's aspirations. Nor indeed can I. be accused of not having indulged in those pious hopes and eloquent expressions of opinion. We have all done it, in much the same language, for 25 years, whether we were Tories or Socialists, or whatever we were. We all said that a bright new picture was dawning and that we were on the threshold of hope. We are now up against the realities to a greater degree than ever before. I was saying that no one could accuse me of not believing in those aspirations because, quite frankly, I risked losing my seat because I opposed what were then the views of my party, and I had to get a resolution of confidence from my constituents. One of my right hon. Friends was in rather the same position when supporting my views on the Government of India Bill. No one can accuse me of not being in favour of those things. I certainly should not have spoken today and should not say the things I am going to say, if I had not in the past been able to present to the world a record of one who had done his best, in his own humble way, to promote Indian self-Government. Nor am I without experience because I was longer at the India Office as a Minister than any other Minister in its history, except for an uncle of mine. Except for my right hon. Friend the Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. 1394 R. A. Butler) I have had a wider experience of Indian Constitution making through membership of round table conferences, joint committees, and so on, than anybody else, and I have had official experience in peace and war in the East. I, therefore, speak with a background of some experience. We have heard in the speeches, with the exception of the refreshing speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, the sort of sentiments that have been expressed for the last 25 years—admirable they are— but we are up against reality and not sentiment.
§ Mr. Speaker
If the noble Lord does not give way, the hon. and learned Member has no right to remain on his feet.
§ Mr. Hughes
The noble Lord has raised a matter which suggests to me that it is an indictment of his own policy—that he has been making these speeches for 25 years and has produced nothing of a concrete quality, during that period.
§ Earl Winterton
That is one of the most untrue accusations I have ever heard delivered in this House. Hon. Members of all parties have done that. The Government of India Bill received support from all parties—
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. Lady has not listened to a word I have said. I was speaking for myself, and I explained that I had always supported these views and said that hon. Members of all parties— excluding in some respects the present Leader of the Opposition—had supported them. It is no use hon. Members opposite trying to pick a personal quarrel with me on the facts of the situation. They know as well as I do that we are up against facts at the present. I do not want to be provocative towards them. I am giving a historical retrospect of what has happened, and I will continue. Not even the hon. and learned Member who interrupted will disagree with what I am about to say now, and I ask for assent from every hon. Member in this House, including the two very distin- 1395 guished right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Whether one holds the view that we have no moral or constitutional right to interfere with the course of events in India— which is a view held by some, not I hope in this House but outside—or whether one holds the opposite view that we possess both rights in abundance, the answer is, I suggest, the same. Whatever we do, or refrain from doing in this House as an assembly, or whatever the Government does or refrains from doing, must exercise a profound effect upon the very existence of millions in India. At the risk of being a great bore, I beg the House to accept from me, as a result of my long experience of its membership, this fact. More than once in my membership I have known this Assembly to adopt what I would call a bad facet, a bad side, of the British character and say, in accord with the Government of the day, in effect, this, "These are terrible and momentous events, but it is difficult and inconvenient for us to do anything about them; so let us wash our hands of them, and let events take their course."
I do not say that was the line taken by the hon. Member for Swindon but there seemed to be something of that line behind his speech. I would say—and I should have the assent of the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite and of hon. Members behind me—that disaster has invariably followed that attitude. It is not going too far to say that it might be held in some degree as the cause of two world wars. More than any other country, even more than the United States, we are interwoven into the web of world events. To put it in the mildest form, we cannot disassociate ourselves from taking a deep interest in India's future. That being so, what on earth becomes of the Government's argument that this is an inappropriate time to have a Debate on India? If what I have said is right, in view of the fact that this House and the Opposition have refrained all these months, while these terrible events were going on, from asking for a Debate, what in the name of common sense can be said against discussing these grave events today? Those who take the contrary view are putting themselves in what they claimed was the position of those on these benches after Munich and before the war, by shutting their eyes to the terrible, inexorable march of events 1396 towards what may be—which every one of us, irrespective of party, hopes will not be—a most terrible disaster.
I want to ask the right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench a few questions. I shall not attack either of those right hon. Gentlemen. I would like to echo what my Leader said and pay a tribute to them. No one who has had the honour of working, in some degree, with either of them would deny that they and their distinguished colleague are men of the very highest quality for that sort of work. However, we are entitled to ask a few questions and I am sure neither of them deny that right. My questions are of a comparatively searching nature, and I hope they will be answered in the course of the Debate. The first one is: Surely it can be reasonably held that the Government have changed their attitude towards this problem in some respects? As my right hon. Friend said, this present conference is a wedding without the bridegroom. Surely it was made abundantly clear, in the first instance, that the conference would be representative of Indian opinion—constituted Indian opinion if you like, but Indian opinion? I would ask the House through you, Mr. Speaker, and particularly hon. Gentlemen opposite, to realise the sombre fact that at this moment, this conference which, by its very nature, is dominated by the Hindus, has apparently been entrusted with the work of the Constitution-making of India with none of the minorities represented. Surely there cannot be any difference of opinion on that fact? I see that the right hon. Gentleman opposite wishes to speak. I will give way to him.
§ The Minister Without Portfolio (Mr. A. V. Alexander)
Surely, there are two points to bear in mind. First, the Constituent Assembly has been summoned, based upon the election which has taken place, and all parties have been summoned to it. Also, the actual representation in the Assembly—the minorities being represented in addition to the Muslims— was explained by the President of the Board of Trade in his speech.
§ Earl Winterton
That is not the point. I am not discussing the reasons why the Muslims are not there. I say that it is actually taking place without their presence because Mr. Jinnah, their distinguished leader, considers that there has been a 1397 breach of pledge to him on the part of His Majesty's Government and on the part of the Hindus. That is the situation, and therefore it is fair to ask, and I ask it most emphatically: Will the Government be bound in those circumstances by the decision of the Constituent Assembly, although Mr. Jinnah says that he will not be a member of it because the word pledged to him has been broken? I ask that very direct question. It is a matter of mighty importance, which no one can dismiss with a sneer or a smile. It affects the whole future course of events in India. The second question I want to ask in the most polite form—though it is not my habit to be unduly polite—is about the decision of the Federal Court. Here we are in a very strange position. We are told by His Majesty's Government—I am open to conviction because I am not making a party speech and I hope to be convinced by what the right hon. Gentleman may say—that they are going to ask the Federal Court in India to interpret what they meant by what they said.
§ Sir S. Cripps
May I correct the noble Lord? If he will look at the document put out on 6th December, he will find that it makes the position quite clear. We say we are in no difficulty as to what it means —the Cabinet Mission, His Majesty's Government, our legal advisers and so on— but if, despite that, the Constituent Assembly desire to refer it to the Federal Court, we hope they will do so quickly.
§ Earl Winterton
I am very sorry to find myself for the first time in my life up against one of the most distinguished King's Counsel in the country, but it seems to me that I have a rather better case than he has. Nothing he said in reply has altered what I said, which was that what the Government have said in effect is, "If you are not satisfied with what we believe or say is the meaning of our statement, then it shall be referred to the Federal Court for decision." That is exactly what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said. Otherwise, there would be no purpose in referring it to the Federal Court. The thing is as clear as crystal.
§ Sir S. Cripps indicated dissent.1398
§ Earl Winterton
What is the purpose, then, of referring it to the Federal Court? Of course it has not been referred by the right hon. and learned Gentleman to the Federal Court. What the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Government have said to the Constituent Assembly is, "If you are not satisfied with the meaning which we attach to our statement, then let the matter be decided by the Federal Court acting as a referee."
§ Sir S. Cripps indicated dissent.
§ Earl Winterton
It is no use the right hon. and learned Gentleman shaking his head. That is the plain meaning of the statement. I have taken high legal opinion on this, and I am informed that it is a most unprecedented action on the part of the Government because the Federal Court possesses no power under the Constitution to give any decision.
I have one further question on the same matter to put, and I hope we shall get an answer. Can this Constituent Assembly, or conference, or whatever you like to call it, frame any Constitution it likes, and will that Constitution be accepted by His Majesty's Government despite the opposition of the Muslims and of the special classes? We ought to know about that, for it is a question which is being asked in a widespread manner in India. As I have said before, I am not supporting or opposing the claims of any of the minorities, but I have had an opportunity, as probably have other hon. Members, of talking to Dr. Ambedkar, a former colleague of mine on one of the numerous Indian bodies on which I have served. He, like Mr. Jinnah, considers that he has been very badly treated by His Majesty's Government. Like Mr. Jinnah, he proposes to take all the action which is left open to him. That Is another serious factor in the situation. I am sure the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who is so obviously amused by my remarks and possibly by the subject, would agree with me that that is a most unfortunate factor in the situation, and would also agree, when I say with all the sincerity at my command, that the views of Dr. Ambedkar—a man who could not be accused of being anything but single-minded for the portion of the population he represents—ought also to be consulted.
Before I sit down I feel bound to refer to the terrible question of the massacres 1399 —because that is what they are. In one of the most eloquent portions of his speech, my right hon. Friend said that the drama is unrolling itself remorselessly. That is a fine phrase. It may be numbered amongst some of the finest phrases that even my right hon. Friend has used. Let the House ponder over those words. And let me repeat, because it should be repeated, the statement made by my right hon. Friend—which I commend to the attention of the House, to the Socialist Party, the Liberal Party and my own party, the Tory Party—that during the time this interim Government has been in power, it is a horrible and sinister fact that infinitely more people have been massacred under most terrible conditions—some Hindus, some Muslims, I am not ascribing the blame—than in any comparable period in India's history. That is a terrible thing. We may laugh at each other across the Floor of the House, and chaff each other, but there is no hon. Member of this House, of whatever party, who could see anything funny in that.
§ Mrs. Nichol (Bradford, North)
On a point of Order. Has the noble Lord any right to accuse us of laughter, when no one on this side is laughing? To my mind that is a most dangerous and mischievous thing for the noble Lord to say.
§ Earl Winterton
I never suggested for one moment that the hon. Lady or anyone else was laughing. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, you did."] I said it was a matter on which no one, on either side of the House, would laugh. If the hon. Lady had listened, she would know that I said we may laugh or chaff on ordinary things. If the hon. Lady is able to follow ordinary, plain English, I hope she will listen more than she has listened in the last 10 minutes. I will repeat, for her benefit, that no one, whatever their political views, would find anything funny in the desperate and terrible situation which we have seen in Bengal and Bihar.
I want to give the House a few facts. Women have not only been raped, but, in some cases, burned alive; children have been set alight with kerosene. I am not going to make an accusation, because that would be most grave, and I am not going to agree with foreign commentators in this country who say that there is something very hypocritical about the British 1400 character. But supposing these massacres had occurred anywhere else, at any other time, should we not have protested against them? May there not be, therefore, at the back of the minds of many people, including the Press of this country, the view that, of course these things are terrible; that it is terrible for people to be burned alive—5,000 people killed? I have seen some documents which are as bad as anything concerning Nazi atrocities during the war. I hope no one will think I am attacking them. I am talking of the general attitude of the Press —but may there not be, at the back of our minds, the idea that of course these things are very horrible and distressing, but that it is very inconvenient to bring them out at the present moment, because if we do so it might in some way affect the political course of events in India and we have a terrible responsibility? That is certainly not the view held by the majority of Indians. Indians who do not believe in my political views, or do not even like this country, have said to me privately, "If you do not get these matters discussed in the only place where they can be discussed, the House of Commons or another place, then for ever shame on you, because you have shown yourselves afraid to face the terrible facts of the situation."
I am in complete accord with everyone on this side of the House, and with the President of the Board of Trade, when I say, with all sincerity and all reverence, that one prays to the Almighty that this dreadful state of affairs will not continue. It is too terrible to have all these things happening in India. I end with this observation. I have already referred to the pious aspirations in which we have all engaged and how we have all tried quite honestly and sincerely with all our might for self government for India. If hon. Members like to make the point, perhaps there have been one or two exceptions. There is no concealment about this. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition and I, and some others, were at variance on this question, but that was in the fairly remote past. Generally speaking, we have all been striving for self-government in India. I risked losing my seat, and had to get a resolution of confidence, because I supported Indian self-government. Views have, as I say, been expressed, and pious aspirations and hopes for the future. The hope has been 1401 expressed that this is only a little temporary thing—this vast volcanic rift that cuts across India. But, I say, particularly to any hon. Friends behind me, it there be any who disagree, that is as old as the hills of India themselves; as old as the time of the birth of the Prophet, as old as Hindu philosophy. Somehow we have to get over it. Believe me, those two very distinguished men, Nehru and Jinnah, represent the deep-seated views of their communities. This is not a little political matter or a question of a division such as we have in this House. It is as deep a division as the division between Nazis and anti-Nazis, between Fascists and anti-Fascists, and between Communists and anti-Communists. I see no solution—I am expressing my personal opinion—in the present proposals.
In conclusion, I say that in this Debate we should face the fact that no exposition of admirable sentiments can obscure the rift that exists. The fact is, and no one knows it in his heart of hearts better than the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that there is a final and irrevocable rupture between Congress and the League. What we have to face, is the problem of how to prevent the terrible consequences that will flow from that rupture, if events are left to take their course. I am not suggesting what the solution is, but to consider these facts—and I do not go further than that—is the primary duty of this Government and Parliament.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Erdington)
I have listened with great interest to the speech which has just been made. The noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) commenced his speech by a rebuke to the hon. Member who preceded him, criticising him for not bringing any constructive proposal before the House. I have listened eagerly to the noble Lord to see what constructive proposal would emerge from his speech. I am obliged to say that not one single proposal has emerged. There was no suggestion whatever as to what should be done, or what can be done, to bridge the gulf, or what alternative propositions he would bring before the House to the steps which are now being taken by the Cabinet.
There is a danger that the overriding and overwhelming issue in India today may be overlooked because of recent occurrences there. It is true, of course 1402 that those events in India are deplorable and catastrophic, but it is well that we should throw our minds back to the situation as it existed in India at the time when the Cabinet Mission went over there. At that time there was a volcanic rift—if I might use the noble Lord's phrase—exist ing, not so much between communities as between Government and people. There was the danger, which has already been pointed out during this Debate—I will go further and say the certainty—that the whole of India, a gigantic political volcano, would blow up entirely, with resulting catastrophe and slaughter not merely to millions of people in India, but also to our Forces over there. That was the situation which faced this Cabinet Mission. Were we to allow the Indians to proceed towards their freedom and in dependence, a difficult and complicated task, or were we to use British Forces as an instrument of repression to fight a bloody war of repression, and subject the Indian people to our will, either upon the excuse of communal differences, or for any other reason whatever? That was the situation. I believe that the impression of the Members of Parliament who went on the Parliamentary Mission was that India was getting too hot for us to stay there, and that a catastrophe much greater than that envisaged by the right hon. Gentleman was about to take place.
It was in those circumstances with the danger of a growing conflagration, and a revolt involving the lives, not of thousands, but of millions, and involving the lives of British soldiers, that the Mission went to India. They asked themselves, as I, as an ordinary Member, have asked myself: "Are we prepared to agree to the use of ordinary British soldiers"—like those who are resident in my Division of Erdington, in Birmingham— "as an instrument of solving communal differences or of preventing the Indian people from going forward to their independence, with all the dreadful consequences involved? "I was not. Quite clearly that was also the view of the Cabinet Mission.
It has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) that the Mission inclined towards the Hindus. I thought that, to say the least, that was a dangerous suggestion to make, in view of the situation in India today. There is one simple issue, the forward march of the Indian people towards liberation. That is not just a 1403 fine sentiment, it is not something which has just been sentimentally uttered by people in this House for the last 25 years and nothing more; it represents today a reality which no force in this country is able to stay upon its path. Repression cannot halt these forces in their tracks, and that is the reality today. This question which arises in reconciling the differences between the two great parties in India. Is it right that a recalcitrant minority, simply by the exercise of intransigence, should be able to stay the march of a whole people to independence? That is the fundamental issue to day.
I should have thought that if the Mission erred, they erred rather towards the side of the Muslims than towards the side of Congress. I cannot entirely blame them for it, because after all, when there is a Mission desiring to bring about a reconciliation, and it is faced with intransigence upon one side, it is obvious that in those circumstances there is a tendency to effect agreement and conciliation, even if that conciliation, when weighed in the balance, is not entirely just to one side as against the other. That is clearly the situation, and the provision, for instance, of the three different sections provided in the statement of the new Constitution, in which certain purely Hindu areas might come under the domination of a Muslim majority, clearly shows a bias in the direction of the Muslim point of view, certainly not in the direction of the Hindu point of view.
When the Minister without Portfolio answers the various questions which have been asked in this Debate, may I ask him to deal with this? Paragraph 15 (5) states:Provinces should be free to form groups with executives and legislatures, and each group could determine the Provincial subjects to be taken in common.It is suggested by Congress, it seems to me with some weight and reason, that that clearly means that this group formation should be an entirely voluntary one and that it should be possible for any Province, if it so desires, not to enter that group in the first place, and not to have to rely on the provisions contained in Paragraph 19 (v) which provides for them opting to come out afterwards. I should like the Minister to deal specifically with that particular suggestion It seems to me there is some weight in it.
§ Mr. Alexander
It has been stated again, by my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade, that there is a fundamental difference between the whole basis of Paragraph 15 and Paragraph 19. Paragraph 19 is the procedure we proposed to them that we should lay down, because there had been no agreement, as to the way they should go. Paragraph 15 deals wife the basis of the kind of Constitution we suggested they might make. It is the basis. Paragraph 19 is the procedure. It is the procedure on which we now have a difference of opinion.
§ Mr. Silverman
I agree that there is that difference between the two Paragraphs. So fax as sub-Paragraph (5) is concerned, it seems to me clearly specified, if we say that the Provinces should be free to form groups with executives and legislatures we cannot say that they should be compelled to adhere to groups and sections unless they desire to do so, nor that they should be bound by a simple majority vote by the section as a whole as to whether they should come in or not. It is a matter which I hope will be dealt with more specifically. If there is nothing more to be said about it, I cannot press the matter further.
In conclusion, I hope that nothing that has been said on the other side of the House will encourage any minority in the idea that we are prepared by force of arms to support any one section of India.
§ Earl Winterton
The hon. Gentleman has made a most serious charge against those who have spoken from this side of the House and I must repudiate most strongly the faintest hint of any suggestion of that kind. There was nothing of that nature in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) or in my speech. I hope he will withdraw the most serious suggestions he has made.
§ Mr. Silverman
If the noble Lord had listened to what I said, he would know I never made any such allegation. I simply said that I hoped nothing said would encourage certain sections in India in the belief—that is what I said—that force of arms is going to be used, and that the British Army will be used as an arbiter between the various parties in India. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am very glad there is 1405 unanimity on that point. I hope then that it is made quite clear to all Indians that that is not merely the feeling of one side of the House, but the unanimous view of all hon. Members.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
The purpose of all the speakers in today's Debate is to explore this very difficult ground without in any way prejudicing the chances of that peaceful settlement in India for which we all hope. The difficulties with which we are confronted do not really arise out of the policy of any Government or any party. Over the last 100 years there has been a steady development, at different speeds at different times, towards the kind of situation which we are approaching at present. Even before Lord Macaulay introduced English education into India, I think it was Elphinstone, the great Governor of Madras, who in a despatch indicated then that, looking far into the future, he believed the logical development of British rule in India must be that the Indian people should govern themselves.
The steady, rapid and disastrous increase in communal tension in India has taken place because, at last, the Indians as a whole believe that we intend to transfer political power to the peoples of India. Therefore, it arises that the various communities in India, who really do not regard themselves as being members of the same nation, are now anxious to bring all the pressure to bear in order to ensure that each one of these communities obtains such a measure of political power as will enable it at least to defend its own interests and perhaps in some cases to impose its will upon others. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade put this dilemma very clearly in his speech, when he said that there are two rights which are difficult sometimes to reconcile—the right of the majority not to have an arbitrary and unreasonable veto imposed upon it by a minority, and the right of a minority to some measure of reasonable freedom and liberty an a democratic state.
I do not intend to follow that line of reasoning very far because I do not wish to say anything which would appear to exaggerate or even to bring out the great differences which exist between the Indian communities. The speech of the hon. Member for Erdington (Mr. J. Silverman) 1406 did so much less than justice to the anxieties of the minorities in India, that I must say just a few very mild words upon the subject. He spoke as though all the people in India regarded themselves as members of the same nation As far back as 1906, when the Minto-Morley reforms were introduced, the Muslims went on a deputation to the Secretary of State and asked for separate electorates. They said the only way in which they could secure the election to the legislature of Muslims who really represented the Muslim point of view, was if these representatives were responsible solely to Muslim constituencies. At no time have the Muslims ever been willing to abandon their right to separate electorates. This problem of Pakistan, which has arisen in the last seven or eight years, is only a further logical development of what has always been the point of view of the Muslim community in India. Forty years ago, they asked for separate elections. Now they are asking for a separate territory.
I remember Sir Abdul Rahim, a Judge of the High Court in Calcutta, who, the day after he had retired from the bench, said he would feel more at home walking into the house of a Muslim in Algeria, than walking into the house of a Hindu who was a colleague of his on the bench. These are the facts which are responsible for the situation in which we find ourselves faced today. I beg the hon. Member for Erdington and also the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid), in-approaching this problem, to recognise that it is not a matter of ill will on the part of the people of India. It is not the work of political agitators or anything of that sort. It is that there are in India not only two different religions, but two different civilisations. The constitution of India in future must be such as will ensure to those civilisations an assurance that neither of them will be submerged by the other. This brings us up against two of the very difficult problems upon which this House will have to make up its mind in the near future. The first is the question of safeguarding minorities, and the second is that of the use of British troops.
In regard to the question of minorities, there are other minorities in addition to the Muslim minority. I think perhaps the most difficult of them is the Scheduled Castes. In that connection the late Mr. 1407 Ramsay MacDonald made an award which gave special protection to the Scheduled Castes, similar to that which the Muslim Community have enjoyed ever since 1906. It was as a result of the blackmail which Mr. Gandhi exercised by threatening to starve himself to death that the Scheduled Caste abandoned separate electorates which were the protection the British Government and Parliament had given to them. Now I feel that we must be perfectly frank with the minorities. If we are to give genuine self-government to India, then it will no longer be possible for the long arm of the British Government to do what it has done in the past to defend these minorities. The protection of the minorities must, in some way or other, be given in the Constitution or by treaty.
That is the immense importance which, I think, attaches to the statement made by the Government last week which said they would not be prepared to implement any Constitution for India which did not obtain the support and the concurrence of any substantial minority. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister without Portfolio will tell us exactly where the Scheduled Castes will be in this respect. We are in this difficult position that we do not want to do anything to increase the intransigence of minorities in India. At the same time, this country and this Parliament have a solemn responsibility in handing over power. We must not, like Pontius Pilate, wash our hands, and leave the minorities of India to face the consequences. I hope that, when the right hon. Gentleman replies, he will be able to say something to us on that subject.
I come to the second of the main points, and, again, it is one which was touched on by the hon. Member for Erdington. He spoke of the situation that the Cabinet Mission found when they went out to India, and of the danger that British troops would be called upon to suppress rebellion. From the tone of his speech—and, perhaps, as I am referring to what he said, he will be good enough to listen—I thought that he rather imagined that, when the Mission went out to India, it was still a question of trying to maintain the British rule in India and the authority of this Parliament. Of course, the situation that they found this year, and it has been so, for quite a 1408 time past, is that the unrest in India arises out of disputes among Indian communities themselves. The Government will find themselves, at any moment now, confronted with this very difficult problem of how far we are justified in remaining ultimately responsible for the preservation of law and order in India, when we no longer actually control either the legislation or the administration. It is not a matter of siding with one community against the other, because, as the hon. Member for Erdington mentioned there are cases where the Muslims are in a majority and the Hindus in a minority. In every part of India, there is this anxiety of the subject minority as to whether the Ministers in power are really going to hold the balance evenly between all communities. On many occasions, revolts and civil disturbances result from the conviction, right or wrong, but genuinely held by the people, that they are subjected to an unfair and unreasonable administration by Ministers who belong to a different community. That is the difficulty with which we may be confronted on a great scale at any moment in the future.
I think that the difficulty in which many of us have found ourselves in this Debate today is that we want to speak with two voices. So far as India is addressed, we want to speak with optimism. We do not; even now, despair of an agreement between the different communities. It may, indeed, be that the appalling bloodshed and loss of life will bring the leaders of these communities face to face with the desperate danger with which their country is threatened. The appalling things that have happened in these last few weeks, may be the great price which has to be paid for peace and a settlement of this problem. So far as this country is addressed, some of us want to speak, if not in a spirit of pessimism at any rate, in a spirit of stark realism. We want the people of this country to recognise that we are up against an immensely difficult problem, which is not the creation of any party or any government in this country. Faced with that situation, it is only right and fair that the people of this country shall realise what are the difficulties and what we may have to face.
Broadly speaking, I am bound to say I feel that, at the present time, the course which the Government have followed has 1409 been right, reasonable and wise. I hope they will continue to work for agreement down to the last possible moment, and I pray that their efforts may be crowned with success. But, if the worst does happen, then I hope that they will show courage and firmness and that, as they stated in their pronouncement last week, they will not allow the end of British rule in India to be the enforcement by British troops of the rule of one community upon another, but, rather than that, will place the responsibility fairly and squarely where it should be.
§ 7.36 p.m.
Mr. Gaflacher (Fife, West)
I want to speak as an old-time Socialist who is proud of my beginnings and proud of the early movement that made the present Labour majority possible. I say that because all of us have heard, and we have often met, those who have come from poor families and who have associated with what they consider the better classes and have become ashamed of their own parents, unfortunate degenerates who do not understand their own degeneracy. I hope that the movement which has been built up with such labour and such sacrifices by the masses of the workers will never suffer that fate and be ashamed of its parentage, yet I feel that there is a strong tendency to deal very gently with the subject of Empire. In fact, we now get the impression that Empire is desirable. Every old-timer will remember the pamphlets produced in the early days of the movement, many of them relating to Empire Pamphlet after pamphlet and book after book was directed against the horrors of Empire. I remember one which was seen at every street corner meeting and which had the striking title "Empire is Murder."
Everyone here now says that he wants India to get independence, well, if they want India to receive independence the answer is simple—Come out of India. That is all we have got to do, and the Indian people will sort things out. I know I shall be told of the terrible happenings' in India, and that we cannot come out till there is agreement, but there cannot be agreement until we do come out. The hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) said that a situation has now arisen in which it becomes a question of handing power over to India—yes. because we cannot keep it ourselves. Let nobody think that this 1410 is some voluntary offer that is being made. It has become evident to everyone that we could not carry on the old method of governing India, and that the time has come when a change is essential. The hon. Member said that the different communities in India were bringing pressure to bear in order to safeguard their own interests. Bringing pressure on whom? They are bringing pressure on the British Government, and so the game goes on. There can be no possibility of agreement while we are there. There have been terrible happenings during the past months, but I am amazed that the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) should get up and say that in the four months during which the interim Government has been formed more people have been done to death in India than during the past 90 years.
§ Brigadier Mackeson (Hytlie)
Does the hon. Member deny the truth of that? Can he produce facts to disprove it?
§ Mr. Gallacher
Just wait. The hon. Member will deal with the question. Of course the hon. Member denies it. What is the cause of the communal differences at the present time? Why have they become so intensive? Because the political, social and economic advance of India during the past formative century has been deliberately held back by British Tory Imperialism. India has a population of 400 million, and every conceivable natural resource. Everything is there to make a prosperous nation When the 1939 war broke out, India's participation in the war was declared on her behalf by the Viceroy. At that time, India was not able to make a motor car or an aeroplane. Just imagine that. The hon and gallant Member for Hythe (Brigadier Mackeson) asked me if I would deny the statement of the right hon. Member for Woodford that more people have been killed during the past four months, than during the past 90 years. If ten thousand have been killed by violence during the past four months, 10 million have been killed by famine and starvation during the past 90 years.
§ Mr. Molson
Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that the population of India is increasing at the rate of five million a year?
That is beside the point. It may be that 10,000 have been killed during the past four months and that during the same period the population has in- 1411 creased, but what has that to do with the fact that 10,000 have been killed, and also with the fact that 10 million were killed prior to that by British Imperialism holding back the development of India?
§ Earl Winterton
I know that the hon. Gentleman is the greatest master of inaccuracy in the world, but I must protest against his astonishing statement, which is fantastic and scurrilous even for him, to the effect that 10 million Indians have been killed by British rule I beg of him not to be quite so foolish.
§ Mr. Gallacher
My figure of 10 million is only a rough estimate. The right hon. Member for Woodford gave an estimate of 10,000 as having been killed during the past four months. It is possible that the figure of 10 million which I gave for the last 90 years is an under estimation and that even more people have lost their lives as the result of Tory Imperialistic rule during that period, owing to their having held back the economic, political and social development of India.
The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade said that only the Indians can solve the problem of India. That being so, why do not we come away and let them solve their problems? Sooner or later, the Muslim League and the Hindus would have to come together and find ways and means of cooperating. I do not approve in the slightest of making stratified majorities in particular areas. I think it is foolish. Neither do I approve of the scheme to stratify the Indian States and to give the Princes the power which they have in the Constituent Assembly. I consider that that power should be given to the Indian people. Congress is quite capable of taking the responsibility and winning over the Muslims to an understanding and to cooperation if they are left alone.
In the years before and during the war, I spoke time and again at Zionist meetings and warned the Zionists that they were leading the Jewish people into great and serious dangers by placing their faith in British Imperialism. I told them that the solution of the problem of Palestine was to be found between the Jews and Arabs in Palestine, not here in London. I warned them, but they would not take the warning. I would give the same 1412 warning to Mr. Jinnah. Mr. Jinnah 0r Dr. Ambedkar would not dare go to meetings in India and tell the Indian people that they should place their faith, not in discussions between Mr. jinnah and Mr. Nehru or between Dr. Ambedkar and Mr. Nehru, but that they should place their faith in discussions with the white Sahibs. I say to Mr. Jinnah, as I said to the Zionists, and as the President of the Board of Trade said, that the solution of every Indian problem, including the question of Pakistan if it is practical, is to be found in India. It is in India that the problems should be settled; not here in talks with the white Sahibs, but in talks between Mr. Jinnah, Mr. Nehru and Dr. Ambedkar.
In the meantime, the Constituent Assembly declares in favour of an independent Indian republic. But we are told by the right hon. Member for Woodford that only 30 million voted out of a population of 400 million and that that is not a foundation on which to build up a democratic Constitution. What was the number of voters in this country before the Franchise Bill was introduced? What was the foundation on which the British Parliament rests? When the British Parliament was born, there was nothing like the percentage of voters in this country as exists in India at the present time. I remember reading about the situation that existed in Glasgow. Glasgow did not have even a Member of Parliament. Glasgow, Renfrew, Rutherglen and Govan had only one Member of Parliament to represent the four of them, and only a handful of electors. That was the foundation of this House.
How can anyone say that 30 million voters in India cannot lay the foundation for a democratic Constitution? Of course they can, and Mr. Jinnah should recognise that fact. I would say to him that the solution lies, not in discussions with the white Sahibs, but in discussions with Nehru 'and his associates. He and the Muslims can find there the safest road to their salvation. They have a great responsibility. Mr. Jinnah has a great responsibility, but he is encouraged to stand out because he is told that if he does not participate in the decisions of the Constituent Assembly the Constitution will not be recognised. All the Muslims have to do is to stick out and to keep prodding away at the British Government for more concessions and thereby 1413 they make the realisation of independence more and more difficult.
There is all this talk about civil war. One would almost imagine that the constitutionalists on the other side were prepared to endorse or acquiesce in civil war. Why do not they all insist that Mr. Jinnah and the Muslim League should accept their true responsibility, and line up along with Mr. Nehru and the Congress Party in building up a Constitution for India? That is the responsibility of Mr. Jinnah and the Muslim League. I appeal to the Muslims of India. They, like the Hindus, have a great responsibility for determining the present and future of India. They have a great and heroic part to perform. The first essential factor in that task is to secure independence for India. All else takes second place. To introduce less important elements before the main object is achieved is a mistaken policy. I appeal to Mr. Jinnah and the Muslim League to realise their special responsibility to work with others for the independence of India, to get the Imperialists out of India, and to get India under the control and direction of Indians. Once that is achieved, all else is possible.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Brigadier Rayner (Totnes)
As one rather old chap who was in India during the Montagu-Chelmsford conversations, and as one who attended the first meeting of the Indian Legislative Assembly, I am glad to be able to say a few words tonight. I have not been surprised to listen to the speech of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). He is one of those rather extraordinary people who regard every other country as better than their own. He is one of those funny people who seem to mistake an anti-patriotic bias for universal good will. He is one of those people who decry everything that Britain has done and he takes every opportunity of fouling his own nest.
§ Mr. Gallacher
The Imperialist nest was never my nest; neither was it ever the nest of the working class in Great Britain.
§ Brigadier Rayner
The hon. Gentleman is entitled to his opinion, but I am of a very different opinion. It has always surprised me that the good old British working class returned to this House a man of his opinions. I feel that we have 1414 travelled a very long way since that first meeting in Delhi, and I disagree with many hon. Members who have spoken on the other side of the House this evening, in that I feel that we may not have travelled in the best direction. I myself cannot believe that there does exist in that land of one hundred languages and one thousand castes, sufficient of that spirit of compromise and tolerance to make our British democratic system work. Unquestionably, we have offered to the world that system for a good many years. So particularly have we offered it to India, that we cannot now go back on our word. However, I feel this Government might make certain reservations. I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Erdington (Mr. J. Silverman) that India is already too hot for us to stay there. I do not take that rather defeatist point of view.
I think that the Government should make three conditions. First, they should refuse to force on India a Constitution which is unacceptable to a very large minority; second, they should refuse to hand over the final responsibility for law and order until it is quite certain that the new Indian Government can preserve both; third, they should continue, as far as possible, to protect India from aggression from the outside. If they insist on those three conditions, I am entirely behind them in their efforts to solve this terrific problem. Some 200 years ago we took over India for purposes of our own. It certainly suited us to take it over, but at the same time, in an India which was suffering from the devastating chaos of the breakup of Mogul rule, we brought those priceless gifts of law and order.
§ Mr. Piratin (Mile End)
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me; surely, he will recall from reading the trial of Warren Hastings, which took place within the Palace of Westminster, what was revealed as to what was given to the Indian people compared with what was taken out of the country? Did we give them law and order, or did we give them starvation?
§ Brigadier Rayner
I repeat that we most certainly gave them immediate law and order, and I would disagree with the suggestion that we took a great deal out of the country even in those days. It will be remembered that Warren Hastings was acquitted on all the charges, and the hon. 1415 Gentleman cannot have a better answer than that. I would say to him that our record in India is something of which to be proud, and, if they only admitted it, the majority of Members in all quarters of the House are very proud of that record.
§ Mr. Sorensen
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, is it in Order for the noble Lord to insinuate that anybody is a foreign Communist?
§ Earl Winterton
I shall withdraw nothing of the sort. I said the hon. Gentleman was a Communist, and, if he likes, I will substitute "of foreign descent."
§ Mr. Piratin
On a point of Order. May I ask whether it is not in accordance with the custom of this House that the noble Lord, who made a slight upon me and on my descent, should withdraw that remark, and may I ask if you propose to order him to do so?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
I do not think that sort of remark ought to be made and certainly not unless the noble Lord has proof of his statement.
§ Earl Winterton
I have proof of my statement. I say that the hon. Gentleman is a Communist and that he is of foreign descent.
§ Mr. Piratin
May I ask if you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, propose to take any steps in this matter? Otherwise, I shall have to consult Mr. Speaker to see what redress I can get in the matter. I will make my position quite clear. I am British born. My father came here 50 years ago, running away from the pogroms in Russia which were supported by people like the noble Lord. My father was a Russian. I am British born. I am a Member of this Parliament, duly elected, and I have as much right to be here as the noble Lord. He has no right to make such a remark about me.
§ Earl Winterton
That was exactly what I said. I withdraw it, if the hon. Gentleman does not like it. I used the term "foreign Communist." I repeat, he is a Communist of foreign descent, and he has now admitted it. What is there to withdraw?
§ Brigadier Rayner
Since Nadir Shah looted Delhi and carried away the peacock throne no new conqueror has been able to advance into India bringing fire and the sword from the North-West We have been there to hold the passes, and within India we have ruled with a firm, fair hand, and yet left to India the whole of her vast wealth. We have even built up Indian industries on a tariff policy at the expense of our own exports. I suggest to all hon. Members that there is no other conquering power in the world that, under the same circumstances, could have measured up to the standard we have set.
I am proud even of the few years I spent, in very undistinguished service, in India. I was lucky enough to command Indians of several different races, and I grew to love and respect them. It delights me today when I get letters from them. But the most regular letters I receive are from my old servant, Asghar Ali, a villainous looking chap with one eye—he had his eye knocked out in a communal disturbance—but he is the salt of the earth. With your permission, Sir, I would like to read a letter which I received from him this summer. It is very short, because he has to pay a good many annas to the local babu for every line of such letters as he writes, and it is very much to the point:Honourable Sir, Me and Mohammed Nabi send our salaams, and long life and prosperity to you and the lady sahib. I look much to see you coming to India Doings in Bareilly are bad, and evil is moving If the British raj, which is our father and mother, will go, then we are uncut. Please send letters with respect, Asghar Ali.The House may feel that is a very insignificant and silly letter to read. But I suggest that is just one example of the voice of those teeming millions who make up India, and for whom we are still responsible. For a very long time we have brought to them those priceless gifts of law, order and peace, and we cannot now lightly betray them. If we do we shall blot irretrievably some of the finest pages of our history.
I hope, therefore, that the keynote of Government policy will be found in those 1417 words used by the Minister without Portfolio the other day:I look forward to a strong and united India.Those are very different words from those used by Moti Lal Nehru, who is reported to have said not very long ago:I would prefer to see India ruled like hell by Indians to being ruled like hell by the British.
§ Brigadier Rayner
I mean, of course, Pandit Nehru. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the correction. I suggest that if we are to avoid leaving India to be ruled like hell we must only hand over a strong and united India, for it will be the worst thing we have done in all our long history if we return India to that state of chaos and corruption from which we rescued it something like 200 years ago.
§ 8.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
I feel I must refer to the wicked and mischievous speech made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) earlier this afternoon. In that speech he seemed to scan the whole Indian scene looking for trouble spots, and looking for minorities to provoke and to cause disturbance, if more disturbance could be caused, for the embarrassment of the Government. His final piece of mischief was in suggesting that my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade had been, during the negotiations of the Cabinet Mission in India, partial to the Hindu case, and had not remained strictly impartial. During the time I had the privilege of being in India with the President of the Board of Trade no one could have been more impartial than he was, and no one could have laboured with more conscientiousness and anxiety for the welfare of, not only the whole of India, but also his own country. It was a deliberate attempt by the right hon. Gentleman to suggest to the Muslim League in India that, of course, it was no good relying on the Cabinet Mission's plan because the odds were weighted against them from the very start.
India and this country owe an enormous debt to the Labour Government for the way in which they have approached their 1418 responsibilities in India. Ever since they took office they have tried, first of all, with the Parliamentary Delegation last Christmas and then with the Cabinet Mission from March to June, to get agreement in India so that India could help herself to achieve her aim of independence. The Government have never wavered once in all that time, in the face of many setbacks and many disappointments, and when it often looked as though the whole problem was entirely insoluble. The Government have achieved a great deal during this time. They have achieved much and their chief success has been in convincing Indians, for the first time, that Britain was really sincere about wanting to give India independence. The Government had to do that against a very heavy legacy of disillusionment and distrust from the Indians, which had been left by previous Governments.
The Government have never sought to thump the table. They have rightly insisted that the plan for the Constituent Assembly must be freely entered into of the Indian parties' own volition. But they have not continued merely to say, as previous Governments have done, that nothing can be done without agreement. They have been determined to promote such agreement themselves throughout.
While all these labours have been going on, the structure of India has been changing very rapidly indeed. It is totally different from a year ago, when British rule was functioning in more or less the same way as it had done for the last 30 years. Since the Indian Ministries came into office in the Provinces and in the Centre the most striking feature has been the almost complete demoralisation of the Indian Civil Service and the subsidiary organisations of the administrative machinery of India. Now, only the tiny British element in the Indian Civil Service can really be said to feel any direct allegiance to British authority. The Indian element has been forced, by its new environment, to desert its odd standards and to serve the political party of the religious group to which it may happen to belong.
I would like to give one instance of that in particular In Bombay and Sind there is a joint Civil Service, and there Muslims have been transferred from the Province of Bombay, which has a Congress Government, to Sind, which has a Muslim League Government, and similarly 1419 Hindus have been transferred from Sind to Bombay, so that they can go to a Government of their persuasion. Wherever Hindu or Muslim officers are in a Province where their community is in a minority, they have to lie low, and they have no real prospects of any promotion. At the centre, each Minister in the new Interim Government is weeding out the' officials in his Department so as to have only his co-religionists at the top. The same officials who, in 1942, after the disturbances, had to impose collective fines in various districts of the United Provinces and Bihar are forced by the new administration to give them back to the people from whom they collected them.
The British, who are normally the hard unshaken core of the Indian Civil Service, and who have worked very hard in very trying conditions throughout six years of war, are now floundering badly. They are uncertain as to who exactly is responsible for the government of India at this time. They have not even any knowledge of their own future, and what is to happen to them when the present course of events has finally unwound itself. I understand that some proposals for winding up the Services of the Secretary of State have now gone to India, and that it is proposed that compensation should be payable only on the date when the new Constitution comes into being. For anyone in the Civil Service in India to be told that is really most unsettling, particularly when it is very difficult on the spot to see the wood for the trees. To be told that they can get their compensation only when the new Constitution comes into being is something which gives them no sure prospect for the future.
Against this unsettled background, in which inevitably the Civil Service and the administrative machinery have been suffering, Congress and the Muslim League, I believe, are doing their utmost to infiltrate into all the official positions they can get hold of, and the cumulative effect of this is that the administrative machinery of India has now passed virtually into Indian hands, and is no longer under the control of the Viceroy or the Government at home. I do not think many people in this country realise that fact. Against this background the interim Government functions with extreme difficulty. Both blocs in it are acting, or preparing to act, in a communal fashion, 1420 considering not the good of India, but how they can squeeze the last ounce out of any administrative action for their own community.
I think it was wrong of my right hon. and learned Friend this afternoon to describe it as a Coalition Government. It is really a bi-partisan Government, and inevitably the Viceroy, to whom I would like to pay a tribute for his courage, his patience and his integrity during this long and anxious time, is brought into conflict with both parties, each of which seeks his aid against the other. The Viceroy is still bound by the Government of India Act, 1935, under which he has certain special responsibilities and an obligation to use his veto when he thinks it is necessary. That is really an intolerable situation in which to find himself, when both parties are pulling at him in different directions, particularly as, I am afraid, one of the greatest deficiencies of the Indian political machinery, as devised by us for a very different type of rule, is that the Viceroy sadly lacks any political advisers. He has no political advisers close to him oh his own staff, but only civil servants who are obliged to do their day-to-day routine work and are consequently unable to keep him as closely in touch with the political situation as he would surely like to be.
Although half-hearted moves have been made towards cooperation by each side, the basic fundamental cleavage remains. Congress are standing out for a United India. That is the meaning of the argument about the grouping system. The Muslim League still fear terribly and genuinely domination by the Hindus. Lipservice, and very little else, is paid to the possibility of agreement. That is because, so far, the Government, through no fault of their own, have had no real success in convincing both parties that their responsibility is to settle their own affairs. It is so ingrained now in everyone in India that the British are the final arbiters there that, although they know the British intend to go, somehow psychologically they really cannot believe it. They always think that the British will be there to turn to, and if there is any dispute or disagreement, the British will act as the final arbiter or judge between the two sides. Perhaps that is one of the reasons they do not really try to get agreement as much as they should do among themselves.
1421 The statement issued by the Government last week was really a further step in this long effort to get agreement and not to give up hope. I think that we should consider what the result of that is likely to be. Suppose that this dispute over grouping is referred to the Federal Court, that the decision given in the Federal Court is the same as the decision given by the British Government, and that the Muslim League, then, does come into the constituent Assembly—will that really make any difference to the basic situation?
I think we should realise the difficulties that lie ahead in the Constituent Assembly itself. I do not suggest that it is not possible for the Constituent Assembly to work out agreement, but we must realise that there is endless scope for disagreement in its proceedings. It is unthinkable that, during the many months of its meeting, there will not be many other points of interpretation that will arise which will possibly lead to deadlock, either temporary or permanent. There are, for instance, three subjects given to the Central Government to administer. The plan for the Constitution says that the Government should have powers to raise the necessary finances to carry on the administration of those subjects. Congress will probably say that the way to raise that money is by direct taxation all over India; the Muslim League will reply—and it will be a basic matter from their point of view—that the money must be given only as a lump levy from the groups of Provinces which they administer, and there will be a long and tortuous argument about it.
Again, there is the subject of defence, which is one of the central subjects. One side will argue that defence merely means the control of the Armed Forces; the other side will argue that it involves the control, as it very reasonably may do, of certain heavy industries and all the chain of supplies that the Armed Forces need. There are special provisions as to communal issues. Many of these things can be turned into communal issues, and they will continue to be raised until they are referred to the Federal Court. Then, perhaps, the party which is defeated in the Federal Court may not be prepared to accept the decision, and when that happens, the British, if they are still there in authority, will be bound to get dragged in. At some point when 1422 the tension becomes too acute, when the argument has gone on for so long that there seems to be no way out of it, a civil war might well break out in which British troops might easily be implicated. Already there is a state of continuing violence in which British troops have been used. If this spreads and grows, it will mean that we shall be engaged in fighting in a war of purely Indian interest from which there is nothing to be gained either for us or for India by our participation in it. All that would happen, ultimately would be hostility and no friendship for us from either of the communities in India. In any case, if that were to happen the administrative machinery, which is already overstrained, would utterly break down.
Suppose that both parties do not come into the Constituent Assembly and the grouping question never gets referred to the Federal Court. Presumably, the last paragraph of the Government's statement comes into operation. It is the paragraph which says that no Constitution can be forced upon any unwilling parts of India if one section has not been represented at the Constituent Assembly.
There is the danger in that paragraph that the Muslims may think that this means that they can hold up things indefinitely, and that they can maintain the status quo which, in some ways, they undoubtedly prefer to an uncertain future. They may feel that this has opened to them an opportunity deliberately not to take part in the Constituent Assembly. And it is reasonable to say that they are the least anxious of the parties in India for the British to leave.
I believe that would be a very serious error of judgment. The Government cannot mean—and I do not believe they do mean—that we are prepared to stay in India indefinitely if no agreement is reached between the two main parties. If that course of action were to be followed, Congress would certainly bring about a mass uprising which would require reinforcement of British troops in India to put it down. Communalism has already begun to spread its evil virus in the Indian Army, and we could not rely entirely upon the Indian Army, if there were a conflict between the two major communities. I do not think that any Government could easily contemplate, in view of the feeling there is about the 1423 slowness of demobilisation, reinforcing British troops in India. Consequently, because of the state of the administrative machine, the possible unreliability of the Indian Army, and our inevitable reluctance to send more troops, Britain cannot continue to stay in India indefinitely.
Britain has done everything possible to get agreement on peaceful lines. It is physically impossible for her to maintain her present position much longer, if the communities do not agree to get together. If we cannot stay there indefinitely—and the nature of the structure of the administration refuses to allow us to do so—there are only two courses open to the Government. One is to reimpose, in its old and most vigorous form, the British raj system of government, which ruled India for something between 100 and 130 years. That would take anything from 15 to 20 years to get into its stride, because we should have to rehabilitate the prestige of the British before we could do it. In the meantime, no advance could be made with the Constitution, and that would be a complete denial of all our pledges to India. It would require heavy reinforcement of British troops and it would also be completely impossible in the face of world opinion. It is a course which the Government obviously cannot contemplate, and I mention it only because it is the only thing which could be done, apart from the course which I would like now to suggest.
That course is that we should make up our minds within the very near future, if we become convinced of the impossibility of the two communities coming to an agreement, and if they do not come to that agreement, or show any sign of doing so, that we should say that we cannot support the existing state of affairs any longer. We must say clearly and unequivocally to India that, on a certain fixed day, we are going to leave India, with our troops and our officials, and with any British residents who wish to come with us, and we must do that before the administrative machinery has completely crumbled in our hands. The date of the withdrawal should certainly be not more than 12 months ahead If it is more than 12 months ahead, circumstances may have run on so fast that we should not be able to take any such step.
We cannot allow British troops to be dragged in on either side in a civil war. 1424 I was very glad to hear other hon. Members point that out, too. The presence of British troops in India is a constant temptation to both sides in this conflict. I once thought it would be possible to isolate British troops and to tell both parties that they could not use those troops for internal security, and that if the parties were going to provoke disturbance in India they would have to restore order themselves. If they did not know how to do so, it would teach them how. But we must make it clear to both sides that it no time will they be able to persuade us into giving them the service of British troops. Unless a spirit of cooperation and construction is manifest; unless there is a joint request to us to stay and see India through for a little longer, we should not do so, and if that request were made, we should accept it only on condition that a spirit of compromise showed itself.
We have fulfilled already our responsibilities to India. We have laid ourselves open to charges of dishonesty and Imperialist trickery. A member of the Communist Party here tonight has again been charging the British Government with dishonesty and Imperialism. It has been right of the Government not to be deterred by those charges, which have been made also in India and in other parts of the world, and to carry out their policy as long as they could. Since we shall not be in a position to do this much longer, it is right that we should realise that fact. Whatever we discuss here in this House, the plans about how to settle India are already becoming rapidly academic. It is no good advancing the proposition that withdrawal of British troops would be unfair to minorities. We may feel in this House a deep responsibility for what happens to minorities, but we cannot implement that responsibility by remote control. The day must come when we leave India, and the minorities must then fend for themselves. If they have not fended for themselves before we go, they will forever lay themselves open to the charge among their fellow countrymen of being stooges of the British. The sooner the day comes when we withdraw, the less likely it is that a majority would be able to oppress a minority.
Once British power and British arms have gone, the Indians will all be on the same level, and whatever evil intentions —and I do not believe that Congress have 1425 evil intentions about this matter, but sup-pose they have—there may be in Congress against the Muslims, they could not possibly hope to hold in subjection some 90 millions of resolute people no worse armed than themselves. In the absence of the British, some settlement would be bound to come, and it would be an absolutely indigenous Indian settlement. It is no good saying that if the Government withdraw on the fixed date there may be no stable Government left behind. Whoever thought, looking at the Indian scene either historically, or at present up and down the length and breadth of the country, that it would be possible to take the lid off these surging emotions, on which we British have acted as an unnatural safety valve for 150 years, and leave everything behind neatly and tidily arranged. It would be best to leave, if we do go on a fixed day, things in charge of the present Interim Government. But by that time there might be some other form of Government. The existing Government might have dissolved and we should have to make our choice as to the best thing to do at the time.
There is no argument in saying that there might be civil war after we have gone. There may be civil war. It is quite possible, but there is no more likelihood of civil war in those circumstances than in the present circumstances. There is probably less, because it will be impossible then for the main parties to use the British as a bargaining counter and to have British troops as a temptation. The temptation which, I am afraid, is present in the mind of both Congress and the Muslim League is, that they might be able to manœuvre the situation in such a way as to have British troops on our side to put down the other side. If there were a civil war after we had gone, then, at least, we would not have been uselessly and stupidly involved. It may be said, too, that to withdraw before a new Constitution has come into being, if that becomes necessary, would be a policy of scuttling out of India, would be in some way inconsistent with our traditions in India, and would be un-British. But is it not better to withdraw in one's own time, at one's own convenience, under one's own arrangements, giving adequate protection to those British nationals who want to come out at that time, than to be forced out in a hideous muddle of administration, and amid a chaos of 1426 bloodshed and civil war not knowing which side we are on?
If the Government prepared to take that course they would have, too, the greatest chance of obtaining the genuine friendship of India when she had settled down, and when she remembered that we had put her into the position of assuming responsibility for her own affairs. One of the things which Mr. Gandhi said to me which impressed me most was, that sometimes one has to cut off the shackles of a slave because the slave, at the last moment, clings to his chains. Sometimes it is necessary to take action which, on the surface, may appear ruthless, but in the end is for the welfare of the people concerned. If the Government did take that course there would be a strong possibility, also, that the Indian leaders would become alarmed at the immediate prospect of the withdrawal of the British troops, at the immediate prospect of themselves having to be responsible for their own law and order, without any sort of prop from the British. They would realise then that the moment had come when they could no longer use the British as both whipping-boy and schoolmaster, and could turn to them on a more equal footing, and ask them to remain on a sensible basis, in which they would themselves agree to work out a Constitution amicably amongst themselves. There is one last thing I would say. At the moment, perhaps, it is not unfair to say that Indian statesmen are sometimes irresponsible, but the only cure for that irresponsibility is to give them complete and full responsibility.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Brigadier Fitzroy Maclean (Lancaster)
I must say I have listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt). Most of the speeches which we have heard from the other side tonight have dealt, more or less relevantly, with the past, but the hon. Member for Aston has, at least, done what we were all urged to do in the summer of last year: he has faced the future. That is exactly what the Government are not doing, it seems to me. Whenever there has been in the course of this Debate any reference to the present trouble in India, or to the possibility of worse trouble in India, hon. Members opposite have objected, on the grounds that that was simply encouraging the Indians to cut their own throats all the more. I per- 1427 sonally fail to see the logic of that—that if attention is drawn to the disasters of the past it encourages more disasters in the future.
I recently paid a short visit to India. I was there only a short time, but the visit did enable me to compare present conditions there with conditions as I knew them before the war, and I must say that I came away profoundly disturbed. The healthy and quite understandable growth of nationalism, which is not confined to India but is manifested all over Asia, has not been accompanied by any corresponding increase in the ability of the Indians to fend for themselves. To take only one example, they do not possess the necessary leaders and organisers, either, in the defence services or the civil services. The hon. Member for Aston spoke of the remnant of British members of the Indian Civil Service floundering because of uncertainty about the future. That, it seems to me, is what a great many people are doing in India today. They simply do not know what the Government will do next. They stand in need of a lead which can only be given by this country. We have had examples in external affairs of how little able the Indians are to look after themselves, in what happened during the war, when a great many Indian Nationalists simply became the tools of the Japanese. The same thing happened in Burma.
There is no reason to suppose that, if we left India today, as some hon. Members opposite have advocated, they would not find it necessary to turn to one of the other great Powers for help. It seems to me to be most unlikely that they could ever stand by themselves. Apart from everything else, there is the overwhelming division which dominates the whole of Indian affairs, and which I found in September and October, when I was there, seemed to have been accentuated by recent events—the deep cleavage between Hindu on one side and Muslim on the other. There has been a tendency opposite to refer to that as simply a problem of a majority and a minority, but I do not think it can be sufficiently emphasised that it is really a problem of two entirely different races, entirely different political groups, and entirely different religions. There are in fact two peoples.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade sets 1428 his hopes on a certain degree of cooperation, and sees in that the answer to the problems of India. I devoutly hope that he is right, but I must say that during the short time I spent there I found very little trace of that virtue on the part of the Indians to whom I spoke. They seemed to regard each other with increased bitterness and, what is more, this bitterness and unrest are not by any means confined to India. The whole of Asia today is in a ferment. The nationalist and separatist tendencies of the peoples of Asia have by far outstripped their ability to manage their own affairs; indeed, the only parts of Asia where I found anything approaching stability and order were the parts which are today under either American or Soviet control.
I would recommend hon. Members opposite, instead of half-heartedly attempting to imitate the domestic policy of our Soviet Allies, to turn their attention to what I would call their "imperial" policy, which is a great deal more effective than the present imperial policy we are pursuing. Everywhere else in Asia, today, there are chaos and strife, and I want to ask if the main parties in India fail to reach a solid and lasting agreement, which is a possibility one must contemplate, however disagreeable it is, what are the intentions of His Majesty's Government? Are they simply going to abdicate their responsibilities and give India over to the terrible civil war which will undoubtedly ensue, and thus add fuel to the flames which are already flickering and smouldering throughout Asia, or are they going to play, in cooperation with our Soviet and American Allies, the part in Asiatic affairs which this country has always played, and give to the tortured and distressed peoples of Asia the lead of which they so badly stand in need?
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Sorensen (Leyton, West)
Whether this Debate has been of any value to Members, I do not know, but I am certain that it will be of little value to the people of India. I cannot believe that this Debate has assisted the solution of the problems that are before them, nor do I believe that many remarks from any side have thrown any fresh light on the difficulties, and enabled Indians in particular to see more clearly the pathway along which they should tread; no doubt it has satisfied the 1429 Leader of the Opposition and other Members to discuss this matter, and I suppose we should be content at that. There is one thing which I have noted, and that is, that underlying all speeches on this side and the other side of the House, there is general agreement now that India's independence is inevitable. We came to that conclusion on this side of the House not merely because it is expedient for us so to do, but because we are trying to be consistent in our democratic principles.
I wish to express my great appreciation of the work of the Cabinet Mission, this year, and also of the Government in demonstrating so thoroughly their determination to apply our principles, not merely domestically, but internationally. While giving expression to that appreciation, I would also extend it to the Secretary of State for India and to the Under-Secretary of State, as well as to the Viceroy, who m different ways, I am certain, have been doing their utmost to secure a peaceful solution to this most difficult problem. The Labour Party, in my estimation, are determined to go forward on grounds of principle, more than of expediency, and I trust that I am not casting any reflection on Members opposite, when I say that it is largely through expediency that they no longer protest against the determination of India to secure her independence. Here, we might strike a note of realism.
Hon. Members opposite seem to be in alternating moods. Sometimes they make emotional appeals about the Empire and the greatness of our Imperial destiny; at other times they appeal to us to be realists, to face facts. May I ask them to face the facts as I see them? Perhaps they may not see them in the same way as I do, but if I mention some of those facts they will know the answer to them. The first fact is that if this Labour Government had not acted this year then, deplorable and tragic as have been the 10,000 and more deaths, is it not likely that many more deaths would have occurred, because of the uprising of both Muslims and Hindus against the domination of the British race? The second fact is this: Suppose we pursued a policy such as, apparently, some would have us still pursue, a dilatory policy, a policy of postponement, hoping that by emphasising the internal divisions in India it might prevent India from 1430 securing her freedom; suppose that as a result of that policy we should indefinitely have to keep that law and order which appeals so intensely to many Members of this House: I ask Members to think of what the cost would be to this country.
We are already complaining of the shortage of manpower. What would be our position in a few months' time if India, disappointed and frustrated, were to burst into a volcanic eruption, and we had to send out there two or three times as many troops, with equipment, as we have there now? Then indeed we would be drained of our manpower still more. It is because there are enough Members on the other side who recognise that fact, and who know that we cannot keep law and order indefinitely, that they recognise it is better for us to get out while the going is good than to stay and meet ultimate disaster. On the other hand, many Members on the other side may be as anxious as we are to see that India inherits her destiny of freedom and independence. They disagree, perhaps, on the question of method and time. But we on this side claim to be realists as well as idealists. Not only are we trying to implement our principles but we believe that this is the time to do it.
I cannot help referring, briefly, to what I think was the entirely unhelpful speech which the right hon. Member for Wood-ford (Mr. Churchill) made earlier today. I am certain that some Members of his own party are quietly deploring the fact that he chose this time for a Debate on India, and chose to speak in the way he did. It was strange to notice that the right hon. Gentleman referred to a book by a Left-Wing writer, Mr. Victor Gollancz, in approving terms. So many of us seem to have schizophrenia, split personalities. Many are of that character —and I do not exclude myself—but certainly the right hon. Member for Woodford falls into that category. Thus he referred to "Our Threatened Values" elaborated in a book which emphasises the need for a wise and richer humanity. Having done that, he proceeded not only to dwell on the misery and wretchedness of recent events in India, but also, unwittingly, no doubt, to encourage those divisions by his language. If he had absorbed the spirit of "Our Threatened Values" he would have known that what the world and especially India, requires is a note of encouragement and helpfulness and not a 1431 morbid note of emphasis on all the misfortunes that have occurred in that country.
Think what would have happened if the right hon. Gentleman, instead of continuing along the line he did, had suddenly switched away from it and had sent out a message of hope, encouragement, and good will to the people of India. Suppose he had said to his friend Jinnah, and to Nehru, whom he might also think of as a friend: "You two are great Indians, upon whom immense responsibility rests, and I, speaking as an ex-Premier of this country, with a partly Tory, and partly Liberal past, ask you to realise that it is upon you, and your capacity to be reconciled to each other, that the future, not only of India, depends, but possibly the whole of the East." If he had spoken in that way and made an appeal, and had forgotten his own past, I am quite certain that appeal would have brought forward an almost miraculous response from numbers of responsible Indians. Instead of which, he strove to emphasise again and again all the sordid, wretched circumstances in India, which are as familiar to us as to himself, and to ignore other happier factors which, I think, it is our business to stress and emphasise. For instance, it is well to point out that when discrimination is made between Hindu and Muslim and it is asserted that there is an age-long difference between the two, that is not entirely correct.
Let us not forget that the Muslims, after all, are still Indians converted to Islam, or the successors of Indians who were themselves converted. Islam came into India about the 7th century to convert the Indians, and it did convert numbers of them. Ninety million possibly are Muslims today, but they are still Indians, although, I know, that does not alter the fact that there are ideological differences between some Muslims and some Hindus. What I am trying to do is to suggest that we should not over-paint the picture and when we think of Hindus and Muslims we should not jump to the immediate conclusion that a great and unbridgeable chasm exists between the two communities. One has only to think of the great name of Akbar the Great to realise that he tried to synthesise the finest elements of Hinduism and of Islam. The mystic Kabir, a weaver of the sixteenth 1432 century, expounded religious teaching which appreciated the best elements not only of his own faith but of other faiths. I would remind hon. Members that on the North West Frontier there is a most remarkable man—Khan Abdul Jaffar Khan, who is not only a Muslim supporter of Congress, but in addition recognises that in Islam and in the so-called Hindu dominated Congress there are elements who can cherish and indeed appreciate other peoples' different faiths.
One of the most gratifying incidents that occurred to me when we went to India as a Parliamentary deputation, in the early part of this year, was when in the country near the Khyber Pass, we talked to Jaffar Khan in the twilight. I asked him for a message to the British people, and he gave, not a message of anger, indignation and scorn, but instead a religious message. I said to him, "Have you any message for the English people?" and he said, "Yes". After thinking for a moment, he said, "Tell your people we are all brothers in the sight of God, whether we are Muslims, Hindus or Christians. We are all children of the same God, and we all need a change of heart. When we have that change of heart perhaps nations and peoples will cease to dominate or hate each other." I mention that because it came from the wild North-West country, from the soul of a Muslim, and if there can be a Muslim who speaks in that way may it not be that others may yet bridge the gap between the Muslims and Hindus of India?
I would remind hon. Members that in Congress for many years Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Parsees and Christians have worked together for the common good. True it is that the Muslim League had the vast majority of the Muslim candidates returned at the recent elections, but it is still true that Congress is not merely a communal body. When some hon. Members opposite, including the Leader of the Opposition, stressed the facts that minorities exist, I would point out that Congress, although it has no longer many Muslims in it, is nevertheless supported by other minorities. The Sikhs, whose members represent some five or six million people, are working in the interim Government and in the Constituent Assembly, The same thing can be said of the Anglo-Indians and the Christians. Is that not because, apart from the Muslims who support the League, the other 1433 minorities have found a means of working with Congress although the majority within it are Hindus?
I suggest that whatever speeches are made during the rest of this Debate they should aim at stressing even small elements of encouragement which exist. Let us appreciate that the great problem of how we can secure the satisfaction of the Muslim League demands and also the Congress demands is, after all, an Indian problem and that Indians will certainly have to solve it in their own way. Although they may make mistakes and plunge into disasters we must take a detached view. We have to realise that in great movements for the resurgence of new nations and people there has occurred time and time again the tragic accompaniment of violence and destruction. All of us deplore with all our hearts and souls the fact that 10,000 Indians have been slain by their own brothers in recent fighting, but to get a better sense of proportion, I only have to remind the House of the fact that in the war just ended at least 10 million were slain in order that the new Europe might emerge. I do not say that to condone or endorse the assassination and brutalities that have taken place in India recently, but to suggest that we must not let these facts blind our eyes either to the fact that the soul of India is awaking now maybe after years of slumber. Unfortunately, on the one hand, monstrous and, indefensible things have been done, but on the other let us perceive how the country is pressing forward in what I believe is a march to a new and exemplary India.
My final word is that I do not believe the differences between the Muslim League and Congress are so irreconcilable as many people make out. I say that having read all the literature on the point that has been published. I would point out that Congress has said time and time again that it does not intend to coerce any considerable element of the community into an Indian Union; and also the fact that the Muslim League has undergone a certain amount of modification in regard to Pakistan. The Muslim League, when the Cabinet Mission was in India or shortly after its return, accepted the proposal that there should be at least three subjects reserved to the Central Government. That is some way towards recognising that complete Pakistan is impossible. I personally have always said that 1434 complete Pakistan is impossible and undesirable. The Muslim League now surely has recognised that also and the need for at least some form of central government. The whole question now is, first, whether there shall be more powers reserved to the centre; and, secondly, as to what form autonomy should take.
It is not our business nor would it be any use at all for us tonight to discuss what the Indians should do in these matters. It is for Indians themselves to work that out over a series of months or years. I do suggest that once we realise that there is a certain approach on the part of both of the main Parties to the beginning of a solution, we should find encouragement in that fact and we should ask the Indian leaders to go forward and believe that having gone so far it may be in the end they will be able to go much further until at last their divergent aspirations are recognised one to the other.
I want to end on that note of reconciliation. I appeal earnestly from this House to Mr. Jinnah, to Mr. Nehru, and to other great leaders, not excluding Mahatma Gandhi, to believe that we are concerned with India not merely for the sake of the Indians but for the sake of the whole world. If there can be a peaceful solution of the admitted problems of India, if India can begin to transform her country and set her people free, not merely from political domination but from appalling poverty; and if she can also set her people free from blind hatred, futile enmity and religious, fratricidal strife, then she will not merely herself come into her own but will set a great and inspired example to the whole world at a time when the world itself is in need of such inspiration. I ask Mr. Jinnah, for whom I have a very great respect, and Mr. Nehru, for whom I have something more than respect—a deep affection— without any sense of condescension or superiority but as a very humble back bencher who has met them both and knows their difficulties, to realise that while plans and schemes can be drawn up which may or may not be excellent, and which may or may not meet the situation, in the long run it is not the plans and schemes that matter but the approach people make and the quality of the spirit directing the approach.
If Mr. Jinnah feels that the quarrels of the past have in certain cases been harsh to the Muslims, then I do ask him to learn 1435 that the greatest statesmanship may now be along the pathway of forgiveness. I ask the same thing of Mr. Nehru, who has a great soul and a generous mind. Perhaps, when all is said and done, we discover that neat adjustments, tactics, diplomacy and strategy take us so far but then utterly fail. It is after this that the deeper resources of the human spirit are required. I want India, at this time in the history of our human race, to show an example to the world of how that reconciling spirit may emerge and how then that seemingly insoluble problem may at last be solved and a synthesis of opposites may be achieved.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
I have listened with considerable interest if not a great deal of agreement to the last two speeches from hon. Members opposite. With regard to that which we have just heard from the hon. Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), I admired very much his sentiment but I could not admire so much his sense of realism. He asked us to face the facts as he sees them, and suggested that we would have no answer to them. With his first fact I have no particular quarrel. It was, I believe, his suggestion that the Cabinet Mission had taken a wholly proper course. I have no particular quarrel with that, and I propose to say why later, but when the hon. Member went on to speak—I suppose these were more facts—about "getting out of India while the going is good," and to speak of the "culture" of Islam— I emphasise the word "culture" and not religion—and then, in a particularly idealistic mood, to speak of a Muslim friend on the North-West Frontier, whose name I did not catch, who said that all Indians were children of the same God and all that Indians needed was a change of heart, how much I agreed with him but how very little resemblance I am afraid that bears to the actual facts of the situation. If all Muslims would speak in that vein, and if all Muslims, Hindus and other religions in India would carry out those sentiments, how lovely everything would be in the garden of India. I really think that the hon. Member should temper his idealism with a little more realism.
With regard to the speech by the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt), I was disgusted with many of the sentiments 1436 he expressed. I do not think he is in his place—it is hard to see through the fog in the Chamber at the moment— but the sentiments he expressed involved the complete shirking not only of our responsibilities to India but of our duties to India. The only thing about which he seemed to be in doubt was the date on which we should scuttle. I hope he will not think me impertinent when he reads HANSARD if I suggest that the only date on which we could possibly scuttle is 1st April. He spoke of "withdrawing from India unless the spirit of cooperation and compromise improved," to which I would only say that the less cooperation and compromise we find in India the less reason is there why we should withdraw. I could not agree with him less over that particular point. He spoke of "minorities fending for themselves" and as "stooges of the British," and said that after a period of time everybody in India would "find themselves on the same level." It does not require much imagination to determine what that level would be. He said "some settlement was bound to come," that it was no argument to say that if we left India there was bound to be civil war and that "we would not be uselessly involved in it at any rate," and that by leaving India we could" obtain the genuine friendship of India when she settled down". I am sorry to quote the hon. Member at such length, but I was ashamed to hear such views, which seemed to me to be singularly out of keeping with British tradition. He seemed to me to be singularly unable to grasp our moral obligation and duty to India.
I speak with a very limited knowledge of India. I know that very well. As a matter of fact, during the year that I spent in India I was able to see perhaps more of the country than a good many people who have spent a far longer time there. I did not spend all my time in one place, but spent a month or more in places such as Bombay, Karachi, Rawalpindi, Delhi, Calcutta and Ranchi, as well as shorter periods in other parts. I happened to be present in India throughout the very worst of the "Quit India" troubles, doing an intelligence job which kept me in very close touch with the causes of it. More recently I served with the 10th Indian Division and was able to renew and extend many of the Indian friendships I had been able to make in 1437 India, and I came to admire the qualities of Indians at the same time as I came to understand many of their failings. Since then I have made a particular point of keeping in touch with Indian opinion so far as I am able.
With regard to the Motion before the House, I subscribe wholeheartedly to the latter part of it which expresses thehope that a settlement of the present difficulties between Indian Parties will be forthcoming.The London conversations, as the President of the Board of Trade rightly said in opening the Debate, really broke down simply on the Pakistan issue. They broke down on the issue of whether parts of India which the Muslim League would embrace within the Pakistan system should be allowed, to use a homely simile, to "contract out." The Muslim League is determined that autonomy should be allowed for these parts. The Congress view on this matter strikes, surely, at the very roots of the basis on which the Muslim League accepted the Cabinet Mission's plan. I wonder whether any useful purpose can possibly be served by referring this matter to the Federal Court, because I find it difficult to believe that the Muslim League would be likely to accept a decision of that court which was adverse to their present opinion. In this connection, I would certainly like to say that I hope most sincerely it may be possible to find a compromise. If a compromise can be found in this connection, I believe the present negotiations may go forward much more satisfactorily.
Next year, all hon. Members must agree. will be an extremely difficult one for India whatever happens; it will be a year calling for high statesmanship and for the greatest patience.. We are lucky, indeed to have in Field-Marshal Lord Wavell not only a statesman but a soldier of the highest attainments. It is curious that not only did we take him for granted as a soldier, but we also take him for granted as a statesman How little credit did Field-Marshal Lord Wavell—or Sir Archi bald Wavell as he then was—get for the 1940 offensive in North Africa when, with a tiny force with obsolete weapons, with the final objective of Tobruk, he was able to sweep on until the Australians entered Benghazi in February, 1941. and completely to wipe out and destroy Italian Forces several times his own number. As a statesman, little thanks as we seem to 1438 have given to him publicly, he has at least the trust of Indians, which is an extremely important thing. I was quite unable to understand the suggestion of the hon. Member for Aston that the Viceroy is inadequately apprised of political matters. To my certain knowledge, his advice on ail matters in India is excellent.
I am sure I am right in saying that all of us in this House hope that, through a spirit of harmony and understanding some compromise will be reached whereby Hindus and Muslims will be able to work together. Whatever speeches have been made today, I am sure I am right in saying that every hon. Member of this House is anxious to see India achieving a state of self-government, going from strength to strength, and increasing in prosperity: anxious to see an India in which every citizen can achieve to an increasing degree a state in which he or she may live his or her own life oppressed by none and frightened by none.
However, do not let us make the mistake of minimising the magnitude of the problem confronting not only our statesmen but Indian statesmen as well. I hate to introduce a controversial note into this Debate, but hon. Members opposite are really guilty either of self deception or of ignorance. When I say hon. Members opposite, I do not mean the whole party with an airy sweep of my hand, but considerable sections of it. It is just as dangerous to pretend that there are no difficulties in our way as it is to exaggerate those difficulties. I hope I shall not be accused of being over-simple if I remind those sections of the party apposite who are guilty of having their heads in the clouds that India is a subcontinent which is 2,000 miles from East to West and 2,000 miles from North to South. [Laughter.] I am glad that is apparently news to hon. Members opposite. The excitement on this announcement is extremely interesting. It may interest them to know that India embraces 43 races, as compared with Europe, which has 24 nations. The population, as we all know, is 400 million, and is increasing, and has been increasing since 1931. at the rate of 5 million a year. [Laughter.] I am sorry if this simple lesson causes merriment opposite, but I propose to go through with it.
I do not know whether all hon. Members opposite are aware of the fact that 88 per cent. of the Indian population are 1439 totally illiterate—[An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Hon. Members opposite will at any rate remember the fundamental divergence of religious opinion between Muslims and Hindus, Christians and Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsees and Jains, and, for that matter, all the rest of the extraordinarily divergent peoples to be found in India. They should be mindful of the fact that within Hinduism itself is a caste system or an exaggerated class system, which permits of 50 million outcaste Hindus, and that within India's borders there are 25 million backward tribalists, included among them 8 million of the most backward of all, the Animists. We might also remember the extraordinarily difficult problem of the Indian States and the question of paramountcy. I have no wish to over-stress all this, and I apologise if I have been over-simple, but I do not believe that any proper appraisal of the Indian situation is possible unless we take into account the immense difficulties which have to be overcame. I have mentioned only a very few. There are many more I could mention, but it would take all night to do so, and I certainly do not propose to do so.
All of us are obviously hoping to see "a solution to these many difficulties acceptable to India's quite natural aspirations. Nonetheless, I feel that my warning to sections of the party opposite not to walk about with their heads in the clouds is well deserved. I think those of them who allow their idealism to run away with their commonsense might take their heads out of the clouds occasionally and take a look around to see what is going on.
I cannot refrain from asking whether the unity of India is not in fact a creation of Great Britain, and whether the fact that India has been at peace for 100 years is not a direct result of our administration. This is a question which only India can answer. I will make no attempt to answer it. No one in this House, or anywhere, will be more pleased than I if the answer is a firm and categorical "No," which echoes round the world. His Majesty's Government have produced conditions in which a solution to the Indian problem is most likely. I believe that the Cabinet Mission, although certain mistakes may have been made, took the only steps open to them. I take particular note of the fact that the right hon. and learned Gentleman who opened 1440 the Debate stressed that neither the Muslim League nor Congress had been able to put forward any alternative plan acceptable to the other party. I think that is something of which we should take particular note. The Cabinet Mission, under the orders of His Majesty's Government, have done a great deal to dispel the fear within the minds of very large numbers of Indians that it was the policy of this country to divide and rule. That is something for which they deserve considerable credit. I believe that it has never been the policy of this country to divide and rule. I believe that most strongly. I believe that the removal of this wrong impression, fostered as it was by a nationalism which was perhaps outgrowing its strength in the past, has been a great achievement.
This is India's opportunity. The dangers of a breakdown, which could only result in desperate misery and desperate suffering, are surely added reasons why Indians should follow Field-Marshal Lord Wavell's advice given in a recent broadcast, when he said—this was towards the end of August this summer:We have come to another critical and solemn issue in the affairs of India. Never were tolerance and soberness in thought and action more necessary; never were the wild speaking and rash deeds of a few fraught with greater danger for so many millions.Now is the time for all Indians in any authority and with any influence, to show by their good sense and restraint that they are worthy of their country and that their country is worthy of the freedom it is to receive.In the Government's statement issued over the weekend, I especially welcomed the last paragraph. I will not weary the House by reading it now, although it is short. It has certainly' served to remove many doubts, not only of Members of this House but in India. I welcomed the further support given to this last paragraph by the right hon. and learned Gentleman who opened this Debate, when he restated so clearly the fundamental democratic principles on which any settlement in India must be based.
In conclusion, I ask the Government this definite question: Is it implicit in the last paragraph of their statement that the ultimate responsibility for the maintenance of law and order, and for the mitigation of the dire results which could only result from breakdown, rests upon His Majesty's Government? Unless further weighty argu- 1441 ments are forthcoming, I could not support His Majesty's Government in any shunning of what I consider to be their clear duty and responsibility. Let India grasp her opportunity. Let Muslims and Hindus and the minorities show the world that peace, prosperity and progress in India transcend all domestic difficulties. Let India prove to the world that the trust which this Government have put in her is not misplaced—and it is a very-great trust. Let India remember that our goal is her goal.
§ 9.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
I would like to take up the points made by the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish). I would point out that far from the speeches of my hon. Friends the Member for Aston (Mr. Wyatt) and the Member for West Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) being unreal speeches, there are times when an appeal to the best that is within a nation is often the most real thing in the circumstances. Both those speeches were an appeal to that which is best at the present moment in India, because there is something more than India at stake. The peace of the world and the settling down of civilisation after the last six years of war depend upon the settlement of the Indian problem as much as upon anything else. Consequently, it would be wrong of any of us in this House to make cheap party quips. That is why I deprecate the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred to what Gladstone said on the Armenian massacres. I would recall the speech of Macaulay in which he said:In some future age India might demand institutions on the European model. Whether such a day will come, I know not, but never will I attempt to avert or retard it. Whenever it comes, it will be the proudest day in English historyInstead of deprecating the work of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, and instead of making what I consider to be an un parliamentary quip, I wish the Leader of the Opposition, when he painted the Mission to India more or less in the form of a plot as though India were doomed, had paid a tribute to the magnificent efforts that were made by those people as men, irrespective of any party or political outlook New political forces are at work in India and many of us have 1442 had the opportunity of seeing them. I claim that we on this side of the House are the realists, because we are trying to discover in this difficulty a formula to fit into the new political ideas which now exist in India.
We do not want any elementary geography lessons such as that delivered by the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes. Hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House have studied the Indian problem and they are proud of their record in bringing India's freedom to debate in this House during the last 40 or 50 years. By whom should we be lectured or taught the elementary geography of India at a crisis like this in the history of India and the East? I admit that I may be wrong and I will not be dogmatic about this, but I believe that in the Indian Army we saw the makings of a new type of Indian. I saw places where that Army had made short work of communal differences, where different types of Indians were living side by side in understanding and toleration. Cannot India build up from that?
When the Prime Minister made a speech when the Mission went out to India, it was quiet and statesmanlike; it was sound, like all of his speeches. Then he pointed out that the simple function of this Mission was to try to help the parties, without taking responsibility from India's hands, to come to an agreement, to reach an understanding for the Constitution of India. I am convinced, as results of what was said to me by Indian leaders and people in South East Asia, that the entire Far East would have been on fire at this juncture if this Government, with their ideals, were not in power in Britain today. Many leaders told me that. [An HON. MEMBER: "The hon. Gentleman is wrong."] I believe they were right. I have two minutes left, and I want to honour my pledge to Mr. Speaker. Finally, I would like to put this point. The Leader of the Opposition today can be just as inaccurate. I was disgusted with the attitude of the noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) when he accused a member of the Communist Party of being of foreign descent. How many people on the benches opposite are of foreign descent? [Interruption.] Of course, they are, except the noble Lord. He also accused the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) of being the 1443 most inaccurate individual in the House. We have heard some figures this afternoon The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said that more lives have been lost in four months in India than in the whole of the Armenian massacres. I have taken the trouble to check up on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), and I find that, once again, he was wrong in his figures. Then, the right hon. Gentleman said that Gladstone took action, but Gladstone did not take action He refused to be a party to taking action without the rest of the world.
We cannot expect the boys of Britain to take the responsibility all the time of settling down India, and, in the last resort, we should appeal to India and say to her people that we might have to ask the United Nations to help us in the settlement of this problem, and that the Indian leaders, like British leaders, must always remember that, while leaders may come and leaders may go, the great people of India will go on for ever. Unless the Indian leaders can come to some kind of settlement, so that all their pettifogging differences for which they stand at the moment may be swept aside, no new system will ever evolve from the present situation, and that is the warning which we ought to give to the Indian leaders at this moment Though I would have liked to have developed my case much further I will honour my pledge in order to give the hon. Gentleman opposite a chance to sum up.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
I would like to add my congratulations to the hon. Member who has just spoken on honouring his pledge. I think that a great many Members give pledges, that they will sit down at a certain time but are carried away on the waves of their own eloquence, forget to look at the clock, and go on beyond their time. I think the hon Member for Leek (Mr. H. Davies) deserves the congratulations of the House on his good Parliamentary manners.
The object of this Debate is to send a message to India, and the only point of difference between the two sides of the House concerns what that message should be. For myself, I think it is right that that message should have two aspects. An 1444 hon. Member on the other side has already said that it should be one of hope, ignoring the difficulties and inspiring confidence, sending a message of faith, confidence and goodwill to the different parties in India. We, on our side of the House, have rather taken the line that our duty is to show India that we are facing facts. I believe that that is necessary, and I ask hon. Members opposite to believe that, if I approach the subject in a rather sombre frame of mind and try to be realistic, I am only doing so because I believe it to be my duty We, on this side of the House have only asked for this Debate because we believe that the time has come when the facts must be faced and the difficulties reckoned with, and because we believe that, by so doing, we shall be doing the greatest service to the peoples of India. At the same time, I wish to associate myself, and the party to which I belong, with the last words of the Motion on the Order Paper and to express our "hope that a settlement of the present difficulties between Indian parties will be forthcoming." We send to India our message of sympathy and affection, no less than hon. Members on the other side of the House.
I approach this Debate, with a feeling of great solemnity. We are speaking, not only to each other and to the electors of this country, but to India's 400 millions. Upon our words today depend to some extent the fate of between one-fifth and one-sixth of the human race. It is, indeed, a solemn occasion, and I do not think that the House has done itself injustice by the way in which this Debate has been conducted. This is not a party matter or even a Government matter, but a national responsibility which affects the duty and conscience of every individual in the country.
Having said that, I am delighted to be able to say that, in broad outline, I support the policy of His Majesty's Government. It seems to me to be the logical development of the policies of previous Governments. Broadly speaking, I have no quarrel to pick with the Government or regrets for the devious paths by which successive Governments have attempted to lead India on the road to self-government. I do not think that we have anything to be ashamed of in the eyes of the world. We have made mistakes, it is true, but I believe that we have followed the wise line. But now we have come to 1445 the parting of the ways, and it is difficult to see ahead. It is symbolically significant that we should have chosen the foggiest day of the year on which to debate this subject. I hope that hon. Members will not think that I am preaching at them if I say that this is not the moment for political speculation or political tirades, but a time for going back together to the true beacon lights which have always guided the British nation in times of difficulty.
I refer to courage and kindness. I believe that we need a full dose of courage. We need courage to think clearly and truthfully with ourselves. Much as I respect the attitude of hon. Members opposite, I believe that, in sending out this encouraging message to India, there is a danger of self-delusion. We need courage to do our duty and courage to make sacrifices. If the House agrees that our duty lies in the direction in which I think it is to be found, it will need a great and inspiring call to the people of this country to shoulder the burden and to do the work properly.
As to kindness, I think that members of the British race seldom need lectures on it. I will content myself by saying that we should strive not to add one tear more to the ocean of weeping that fills the world every night, the weeping of the fatherless, the widows, the orphans, the exiles, the imprisoned and the starving. In that light, I offer the following opinions to the House.
I am going to place some ugly facts before the House. I think that we must face the fact that the Assembly may fail. I believe that it will fail. I believe that an Assembly which only could be got together on the strength of the declaration of 16th May cannot hope to succeed. It cannot hope to succeed unless that declaration is regarded as a minimum concession, and not as a maximum concession. I can assure hon. Members that I am not dwelling unnecessarily on the difficulties, but these are inescapable. First, the spirit of compromise, the spirit of coalition and the will to agree rather than to disagree, are the pre-requisites of both Federal structures and Cabinet coalitions. They are noticeably absent in India today. Secondly, the scheme itself cannot hope to produce a viable constitution. I cannot believe that a federation, with a centre as weak as that laid down 1446 in the scheme, can possibly survive. If I am right in asking the House to face these as facts, I ask it to face something else.
There may well have to be a new deal. I am not going to waste time speculating on what it will be. It may be partition, it may be another attempt to found a united India, or rather to continue a united India. But a new deal there will have to be. That is the third ugly fact which I ask the Government and the nation to face. I may be wrong; indeed, I pray that I am wrong. But if it should fail, the question which every Englishman will have to ask himself is, What are our inescapable responsibilities; what are the minimum responsibilities that fall upon our shoulders? To that question, I propose to give two answers. First, I believe that we in this country have an inescapable responsibility for the safety of the lives of the people of India.
We may call it what we like—law and order, tranquillity, or the maintenance of the public peace—but we have that responsibility. If we say that to Indian politicians they often say, "Who placed that responsibility upon your shoulders? Who made you a trustee? Where is your moral or theoretical responsibility for the position of trusteeship?" Many of them, from Gandhi downwards, say, "If it is India's wish to wade to freedom through oceans of blood, surely that is India's business." Many of them, including Mr. Gandhi; think that as suffering is a means of grace, so India must find salvation through blood and redemption through misery. I respect that point of view, but I do not believe that British Members of Parliament can accept such a doctrine of vicarious suffering. I do not believe the people of this country will agree with that. I am not talking of trusteeship, or moral or theoretical obligation. I am talking of actual responsibility, because we alone are in a position to prevent or mitigate the consequences of bloodshed and civil war.
The question we have to ask ourselves is whether we accept that position. Hon. Members talk about evacuation as if it were a subject which must be decided at some future date. That is not the case. This question has to be answered now, today, in our own minds. At any moment British troops may have to be employed in putting down civil disturbance At any moment British troops may be called upon 1447 by a government composed of one party to suppress another party. What is our attitude towards that? I will give my answers to those questions as I see the position. If British troops are brought into contact with civil disturbance, I say that no Briton can expect his fellow countrymen to stand idly by while subjects of the King-Emperor or, for that matter, people in any part of the world, are massacred. We cannot do it. It is not a theoretical question that may have to be answered some time in the future It is on our doorstep.
In answer to the second question, I say that British troops must never be employed at the behest of one party to suppress another. They must operate only at the command of the British Government acting, of course, through the Viceroy. As I have said, that question is there. It is like a wolf at our door, demanding to be reckoned with. If we do not reckon with it, millions of Indian lives may be lost. I do not believe that the people of this country realise what is meant by the words "one hundred per cent, evacuation." I do not believe they will stand for it, neither do I believe this House will tolerate it. Our primary responsibility is for the protection of the lives of the Indian masses, and, whatever happens, we cannot evade or dissociate ourselves from that responsibility.
There is another responsibility of equal importance. That is our responsibility for the administration of India, and by "administration" I mean the administrative machine which is composed of all the various services, the great structure which runs throughout the length and breadth of the land. There is no comparable land of similar population or area in the world which depends so much for its very survival on the maintenance-of the efficiency and incorruptibility of this machinery, involving matters such as the maintenance of law and order, taxation, impartial justice, and now food rationing is added. One hundred and fifty millions in India are rationed today, often on pitifully small rations, and they depend for their very lives upon the efficiency of the administrative machine. In all other countries in the world there are substitutes—imperfect substitutes, probably, but they are substitutes, all the same—for an efficient administration if 1448 that administration breaks down. Not so in India. And that administration is breaking down today.
In the old days the charge was levelled against us—and I think it was a just charge—that we paid too great a proportion of our attention to the creation and to the maintenance of an efficient administrative machine, and neglected the political life of the people. In the old days we seemed to think that all a great country like India wanted—today it is a great modern country—was a good administration; we thought that political life was not a necessity. Today that charge is reversed. We are allowing the administrative machine to rust, to become ineffective, inefficient and corrupt, and we are concentrating all our attention upon the political life of the people. The administrative machine is breaking down, with a loss of confidence in the British and in the Indian personnel. Nobody knows where they stand; nobody knows-who their next master will be; nobody knows whether they will be persecuted or rewarded for doing their duty. There has been a long failure to recruit; and people are overworked and overtired as a result of the war
India is on the verge of an administrative collapse. People say that the recent disasters and disorders are the result of communal tension. Well, so they are. But there is another interpretation. They may well be interpreted as the consequence of the breakdown of the administration. If there is a boiler explosion it may certainly be because pressure in the boiler is higher than usual. But it may also be because the plates have been allowed to rust. That is what is happening in India today. If the good administration of India goes, all goes. Apart from that, let us bear in mind that we must hand over India in running order. This is where I do introduce a strong element of criticism against the Government. The result of this loss of administrative efficiency mu3t in part be laid to the charge of past Governments, but it is particularly the responsibility of the present Government. They have done absolutely nothing about it They have been warned in speech after speech in the House, from many hon Members, including my humble self. In not a single speech before the Cabinet Mission went to India, or since they re turned, have the Government even given 1449 us the impression that they are aware that the problem exists at all. I demand that immediate steps be taken to strengthen the administration. It can be done. It is becoming a byword all over the world that British administrations are breaking down. We have it in Germany, and we have it in India. If this Debate results in one thing alone, namely, in attention being focussed upon this, it will not have been in vain.
§ Mr. Alexander
I am always anxious to listen to the advice of one who is so interested in India as the hon. Gentleman He knows why the run-down has taken place, largely during the war. If he has any suggestion to make on how to recruit the Indian administrative service for a short period perhaps he will let us have his views.
§ Mr. Nicholson
My goodness, yes, I will. I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the courteous way in which he referred to me. I will reply by asking him a few questions. Have the Government taken any steps to see that short-term engagements are entered into? Have the Government caused any investigations to be made into this question? Have the Government taken any steps to assure the Indian Services of their future, whether they stay in India or whether they leave? Do they know the terms of compensation and settlement that will be arranged? The right hon. Gentleman knows—if I may have his attention for a moment—that I regard him with great personal respect. I say to him, if I may, without presumption, as a friend, that I am here touching upon a question than which there is nothing more important for the future of India. I repeat the charge that the Government have not even given the slightest indication that they recognise the existence of the problem. I repeat that charge quite seriously. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but can any hon. or right hon. Gentleman on the benches opposite say that the people concerned know where they stand, or know what their future can be? Has any effort been made to refresh the administration? Have any civil servants been sent out from this country, which has the finest Civil Service in the world? I warn the House that if outbreaks take place in India, it will be no good putting all the blame on communal tension. A very heavy burden 1450 of responsibility will have to be borne by His Majesty's Government.
I have spoken sombrely. I have tried to call the attention of the House to two grave decisions that we shall have to make. We shall have to ask ourselves whether we recognise this responsibility for the safety of the lives of the Indian masses, and whether we recognise the equally grave responsibility that we have for the continued efficiency of the administrative machine. But I do not wish to leave the House with the impression that I am in despair. It may be wishful thinking, but I am still an optimist about India. I have deep affection for India and the Indians. In that I am not alone. Many hon. Members have the same affection. I believe that all of us, and all our countrymen, and countrywomen, who have spent their lives in India and given their lives to India, feel the same affection. Behind that feeling many of us have personal friendships and personal contacts. I refuse to face even the possibility that we may part as enemies and so betray ourselves and our heritage. I refuse to contemplate the possibility that the electorate of this country will be even the unwitting cause of bloodshed, grief and misery in India. I regard that as unthinkable, and in saying that I join with hon. Members opposite. I believe that constant hope may create that which is hoped for. But if that hope is to become a reality, we must recognise something else.
The Indian problem is not, even mainly, a question of politics. We have allowed these political issues, these fierce political polemics, and arguments, to roll and range over the great plains of India until we think that everything in India is politics. We have allowed ourselves to think that every Indian is a politician and that politics is the only thing that matters. But India is not a nation of politicians. The ordinary Indian is poor and usually hungry; he is a person of warm affections and deep emotions. Remember that India is fundamentally a feminine nation. Do not let us forget that an emotional, feminine nation, with all the failings and the virtues of the female sex, must be wooed. We shall get far greater dividends of loyalty and affection in India than we shall anywhere else if we give affection and interest and sympathy on our part.
What matters is what India thinks of us and how we think of India. If we think 1451 of India as a bore, or a nuisance, or an incubus to be got rid of as soon as possible, then all is lost—all is lost for India, and possibly for us. If we are afraid to shoulder the burden of old friendships and long comradeship, we shall indeed have failed as honourable and humane people. I confess to my faith. I believe it has been ordained by Providence that we shall walk hand in hand with India in friendship. I am not ashamed of it. I beg the House to remember that India must be wooed; it cannot be won by political promises, or political nostrums, and it cannot be won by force. But sympathy is not enough. That is where I join issue with hon. Members opposite. Sympathy with Indian nationalism is not enough. We all have that sympathy. Having bred India in the greatest of our liberal traditions, how can we in this country not have sympathy with Indian nationalism? One has only to go to India for a short visit to find that great upsurge of national self-consciousness, that touching desire that India shall emerge as a free and equal member of the comity of nations. That sympathy, if it is to be put into actual practice, calls for great sacrifices, possibly in men and possibly in money, for an unspecified time. It will bring on us abuse from all sides, here, perhaps in the rest of the world, and certainly in India. We must be prepared for sacrifice and we must not take sides.
Finally, our duty to minorities must never allow us to lose our sense of obligation towards majorities. Let us remember that, in Parliament, we are still looked upon in India as a fine and impartial court of appeal. I declare this as my faith in regard to India. I believe India wants our friendship. I believe there is a great reservoir of good will for us in India, upon which we can draw, amongst the humble multitudes, among the Army, and among the business community. All through India, there is a great reservoir of good feeling, but it must be on equal terms. It is not a question of inferiority or superiority. It must be on equal terms. We must impose nothing. I am taking this somewhat general and somewhat vague line because I believe that both this country and India need to be convinced that the problem is not only a political one.
I offer no solution, for the very good reason that I do not see any solution. I 1452 do not think that we can demand to see a solution. I do not think that we need spend sleepless nights because a solution of the whole Indian problem does not stare us in the face. What I am trying to say is that I see certain courses that are more dangerous than others. I see certain elementary duties that we must perform. I do not offer success. I offer, certainly, the possibility of failure. I do not point to anything easy; but I believe that I point to the rough and stony path of duty. I believe that it ever has been the practice of this country, when in doubt, to do what it thought right and what it believed to be its duty. The path of duty is always difficult and is often disagreeable. We cannot carry out this duty merely by the use of words and phrases, and by wringing our hands and saying that we can see no solution so we shall leave India to stew in its own juice—which means in blood, misery and tears.
We live in a precarious and dangerous world. The foundations of all that we hold dear are cracking. We may perish as a nation, but let it never be said that, having seen where our duty lay, we turned aside and left millions to perish.
§ Debate adjourned —[Mr. Snow.]
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.