§ *EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON rose to call attention to the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to the removal of the capital of India to Delhi, and other connected matters; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I think I had better begin by an apology for the unconscionable strain that I am afraid I shall place upon the patience of your Lordships. But it is not possible to deal briefly with every aspect of this great case. The decision which I am about to discuss is by far the most important that has been come to since the Government of India was taken over by the Crown. It is not merely a question of moving the capital from Calcutta to Delhi, or of redistributing boundaries of Provinces containing nearly 100 millions of people in the Eastern parts of India; it is a question raising great issues which must profoundly affect your rule in India for all time.
§ It was on December 12 last that the noble Viscount, Lord Morley, told us in this House of the new and far-reaching steps which had been announced that morning at Delhi by His Majesty the King, 138 and commended them to the consideration of this House. It is no secret, my Lords, that we were all taken by surprise. My noble friend Lord Lansdowne and myself had only heard of this fact a few hours in advance, and though he and I had been jointly responsible for the Government of India for a period of twelve years, though there were other ex-Viceroys in this country who had been similarly responsible for another ten years, though our joint knowledge of India, and our responsibility for its government in the highest place had thus covered a period of twenty-two years, I believe I am right in saying that not one of us had been consulted in advance or had the slightest inkling of what was going to be done. I make no complaint of that. His Majesty's Government are entitled to consult or not to consult whomever they please. But I think it should be known that this step was taken on the initiative of a Viceroy—I speak of him with respect because he is a personal friend—who had only been in India a few months, of a Secretary of State who had not enjoyed his great position for a longer period, and without any reference to those officers who had been responsible for the Government of India for a period of nearly a quarter of a century. Lord Lansdowne on that occasion described this departure as one of the utmost gravity. He said that we ought not hurriedly to pass judgment upon it, but that we retained our right of free criticism at a later date. Since then neither he nor I have said one word in public about this matter. While the King was in India it appeared unbecoming to us that any note of discord should mar the triumphant effect of His Majesty's progress.
§ Here may I say how cordially and respectfully I endorse what was said on this matter by the Leaders on both sides of the House in the debate on the Address a few days ago? I truly believe that no British Monarch ever rendered a greater service to India or any part of his Dominions than did His Majesty by the conception and execution of his tour. I say the conception, because everybody knows that the idea was His Majesty's own, to which he adhered in spite of the advice given him by many well qualified to pronounce; and I say the execution, because although the fullest credit ought to be given to those in India who were responsible for the detail and the ceremonial of 139 a visit which appears to have passed off almost without a hitch, yet it is indisputable that the main success was due to the personality of their Majesties themselves, who succeeded in persuading the Princes and the peoples of India that they were not only paying their homage to their Sovereigns in a great and stately ceremonial, but that they were meeting those who felt for them a sincere and profound regard.
§ And if there is one point in His Majesty's tour to which I would beg leave to call passing attention, it is to the utterances of His Majesty himself. I do not believe that a series of speeches was ever made by a Monarch or by any British public man characterised by a deeper insight, a more balanced and felicitous choice of words, or a more genuine feeling. When His Majesty ended by that message of hope which he gave to the peoples of India as a sort of watchword for their future progress, he struck a note which vibrated in the heart of every man, not merely who heard it but who read it in any part of the Empire, and he expressed an aspiration that every one of us deeply trusts will be realised in the days that are to come. Nothing that I may say this afternoon about the announcement which was placed in the lips of the King can in the least degree affect my profound and respectful recognition of the service rendered by His Majesty in India to India and to the Empire.
§ The question, however, may be raised whether the action of the Sovereign, irrevocable as we have been told it is, should debar us from any criticism upon it. I am as alive as any man to the value of imagination in your Eastern policies, and to the importance of ruling the East, not by cut-and-dried formuhæ, but by an appeal to sentiment and to feeling. I know how moved Oriental Peoples are by a supreme manifestation of Royal power, and therefore I of all people am not blind to the spectacular and dramatic effects of such a scene as was witnessed at Delhi. And yet, my Lords, I have no doubt whatever as to the answer which ought to be given to my own question. It would not be right that even in India the personal authority of the Sovereign should be engaged to relieve his Ministers of the responsibility which is theirs, to supersede Parliament, which is the governing authority 140 as regards India and every portion of His Majesty's Dominions, or to shut the mouths of public men. For surely it is clear that if you once accept the principle that great political and administrative changes can be introduced in India by the fiat of the Sovereign, even on the occasion of his Coronation, without challenge, you impair and weaken the Constitutional machinery which we have set up in this country and which we regard as the guarantee of our liberties. You set up an autocracy which is not the more tolerable, but the less tolerable because the Ministers who really exercise it shelter themselves behind the person of the Sovereign. You establish a precedent which might in the future be followed on occasions other than a Coronation. You might, indeed, tempt succeeding Sovereigns to go one better than their predecessors, or in the inverse case you might compel the Sovereign to desist from going to India to celebrate his Coronation at all because he had no dramatic or commanding boon to give. These results, I think, might ensue from our silent acceptance of what has been done. No doubt it would be much easier and much pleasanter for us on this side to say nothing at all, but if we held our peace we might be suspected of acquiescence in the course that has been adopted, and we might encourage its repetition in the future. That is the reason, my Lords, why we are compelled to raise this question to-day. Nothing that will be said here will be in any degree disrespectful to the action of the Sovereign. It is the action of his Ministers that is our concern. It is their advice to the Sovereign that we impugn. Indeed the King himself made it perfectly clear at Delhi, because he used the words that it was upon the advice of his Ministers that he was taking action.
§ What is the gravamen of our charge against Ministers? For the moment I say nothing about the policy itself. I speak only of its matter and its method. They decided upon a course the importance of which they would be the last to deny. It was a course involving the uprooting of traditions in India which had existed for 150 years. It involved not merely the shifting of the capital, but the creation of a new capital. It included the reversal, either entire or partial, of a great administrative act of their predecessors. It entailed the carving about of great Provinces in a part of India. All these steps 141 were decided upon in secret without consultation with those whom you ordinarily consult in India, without any intimation to representative bodies or persons, without any consultation of public opinion, behind the back of Parliament. Then you give finality to this procedure, you invest it with a sacrosanct character by putting it into the mouth of the Sovereign—not in a King's Speech or in any manner with which we may be familiar in this country, but on an occasion when the King utters a solemn pledge, a pledge invested with almost sacramental solemnity, to the representatives of 300,000,000 of his people in India. Is it possible to imagine a procedure more contrary to the established usage of our Constitution, less consonant with our democratic practice?
§ Look at the results of your action. In the first place, you use your advantage to relieve yourselves of all opposition till it is too late, and of all criticism until it must necessarily be ineffective. Then you place us, the Opposition, in the embarrassing position of reviewing what is already an accomplished act. You institute what is a new procedure in the history of British rule in India. Hitherto no great change has taken place in the Government of India without full discussion in Parliament and the sanction of both Houses. This was the case with Pitt's Act in 1784, with the various Charter Acts of 1793, 1813, 1833, and 1853, with the Government of India Act under which the Crown took over the Government of India in 1858, and with Lord Beaconsfield's Royal Titles Act in 1876. Every one of those measures was debated at length in both Houses of Parliament. Some of us are old enough to remember that the Party opposite distinguished themselves by their frantic hostility to Mr. Disraeli's far-sighted measure giving to Queen Victoria the title of Empress of India. But Mr. Disraeli, as he then was, although he was an Imperial statesman, was also a Constitutional Minister. He did not make his announcement at a Durbar, although Lord Lytton, the then Viceroy, was commanded to hold a Durbar on that occasion. Even his Oriental imagination shrank from anything so startling, and he followed the procedure which has always been adopted on similar occasions of asking the sanction of Parliament. Now, for the first time, a great change is introduced into the Government of India which, whether for good or bad, 142 is without the hall-mark of Parliamentary approval and has not had behind it the sanction of the representatives of the people.
§ The case is in one respect rendered worse, because you have utilised the authority of the Sovereign to settle in your own way an issue of the most acutely controversial character. I allude, of course, to the Partition of Bengal, upon which parties both in India and in this country are, and have been, sharply divided. This is, indeed, a very dangerous precedent, for if the King may be brought in to upset the decision of one party he may equally be brought in to reverse the policy of another. There is another and more insidious danger. If the policy which you have placed in the mouth of the Sovereign is a popular and successful policy—as we all hope it may be—then the credit will attach, in large measure, to the Sovereign. But supposing your policy is not so fortunate in its results. Then some portion of the blame can hardly fail to fall upon the innocent shoulders of the Sovereign himself.
§ These are the main reasons why we regard your conduct as unconstitutional. If any lawyer here were to ask me what I mean by the word "unconstitutional" in this case my reply might not be a legal one, but I think it would meet the circumstances of the case. By unconstitutional I mean contrary to the settled practice and the established usage of our Constitution. You have done in India what no British Government has ever done there before. You have done what you would not have dared to attempt in England, what if we had attempted to do either here or in India you would have made the heavens ring with your denunciations, and you have done it in a manner that saves you from retribution and screens you from attack. The Secretary of State may say in reply to me that he could not have done it in any other way. I should feel tempted to rejoin that if that were so it ought not to be done at all. If your proposals were so controversial that you could not rely upon the favourable judgment of the public then you ought not to have resorted to this device to carry them through. On the other hand, if your proposals were as reasonable and popular as I believe you claim them to be, then there ought to have been no hesitation in submitting them to public opinion in advance.143
§ There is one defence which I hope the Secretary of State for India will not make. It is contained in an astonishing sentence in the speech of the Prime Minister the other evening in the House of Commons. The right hon. gentleman argued that the two policies of the Partition of Bengal in my time and the transfer of the capital of India and the reversal of Partition now are on all fours, because in the one case the policy was announced by the King and in the other case by Lord Curzon. Surely this is the flimsiest and most transparent of fallacies!In the one case, when the decision was announced in my time, it had been discussed in every Government and every newspaper in India, and after a Blue Book full of information had been for months in the possession of Parliament and public at home, whereas your policy was announced without consultation with anybody and without the publication of any Papers at all. In the second place, my policy could be reversed, as you have reversed it. Your policy cannot. I hope, therefore, that whatever defence you offer it may be something better than and different from this trumpery and shallow excuse which did service in the House of Commons.
§ There is one other feature of your policy to which I think it is my duty to call attention in passing, and that is the extreme secrecy and the almost indecent haste of your procedure. The Government of India has many virtues and I have no doubt some failings, but I have always thought its most admirable feature to be the extreme deliberation with which it prepares its cases and the frankness with which it takes the public into its counsels. No Government—certainly no Government that is often called despotic—lives so much in an atmosphere of public criticism as the Government of India. Before any new policy can be adopted there it is examined by the local Governments, referred to and after wards reported upon by local representative bodies and discussed in the Press. Only after it has gone through this ordeal is it sent home to the Secretary of State. Your policy was not referred to a single local Government; not a single Lieutenant-Governor was consulted. Even the Lieutenant-Governor of the Province most concerned only learnt of it the night before it was announced at Delhi. You cannot quote a single opinion of a representative body in India in favour of your policy—I mean 144 given before the policy was announced. Only three years ago in this House was set up, on the initiative of Lord Morley, a great scheme of Legislative Councils in India, Imperial and provincial, and the noble Viscount was most eloquent about the manner in which those bodies would focus the intelligence, the sentiments, the aspirations of the Indian people. They were to constitute a sort of bridge between the Government and the people. Did you consult them? Is not the question of the capital of India of any interest to the representative bodies whom you have set up? Have they not their views about it? You said nothing to them at all on the subject. You may say that your policy was approved by the Viceroy and his Council. I cannot, of course, comment upon the conditions under which the Council of the Viceroy gave its assent in India. But I do know—I say it without any invidious intent—that that Council represents a shorter experience of India than any Council in modern times. If the Secretary of State goes on to tell me that his policy was approved by his Council at home, I shall be greatly surprised—I think I am speaking what is common knowledge—if those gentlemen were consulted under conditions that rendered independent examination and criticism, much less refusal, on their part at all possible. But that, my Lords, is the limit of the support which the Secretary of State can claim. I do not know if he congratulates himself on the manner in which it has been carried through, but I can assure him that there are great searchings of heart in many quarters as to the manner in which it has been done, and that those, at any rate, with whom I come in contact who are best acquainted with India think that a dangerous precedent has been set up which they earnestly hope may never again be followed in the future.
§ I pass from the manner and methods of your policy to its concrete form. I have to deal with that policy in relation to six matters. One, the removal of the capital from Calcutta; two, the reversal of the Partition of Bengal; three, the revival of the Chief Commissionership of Assam; four, the creation of the new Province of Behar; five, the placing of the capital at Delhi; and six, the question of finance. As regards Calcutta, I hope I shall not be tempted to overstate the case of Calcutta. I have a very warm feeling for Calcutta 145 myself. It has always seemed to me to be a worthy capital and expression of British rule in India. It is English built, English commerce has made it the second city in the Empire, for so it is, in population and size, and from the offices of the Government in Calcutta English statesmen, administrators, and generals have built up to its present commanding height the fabric of British rule in India. Calcutta has had a splendid past, and whatever happens to it in the future nothing can alter that. Now what are the reasons in your Despatch for dethroning Calcutta? They are of very varying value. In the first place, the Government of India argue that geographically Calcutta is ill-adapted to be the capital because it is in a corner of India. I will not lay too much stress upon that. Capitals are seldom chosen for their central position. Neither St. Petersburg, Paris, nor Washington are in the centre of their respective countries, and I do not think that London is in the centre of the British Isles. Railway facilities are so great nowadays that geographical difficulties are overcome.
§ There is another extraordinary argument in the Despatch which I fail to understand, and that is the argument that the Imperial Legislative Council can do its work better in a more central position. You might just as well argue that the American Congress cannot do its duty well because the capital of Washington is in an eastern State. The second reason given in the Despatch is one upon which the Secretary of State has laid some stress, but which, if I may say so, seems to me to be very feeble. The Government of India say that it is a serious anomaly that the two Governments, Imperial and local, should exist side by side in the same city, and the Secretary of State goes on to advance the extraordinary proposition that the Governor-General in India thereby becomes saddled with the responsibility of the Bengal Government and that the local Government suffers from the loss of a sense of responsibility. I do not recognise that picture. I spent seven winters in Calcutta, a longer time than any ex-Viceroy living, and I was brought in contact with three Lieutenant-Governors of Bengal. No trouble occurred between the two Governments in my day. Most friendly relations prevailed between the individuals and the Governments. I constantly received assistance from them, and 146 I believe the Government of Bengal welcomed the appearance of the Government of India with its highly-trained body of expert officials, because it widened their outlook and taught them other things, and certainly for my part I welcomed contact and association with the officials of the Government of Bengal. I challenge the noble Marquess to produce the evidence of a single Lieutenant-Governor, past or present, who will dispute what I have said on this subject. Then a bigger anomaly has been left untouched. For seven months of the year the Imperial Government and a Local Government exist side by side on the narrow ridge of Simla, a much more anomalous and difficult position than their juxtaposition for the remainder of the year in Calcutta. Every argument that the noble Marouess has used with regard to Calcutta applies with double force to Simla. I invite him to say, as he has turned the Government of India out of Calcutta, whether he is going to turn it out of Simla too.
§ The third reason given in the Despatch is, I venture to say, the real one, though it is wrapped up in somewhat euphemistic language. The Government of India say that they desire to withdraw the Government of India from its present provincial environment and from the influence of local opinion. I am indeed amused at a Liberal Government desiring to withdraw its representatives from contact with local opinion. How often have we been advised in this House that this is the ideal we ought to have in view, and how often did the noble Viscount (Lord Morley) reproach me in the old days with having carried my partition of Bengal without sufficient reference to local opinion? Well, I have no doubt that this represents the real feeling and desire of the Government of India. They desire to escape the somewhat heated atmosphere of Bengal and to say good-bye to the Bengali friends for whom they have just done so much. I have some sympathy with that feeling, but do not let us be hypocritical about it. If that is the reason why you are leaving Calcutta, do not attempt to assign other reasons which are of greatly inferior importance.
§ As to the future of Calcutta, I am not one of those who think that the removal of the Government will seriously or detrimentally affect it. The importance of Calcutta 147 results from its position on the sea, from its proximity to the great sources of supply of jute and coal and tea in Eastern India, and from the enterprise of its merchants. I dare say there will be some displacement of trade, some depreciation of property, perhaps some loss of money to individual firms; but I have little doubt that the mercantile community in Calcutta will show the patriotism and public spirit which they have displayed all along, and that, sore as they are at the displacement of their metropolitan city, they will bend their backs to win for Calcutta in the future as great and famous a place as it has had in the past. Personally I think the removal of the Government from Calcutta much more injurious to the Government than it will be to Calcutta. Of course this displacement will be welcomed elsewhere in India. I have never been able to understand why it is that rival cities regard each other with a jealousy to which rival lovers and even rival politicians seldom attain. But so it is. Glasgow and Edinburgh, Manchester and Liverpool, Milan and Turin, Petersburg and Moscow—in none of these cases is there any great warmth of affection between the two cities or their inhabitants. And it is quite true that the supremacy of Calcutta has always excited very poignant emotions in the breasts of Madras and Bombay. Every year there is a sort of struggle when the Census figures come out to try and prove that Calcutta is or is not the premier city in India, and, though I do not wish to do my friends who have been Governors of Madras an injustice, I believe that at the bottom of their hearts there is a sort of sneaking satisfaction at the dethronement of Calcutta.
§ But you have not merely dethroned Calcutta; you have accompanied that act with the reversal of the so-called partition of Bengal. It is six and a-half years since that measure was carried. I use the phrase "partition" for brevity sake; I do not think it at all describes the fact. During that time I have seen the most extraordinary descriptions of the object of the Government of India which have made me sometimes rub my eyes and wonder whether I was living in a world of reality. Every one knows that that was an administrative measure which had been called for for years. I was not the man to start it. It had been discussed for twenty years before my day. I took it up because half way through my time in India I became 148 acquainted with the scandalous maladministration which was going on in the Eastern Province of Bengal, and the shocking neglect of education and public works and all that goes to make the contented life of a people, and with the oppression of the Mahomedans by their neighbours. That was a blot upon the Government of India. It was due to the fact that you were trying to administer the affairs of eighty millions of people through one Government and one man, and the only way to remedy it was to divide the Province and duplicate the machinery of government. What was the particular line to be drawn when the division was made was a matter not for the Viceroy. The Viceroy does not settle such issues. The line was settled by consultation and discussion between the local Governments and officials, representative bodies, and so on. They agreed upon a line, and that line was based upon ethnical and geographical considerations, the importance of which could not be denied. I gladly accepted it. I knew the obloquy with which I should be overwhelmed, because I was aware that the line of division would run counter to the personal interests of journalists, pleaders, and landlords whose headquarters were Calcutta. But I was willing to run the risk. I decided to bear the brunt because I believed the decision to be right, and because I was certain that in the long run—I hoped in the short run—truth would prevail.
§ The Partition was promulgated in October, 1905. I came home the month after, and the Liberal Government came into office in December. They might have disowned my act, the act of my Government, and I should not have complained if they had done so. I might have regretted it, but I could not have complained. But no, they accepted it. The noble Viscount will bear me out that never on a single occasion, public or private, did I ever put any pressure upon him. I do not think I ever mentioned it to him. They decided on their own initiative to carry on that policy. The noble Viscount said he disapproved of the methods by which it had been carried. I never knew what he meant by that. But he said over and over again in this House and elsewhere that he and his colleagues regarded it as a settled fact. That reply was repeated over and over again by your officials in India. Now what happened? As time went on the Bengalis began to realise that their agitation was 149 futile. The fruits of partition became manifest. The new Province advanced in education, in good government, in every mark of prosperity. Your officers there did the most admirable work in creating this new fabric, and over and over again, acting on your instructions, they repeated the assurance to the population that this was a settled fact and that the good faith of the British Government was pledged to its continuance. It is true that outside a fitful and sputtering agitation was kept up by the Bengali community, but that was done more for form than for anything else, and there was neither substance nor life in the agitation.
Your Lordships may think I am an interested party. Let me therefore give you the opinions, not of myself, but of important natives of India. There is a well-known Bengali writer, Mr. Mitra, who wrote in 1908 a book called "Indian Problems," and this is what he said—
The cut-and-dried phrases of the professional agitator should not confuse the British public. It is clear that the partition does not make the Bengali a farthing the worse in person, reputation, or pocket. It was an admirable move, calculated to benefit millions.
Then there was a discussion in the Imperial Legislative Council. My noble friend Lord Minto was in the Chair and will recall what I am going to say. One of the most conspicuous Congress representatives had repeated the familiar charges against the Partition, and a native member for the Province got up and said (this was on March 30, 1910)—
On the strength of the views of Lord MacDonnell the Partition of Bengal has been called a blunder, and your Excellency has been invited to undo it. I, on the other hand, knowing and realising full well the responsibility that attaches to a member of this Council, most emphatically assert that if the Government meddled with this beneficent measure it would be committing an act of supreme folly; it would be creating serious discontent and unrest where none exist now.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Yes. He was Mr. Magharul Hague, Mahomedan member for Eastern Bengal; and this gentleman was followed by Mr. Shamsul Huda, another native member, who said he had once signed a petition against 150 Partition but had grown wiser as years rolled by, and he described the Partition as greatly beneficial to the Province. I should like to quote one other authority, that of the distinguished Correspondent of The Times. I quote this authority because The Times is, as I gather, one of the leading supporters of His Majesty's Government in this case, and it is interesting therefore to know what their Correspondent said when he was in India three years ago. He wrote—The agitation against Partition is dying, even in Bengal, and is almost unregarded in the other Provinces. The authorities are too firmly convinced of the administrative value of the division to attempt any modification now, and there is the further fact that any reversal of policy might have dangerous results. The eighteen millions of Mahomedans would bitterly resent any suggestion of the repeal of Partition. It stands in no need of renewed vindication, for it has been entirely justified by results.The second passage is even stronger—this was written in Bengal on February 15, 1909—I have yet to meet anybody, English or Indian, who can tell me in what respect the Partition has injured a single living soul, while one has only to visit the Province, invigorated with new life and inspired by new aspirations, to realise the benefits which the severance has conferred upon millions of neglected people. To alter or to modify it now would be suicidal folly. It would be worse, for it would be a criminal blunder.That is very strong language—it is not mine, it comes from an authority much greater than myself—and I leave His Majesty's Government to dispose of it as best they can. This is the moment, when this spurious and vexatious agitation has died down, when the benefits of Partition have been conclusively vindicated, when everything is going well in the new Province, that a new Viceroy appears on the scene and in a few weeks is enabled to inform the world that all of us have been entirely wrong.
The Government of India say in their Despatch that the bitterness of feeling engendered by the Partition of Bengal is very widespread, that the resentment among the Bengalis is as strong as ever though less vocal, and the Government of India make the astonishing discovery that the Partition has been responsible for the growing estrangement in many parts of the country between Mahomedans and Hindus. Finally, in comes the Secretary of State, also new to his Office, and he tells 151 us that the Viceroy has depicted the consequences of Partition with accuracy and fairness. I deny every one of those propositions and I challenge the noble Marquess to produce any competent or reliable evidence in support of the assertions which he contends are characterised by accuracy and fairness. Can he quote the authority of a single Lieutenant-Governor who has served in Bengal in recent years? Can he quote the authority of the last or the present Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal? Can he name a single representative body or institution in India that will support his view? I have heard of none, and I am not aware that they exist. I think I can quote the highest authority of all, and that is the Secretary of State himself. If you look at the White Paper you will see that on November 1 the Secretary of State put his signature to the Despatch in which he congratulates the Government of India on the accuracy and fairness of their statement—this statement about the ill-feeling and unrest existing in Bengal about Partition. But on November 2 we had a debate in this House about some Indian matters, and the Secretary of State then used a different line of argument. He wanted to show how well things were going on, and he said—There is nothing now in the general temper, not merely of the people of India as a whole, but of any race or section of the people of India, which ought to cause anything which can be described by the word 'anxiety.'When the Secretary of State made that remark, which I believed to be true, I loudly cheered, and I should have cheered all the more had I known that he was cutting away the ground from his own statement of the day before, and that he was about so effectually to demolish his own case.
I dare say the Secretary of State will try to console me by saying that partition has not been revoked—that my Government divided Bengal into two Provinces, and that he has divided Bengal into three, and that therefore he is carrying further the principle which I adopted. In fact that is true. There is no reversion to the status quo ante. Nobody would be foolish or insane enough to propose such a thing. But to all intents and purposes the old partition has been reversed. For the Province I have described has ceased to exist, and the Mahomedans in it, who were 152 for the first time given a chance of asserting their independent existence, are once again merged in a great Hindu province, the fortunes of which will be dictated from Calcutta. Perhaps the best judges of whether partition is reversed or not will be found in India herself. Directly after the announcement was made at Delhi the Congress Committee met and passed a vote of thanks to the Government for the fulfilment of their political aspirations; and subsequently, at the meeting of the Congress, the President spoke of the annulment of partition as a triumph in the most momentous Constitutional struggle in modern times. Not in any part of India is there any doubt that agitation has won the day. You may disclaim that that was your intention, but so it is universally regarded, and if so no one is really responsible but yourselves. If you declare a measure to be a settled fact and instruct your officials so to inform the people, and if then, six years later, you turn round and throw to the winds what you have said, can you be surprised that this is regarded on your part as an exhibition of weakness or that it is thought and said that agitation has won the day?
Now as regard the Mahomedans, what do they say? Do they agree that partition has not been reversed? My Lords, I think the position of the Mahomedans in Eastern Bengal is one of the saddest features of the present situation. For six years or more they have held aloof from agitation and have occupied themselves with building up their Province. Dacca, the capital, had started upon a new life; they looked forward to having a University and High Court there; over and over again they have been to the Government and have been assured by the officers of Government that the thing was a settled fact and was going to remain. Now that policy is reversed. No wonder they feel bitter!I speak from having seen letters from their leading men and from a knowledge of resolutions which have been passed in all their cities. It is a matter of common knowledge throughout India that their leading nobleman, when he was decorated the other day at Delhi, said—The ribbon which you hang round my neck is a halter with which I am to hang myself.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I can give the noble Marquess the authority privately. It has been constantly repeated and is well known to be the fact. All these resolutions speak of the Government having gone back on its word, and the face of Government as being blackened. If I were the Secretary of State handing an olive branch to India I confess that I should feel some pang of compunction at this sacrifice of Mahomedan interests. It is a bad thing for the Government of India when its word is broken. It is a bad thing for the prestige of Government. It is a bad thing for your officers, too. I wonder have you paused to think what are the sentiments of your officials in this Province who for years past have been assuring the people that you would be true to your word, and who now see—I will not say their work thrown away, because good work is never thrown away, but see the pledges which they have given with your authority broken.
The Government of India are, I know, conscious of this feeling, and they have sought in their Despatch to allay the fears of the Mahomedans. In their Despatch the Government of India say that the numbers of the Mahomedans will be about equal to those of the Bengalis in the new Province, and they will have special representation in the Council. I do not think there is much comfort to be derived from that. The Mahomedans in India know very well that they cannot compete with the Bengalis in organisation, in education, or in wealth. Influence in India is not a question of numbers; it is a question of ability and character and organisation. Nothing, I am afraid, can alter the fact that whereas up to December 12 last the Mahomedans of Eastern Bengal were the predominant element in the Province now the balance has swung round and once more they are under Calcutta.
The Government of India in their Despatch say that the new Governor of Bengal is to reside at Dacca from time to time, and the Secretary of State goes rather further and says that the Governor should regard Dacca as a second capital with a claim on his attention and residence for an appreciable part of the year. What does that mean? Is residence at Dacca to be optional? What in practice will happen? I know very well that in the winter mouths Calcutta will pull him in 154 one direction, that in the summer months Darjeeling will pull him in another, and that Dacca stands the risk of being squeezed out between these two. I do not think the assurances in the Despatch are enough. There is a strong feeling in India that it would be well to place some statutory obligation upon the Governor of Bengal to spend a certain part of the year at Dacca. I do not give an opinion on that point, but I do say we ought to instruct him to spend at least three months of the year in Dacca, and if possible to take with him the Council and the whole machinery of Government. This is the only way in which you can derive any return for the enormous sums spent on establishing a capital at Dacca—between£500,000 and£1,000,000—and in which you can salve the wounded feelings of Mahomedans and give them some guarantee of fair treatment in future.
Before I pass away from Bengal there are two features of your policy there to which I can only allude in passing. The first is this. You are setting up government by a Governor in Council in Bengal. That is an old and much-debated question. It has been agitated for fifty years. The weight of authority has always been against the suggestion. Personally I am against government by a Governor in Council for Bengal. I do not think the situation in Bengal is likely best to be dealt with by a Governor from home, necessarily ignorant of India and likely to be in many cases a Party politician. I have always held that Bengal with its peculiar and complex problems demanded the very best man the Service of India can produce. I wonder if there is a single Lieutenant-Governor or ex-Lieutenant-Governor who shares your feelings. I rather think Lord MacDonnell, who acted for a short time as Governor, does.
LORD MAC DONNELL OF SWINFORD
In the new state of things—yes. But I agree in the old state of things with the noble Earl.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I have been brought in contact with four or five Lieutenant-Governors, and I have not found one who did not hold the views which I have just expressed. The second feature to which I must allude in passing is this, that the first price you have to pay for your reconstituted Bengal is the discontent of the Service. Your new Bengal will not possess a single healthy district, 155 and it is not surprising, therefore, that the Civil Service should have unanimously petitioned to be transferred elsewhere. This is not a selfish or negligible attitude on their part. You cannot expect men to go on toiling in that climate from year's end to year's end without sometimes having a change from an unhealthy to a healthy district. You want your Service in Bengal to be the most efficient that India can provide, but if everyone shirks Bengal the Province will obtain not the best but the worst, and if your Civil Servants there become weakened in physical stamina or in spirit it must react on the administration. If you look at the scheme in the manner in which it affects Bengal, there is not much cause for satisfaction. You have yielded to a dying and, as I think, factitious agitation; you have bitterly offended the Mahomedans and taught them that the word of the British Raj can be broken; you have set up a Province which will be the most unpopular in India, and you have instituted a form of government which, in my judgment, is unsuitable for the Province and the people. So much for Bengal.
I must, at the risk of wearying your Lordships, say a word about two other ancillary arrangements which you contemplate in that part of India. The first of these is with regard to Assam. It is part of your plan that Assam should revert to government by a Chief Commissioner, and the reasons given in the Despatch for so doing are, first, that it is a frontier province which ought to be under the direct control of the Government of India; secondly, that it is a backward province; and, thirdly, that no one is very likely to object. I venture to say that these are very weak reasons. They are afterthoughts intended to justify a decision arrived at on other grounds. There is no analogy whatever between the North-East and North-West Frontiers of India. On the North-East frontier adjoining Assam you have to deal with hill tribes armed with bows and arrows; on the North-West you are confronted with the formidable Pathan organisation, and behind is the kingdom of Afghanistan. You say that Assam is a backward province. So it has been, and you now propose to stereotype it in its backwardness. It was precisely because it was backward that we took it up and made it part of a larger province in order to bring it into line with the best traditions of Indian rule. Another defect that you 156 will reproduce by reverting to the old arrangement is that being a small province Assam had no Service or Commission of its own. It had to borrow its officers from Bengal, and to take, of course, what Bengal chose to give it, and, Assam being backward and unpopular, Bengal did not give the best, and at the end of five years when those officers had a right to revert the best of them went back. The consequence was that at each stage Assam got the worst of the bargain and the administration suffered all round. When we brought Assam into the heart of a bigger province these conditions were removed, and Assam got its chance. All these advantages are sacrificed by the proposal, and in their Despatch the Government of India do not seem even to be aware of their existence. Assam is treated as a petty pawn on the board which could be moved about without any regard to what it wanted or desired.
A word about the new province of Behar, Chota Nagpur, and Orissa. This Province is made up of the non-Bengali leavings on the west of your new Bengal, and it is justified in your Despatch on these grounds. The Government of India say that the Beharis do not like the Bengalis and would welcome separation. Very likely that is true. They say it is in accordance with popular sentiment in Orissa, which certainly it is not, and will be welcomed in Behar as giving Behar a seaboard. Of course, that is absolute nonsense. Calcutta is and always must remain the seaport of Behar, to which it is linked by two railways. What is the good of holding out the attraction to Behar of the possession of a sea coast with which there is no railway connection whatever and where there is no seaport? You might just as well tell colliery proprietors in Staffordshire that you propose to deprive them of their facilities for despatching coal to London, but that you will open up to them the ports of the Norfolk coast. This Province of yours has been drawn up without the slightest regard to the interests or views of the inhabitants and you violate there every principle you have adopted in respect to Bengal.
Take the Orissans. No one has paused to think what they want. You could not know because of your secrecy and because you consulted nobody in advance. They want the reunion of the Uriya-speaking people. They want to remain under 157 Calcutta, to which they have been attached so long. What is the good of Orissa being tied to the tail of Behar, where there is no affinity of language or race, with which they have nothing in common, and from which they are separated by a great belt of mountains and rivers over which we have never been able to carry a railway. I venture to prophesy that this is a blunder that cannot remain permanent. If the Orissans were an agitating people, which they are not, they would soon make their protest heard. As it is, they have been sacrificed without compunction. The same might be said of Chota Nagpur, but I will not labour that point. The fact is, this new province of yours on the west of Bengal is a bundle of odds and ends which you have thrown together because you did not know what else to do with them. In Bengal you have united Bengalis, because they are all of the same race and language, but when you come to these other provinces you force into an unnatural union three peoples of different race and language. I shall pursue this aspect of the case no further, but I can truthfully say that none of my criticisms, though they may appear strong, are captious. They all rest upon information and, if I may say so, upon personal knowledge, and they are put forward, not in the least with the view of embarrassing His Majesty's Government, but of showing the results of their secrecy and of calling their attention to errors that must be put right before the settlement is made final.
My Lords, I pass to Delhi. Perhaps it may be said that all these anomalies, if they exist, are compensated by the transfer of the capital to Delhi, and we may be asked, "Is not this a great Imperial scheme?" I suppose all of us who have served in India have thought a great deal about Delhi. I had to decide whether to hold the Durbar at Delhi, and I decided unhesitatingly in the affirmative. I had to decide whether the site of the Victoria Memorial Hall should be at Delhi, and I decided in the negative. I had not considered the question of the capital at Delhi, although it was often in my mind. There are eloquent passages in these Despatches about the historical associations of Delhi, and the Secretary of State, in particular, has rather given the rein to his poetical imagination in talking about the old-time drama of Hindu history and of satisfying the historical sense of millions. I do not 158 deny the glamour of the name of Delhi or the stories that cling about its dead and forgotten cities. But I venture to say this, that if we want to draw happy omens for the future the less we say about the history of Delhi the better. Modern Delhi is only 250 years old. It was only the capital of the Moguls in the expiring years of their régime, and it was only the capital of their effective rule for little more than 100 years. Of course, there were capitals there before it, but all have perished, one after another. We know that the whole environment of Delhi is a mass of deserted ruins and graves, and they present to the visitor, I think, the most sorrowful picture you can conceive of the mutability of human fortunes. You may say that the fate of India has been decided three times outside Delhi. So it has, and on each occasion it is the defenders who have been defeated. I venture to say that the less we talk about the history of Delhi the better, and that His Majesty's Government will be on much surer ground if instead of saying anything about the dead capitals of the past, they try to create a living capital in the future.
What is the case that they have made for the choice of Delhi as a capital? The points they name are that its situation is central, that it is the meeting place of many railways, that it is reasonably near to Simla, and that, therefore, there will be a saving in the cost of the annual migration, and that it is in close proximity to some, at any rate, of the great Princes of India. I desire to allow full value to these considerations for what they may be worth, although none of them appear to be vital. While, for instance, Delhi is more central to Bombay, it is much less central to Burma, to Madras, that great city, or to Mysore or Haidarabad, the Principalities of great Princes. Again, if it is so close to Simla why is it necessary to have two capitals with all their offices and paraphernalia within twelve hours of each other? When you refer to the loyalty of the Princes, which is one of the most splendid assets of India, I am not sure that it is at all desirable that they should be brought up from their States into constant residence in the capital of the Government. These may be on the whole minor points.
The points which I want to put before the Secretary of State are these, and I think they are major points. First, as to 159 the healthiness of Delhi; second, as to its strategical position; third, as to the accessibility of the Government and the capital to public opinion. Above all I desire to ask what is the effect that the institution of your capital at Delhi will have on India and on British rule in India in the times that lie before us. These are real factors which no historical associations, no amount of sentimental glamour ought to be allowed to override. As to the healthiness of Delhi, the Despatch of the Government of India says that it possesses a good climate for seven months of the year and that the Government will live there from October 1 to May 1. Are you quite sure of that? I have been at Delhi in October and in April several times, and I know those are months of the year in which there is a good deal of fever and malaria, particularly after the rains. In former days the water supply of Delhi was very bad, but now it is obtained by filtered water from the river. Have you satisfied yourselves that you can from that or from other sources derive a water supply for a great capital city?
Take the question of site. The Government of India were in such haste that we are told in the papers that they settled on the site of the Durbar camps and they even invited His Majesty to lay the foundation-stone. May 1 tell your Lordships a little story? When I was in India I too held a Durbar on the same site and, when that Durbar was over, feeling that in some way or other the site which had witnessed the Proclamation of Queen Victoria's Imperial Title and also the Proclamation of the Coronation of the late King Edward the Seventh ought to be commemorated, I set about endeavouring to convert the arena and its surroundings into a beautiful and orderly garden so as to create a memorial that should be worthy of those great events. Lord pinto will bear in mind what I am going to refer to. These attempts went on for two years, and at the end of that time it was found that the soil was so impregnated with alkalis that nothing would grow. After the rains the whole expanse was inundated and was converted into a great marsh, the waters of which, when they receded, killed everything in the soil. There is only one village on the site, and that village is surrounded by high walls of mud in order to keep out the inundations which prevail for months every year. I have been informed that 160 the Government of India have already abandoned the first site they selected and are looking somewhere else. I do not want to put any difficulties in the way of getting a site—how could I? I only want the Secretary of State to recognise that the question of site is of great importance, and it would, indeed, be a calamitous thing if you planted down your capital in a place where, in the future, you found Englishmen could not live.
I take the second point, a point with which it is rather difficult to deal but on which I must say a word—that is the security of the position of Delhi. 1 dare say noble Lords are familiar with the famous pronouncement of the Duke of Wellington. It is contained in Lord Stan-hope's "Notes of Conversations with the Duke of Wellington at Walmer Castle" in 1844—I talked to the Duke on India. He has, I find, strong opinions against the idea of transferring the seat of Government from Calcutta to one of the cities higher up the country, as Agra. It is indispensable, he thinks, to the maintenance of our Indian Empire that our Indian capital should be in some situation where our naval superiority may, if necessary, be brought into play.I am far from saying that the strategical position in India is the same now as in the days of the Duke of Wellington. India has been absolutely transformed since then. The strength of British power is immeasurably greater than it was; railway communication has spread everywhere throughout the country; firearms alone are entirely different from what they were in those days. But the physical facts of India are unalterable; they remain exactly the same. Look at it in this way. If the Government of India had been in Delhi at the time of the Mutiny would you have been satisfied with your position? I know many good authorities in India, not at all unprepared to accept the change of capital to Delhi, who are by no means convinced of the desirability of placing the seat of Government and the residence of the Viceroy in so advanced a position. And I know, further, that what I am saying at this Table is the view of the most expert military opinion and military authorities in India. I am not competent to offer an opinion on the matter myself. The matter lies outside my purview. I will only say this, that while I shall welcome any indication from the noble Marquess that the matter has been carefully considered by those who are qualified to advise, the 161 situation, so far as I understand it, is one that must cause him some degree of anxiety.
But, my Lords, suppose all these doubts to be resolved, suppose you to get your site and drain it and to obtain your water supply, and to be perfectly satisfied as to the strategical security of your position (and I hope all this may be the case), when you have built your new capital, will it be a source of influence and of strength to your Government? Will it enable them better to understand the heart of India, and to grasp its problems? That is the real issue we have to have in mind. What is the great danger that attends the Government of India? It is this, and it is responsible for the agitation which has gone on for years against the movement to the hills. It is the danger that the Government of India may become aloof from public opinion, that it may be shut off from the main currents of public life, that it may become immersed in a sort of bureaucratic self-satisfaction. There was no fear of that when we went down to Calcutta. At Calcutta we were in the surge and movement of life. There was a mixed society there. You heard opinions of every variety awl form—opinions of merchants, hankers, traders, business men of every sort. There was the society of Judges and lawyers, both European and. native. There were the officials of the local Governments, there was a regular stream of travellers and visitors coming into Calcutta from all parts of the world. It was life, and when, after my long residence at Simla, I went, at the close of my tours in the country, to Calcutta, I felt once again life and movement throbbing around me. I say distinctly that our time at Calcutta was of enormous value to the Government. It brightened our minds, it widened our outlook, it brought us into the main stream of national existence.
There is serious danger that, when you have built your capital at Delhi, the Government will become more isolated, more bureaucratic, less in touch with public opinion than it is now. You are going to create a territorial enclave; you are also going to run the risk that your Government will become a political enclave. Delhi cannot be a great commercial city—it can only be a manufacturing city or a distributing centre on a small scale—for the trade of India must rest on the sea. There can be no trading community 162 at Delhi on a large scale. There is to be no High Court there. There will be the people who will come up to do business with the Government from time to time; there will be nobody else. Your new city is to be placed outside the walls of a quite small native town of 200,000 people, and there the Government will live shut off, as I think, from the rest of India. If that be at all a correct anticipation, and I hope it may not be, do believe me that the isolation of your Government will have this effect. In the first place, it will diminish its prestige; in the second place, it will react upon the efficiency of administration; and, in the third place, it will shorten your rule in India. So strongly do you feel on that point that in one Despatch the Government of India or the Secretary of State speaks of the removal to Delhi as a proof of the unalterable determination to maintain British rule in India. Why it should be necessary to give any demonstration of that principle now I do not know. 1 should have thought it was the basic principle of British rule, and how the shifting of the capital from the English city with which it has been associated for 150 years to the dead capital of Mahomedan Kings can indicate a fixed determination to maintain your rule in India I cannot tell. And if you re-assert your determination to do so at the same time that you weaken the supports on which that determination rests you will not be better off, but worse off.
There only remains the question of finance, and this is in a sense the most important of all. What will this cost? The Government of India say—The cost of the transfer will be considerable, but we cannot conceive that a larger sum than£4,000,000 will be necessary, including the three years' interest on capital, while the works and buildings are being completed.And against this they say must be set the rise in the value of Government land in Delhi, the sale of Government lands and buildings at Calcutta, and the utilisation of the Durbar works at Delhi. I ask, Is it conceivable that these works can be completed in three years? I tell you they will not be done in ten years. At Dacca, where we had to create a provincial capital, it is six years since we began the Government buildings and offices, and they are not complete yet. You are going to build, not a provincial capital, but a great capital 163 for all India, in three years!The idea is ridiculous. Is it conceivable that your expenditure can be confined within £4,000,000? Just look at the items that have to be considered. In the first place there is the cost of the purchase of land. You will take that compulsorily and, therefore, no doubt, you will only pay the market value. Then there is the cost of the buildings you are going to place upon it—the new Government House, the new Council Chamber, the new Secretariat, new offices for every Department, or, at any rate, for a majority of the Departments of one of the most complex and elaborate systems of government in the world. It is not merely the cost of the land, but the cost of reclaiming and draining it, and of providing a water supply. Then there is the cost of the extra garrison which you must have to protect your Viceroy when von set him and the Government of India in the plains of Delhi.
I pass to Behar and the new province there. There is the cost of the new capital at Patna, the cost of a new summer station for that province and of the new High Court at Patna, for which there is already agitation. All these are initial charges only, but when they are satisfied there will be very heavy recurring charges. Then, I think, any accountant will tell you that you ought to include in the prime cost the loss on the official structures and buildings which you have set up in such profusion in Calcutta and which will either remain unoccupied or, if parted with, will only be parted with at a loss. Since that estimate was made, I have consulted many authorities much better able to give an opinion than I am, and I have not found a single one who has estimated the total cost of these proceedings at less than£8,000,000. The majority estimate the cost at£10,000,000, while there are others, to whom I myself belong, who think that the cost will not be less than£12,000,000.
And what is the moment at which you propose to place this charge on the revenues of India? You are confronted now with the imminent loss of your opium revenue to the extent of some millions per annum. Your Finance Minister in India has, in two successive years in his Budget speech, repeated these words—I am sure it is absolutely essential to introduce greater sobriety in our public expenditure if we are to avoid deficits and, consequently, enhanced taxation.164 It was only three month ago that we were discussing in this House the proposed abolition by the Government of India of a few administrative offices, saving a few thousands of rupees a year, and advocated by them mainly on the score of economy. Even now, almost immediately, you are going to send out a Commission to India in order to discuss whether you cannot, with a view to greater economy, reduce your Native Army in that country. Money is everywhere wanted in India at this moment for railways, irrigation, education, public works, and social reform in all its branches. This is the moment at which you propose to place on the Indian taxpayer this great burden, because although you raise the money by loan the Indian taxpayer has to pay the interest, and there will be less money available for other and much more necessary objects. I venture to say, my Lords, that, without further information than we have received at present, this seems one of the most rash commitments to which His Majesty's Government has ever yet set its hand. Even if your whole object is realised, it is not clear that it kill be worth the price, and if your Army is to be reduced and your administration stinted in order to provide for this purpose, 1 think it will be very doubtful how far your policy will deserve the name of a boon.
I would like the Secretary of State to answer one more question, if I may be allowed to ask it. There is one paragraph in the Despatch which has attracted little attention in this country, but which seems to me to be in a sense the most significant of all. It is Paragraph 3 of the Despatch of the Government of India, in which the Government of India light-heartedly, as if they were uttering a mere commonplace instead of putting forward what is, as I conceive, an entirely new form of Government in India, use these words—The only possible solution of the difficulty would be gradually giving the Provinces a larger measure of self-government until at last India would consist of a number of administrations, autonomous in all provincial affairs, with the Government of India above them all and possessing power to interfere in cases of misgovernment, but ordinarily restricting their functions to matters of Imperial concern.My Lords, this picture of a federation of self-governing and quasi-independent States in India, with the Governor-General in Council existing at the top, interfering only in cases of mis-government—and we know 165 how difficult that would be—and confining itself ordinarily to imperial matters, by which I suppose are meant the frontier and the Army, may be a good or a bad idea. In my view it is a bad one, but nobody can doubt that it represents a scheme or a sketch of the future Government of India wholly different from that which has hitherto prevailed. It is not by divided Governments that the Indian Empire has been built, but by the existence of a strong central authority, controlling and supervising all, which you have persuaded in times past the best of your statesmen and administrators to take up, and which they have taken up to the advantage of India and the credit of your country. But this is entirely different. It is true that as time has gone on there has been a delegation of powers to Local Governments, financial, administrative, legislative—an inevitable and proper process of which we have not yet reached the end. But if you are going to contemplate, as this Despatch indicates, a policy of separate States in India, a sort of Home Rule all round—Mr. John Bright's idea of an India divided into separate States, with separate Governments, separate armies, and so on—if you are going to abandon that uniformity in the main principles of government, in the guiding tenets of your administration, which you have hitherto observed, I venture to say the result can only be to lead through disruption to disaster. That is my fear. My fear about this establishment of the capital at Delhi is that your Central Government, instead of becoming stronger, will become weaker. My view is that you will become dissociated from the life and administration of India, and that gradually, as the Provinces follow the line you have laid down and demand increasing Home Rule, your Viceroy in Delhi will become a sort of puppet as the Moguls were towards the end of their regime, and India will break up into separate fragments, as it did in the expiring days of Aurungzebe and his successors. When trouble comes, as it may come some day in India, it will not be by separate Provinces acting on their own account that India will be saved, but by a strong Central Government exercising supervision and control over all.
My Lords, I have no time to develop that position. I have merely mentioned it in passing because I could not treat with absolute silence a pronouncement about the future Government of India which 166 seemed to me so profoundly serious as that which I have just read. I apologise to the Secretary of State for the enormous range of the topics to which I have called his attention, and 1 apologise once again to the House for the intolerable call that I have made upon their patience. I wish I could have accepted this decision of His Majesty's Government in absolute silence and allowed the grave pronouncement at Delhi on that historic occasion to pass by without a word of criticism in this House. It would have been much easier and much more agreeable for me to have done that. But, my Lords, I could not do it, because those of us who have served in India have a sense of duty to that country, which we all of us love so well, and to the cause of British rule in India which we have served. Upon some of the features of the policy of His Majesty's Government I entertain serious doubts. I have ventured to place those doubts before your Lordships' House this afternoon. Those doubts are widely entertained by others much more competent to pronounce upon them than myself. In other cases I have ventured to indicate the precautions that may still be taken, mistakes that may, perhaps, be avoided; and my concluding defence, if one is needed, for detaining your Lordships so long is that this House world be of little use, and those of us inside this House who have served in India would be of little use in discharging our duties, if on an occasion fraught with such tremendous consequences as this we did not fearlessly state what we believe to be the truth.
§ Moved, That an humble Address he presented to His Majesty for Papers relating to the removal of the capital of India to Delhi, and other connected matters.—(Earl Curzon of Kedleston.)
TIIE LORD PRIVY SEAL AND SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE MARQUESS OF CREWE)
My Lords, I think I shall be best consulting the wishes of the House if I reply at once, without waiting for any intervening speeches, to the observations of the noble Earl. I am certain that it was altogether unnecessary for him to offer any apology, either to the House or to my humble self, for the length of those observations. We all of us at all times admire the eloquence of the noble Earl, and he has covered the vast field of inquiry over which he has travelled this afternoon with the most perfect lucidity, and 1 am quite certain 167 without in any way wandering from the direct path. 1 did not expect that any of the five noble Lords, members of this House, who have held the office of Viceroy of India in the past, would be likely to start with any bias in favour of the proposals which His Majesty's Government and the Government of India have put forward. After all, my Lords, it is not in human nature for any man who has done a great work such as that which is carried on by the Viceroys of India and done that work with distinction, to begin by believing that the same work will be as adequately done by another man in entirely different conditions. The noble Earl himself has naturally countless recollections of the great public events, quorum pars magna fuit, when the Government of India was carried on at Calcutta and at Simla., and he possesses many delightful and sonic sacred memories of his home life there. It is inconceivable, therefore, that either he or any other of the noble Lords who have filled the same office could start with a bias in favour of so large a change. But that does not mean—and I hope the course of the debate will show it laterߞthat all these five noble Lords share the whole of the objections which the noble Earl has stated to our policy, both as a whole and in its details; or that some of them may not have found reason, as they have examined more closely into our proposals, to modify the objections which I admit they at first would be naturally likely to take.
My Lords, if I have anything to complain of in the speech of the noble Earl, it would be that throughout the whole of it his tone was that of a prosecuting counsel. I do not think he uttered, in the course of the whole of his long speech, one word in favour of any detail of any one of our suggestions. And I could not help observing, as I listened to his speech, continual instances of what I would venture to call the well-disciplined exaggeration of the practised advocate, who knows where to add a little colour at some points and how to deepen shadows at other points, when he was discussing those parts of our policy which he considered laid us particularly open to attack. The earlier part of the noble Earl's speech dealt, not with the general merits or with the details of our plan, but with the mode and time of its announcement. Like some other critics he has described our action in that regard as unconstitutional, using thereby a very 168 hard-worked and sometimes ill-used word which seems to me to be almost degenerating into a term of general vituperation to which no special meaning necessarily need be attached. In this case, however, the noble Earl did towards the end of that part of his speech attach something of a definition to his use of the word, because he said that we had violated the settled practice of the Constitution and had screened ourselves from attack by the course we took. As 1 listened to him I could not help congratulating myself that we had screened ourselves from attack, because I do not know what his method of criticism would have been if we had not taken that particular precaution.
Now, my Lords, there are two separate lines on which apparently it is possible to accuse us of unconstitutional action. One is that before framing, and certainly before carrying out, this policy we ought to have obtained the sanction of Parliament; and the other line of attack is to say that even if it be granted that this action of ours is so purely executive that it was not necessary for us to obtain the previous sanction of Parliament, even then, that it was an improper thing that the announcement should be made by His Majesty at the Delhi Durbar. Of course, if the first of these charges could be sustained the second would be also sustained. Because if it had been necessary for us to obtain previous Parliamentary sanction either to the removal of the seat of Government from Calcutta to Delhi, or to the creation of a new Province, in that case it is obvious that the whole topic would have been one of public discussion, and therefore there would have been no possibility of its being announced for the first time at the Durbar.
I should like to say, first, as regards the origin of this policy, that there seems to have been some misapprehension in some quarters as to what that origin was. I have seen it described as though it had been imposed upon the Government of India from here by His Majesty's Government, in obedience to certain abstract principles which are conceived to be those of the Liberal Party. That is, of course, altogether untrue. The whole policy—I describe it so for convenience, although it is, of course, not in one sense a policy, but a series of Acts of Administration—the whole policy was worked out step by step between the Government of India and ourselves here, as a series, as I have already 169 said, of problems of administration, in some degree interdependent, but distinct and separate in themselves. The noble Earl reminded us that even Lord Beaconsfield, with all the gorgeousness of his Oriental imagination. did not attempt to carry out the assumption of the title of Empress of India by Queen Victoria, without applying to Parliament. That is perfectly true. But then, the change in the Royal style was a matter which affected this country as much as it did India. The noble Earl and I. can both remember the agitation which was caused at that time, as to which I am disposed to agree with him that a great many of the members of the Party to which I belong then took a mistaken line in objecting to the assumption of the Imperial title, because events have proved that it was not merely harmless but was in itself desirable. But I would remind the noble Earl that the backbone of the protests which were then made against the assumption of the Imperial title was the belief that the imagination of Lord Beaconsfield, of which the noble Earl has spoken, would cause that title to be generally used here in substitution for and in replacement of the ancient title of King of England, and it was this fear, far more than anything else, which caused the somewhat heated agitation which at that time was raised against the assumption of the Imperial title for India.
Then the noble Earl went on to speak of what is still called the Partition of Bengal, and I am bound to say, speaking of the various circumstances connected with that partition, that the noble Earl used a tone which I did not quite recognise, remembering, as I did, the former debate of June 30, 1908. To-day the noble Earl told us that in bringing about that partition he knew what the opposition and criticism would be, and that he decided to bear the brunt of it. But when we go back to June, 1908, my recollection of that debate is—and I think it will be shared by all who recall it—that the various noble Lords who were, or might have been, concerned in the carrying out of that partition, including the noble Earl himself, were, if I may use a common expression, almost tumbling over each other in their readiness to deny that what they called the credit of it ought to be claimed by them. But at this moment we are mainly concerned with a comparison of the manner in which that great administrative change was brought 170 about, with the manner in which this repartition of Bengal, which is, I think, perhaps the fairest way to describe it, has been brought about by us. Now the original partition was, and I think fairly, treated by the Government of India and by the then Secretary of State as an administrative act, not only not requiring the sanction of Parliament, but one of which Parliament need not even be previously informed.
I observe that on July 4, 1905, the noble Viscount, Lord Midleton, who was then Secretary of State, answered Mr. Herbert Roberts, who put a Question on the subject, in these words—The proposals of the Government of India reached me on the 18th of February, and I have communicated the decision of the Secretary of State in Council accepting them.But he did not say what the proposals of the Government of India were. It was not at that time known what their terms were. Not only that, but in the same year when the noble Viscount—Mr. Brodrick, as he then was—made his speech on the Indian Budget, he never alluded to the subject of the Partition of Bengal at all, although that is an occasion on which all matters of importance to India are supposed to be discussed; and if I remember right, the only allusion to the topic that was made by anybody in that debate was made by my noble friend Lord Haldane in the course of a general speech on Indian affairs. Therefore I think that we can claim the action of the then Government here and in India as a precedent for not consulting Parliament previously upon these proposals of ours. We are all of us perfectly well aware that the ultimate control of Parliament over Indian matters cannot be disputed and is not disputed. The ultimate control of Parliament over all Indian affairs rests on the simple fact that Parliament can, at any time, get rid of those, whether they be members of the Indian Administration in India or of the Indian Government at home, who are responsible for the conduct of Indian affairs. But Parliament has never sought or wished to discuss the details of all the administrative acts of the Indian Government beforehand, though it, of course, reserves to itself the right of saying that those who carry out administrative acts, which they are entitled by law to carry out, must be subject to any penalty Parliament may think fit to inflict upon them if those acts are disapproved of.
171 The noble Earl dwelt, I think with even more emphasis, upon the fact that we had not obtained sanction in India for our proposals than he did upon the fact that they were not previously presented to Parliament. And I confess that it seemed to me that, in taking the line he did, the noble Earl was walking on somewhat thin ice, because he spoke almost as though India were a country under a Parliamentary system. He spoke without reserve or explanation of the representative bodies whose approval ought to have been sought beforehand, and he seemed, although I am certain he meant nothing of the kind, to take up a position in that regard which some of those who are called in India very advanced politicians would, I think, hesitate to take up. It is, after all, idle to pretend that there is anything resembling a Parliamentary system in India. The functions of the various Legislative Councils are most carefully defined and are very well known. Do not for a moment let us minimise their importance. They are to advise the various Governments on matters of legislation.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Perhaps I might say that when I spoke about representative bodies in India I was not alluding to the Legislative Councils; I was alluding to the Chambers of Commerce and various associations in the country who have always been consulted by the Government before any legislative changes are adopted, and none of whom were referred to, as far as know, in the present case.
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
I am very glad to have the noble Earl's explanation, because I am afraid that others might have fallen into the same error as I did. He was using the term "representative" in its purely descriptive sense, whereas I was under the impression that he was speaking of the various processes of election through which members of the different representative councils have to pass. I shall deal a little later on with the point which, as I now understand, the noble Earl intended to raise. But, of course, the charge may still be levelled against us that, though we did not go to Parliament or bring the lines of our policy before official bodies in India, we ought to have thrown it on the table of the world at large for public discussion. To return for one moment to the earlier 172 Partition of Bengal, it is quite true that that was to some extent discussed. If I remember aright, in the spring of 1904 the noble Earl himself attended some meetings in Eastern Bengal—that is to say, in that part of the proposed Province to which the change was likely to be particularly acceptable, in which he foreshadowed a wider scheme and a possible creation of a Lieutenant-Governorship.
I would ask the House to consider for a moment what would have been the result if we had adopted the course of throwing our scheme on the table for discussions in the Press. We could foresee, and 1 do not think we should have been wrong in a single instance, exactly who would be the particular parties who would take exception to particular parts of our scheme, the reasons for which they would make those objections, and the manner in which they would make them. It is, as we hold, one of the merits of the scheme that it does not represent the triumph of any one particular party or creed among the different parties and creeds involved, and there are therefore some features of it which almost every party or section, if they could get the rest of the scheme, would wish to see away. For instance, I have no doubt that many of the inhabitants of Bengal would have thought the scheme an infinitely better one if the Presidency of Bengal had been constituted just as we constituted it, but if at the same time Calcutta had been left as the capital. I have no doubt they would have preferred such a solution. On the other hand, the Mahomedan population of Eastern Bengal, speaking generally, would have preferred to maintain the great numerical preponderance which they were given under the noble Earl's scheme in Eastern Bengal. If they could have kept that, other things being equal, they would have welcomed on several different grounds the transference of the capital from Calcutta to Delhi.
Suppose, therefore, for the sake of argument, that we had made this question a subject of public controversy and discussion, announcing that it was an administrative act that we intended to carry out, that it was our definite policy, but that we should be glad to hear what various people had to say upon it. There would undoubtedly have been a marked and lively agitation in Calcutta among the English residents there, 173 whose case has been so forcibly put by the noble Earl. I daresay the noble Earl would have led that part of that agitation which was going to be carried on in this country. It would have been, I think, a regrettable agitation. It might have led —and I myself should greatly have regretted the circumstance, but I should in no way have shrunk from it—it might have led to the application to some of the English papers in Calcutta of the extreme rigours of the Press Act, which, of course, might be applied to them as much as to vernacular papers. There would, no doubt, also have been a certain degree of agitation on the lines mentioned by the noble Earl among the Mahornedan inhabitants of Eastern Bengal, although, as I think I can show, the noble Earl in that instance put his colours on somewhat too thickly. Apart from those two communities I do not hesitate to say that all the rest of India would have supported us on the general merits of the scheme as a whole, just as they are supporting us now. I do not think that the opposition, unpleasant though it would have been from every point of view, would have been effective. I do not think it would have brought about the result which, if successful, it would have brought about—namely, the disappearance from the scene both of the Viceroy and of myself. But it would have been an agitation of some violence, possibly of some length, and it would have left a great deal of ill-feeling behind it. And I ask, What would have been gained by it? What would have been gained by it even in theory? In obedience to what theory was it necessary to embark on a Press agitation or an agitation by public meeting upon this series of purely administrative acts?
Then, my Lords, I come to the next half of the charge of unconstitutional action—namely, even supposing for the sake of argument that the noble Earl were to admit, which I am sure he does not, the force of what I have just said, that even then the announcement ought not to have been made at the Delhi Durbar by His Majesty in person. I do not draw any distinction for this purpose, and 1 do not think it is possible to draw any between any announcement made on such an occasion by His Majesty's own lips or made on his behalf and at his command by the Viceroy in his presence. So far as the effect of these two announcements is 174 concerned, the former, of course, weighs more in grandeur and solemnity, but as regards the absolute necessity of carrying out the announcement thus made it would apply not less to an announcement made by the Viceroy at His Majesty's command. It seems, then, to come to this, that the opinion of the noble Earl and those who agree with him is that no announcement ought to be made at Delhi by or on behalf of His Majesty which could cause any difference of opinion in India. If that is so, it seems to me to come very near to saying that no announcement should be made at the Durbar at all, and some colour and support would be given to the views of those—I do not think there are many of them left, but there were a good many—who considered that His Majesty ought never to have gone to the Durbar at all. You can hardly suggest any form of announcement which could be made at the Durbar which might not be a subject of dispute and even of discontent to a certain number of people in India. Even the most crude, and in the old-fashioned sense the most Oriental form of announcement, that of mere largess, is open to the possible objection that its distribution may cause more discontent than it gives pleasure. The same would apply even more strongly to the remission of any tax, because your Lordships will readily recognise that the remission of one tax may easily cause at least as much discontent as the imposition of another.
The answer, surely, to the objection that it was not wise for this announcement to be made by His Majesty at the Durbar is the general gratification which was caused all over India by the fact that this important and, from some points of view, solemn announcement was made on the most solemn occasion that has occurred within the recent history of India. I am convinced that there would have been a feeling all over India of bitter disappointment if it had turned out that the Durbar was merely an occasion for a spectacle of pageantry, however unexampled and however magnificent, that no serious import was to be attached to the unique event of the King-Emperor's visit, and that the whole occasion was simply one of show and of parade. Therefore in our view the occasion and the subject, especially, of course, that of the transfer of the capital, were absolutely wedded together, and to have attempted to shirk the re- 175 sponsibility of making this announcement on the particular occasion of the Durbar would simply have shown mere timidity on our part—a timidity of which I think we should have been fairly and justly accused if within a year or whatever the time might have been which the noble Earl would think a proper interval, we had introduced this policy simply as part of our ordinary administration of the government of India.
I pass to the actual question of the change of capital, which I think was the next with which the noble Earl dealt. In one sense, of course, there is no such place as the capital of India, because the seat of government in India is the place in which the Viceroy summons his Council together. But that might almost be described as a verbal quibble, because we have always spoken of Calcutta as the capital although it has been losing its political position in that regard gradually but very markedly during a period now extending over some years. The noble Earl has put forward the claims of Calcutta in glowing terms, and certainly I am not going, in replying to him, to say a word in depreciation of the merits or the historical associations of Calcutta. Still, to anyone who looks at the map of India, it does seem a somewhat singular fact that the Government of India should be carried on for a short period of the year at Calcutta and for the rest of the year at Simla. If one might venture to make an almost fanciful historical parallel it is rather as though, during the great days of the Holy Roman Empire, the government of all Europe had been carried on for about three months of the year from Barcelona and for the rest of the year from St. Moritz or some other village in the higher Alps. The arrangement is in itself a most strange one, and it cannot be disputed that in the minds of a great many educated Indians there is a feeling—I think it is a growing one—that the stay in the hills has become not merely a question of hot weather migration, but a regular settlement, and that this feeling does more to impress upon their minds the notion that British rule is an alien rule than almost any other feature connected with our Government in India. The noble Earl spoke of the Calcutta community in this regard. The commercial community of Calcutta is a most admirable society, but, like other prosperous and highly considered societies, 176 it has perhaps fallen into the way of looking at matters only from its own point of view, and even has been sometimes tempted to forget that another point of view can exist. It is, of course, an important and a powerful society. When you talk of Calcutta opinion in India, nobody means the opinion of the Government; they mean the opinion of the mercantile community and the Chamber of Commerce. If you wish to indicate Government opinions or Government prejudices, it is as the opinions or the prejudices of Simla that they are described in ordinary parlance.
We were given to understand by the noble Earl that in making the change of the capital to Delhi the same objections which had been advanced in many quarters to the long stay of the Government at Simla—namely, its isolation from the main current of public life and thought in India—will apply to an equal extent. I can quite understand that that danger is one which ought to be guarded against, and no doubt the noble Earl's fear is shared in some quarters, although I think he stated his fear in somewhat exaggerated terms. But, after all, Delhi is not Simla. It is a large city, it is a great emporium of trade, and it is the most important railway junction in India. It is therefore hardly fair, I think, to compare it for this purpose with the charming but isolated settlement in the hills. It is true that it will become the duty of the Government of India, particularly of the Department of Commerce and Industry, to keep in close touch with the main current of Indian opinion, and in some respects it will be in a better position to do so than it has been if the past. The noble Earl knows quite well that it has been complained in other parts of India that in such matters the Government of India has always seen through Calcutta spectacles, and I cannot think that the physical difficulties of the position of Delhi are such that it will not easily be possible for the Government of India to keep well in touch, not merely with Calcutta opinion, to which it ought to continue, of course, to take due account, but also to the opinion of Bombay and of Karachi, to say nothing of the South, which it has been accused of ignoring to some extent in the past. The noble Earl, I think, was less disposed to charge us with ruining Calcutta in a commercial sense than some people have 177 been. Indeed, that was almost the only point in which I did detect something like a tinge of agreement with what the Viceroy and I stated in our Despatches. I cannot believe for a moment that the commercial interests of Calcutta will suffer in anyway by the change, and I fancy that this is the opinion of the soundest heads in Calcutta itself—indeed, some of them are of opinion that their influence upon the new Presidency Government will be more marked, and that they will be able to put their case even more forcibly than they were before the Government of India—that, in fact, as the tendency to greater provincial independence, of which the noble Earl spoke at the conclusion of his speech, proceeds to grow, their independence must in some degree grow with it.
The noble Earl went on to speak of Delhi as the new seat of government. He described, he will forgive me for saying, in rather appalling terms the position of Delhi as a city of tombs in view of its past history. The only other important transfer of a capital that has taken place in the memory of anybody now alive was also one from a modern city to what may be described as a city of tombs in quite as full a sense as Delhi. Up to 1864 Turin was the capital of the House of Savoy and the State of Piedmont. In that year the transfer of the capital was made to Florence, and by general admission that was a step towards making Rome the capital whenever it became possible. Six years later it did become possible, and Rome, the city of the dead, like Delhi, strewn with the relics of decayed dynasties, became, with the common consent of all Italians, and remains, as we hope it will always remain, the capital of Italy. When the Government of Italy removed to Florence there was great agitation in Turin; there was even some violence. The crowd were fired on, and some loss of life took place. Then one of the most brilliant heroes of the Italian Liberation. General Cialdini, made a speech which has often been remembered from its eloquent appeal to the people of Italy not to set town against town in rivalry but to think of the interests of Italy as a whole. I am bound to say that the tone of that speech was very different from the tone which has been adopted by a great many of the interested advocates of the maintenance of Calcutta as the necessary and perpetual capital of 178 the British Government in India, although I am glad to think that the untoward consequences which followed in Turin from the excitement of the crowd have been in no danger of being followed in Calcutta.
The noble Earl very fairly and properly drew attention to the care which would have to be taken in planning the new portion of Delhi with regard to sanitation and the like. I can assure him that we are most desirous to obtain the very best possible advice in that regard, but we shall not move in too great a hurry, although I hope we shall not waste any time, and certainly we shall not run any risk of setting apart for the new capital any part of the environs of Delhi which cannot be thoroughly drained or which is liable to flood, or to which any objection on sanitary grounds is thought to exist. I am in great hopes that we shall succeed in obtaining for the purposes of advice some of the best opinions that are to be found on questions of town engineering and town planning, arid that we shall be able to have those opinions before us before we take any steps of an irrevocable kind towards starting our new buildings. As to the question of water, I can venture to assure the noble Earl that there is no doubt whatever that a copious and good water supply will be certainly obtained for the new portion of Delhi.
I do not desire to dwell on the point touched upon by the noble Earl as to the strategical questions raised by the transfer. As he frankly admitted, the case is greatly altered since the Duke of Wellington spoke, when it had to be frankly admitted, even by that heroic personage, that it was necessary for the seat of Government to be somewhere quite close to the coast in order, if the worst came to the worst, that the Viceroy and all his surroundings might be safely packed on board a man-of-war. My Lords, we are a long way from that state of things, and I do not believe that the fears expressed by the noble Earl as to the risks to the Government of India by being so far inland are uniformly held. And when all is said and done the noble Earl will remember that, supposing a state of things were to arise in some form of emeute or some military difficulty which might threaten the Government of India, its position when poised on the hill at Simla would not be very strong, 179 although, of course, both at Simla and at Delhi it would be in the neighbourhood of a strong force, if force had to be employed.
Now, my Lords, I pass on to the strictures of the noble Earl upon the separation of the Government of India from the Government of Bengal. He seemed to think that of the various reasons given in the published Despatches for desiring to divorce those two Governments there was only one of real meaning and substance—namely, that it was thought desirable to get the Government of India away from Bengali influence. The noble Earl somewhat challenged me on the particular point that the existing position is bad for the Government of India and the Government of Bengal. My Lords, 1 take up that challenge, and I do so quite deliberately, because in the joint framing of these proposals there was not one which had more influence on my mind than the importance of breaking the association between the Government of India and the Government of Bengal. It so happens that I have had official opportunities of watching the working of a great many different systems of government in the British Empire, all indeed that there are, ranging from the responsible government of the self-governing Dominions to the purely despotic government carried on by Departments in some parts of the Empire—despotic except, of course, for the final control of Parliament; and I say without hesitation that in no part of the Empire, and in no part of the world that I know of, can I recall a system which seems to me so ill adapted to stand the stress of a difficult period as the relation which has existed between the Government of India and the Government of Bengal. I say this without making the slightest imputation of a personal character. I have had the pleasure of discussing administrative questions with several of those who have filled at different times the office of Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, and I certainly do not desire to convey the slightest imputation upon them, or still less upon anybody who has been responsible for the Government of India. But when times are difficult there is no fault that you can suggest in a system of government so dangerous as ill-defined responsibility, which is exactly what has occurred in this case.
180 The noble Earl stated that he himself did not experience any inconvenience of this kind, but then I believe I am right in saying that during the whole period when he was in relations with Calcutta and Bengal a peaceful state of things existed, and that the great difficulties which have been found in the administration of Bengal had not occurred. Of course, defects of the kind I have stated only become marked and obvious when times are difficult, as they have been on several occasions during the last few years. In this connection I might quote from a Calcutta newspaper, which seems to me to put this part of the case as clearly as one could desire. I quote from the Statesman of January 3 this year. The Statesman, one of the principal Calcutta organs, did not take a favourable view of our proposals, but on reconsideration it modified its view, at any rate to some extent. It said this—There are strong arguments in favour of the change, as we pointed out when dealing with the question a fortnight ago. One of these arguments is the increasing difficulty under present-day conditions of retaining Calcutta as the headquarters both of the Imperial Government and of a great Provincial Government. Such an arrangement is bad for both Governments. It means that the Provincial Government is constantly hampered by the interference of the Imperial authorities, and it means that the Imperial Government has much of its time wasted over provincial details. So long as the Government of India and the Government of Bengal have a sort of dual control, provincial autonomy is impossible.So that the noble Earl will admit that the Viceroy and I are by no means alone in the opinions we held, as the noble Earl seemed to suppose. And when he goes on to say that because the Punjab Government goes to another place for a portion of the year the same situation arises there, I can only say that so far as my knowledge goes that is not the case. None of the difficult questions with which the Bengal Government and the Government of India have often had to deal jointly, and sometimes, I think, without either side being quite aware into whose province a particular action most properly might fall, can occur or ever have occurred at Simla, and therefore I do not think that the comparison is one which possesses much value.
I will only deal briefly with the question of the probable cost of these changes, because this is a matter on which, of course, everybody is entitled to form his own opinion. When the noble Earl tells us that the calculations of cost 181 instead of being£4,000,000, may rise to£10,000,000, and even up to£12,000,000, which, I understand, is the noble Earl's own figure, unless one could see a thoroughly detailed account of how these estimates have been reached it is very difficult to argue about them. It is only fair to point out that it would not be wise to treat the Delhi estimates in the manner which noble Lords opposite, from their long experience, would naturally be tempted to treat estimates of the kind made by Departments in India. It is, of course, true, and it is within the knowledge of all of us who have had anything to do with the Government of India that the practice of estimating has been in the past, and probably remains to sonic extent, open to no little criticism. The vice of under-estimation has, no doubt, been common, but these matters will not be subject to ordinary departmental control. The Government of India are quite determined to devote, not merely special initial attention, but special continuous control, to the care of the great works which will have to be carried out; and the whole of the works will, 1 hope, be so completely carried out in the light of day that the danger of under-estimation, or of any flagrant excess of cost during the process of construction, will be as far as possible avoided.
As the noble Earl pointed out, the taking up of the land is of itself a comparatively small part of the process. The Government of India have announced their intention of taking a very large amount of land in Delhi—I think something like 115,000 acres—and, owing to the provisions of the land laws of India, which might be found very shocking to many members of your Lordships' House, that land can be obtained for public purposes without any reference to a possible enhancement of its value by reason of the uses to which it or any other neighbouring land may be put. But, on the general question, the estimates of the Government of India do not, of course, profess to be exhaustive for reasons which your Lordships well know, and you are, if you like, entitled to put this down as a further indictment against the secrecy with which the proceedings were conducted in their early stages. But I have not heard anything either here or in India, when one comes to reckon up the class and number of buildings which will have to be erected, which justifies such a vast advance upon those estimates as the noble Earl tells 182 us he himself would make and is made by others. 1 should myself venture to express the hope—although it is difficult to speak with certainty, because, as the noble Earl pointed out, although much may be done in three years it is impossible to suppose that all the works in connection with the new capital can be completed in three years—that the total result may not largely exceed the sum suggested by the Government of India.
I will deal briefly with the other points raised by the noble Earl. He is one of those, I gather, who think that there is something in the Constitution of Bengal or the Bengalis which causes it to differ from other parts of India, at any rate from Bombay and Madras, and makes it desirable therefore that the Bengalis should be ruled by members of the Indian Civil Service and not by a Governor from England as in the case of the other two Presidencies. I confess, my Lords, I do not entirely follow that contention. I quite see—of course, it is impossible not to see—the force of the argument that when the Viceroy was at Calcutta it would have been a most difficult business to place in Calcutta another Englishman of general experience to carry on a sort of rival Government. As we all know, up to 1853 the Governor-General was also the Governor of Bengal, and when the work was found too heavy for him to compass alone it was the natural course to place a Lieutenant-Governor there. But so far as I am able to gauge the general trend of India n opinion, the appointment of my noble friend Lord Carmichael rather than of some eminent member of the Civil Service has been greatly welcomed in Bengal itself and all over India, except in Madras, where they are exceedingly sorry to lose him owing to the excellent impression as a sensible and sympathetic Governor which he has created even during the short time he was there.
As regards Eastern Bengal, I could not help thinking that here again the noble Earl laid on his colours too thickly. It is quite clear that the Mahomedan population of Eastern Bengal cannot like the diminution of the enormous numerical advantage which they possessed in the Province of Eastern Bengal and Assam, and it is no doubt partly true that the fact pointed out by the Viceroy in his Despatch, that they will still claim a 183 numerical proportion in the whole of the new Presidency, does not mean that they will thereby possess a preponderance of political influence. It has been suggested by some on their behalf that a number of elaborate special arrangements ought to be made by which they would secure preponderance on various public bodies throughout the Presidency, and others by which they would secure a distinct proportion of public offices. I consider, however, that the best way to set to work to correct the balance, so far as it exists, against the Mahomedans in any part of India is to give them, even though it may mean a considerable expenditure of funds, a chance of improving their position on equal terms with their Hindu fellow-subjects. That is best done, as I believe, by increasing their facilities for education. It is one of the most gratifying facts with regard to the Mahomedan community in India that so many of them, not merely a few picked representatives, are becoming alive to the advantages of increased educational facilities, and it would certainly be our earnest desire to bring these facilities within the reach of as ninny of the Mahomedan community as we possibly can. As regards this particular re-partition of Eastern Bengal, the Mahomedan community seem to me to have shown remarkable sense and remarkable self-restraint in the way in which they have taken it. As I have said, it is obvious that they could not like it in itself, but the most representative of them have refused to be alarmed by it, and have altogether refused to join in anything in the nature of an agitation hostile to the Government on the strength of it. The gentleman who was referred to by the noble Earl—the Nawab of Dacca, about whom the noble Earl repeated a story, which he will forgive me for describing as a story of gossip, which had not reached me before—I know for a fact expressed himself in the most loyal terms as being desirous of assisting the Government in explaining to his co-religionists in Eastern Bengal what the state of affairs really would be under the new arrangements, in order that they might not be inspired by exaggerated fears on the subject.
The noble Earl claimed apparently that the institution of the Lieutenant-Governorship of Eastern Bengal and Assam had been a complete and unqualified 184 success. I should naturally desire to give, as he gave, the utmost credit to the able officers who worked that Province. As we know, in India all arrangements of such a character work satisfactorily under the guidance of the able men of different grades of the Service who superintend or look after the various districts, but it seems to me impossible to describe the Province as in itself constituting a great success. In the first place, the combination of Assam with Eastern Bengal has never been liked by Assam. They have never liked having to regard Dacca as their capital, and they have to an increasing extent begun to feel that they were overshadowed by Eastern Bengal, and that their identity was to some extent in danger of disappearing. I believe, therefore, that the re-erection of Assam into an independent Chief Commissionership will be thoroughly popular in Assam itself. I do not at all ignore the difficulty of the small cadre of service, to which the noble Earl drew attention. That, of course, will demand close attention.
As regards Eastern Bengal itself, the noble Earl spoke of the improvement which had taken place there as compared with former days when it formed part of a gigantic and overgrown Bengal Government. That is perfectly true. The conditions which obtained there in old days in the way of river piracy undoubtedly constituted a scandal of the first order, but it has been a discouraging feature since the Partition that although the statistics of crime in general will probably show an improvement owing to the multiplication and the greater efficiency of the police, yet as a direct result of the Partition there arose there a practice of gang robbery by land and water by gangs who sailed, so to speak, under the political flag, although there might be strong suspicions that in some cases the object of those who took part in those gangs was not political but mere ordinary robbery. Those gangs were largely composed of young men who belonged to what would he called in a social sense the respectable classes, and it has been impossible to avoid the conclusion that the feuds between Hindus and Mahomedans, of which they were the outcome, were founded upon the Partition of Bengal—that is to say, by the creation of Eastern Bengal into a Mahomedan Province—and it was found that this class of crime was most difficult to deal with and check. It has been to some extent dealt with and 185 checked, but only at very great expense and with great difficulty. When speaking, therefore, of Eastern Bengal and Assam as a successfully administered Province, we must make the important qualification that this particular type of crime, at any rate to a very great extent, grew out of the state of things caused by the Partition. The noble Earl admitted that the creation of the new United Province would be a satisfaction to Behar.
§ EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Before the noble Marquess passes away, might I ask him if he has anything to say about Dacca and the residence of the Governor in future?
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
The noble Earl has reminded me of the question of the residence of the Governor of Bengal at Dacca. I think, if I remember rightly, he said that there were some who thought there ought to be a statutory obligation upon the Governor of Bengal to spend a certain time of the year at Dacca. I do not think myself that it would be possible to place an obligation of that kind upon the Governor. But of this I am quite certain, that the new Governor-General of Bengal and the Viceroy, with whom he will no doubt discuss the question of residence, will be convinced that it will be necessary in order to hold the proper balance between the different parts of the Province, and to avoid slipping back into the unfortunate state of things before the partition, to spend a certain part of the year at that place. I entirely agree that we ought to impress it upon the Governor of Bengal, as I am sure it will be impressed, and I have no doubt. it will be in full conformity with his own feelings, that, in spite of the magnet which may draw him on the one side to Calcutta and on the other, as the noble Earl said, to Darjeeling, his visits to Dacca should not be merely those of a flying kind but should show that he treats it as a second headquarters for his Presidency.
I need not dwell upon Behar. But the noble Earl somewhat surprised me by speaking of Orissa as likely to object strongly to the new arrangements. If the noble Earl had said that instead of creating a Lieutenant-Governorship at Behar and Orissa it would have been a more proper 186 course to create two separate Commissioner-ships, one for Behar and one for Orissa, that would have been quite an arguable position, although I think the weight of argument would be in favour of creating a Lieutenant-Governorship, which to some extent falls in with the suggestion which was made by Sir George Campbell, a very eminent Indian official, some forty years ago. But when the noble Earl implies, as I think he did, that Orissa would rather remain tied up with Bengal than be tied up with Behar, I confess he caused me some surprise. I think that there may be some fear among the people of Orissa that their particular interests may not receive from the Lieutenant-Governor all the attention which those of Behar receive, and when the question of the second residence of the Lieutenant-Governor comes to be considered I have no doubt that the point will have to be carefully borne in mind. But I can assure the noble Earl that I have plenty of first-hand knowledge that the association of Orissa with Bengal had become from many points of view most unpalatable to Orissa. Since the publication of our scheme I had an opportunity of speaking to some of the most prominent men of Orissa, and although they expressed strong hopes that in the final arrangement Orissa would not be allowed to be overshadowed by Behar, with which I cordially agree, none of them expressed any regret at being severed from Bengal or from Calcutta, the influence of which, I think, like some of the other neighbouring peoples, as the noble Earl himself has told us, they had somewhat begun to dread.
In considering the merits, or, if you prefer so to regard them, the demerits of this scheme, it is necessary to regard it as a whole—to regard the balance of its different parts. The noble Earl seemed to give some colour to the belief, founded only, I think, on the dates of the two Despatches, that the whole matter had been carried out in a spirit of hurry, which he truly pointed out is foreign both to the Government of India and to the India Office. As a matter of fact, the consideration of the question began rather more than a year ago, and during the whole of that period in all its bearings it was the subject of the closest thought and of the freest consideration within the limited area of discussion to which it was intentionally kept. It is quite true, as I say, that the area of advice we obtained was 187 a small one, but within those limits it was of a solid and thoroughly well informed character. All through, as it seemed to me, the main question that we had to ask, particularly when the discussion reached the point at which it became likely that we should suggest the announcement of the policy on the occasion of the Durbar, was cui malo. Who were the people that would have a right to say that their interests were in any degree compromised or injured by the new policy? It was quite possible, of course—and that is why it was necessary to consider the matter in all its bearings—that the injuries inflicted upon some classes of persons might be so grave, in the opinion of impartial observers, as to outweigh any benefits which could be obtained from the change. That I gather to be the opinion of the noble Earl. But I honestly believe that he will find himself a member of a very small minority, even in this country; and I am quite sure that if he were in India he would find himself a member of an almost infinitesimal minority, because I believe that the general reasons given in the two Despatches from the Government of India and the India Office are regarded by public opinion in India as conclusively showing that the benefits to be obtained from the change are greater than any damage either of substance or of sentiment which can be sustained by any class of people in the country. I therefore state without hesitation that, in spite of the powerful and well-directed attacks of the noble Earl, I remain entirely unrepentant both as to the general features of the scheme as described in the two Despatches and also as to the fact that the policy had the honour of being announced by His Majesty the King in Durbar at Delhi.
And since, after all, the opinion of India is what really matters in this as in most other matters with which the Indian Government is concerned, I desire to remind your Lordships of the very remarkable Message which was sent from India after His Majesty had left and which was published in the newspapers on the day on which His Majesty reached England. That Message was unique and unprecedented in the respect that it represented the spontaneous and joint action of the Indian Princes and of those who in one way or another are well entitled to speak for the educated opinion of British India. It was organised by some of the most power- 188 ful and representative, and also, I think, some of the most conservative, among Indian rulers; and it was also authorised by some of those who are spoken of as the most representative among the advanced politicians in India, and the form of expression in which it reached us 1 believe was due to one of the latter class. Its sentiments are of a kind with which we should all heartily agree and which we all admire. I do not think it attracted the attention which it might have attracted in this country, because, very naturally and properly, it was sent through the Viceroy, and it was therefore supposed, I imagine, to possess something of an official colour, but as a matter of fact it had nothing whatever to do with the Viceroy or the Government of India. I conceive that the Viceroy did not even know of the movement or of the intention of the writers until the whole matter was settled and the public meetings were called. I think we are entitled to take that Message, sent in such unique circumstances, not as necessarily approving every detail of the policy which was announced at Delhi, but as expressing what I believe to be, and what I am prepared to say I know, is the general opinion of all classes in India, both in British India and in the native States—namely, that the making of this announcement by His Majesty at Delhi was one of the great and most notable features of the occasion; and that the kind of criticism which has been suggested by the noble Earl and by some others, namely, that in offering our advice to His Majesty to make this announcement on that occasion we were committing a breach of propriety, and, indeed, doing whatever may be meant by that somewhat vague word unconstitutional, has not entered the mind of the Indian people as a whole, or of those who, either in British India or in the native States, are entitled to speak as their representatives.
§ Moved, That the debate be adjourned.—(The Earl of Minto.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and the further debate adjourned To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at five minutes past Eight o'clock, till To-morrow, Four o' clock.