§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA AND BURMA (THE EARL OF MUNSTER)
, who had given Notice of six Motions continuing in force Proclamations issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, said: My Lords, I beg to move the first of the six Motions standing in my name. I am obliged to the noble Lord opposite, Lord Faringdon, for kindly removing a Motion which stood in his name on the Paper to-day in order that I might present these Resolutions to the House for approval. The debate which will follow will naturally give noble Lords every opportunity to discuss the general situation which now prevails in India. The purpose of each one of these Motions is to extend, for a further period of twelve months, the Proclamations which have been issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act. Your Lordships may remember that in that section provision is made for a Proclamation to be issued by the Governor of any one of the eleven Provinces of India if he is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the normal functions of government cannot be carried on. In the six Provinces referred to in these Resolutions such Proclamations have been in force since the collapse of normal constitutional government in 1939, when the Congress Ministries abdicated their responsibilities and resigned their offices at the dictation of the Congress "High Command." Although there seems to be no immediate likelihood of the Congress Party re-accepting office, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State is just as anxious as any of your Lordships to see responsible government restored in these Provinces at the earliest possible moment, and for this purpose the situation is kept constantly under review by the Viceroy and by the Governor of each of the Provinces, who are always on the look out for any opportunity that may present itself.
Your Lordships will have read in the newspapers last week that the Prime Minister of Bengal had tendered his resignation to the Governor, which 7 resignation has been accepted The remaining members of Mr. Fazl-ul-Huq's Ministry have also resigned. With the approval of the Viceroy, the Governor of Bengal has issued a Proclamation which is now in operation under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, but it is to be hoped that quite shortly a new Government will be formed, and in that case the Proclamation issued by the Governor will be revoked
Some months have passed since a discussion on India was initiated in this House, and, as a very new arrival at the India Office, my task to-day will be to endeavour to render an account of recent happenings in India, and to touch also upon topics of general interest to the war effort. During the period now under review, the political situation in India has been overshadowed by outbreaks of violence which have been committed under the auspices of the Congress Party and of its leader, Mr. Gandhi. I have no desire whatever to examine in detail the White Paper which was recently published. Those of your Lordships who are concerned with the problem of India will have made yourselves acquainted with the facts enumerated in that document. It must be crystal clear to all your Lordships, however, that the primary object of that campaign was to force the hands of the Government of India and of His Majesty's Government at home to surrender the control of government in India to the Congress Party and, in the words of Mr. Gandhi, to "quit India." With that purpose in mind, and to achieve that object, attacks were launched upon all centres of strategic importance. An orgy of destruction followed. Communications, railways and Government property were wrecked, and an effort was made completely to paralyze all transport, trade and industry. These outbursts gradually spread their evil tentacles to concentrate on those parts of India which were most likely to be exposed to immediate enemy attack. Considerable damage was done, as we know, but happily the state of anarchy into which it was hoped to plunge the country was arrested by the firm and determined action on the part of the Government of India.
Law and order were re-established, although spasmodic outbreaks of violence still from time to time occur. I must 8 recall to the memory of the House that the decision of the Government of India to place the leaders of Congress under restraint was reached with the unanimous decision of the Executive Council, which on that day consisted, besides the Viceroy, of eleven Indian members and one European. At the beginning of this year Mr. Gandhi undertook a twenty-one days' fast "to capacity." The object of this self-inflicted starvation was to secure from the Government of India his unconditional release. It would be difficult to speculate on what might have occurred if Mr. Gandhi had secured his release, but it is quite certain that the Government of India would have suffered a heavy reverse and Mr. Gandhi would have claimed justification, if not a victory, for his campaign of civil disobedience. But the Government of India stood firm. There was however, one regrettable result of the fast—namely, the resignation of three very able members of the Viceroy's Executive Council. The reasons for their resignation will be familiar to everyone, but the Viceroy hopes very soon now to be in a position to announce the names of the Indians who will succeed to the vacant seats.
I have dealt with some of the political issues prevailing in India to-day and, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to turn for a moment to deal with another side of the Indian picture—namely, the India of the warrior races. Perhaps I may give the House a brief account of the present state of the Armed Forces in India. The size of the Indian Army confines to expand steadily and recruitment, which is entirely on a voluntary basis, shows no sign of any slackening. It is a remarkable fact that during the period of the internal disorders last year the figures for recruiting reached their highest peak of 70,000 a month, and for the last three months the average voluntary enlistment has still been 60,000. During the disturbances to which I have just referred the Indian Army was employed in assisting the civil power in the maintenance of law and order. Here was indeed a difficult and uncongenial burden, but the task was carried out with the complete loyalty and devotion to duty for which Indian soldiers have so long been renowned. The Governors of Provinces have all borne testimony and paid tribute to the good conduct and friendliness of all troops in their handling of the civil population. To-day the Indian Army stands 9 at over one and a half million strong, and, besides having the largest volunteer Army in the world, it also has the largest force of any one of the Dominions serving overseas in all theatres of war. This Army also includes considerable forces of the Princes, ho have placed the whole of their services at the disposal of the King-Emperor. Your Lordships will have seen the accounts recently published of the 4th Indian Division, which has fought from Abyssinia to the Mareth Line, and also of the 5th Indian Division, and they have both won undying fame and glory.
There is another Army about which very little is heard but which is carrying out its vital but monotonous duties of watch and ward on the North-West Frontier of India. It is seldom in the limelight or participating in active operations or giving battle to the Japanese or any other of our enemies, but nevertheless when I recall the constant source of anxiety of these frontier areas to India in the last war, I know how vital are the duties it is fulfilling in order to maintain the peace and tranquillity of the frontiers. We should not forget either the Nepalese battalions which were so readily offered at the beginning of the war by our firm friend the Maharaja of Nepal. Concurrent with the building up of the Army vast engineering projects have been undertaken by the civil population in conjunction with the Services. Quite apart from the military highways that have been built, railways have been improved, enlarged and modernized, and new factories have been constructed. A vast number of aerodromes have been made to meet the requirements of the expanded Air Force. To those of your Lordships who are interested in figures I might mention that the runways that have been laid down would easily make a broad concrete road stretching across the breadth of India from Bombay to Calcutta, a distance of 1,100 miles.
The Indian Air Force is the youngest of the Fighting Services. The first flight came into being in 1933 and the first squadron was not completed until 1939. The tenth birthday of the Force coincided with the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the Royal Air Force, but to-day this Force has been greatly expanded, and in addition to its regular squadrons it also includes the Indian Air Force Volunteer Reserve in which both 10 Europeans and Indians serve as pilots. This Force has taken its full share in the war. Units have operated in Burma, and besides patrolling coastal waters have also provided air co-operation and support to the Army of the North-West Frontier. I come lastly to the Royal Indian Navy, whose size has increased tenfold since the outbreak of hostilities. Ships of the Royal Indian Navy have served and steamed in all seas, including the Atlantic, and the action of the "Jumna" off Java and of the "Bengal" against Japanese armed raiders in the Indian Ocean are both outstanding examples of the accomplishments and heroism of Indian sailors. But all this effort has placed upon India, both administratively and physically, a strain greater than has ever been previously attempted, and probably as great as the resources of that country are capable of carrying.
I turn now to give your Lordships some indication of the financial problem involved, as I am informed that there is a good deal of misapprehension and misconception abroad. Though India has to finance the whole of this effort in the first instance, not all of it is chargeable to Indian revenues and a considerable part is ultimately recoverable from the Imperial Exchequer. We have followed the principle always hitherto followed that India is financially responsible for her own defence, which means in fact that the revenues of India are not applied to the maintenance of Imperial interests beyond the borders of India. For instance, India pays for all Forces, British as well as Indian, as long as they are in India. She pays for the numerous aerodromes that have had to be constructed there and all the military works necessary on so great a scale, because this time the attack threatens from the east and not from the west, where, as the House well knows, the military preparations of India have hitherto been principally made. She has also agreed to pay a share proportionate to her interest in the various factories for the output of war materials which are in course of coming into production. On the other hand, she does not pay for Indian Forces operating outside that country or for materials which may be supplied to Imperial Forces in external theatres of war, nor indeed for those we have to obtain in India for our own use in this country to meet our own wartime necessities.
11 The effect of all this is that, from the beginning of the war up to the present time, India has recovered a sum of £400,000,000 from the British Exchequer, and has spent some £350,000,000 on her own defence. In the financial year which has just been concluded the Indian taxpayer's share of defence expenditure was no less than £180,000,000 as compared with some £34,000,000 before the war—by Indian standards, at any rate, a very heavy burden. The recoveries which have been made in respect of expenditure by the Government of India and chargeable to us, together with payments for supplies of all kinds through the channels of private trade, have led, as many of your Lordships know, to the accumulation in this country, in India's favour, of large sterling balances which have been partly used for the repatriation of her pre-war sterling debt. I am told that by making rupees freely available to finance what we need from India, and by receiving repayment in sterling, the Government of India have ensured that exchange difficulties do not interfere with the production in India of the largest quantities of those services and supplies which we need for the prosecution of the war over and above the liability of Indian defence for which India herself is responsible.
I hope the House will forgive me for turning to that side of the question, but before I conclude I must come back again to the constitutional side. During the period which I have under review there can be no dispute in any noble Lord's mind that the political situation has not progressed along the path which we could have wished or anticipated. Therefore we find that the chapter in the tale of India's advance to complete self-government has yet to be written. All political opinion in this country is agreed, I think, that the issue at stake to-day is not whether India should be granted complete control of her own destinies but only when and how that should be attained. There are many noble Lords in this House to-day who have, at some time or other, been associated with the constitutional issues in India. During the past twelve years—for I think I am right in saying it was in the autumn of 1930 that the first Indian Round-Table Conference met—we have gone forward with speed and determination to find, in concert with Indian political thought, a basis 12 for the solution of this bewildering problem. We have not, it is true, on all occasions been able to carry the Indian political leaders with us. Indeed, the nearer we have approached, or thought we were approaching, a final solution, as in the passing of the Act of 1935, the sharper became the divisions and the deeper appeared the divergencies within the ranks of Indian political Parties.
There is, as I have pointed out, no unwillingness whatever on the part of His Majesty's Government to transfer full responsibility to India once these internal disagreements have been removed and resolved. No man desires to return to the status quo ante bellum, but no man desires, either, to trust India, in Mr. Gandhi's words, "to God or, in modern parlance, to anarchy." We have exerted all our power and influence to obtain a settlement of this question. Proposals, culminating in the Cripps Mission, have been made, but to our regret, and I believe to the regret of all moderate political opinion in India, they have all been rejected.
No doubt many noble Lords will recall the late Mr. Gokhale, a wise, strong, and liberal-minded man and one of the founders of the National Congress, who advocated the reform of government in India by steady, progressive, constitutional methods, and who hoped to attain and achieve results by political evolution. The whole of the knowledge that he possessed was derived from a close personal study of the art of government as it was understood and practised in this country. He demonstrated very clearly his own wish for the National Congress to be organized on purely democratic principles, and under his lead the Party represented a real national movement, including amongst its members all classes and all sections of India's national life. But under Mr. Gandhi's lead the Congress Party no longer represents the whole of India's aspirations. The Moslems, who twenty years ago were disposed to cooperate with Congress, became alarmed at the prospect of being permanently in a minority in a Central Government founded on Parliamentary majorities, broke away and set up their own League. That League, which ultimately developed a policy to preserve the political solidarity of their own followers, sacrificed that unity which our association with India had conferred. On the other hand, the 13 Congress Party has moved far away from Mr. Gokhale's principles, and has become a body which is imbued with totalitarian tendencies.
As I have pointed out, all our efforts to find a basis of settlement designed on the British model have failed, and there is no chance, as I see it to-day, to expect any sudden change of heart. For a large number of years we have made ourselves responsible for educating Indians to the form of democratic government under which we live and thrive. Every Act of Parliament that has been passed has been designed to promote and foster this form of rule in India. We have all of us consistently assumed that our own Constitution is quite adaptable to this sub-continent, and we have always been fully prepared to assist in the export of our system for remaking indeed a constitutional government for the whole of India. I venture to think that, if, before the passing of the Act of 1935, any of His Majesty's Ministers had suggested that constitutional government based on the system under which we live was impracticable for India, there would have been an outcry that we were challenging the ability of Indians to shape their own government upon the model which we had taught them and which had been practiced so successfully in its home of origin. It would have been further said that we were insulting their political leaders and damaging their prestige throughout the whole world. So, my Lords, any repudiation on our part would have been met by statements to prove our underlying insincerity towards India.
But times change and in a changing world amendment is always necessary. Whilst the broad principles of the offer which was taken to India by the Minister of Aircraft Production are still open, I wonder whether the deadlock would be removed and progress made towards a settlement if Indian leaders of all Parties would discuss, with calm and quiet deliberation, the chances of finding a Constitution of their own manufacture—a Constitution not necessarily built upon the institution which we have found best fitted to our own widely different conditions, but one which would nevertheless, afford India a position as a full self-governing State within the British Empire and which, by their own exertions, would be made weather-proof and habitable for all. Surely it is not too late now to ask the 14 great political Parties in India to solve this problem in their own way. It is quite certain that no exertions on their part can be too great. Wisdom and sympathy are predominantly required but, above all, a spirit of compromise and understanding, must be the sum and substance of any settlement.
We should, of course, be prepared to render any assistance and any help to such a body. I am not without hope that when India is confronted, as indeed she must be, with her own position in a post-war world, with all the opportunities that will be open to her and with all the dangers that will persist, the prospect of agreement amongst Indian political leaders may be more hopeful than it is at present. Before I conclude let me finally add this. It is now for Indians to adapt their beliefs to their own unique problems and needs. Let them turn to their task, gifted with vision and foresight, so that they may eventually find an escape from their present perplexities. But until that day arrives when we can announce to the world that agreement has been reached among Indians themselves, the British people cannot surrender to the forces of anarchy and they must continue to be responsible for the welfare and for the peace of this vast land and of its millions of inhabitants. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House approves the continuance in force of the Proclamation issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, by the Governor of Madras on 30th October, 1939, and of his Proclamation varying the same issued on 15th February, 1943, copies of which were presented to this House on 28th November, 1939, and 16th March, 1943, respectively.—(The Earl of Munster.)
My Lords, the noble Earl has already informed you that a Motion was placed upon the Paper in my name and, at his request, was removed. That Motion was placed upon the Paper because we on these Benches felt that discussion of Indian problems had become due in your Lordships' House. As the noble Earl has told you he would do, and as indeed he has done, I shall do too. I shall not confine myself to the particular Motions which he is moving to-day. Like him I shall discuss, and I hope helpfully, the whole of the Indian situation. But I would first of all like to ask the noble Lord who will wind up the debate whether 15 he proposes to give us some detail of how this very considerable expenditure in India is in fact being financed. Some of us were, before the war, very unhappy about the high proportion of the total Indian revenue that was spent upon defence. This amount has now increased by an enormous sum and it would at any rate be interesting, and I hope encouraging, to know how that money was being raised. Perhaps the noble Lord can give us some details as to how much of it is being raised by taxation, on what classes that taxation is failing or is likely to fall, and what proportion of it is being raised by borrowing.
I would, incidentally, before I say anything further, like to congratulate your Lordships' House on the attendance. A very unfortunate impression must, I fear, have been made in India by the very small attendance last week in another place. I have seen it mentioned in the Press that a mere eighteen members thought that the future and the prospects of our Indian Empire were of sufficient interest to justify their attendance. Your Lordships at least are showing a very much more considerable sense of our responsibility towards our Empire than was shown in another place. I, like the noble Earl, do not intend to spend very much time on the Government's White Paper. Frankly I regard it as a somewhat regrettable document. At best it can be described as a piece of special pleading. As such I should not necessarily disapprove of it. As the noble Earl himself has said, the situation in India, during the last year and during the last few months, has certainly shown no improvement; it may in fact be said to have shown deterioration. In those circumstances the Government must necessarily defend their policy, but I think some of us would have wished that the document which they produced for that purpose had been somewhat less controversial and had been somewhat more judicial in tone. However, I do not think that very much good would be served by discussing the White Paper in detail, because fundamentally what one feels about the White Paper really depends on whether one considers that the egg of revolution produced the hen of the imprisonment of the Congress Leaders or whether it was the hen of imprisonment which laid the egg of revolution. That I believe is a problem insoluble to scientists, and it clearly is one which is hound to affect our views of the 16 White Paper and our views as to whether in fact the White Paper does make a good case or not.
I would, however, like to draw what I consider to be some rather encouraging indications from the documents in that White Paper. From it there would seem to me to emerge the conclusion that the Congress policy has in fact been pretty consistent. They have always demanded independence and a National Government and they have always desired unity against Fascism. To remove foreign domination; to check ill will against Britain, lest that ill will should as a reaction produce a pro-Japanese feeling; to produce communal unity; to bring all the subject peoples of India whole-heartedly into the war on the side of the Allies; to assist other Asiatic people during the war to cast off oppression and after the war to maintain their independence; and finally, as a war aim, the federation of the world and consequently universal disarmament—these are, I believe, some of the objects of Congress which emerge from reading the documents published in the White Paper. These are the aims of all of us. His Majesty's Government as much as my noble friends on this side of the House desire that the Indians should rule themselves; they desire all these other points which the Congress declare to be their desires.
It is important that we should keep in sight as much as possible where we are at one with those with whom we are disputing in India. I do not think that the White Paper produces any evidence of support for Fascism. Again and again Fascism is denounced. Of course I am not going to deny that the actions of members of Congress, actions which are outlined in the White Paper, would indeed have had a most disastrous effect on our resistance to Japanese Fascism in India. That is undeniable. But I am trying to look on the brighter side because I wish to see, as I believe all your Lordships wish to see, a settlement in India satisfactory to the Indians and satisfactory to ourselves and one which promises to remove from the sphere of world politics a danger spot. For that reason I am looking upon the bright side and trying to extract from the White Paper, which is published by His Majesty's Government as a justification for their policy of repression in India, evidence that there is in India, even 17 amongst those most strongly opposed to the British Government, some foundation at least of common outlook and common interests.
These views are fairly clearly set out in the first three Appendices to the White Paper. The fourth Appendix is interesting because, though it does outline a plan of campaign for non-violent opposition to the British Government, it none the less strongly deprecates—in fact is strongly opposed to—any measures likely to endanger life. The other Appendices consist mainly, if I remember rightly, of statements which are clearly of less importance when bringing charges against Congress than are the official Congress announcements. I find that many of them do express a point of view which can only be described as deplorable, but they are not as it were documents of first importance. They do not, I believe, upset my argument that there is a basis for agreement with the Congress leaders. The Narayan letter, which also appears I think in the last Appendix, makes one very important point because it does stress the differences between Mr. Nehru and Congress. Those differences are on the point of violence. Similarly the last document, which more or less suggests the capture of the Viceroy's person, is not a document, I suggest, of first importance, for it has not the weight of an official pronouncement by the Congress Party. Finally, there is the so-called Twelve-Point Programme of the All-India Congress Committee. The authenticity of this document is, I understand, denied by Congress. There is no evidence given in the White Paper of its source or on what the Government base their belief of its authenticity. That its authenticity is denied is not perhaps conclusive, but it is at least evidence that Congress do not wish the policy outlined in it to be attributed to Congress.
In another place and outside your Lordships' House there have been attempts recently to paint Congress as being totalitarian, and attempts to paint Mr. Gandhi as a kind of dictator. I deplore this tendency. There is, I maintain, no more justification for it than to describe Mr. Churchill as a dictator. Clearly the Prime Minister in the Cabinet has the first responsiblity for Cabinet policy. Mr. Gandhi has the first responsibility and perhaps the strongest influence in Con- 18 gress councils, but already certain members of the Congress Committee have left the Committee owing to disagreement with Mr. Gandhi, just as a Cabinet Minister would leave our Cabinet were he unable to accord his views with those of the Prime Minister or to persuade the Prime Minister so to modify his views that they could reach agreement. The overwhelming influence of Mr. Gandhi is due to his position and his own personality. I submit that he is not a dictator and that it is not right to describe Congress as a totalitarian body. In another place none of the speeches seemed to me to be very helpful. The Deputy Prime Minister said he had seldom known a discussion upon India which was upon a higher level. I can only conclude that the right honourable gentleman was glad to be let off with so little criticism. Frankly, I have seldom heard or read a debate so utterly and completely dead and dull. I trust and indeed expect that your Lordships will provide a more lively discussion and, I hope, one more helpful to His Majesty's Government.
It is not my intention, however, as I have said, to criticize His Majesty's Government for what has happened in the past. It depends very largely, as I said, on the egg and hen problem in Indian politics. Though I may believe the egg came first I cannot prove it and I will not labour the point. The noble Earl said he wished Indian leaders could come together and work out some Constitution for themselves. Of course he wishes it and we all wish it, but how can they come together? Most of the leaders of political opinion are in prison and in prison separately. It gives an appearance of unreality and, I am afraid, of insincerity to the noble Earl's speech, that this should continue to be the case. More particularly is it the case in view of the treatment of Mr. Rajagopalachari by the Viceroy. If this treatment had been meted out a week ago I believe the debate in the other place would have taken a much more critical turn, because several speakers referred to the pending visit of Indian leaders to the Viceroy, and the general inference was that that visit would lead to discussion and that those leaders might be permitted to see Mr. Gandhi. I am at a loss to understand why access to Mr. Gandhi has been refused to those leaders whose co-operation with the British Government and whose good faith 19 have been shown again and again. Mr. Rajagopalachari sacrificed his own career with Congress on account of his disagreement with Congress policy. Surely there could be no danger in granting access of these men to Mr. Gandhi. Perhaps it would achieve no useful result, but at least no harm would be done, and it would be apparent to the world that the British Government were willing to do anything, even at the cost of loss of face, to reach a settlement. Should any good come out of it we should rejoice—the noble Earl in his statement said that he would rejoice. Should nothing come out of it no harm, I submit, would be done.
I beg His Majesty's Government to reconsider this policy of holding incomunicado the Congress leaders. They ask that Congress should call off the disobedience movement before any negotiations are entered into. That would be understandable, but Congress replies that, in fact, the disobedience movement has never been called. Why quibble on points of this sort? It is, I suggest, unworthy of His Majesty's Government. If a settlement can be reached, if negotiations, in fact, can be opened with any prospect of success, I urge that His Majesty's Government should give every kind of facility to any person or persons who are able to bring about conditions in which those negotiations can, in fact, be opened. The noble Earl said that he desired to bring together the Indian leaders of all Parties to discuss a future Indian Constitution. I would like to suggest that His Majesty's Government should approach the leaders of all Parties and invite them to come to London—it would be better, I believe, that they should come over here than that the meeting should take place there—and set up a Conference to see whether something cannot be hammered out. I would suggest, too, that the co-operation of the Allied Governments should be obtained, if possible. This, I think, has already been suggested in your Lordships' House; I know that it has been suggested by other speakers belonging to both the other Parties.
I think if we could bring in the representatives of our Allies that would have two very useful effects. First it would tend to disarm that criticism of British policy in America, which is so lively and so often based on misinformation. It has 20 been suggested by certain Government speakers that we should ignore American opinion and ignore American criticism. I deplore that kind of statement. I believe that your Lordships, probably, like myself, pay the closest attention to the criticism of your friends. If you examine their criticism and find out that it is ill-founded you will draw the attention of your friends to the fact that such is the case, or, at any rate, you will not alter your conduct. But criticism coming from friendly quarters causes one to question one's own attitude and one's own actions. Regarded in this way it can only be beneficial. I, personally, welcome the criticism of our friends and believe that it should always receive the closest consideration. The first advantage of having an American and representatives of other Allied nations sitting upon such a Conference upon India with Indians, as I have suggested, would be that America, and I trust also China and Russia, would come to understand the problem, and would come probably to appreciate our point of view. And I believe the statements of these representatives afterwards could only have a beneficial effect on the opinions and views of the peoples in their own countries.
Another beneficial result, I submit, would be that doubt of British sincerity, which undoubtedly exists, rightly or wrongly, in India, would be allayed to some extent by the guarantee that any decisions reached had the consent and support of the other Great Powers. Now we believe completely in our own sincerity. The Government's sincerity is not in question in your Lordships' House, but, unfortunately, it is in question in India. I am afraid that it would be possible for the Indians to produce a kind of White Paper taking the past statements of British statesmen, taking, even, the statements of present members of the British Government, to show what has been the attitude of those statesmen in the past and tending to prove that their statements in the present are unreliable We know that this is not the case, but Indians do not know it, and I believe that their feeling of doubt as to our sincerity would be enormously allayed could we obtain the co-operation of our Allies in discussion and settlement of the Indian problem.
I should be the last to underrate the difficulties of this problem. The Moslems are demanding their Pakistan. The latest 21 version of Pakistan which has emerged includes, so far as I understand, a kind of corridor joining the Moslems of the East with the Moslems of the West. This idea was described very aptly, I thought, in another place, as "the very miasma of unreality." That indeed it is. I think that we in this country, in fact probably all Europeans, should remember that Indians use different terms, use different phrases, express perhaps a different mentality, but, in practice, we all have to live in a workaday world and the Indian, whatever his phrases and however he may express his ideas, is as realist in practice as anybody else. I do not believe that the Communal problem is insoluble. I am not going to discuss in detail what would in fact be the function of an Indian Constituent Assembly, but I do suggest that the Communal problem may disappear, and in my view will disappear, in India when, Communal electorates having been, I trust, swept away, every one has to vote on the same register, and voters vote according to their interests, interests which cannot be tied to their community but must inevitably arise in India, as elsewhere, from their economic condition. For this reason, I take, in the long view, an optimistic view of the Communal question; but that is not to say that I am ignoring it, or trying to diminish its difficulty and importance.
The noble Earl, like the Secretary of State in another place, pointed out that our own forms of Parliamentary government cannot, in the nature of things, be translated strictly to Indian circumstances and conditions. I agree, and I think that that was recognized even in what I regard as the defective Constitution of 1935, when a Federation was set up at the Centre. Our Constitution is not a Federation. A Federal Constitution is specially designed to meet those difficulties of race which might make our own type of Constitution unworkable in India. In the Provinces, I suggest that the Communal question might be met by a readjustment of frontiers, and something of the sort has, I think, been considered by Congress as a means of arriving at a compromise with the Moslem League.
In another place, it was mentioned that possibly one of the reasons for the rejection by Congress of the settlement proposed by Sir Stafford Cripps arose from their expectation of British defeat by the Axis Powers. That seems to me to be possible; 22 but, if that is the case, surely now, when although, as it is important to remember, the Japanese are still at the gate of India, our prospects elsewhere have so immeasurably improved, and when it would seems to us impossible for anyone outside the Axis Powers to expect the defeat of the Allies, there should be a better prospect of a settlement than there was at that time. Moreover, in reopening negotiations now we should no longer be open to the suspicion, which undoubtedly existed at that time, that what we were doing was being done under the pressure of external events.
The recent refusal of access by the Indian leaders to Mr. Gandhi has undoubtedly given rise to great disappointment and considerable suspicion. A feeling has inevitably grown up that it is not the wish of His Majesty's Government to settle the disagreement with Congress in the course of the war. There is a suspicion that His Majesty's Government are of opinion that they have now stabilized the Indian position and can maintain it in its present condition of stability until the end of the war. I hope that this is not the view of His Majesty's Government, but the present unhelpfulness of Government spokesmen does tend to give this impression, an impression which cannot fail, I submit, to have a bad effect upon Anglo-Indian relations.
His Majesty's Government may be able to maintain this stable position in India, but I doubt it, and I doubt it in particular because I think that such a policy cannot fail to produce bitterness which will make a settlement more difficult in the future. There is the possibility also that Mr. Gandhi himself may die in prison. We had what I can only describe as a very fortunate let-off when Mr. Gandhi survived his last fast. I am not going to discuss the propriety of that fast, or the propriety of such methods of trying to force the Government's hands; but there can be no doubt that, had Mr. Gandhi died at that time, the position would have been immeasurably embittered. The British Government would inevitably have been blamed, and a settlement would have become very much more difficult. It seems to me very likely that in a few months' time Mr. Gandhi may fast again. Should he die, in the eyes of Indians his death will lie at our door. I do hope that, before that 23 eventuality, His Majesty's Government will have been able to reopen negotiations, and I believe that those negotiations might well have better prospects now than in the past of being brought to a successful issue.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, you will have appreciated the comprehensive and able statement which has been made to-day on behalf of His Majesty's Government, and will have particularly welcomed the fact that it has been made by the noble Earl, Lord Munster, who, after a period of active war service, has now returned to resume what was already a promising Ministerial career. We who are accustomed to sit on these Benches naturally follow with close and keen interest the development of the Indian situation, for the cause of Indian nationalism has always been of special concern to British Liberalism. We recall how the first great constitutional step forward during the present century was made on the initiative of Lord Morley—the Morley-Minto Reforms. That step was carried further by the initiative of the Secretary of State at the end of the last war, Mr. Edwin Montagu; and, when the discussions took place which resulted in the passing of the Government of India Act of 1935, it was Lord Reading and Lord Lothian who played a large and perhaps a decisive part in the course of the preceding negotiations.
When that Bill was passed, and when democratic Assemblies were elected under its provisions in the Provinces of India on a broad franchise, with Indian Governments responsible to them, we regarded that fact with the greatest satisfaction. We looked upon it as a triumph of constitutional democracy, by far the greatest achievement in that sphere that had ever come about in any oriental country. A year or so later I went to India in order to study the working of that Constitution, and, after visiting most of the Provinces and many of the States, and talking to some hundreds of people of all grades, classes and communities, I formed the very clear opinion that the Provincial Constitutions were working with remarkable success. Tributes to that success were paid by all who were in a position of authority, from the Viceroy downwards, and the fact was a matter of universal gratification throughout the whole of the British Commonwealth. Within the last 24 few weeks a book has been published, the second part of the report of Professor Coupland of Oxford, who had been sent to India by Nuffield College to make a survey of the constitutional situation. This second part, with the title Indian Politics, 1936 to 1942, gives a careful review of the successes and the non-successes of the Provincial Assemblies and Governments, and on the whole reaches the conclusion that their achievements were admirable.
They maintain firmly law and order. Your Lordships will remember that at the time of the Round-Table Conferences that was a subject of great anxiety—anxiety whether freely-elected Assemblies and Governments could be relied upon to maintain with firmness and success law and order in the great territories that were put under their rule. Those doubts, those anxieties were relieved by the course of conduct of those Ministries in the two-year period—a period all too short—during which they remained in office. In social legislation they had a remarkable record. Agrarian, industrial and educational reforms were carried of great scope and with great rapidity, and they were able, as it was anticipated they would be able, to carry far more drastic measures in that sphere than would have been possible to any alien Government, no matter how well disposed. The Budgets of the Provinces as a whole showed on social amelioration a doubled expenditure, and we Liberals felt that our faith in constitutional democracy had been justified. While through the history of the last fifty years we of course condemned the occasional outbreaks of disturbance and outrage, on the whole the aims and polities of the Indian national movement commanded our sympathy and our support. And what is true of the Liberal Party is true also, I think I may say, of the Labour Party, who shared and continued the Liberal democratic tradition.
To our deep regret, of recent years there has come a divergence. The Congress Party, by far the best organized, the most active and most effective of the Indian Parties, has to a great extent thrown over the democratic philosophy which it has purported to defend and to promote. In spite of what has just been said by the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, it does show signs of turning towards totalitarianism. Not that it regards Mr. Gandhi as a dictator—I do not think he 25 is—and the Working Committee of Congress plays a very large part, although undoubtedly under his strong personal influence. But they are a single Party claiming to speak for a whole nation, and they have insisted that the elected Ministries in the Provinces shall be subject to the instructions of their Working Committee and those within the Congress whom they term the "Higher Command."
Next to Mr. Gandhi the most distinguished figure and the most eminent figure in the Congress ranks is undoubtedly Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who has been designated by Mr. Gandhi himself as his successor, and whose ability and self-sacrificing devotion to the cause in which he believes, his lofty character and his great intellectual powers have made him a striking figure in the politics of India. In November, 1937, Pandit Nehru, referring to the electorate under the Provincial Constitutions, wrote as follows:That electorate plumped for the Congress candidates"—that was in the Elections that had recently taken place—not because of their individual merits but because they represented the Congress and its programme. The vote was for the Congress. It is to the Congress as a whole that the electorate gave allegiance and it is the Congress that is responsible to the electorate.These are the significant words:The Ministers and the Congress Parties in the Legislatures are responsible to the Congress, and only through it to the electorate.And when the war came in September, 1939, and the Congress Party took a hostile attitude to the action of the Government of India at that time, the Working Committee sent instructions to the Congress Ministries in the Provinces where they had majorities in the Assemblies to resign, and they did resign.
They resigned, not because they had lost the support of their Assemblies and were subjected to votes of censure, not because there was any movement of dissatisfaction among the people, not because it was their own desire to resign because they felt themselves unable to fulfil the tasks they had undertaken, for it was well-known that they resigned with the greatest possible reluctance, and were sorry indeed to put an end to the beneficent activities in which they were engaged. They resigned because, while de jure they were responsible to their electors, de facto they were responsible to the Working 26 Committee of the Congress, the High Command, to a Party Committee. That is not democracy, that is totalitarianism. It is essentially the same political creed as animates Nazism, Fascism, and Communism. The Congressmen used to appeal to the principles of Macaulay and Mill, of Gladstone and Bright, but those great men would have profoundly disapproved this course of action, and undoubtedly would have sternly condemned it. Best organized and most active as they are, they are a Party and nothing more.
And India is unhappy in that the line of Party division is the worst that any country can have: it is a division according to religious communities. The Congress undoubtedly would desire to include the Moslems within its own ranks, and there was a short period during its campaigns when it did secure a very large measure of Moslem co-operation. That is not so now. At the Provincial Elections where, as your Lordships know, the seats are allocated to a great extent according to communities, there were 424 seats, taking the Provinces as a whole, which were allotted to the Moslems. The Congress was only able to contest 58 of those seats with Moslem Congress candidates, and of those 58 they won only 26, and most of them were in the North-West Frontier Province, where the conditions are altogether exceptional.
If you take the population of India as a whole—now approaching 400,000,000—the non-Congress sections, Moslems, Indian Christians, Sikhs, and the Scheduled Castes of Hindus number 183,000,000. The remainder, the Hindu community—and Congress is essentially a Hindu organization—number 206,000,000. So that the elements that support Congress, even if regarded as being entirely pro-Congress, which of course they are not, just as the other sections are not unanimously anti-Congress—still if you take in bulk the Hindus on the one side and the other communities on the other side, together with the Scheduled Castes (who are definitely in opposition to Congress), you have a proportion of 206 to 183. Therefore Congress can claim, at best, barely more than one-half of the population of India. Yet in the totalitarian spirit they claim to speak for the whole. Mr. Gandhi, when he called upon the British to quit India, said it would be for Congress to "take delivery."
27 The Moslems, of course, in no degree accept that position, and in no circumstances will assent to the solution which Congress proposes. They have claimed, in fact, what I regard as a most deplorable proposition—the division of India into at least two separate sovereign States, the policy of Pakistan. In August, 1942, the Moslem League Working Committee appealed not only to Indian opinion and British opinion, but to the whole of the United Nations, when they passed this resolution to which I would invite the very special attention of your Lordships. This is the resolution of the Working Committee of the Moslem League, which undoubtedly represents the political mind of the great bulk of the Moslem population:Having regard to the oft-repeated declarations of the United Nations to secure and guarantee the freedom and independence of the smaller nations of the world, the Working Committee invite the immediate attention of the United Nations to the demands of 100,000,000 Moslems of India to establish sovereign States in the zones which are their homelands and where they are in a majority.That is a very formidable development of the Indian situation.
Those of us who believe in the principles of democracy cannot adhere, in all cases, to the simple principle of majority rule. That will apply in countries which are substantially homogeneous, like Great Britain, France, or the United States as it has now in effect become; but it cannot apply to countries where there are fundamental divisions, whether of race or religion, and divisions on matters which the people care more about than for anything else. It does not apply to countries like Ireland or Palestine or India. This divergence between Liberal opinion in this country and Congress has been accentuated by the fact that the Congress Party has not yet frankly recognized that. Mr. Gandhi has indeed said "there can be no Swaraj without a settlement with the Moslems," and has used similar expressions on many occasions; but as yet Congress has made no suggestion of any sort or kind which would achieve such a settlement. Democracy means government by consent of the governed, and it is quite clear that democracy based on the principle of majority rule in India would, so far as the one-fourth of the Indian population who are Moslems are concerned, not mean the consent of the governed.
28 There is a further divergence. This war which is now being waged in almost every part of the world is unquestionably a major crisis in the history of the world. That being so, all minor issues ought to take second place. The Parties in this country recognize that and have put aside, at all events for the time being, their controversies in order to unite in common action for the defence of world liberty. This country has, almost with unanimity, come forward in defence of these principles. But if this country, which, after all, had not been directly or immediately attacked by Germany, or if Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, or the United States had abstained from action, as Congress India has abstained, or as Eire has abstained, then indeed the principles of freedom everywhere would have gone under. We are fighting not only for our own liberties but for the liberties of India and of every other country, and those who now stand aloof are doing less than their duty to mankind. I mentioned just now the name of John Stuart Mill, who once wrote this:History is an unremitting conflict between good and evil powers in which whoever does not help the right side is helping the wrong.That is a principle which far surpasses any considerations of mere domestic politics.
It is a pity that the leaders of Congress do not realize that glory is not to be won for the cause of India by abandoning the cause of mankind. They have not merely abstained from action. At first their policy was, if not to support, at all events to put no hindrance in the way of the war effort of this country and its Allies. But that was changed. Deliberately Congress proclaimed a formula which was shouted in the streets and became the slogan of the crowds in many parts of India. This was the formula:It is wrong to help the British war effort with men or money. The only worthy effort is to resist all war with non-violent resistance.With that slogan thousands courted arrest and imprisonment, and some 20,000 were, in fact, convicted in the courts and most sent to short terms of imprisonment. Then, finally, in the name of non-violence, they let loose a movement which was characterized in many places by the utmost violence. Of that the White Paper gives conclusive proof, and gives clear proof also of the complicity of Congress leaders 29 in the disorders. There were disorders in which one thousand people lost their lives and material damage was done to the extent of more than £1,000,000.
Lastly in this movement came Mr. Gandhi's fast, which was an utterly illegitimate method of political controversy, levying blackmail on the best of human emotions—pity and sympathy. If it had been right for Mr. Gandhi to carry on his campaign by such a method as that, then it would be equally right for anyone else who feels deeply in any great cause to do so. If that were to become a method of political agitation, and if it were in any degree successful, it would mean that the management of the world's affairs would be more irrational, confused, and unsuccessful than it is to-day. The only thing creditable to Mr. Gandhi about that fast was the ending of it.
Meanwhile the Cripps Mission had been sent to India. Many of us in this House for two or three years were very active in criticism of the Government with regard to their Indian policy, or lack of policy. We were continually complaining that the Government had taken no initiative and the uniform answer was given from the Government Bench that it was not for the Government to take any initiative, that it was useless to do so, that it was only when the Indian Parties themselves had agreed that any progress could possibly be made. Then suddenly the Government, very wisely, changed their view, accepted all that we had been saying, withdrew all that they had been saying and sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India with very comprehensive and definite proposals. They chose the best spokesman who could be chosen and by general assent he discharged his task admirably. That the proposals were very comprehensive was all the more remarkable since it was done under the Premiership and with the authority of Mr. Churchill, who, in the controversies before 1935, had taken an opposite view. There was a breakdown in the Indian negotiations, but it was on points which would never have given ground for the collapse of those negotiations if there had been any real desire on the part of Congress to arrive at any settlement.
Where there is a will there is a way, and a way would easily have been found if Congress had wished to come to a settlement. But that was a moment 30 when Burma had just been occupied by the Japanese; the Andaman Islands also; there were air-raids on Colombo; the Eighth Army was standing on the defensive and its guns could be heard in Alexandria. The Germans were advancing on Stalingrad and into the Caucasus. It was a year ago to-day, April 6, when the Congress Committee sent to Sir Stafford Cripps a rejection of British proposals. That was the day on which for the first time enemy bombs were falling on the mainland of India, in the coastal towns of the Province of Madras. One can well understand that in the councils of the Congress Party at that moment there were many who would say: "Why should we have a settlement at this moment, and share in responsibility for the conduct of events and accept the invitation to take an active part in the war?" "Britain," they would have said, "is clearly unable to defend India any more than she has been able to defend Malaya and Burma, and if India is to be conquered why antagonize the conquerors? At the best there is likely to be a long war; why should we share responsibility for imposing the hardships, and sacrifices, and restrictions that are inevitable upon the people? Let there be no settlement; let the British go now and leave the consequences to chance." That was the view that was taken.
Mr. Gandhi has made a clear pronouncement as to that. It has been reported in two versions. The White Paper gives one version and Professor Coupland's book gives another, the same in substance but verbally slightly different. I will quote that because it is not exactly the same as the White Paper which your Lordships have. In Professor Coupland's book Mr. Gandhi is quoted as saying on May 24, 1942:Leave India in God's hands, in modern parlance, to anarchy, and that anarchy may lead to internecine warfare for a time, or to unrestricted dacoities. From these a true India will rise in place of the false one we see.That is not democracy. Democracy stands for good government, orderly government, strong government, and so far as British Liberals are concerned we would not consent, in the supposed name of liberty, to Britain marching out of India in order that chaos may rush in, with confusion, riots, civil war, and economic collapse. For that to be the end of 200 years of beneficent, constructive and pacific 31 British activity in India would be an ignominous ending indeed. It would hold this country up to the scorn of our contemporaries and to the just censure of posterity in this country, in India and all over the world.
So the hands of the friends of Indian nationalism in this country are tied by the doings of Congress itself and we must feel, since the Cripps Mission, that it is not the British Government which ought to be the object of our criticism. We may regret minor points, we may regret some action that has been taken in minor matters, we may regret the tone of pronouncements and publications that have come from Downing Street and New Delhi, not always very happily phrased. It is not only important what you say, but also how you say it. This White Paper itself may be very good journalism but it is not so good as a State document. We may urge that there should be a change in the constitutional position of the Viceroy, as I urged in the last debate, for reasons which I then gave and which I will not repeat, a change which would put the Viceroy in the same position as a Governor-General of the Dominions, would make him a true Vice-Roi, and would enable him to appoint some Indian statesman as a Prime Minister and to constitute an Indian Government. But such points could not bring a solution so long as Congress takes the attitude that it does and so long as the Moslem League adheres to its present position. We must await a change in the atmosphere in India, and perhaps there may be brought about by military victories a change in the atmosphere not only in India but everywhere.
Meanwhile, to come to an end, the only new suggestion that one can make—it is not wholly new for others have made it—is that since the active politicians have brought matters to a complete deadlock and that deadlock seems likely to endure, would it not be possible, in order to help some change of atmosphere to take place, to relegate the matter from the active politicians to the realm of the political scientist, to let some studious exploration be made into the possibilities of various forms of Constitution applicable to the conditions of India? The principle of the majority rule having brought us to a dead end, what other possible principles might be ap- 32 plied? Professor Coupland himself is now engaged on the third part of his report which will deal with the constitutional possibilities. Nothing could be better than if Indians themselves, and perhaps on the initiative of the political science departments of the great Indian universities, were to take the initiative here, perhaps with the co-operation, if they so desired, of constitutional authorities of the United States and of this country.
Meantime, this House has no alternative but to support His Majesty's Government here and the Government of India, in the measure which is now before us to-day and any other measures necessitated by the intransigence of the Congress Party. We rejoice in the staunchness of the police, the Civil Service and the troops in India under conditions of great danger and difficulty. We rejoice at the enlistment of 1,500,000 volunteer soldiers in the Indian Army and the other Services. We rejoice, too, in the vast material resources that have been made available for the conduct of the war from India, and we hope for and look forward to the day when, in a Council of Asia, such as was adumbrated in the Prime Minister's great broadcast of a few weeks ago, with a wiser leadership than has been vouchsafed to-day, India may be able to take a full and helpful part in world affairs.
§ LORD BIRDWOOD
My Lords, in the position I hold as father of the Indian Army I would like to convey my most grateful thanks, and those I know of all my brother officers, to the noble Earl for what he has told us of conditions in the Indian Army. About that I had no doubt, because I am convinced that the great traditions of the Indian Army for 150 years will be always maintained throughout the war and for all time to come. I hope I need not apologize for addressing your Lordships to-clay. I do so because it happens that I was born in India, where I followed a father who for some thirty-five years had been in the Indian Civil Service, and left, I believe, as one of the best-loved men India had seen. He followed his father, who was for some time in the Honourable East India Company's service. I myself was fortunate enough to serve almost continuously for forty-six years in India, where I have been followed by both my son and my grandson now serving in my 33 old Indian regiment. I venture to mention these details of family affairs in the hope that your Lordships will believe that after all those years of close connexion with India. I have many good friends there, a great proportion of whom are those Indians with whom I have served all my life.
I had the extraordinary good fortune as a young man to join what I regard as the very finest of Indian Services, a service composed of the yeomen of India. The men in that service are not rich men, they are all poor men, but all with a small stake in the country, owning their horses, their saddlery and their equipment. They were men whom I got to know so well that, when on several occasions I had to leave India on active service, I had no hesitation whatever in leaving my wife and children entirely to their care, knowing they would willingly give their lives for them if necessary. There was a time when I was one of some half dozen British officers with 625 Indian ranks. In those days we lived in the very closest touch with our Indian ranks. I feel, I may say, thankful that it was before the days of the advent of the motor car, because motor cars seem to have brought hustle and bustle into the lives of all of us, so that no one has the time to know his fellow men or to take an interest in their lives in the way we could when we had horses as a link between us. I had the good fortune in those days to traverse India from Chitral to Cape Comorin, and from Lashio, on the Chinese frontier, to Baluchistan. It was impossible not to get to know the people really well, for I marched with my regiment from Central India to the Afghan border, a long trek lasting four months, daily riding with my Indian comrades. We stopped at the villages through which we passed, getting into touch with the village authorities and playing football and cricket with the villagers.
One got to know people better in those days, when one had to water one's horses at the village trough, than in modern days when one fills up at the petrol pump. In later years, when I left my regiment and was a more senior officer, I had the good fortune to visit every year what are known as the Canal Colonies in the Punjab, for which my noble friend Lord Hailey was to a great extent responsible. There great numbers of old soldiers were 34 given Crown lands, generally on what were called horse-breeding terms. I would spend my days riding round renewing acquaintances with old friends and discussing with village elders their various interests, which mostly concerned the state of their crops or the iniquities of Canal officials in refusing, unless they were bribed, to give them the water to which they were entitled. After I had retired to the little one-roomed mud hut in the village which was reserved as a guest house, there would presently come in a furtive figure who would sit beside me, and after looking round to make sure that no one was listening would say, "Sahib, can you get Government to send an English judge in place of the Hindu?" I would go on to the next village and there the request would be whether I could not get an English officer sent in place of a tyrannical Mahomedan.
I think your Lordships will realize that, looking back on that period, one feels that one really did get to know men in that way. Sometimes a sidelight would come when, overhearing a few words of conversation, one was made to realize how much was hidden and how much one did not know. It makes one dread to think of the ignorance of some week-end globe trotter who carne out to India, with of course no knowledge of the language, and who had to place himself more or less at the disposal of an Indian politician in order to get information, some person perhaps out of touch with the tillers of the soil, who form 90 per cent, of the population of India. Those are the real people of India.
Will your Lordships excuse me if I digress for a short time into Indian history? I feel that it is quite impossible otherwise to see how it is that the state and government of India have changed, I feel your Lordships may agree for the better, and that as a result of our rule there has been very great benefit to the people of India. The first date I would mention is a long time ago when Gautama Buddha came on the scene, about 400 B.C., and the next date is 250 B.C. when the Emperor Asoka reigned in Northern India and had his capital at Taxilla, whence he marched to Orissa, where we are told he slew 100,000 and drove back 50,000 prisoners as slaves. We are told that in those days famine was so terrible that children were sold to slavery and the very Brahmans were re- 35 duced to eating dogs. Yet we hear that time talked of as India's halycon days before a white man had set foot on her shores. Then there is a big gap until Mahmud of Ghazni invaded in 999 A.D., coming from Afghanistan and penetrating as far as Somnath, where he destroyed the temple with its great idol said to have been full of precious stones and carried off the gates.
In 1200 the first of the Moguls—Ghengis Khan—invaded from Afghanistan and established an empire. We may say, perhaps, that the Mogul Empire reached its zenith under Akbar in 1556 when the Moguls ruled a country right away from Kabul down to the banks of the Narbada, which flows into the Indian Ocean some hundreds of miles north of Bombay. South of that river the Moguls of course had big territories at Hyderabad, Bijapur and one or two other places. But south of the river generally the Mahrattas held sway. I will not say that they ruled but they swept over the whole country, devastating, destroying and burning everything they possibly could. In 1530 we come to the advent of another people who have very much influenced our British Army, the Sikhs. In 1530 a Hindu Fakir arose who used a cry which had been raised before in Israel: "Ye take too much upon yourselves, ye sons of Levi." And he established the Sikh theocracy. They resented the Brahmins' tyranny and their worship of hundreds of gods. The Sikh Guru Nanak rose and said: "I will have one god and one god only," and him the Sikhs still worship. From that date the Sikhs had most terrible struggles with the Moslems. The Mahomedan rulers fought and fought them but they, like oppressed people generally, persevered and finally they rose to their zenith under Ranjit Singh in 1840. Most unfortunately on Ranjit Singh's death the Sikhs, who were a very turbulent people, could not be restrained any longer. Since those days, however, they have become one of the most trusted, loyal and hard-fighting of the races whom we now employ in the Indian Army.
It is interesting to recall that the Honourable East India Company established a factory at Madras in 1639, to be followed twenty years later by a factory in Bombay. Perhaps it might also be of interest to mention that the island of Bombay, which had come to our Crown 36 in the time of Charles II as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza, was thought of such little value that it was sold to the Honourable East India Company for the enormous sum of £10. There is still one more invasion which took place, that of 1761, when Nadir Shah came down from Persia and got through the Punjab into Delhi, which he destroyed to an enormous extent, murdering thousands of people, and finally carrying off with him to Persia the famous Peacock Throne of Shah Jehan which has never since been seen. That was the final invasion of India. Since then the population of India—and we have had some say in the matter—has not only doubled and trebled, but has doubled and doubled and trebled and trebled itself, and now we have eleven Provinces and no fewer than 560 Indian States—some of them big, some of them very small, some of them merely small landowners' possessions, but of sufficient interest, I think, to warrant people using very large maps when they come to study the Indian question.
I would like to emphasize that our advance in India was never made with any design of conquest whatever. Time after time we were called upon to go to the assistance of people, and often most unwillingly we had to respond to the call for there was no alternative. That was at a time when India was simply a den of robbers. Pindaris and dacoits roved all over the country destroying cities, robbing and murdering all in their way, and no one attempted to stop them, or could stop them. No man in those times could count with certainty on reaping the harvest which he had sown. And yet again that has been referred to by historians as India's golden age! Golden, certainly, within the Emperor's palace, within the palace of Akbar at Agra and of Shah Jehan at Delhi, but at the gates there were the most abject, hopeless squalor, poverty, disease and starvation. Nobody held out a hand to alleviate these conditions. There was absolute and complete indifference to the well-being of the poor and no attempt to feed the starving. We took no man's land except by treaty with Princes, and we exacted no tribute.
It may interest your Lordships to know roughly what the Mogul tribute was in those days. It was this, "A man shall keep for himself of his produce sufficient to feed himself and his family and to pro- 37 vide seed for the next crop. The balance belongs to the State." That was the tribute paid before our arrival in India. Now all over India the cultivator ploughs the land wherever he wishes with the absolute certainty that he will be able to reap the crops which he has sown. Railways, provided mainly through British engineering and with the help of British capital, have spread all over the country. They carry food to any districts threatened with famine, and where famines were constant they are now practically unknown. We have dug 20,000 miles of canals irrigating 30,000,000 acres—four times that of any irrigation possible in the whole of Europe—and incidentally we have built 250,000 schools. Surely that record in itself should be sufficient to justify us, and not only to justify us but to make us feel an enormous pride at the way in which we have administered India. But I feel that the greatest outcome of our humanitarian policy has been the way in which we have looked after those millions of unfortunate people known as Untouchables—inarticulate, illiterate outcast of many classes and creeds. Those people in days gone by were looked after by nobody, but they are looked after by us now in a way never before attempted. Another matter in respect of which we can take credit is the abolition of that appalling performance known as Suttee. That was brought about, I think, when Lord William Bentinck was Governor-General in 1832.
In another place a short time ago, there was a good deal of discussion about the Legislative Assembly but no mention was made of the fact, and I do not know that it is generally understood, that there are three estates—the Council of State, corresponding to your Lordships' House, the Legislative Assembly, corresponding to the House of Commons, and the Chamber of Princes. And we must remember that for over a hundred years we have made definite treaties with the Indian Princes that we will be responsible for their honour and their country and will safeguard them in every possible way we can. These treaties we cannot possibly ignore. I have just mentioned the enormous number of States in India. The largest is Hyderabad, ruled by the Nizam, with a population of 15,000,000 and a revenue of £6,500,000. The Indian States altogether cover 700,000 square miles, with a population of 82,000,000. I think that very often it is not realized what a 38 very large proportion of the people of India are governed by their own Princes, whom we have promised to uphold so long as they behave themselves.
I had the privilege for over five years of being a member of the Council of State. During those years, I am glad to say that I formed the closest relations with members of the Council of State and of the Legislative Assembly. When one got to know them well, one could not help realizing what a deep gulf divided many of them the one from the other. It was evident that large numbers would never be prepared to accept Congress domination. Take the 95,000,000 of Mahomedans. The Mahomedans regard us Christians as Ala Qitab, Followers of of the Book, and as such they are prepared to tolerate us and to regard us in a very different way from the way in which they regard the worshippers of idols, for whom they have no use whatever. Then there are 50,000,000 of the Depressed Classes, those unfortunate people who are also quite unwilling to accept Congress domination unless we can give them absolute and definite guarantees for their safety.
I was not in your Lordships' House when the noble Lord, Lord Wedgwood, who I regret to see is not here to-day, mentioned the fact that out of the 400,000,000 people of India we ought to raise a very much larger Army than we have done. I gather that he is under the impression that we might enlist almost the whole manhood of India in our Armed Forces. I hardly think the noble Lord could have been aware that among those 400,000,000 there are large numbers to whom the bearing of arms and the idea of fighting are loathsome and impossible. There are, for example, the Jains, for whom the killing even of a fly is an absolute sin. There are a great many Brahmins who loathe the idea of being asked to take up arms. It is utterly impossible, at any rate in my opinion, to contemplate arming the whole manhood of India, even if we had the arms available for them. To try to do so would be to sink to the level of the Nazis, which I am sure is the last thing that we would wish to contemplate.
I dare say that your Lordships have often heard, as I have heard, the accusation brought against us in India that our rule there is governed by the three words 39 Divide et impera. I wish that the people who make that accusation would come into the open and give definite examples of where we have shown such an attitude. I can say with absolute honesty and sincerity that on going about the districts, as I have done, with one civil officer after another, I have never found anything approaching that attitude. On the contrary, the civil officers have gone out of their way to urge people to pull together, and have done everything that they possibly could to form a united India. And, of course, there is no doubt whatever of our determination to honour our word and to grant real self-government to India when India is in a position to undertake it, as we hope that she may be at the end of this war, and when we may hope that the many minorities there may feel satisfied that their safety is assured under Congress rule.
We have no need to apologize, however, for our guardianship of that great country; rather must we have feelings of real pride and honour in the fact that for the last hundred years we have safeguarded the interests of the people of India with justice, with real and true sympathy, with care and with honesty. During all that time, in fact, we have been the sole cement which has held together those very divergent people. It would surely be cowardice for us to think of abandoning that position, unless we can feel confident that the poor and humble minorities will 'be safeguarded, as we hope may be the case when Indians can come together and have a Government in which all can participate.
The noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, mentioned Pakistan. Your Lordships probably realize what is meant by that word. The Mahomedans, under the leadership of Mr. Jinnah, a very able and astute politician, have definitely decided that they are not prepared to enter a Government formed of all classes, and they demand that the Mahomedans shall have rule over the five Provinces—the North-West Frontier Province, Baluchistan, Sind, the Punjab and Bengal—which they call Pakistan. In those five Provinces the Mahomedans are in a majority, but in each of those Provinces there are enormous numbers of Hindus, while scattered over the rest of India there are very large numbers of Mahomedans. As an example of what I can see might be the result of 40 the Pakistan policy I will take the Punjab, a Province which I know well, and which was ably governed for many years by my noble friend Lord Hailey. In the Punjab there is a preponderance of Mahomedans, but there are also 6,000,000 Sikhs, the people to whom I referred a short time ago, and with whom we were engaged in our great wars in 1842. The Sikhs are a very hard-fighting, virile, determined, obstreperous people, who are not for one moment going to accept Mahomedan domination, and they have said so.
We can imagine what the state of that country will be if we withdraw—absolute anarchy and chaos, and the most appalling and bloody fighting ever known, with tremendous casualties on every side, because the country is inhabited by very hard-fighting people. I think that there can be no doubt that that is what would happen in the Punjab. One has only to think of what happens now in the Communal riots. Thank God, we do not know in this country what a Communal riot is. In India a Communal riot starts in some ridiculous way—a Hindu will throw a pig into a Mahomedan mosque, or Mahomedans will go past a Hindu temple playing brazen music—and before you know where you are a riot has started, like fire in dry grass. Murders take place, and then the cry is always raised: "Where are the British troops?" That cry is raised even by those who in other circumstances are demanding the withdrawal of British troops from India.
Let me conclude by saying something with which I hope most of your Lordships will agree. I am convinced that the Christian faith and Christian morals are the one and only cement which binds our civilization together; if they go, the world will become a den of thieves. If we go to the origin of this terrible war in which we are now engaged, I believe we may feel that it arises largely from the fact that Nazi Germany dethroned Christ, and in His place set up the man Hitler as their god. I am certain that our repugnance towards Nazi ideology and Nazi methods is entirely shared by people of other faiths who form part of our great Empire. Just as I believe that Christian faith and morals dominate the world, so in this smaller sphere of India and also, shall I say, in the sphere of Palestine, I cannot but feel that it is we of the white race, we Britishers, who have been able to hold 41 together the Mahomedans and the Hindus in India, and the Mahomedans and the Jews in Palestine. I should feel sorry for a man who was responsible for breaking that link, unless he is definitely assured that peace will reign and that the rights of minorities will be properly recognized if and when the British withdraw.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
My Lords, I hope you will allow me to say a very few words, inasmuch as I was one of those who were most opposed to the Government of India Bill in the year 1935. I do not in any way repent of the attitude that some of us then took up, and, if this was the time to do so, I should be prepared to justify it; but I want now to look not to the past but to the present and to the future. As regards the present, I do not think that anything need be added to what has fallen from the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel.
With regard to the future, the position I take it, is this. The principle, if not the phrasing, of the offer made by Sir Stafford Cripps, is still before India. That is, if the Indian Parties will agree, we will sanction their agreement, subject only to safeguards for the protection of the minorities, the necessity for defence, and keeping faith with the Princes If those safeguards are real—and I think we must assume that they will be—then I think we may look forward to doing for India, something on the same lines as what the British North America Act of 1867 has done for Canada, and our efforts, whether positive or negative, will not be in vain.
§ LORD HAILEY
My Lords, I have not the privilege of regarding events in India with the same eyes as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. He has looked at them from the background of a life-long attachment to Liberal principles. I myself have followed a profession where no doubt one might have preferences, and one was said to have prejudices, but one was not allowed to profess political principles. It has perhaps saved me from that particular form of disappointment to which Lord Samuel has given expression. It has saved me from the disappointment of finding that India has departed so far from Liberal principles and so far from the best precepts of democracy.
§ LORD HAILEY
The Congress Party, I beg pardon. Nevertheless, with him I feel, and I think we must all feel, that there has been much that is disappointing, much that is disquieting in the history of India in the last seven years—deeply disappointing and deeply disquieting to those who in 1935 felt that they had embarked on a liberal measure—something far more liberal than had hitherto been envisaged, and something which would set India on the path to a stable form of self-government. It has been mortifying to many of us who have made our own efforts in the cause of self-government for India to find that we have misplaced our confidence in the capacity of Indians to think constructively of their own problems, which are not in truth mainly political but are largely of a social and economic nature. It is mortifying to find that the political institutions which were instituted then have not been devoted to the consideration so much of matters that are vital to the life of the people but have been made the battleground of sectarian differences. All this is of ill omen for the future.
But if on the other hand we look at the more recent events of Indian history as a phase, a chapter in the development of our relations with India, there is this much to be said. Recent events have clarified the position to a very great extent. Like many others I am not particularly enamoured of the form of the White Paper. It does not bear the impress that at one time it was sought to place on the State documents of India—that careful separation of fact from induction, that attempt at full documentation and the like. On the other hand, though I am not enamoured of its form I cannot find the same comfort in it as the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, does. If he will pardon my saying so, it appears to me that in seeking for this balm of comfort he was content to accept it in very homoeopathic doses. He could look with considerable equanimity on the fact that the Congress counted on our possible defeat in India.
§ LORD HAILEY
I think the noble Lord, if I heard him correctly, said that it was natural that they should expect that.
§ LORD HAILEY
If I have misused the word "equanimity" at all events the noble Lord did not express, as I think we should all wish to express, our strongest feelings on the attitude taken by the Congress at a particular moment of crisis in our history. But we can take very little comfort as a matter of fact in discovering that the Congress was opposed to the principles of Fascism. It is not those things by which we wish to judge the attitude of Indian leaders, but by more substantial facts than their profession or non-profession of political principles of that kind. We must judge their action by their attitude towards the war, by the attitude they took when they found that the nations of the world were fighting for the cause of liberty; and whether they professed detestation of Fascism or not must be a matter of comparatively small concern to us.
It seems to me that anyone who looks dispassionately at the White Paper can have no doubt whatever as to certain facts which make clear the attitude of the Congress at the time of the Cripps Mission. There can be no doubt in our minds now that its disinclination to accept the offer made to it then was partly due to the doubt as to whether we could weather through the storm which was breaking on us in the East. And, secondly, it was due to the fact that it realized that the first duty of any Party which joined the National Government would be to take part in the active prosecution of the war. It was divided itself on that issue. Certainly even those who were not professed pacifists had no heart whatever in taking part in the war against Japan; and later—and this is equally clear—the Congress Party was obviously prepared for any form of violence or disorder, and that at a most critical period, if it felt that as a result of such disorder it could establish its own predominance in India. For, mark this, it knew that it could not gain the support of the Moslems. It knew that there were other elements opposed to it also. And therefore the only result of the steps which it contemplated would not be so much the attainment of Indian nationalism but the achievement purely of Congress supremacy. In other words, as Mr. Gandhi said, Congress would take delivery. Subsequent events have shown that it over-calculated its influence, and it is at all events some substantial gain 44 to us to know that it can no longer assume, as it once assumed, the position of sole representative of Indian opinion.
We have to ask ourselves now whether, as a matter of fact, anything is to be gained by further negotiating with Congress. Much has been said in another place—something has been said here this afternoon—as to the necessity of keeping negotiations open, of making it possible for members of Congress to see Mr. Gandhi—in other words, to open again the whole field of negotiation with Congress itself. It is a disquieting question we have to ask ourselves. It must be one that the Government have had to face. However much we may desire to see a National Government founded, however anxious we may be to promote any measure of self-government in India, we have to ask ourselves: What are the dangers that we face if we bring the more prominent members of Congress into a National Government now in view of their record in the last twelve months? I say nothing as to their moral qualities, but it is clear that they are subject to the overriding authority of a body which has little real sense of responsibility for the peace and security of India.
If we brought them into the Government now, we should undoubtedly confuse the minds, if not worse, of that large body of men who are now joining the Army and are prepared to sacrifice their lives in our service. We should betray that large body of civil servants and well-wishers among the public who supported us during the recent disorders. Let me, like others, pay my tribute to these men. I know the troubles, the anxieties, in particular of the Indian civil official, living among his own people, subject to domestic influences and family influences, and to the attacks of his neighbours. I know what strength of mind and resolution it demands on his part to stand up for the cause of law and order. We have to ask ourselves finally whether, in the effort to get rid of what is undoubtedly a political complication, in the effort to solve what is said to be a stalemate, it is necessary to adopt a policy of placating your opponents which may disgust your friends. We have tried our friends greatly in India. We must not press them too far. So we have to ask ourselves that question whether, as a matter of fact, during the war, we can afford to invite Congress to join a National Government. I have little 45 doubt myself on which side the balance of advantage lies.
Does this mean necessarily that we are completely at a standstill? The noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, suggested—and indeed there is some justification for what he suggested—that there has been in some quarters a certain sense of satisfaction at the position at which we have now arrived—we can safely await events; we have drawn the teeth of Congress; we know that the Moslems are as determined as ever not to yield to it; Mr. Gandhi has tried his last weapon. Inconsistent man! How well I remember, years ago, when his own followers indulged in a general campaign of fasting in gaol, he told them that this was not a reasonable method of procedure; it was futile and one which no sensible man should think of applying in modern politics. He was never consistent, and on this occasion he has attempted his last weapon and has failed in its use. It is felt, therefore, by many that we might well stand where we are, and, tactically, it might be, we are well placed. But such a position is dangerous. We are committed beyond any recall to give self-government to India, and it is only by moving forward that we can convince India and the rest of the world of the honesty of the intention that prompted that declaration. We can never convince them if we really stand still.
We have not only our own position in India to consider—we have our own reputation in the world. Many years ago Burke, in speaking on the subject of India, reminded the House of Commons that "the world cannot be indifferent to our fame: we are on a conspicuous stage and the world marks our demeanour." Much was said in another place during the Indian debate—something has been said here to-day—as regards the attitude of America on the Indian question. Since I have had myself some recent experience in dealing with that question in the United States, perhaps your Lordships will pardon me if I digress shortly on that subject. It is necessary for us to ask ourselves how far American opinion on a question like this must be decisive of our own policy or, in other words, if it may be put in the most comprehensive form, how far American opinion must in such a matter be of direct concern to us.
Differences between ourselves and America on any subject are undesirable. 46 We could well wish that we could see eye to eye with them on any question of mutual interest to us. But what has been comprehensively described as "identity of ideological outlook" is not really necessary to the decision of common action or the pursuit of a common line of policy in vital issues. If that was so, we should in the past have had difficulties with some of those Powers with which we have been associated on many vital questions. We should have equal difficulty with some of our partners to-day. On the other hand, it would be unfortunate if any differences of outlook between ourselves and America impaired our co-operation in the war. It would be equally unfortunate if such differences stood in the way of our cooperation in the great adventure of world readjustment that we must undertake, in common with America, when the war is over. I do not maintain that this is the sole criterion that we should apply in judging of the concern we must have for American opinion, but I do say that, in present circumstances, that test must count primarily with us.
What then is American opinion on this subject? As we know, there has been a great deal said (here lately on the subject of Imperialism and the like. It has been one of the most outstanding topics of the day. I would wish to disregard at once anything that may seem to us to have been based only on ignorance, old prejudice, even on a desire to court the support of elements that we know are hostile to us. All that I would wish to disregard, and to consider only what I may describe as the best American opinion, or at all events that part of American opinion which must be most influential in the determination of public policy. There is no doubt that the interest taken in India was largely in the first instance in India as a war question. It was felt that the political deadlock there was undoubtedly prejudicial to our pursuit of the war effort. Again Indian aspirations appealed also to American idealism, a very real and a very genuine force in the United States. I think also that some of the attraction that the India question possessed for United States public opinion was its apparent simplicity; indeed it almost seemed that we ourselves had, by the dispatch of the Cripps Mission, simplified the issues for the United States.
The matter was very frequently put, and from very serious and influential 47 quarters, somewhat in this form: "You have agreed that after the war India shall frame her own Constitution, even though that means her separation from the British Empire—in other words, you have guaranteed her independence. Why, if you have done so, do not you now state that you will retire from India at once immediately after the war? Why don't you say to India that she must resolve her difficulties and her political troubles in her own way? Why do you make the stipulation that before you retire from India and give her her independence, her major Parties must agree on some form of Constitution that will give her a stable Government? The gulf between them is deep, indeed it has by your own showing been one of your great difficulties in the past. Is this policy that you now pursue, this announcement that you cannot retire from India until she has agreed on her own form of Constitution, not made with the sense that the gulf between these Parties is so deep that your stay there must be almost indefinitely prolonged, and is it not possible that the motive which lies behind this is your economic interest in India?" Now these questions may be embarrassing to us. But they are not entirely unreasonable and they are not, I may say, put by people who are either unduly idealistic or unduly prejudiced against us.
It is easy enough to meet the economic issue. Indeed American opinion, as soon as it is informed of the facts, as soon as it knows that we have practically given economic independence to India, with the result that she can raise her own tariffs against us and has done so, with the effect that our exports to her have been reduced in the course of years by at least a half; as soon as it knows that we have practically given India her financial independence in the sense that she is now independent of her foreign loans and is the sole mistress of those great and productive assets which have been due to the loans raised from foreign countries in the past—as soon as the more thinking people in the United States realize that, they are willing to admit that it cannot be the economic interest which underlies the policy we have announced.
Of course our own answer is clear. As the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has indicated, we can have only one attitude on that subject. Our connexion with India has not been unprofitable to us in 48 the past, but we ourselves have given much to her, and perhaps the greatest thing of all is the vision that we have given to her of a nation which, in her own right and by the union of her peoples and by the full development of her resources, can fill a great place in the world. That vision we have given to her and we have a right to say to America that it would ill become our own past record, that we should stand ill with the rest of the world if we were to retire now from India, leaving her to open dissension and to open conflict, and leaving her in a situation which we know must almost indefinitely defer the attainment of the vision which we have put before her. That may be some form of prestige, it may be some form of imperialistic instinct, but it is neither prestige nor imperialism of a type that history is likely to condemn, and certainty it is not one which the idealism of the United States ought to decry at the present moment. But if this is our argument, then I think we owe it to ourselves and to India and to our own position in the world, that we should not avoid taking any measure in our power which would help to confirm confidence in the genuineness of our policy.
After all, it is not a question of carefully calculated tactical dispositions. It is a question of conveying the right psychological impression. What are the steps that have been indicated to us for conveying confidence in the earnestness and the genuineness of our intentions? I feel some delicacy in referring here to a suggestion made in another place, that the Prime Minister himself should make a more definite declaration of our position in regard to India. We understand, and we appreciate in Great Britain, what the Prime Minister has said on the subject. It has been misunderstood and it has been misinterpreted in the United States and it would be simple if he would consent to disabuse people's minds of the false impressions that have been created by what he has said before. But that perhaps is a matter merely of immediate tactics. It is not, of course, in itself any substantial step that can alter the fundamental facts of the situation with which we are dealing. It has been suggested again, it has been suggested more than once in your Lordships' House, that we should complete the Indianization of the Indian Executive Government, and it is unfortunate that 49 the withdrawal of three Indian members of the Executive Council has perhaps served to delay consideration of that step which many of us feel has much to commend it. After all, it is one that must be taken sooner or later; it is one which perhaps were better taken when we still have a strong structure of Government in the country rather than at a subsequent date.
Then there is the further proposal to which the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has referred. It has been strongly supported by an eminent Indian now in this country and closely connected with the counsels of His Majesty's Government. It is that the Indian Government itself should institute an expert committee to consider the constitutional alternatives to the Parliamentary form of Government on which we are now engaged. It has been suggested that these experts should be taken from a number of other countries, including America. That of course does not amount to the intervention for which the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, and some others have asked. In my own experience of dealing with Indians from whom I have sought counsel, I have found very few in favour of the suggestion that the United States or any other country should be asked to intervene in this issue. Certainly that attitude is strongly marked on the part of Moslem representatives. They say frankly that there has been so much Congress propaganda abroad, particularly in the United States, that any intervention on their part would be taken as an anti-Moslem movement. That may or may not be true, but the suggestion that has been made and supported by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, is one purely for a fact-finding Committee dealing with constitutional issues and one which would perhaps give some evidence to the world that the matter is still being pursued, that alternatives are being sought, and that the gateway has not by any means been closed.
Whether or not the Parliamentary form of institutions may prove to be best adapted to India is a very debatable question. When the matter was argued in 1935 there were many who told us that in no circumstances could Parliamentary institutions operate successfully in that country. There are those of us who held that, whatever might be our subsequent experience on that point, yet we felt it was essential that India should pass through the stage of Parliamentary insti- 50 tutions if only as an educational process. It is at all events, I think, our duty to explore the alternatives now, especially if an open and a public exploration in the manner suggested would convey some evidence to people that we were still pursuing the subject of constitutional advance and that the issue was by no means even temporarily closed. We owe it to ourselves that we should keep this matter alive. It is a matter, as I have said, of psychological impression. We are often told that we ourselves are wanting in any form of inspiration about the constitutional position of India, and that we have ourselves no constructive vision. But we have such a vision, and indeed we may well feel that we have made a very definite contribution to the world in our conception of the Commonwealth of Nations, a partnership in liberty, high social ideals and a generous outlook on the affairs of others. But so long as the question of India is unsettled that vision is blurred, and we shall seem to the world to have failed in our loyalty to our own conceptions and to have faltered in the faith that we have professed.
§ LORD SNELL
My Lords, whenever the great question of India comes before your Lordships' House it is always considered with a becoming appreciation both of our individual and of our collective responsibilities. It would be unfortunate if it were not so because we are concerned with a matter which affects the lives of 400,000,000 of our Indian fellow subjects. The discussion which has taken place to-day has shown a unanimous desire for an early and agreed peace between ourselves and the Indian people. Our long and, as I believe, not unfruitful association and our constantly growing affection for them make their welfare our main consideration and aim. I ought to preface what I wish to say by something like a personal avowal. Apart from my duty to try to present the policy of the Government it must be remembered that I have a long personal tradition in this matter. Throughout the whole of my political life I have commended the cause of Indian self-government. It was to serve India that brought me to your Lordships' House. Therefore I hope your Lordships will forgive me if my powers of self-suppression on this occasion are insufficient to prevent my own opinions from appearing in what I have to say.
51 The noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, in what I regarded as a balanced and very sincere and helpful speech was concerned about two questions. He wanted to know why the Viceroy did not allow Mr. Rajagopalachari to see Mr. Gandhi. The position of the Indian Government was that there had been no repudiation of the "do or die" policy, and also that Mr. Gandhi's friends could have seen him during the period he was fasting and that in actual fact Mr. Rajagopalachari did see him. The noble Lord's second point was as to the Viceroy's refusal to receive the deputation in order to discuss the whole matter. The position of the Viceroy was that he had originally agreed to receive the deputation on the explicit understanding that he should receive in advance a copy of its address to which he would reply in writing. It was only later that the deputation indicated their wish for further discussion, to which the Viceroy replied that he must adhere to the condition on which he had agreed to receive the deputation, but asked them to amplify their statement in any way they wished. It was important in his view that there should be no room for misunderstanding as to what took place in conversation or discussion. It seemed also clear to him that they wished to discuss the subject at large and he considered that might be at that stage undesirable.
The point we have to consider is what it is that the Government have really offered to India. In her famous Proclamation in 1858 Queen Victoria said that her Indian subjects should enjoy the prosperity and the social advancement which can only be secured by peace and good government. To-day, eighty-five years later, it is the solemn and settled policy of both His Majesty's Government and the British people to add the words: "self-government" to that declaration. That policy has the support of every political Party. The Party with which I am normally associated has given to that policy its undivided support. In another place, Mr. Arthur Greenwood, on October 8 of last year, said: "So far as the Government's policy with regard to India is concerned, I have said twice in this House that that meets with the approval of the British Labour movement." It is, however, right that I should state that Mr. Greenwood regretted that a break- 52 down of negotiations had been allowed to continue without any effort being made to secure constructive action.
It is perhaps worth while very shortly to give a record of actual events. On August 1, 1941, the Viceroy issued a declaration which stated that as soon as possible after the war India should be taken into free and equal partnership in the British Commonwealth of Nations under a Constitution of the Indians' own devising. He invited the Indian Party leaders to co-operate in the war effort by joining the Viceroy's Executive Council. That offer was rejected, as it seems to us, almost without consideration. Then, last year, the Minister of Aircraft Production went to India to explain and to interpret the Government's policy to the Indian leaders, and to offer a chance to review the whole situation. That, too, was rejected. I will not delay your Lordships by reciting the terms of that offer because they are already known to you. But it is important to ask why this offer was rejected. It is fair to state, I think, that it is believed that a portion of Congress was in favour of acceptance, but there is no escaping from the feeling that the offer was rejected, not because it was unfair or ungenerous or insincere but because of the prevailing conditions of the hour. Let us remember that Rangoon had fallen; Burma was overrun; Indian coastal towns and ports had been bombed: and, therefore, rightly or wrongly, Congress chose to interpret the Cripps Mission as a signal of distress. Mr. Gandhi called the offer a post-dated cheque on a failing bank. He had apparently so misjudged Britain and the Dominions as to believe that, in the face of danger, they would surrender India to Japan. The Working Committee of Congress on July 14 approved a campaign of mass civil disobedience and Mr. Gandhi called for open rebellion. On August 8 the All-India Congress Committee advocated a mass struggle on non-violent lines and on the widest possible scale. We were to leave India to God, and if that was too much we were to leave her to anarchy.
We have had political crises in our own country, and we have shown some temper on those occasions. The Party to which I have belonged has had its losses and its gains in those contests. It has had its moments of exhilaration and its hours of gloom. But it rightly takes pride 53 in the fact that not one drop of blood stains its record. On such occasions we smother our opponents with invective and with a consoling vituperation. Then we try again and we keep on trying until we find a way to a solution. The day after that declaration of the Committee was made, that is to say on August 9, the Congress leaders were arrested. Now again we may ask why was; that resolution passed? At the time Rommel was within fifty miles of Alexandria, and that fact undoubtedly had its influence. Personally, I shall never believe that the passive awaiting and reception of an invader represented the spirit of India then. We know that it does not now for there are 1,500,000 volunteer Indian soldiers. This carefully-timed campaign failed, not only because its leaders were arrested but because other Indian leaders condemned it. Mr. Jinnah declared that an attempt to coerce the British Government to surrender to a Congress Raj would be wrong. Dr. Ambedkar, the leader of the Depressed Classes, said it would be "madness to weaken law and order when the barbarians are at our gate."
What is the present position? It is just this; that the method suggested by the Government has not been accepted. The only possible advantage that has come to India through her decision is that she can still continue to blame this country for her misfortunes. In one of his finer moments Mr. Gandhi said: "We do not seek our independence out of Britain's ruin." To that we reply: "We do not use our present difficult situation as an excuse for refusing or unduly postponing Indian self-government which it is our solemn undertaking to see established at the earliest possible date with the good will of a united India." The Indian people themselves know how difficult and how immense the problem is, and they also know that the difficulties reside in India and not here. They know that because they constantly refuse to face them themselves. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, in what, if he will allow me to say so, was a most excellent, helpful and well-balanced speech, showed the stupendous character of the problem which has to be faced. There are 186,000,000 people who do not accept Congress as representing what they desire, and it is not possible to impose a Constitution on 186,000,000 people who would 54 resent your trying to do so. The Indian people say "You must produce and impose a settlement of our difficulties," but no proposal which has yet been made to them appears to us to have been given generous consideration. We are not without a certain experience in the difficult art of nation-building, and we know that a settlement imposed upon a resentful people would be a dangerous expedient, and one which we must avoid as long as possible.
That completes, I think, the argument on what I may call the factual side of the debate to-day, but there is something to be said on the moral issue involved; and, if I delay your Lordships longer, it is only with the hope that what I may say may be read in India itself. I desire, speaking for myself for a moment, to say that it is neither surprising nor regrettable that the Indian leaders are impatient in this matter. That is really a hopeful sign; it shows the eagerness with which they look forward to the India of their dreams. But let them remember that no great battle has ever been won without dust and heat. The immediate need would appear to be that they should continually reconsider the problem without reference to past experiences, "forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those which are before," that they should without prejudice or passion or recrimination or weakening suspicion agree to examine the question afresh. No nation can give freedom to another. Freedom is something that a nation wins for itselt, not by violence but by reason, and also by patient and creative statesmanship. If it is permissible to quote Goethe in these days, I would say with him, "He only gains his freedom and existence who daily conquers them anew." Freedom is not a fixed stone in the wall of a temple, which once placed there is permanent; it is something that each generation must win for itself by itself, by its own vigilance and its own self-dedication.
After all, the gulf which separates the Indian leaders from each other, and which separates Congress from the Viceroy, is not, in my opinion, unbridgeable; and I ask the Indian people whether it may not be possible that a third party such as our-selves, ardently desiring the good of all, can helpfully contribute its own experience. What is required is that differences should be subordinated, and that we 55 should build on the basis of agreement. I think that it was the late Samuel Barnet who said: ''Blessed are the bridge-builders." If we could get bridge-builders to start their work on this great issue, it might be a blessing not only to India but to ourselves and to the world at large. The old and untrue statement "Divide and rule" should now give place to a new affirmation, "Unite and cooperate." An ancient and very wise Eastern philosopher once said: "The glory of man is not that he has never fallen, but that he has never failed to rise again." If it were my business to criticize the Indian people to-day, I would say that the Indian leaders and Parties appear to have accepted defeat, whereas they should be trying again and again until a way to agreement is found. They have been inspired by the British Parliament and by British institutions. They ardently desire to reproduce those institutions in their own country. I take that as the very greatest compliment that has ever been paid to a governing power.
But democracy in Britain does not depend solely upon the visible machinery by which it is operated; behind the machine is the slowly developed power of putting first things first. Effective participation in responsible public service depends on the willingness and the capacity of both individuals and Parties to subordinate personal and sectional preferences to the wider obligations of the common life. We have achieved some success on those lines in these islands. We have learnt when to put occasion to the test, when to stand together for the common good, when to co-operate and when to compromise. It has not always been easy, and it is not easy always, to sustain that attitude. In our country there are three major political Parties, each with its own principles and prejudices; and, if your Lordships will permit me to say so, for two of those Parties, though we are working for common ends, I have a personal affection which is under the very strictest control. But, as I say, we work together for common ends. I have done and am doing so without sacrificing either my principles or their friendship; nevertheless, it always remains one of the greatest mysteries in the world to me why such otherwise likeable people should have such deplorable and even reprehensible political opinions.
56 I shall get into trouble for this when I sit down. But I would like to ask the Indian people where we should have been in the great crisis of three years ago if we had refused to work with other Parties. We should have been, as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, indicated, not in-a state of liberty but in a servile condition. And we wish Indians to do for the future peace of India what we did for the preservation of our freedom and our ideals. The choice for India is as a free and equal partner in the British Commonwealth of Nations with the opportunity to contribute of her own rich store of thought and wisdom to the wide community of mankind; or, on the other hand, because of the delay of a few short months, to prolong and perhaps intensify a dangerous condition of discord. As I see it, the peace and the welfare of India are worth a little patience. Let the Indian people remember that we, too, have had to tread the pathway on which they are about to travel; we too, have had to bear the hard discipline of delay and frustration because we know that "long is the way and hard that, out of hell, leads up to light." In conclusion, let me say these times are full of peril, but they are also times of opportunity, both for India and for our-selves. We can either loyally fulfil our obligations or basely betray them, but only if our insight and our actions are equal to the hour will they lead us on to fortune.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
My Lords, I beg to move that the Motion which stands in my name on the Paper relating to Bombay be approved.
§ Moved, That this House approves the continuance in force of the Proclamation issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, by the Governor of Bombay on 4th November, 1939, and of his Proclamation varying the same issued on 15th February, 1943, copies of which were presented to this House on 28th November, 1939, and 16th March, 1943, respectively.—(The Earl of Munster.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
My Lords, I beg to move that the Motion which stands in my name relating to the United Provinces be approved.
§ Moved, That this House approves the continuance in force of the Proclamation issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, by the Governor of the United Provinces on 3rd November, 1939, and of his Proclamations varying the same issued on 1st December, 1939, and 12th February, 1943, copies of which were presented to this House on 28th November, 1939, 16th January, 1940, and 10th March, 1943, respectively.—(The Earl of Munster.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
My Lords, I beg to move that the Motion which stands in my name relating to the Central Provinces be approved.
§ Moved, That this House approves the continuance in force of the Proclamation issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, by the Governor of the Central Provinces and Berar on 10th November, 1939, and of his Proclamation varying the same issued on 2nd December, 1939, copies of which were presented to this House on 28th November, 1939, and 16th January, 1940, respectively.—(The Earl of Munster.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
My Lords, I beg to move that the Motion which stands in my name relating to Bihar be approved.
§ Moved, That this House approves the continuance in force of the Proclamation issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, by the Governor of Bihar on 3rd November, 1939, and of his Proclamations varying the same issued on 3rd December, 1939, and 13th February, 1943, copies of which were presented to this House on 28th November, 1939, 16th January, 1940, and 10th March, 1943, respectively—(The Earl of Munster.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.58
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
My Lords, I beg to move that the Motion which stands in my name relating to the North-West Frontier Province be approved.
§ Moved, That this House approves the continuance in force of the Proclamation issued under Section 93 of the Government of India Act, 1935, by the Governor of the North-West Frontier Province on the 10th November, 1939, and of his Proclamation varying the same issued on 2nd December, 1939, copies of which were presented to this House on 28th November, 1939, and 16th January, 1940, respectively.—(The Earl of Munster.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.