J. D. (John David) Rees.

India; the real India (Volume 19) online

. (page 12 of 21)
Online LibraryJ. D. (John David) ReesIndia; the real India (Volume 19) → online text (page 12 of 21)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


convenient to have their Government headquarters
there, instead of at far-away and provincial Dacca.
Others who are in the same position in this behalf
are the landlords, who saw their interests attacked,
and the ascendency of Calcutta and of the Ben-
gali-Hindoo element threatened, by this division of
Bengal. False stories were accordingly circulated
to the effect that the object of the Government was
to raise the taxes, to deport coolies, and such like
rumours. All through the campaign Hindoo school-
boys and students have been urged into the front of
the battle, while the real protagonists have been
hidden away in the background, and many of these

176



UNREST

youths have been ruined for life by being impli-
cated in criminal cases, for which they have to thank
their Babu tutors in the arts of agitation. A cir-
cular was distributed through the agency of the bar
libraries in Eastern Bengal, calling the English
lying cheats, who are ruining our life in the world,
ruining our industries, and importing their own
manufactures, plunder our fields, and throw us into
the jaws of fever, famine, and plague. It is our
blood they are sucking. Shall we bear it any more?
These Feringhees have divided our Golden Bengal
into two parts. Swear in the name of Kali that
we Hindoos and Mussulmans will serve our country
united, and will behead anyone who obstructs."

If the Bengalis had been anxious to prove that
there were good reasons for decentralisation of the
administration, rather than for concentration at
Calcutta, they could not have been more successful
than they have been. Partition of course affects
the ascendency of the educated Bengalis, and there-
fore the interests of the lawyers, schoolmasters,
journalists, and others whose prosperity depends
upon the continued influence of Calcutta over the
whole of Bengal. Partition, moreover, dealt a blow
at the political influence they were acquiring by
simulating and stimulating the sense of national
unity amongst the Hindoo population of the prov-
ince. Bengalis themselves have no particular claim
to be regarded as a nation, and, as shown elsewhere,
they are by no means the most educated people in
India; indeed, the masses of the province are steeped

177



INDIA

in superstition, and the proportion of Bengalis edu-
cated, in the European sense, is admitted to be
about one per cent, of the population. This small
minority, however, has been very effectively occu-
pied in debauching the loyalty of the student class,
prone in every country to revolutionary feelings,
cereus in vitium fleetly and flattered at being treated
as a political power.

In and around Dacca, the capital of the new
province of Eastern Bengal, the centre of a most
prosperous country and of the jute rindustry, there
has been in the past, until the constitution of the
new province, very little, far too little, European
supervision, and the local land-owners, money-lenders,
and their agents have acquired great, nay, excessive
influence. These are the classes known as Babus,
and with their aid it was possible to turn the Sva-
deshi movement into new and extended channels.
Everywhere the people were told that the English
were exploiting and ruining the country. The
national Volunteer Movement, which was originally
a harmless physical exercise and athletic club sort
of association, was, after the model of the "Boxers,"
pressed into the service, and since the Moham-
medans are two-thirds of the population of Eastern
Bengal, and one Mohammedan is equal to at least
three Hindoos in fair fight, and since the former
naturally approve of the elevation into a Lieuten-
ant-Governorship of the province in which they are
in the majority, the national volunteers had a very
moderate success. Nevertheless, they tried to force

178



UNREST

the Mohammedans to join them in the anti-parti-
tion demonstrations, which led to riots at Jamal-
pore, among other places. One Hindoo was shot in
the thigh, and an old man and a boy were beaten
to death while engaged in loot, and a few Hindoo
widows were carried off by Mohammedans, who,
unlike their own males, have no objection to rela-
tions with them. Naturally, this riot, which the
Hindoos and not the Mussulmans provoked, was
exaggerated into a terrible onslaught by the Mus-
sulmans upon the peaceful Hindoo population.

It may fairly be said that the boycott and volun-
teer movements have failed in Eastern Bengal to do
more than produce a feeling of unrest and to under-
mine the discipline of the students' classes, and it is
admitted that the deportation of the two agitators
in the Punjaub produced an immediate effect for
good upon the agitation in this far-distant region.

Nothing is too unlikely for the supporters of the
anti-partition movement to urge. Thus we find Sir
Henry Cotton writing in an English provincial
paper "that the leaders of both sections of the com-
munity in Eastern Bengal are, for the most part,
united in condemning partition, but that the igno-
rant and unruly masses of the Mohammedans have
been roused to acts of violence by fanatic emissaries.
Vain efforts were made to show that certain Moham-
medan leaders did not approve of the partition, but
they completely failed. " Had any disproof of Sir H.
Cotton's allegations been needed, it was afforded by
Rafiuddin Ahmad, President of the Mohammedan

179



INDIA

Conference, held at Lucknow, to adopt the address
to Lord Minto, who wrote to the Times to say that
each member of this deputation was asked his opin-
ion, and that all were unanimous in their approval
of partition, and indeed the Mohammedans had
already, in each province, passed a resolution in
favour of the change a fact well known to Lord
Minto, who, in answering the address, thanked the
Mohammedan community of Eastern Bengal for
their moderation and self-restraint. Mr. Rafiuddin
Ahmad further said, what is notorious to all who
have any acquaintance with the subject, that the
partition agitation is engineered in England, and
kept up in India, owing to the hopes which certain
members of Parliament hold out to ignorant people
in Bengal that Mr. Morley will yield if sufficient
pressure were brought to bear upon him. Thus
Mr. O'Donnell, M.P., for instance, wrote to Mr.
Banner ji:

"Keep on agitating and do so effectively, large
meetings are the most useful, you have the justest of
causes, and I hope you will make your voice heard.
Everything depends on you in India, and remember
a Whig does nothing unless pressed. Have mass
meetings by the dozen in every district, indoor and
out of doors. Morley will yet yield."

Such encouragement produced no little effect, for
Bengalis are notoriously more excitable than the
more staid and phlegmatic followers of the Prophet.
Moreover the Hindooism of Bengal is of a peculiar
type, more morbid and emotional than elsewhere,

180



UNREST

and, as Mr. Oman, a very well-informed and recent
writer, held, more calculated to effeminate the race.
It is among the Bengalis that the most popular wor-
ship is that of Kali, the eponymous heroine of Cal-
cutta, the mother of Bande Mataram, the goddess,
who loves and exacts bloody sacrifices, in our day,
of goats, but before it, of human beings as well as
of animals. It is among the Bengalis that licentious
rites are usual at the Durgapuja festival, and it was
in the temple of Kali at Calcutta that seditious
meetings have of late been held. It is in Bengal
alone that the Kulin Brahmins practise a peculiarly
bad form of polygamy. It would not become a
subject of the British Empire, and I at any rate
would never suggest that we should exact in Bengal
the ethical standard, or rather ideal, which obtains
in Britain, but that this is polygamy in excelsis is
evident from the fact that the partisans of the
Babus have endeavoured in vain to deny its exist-
ence, including an ex-official of the Bengal Gov-
ernment who has thrown in his lot with this
party and actually went so far as to say that
Kulinism was extinct, until his solitary voice was
drowned in a dissenting chorus of unimpeachable
authority.

It is partly owing to this emotional and excitable
temperament that the Bengalis have easily been
induced to imitate and take part in attacks upon
Mohammedans. Nevertheless, the participators in
such disorders have been almost exclusively dwellers
in towns who have come under, or were originally

181



INDIA

under, the influence of the Babu element. The ordi-
nary Bengali villager is a peaceable and estimable
person, and he and his representatives have lost no
opportunity of manifesting their disapproval of the
anti-partition agitation. It is, however, the case
that in the large towns classes which have hitherto
been loyal and orderly in character have been guilty
of riotous conduct. For instance, in the riots which
occurred last year at Calcutta on October 2d and
3d, while the charges against the police were proved
to be grossly exaggerated, the Government of Bengal
discovered the fact that the disturbances took their
origin in the conduct of a usually orderly class of
people, from which it drew the conclusion that they
were the outcome of the writings and speeches of
agitators. The Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Andrew
Fraser, warned the Government of India of much
more serious possibilities, if a naturally turbulent
class followed this example, as a direct outcome of
the persistent campaign on the platform and in the
press, carried on with the object of bringing consti-
tuted authority into contempt, and encouraging
resistance to the police. Few will be of the opinion
that Sir A. Fraser spoke too soon.

In like manner unusual and unfortunate features
distinguished the assaults committed by Hindoos on
Mohammedans at Comilla in March last year, when
the former, incensed by a meeting held by the latter
religionists in support of the partition, attacked the
Nawab of Decca, assaulted his private secretary, and
killed and wounded some of his followers.

182



UNREST

Among the leaders of the anti-British faction are
men of considerable ability for instance, Mr.
Bepin Chandra Pal, who has fully expounded the
gospel of the new movement. He, like the writer
of these pages, was present when the first Congress
met in Madras in 1887, and he again visited the
southern capital last year, and explained that the
British had not kept their promises, and that he had
lost faith in them.

He denounced Mr. Morley's statement that so far
as his imagination reached, so long must the Govern-
ment be personal and absolute, and, unlike some
adherents of the Congress in England, he admitted
that there could be no constitutional agitation in
India. He referred to a full revelation of the policy
of self-government which was proclaimed by Mr.
Dadabhai Naoroji at the Congress of 1906. Good
government, even if the British Government became
good, was no substitute for self-government. India
could not be kept by the sword, the army was not
big enough. It was the natives of India now who
governed India, the British only stood at the top and
took the biggest pay. The British incubus once
removed, prohibitive tariffs would be imposed on
Manchester and Sheffield goods, and English trade
with India would soon be a thing of the past. Eng-
lishmen would be refused admittance to the country,
and British capital would be rejected. If the revo-
lution in India were permitted to be peaceful, the
United States of India would be evolved and the
segis of Britain might be left till a conflict arose. If

183



INDIA

the situation then called for a dictatorship, the Amir
of Afghanistan was a man with a head-piece on his
shoulders, and it was not merely due to love of
gaiety that he made a visit to India. Mr. Naoroji
is claimed, not without reason, as a sharer of these
views, and he is regarded as a Moderate Congress-
man and is one whom Englishmen in high places,
whether wisely or not, go out of their way to honour.
Few who know Orientals will think it is expedient
to kiss the rod, and until India turns Christian, and
probably after, it will be better not to condone openly
avowed disaffection.

Again, Babu Bepin Chandra recommended vast
quasi-religious meetings, at which white goats should
be sacrificed. White goats probably means Euro-
peans. The Government would not prohibit such
assemblies, and the holding of such midnight cere-
monies at regular intervals would have great mean-
ing, and might, like the chupatties, work wonders.
This reference to the mysterious circulation of cakes
just before the Mutiny frightened the Babu, when
he saw it published in his own paper, Bande Mata-
ram, and the newspaper subsequently more or less
repudiated its own report. Babu Bepin has, how-
ever, as a consequence of other proceedings, made
the acquaintance of the inside of a gaol.

Late in 1907, when agitation in Bengal was sub-
siding, came the visit of Mr. Keir Hardie, M.P.,
leader in Parliament of the Labour party, who,
before leaving England, had said: "A lying press
campaign is being waged to bias the people of this

184



UNREST

country against the natives, and make it difficult for
Government to do anything to break down the offi-
cial caste, under which we hold them in the bond-
age of subjection. I may be able to let a light in
upon the dark places of Indian government. Need-
less to add, I go as a warm supporter of the claims of
the people. My time will be brief, but with the aid
of friends I hope to turn it to good account. " Such
words bespeak, perhaps, an impartial attitude and
an open mind. At any rate, Mr. Keir Hardie trav-
elled about Eastern Bengal with Mr. J. Chowdhury,
a Bengali barrister, connected with the Svadeshi
agitation, who explained in the press that he was not
Mr. Hardie's secretary, but served him out of love
and admiration, without any intention of preju-
dicing him against any sect or class he interviewed.
Thus he accused and excused himself, while Mr.
Hardie spoke at Barisal, a local storm centre, and is
reported to have said he would do his best to make
India a self-governing colony like Canada, as what
was good for the Canadians must be good for the
Indians, a statement which defies criticism and, as
Mr. Morley observed, is as reasonable as to hold
that because a fur coat is good to wear in Canada it
is good to wear in India.

Other statements attributed to Mr. Hardie, in
which exceedingly strong language was used against
the Government, he repudiated, and of course his dis-
claimer must be accepted, but the Bengali press de-
scribed his advent as the act of God, in order to aid
in the demolition of a gigantic conspiracy against the

185



INDIA

Hindoos. The cry that Russian methods had been
adopted in Eastern Bengal apparently originated in
the conviction of Surendra Nath Bannerji, who was
fined 400 rupees (26) for breach of the police regu-
lations for the conduct of processions, the Babu
having dexterously persuaded the police to arrest
him, to the profound annoyance of the editor of a
rival Bengali newspaper, which protested that Babu
Bannerji had no right to take selfishly all the glory
to himself. It appeared that Mr. Hardie's known
views on Asiatic labour in British colonies were not
such as to commend him at the outset to the Bengali
Babus, but they overlooked this objection in their
anxiety to aid him upon his impartial quest after
truth. The Labour party, he said, was intensely
anxious to see a much larger share given to the
natives in the government of the country. Mr.
Hardie compared Svadeshi with Sinn Fein, but one
of the Indian weeklies, the Spectator, unkindly
reminded the Bengalis that he had protested in
Parliament that Indian manufacturers should not
have the benefit of long hours of work in addition
to cheap labour.

The Indian papers report that Mr. Hardie cried:
"Bande Maiaram," or "Hail, Kali!" at Barisal,
amid the lusty cheers of his audience. Nothing
could more aptly have illustrated the extraordinary
position in which a stranger is placed who, ignorant
of India, puts himself in the hands of the Babus.
The leader of Labour in England, the denouncer of
Indian labour in the Colonies, cries: "Hail to the

186



UNREST

goddess of destruction! in Bengal!" The utmost
sincerity, the most anxious endeavour to get at the
truth, the sublimest impartiality, would not suffice
to save a man in such a situation.

The Amrita Bazaar Patrika kept records of Mr.
Hardie's words and of his interviews, with the aid
of interpreters belonging to the disaffected faction,
with petty cultivators and shop-keepers. Mr. Hardie
was horrified, it was said, at the contents of a native
hut, and was evidently unaware that the owners of
palaces have as much, or rather as little, furniture in
the rooms in which they actually live in the East.
A low standard of wants does not necessarily evi-
dence poverty. A punkah is a luxury, but it is a
far greater luxury not to need a punkah.

From representative Mohammedans Mr. Hardie
was unable to learn anything, owing to his being
under the guidance of a prominent Calcutta agi-
tator, Mr. J. Chowdhury, and, on his arrival at Cal-
cutta, the editor of The Englishman, Mr. Duchesne,
questioned him upon the reports of The English-
man's correspondent at Barisal, but he gave no
information regarding the Mohammedans he had
interviewed, or the interpreter who had communi-
cated between him and them. He thought, how-
ever, that while Government interpreters often made
mistakes, his own interpreter was exempt from this
failing, and indeed it is probable that the latter
made no mistake in carrying out the duty entrusted
to him. Mr. Hardie seems to have accepted any-
thing the Hindoo agitators told him of the truculent

187



INDIA

and immoral character of Mohammedans as the
truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,
and he prescribed freedom, such as is enjoyed by
Australia and Canada, as the remedy for all the ills
to which Indian flesh is heir.

This interest in India on the part of Labour mem-
bers or Labourites, as they are called in the
Indian press, probably following the analogy of the
familiar anchorite is a new development, and it is
not a little extraordinary to see an honourable mem-
ber of Parliament, with the utmost sincerity and
purity of purpose, dancing to the tune set by the
Congress as the representatives of the Indian upper
and aristocratic classes, and repeated in England at
the expense of landlords, against whom the British
Government had had by repeated enactments to
protect their tenants.



188



CHAPTER VIII

UNREST

IT is now seven years since I urged that the
newspapers published by Indians for Indians,
whether written in English or in the vernacu-
lar languages, deserved more attention than they
received; that they were the sole means whereby the
inhabitants of India learnt what was going on in
their own and in other countries; that to them
exclusively educated Indians owed their news, and
from them they took their opinions. I testified to
the ability of these journals, upon which it was one
of my official duties for many years to report, and
gratefully acknowledged their loyalty during the
dark days of the war in South Africa. The Bengali,
now so vituperative of and hostile to Britain and
British administration, then quoted SkobelefPs state-
ment that "England is a vampire seeking the last
drop of India's blood," and added, "India thinks
otherwise. Russian rule would blast our hopes of
political progress and advancement and destroy
our dreams of self-government." The Amrita Bazaar
Patrika, now another enemy in Bengal, then wrote:
"If the English proposed to leave, the people would
entreat them to remain." The Mirror, however,

189



INDIA

said: "The spirit of rationalism and criticism evoked
by Occidental influences has undermined the founda-
tions of Aryan faith and religion."

That was a true word, and the agitator found out
long ago that contempt for the religion and customs
of his country cut him off from the masses of the
people, and began to mend his ways, so that at
present beef-eating, England-visiting Bengalis are
lecturing on the impurities of sugar and cotton
sizing, as practised by the irreligious Englishmen to
the destruction of the sacred caste of the Hindoo
purchaser.

The Tribune of Lahore, not London, thought seven
years ago that the people of the West had outgrown
Christianity, wanted something more ethereal, more
potent than what was presented by Jesus to half
barbarians like the Jews, and offered a local prophet
to supply the want. The Hindu Patriot at that
time deplored the manner in which legislation affect-
ing the social institutions of the country had been
forced upon an unready and unwilling people, and
instanced the Civil Marriage and Age of Consent
acts. That the Patriot was right I have never
doubted, and alone among those who wrote on the
subject I condemned the latter act in the Nineteenth
Century and predicted that the results would be
disastrous. True, the act has been a dead letter,
but none the less the Hindoos do not forget that at
the instance of a Parsee gentleman, backed by philan-
thropists and others, their British rulers made an
offence of one of their cherished customs, because

190



UNREST

it offended against their own ethical ideals. Indeed,
I firmly believe that the action then taken is one, at
least, of the reasons why the Indian press at the
present day manifests a far less satisfactory, and the
Bengali press a downright seditious and hostile, atti-
tude toward ourselves and our Government in India.

Not that the Indian press as a whole can by any
means be condemned as seditious. Take, for instance,
recently published passages from the Hindu Patriot
and the Hindu Mirror.

The former, the oldest native paper in India, wrote:

"It is self -advertisers who are at the bottom of the
mischief, and these people ought to be kept out of all
serious movements, for then the chances of ugly
incidents occurring would be reduced to a minimum.
It is easy to assume the leadership of men, but not
so the task of rightly leading the people. . . . Only
such men as have been found fit to guide and con-
trol the masses, and whose tried ability and wisdom
are a guarantee that they will not lead their followers
astray and ruin the cause they have taken up, should
be admitted and recognised as leaders." j

The latter joined in condemning the extremists,
and its attitude may be gathered from the following
passage:

"There is nothing in the national awakening of
India to lead one to suppose that it is inconsistent
with the maintenance of British rule. It is British
rule which brought about this awakening, and through
it alone can the ideal of an Indian nation be fulfilled.
For over a century and a half England has been the

191



INDIA

model for India. Japan cannot trust England out
of her place. . . . We want a practical spirit in
all our national work. The extremists think they
can conquer India by obstreperous noisy agitation.
Well, they have not done so yet. . . . Internal
reform and development are the two things essential
to the real growth of Indian nationality."

Indeed, most of the journals in other than Hindoo
hands are well disposed, such as the Parsee papers
of Bombay, the Lahore Observer, and the Moslem
Chronicle, and papers edited by Hindoos cannot at
all be comprehensively classed as disaffected, though
the epithet applies pretty freely in Bengal.

In the Parsee Chronicle the opinion was expressed
that the cardinal mistake of the Government had
been to remain indifferent to sedition until the
bitter seed had borne poisonous fruit, whereas the
application of the ordinary law at an earlier period
would have met the requirements of the case. It
was pointed out that in native states the vernacular
press is only allowed very moderate criticism, in
spite of the theories of liberty and autonomy of
which so much is heard from the agitators in British
India. Even in Baroda, it was suggested, the win-
dows were, with the help of Mr. Dutt, dressed for
advanced Indian and European admiration. Par-
sees were genuinely alarmed for trade lest the
flow of British capital to India should be checked,
and their organ pointed out that in the course of
national evolution social and industrial progress is
the prelude to political rights. The so-called drain,

192




o



UNREST

said the Chronicle, was entirely due to the fact
that rich Indians would not use their own wealth in
productive industries. The English Radical news-


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Online LibraryJ. D. (John David) ReesIndia; the real India (Volume 19) → online text (page 12 of 21)