Lala Lajpat Rai.

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_An Interpretation and a History of the Nationalist Movement
from Within_
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_A Historical Narrative of Britain's Fiscal Policy in India_
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_An Account of its Origins, Doctrines and Activities_
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New York
B. W. Huebsch

Copyright, 1919, by B. W. Huebsch
Printed in U.S.A.



My book, _Young India_, was written during the first year of the war and
was finally revised and sent to the press before the war was two years
old. It concluded with the following observation:

"The Indians are a chivalrous people; they will not disturb
England as long as she is engaged with Germany. The struggle after
the war might, however, be even more bitter and sustained."

The events that have happened since have amply justified the above
conclusion. India not only refrained from disturbing England while she
was engaged in war with Germany, but actively helped in defeating
Germany and winning the war. She raised an army of over a million
combatants and supplied a large number of war workers, and made huge
contributions in money and materials. She denied herself the necessities
of life in order to feed and equip the armies in the field though within
the last months of the war, when scarcity and epidemic overtook her, she
lost six millions of her sons and daughters from one disease
alone - influenza. This was more than chivalry. This was self-effacement
in the interests of an Empire which, in the past, had treated her
children as helots. How much of this effort was voluntary and how much
of it was forced it is difficult to appraise. Great Britain, however,
has unequivocally accepted it as voluntary and has attributed it to
India's satisfaction with her rule. That India was not satisfied with
her rule she has spared no pains to impress upon the British people as
well as the rest of the world. Reading between the lines of the report
of the Secretary of State for India and the Viceroy has established the
fact of that dissatisfaction beyond the possibility of doubt, but if any
doubt still remained it has been dispelled by the writings and
utterances of her representative spokesman in India, in Great Britain
and abroad. The prince and the peasant, the landlord and the ryot, the
professor and the student, the politician and the layman - all have
spoken. They differ in their estimates of the "blessings" of British
rule, they differ in the manner of their profession of loyalty to the
British Empire, they sometimes differ in shaping their schemes for the
future Government of India but they are all agreed:

(1) That the present constitution of the Government of India is
viciously autocratic, bureaucratic, antiquated and unsatisfying.

(2) That India has, in the past, been governed more in the interests of,
and by the British merchant and the British aristocrat than in the
interests of her own peoples.

(3) That the neglect of India's education and industries has been
culpably tragic and

(4) That the only real and effectual remedy is to introduce an element
of responsibility in the Government of India.

In the report of the Secretary of State and the Viceroy, so often quoted
and referred to in these pages, the truth of (1), (3), and (4) is
substantially admitted and point (2) indirectly conceded. In the
following pages an attempt is made to prove this by extracts from the
report itself. Ever since the report was published in July, 1918, India
has been in a state of ferment, - a ferment of enthusiasm and criticism,
of hope and disappointment. While the country has freely acknowledged
the unique value of the report, the politicians have differed in their
estimates of the value of the scheme embodied therein. Yet there is a
complete unanimity on one point, that nothing _less_ than what is
planned in the report will be accepted, even as the first step towards
eventual complete responsible Government. This is the minimum. Even the
ultra-moderates have expressed themselves quite strongly on that point.
Speaking at the Conference of the Moderates held at Bombay on November
1, 1918, the President, Mr. Surendranath Banerjea, is reported to have
said: "our creed is co-operation with the Government wherever
practicable, and opposition to its policy and measures when the supreme
interests of the mother-land require it.... I have a word to say ... to
the British Government. I have a warning note to sound.... If the
enactment of the Reform proposals is unduly postponed, if they are
whittled down _in any way_ ... there will be grave public discontent and
agitation." A little further in the same speech he asked if "by the
unwisdom of our rulers" India was "to be converted into a greater
Ireland." In less than six months from the date of this pronouncement,
the rulers of India gave ample proof of their "unwisdom" by actually
converting India into a "greater Ireland" and in establishing the
absolute correctness of the prognostication made by the present writer
in the concluding sentence of his book _Young India_. The manifesto of
the Moderate Party issued over the signatures of the Moderate leaders
all over the country contained the following warning: "We must equally
protest against every attempt, by whomever made and in whatever manner,
at any mutilation of the Montagu-Chelmsford proposals. We are
constrained to utter a grave warning against the inevitable disastrous
effects of such a grievous mistake on the future relations of the
British Government and the Indian people which will result in discontent
and agitation followed by repression on the one side and suffering on
the other side." Little did they know when they uttered the warning that
repression would come even before the Reform Scheme was discussed in
Parliament and "mutilated" there. British rule in Ireland has been for
the last twenty years a wearisome record of mixed concessions and
coercions. Every time a concession was made it was either preceded or
accompanied by strong doses of coercion. One would have thought that
British statesmen were wiser by their experience of Ireland, but it
seems that they have learnt nothing and that they have no intention of
doing in India anything different from what they have been doing in
Ireland. The history of British statesmanship in relation to Irish
affairs is repeating itself almost item by item in India.

Lord Morley's reforms were both preceded and followed by strong measures
of repression and suppression. As if to prove that British statesmanship
can never in this respect set aside precedent even for once, Mr.
Montagu's proposals have been followed by a measure of coercion unique
even for India. Mr. Montagu's proposals for the reconstruction of
Government in India are yet in the air. They are being criticised and
examined minutely by numerous British agencies both in India and in
England as to how and in what respects they can be made innocuous.
Certain other reforms promised by the report, such as the scheme for
Local Self Government and the policy in relation to the Arms Act, have
already been disposed of in the usual masterly way of giving with one
hand and taking back with the other. Similarly the "great" scheme of
opening the commissioned ranks of the Army to the native Indians has
practically (for the present at least) ended in fiasco. But the policy
underlying the Rowlatt laws has surpassed all. In the chapters of this
book dealing with the Revolutionary movement the reader will find a
genesis of the Rowlatt laws of coercion.

On the sixteenth of January in the _Gazette of India_ was published a
draft of two bills that were proposed to be brought before the
Legislative Council of India (which has a standing majority of
Government officials). These bills were to give effect to the
recommendations of the committee presided over by Mr. Justice Rowlatt of
the High Court of England, for the prevention, detection and punishment
of sedition in India. Their introduction into the Legislative Council
was at once protested against by all classes of Indians with a unanimity
never before witnessed in the history of India. All sections of the
great Indian population from the Prince to the peasant, including all
races, religions, sects, castes, creeds and professions joined in the
protest. Hindus, Mohammedans, Indian Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists,
Parsees - all stood up, to a man, to oppose the measure. All the
political parties, Conservatives, Liberals, Moderates and Extremists
expressed themselves against it. The measure was opposed by all the
non-official Indian members of the Legislative Council. All methods of
agitation were resorted to in order to make the opinion of the country
known to the Government and to warn the latter against the danger of
defying the united will of the people. The press, the pulpit and the
platform all joined in denouncing the measures, meetings of protest were
held in all parts of the country and resolutions wired to the
Government. A few days before the final meeting at which these bills
were to be passed into law a number of prominent citizens, male and
female, pledged themselves to passive resistance in case the measures
were enacted. The passive resistance movement was inaugurated and led by
Mr. M. K. Gandhi, a man of saintly character, universally respected and
revered in India, the same who stood for the Government during the war
and rendered material help in recruiting soldiers, raising loans and
procuring other help for its prosecution. The following is the text of
the pledge that was signed by hundreds and thousands of Indians
belonging to all races and religions and hailing from all parts of the

"Being conscientiously of opinion that the bills known as the
Indian Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill No. 1 of 1919 and No. 2 of
1919 are unjust, subversive of the principle of liberty and
justice and destructive of the elementary rights of individuals on
which the safety of the community as a whole and the State itself
is based, we solemnly affirm that, in the event of these bills
becoming law, we shall refuse civilly to obey these laws and such
other laws as a committee to be hereafter appointed may think fit
and we further affirm that in this struggle we will faithfully
follow truth and refrain from violence of life, person or

The passive resistance movement was not approved by the country as a
whole, and influential voices were raised against it even in its early
stages but the fact that Mr. Gandhi had taken the responsibility of
initiating and leading it and that many women had signed the pledge
should have opened the eyes of the Government as to the intensity of the
feeling behind it. Besides this threat of passive resistance the Indian
members of the Council showed their solid opposition to the measure by
using all the historic obstructive methods so well known to the student
of Parliamentary debates in the House of Commons as associated with the
Irish Nationalist party under the leadership of Parnell. The debates in
the Legislative Council of India do not ordinarily last for more than
one day, consisting, at the most, of eight hours. The debate on this
bill lasted for three days; one sitting lasted "from 11 o'clock in the
morning ... until nearly half past one the following day with
adjournments for luncheon and dinner." The officials were determined to
pass the bill at that sitting and so they refused to rise until the
amendments on the agenda had been disposed of and the bill passed into
law. The non-officials proposed no less than 160 amendments but by the
application of closure methods they were all disposed of in three days
and the bill passed (on the 18th of March). The Government made a few
minor concessions but on the whole the bill remained as it had been
drafted, a monument of Governmental shortsightedness and stupidity. The
consideration of the other bill was postponed. As soon as the news
reached Bombay that the first bill had become law "the market was closed
as a protest" and "posters in English and the vernacular, were displayed
throughout the city urging the non-payment of taxes and asking the
people to resist the order of a tyrannical Government." (London _Times_,
April 2.) Similar manifestations of anger were made throughout the
country and the movement for passive resistance was definitely
inaugurated. It spread like wild fire. Thousands joined it and the
relations between the people and the Government became very strained.
However, no violence was resorted to, nor was any harm done to life and
property. Several members of the Legislative Council resigned their
offices. One of them a Mohammedan leader, wrote the following letter to
His Excellency the Viceroy:

"Your Excellency, the passing of the Rowlatt Bill by the
Government of India and the assent given to it by your Excellency
as Governor-General against the will of the people has severely
shaken the trust reposed by them in British justice. Further, it
has clearly demonstrated the constitution of the Imperial
Legislative Council which is a legislature but in name, a machine
propelled by a foreign executive. Neither the unanimous opinion of
the non-official Indian members, nor the entire public opinion and
feeling outside has met with the least respect. The Government of
India and your Excellency, however, have thought it fit to place
on the statute-book a measure admittedly obnoxious and decidedly
coercive at a time of peace, thereby substituting executive for
judicial discretion. Besides, by passing this Bill, your
Excellency's Government have actively negatived every argument
they advanced but a year ago when they appealed to India for help
at the War Conference, and have ruthlessly trampled upon the
principles for which Great Britain avowedly fought the war.

"The fundamental principles of justice have been uprooted and the
constitutional rights of the people have been violated, at a time
when there is no real danger to the state, by an overfearful and
incompetent bureaucracy which is neither responsible to the
people, nor in touch with real public opinion and their whole plea
is that 'powers when they are assumed will not be abused.'

"I, therefore, as a protest against the passing of the Bill and
the manner in which it was passed, tender my resignation as a
member of the Imperial Legislative Council, for I feel that, under
the prevailing conditions, I can be of no use to my people in the
Council, nor, consistently with one's self respect, is co√ґperation
possible with a Government that shows such utter disregard for the
opinion of the representatives of the people in the Council
Chamber and the feelings and sentiments of the people outside.

"In my opinion, a Government that passes or sanctions such law in
times of peace forfeits its claim to be called a civilized
Government and I still hope that the Secretary of State for India,
Mr. Montagu, will advise his Majesty to signify his disallowance
to this Black Act.

"Yours truly,
"M. A. Jinnah."

The leaders of the passive resistance movement declared 30th March as
"the National protest day." The protest was to be made by all the
traditional methods known to India for ages, viz., by fasting, stopping
business, praying, and meeting in congregations in their respective
places of worship. The only Western method contemplated was passing
resolutions and sending telegrams to the authorities in India and
England. The 30th of March was thus observed as a national protest day
throughout India and there was only one clash between the people and the
Government, viz., at Delhi, the national capital.

Delhi has been the national capital of India from times immemorial. It
was the chief capital city of the Moguls. It has a mixed population of
Hindus and Mohammedans, almost evenly divided. The European population
there is not very large. There is a British garrison stationed in the
Mogul fort. Besides being the capital of British India, Delhi is a very
important trade center and the terminus of several railway lines. All
business was stopped, shops closed and the city gave an appearance of a
general strike. A mass meeting attended by 40,000 people, according to
British estimates, and presided over by a religious ascetic, passed
resolutions of protest and cabled them to the Secretary of State for
India in London. It was at Delhi and on this day as already stated that
the first clash occurred between the authorities and the people. It is
immaterial how it came about but it may be noted that rifles and machine
guns were freely used in dispersing the mobs at the railway station and
other places. According to official estimates fourteen persons were
killed and about sixty wounded. The non-official estimates give larger
figures. Evidently nothing serious happened between March 30th and April
6th which last was observed as a day of mourning throughout British
India from Peshawar to Cape Comorin and from Calcutta to Karachi and
Bombay. People held meetings, made speeches, marched in processions,
took pledges of passive resistance, closed shops, suspended business,
bathed in the sea, joined in prayer and fasted. No violence of any kind
was reported. In the words of a correspondent of the London _Times_,
"the distinguishing feature of many of these demonstrations [meaning
thereby passive resistance demonstrations] made on the 6th of April,
specially at Delhi, Agra, Bombay and Calcutta, is the Hindu and Moslem
fraternization, Hindus being freely admitted to the mosques, on
occasions occupying the Mihrab (the niche indicating the direction of
Mecca)." In a message dated April 7th the same correspondent cabled "an
unprecedented event in the shape of a joint Moslem-Hindu service at the
famous Juma Masjed at Delhi, at which a Hindu[1] delivered a sermon."
The Juma Masjed is one of the jewels of Mogul architecture and probably
the biggest mosque in India.

On April 9th Sir Michael O'Dwyer, the Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab,
dwelt with pride on the fact that the province ruled by him with an iron
hand for the last five years "had raised 360,000 combatants during the
war." "Dealing with the political situation he declared that the
Government of the province was determined that public order which was
maintained during the war, should not be disturbed during peace. Action
had therefore been taken under the Defence Act against certain
individuals who were openly endeavoring to arouse public feeling against
the Government." It was this action, viz., the summary arrest of
leaders at Amritsar and the order of prohibition against Mr. Gandhi's
contemplated visit to the Punjab, that set fire to the accumulated
magazine. It exasperated the people and in a moment of despair the
intense strain of the last few weeks found relief in attacks on
Government buildings and stray persons of European extraction. What
actually happened in different places no one can definitely tell just at
this stage but it is clear that at places so widely distant as Amritsar
and Lahore in the Punjab and Viramgam in the Gujerat (Western
Presidency) railway stations, telegraph offices and some other public
buildings were burned, railway traffic interrupted, tram cars stopped
and some Europeans killed and attacked. At Amritsar three banks were
burnt down and their managers killed. Telegraphing on April 15th and
again on the 16th of April, the correspondent of the London _Times_
remarked that "the Punjab continued to be the principal seat of trouble"
which was probably due to the extremely brutal methods which the Punjab
Government had followed in repressing and suppressing not only the
present 'riots' but also all kinds of political activity in the
preceding six years. It appears that in about a week's time almost the
whole province was ablaze. The Government used machine guns in
dispersing meetings, showered bombs from aeroplanes and declared martial
law in several towns, extended the seditious meetings prevention Act and
other emergency laws in districts, marched flying military columns from
one end to the other, accompanied by travelling courts martial to try
and punish on the spot all arrested for offences committed in connection
with the passive resistence movement. Leaders were arrested and
deported without trial of any kind; papers were suppressed and all kinds
of demonstrations prohibited.

Among the leaders arrested are the names of some of the most
conservative and moderate of the Punjab public men - men whose whole life
is opposed to extremism of any kind. Those men were subjected to various
indignities, handcuffed and marched to jail. They have been held in
ordinary prison cells and all comforts have been denied to them as if
they were criminals. Counsel engaged for them from outside the Province
have been refused admission into the Province. Machine guns and
aeroplanes have been used in dispersing unarmed mobs and crowds were
fired at in many places. At Lahore the General Officer Commanding gave
notice "that unless all the shops were re-opened within 48 hours all
goods in the shops not opened will be sold by public auction." As to the
causes of the upheaval, the Anglo-Indian view is contained in a
telegraphic message to the London _Times_ bearing date April 20th. Below
we give a verbatim copy of this message:


"Bombay, April 20. - We have passed through the most anxious ten
days that India has known for half a century. We have further
anxious days in store, for although in Bombay conditions are
improving and Mr. Gandhi has publicly abandoned the passive
resistance movement, while men of weight are rallying to the
support of the Government, the situation in Northern India is

"We may pause to enquire into this widespread manifestation of
violence. How came it that passive resistance to the Rowlatt
Act - never likely to be applied to the greater part of India,
especially to Bombay, and nominally confined to the sale of
proscribed literature of doubtful legality, which was
waning - suddenly flamed into riot, arson, and murder at Delhi,
Ahmedabad, Viramgam, Amritsar, and other parts of the Punjab on
the prevention of Mr. Gandhi's entry into Delhi? All day on April
11 Bombay stood on the brink of a bloody riot, averted only by the
Governor, Sir George Lloyd's prudent statesmanship and the great
restraint of the police and military in face of grave provocation.

"The movement seems to have been twofold. In part it was the
expression of the prevailing ferment. India is no less affected
than other parts of the world by the social and intellectual
revolution of the war, by expectations based on the destruction of
German materialism and by ambitions for fuller partnership in the
British Empire.


"The disruptive effect of these ideals is accentuated by
prevailing conditions. The prices of food are exceedingly high,
supplies are scanty, while efforts to control prices are hampered
by the profiteering and trade trickery unfortunately never absent
from this country. [As if it was absent from other countries.]

"India having been swept bare of foodstuffs, to meet the
exigencies of the war, the people feel that the home Government is
lukewarm in releasing supplies from outside, and resent
particularly that the Shipping Controller is maintaining high
freights on fat and rice from Burma. These severe sufferings are
superimposed on the devastating influenza and cholera epidemics.
So much for the social and economic situation.

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Online LibraryLala Lajpat RaiThe political future of India → online text (page 1 of 20)