Lawrence John Lumley Dundas Zetland.

An Eastern miscellany online

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These were alterations and innovations of im-
portance, and a tug-of-war ensued between the
Government of India and the Home Govern-
ment, the former pulling — somewhat feebly, it
must be admitted — in the direction of evolution
of existing institutions, and the latter in the
direction of revolutionary change. The Govern-
ment of India pulled half-heartedly, and the
pull of Lord Morley being both vigorous and
determined, they found themselves for the most
part pulled over the line. In one or two re-
spects, it is true, they held their own. Election
by means of mixed electoral colleges, suggested
by Lord Morley, failed to stand the test of
criticism, and was discarded, and the clause by

^ In one respect Lord Morley certainly improved upon the scheme
of the Government of India — i.e., in insisting upon a substantial
official majority being maintained upon the Viceroy's Legislative
Council.



INDIA AND POLITICAL REFORM. 205

which power was taken to create Executive
Councils in the provinces, after being excised
by the House of Lords and reinstated by the
House of Commons, was confined in its opera-
tion to the province of Bengal. But with these
exceptions radical influences prevailed, and the
scheme in its final shape presented a very
different appearance to the scheme as originally
drawn up by the Government of India.

At the same time it is noticeable that Lord
Morley repudiated the suggestion that Indian
conditions admit of Parliamentary Government.
He declared, indeed, with some emphasis that
he would have nothing to do with any reform
which would be likely to lead up to the establish-
ment of a Parliamentary system in India ; yet
it would be difficult to deny that nearly every
change which he proposed making in the scheme
submitted to him by the Indian Government
was a change in the direction of such a system.
This, at any rate, was the interpretation placed
upon them by prominent Indians of the Con-
gress school, as witness the statement of Mr
Surendranath Banerjee at the meeting of the
National Congress held at Madras in December
1908 :—

The present constitutional scheme (Lord Morley 's) is
a distinct improvement upon the proposals of last year
(the Government of India's scheme). The Council of



206 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.

notables has disappeared, and very properly too. The
advisory Councils have also disappeared. We have a scheme
which is much more important for what it concedes than
for what it gives up.

And again : —

I will not say that we have got all that we want. We
want absolute control of our own finance and executive
administration. We have got neither ; hut I believe that
these reforms and proposals in their normal development
and in their ultimate evolution will give them both.

It should never be forgotten that the National
Congress which claims to speak for India does
not, as a matter of fact, voice the views of more
than a very minute fraction of the total popu-
lation. Any suggestion to substitute repre-
sentative government for British government
would be regarded by the masses of the popu-
lation — in so far as any such suggestion could
be made intelligible to them — with apprehension
and dislike. " The great mass of the people,"
wrote the Hev. Howard Campbell, a missionary
by profession and a socialist in politics, " far
prefer to be under British officials, and do not
hesitate to protest vigorously against any attempt
to set them aside in favour of their fellow-
countrymen " ; no hastily conceived opinion, but
one given with deliberation after twenty years of
labour among the peoples of India. What these
people desire is not self- government but good



INDIA AND POLITICAL REFORM. 207

government, and they have learned by bitter
experience that it is at the hands of British
officials rather than at the hands of their own
countrymen that the latter is to be obtained.
When it is remembered that according to the
latest census eighty - six per cent of the male
population of India were returned as being illit-
erate, or, in other words, that out of a total
male population of 150,000,000, something like
130,000,000 can neither read nor write, it will
be realised how small is the proportion of the
whole vast population committed to our charge
which is likely to in any way benefit from the
popularisation of the Government, and how
immense the proportion which stands to lose
by it rather than to gain.

Let us now examine briefly such alterations
and innovations made by Lord Morley as found
a place in the scheme in its final shape.



The Appointment of an Indian to the
Viceroy's Council.

The Council of Chiefs proposed by the Govern-
ment of India, which by general admission would
have proved impracticable, was discarded. In
place of this proposal Lord Morley took the
grave step of advising His Majesty to appoint



208 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.

an Indian to the Viceroy's Executive Council.
No suggestion of the kind was to be found in
the proposals of the Government of India them-
selves ; yet Lord Morley announced his intention
of entrusting one of the Portfolios to an Indian,
and precipitately followed up his announcement
by appointing a distinguished member of the
Hindu community.^ It was a step which he
himself described as "an innovation in dark and
obscure o^round," and confidence in the wisdom of
the step which he was taking was not increased
by his attitude towards a not unnatural demand
from the Mohammedan community that in the
event of the appointment of a Hindu, a second
Portfolio should be entrusted to one of their own
creed and race. Accession to such a demand,
he pointed out, would entail the conversion of a
purely English Cabinet into a Cabinet one-third
of whose members would be Indian — a chano-e
of such gravity, and capable of producing such
serious results, that nothing would induce him
to take the responsibility of recommending it.
It is impossible to ignore the grave objections
to which this "tremendous innovation" was open.
It was undoubtedly viewed with intense dislike
by the ruling Chiefs of India, and the feelings
of the teeming millions who look upon the officers

* Mr Sinha, whose appointment, if an Indian was to be appointed
at all, could not, probably, have been bettered.



INDIA AND POLITICAL REFORM. 209

of the Executive Council as the final arbiter of
their destiny were probably those of consternation
and dismay. The views of the Mohammedan
community with regard to it were voiced with
great clarity and force by the Aga Khan, Presi-
dent of the All India Moslem League, who stated
that he felt that " it would have been better to
have had no Indian representative on the Exec-
utive Council than one who would be represent-
ative of only one of the leading communities";
and also by the Right Hon. Syed Ameer Ali,
President of the London branch of the League, in
the course of a speech of great weight at a luncheon
given by the League on February 23, 1909 : —

In regard to the Viceroy's Executive the Mohammedans
think that the introduction of one native alone, however
capable and qualified, who must necessarily belong to
one or the other community, would not, in the absence
of a thorough spirit of compromise among the population
at large, prove satisfactory. It would give rise to frequent
complaints of unfairness and prejudice, and would be detri-
mental to the interests of the State.

In view of weighty opinions such as these, and
further, of the strong objection to the step held
by men like Lord Lansdowne, Lord Curzon, and
Lord Macdonnell, who possess little in common
beyond a great personal knowledge of India, the
defence of his proposal made by Lord Morley is
scarcely convincing. " I do not say that there are

o



210 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.

not some arguments on the other side," he declared,
" but this, at all events, surely is common-sense —
to have in the government of the country a man
who knows the country well, who belongs to the
country, and can give him (the Viceroy) the point
of view of an Indian. Surely that is likely to
prove an enormous advantage." One would imagine
from this that the Viceroy, under existing circum-
stances, is unable to ascertain the " Indian point
of view." Nothing could be further from the
truth. As is perfectly well known, the Viceroy
does now consult Indian opinion, and does now
ask Indian advice upon any matter as to which
he desires such advice, and not the opinion or
the advice of the representatives of one section
of the Indian community only ; and it is, to say
the least of it, surprising to find a Secretary of
State solemnly suggesting that the addition of an
Indian to the Executive Council is going to give
the Viceroy opportunities of hearing the Indian
point of view which he does not possess already.
It is perhaps pertinent to repeat the question
which, in effect, the Mohammedans have asked,
namely, will the appointment of a Hindu to the
Viceroy's Council assist the Viceroy in ascertain-
ing the Mohammedan point of view in matters of
importance to that community ? And vice versa.
Moreover, Lord Morley unconsciously, but effec-
tively, demolished his own argument when express-
ing dissent from the proposal of the Government



INDIA AND POLITICAL REFORM. 211

of India to create Advisory Councils. On this
proposal he wrote : " As in the case of ruling
chiefs or of notables of British India, so here too
[i.e., in the case of Advisory Councils], informal
consultation with the leading men of a locality
would have most or all of the advantages of an
Advisory Council." If " informal consultation "
is capable of giving the head of a Provincial
Government the " Indian point of view " as satis-
factorily as an Advisory Council created for the
purpose, how is it that "informal consultation"
with representatives of different interests is not
capable of giving the Viceroy the "Indian point
of view" as satisfactorily as the inclusion among
the members of his Council of the representative
of one only of the many Indian communities ?
There is, no doubt, a good deal to be said for the
step if it can be shown to be really efficacious in
satisfying Indian sentiment, for sentiment is of
rare value in the East. But the fact that Mr
Sinha, the first — and so far the only — Indian to
occupy the proud position, has already expressed
a desire to be relieved of office at an early date,
would appear to suggest that the honour does not
stand at quite so high a premium as some would
have us believe.-^

^ Since the above words were written Mr Sinha's resignation has
become eflfective, and Mr Syed Ali Imam has been appointed in his
place. Mr Ali Imam is a Mohammedan, though his political views
have not always been in complete harmony with those of the recog-
nised leaders of the Mohammedan community.



212 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.



The Abolition of the Official Majority on
THE Provincial Councils.

As has been already pointed out, the Govern-
ment of India attached no small importance to the
retention of an official majority on the enlarged
Provincial Councils ; and there is no doubt that
their opinion was arrived at as a result of careful
consideration of the experience of the past. It
is well known, to give an instance of the import-
ance of an official majority, that when in 1891
the Government of Bombay introduced a measure
to relieve the cultivators of Gujerat from the
rapacity of the money-lenders, the measure was
bitterly opposed by the non-official members of
the Council, and that without an official majority
it could not have been passed into law. What
happened in 1891 may very well happen again,
and it was with this possibility in mind, no doubt,
that the Government of India stated their view.
It was certainly worded with uncompromising
decision. "It is the desire of the Governor-
General in Council," ran the Government memo-
randum, " that the legislative Councils in India
should now be enlarged to the fullest extent
compatible with the necessary authority of the
Government. In carrying out this system they
consider it essential that the Government should



INDIA AND POLITICAL REFORM. 213

always be able to reckon on a numerical majority,
and that this majority should be strong enough
to be independent of minor fluctuations which
may be caused by the occasional absence of an
oflScial member. The principle of a standing
majority is accepted by the Government as an
entirely legitimate and necessary consequence of
paramount power in India, and as far as they
know it has never been disputed by any section
of Indian opinion that does not dispute the legiti-
macy of the paramount power itself." And again,
" the general principle to be borne in mind is, as
already stated, that the widest representation
should be given to classes, races, and interests
subject to the condition that an official majority
must be maintained." In face of this uncom-
promising expression of opinion on the part of
the Government of India — an opinion which, so
far as can be learned from the published documents,
has never been modified or withdrawn — it is
scarcely to be wondered at if Lord Morley's action
was held to invite criticism. It is not possible
for any one who has not had actual experience
of the working of the councils to express an
opinion of any value ; but it is, perhaps, per-
missible to suggest that as some at least of
the Provincial Governments did not attach great
importance to the retention of an official major-
ity, the Government of India were unduly



214 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.

apprehensive of the possible results of its
abolition.



The Kight of asking Supplementary
Questions.

The Indian official has too much to do to be
able to give time to practising the arts of Parlia-
mentary warfare, and for Lord Morley to have
gone out of his way to expose him to the attack
of the subtle -minded Hindu lawyer appears to
have been quite unnecessary. The point is of no
very great importance, but as an example of the
use to which this weapon may not improbably
be put, reference may be made to the following
passage which appeared in an Indian newspaper
when news of Lord Morley 's proposal reached
that country. " The power to ask supplementary
questions in the hands of a well-informed and
skilled interrogator must result in exposing the
jugglery and fraud of official replies. A skilful
cross-examiner may fairly hope to put an official
member to shame by making him appear either
iofnorant or dishonest."

It would have been interesting to have learned
what was the opinion of the Government of
India upon this beneficent reform which was to
be used for the purpose of " putting their officials
to shame by making them appear either ignorant



INDIA AND POLITICAL REFORM. 215

or dishonest " ; but here again we were not
enlightened.

The Creation of Executive Councils.

In their despatch of October 1908, the Govern-
ment of India threw out the suggestion that
something might eventually have to be done, to
render assistance to the heads of local Govern-
ments in discharging the additional duties which
would not improbably devolve upon them as a
result of the enlargement of the Legislative
Councils and the increase in their powers. " It
may be," they wrote, " that experience will show
the desirability of strengthening the hands of the
Lieutenant-Governors in the larger provinces by
the creation of Executive Councils." But they
added that it would be " premature to discuss
these contingencies until experience has been
gained of the working of the new legislative
bodies. The creation of Councils with executive
functions in provinces in which they do not exist
would be a large departure from the present
system of administration, and is a change that
could only be recommended after the fullest con-
sideration, and after consultation with the heads
of the provinces concerned."

Lord Morley thought otherwise, and the Gov-
ernment of India changed their deliberately ex-



216 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.

pressed opinion with curious suddenness in a
telegram to the Secretary of State, read by him
in the course of* the debate in the House of
Lords, though they still declared themselves to
be opposed to any proposal " to create Councils
in all the larger provinces." On learning of this
change of mind on the part of the Government
of India, opposition to the creation of an Execu-
tive Council in Bengal was withdrawn ; but
mindful of the amenity to pressure which the
Indian Government had already shown. Parlia-
ment decided that the clause should be restricted
in its operation to that province. In so doing,
the House of Lords, who were instrumental in
securing this decision, were no doubt largely
influenced by the precipitate and unseemly hurry
which was being shown with regard to a matter
which, in the opinion of the Government of
India, ought to be considered with the gravest
deliberation. " The change," they had written,
" could only be recommended after the fullest
consideration and after consultation with the
heads of the provinces concerned." In point of
fact, the " heads of the provinces concerned "
were consulted by telegram, and even then not
as to their views on the general question of the
creation of executive Councils, but as to certain
lines of procedure to be followed on the assump-
tion that executive Councils had already been



INDIA AND POLITICAL REFORM. 217

created ; and they were given precisely fourteen
days to deliberate upon the matter and forward
their replies. However suited "hustle" of this
kind may be to the circumstances and habits of
the peoples of the extreme West, it is entirely
out of place in the heart of the East, and that
nothing is likely to be lost by the restraining
influence thus exercised upon those who were so
anxious to force the pace, may be gathered from
the fact that although more than a year has
now elapsed since power was acquired to create
an executive Council in Bengal, in which province
Parliament was led to believe the matter was
one of urgency, no further steps appear to have
been taken. ^



The Position of the Mohammedans.

When attention was first directed towards
schemes for reforming the system of government,
it was at once realised that the position of the
Mohammedan community must receive careful con-
sideration. The Mohammedans in India number
upwards of sixty millions, but their claims to

^ See note on page 197. The delay in creating an Executive
Council in Bengal was due, apparently, to the difficulty experienced
in finding an Indian with the necessary qualifications willing to
accept the office.



218 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.

special consideration rest upon historical and
political grounds as well as upon mere numerical
strength. It was from a Mohammedan sovereign
that the East India Company acquired their
rights in three of the richest provinces of India,
and it was a Mohammedan sovereign whose para-
mount position was recognised by them when they
inscribed his name and insignia upon their coins.
The Mohammedans, in other words, were the
ruling race from whom Mahratta and other Hindu
chiefs were proud to accept their titles. Their
historical importance cannot, indeed, be gainsaid,
and their political importance is equally well
founded. No more loyal community is to be
found in the Empire to-day ; no community in
India has provided more or better fighting
material for the forces of the Crown. But
beyond all this it must always be borne in mind
that the followers of Islam extend far beyond
the confines of the Indian Continent. The
Mohammedans of India " are connected by ties
of religion, tradition, and race with the whole of
Western Asia and Northern Africa, right away
to the Atlantic — countries where the prestige of
England stands high now, and where England is
recognised as the champion of justice and fair-
play." 1

What, then, did they demand ? Their views

1 The Eight Hon. Syed Ameer AH.



INDIA AND POLITICAL REFORM. 219

were clearly stated from the first, and were laid
before the Viceroy by a representative deputa-
tion under the leadership of the Aga Khan.
Their special requests were three in number. In
the first place, they asked that in the event of a
Hindu being given a seat in the Indian Cabinet,
a similar honour should be accorded to a Moham-
medan. In the second place, they demanded
representation on the enlarged Councils in excess
of their mere numerical importance ; and in the
third place, they pointed out that the type of
Mohammedan who would be likely to be elected
by a mixed electorate of Hindus and Moham-
medans would not be one that would command
the confidence of the bulk of the Mohammedan
people, or would represent correctly Mohammedan
interests ; and they asked, therefore, that in any
case in which a Mohammedan was to be elected
to any public body — whether a municipal board,
a rural board, or a legislative council — the elec-
torate should consist solely of Mohammedans.
In other words, what was especially asked for
was a separate register in all cases of election.

The first of these demands was never enter-
tained by the Government ; the fulfilment of the
other two was from the first definitely promised
them ; and a brief consideration of the reasons
for what, on a superficial examination, might
appear to be invidious concessions, should be sufii-



220 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.

cient to convince the impartial that Lord Minto
was entirely justified in assenting to them. The
numerical test as between Mohammedans and
Hindus is not a fair one, for the simple
reason that in the census returns immense
numbers of people are classed as Hindus who,
for electoral purposes, cannot fairly be counted
as Hindus at all. This may be aptly illustrated
by a memorial drawn up by the Dravidians of
Madras and presented to the Government, which
runs as follows: "The differences between the
Hindu and the community of the Memorialists
are so great that it is a deplorable mistake to
regard them as forming a part of the Hindus.
There has been existing for centuries enmity and
hatred between their community and that of the
Hindus." Yet these people, who number some-
thing like one - sixth of the total population of
Madras, are classed as Hindus for census pur-
poses, and would consequently go to swell the
amount of representation to which the Hindus
would be entitled on a numerical basis. The
total number of the so-called " depressed classes "
has been variously estimated at from fifty to
eighty-eight millions, and these, though returned
as Hindus in the census, are for the most part
men whose mere touch is regarded by the high-
caste Hindu as pollution. The fact that there
are parts of India in which it is not uncommon



INDIA AND POLITICAL REFORM. 221

to see a witness of a depressed class in a law-
suit " standing about a hundred yards from the
court so as not to defile the Brahman judge and
pleaders, whilst a row of 'peons, or messengers,
stationed between him and the court, hand on its
questions to him and pass back his replies," ^ is
sufficient to indicate the depth of the gulf which
yawns between the high-caste Hindu and his less
fortunate brother, and to demonstrate the absurd-
ity of the claim of the one to represent the other.
It is obvious, therefore, that as long as these
people are returned as Hindus, the proportionate
representation of Hindus and Mohammedans can-
not be fairly determined on a simple numerical
basis.

The reason for the demand for a separate
Mohammedan register is to be found in the fact
that under a system of mixed electorates the
Mohammedans have failed to secure real or ade-
quate representation. " Under the system of
election hitherto in force," wrote the Govern-
ment of India in their Circular of 1907, "Hindus
largely predominate in all, or almost all, the elec-
torates, with the result that comparatively few
Mohammedan members have been elected " ; and
they were able to point to the case of the United
Provinces, where, in spite of the existence of a
large and important Mohammedan community

1 'Times,' August 13, 1910.



222 AN EASTERN MISCELLANY.

approximating 7,000,000, no single Mohammedan
had ever been elected to the Legislative Council.
Here we have obviously an example of the differ-
ence in conditions which renders a system of
popular election well adapted to the circum-
stances obtaining in a homogeneous western country
like the United Kingdom, wholly unsuitable to
India. The difference between Mohammedan and
Hindu is not merely the difference between, let


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Online LibraryLawrence John Lumley Dundas ZetlandAn Eastern miscellany → online text (page 12 of 24)