§ As amended, considered.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."
§ Sir J. D. REES
The policy to which this Bill now gives effect has been advocated by the Government of India in proposing it asinvolving one of the most weighty decisions ever made since the establishment of British rule in India,and the Secretary of State, in sanctioning this policy, has described it asa momentous change, an abrupt departure from the traditions of British government, and a complete dislocation of settled official habits.Lord Crewe wrote thathe could not recall in history nor could he picture in any portion of the civilised world, as it now exists, a series of administrative changes of so wide a scope, culminating in the transfer of the main seat of government.536 It seems to me that much point is given to the bitter, sarcastic criticisms which are made in India upon the treatment of Indian affairs in this House by the fact that but for the accident of a printer's error in the Schedule changes which have been described by the Secretary of State and the Viceroy as among the most important that have ever been made in the government of India would have passed through this House uncriticised, unremarked upon, and almost without notice, for the greater part of Friday was occupied with the discussion of details for the most part of a technical and drafting character and hardly of any substance whatsoever. It is very distinctly stated in the despatches relating to these changes that the matters immediately dealt with in the Bill are indissolubly connected with the transfer of the Capital, and, in view of the pains which the Secretary of State has taken to make it clear that these changes depend upon the change of Capital, I presume I shall be in order in running through these despatches and dealing as briefly as possible with the changes dealt with in the Bill. Let me say at the outset that I repudiate entirely the suggestion that the manner in which these great administrative changes were introduced precludes or renders undesirable any discussion in this House, because His Majesty the King, in making the announcement he did, said the action was takenon the advice of our Ministers, tendered after consultation with our Governor-General in Council.The matter, therefore, is as much an official act of the Government as any act which ever came before this House of Commons. I am as conscious as any Member of the great advantages following from the King's visit to India, but I regret that the opportunity was taken to announce by the Sovereign changes which I think so far from meeting with universal consent meet with the strongest disapproval in India among both natives and Europeans. The authority of Sir Courtenay Ilbert will not be repudiated in this House. He says:—The Government of India rests on English Acts of Parliament largely supported by Indian Acts and Regulations.That undoubtedly is the case. Consequently, the matters which lie behind this apparently simple-looking Bill are such as should be commented upon on this occasion, though I do not personally propose to attempt to divide the House. The Government of India, under a power granted to it 537 long ago, under circumstances wholly different from those now obtaining, has taken action on one of the chief points, and has already appointed a Governor in the Council for Bengal. There is little use in attempting to defeat any proposals brought forward by the Government in this House when the Upper House can exercise no other function than that of delaying for a time the operation of hasty and ill-considered legislation. Taking the despatch of the Government of India of 25th August, I would remark that it is characteristically and improperly addressed to the Secretary of State instead of to the Secretary of State in Council, and the correspondence, to my mind, bears incontestable evidence that these despatches have not been through the usual official mill so as to obtain the advantages of official experience of authorities who ordinarily note upon them; indeed, they partake to an unusual extent of the character of personal communication. The transfer of the Capital, I say, is indissolubly linked with the other changes, and the earliest reason given is that the Government of India feels the necessity of withdrawing from a provincial environment. The European commercial community of Calcutta is the least provincial, the most virile, the most independent, and the most broad-minded British community in the whole East, but the Government having made this statement that they wish to withdraw themselves from a provincial environment as a reason for removing to Delhi, proceed to move to the Punjaub, where they will spend both the hot and cold weather instead as previously of the hot weather only. The Government of India having previously spent the greater part of the year in the Punjaub, now says it is bound, lest it should be contaminated by its friends in Bengal, to spend the rest of the year in the Punjaub. Lord Hardinge says the Bengalese are in no way representative of anyone but themselves. I admit that, but no one forgets it so much as Lord Hardinge's Government. I am not a defender of the Bengalese, but they might fairly ask if four months' association with them is objectionable how much more so is a whole year's association with the Punjaubis in the sequestered retreats of the Himalayas?
The Government of India in its despatch foreshadows a future federal system, under which India will consist of a number of administrations, autonomous in provincial affairs, but restricted in regard to matters 538 of Imperial concern. I wish to express my deep regret that the Government of India should have made a statement like that at the present moment, when it is just digesting and experimenting upon the very considerable changes introduced by Lord Morley and Lord Minto. Surely it would have been better to have seen the effect of those changes before stimulating an appetite for more by making such a statement in a despatch to the Secretary of State. This message has been interpreted in India as a pledge that the Governor-General in Council will shortly introduce popular government in each province, and Mr. Gokhale, a prominent Indian leader, says the outlook is most hopeful, and they want young men of means and leisure who will study. They look forward to popular government in every province, composed as far as possible of young students, who, I think, should be kept under discipline. The views I wish to put forward will not be those of inexperienced young students, but those of men of business and experience. I hope schoolboys will be kept in their proper places. Earlier in the Governor-General's despatch the real reason for these far-reaching proposals comes out, and the Viceroy-in-Council discloses a desire to allay the feeling aroused by the Partition of Bengal among the Bengalese. Any such dissatisfaction as did exist is dead, and there is no ground whatever for taking any such action. I could quote innumerable authorities to prove that this statement of the Governor-General in Council is entirely mistaken. Of course, I do not accuse him of any deliberate mis-statement. I would quote Lord Minto, who, I think, is a sufficiently good authority. Before he left India he said:—The agitation against the Partition was stone dead. There was never any genuinely national feeling in the Bengal agitation against Partition and the policy now pursued of unsettling the settled fact of the Partition could not but depreciate the reputation of the British in India.4.0 P.M.
I heartily associate myself with that statement. I deplore that British rule in India should have suffered so severely from the treatment to which this Bill gives legislative effect. I wish to say a word as to Delhi. It is taken for granted that Delhi is a name with which to conjure in India. The Government argues as if it were equally sacred to Hindus and Mahomedans. There could be no greater mistake. The people of India have no sentiment. It is a characteristic of Western people, but there is nothing of that sort in 539 India. Having lived among Indian people for many years, and having studied them carefully, I commit myself deliberately to the statement that all this talk about sentiment in the dispatches amounts to nothing but sound. Let us assume that they have this sentiment—which I am sure they have not—in favour of Delhi. The Government of India assume that the Hindus and Mahomedans will be equally filled with admiration for the reversion to this ancient capital. They cannot have it both ways. It is a place where the Mahomedans beat the Hindus. It is also the place which, from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, has been associated with great massacres of Hindus and Mahomedans alike by foreign invaders. I absolutely deny that Delhi is the great capital city of India. It was not more associated with the short period of the splendour of the Moguls than Agra and Lahore, and Milton, a contemporary of two of the greatest of this line, wrote, in "Paradise Lost," of "Agra and Lahore of great Mogul," saying nothing whatever of Delhi, with which the great Kings Akbar, Jehan Gir, Aurangzeb, and Shah Jehan were certainly no more associated than with Agra. The new capital, was the scene of the long humiliation and final fall of the Moguls. Therefore its history and feeling will be associated with suffering and pain rather than with pride. I speak with some confidence on this point. I was once asked to write a short history of the Mahomedan period, because I was familiar with their records, and I declare that the Government of India are perfectly wrong in assuming that there is any sentimental love for Delhi, even on the side of the Indian Mahomedans.
Lord Crewe actually commits himself to this statement, that "the Mahomedans of Eastern Bengal, in common with others of their faith, will regard with satisfaction the removal of the capital." But these Mahomedans are converted Hindus, and the Moguls and their lieutenants were formerly their cruel oppressors. These despatches are more like an exchange of personal letters between two high officials, and are full or sham history, false sentiment, and historical hysteria. I object to Delhi also on the ground that it is situated in a strategically weak and dangerous situation, for it is on a plain, a thousand miles away from the sea, where our strength lies. To retire from 540 Calcutta to Delhi is like leaving Westminster to go to Winchester. It is very much like going back to the capital of the Heptarchy. Suppose that this centre of administration in India were captured, a vital blow would be dealt at our prestige, whereas, if we were at Calcutta, we should be safe even if a dozen Delhis were captured. I wish, with all respect to the Under-Secretary, to say I deeply deplore that he should have allowed himself to say in a lecture at Cambridge:—Oh, India, how much happier would have been your history if the word 'prestige' had been left out or the English vocabulary!I offered the hon. Gentleman an opportunity of disclaiming this the other day, because I consider it is a sentence which should not have been given utterance to by a British Minister. Calcutta is situated so far inland as to be safe from attack from the sea. It is situated on a river up which nobody but trained pilots can take ships. It is an ideal situation, and to leave it for Delhi is a great mistake.
Were our great soldiers consulted before this step was taken? Were the Chambers of Commerce, as the representatives of commerce who made modern India, consulted? I cannot answer for the soldiers, but I can answer for some of the representatives of commerce. The Undersecretary says that the anticipations of Lord Crewe and Lord Hardinge have been realised. I should like to know what proof he has of that assertion. I admit that in December, 1911, the Radical newspapers rejoiced that Home Rule for India had preceded Home Rule for Ireland—a mischievous and false analogy which I pressed the hon. Gentleman in vain to repudiate on Friday. The majority of the Anglo-Indian newspapers condemn these changes, root and branch, lock, stock and barrel, and such condemnation is not confined to the Anglo-Indian newspapers, for such a paper as the "Amrita Bazaar Patrika" complained last April:—That the repartition of Bengal, instead of easing public feeling in Bengal, had only embittered it. The mischief which certain so-called Bengali leaders and other friends have done Bengal by supporting these changes is simply incalculable.The Government of India admitted that the administrative reforms were chiefly intended to conciliate Bengali sentiment, and this is the result apparently. Lord Crewe described the repartition as—an adequate compensation to Bengali sentiment,yet from one of their own leading newspapers the House learns of the complete 541 failure of this policy. Who then is pleased? Not even will the Government assert that of the Mahomedans or of the unofficial Europeans. The Aga Khan, the Mahomedan leader, loyal to them and to us, was constrained to state, like an honest man, that he did not speak for the Mahomedan community, and that he only expressed his personal view, and we know that the Moslem League, of which he is President, is memorialising the India Office against these changes. There must be something seriously wrong when the Under-Secretary can deliberately decry British prestige and when an Indian newspaper like the "Indian Patriot" can write:—The partition has been modified. The settled fact has been unsettled. The cry for prestige has been hushed. It seems that no one except the King can kill this powerful enemy of the Indian people.It is a singular state of things when a paper, commonly called seditious, and the Under-Secretary of State use almost identical language, and declare that the Government of India have brought things to such a pass, that the name of the Sovereign is actually introduced as killing prestige—the powerful enemy of the Indian people. The conjunction of two such constellations as the Under-Secretary of State for India, and the "Amrita Bazaar Patrika" is of evil omen. Be it observed that while unsettling the settled fact with a mistaken and unrealised idea of satisfying a small and hostile section of Bengalis, the Governor-General in India (Lord Hardinge) was actually constrained to admit that Eastern Bengal and Assam have no doubt benefited greatly by the partition, that is to say, by Lord Curzon's partition, and he used these words:—Lord Curzon's plan effected some beneficial changes in Eastern Bengal and made for the relief of our own overburdened Government.Instead of being placated, Bengal has been embittered by the change, and it is more discontented than ever. The fact is that the sole policy the Government has pursued in India, as in England, has been a policy of surrender to agitation. Whether or not it may be necessary or excusable in England is a point on which I will not express an opinion, although I do hold very strong views on it, but I believe that in India it is absolutely futile and fraught with disaster to our country. Lord Crewe speaks of "the Mahomedans who have been loyal to the British throughout the trouble," and of the Biharis "who did not wish to join the Bengalis in opposition to the Government." The bulk of the 542 Bengalis are thoroughly loyal, which makes it the more deplorable that a disloyal and infinitesimal minority should have their way. Heaven forbid that we should assume that the Bengalis are disloyal. I know that they are not. There is a small vocal majority, powerful with this Government, out of all proportion to its numerical strength, and I think it is deplorable, to the last degree, that our policy should be to sacrifice the friendly many to the unfriendly few.
There is an old proverb that persons who excuse themselves accuse themselves. The Government of India does not omit to negative any presumption that this so-called settlement has been exacted by clamour and agitation. It was exacted by a miserably small and inadequate agitation, and it has satisfied nobody. Lord Hardinge says that the Bengalis are labouring under a "sense of real injustice," whatever that may mean. The words seem to me to import something extremely intangible and indefinite, and probably infinitesimal. Then with regard to this agitation in deference to which these tremendous changes have been made, even the chief spokesman of the anti-partition party admitted in the Legislative Council in 1911 that the chief opponents of partition had agreed to "bury the hatchet." Surely it is proved beyond all contradiction that the Coronation concessions, instead of "satisfying the historic sense of millions and relieving a deeply-felt grievance of many Bengalis" have done no such thing, but have failed all along, and have aroused the greatest possible hostility among the powerful and independent commercial community of Calcutta, as well as the Mahomedans of Eastern Bengal. They have been received by the great bulk of the population with absolute indifference. I do not suppose that more than one-fifth of the Mahomedans have any colourable or conceivable interest in Delhi or any blood-relationship with anybody who ever saw Delhi in their lives. Not one-fifth have any connection with those strangers and invaders of India. The Mahomedans are said to aspire to a full Governorship. Why should they so aspire? It is an absolutely unintelligible thing to me. Is it likely that the Mahomedans of Eastern Bengal, ninety-nine out of a hundred of whom are poor peasants, can care whether there is a bodyguard and a band, which are the only things that mark the difference between a Governor and a, Lieutenant-Governor in Council. But these 543 trivialities are absolutely unworthy of the subject.
As to the creation of a Lieutenant-Governorship of Bihar and Orissa, the objection to that is the great expense upon the Indian taxpayer, otherwise I do not think it is in itself objectionable. The resuscitation of the province of Assam convicts the Government in the eyes of their subjects of levity and vacillation. If Egypt was the gift of the Nile, British India is the gift of British commerce, and Assam of the British planter. The Government now cut off that province, which is the centre of the tea industry, from the greatest tea market in the world, Calcutta, and Assam also loses its port of Chittagong, and becomes merged once more in Bengal. It is wrong that changes of this sort should have been rushed through in complete secrecy, and sprung as a surprise on the country, without consulting the British merchants who, until now, have never been left out when any great changes have been introduced in which they are interested. Calcutta merchants are not merely agents, but also holders of a vast stake in the country and holders of capital invested in the great industrial concerns In India. Then Lord Crewe takes up the parable, and goes one better in historical hysteria than Lord Hardinge. He actually compares Delhi with Rome and Constantinople, a comparison which, to use Ms own words, I believe may be left tothe historic sense of millions.Lord Crewe condemns the present "system" of the Government of Bengal because of the collocation of that Government with the Government of India in Calcutta. Where is the system in that? The mere fact that they sit together on the same soil of Calcutta for four months in the year does not mean any closer connection of the Government of India with Bengal than with any other provincial Government, and there never has been closer connection between the Government of Bengal and the Government of India since Bengal became a separate Government. Mr. Lovat Fraser, an authority on Indian affairs, has aptly pointed out what is a proof of this, that the three Bills upon which the Bengalis have insisted, the Ilbert Bill, the Universities Bill and the Partition, so far from having been forced upon the Government of India, were all three rejected by that Government of India when they and the 544 Bengal Government sat side by side in Calcutta. The fact is that such collocation is dangerous only with a weak Government in office.
The Under-Secretary on Friday with some warmth—natural and, I think, proper in an Under-Secretary—resented the unwillingness on the part of the Noble Lord the Member for Hornsey (Lord Ronaldshay) and myself to accept as sufficient the statement of Lord Crewe to the effect that he was sure that the new Governor of Bengal would spend an appreciable part of the year in the disestablished capital of Dacca. I am not going into that at length, but I wish to say that I implied no disrespect or distrust of Lord Crewe as a gentleman; I have the profoundest respect for him. But the position has somewhat altered in respect of these assurances since the equally strong pledge given by Lord Morley in this House, and in the other House, that this partition should not be undone, has been broken. Therefore I am entitled to assume, and so is the Noble Lord, that in the fell clutch of circumstance the personal pledge given by a particular Minister may be broken, apparently without loss of honour, but not—perhaps the Under-Secretary will excuse me for using a word he so much dislikes—without sad and terrible loss of our prestige and of our character in India. I must say a word as to the cost of these changes. The expense of building the new capital at Delhi will be enormous, as will also be the disestablishment of those magnificent buildings now at Calcutta, the stopping of the works in progress at the now abandoned capital of Dacca, and the creation of a new capital at Patna. The Under-Secretary has informed me that the extra administrative cost will be five and a-half lakhs, or about £36,000 or £37,000. That sum may not be very much, but it is the exact sum paid to all the principal Secretaries of State in the Government. That is the extra amount imposed upon the people of India by these changes. I calculate that the total cost, with interest on capital expended at Delhi, will be no less than £400,000, and if we accept the estimate put forward of £4,000,000 for the new Delhi, it will be reduced to £250,000, which extra charge will be imposed upon the Government of India. The hon. Gentleman has not yet answered my question about the extra cost resulting from the proposed duplication of the Department of Commerce and Industry.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Montagu)
I do not quite understand the hon. Member when he uses the word "duplication."
§ Sir J. D. REES
There is to be duplication of the Director-Generals in particular. There are to be two instead of one. That is the recommendation of the Government of India in a despatch which the hon. Gentleman informed me the Government approved. I disapprove of it, and so do the Chamber of Commerce. That brings me to the case of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce. I beg the indulgence of the House while I deal with the objections raised by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce. They have memorialised the Government of India, objecting altogether to these changes, and an answer was sent which they deemed unsatisfactory. They have returned to the charge, and have asked me to take charge of their case. I may be allowed at the outset to state that these gentlemen are merchants, and are as well-fitted to deal with this matter as any official that ever wrote a minute. Burke said on one occasions that:If there have been pedlars who were statesmen there have been statesmen who were pedlars.I do not apply the expression "pedlars" to our merchantswho are princes and whose traffickers are the honourable of the earth,nor do I apply the expression to the high-contracting parties to the proposals recently adopted. But this is a case which is worthy of the attention of the House of Commons, and no technicalities should be allowed to interfere with such a matter of vital importance. The members of the Chamber of Commerce, who have felt aggrieved by the answer returned by the Government of India to their representations, comprised 130 representatives of nearly ninety firms in Calcutta, including banks, steamship and other companies, the Port Commissioners, and the East India Railway Company. They passed certain resolutions which I hope I may be allowed to read to the House. The first of these resolutions protests against the removal of the Department of Commerce and Industry and the Railway Department to Simla and Delhi, at great distance from all maritime centres of commerce as inimical to railway, trading and financial interests, and directly antagonistic to the promotion of satisfactory relations between the State and the mercantile community. In support of this resolution, it was pointed out that the case of 546 India differs from that of America, Canada, or of Australia, where the Governors are of the same class in colour, creed, and sentiment as the governed, and are recruited from the merchant classes, whereas in India the case is wholly different. An official grows up as an official, and unless he subsequently has some connection with commerce when he is retired, he is likely for the whole of his life to be hidebound by official sentiment. They therefore protest against the establishment of offices far removed from all those influences which should sway the government of India. They remark, in the words of Lord Morley, that the prosperity of India is based upon the maintenance of a firm and just British rule, and that that rule must be autocratic and bureaucratic. Neither Lord Morley nor the Chamber of Commerce have any objection to the word "prestige" as applied to the British Government.
The merchants claim that the supreme Government should reside in that part of India where British industrial enterprise and British population predominate. They protest, and I naturally sympathise with them from all I know, that the Department of Commerce and Industry, posts, telegraphs, customs, railway board, factory, mining, planting and company business and legislation must be carried on in the great commercial centre of Calcutta. I believe it will still come to that, and I believe the Government will have to go back upon this in the end. The Chamber remarks, and very properly, that the want at this moment in India is the attraction of British capital. They say that this operation will be impeded by the new policy. That seems to be proved by the experience with regard to the recent gold loan, 67 per cent. of which was left in the hands of underwriters. India Office finance has always been unpopular in the City, but it never fell so low as that loan did with the investing public. These British merchants also urge that an accredited deputation should be received at Westminster in order to open the eyes of the House of Commons to the real facts. I have seen the Lord Mayor of Dublin with his councillors at the Bar of this House, and it would give me the greatest satisfaction to see the president and members of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce appear at the Bar, to open the eyes of the British House of Commons to the results of these great administrative changes, and to wake up the House and the Government to the real meaning of the facts.
547 The second resolution of the same Gentlemen protests against the proposal to finance the building of the new capital of Delhi partly by loans and partly out of spare revenue. They point out, what is known to the veriest tiro in finance, that the important savings under each head must be applied to the development of that head business or the general reduction of taxation, and the Government are actually proposing to sandwich unproductive Delhi in between productive railway and irrigation works, and the Minister, Sir Guy Fleetwood Wilson, I am sure very much against his own will, has pointed out the admirable elasticity of this proceeding. It is very elastic. It will enable the Government of India to spend vast and indefinite sums upon this new capital out of the grants made for railway and irrigation. Productive works will be starved that the unproductive capital may rise above the swamps and ruins of an ancient city, and this at a time when business in India is at a standstill for want of development of the railways, when the lines require duplication in order to take the 8,500 extra wagons, which are the minimum additions required for the carrying trade, and when the Budget for the present year actually provides for only thirty-four miles of new line. It would be comic if it was not tragic—the great Government of India with 300,000,000 subjects, with 1¾ millions of square miles, with the same number of miles almost of railways as in these small islands, and in the Dominion of Canada, actually budgeting for thirty-four new miles of railway, very much because of the necessity for providing out of savings in current revenue for carrying out this fantastic proposal. And the House must not forget that it is not only Delhi that wants a new capital. Patna has to have a new capital, and at Calcutta and Dacca buildings will be left to fall to ruin which will cost millions to the Indian taxpayer. The Chamber urge that this new capital must be financed from a special loan raised for the purpose. I accept that policy. The Government of India in respect of national debt is better off than any Government of equal importance in the world. It has a very small national debt, and though I protest against these changes which are fantastic and will fail in their object, such as it is, and cause the greatest administrative dislocation as Lord Crewe admits, if they are to be carried out, they should be carried out from special, loans and upon 548 estimates. There is no estimate even yet of the cost of these proceedings. The Railway Commission laid it down that £12,500,000 should be annually allotted for Indian railways, and only £9,000,000 are allotted in all this year, and of that sum sufficient for a paltry extension of thirty-four miles alone of new line is provided.
I now come to the third resolution of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce which is that in the new Council of the Governor in Council, arising directly out of these changes, European commerce should be adequately represented by nine members, two for the general commercial interests, two for tea, and one each for jute, coal, railways, retail trade, and mining. They point out that nearly 40 per cent. of the seaborne trade of India is dealt with by the members of this Bengal Chamber of Commerce, that there are £13,000,000 of capital invested in jute, and that jute and tea between them employ upwards of 750,000 natives of India. They point out that they are entitled to adequate representation, and I heartily agree with them, not according to their numbers, but according to their enterprise and their importance, living as they do amongst a population, 94 per cent. of which is returned in the census as illiterate. It is also pointed out that, of the exports of jute, European shippers treat 94 per cent.; of wheat, Europeans treat 95 per cent., and of the imports they treat: of cotton goods 70 percent., of metals 60 per cent., and of oils 85 per cent.; and the Europeans pay from 65 per cent. to 70 per cent. of all the income tax collected in Calcutta. I instance that as showing how great and incontestable is the claim of these merchants as compared with the claim of the students and schoolboys who Mr. Gokhale is so anxious in future should take the lead under the new Constitution in governing India.
The fourth resolution refers to the policy to which this Bill was intended to give effect. The Bengal Chamber of Commerce claims that these changes so affect Bengal that the continued application to Indian railways of general minima mileage rates will greatly prejudice Calcutta as compared with Bombay, Karachi, and the western coast. I will not describe these matters more particularly because they only ask that the whole subject should be reconsidered' so that it shall not happen in future, as it does at present, that the lines which are-worked at a low cost and take produce to Calcutta are forced to charge a high rate 549 under the minima mileage rates, while lines which are worked at a high cost and take produce to the Western ports gain the advantage because of the cheaper freights they get from the Western coast to Europe and other parts of the world. In this respect the great seaport of Calcutta, which has already been prejudiced to some extent by the application of these rates, will be still more greatly prejudiced now that the capital is moved to Delhi. The subject does not strike hon. Members as it would if we were dealing with it in England, because the great lines in India, to the extent of three-fourths, fourteen-fifteenths, or eighteen-nineteenths, belong to the Government of India, and that Government is bound to see that they are so worked that East and West, Calcutta and Bombay, receive equal and fair consideration
I will not refer to these resolutions at any greater length, but I was absolutely bound to lay each one before the House of Commons. The fact that the railway provision has been restricted is deplorable from any point of view. Hon. Members whose minds are set upon education will readily understand that a railway is the most educative influence in India, that it spreads employment, it spreads education, and it spreads enlightenment, and it is not to be regarded in the light of a mere communication, important as it is in that particular. Chiefly because they are managed by private companies the railways yield a handsome surplus to the taxpayer and so does irrigation; and on this score also it is deplorable, as well as for the reasons I have given, that the Grant should be reduced. I have endeavoured to show how momentous are these administrative changes, how unprecedented is the manner in which they were carried through, how impossible it is to pass them in silence through this House, though it may be undesirable to compromise in the slightest degree the position of the Grown in India by dividing the House. I have tried to show how unsatisfactory and debatable are the positions laid down in the despatches which passed between the Secretary of State and the Governor-General, so unsatisfactory that I cannot believe they went through the usual official mill; and how costly these changes must prove, for the cost has never been estimated. The Indian press in criticising the request that these measures should be passed without regard to an estimate—and I cannot put it higher, and neither could the critics 550 —said that not even the present Chancellor of the Exchequer would have ventured to come to the House of Commons with such a proposal. I cannot put it higher than that. I leave it there. I have tried to show, and have shown distinctly, how dead was the agitation which is accepted as the excuse, how false was the sentiment which weighed with the Government of India, how false is the assumption that the people of India have any sentiment towards Delhi, how aggrieved are the inhabitants in Eastern Bengal, and how utterly the removal to Delhi fails as a compensation to them for the destruction of their own Lieutenant-Governorship of Eastern Bengal; how bad an example to India is the unsettling of the settled fact, the breach of a pledge made over and over again in the eyes of all men in both Houses of Parliament; how strategically unfit Delhi is to be the capital of a great Empire, and how secretly and without advice or discussion these momentous changes were adopted, following the practice of the present Government in great measures in this country.
It may be said that nothing can now be done, and there is no use indulging in vain lament, but I think a great deal can be done. If once public opinion in the House of Commons and the country is really stirred, the Government of India may be forced to use the new administrative capital of Delhi as a mere standing camp, which is what it was in the days of the great Moguls. They did build great mosques and great temples and beautiful tombs, but they did not waste money in dotting capitals about the country with ugly official offices and such like. I hope the Government of India may yet be forced by public opinion to make the capital of Delhi a mere standing official camp, and I hope the Department, against the removal of which the Bengal Chamber of Commerce protests with such force, will be left at Calcutta, and not removed—the Department of Industry and Commerce—from all connection with commerce and industry. I trust the Government of India will be forced to finance their new capital by loans raised for the purpose, and not by sums filched from railway development or from much-needed irrigation. I hope that the representation which European commerce claims, and rightly claims, upon the Bengal Council will be conceded and that the uniform minima railway rates will be reconsidered in order that the great capital of Calcutta, for that it will always be in fact, may 551 not be prejudiced in comparison with its rivals. I hope due force will be given at the eleventh hour, or at a quarter to twelve, to the reasonable and right representation of British interests in India, and that the error of attaching undue importance to the discontented element, so small and so unimportant, in Bengal, will be avoided in future, and that the old order of consulting those who are most concerned and those upon whose loyalty the Government of India will have to fall back in the day of trouble will be reverted to, and this new policy, fantastic, expensive, unnecessary, and already a failure, will be as far as possible abandoned.
EARL of RONALDSHAY
I find myself in agreement with many of the criticisms which the hon. Gentleman has made, and I shall have to add one or two to them. I should like to make it quite clear that I am under no delusion as to the character of the discussion which is possible on the Third Reading of this Bill. It can only be of an academic nature. It can have no influence upon the fortunes of the Bill, or upon the policy which is embodied in the Bill, for the very good reason that the policy is already in operation, and that the Bill has, to all intents and purposes, already received the Royal Assent. The Government resent the suggestion that they have not acted altogether constitutionally in this matter. Surely the conditions under which we are asked to deal with this Bill are a sufficient answer to that. Suppose that a Motion for the rejection of the Bill on the Third Reading was carried, we should find ourselves with a Bill to which the Royal Assent had been given, but from which the assent of Parliament had been withheld. It is surely obvious that if the Government had acted in strict accordance with the usual practice and custom of the Constitution no such situation as that could possibly have arisen. Our discussion, therefore, can only be of an academic nature, and can have no effect on the changes announced at the Delhi Durbar, I lay stress upon that because I am most anxious to make it clear that, so far as I am concerned, I loyally accept the situation in which we find ourselves. Parliament, which is responsible for the Government of India, has in this case been relieved of its responsibility and deprived of its control. I loyally accept the situation for one reason, and one reason only, and that is, I realise the tremendous 552 sanctity which attaches to any decision announced amid circumstances of great solemnity and great significance by the King-Emperor himself. I appreciate the tremendous sanctity which attaches to a decision of that kind in a country like the Indian Empire. It is simply because the announcement was made by the King-Emperor himself that criticisms of the changes brought about, which would unquestionably under other circumstances have arisen, have for the most part been hushed, and that where they have been made they have been characterised by great dignity and restraint. Let us pay our tribute of admiration to Europeans and Indians for the restraint they have shown, but let us not be led by it into the false assumption that, because they have not loudly and widely criticised these proposals therefore the proposals are not viewed in many quarters with serious apprehension, and even with alarm and dismay.
It seemed to me, when I read the speech delivered by the Under-Secretary on the Second Reading of this Bill, that he had given the House the wholly incorrect impression that these changes had been received in India by all Indians as tremendous improvements. If the hon. Member had had the opportunity of accompanying me to India during the past winter and hearing, at first hand, the views of representative Mahomedans with regard to these changes, he would have had a very different story to tell. Nor indeed is it among Mahomedans alone that apprehension and dissatisfaction have had expression as to the new policy. The Indian National Congress, which is the organisation par excellence of the Bengali Hindus, met at Calcutta on 26th December last, and was presided over by Bhupendra Nath Basu, who used these words:—I am aware blank despair has spread in many of our humble homes, if not in the palaces of the rich. We in Bengal shall lose indeed, but let us have faith in ourselves and our destiny. The loss will not be only ours. The isolation of the Government of India, apart from any centre of public opinion, surrounded only by pomp and ceremony, will be a loss to all India. It will not conduce to the strength or popularity of the Government which will come to be regarded an a secret conclave, screened by long-stretching partitions of time and space, and issuing its edicts through the cold pages of lifeless official publications.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
May I ask whether the Noble Lord suggests that Bhupendra Nath Basu is opposed to this policy as a whole?
EARL of RONALDSHAY
I do not pretend that he is opposed to the repartition 553 of Bengal, but what I do say is that for a man of his standing and known views to use these words in regard to the movement of the capital to Delhi is sufficient to show that even among the Bengali Hindus themselves there is considerable apprehension as to the future of this new policy. More recently a very prominent Bengali newspaper used words very much to the same effect. It stated that the mischief which certain Bengali leaders and their English friends had done to Bengal by supporting these changes was simply incalculable. That is the expression of opinion by a Hindu newspaper, and it conveys the sentiments which are entertained by a large portion of the Bengali Hindus themselves. I do not wish to dwell on that aspect of the question, and I have referred to it only because it seems to me that we should not allow our very natural inclinations to blind us to the realities of the situation, however unpalatable these realities may be.
While I accept these changes as settled and inviolable facts, I do not think, nevertheless, we ought to feel ourselves bound to consider that we have not been provided with some lessons which we may usefully bear in mind in our dealings with India in future. They suggest these three main conclusions: In the first place, it is neither wise nor expedient to show distrust of your high executive officers in the Indian Civil Service; secondly, the Government ought at all times to be particularly careful to avoid creating the impression that they will give way to clamour and agitation; and thirdly, the Government should avoid taking any action which has the effect of shaking the faith of those they govern in the inviolability of their pledged word. As to the first of these conclusions, I would point out that the effect of showing distrust of the Indian Civil Service tends to alienate their sympathies. Let it never be forgotten that it is upon the whole-hearted co-operation of the Civil Service that the success of your policy in India must inevitably depend. If you show distrust you deprive yourself of the expert knowledge which they, and they alone, are able to give, and which you ought to have before you embark upon any large changes of policy. Let me give an example of what I mean. The Government of India declared in a despatch that—the salubrity of Delhi could be ensured at a reasonable cost.How did they know that? Did they consuls their expert medical advisers? 554 They did nothing of the sort. As a matter of fact, the death-rate of Delhi is the highest of any district in the Punjab. The malaria season extends over two months, covering the period during which the Government will be in residence at the new capital. In 1909—the last year for which I have seen official figures—the death-rate at Delhi from malarial fever was the highest but one in any district in the Punjab, amounting to 28 per thousand. When these facts are borne in mind surely it was somewhat rash for the Government of India to declare in an official dispatch, without first consulting their expert advisers, that the salubrity of Delhi could be secured at a reasonable cost. I could give many other examples of this extraordinary refusal on the part of the Government of India to consult their advisers, and their executive officers. The Lieutenant-Governor of Assam, the man primarily concerned in the changes about to be effected, the man whose province is going to be blotted out of the map, was not informed of the policy before it was announced at Delhi. Surely that is not treating a high officer with courtesy or even ordinary decency.
Let me give the House another instance. The President of the Durbar Committee—a Committee that was appointed for the special purpose of carrying out the arrangements in connection with the Durbar—was not even informed that His Majesty the King was going to lay the foundation stone of the new city in the course of the Durbar ceremonies. I am afraid the result of this has been that His Majesty has been made to lay the foundation stone where it is hardly possible to build the new city. My hon. Friend reminds me that the Committee sent out from this country to decide upon the new Imperial City in India has decided that it is quite impossible to build it on that spot. I am also told, although I do not vouch for the accuracy of the statement, that in the hurry of the moment an old tombstone was made use of for the purpose of His Majesty in laying the foundation-stone of the Imperial city. Surely this is secrecy run mad? I say that when changes of this kind are to be brought about in India it is indeed reasonable and wise to consult those who have had long residence in the country, and who are thus able to supply that expert knowledge and information which the Government of India themselves cannot in the very nature of things possess. As to my second conclusion, I do not think the Under-Secretary would deny 555 that there is a very widespread feeling In India that the repartition of Bengal has been brought about as the result of clamour and agitation on the part of the Bengali people. That, at any rate, is the impression I formed from discussing the matter with a great many people in India, Europeans and Indians, during the months of the past winter. But I also have plenty of documentary evidence in support of that contention. The planters of Assam, for instance, in a memorial to the Government declared that it was a regrettable surrender to agitation. Then again, the Mahomedans in their annual congress held at Calcutta under the presidency of Sir Salimulah Khan, Nawab of Dacca, condemned these changes on the same grounds. The President of the Conference said:—The annulment of the partition had all the appearance of a real concession to the clamours of an utterly seditious agitation. It has appeared to put a premium on sedition and disloyalty, and created an impression in the minds of the irresponsible masses, that even the Government can be brought down on its knees by a reckless and persistent defiance of constituted authority.5.0 P.M.
I may be permitted to give one more example, from "The Comrad," one of the better class and more important of the native newspapers published in Calcutta.After all,said the writer,the test of these things is not the conviction of the Government but what the people themselves believe, and if the Government wish to verify their own opinions and beliefs, they have not far to go. Every schoolboy knows that it is clamour and agitation that have exacted the modification of the partition. It is impossible to convince any sane Indian to-day—I ask the hon. Member to listen to these words:—that clamour and agitation do not pay in Indian politics. Some are even inclined to think that agitation gains rather than loses if it has a slight flavour of force.I quote those words to show that the impression does exist that the Government have been brought to their knees by clamour and agitation. It is a most unfortunate thing that they should in the course of their dispatch have done so much to give rise to that view. I do not think necessarily that the Government of India have given way to this clamour and agitation; but I do say that by the wording of that dispatch they are responsible for creating an impression in India that they have so given way. If the hon. Member will turn to paragraph 12 he will see the Government state they would not carry 556 through the policy of the revocation of the partition upon its own merits. In paragraph 7 they say quite frankly that that part of their policy is designed especially to reconcile Bengali Hindus to the loss which they are likely to feel by the removal of the capital. Again in paragraph 9 of the dispatch, they say:—Various circumstances have forced upon us the bitterness of feeling engendered by the Partition of Bengal is very widespread and unyielding.The inevitable result of embodying an expression of the kind in a dispatch in which you are defending your policy is to create in the minds of the people who read that dispatch the feeling that you have been unduly influenced by past and prospective agitation on the part of the Bengalis. It is all the more unfortunate that belief in the efficacy of agitation should be revived at the present time by reason of the fact that that belief had at last, I believe, been effectively destroyed by the firmness of Lord Morley during his time as Secretary of State for India. I would like to ask the Under-Secretary what are those various circumstances which were referred to by the Government as showing that the feeling of bitterness was very widespread? I have been able to find none of these circumstances. Indeed, I have here a copy of the last administrative Report for Bengal, and I would commend its words to the hon. Gentleman. It states:—Boycott Day in August, 1910, passed off without any demonstration in any part of the province, while the Partition Day in October, 1919, was celebrated with the usual demonstration in Calcutta, but the assembled crowds took very little active interest in the speeches delivered by the popular leaders, while little or no enthusiasm was exhibited in the mofussil. The movement was losing its hold upon popular imagination.That does not look as if these various circumstances of which the Government of India speak ought to have forced upon them the conviction that bitterness over the partition is very widespread. As my hon. Friend has already reminded the House, Lord Minto—who must have spoken with knowledge on this point, as the agitation, so far as it took place at all, took place through the whole of his Vice-royalty—said that when he left India, the agitation against partition was stone dead. I am afraid that the dispatch of the Government of India is responsible for this impression, and I entirely agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Melton (Colonel Yate) that it would have been very much better if this dispatch had never seen the light of day at all. The inevitable result of creating this impression is that you invite further agitation. Ever since 557 that dispatch saw the light of day, whenever the Government of India announced some proposal which was not wholly satisfactory to the Bengali leaders, it was immediately met with agitation. The Government of India proposed to establish a University at Dacca, and the Bengali leaders protested against it. The Government of India proposed to appoint a special education officer for Eastern Bengal, and the Bengali leaders agitated against it. And the same thing happened when the Government of India defined the boundaries of the new province of Bengal. I may read an extract from an address protesting against the new university which was presented to the Viceroy by a deputation of leading Bengali gentlemen on the 16th February. The address, which was read by Dr. Rash Behari Ghose, said:—We feel it our duty to approach Your Excellency with this humble representation regarding the proposal to establish a new university at Dacca, which has filled the public mind with alarm and apprehension. It is feared that the creation of a separate university at Dacca will be in the nature of an internal partition.Then they go back to the actual words of the old agitation and say—a break of the old national life of the people now happily reunited.The address then went on to set forth in detail the objection to the university at Dacca. The first and foremost was that—it would reproduce in an acute form the evils that many of them apprehended would arise and did arise from the partition of the province.
EARL of RONALDSHAY
No, but I say that the moment the Government make a proposal which is distasteful to the Bengali leaders, it invariably results in Bengali agitation.
EARL of RONALDSHAY
I have not finished. Perhaps the hon. Member will allow me to proceed. Here is what they say on the next point—The appointment of a special officer in charge of education in Eastern Bengal would widen the division and there would be a general feeling that the heavy sacrifices which Bengal had had to make for the revocation of the partition—They are already beginning to realise that they have had to make a heavy sacrifice for the revocation of the partition, and that does not bode particularly well for the future—have been unavailing in putting an end to the evils which it had brought into existence.558 I will give one more example. When the Government of India announced their decision as to the boundaries of the new province of Bengal, a meeting was immediately convened by the Bengali leaders in the Town Hall, Calcutta, and somewhat violent speeches were made protesting against the boundaries of the new province. Babu Surendranath Bannerjea, a gentleman who is well known by Members of this House who have taken an interest in Indian affairs, moved the following resolution:—That this meeting has read with a sense of profound regret and disappointment the proclamation of the Government of India defining the territories to be included within the province of Bengal.The newspaper report says:—He feelingly alluded to the repartition as a proof that there was no such thing as a settled fact in British rule in India.And another gentleman, Babu Moti Lal Ghose, who claimed to voice the whole Bengal nation, said:—The contemplated redistribution of territories will be a gross wrong to our kith and kin in the new province, who will be in the position of a banished people.He went on to suggest that—it would also be a sore point to the entire Bengali nation, who would regard it in the same light as they did the original dismemberment of Bengal, and—I would draw special attention to these words—may organise as fierce an agitation in trying to get it annulled.One of the leading English papers in India, the "Pioneer Mail," commenting on the meeting in its issue of 5th April, 1912, said:—Thus on the eve of a new administrative reorganisation which was to placate the outraged feelings of Bengal, we are assured that the Bengali nation's heart is lacerated, yet the boon is already discounted, and some of its detects denounced, and in the near future the country is promised a recrudescence of that constitutional agitation which has been such an unpleasing feature of Bengal politics in the recent pastThat inevitably creates in a country like India the impression that the Government of the country is ready to yield to clamour and agitation. I come now to the last of my three conclusions, that the Government should avoid taking any action which has the effect of shaking the faith of those they govern in the inviolability of their pledged word. I wish to express my profound sense of the grave injury which is done to the good name of Great Britain as a great ruling Power by indifference on the part of the Government to the inviolability of their pledged word. I cannot recall a single representative Mahomedan with whom I spoke recently in India who did not assert 559 with great bitterness that by going back upon the partitition of Bengal the Government of the day had broken its pledge with them. I have not to rely exclusively upon my own conversations with Mohamedan representatives. We have the resolution passed at the All-India Muslim League, in March last, protesting against the revocation of the partition on these grounds, and Sir Salimulah Khan, who moved the resolution, said:—It has hitherto been felt throughout the East that the word of the British Government is its bond, and that come what may the Government cannot go back on its plighted word. Anything which weakens this belief must irreparably injure British prestige in India and the East in general.I would ask this question, Can the Mahomedans be blamed for considering that the Government have broken faith with them? Were they not entitled to believe and accept the distinct statement of Lord Morley in Parliament that the partition of Bengal was settled, and has it not been declared in India over and over again that no British Government would go back on any decision that it had made? At any rate, that was said by Lord Minto. What are the Mahomedans to think when the whole of these pledges are swept by the board? Nobody has had a better opportunity than I have of realising how deeply the Mahomedans in India resented what they considered a breach of faith on the part of the Government in regard to communal representation under Lord Morley's reform scheme of 1909. Is it not natural, after that breach, that their indignation was kindled afresh when they heard of this new breach of faith? I speak with full knowledge when I say that the younger Mahomedans are beginning to show signs or disaffection under the restraint of the wiser and older leaders. I pay my tribute of admiration to the loyalty and restraint which they have hitherto shown, but I ask the Government not to impose upon that loyalty too great a strain. I feel convinced that the present position will be accepted by them because the decision came from the lips of their Sovereign, but let me ask the Government, when in future they are intending to embark on a policy which is likely to affect the interests of the Mahomedan community, to remember that their loyalty under our rule is deserving not of punishment but of reward. On all sides of the House we desire that the tremendous task which Great Britain has undertaken in India should meet with a full and increasing measure of success. I think it was the late John Bright who once 560 said that if ever India was lost to this country it would be lost on the floor of the House of Commons. At any rate, we should do what we can to prevent the fulfilment off that prophesy. We do not want to see Indian made the shuttlecock of the party game—it would be folly, it would be a crime. It is while holding these views that I have said what I have this afternoon, and yet am able, with all sincerity, to hope that my doubts as to the complete wisdom of the course pursued may prove to be unfounded, and that the policy now under review may be attended, in spite of the views I hold with regard to it, with great and abiding success.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I will endeavour to reply to the criticisms of hon. Members opposite as shortly as possible, but I cannot disregard my responsibility to answer some of the very grave charges which have been made against the Government of India, particularly by the hon. Member for East Nottingham (Sir J. D. Rees). If he will forgive me, I propose to leave over to another occasion, namely, the Debate on the Indian Budget, to which I think it more properly belongs, the discussion of the financial questions connected with the removal of the Government to Delhi. He will fully admit that Delhi does not come into this Bill directly at all, and therefore, complicated and difficult as a complete account of the financial arrangements will be, I propose, with the hon. Member's permission, to defer the answer I would make to that portion of his speech to another occasion. I would only say that, so far as Delhi has been financed out of revenue, it has been financed out of windfalls which have accrued to the Government through exceptional circumstances, but circumstances which do not render them available for the reduction of taxation. It does not very much matter whether you pay off debts with surpluses such as these and borrow again, or whether you use these surpluses directly for purposes for which you would be bound to borrow. With regard to the criticism of the Bill itself, may I tell the House quite shortly, first of all, what this scheme really is.
The Government of India is first moved from Calcutta. The hon. Member for East Nottingham objects to the description of the Government of India as it was at Calcutta, namely, "as being in provincial surroundings." Very amusingly, but quite inaccurately, he suggested that the term "provincial" was a stigma 561 on Calcutta, such as might be used by a Metropolitan snob when referring to Nottingham. The word "provincial" is used in this sense, that it merely refers to the fact that the Government, whilst at Calcutta, was in the centre of the Government of one of the provinces of India. It was provincial in the sense that Calcutta was the provincial centre of Bengal, and, therefore, the Imperial Government of India was in the provincial centre of Bengal. I assert without fear of contradiction that students of the government of India for generations past have been impressed with the growing difficulty which was presented by the fact that you had two sets of government in the same place, interlaced and intertwined, so that those who are affected by the decisions of one or the other had difficulty in disentangling the responsibility. The Government of India is now going to Delhi, which is not the centre of a provincial Government, because it is to be taken out of the Punjab into an Imperial enclave in India, as Washington is an enclave in the United States of America. The hon. Member, so far as his position was based on the statement that we were going from one province to another, was misrepresenting the true state of the facts to the House. The same object might have been achieved possibly by making Calcutta an enclave, and transferring the Government of Bengal from Calcutta. But, as the hon. Member for Nottingham will be the first to admit, Calcutta is far too large and important a commercial centre to be a suitable city for an Imperial enclave.
§ Sir J. D. REES
In what respect are the Government of India and the Government of Bengal interlaced and intertwined?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I will send the hon. Gentleman a copy of the Regulations by which he will see what officials are concerned with both governments.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
The Government of India have taken up a proud position not only in the historic capital of India, but in what is a railway centre. The hon. Member for East Nottingham does not go so far as Lord Curzon in another place who quoted as his best and most modern military authority, the great Duke of Wellington, but when the Gentleman discourses on the strategic 562 disadvantages of Delhi, when he discusses its isolated position, he forgets that it is not only a considerable manufacturing town already, but that it is the centre of the whole railway system of India, and is from many points of view a more accessible part of our great Empire to the North-East, to such important places as Bombay and the whole of the West of India, than ever Calcutta was. I cannot enter into the dispute between the hon. Member for Nottingham and the Government of India as to the reverence which is felt for Delhi by the various peoples of India. I will only say that his description of Delhi does not carry conviction to me when I read such words as these which appear in paragraph 6 of the White Paper as to the East Indian Coronation Durbar:—Throughout India, as far south as the Mahomedan conquest extended, every walled town has its 'Delhi Gate,' and among the masses of the people it is still revered as the seat of the former Empire.So much for the removal of the Government to Delhi. What of the resultant changes in Bengal? The fundamental error which is made in regard to the whole policy of the Government of India is the suggestion that there has been a reversal of the Partition of Bengal. There has been no reversal of the Partition of Bengal. I have been accused of saying something derogatory of Lord Curzon, when I suggested that Lord Curzon in these matters has no policy at all. In saying that I am not saying anything derogatory of him; it is merely a well-known fact. Lord Curzon was a great administrator—as I have said before, perhaps the greatest, administrator that India has ever known; but in regard to the Partition of Bengal, a great province of about 98,000,000 people, roughly speaking, he described his motives for Partition when he used words to the effect that during the time he was in India he became acquainted with the scandalous mal-administration which was going on in the eastern part of the Province of Bengal. What were the facts? The province was too big, the standard of administration all over India was improving, and it was impossible to administer Bengal according to modern ideals, considering its great size. So Lord Curzon decided to divide it, but he did not divide it with the idea of making a Mahomedan State. He did not divide it with a view to redress alleged Mahomedan grievances. There was no policy underlying it; it was merely an administrative 563 reform to produce efficiency. I can quote from Lord Curzon's own words:—What was the particular line to be drawn was a matter not for the Viceroy. The line was settled by consultation and discussion between the local governments and the officials.Precisely. Lord Curzon was not concerned to find where the line was drawn at all. He wanted to split up an unwieldy province and make it two parts which were more wieldy. Bitter experience has taught that even in the sacred cause of efficiency you cannot move masses of the population about and destroy their national ideals without regard to their thoughts and opinions. We have done over again what Lord Curzon wanted to do.
EARL of RONALDSHAY
What am I to understand by the hon. Gentleman's statement as to moving masses of population about? Nobody has ever suggested moving the population.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I do not mean that you take a man from one place and force him to go to another. I mean, to move him from one Government to another. You cannot say let the man cease to be a subject of the Government of Bengal and put him into Eastern Bengal, without very serious consequences, even in the cause of efficiency. It did require investigation as to whether the line—
§ Mr. MONTAGU
The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right in saying that the man remains where he is, but he is no longer in Bengal.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
We have, therefore, because the unrest which was produced militated against the efficiency of Lord Curzon's scheme, done over again in the light of experience Lord Curzon's work. We have divided Bengal, and there is indeed a partition of Bengal, not into two parts, but into three, and we claim that our partition is a better one and likely to produce greater efficiency because it is more acceptable to the population than Lord Curzon's was. But the Noble Lord may say that may be so, but that, on account of what Lord Curzon did, whatever the motives a Mahomedan State came into existence, 564 and that the Mahomedans had a right to expect that that state of affairs should remain for ever, and that therefore we have in that sense broken our arrangement with the Mahomedans. That is a serious charge. Nobody knows better than the hon. Member for East Nottingham how Debates in this House find their way to India. Nobody has been more vehement than the hon. Member in criticising some of my hon. Friends below the Gangway on this side because of the way in which their words might be received in India. I venture to hope that he will have serious misgivings about his own utterances this afternoon when he reads the accusations he has levelled of breaches of faith and breaches of pledges, not only against Lord Crewe and the Government which I represent, but against the whole fabric of the Government of India which jointly are responsible for these great changes which have been taking place in India. The hon. Member regrets, and the Noble Lord regrets, that there should be any idea in India that we have broken our pledges. But what has the hon. Member done to discourage that by the words which he has carelessly thrown out this afternoon, and which I will show are without a shadow of foundation?
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I am merely pointing out, before I proceed to show to the hon. Member that his facts are without foundation, the serious consequences of speaking, as I think he has done, without a sufficient sense of responsibility and more especially as he has lectured hon. Members on this side on this mischief that can be done by allowing such words to go to India. The words which have been continually quoted against the Government in this Debate are the words of Lord Morley, about a settled fact. I would ask the Noble Lord to be good enough to read Lord Morley's own speech on this subject in the House of Lords. Lord Morley is a Member of the Government which is responsible for this, as he was a Member of the Government when he used the famous words, "the partition is a settled fact." What Lord Morley meant was that the great improvement of administration which was to come from the sub-division of Bengal must never again be sacrificed, and the Partition of Bengal would never have been reversed. I submit, on Lord Morley's statement and the Government of India's statement that there has been no reversal 565 of policy. What is to be the meaning of the words "settled fact"? Are they to mean, as the Noble Lord suggests, that a thing once done should never be modified or changed in the light of experience, and though it may have been done very badly we are to stop and admire it for generation after generation and not have the courage to alter it? That is a theory of crystallised conservatism which I cannot accept as applicable to a quickly changing and developing country like India.
I would submit earnestly to the Noble Lord that the Mahomedan people of Bengal have lost nothing by this change. Eastern Bengal was not the overwhelming Mahomedan State which some critics seem to think it was. I think that at the beginning of last year on the Legislative Council in Eastern Bengal the unofficial members were ten Hindus and eight Mahomedans. What have the Mahomedans got now? They have got their new university, they have got one of the seats of Government of the new Presidency of Bengal at Dacca, so that instead of what they used to have, a Lieutenant-Governor ruling from Dacca, they have got now a Governor ruling them from Dacca. The hon. Member for East Nottingham poured scorn on the difference between a Lieu tenant-Governor and a Governor. Surely he forgets that the Lieutenant-Governor of Eastern Bengal had no Executive Council. The Governor of Bengal has an Executive Council.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
The hon. Member is wrong in his facts. The Lieutenant-Governor of Eastern Bengal had no Executive.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I am afraid the hon. Member is now getting excited. We are referring to the Mahomedans of Eastern Bengal. The Mahomedans were governed from Dacca by a Lieutenant-Governor, who had no Executive Council to assist him. Under the new scheme they are governed still from Dacca for certain portions of the year by the Governor of Bengal, who will be assisted by an Executive Council, and they will therefore have a more modern and up to-date system of government. Further than that, when the Parition of Bengal was brought about, Eastern Bengal had 566 no representative Legislative Council, because Lord Morley's and Lord Minto's Reform Bill was in 1909, so that I venture to say that if you take the form of government the Mahomedans will enjoy now it will be a better and more efficient government than the old government which they are said to have lost by the modification. When the partition was brought about the Mahomedans of Eastern Bengal formed about 30 per cent. of a population of over 80,000,000. Now they are going to form a population of about 50 per cent. of 50,000,000. So that in numbers, in form of government, and in position the Mahomedans of Eastern Bengal have lost nothing by the partition; and, in addition, though it is only a side question, the Noble Lord will remember that the present Indian member of the Executive Council of the Governor of Bengal is a Mahomedan from Eastern Bengal
I desire, in conclusion, to deal with two criticisms of the hon. Member for East Nottingham. He says that the Department of Commerce and Industry will now be divorced entirely from commerce and industry, and he says he has been asked to voice the opinions of the Chambers of Commerce of India. As he proceeded it appeared that he meant the Chamber of Commerce in Bengal. I should be the last to try and detract from the importance of the great representative Chamber of that great commercial community in India, but it must be clearly remembered that it is only the Chamber of Commerce in Calcutta that is anxious to have its objections to this proposal represented. Naturally, what Calcutta loses, Bombay and Karachi gain. I venture to suggest, if the hon. Member will come to my office and read the files of the newspapers in India, which I have carefully collected ever since this reform scheme came into being, he would be struck by the remarkable way in which the serious alarm of the Chamber of Commerce in Calcutta has been isolated and ignored by the rest of European opinion from one end of the country to the other. I think that alarm is based largely on misapprehension, and I believe, when they see the scheme at work and the better government which will result, that the fears of the commercial community in Calcutta will be allayed, and that they will share in what is the enthusiastic welcome of this scheme from the vast majority of the people of all classes and races in the great Empire of India. There is one further 567 matter I feel bound to ask the permission of the House to refer to. We have been accused, both by the Noble Lord and the Member for East Nottingham, of giving way to agitation and irresponsible clamour. The House will have noticed a very curious inconsistency in the way in which this charge was levelled. It was levelled with great vehemence by the hon. Member for East Nottingham, and immediately afterwards he quoted from Lord Minto an assurance that there was no agitation and no clamour to which to give way. You cannot have it both ways; you cannot say that there was no agitation to which to give way, and immediately afterwards blame us for having given way to an agitation that never existed. The fact of the matter is that in Bengal, as in many other countries, the large, overwhelming, and almost universal numbers of the inhabitants are peaceful, law-abiding, and loyal citizens. There is a small—very small and insignificant—minority of irresponsible agitators. I challenge the House to say, looking back over history since 1906, that the Government which I am here to represent has been supine in putting down the agitation, which was the work of that insignificant, disloyal, and rebellious minority. Lord Minto himself, who says that the agitation has ceased to exist, brings back from India, as one of the greatest triumphs of his rule, the way in which he and Lord Morley put down and stamped out as, I believe, what was known as the seditious movement in India. But there are two ways of stamping out sedition, and neither is complete without the other. You have not only to punish the seditious, but you have to remove the just causes of complaint which bring recruits to the ranks of the seditious, and which therefore prevent all your repressive legislation from having the effect you desire, whilst there is the slightest suspicion to make honest men's minds uneasy that those responsible for the government of the country are not quick to redress legitimate grievances. The Government of India believes that the real feeling—spreading far beyond the miserable confines of the seditions, disloyal, and rebellious—of wounded nationality, of wounded race susceptibilities, of unfair treatment, which has resulted from the partition, was as strong on Durbar Day as it ever was when the irresponsible agitation existed.
I hope the Noble Lord will not think that I am making any accusation against 568 him, but no greater disservice can be done to the Government of India than carelessly to lump together in speech an agitation such as the presentation of a petition against the University at Dacca, and, let us say, the agitation that was punished by deportation. The former is a legitimate Western method of gaining access to those who are in authority. In a country like India I venture to suggest that the responsibility of those who govern to listen to the grievances of those they govern is even more vital than in a country where votes are the armoury of those who are governed. If in any part of my speech today I have shown irritation at anything' that has fallen from hon. Gentlemen opposite, I can only plead as an excuse that a charge of broken pledges—annoying, irritating and wounding as it may be in domestic affairs—cannot be ignored, but must be met by a Government which has the overwhelming responsibility of the good government of India to answer for. It is because I believe I have answered the charge, which I wish had never been made on a subject where party politics play no part, that I confidently commend this Bill to the House—the first Bill of importance connected with the affairs of my Department which I have had the honour to introduce, and a Bill which I can recommend with enthusiasm, because I believe, and all the more strongly after the Debate of to-day, that it will lead to the improved government and the greater peace of that country, which benefits to a higher degree every day by the fact that the British people are responsible for its government.
§ Sir JOHN JARDINE
I think that, as a general rule, in times of peace and quiet no great changes should be made in India such as the transfer of the ancient capital without the House of Commons being previously informed. I am not going to give any opinion on the question whether the action in regard to Delhi was constitutional or unconstitutional. I would point out, however, that the circumstances were extremely unusual, and that the manner in which the formal act was announced to the people of India was entirely different from anything that had been seen before since British rule began. I refer, of course, to the presence of and the personal announcement made by the King-Emperor in the old famous Imperial city of Delhi. In these circumstances, I think one should rather judge the act by the results, and so far as my information goes, the results 569 have been good. When the King went to Delhi the country had been in a state of great agitation. There had been murders of high officials in different parts of the country. There had been many attempts at sedition. There was a great increase in coercive methods. There were dangerous signs, causing great anxiety to the Government of India. These things have ceased, and I attribute a great deal of the present peace and quiet to the announcement at Delhi and to the manner in which it was made. Hence I would claim that the act has been justified by the results. There is less coercion and less discontent; and political assassinations are no longer taking place. If we compare the old seat of Imperial Government at Calcutta with Delhi, it has to be said that Delhi was the capital of the great Mogul, and it is associated with the names of great Emperors such as Akbar, Jehan Gir, Aurangzeb, and others. It is also a political advantage that our Government should be centred in a place of such great memories. I refer to the part played by our troops during the siege at the time of the Mutiny, connected with the memories of John Nicholson, Alexander Taylor and their companions.
Another point to be taken into account is that the change brings the Viceroy and the Government into closer connection with the greater part of the European community. It is desirable that the Viceroy should be for a longer portion of the year in their midst. It is also a distinct advantage that the new seat of Government is nearer to the great Native States. The Viceroy usually takes in his personal charge the department of our relations with Native States and it is highly desirable that he should be nearer to the Chiefs. We all know that in the Mutiny when our control of great districts had wholly disappeared, some of the great Chiefs of Native States remained loyal, preserved order and helped to maintain our paramouncy, of whom the Gaekwar of Baroda is an example; and their loyal services in that dangerous time were amply acknowledged by the Crown. Again, although it is farther from Calcutta, it is nearer to the most important port of Bombay, and to the rising city of Karachi, and as has already been mentioned, Delhi, is a great railway centre. As regards Calcutta and the grievances of the British community there, I also have received the printed statement of the views of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce. No one will deny the 570 enormous importance to Calcutta of the facts set out, but I think the grievance might be called somewhat local, or, if the word "provincial" is not too much objected to, it might be called by that name. From my experience, and from what I have read of the history of India, I think it is in many respects well that the Governor-General should not be tied down to Calcutta so much as he was. Anyone who has studied the history of India knows how much Lord Canning was tormented by the British community in Calcutta because of his policy in dealing with the Indian Mutiny. One of the officials of this House, who in my time held a high position in the Viceroy's Cabinet, if asked, would confirm my statement that when Lord Ripon was Viceroy every attempt was made by the people to boycott him. It is well that the Viceroy should spend more of his time away from Calcutta; at any rate, there is no reason why he should spend so much more time there than he is able to give to Madras and Bombay. He ought to know them all well. One would like to say that the new arrangement will in practice leave the Governor of that part of Bengal in which Calcutta is situated more independent. That, too, I think, in the way of official management is a much better system than what has prevailed before. The people were too much in the habit, if they did not get what they wanted, of rushing off to see if they could not get it from the Viceroy. I do not doubt that the commercial community of Calcutta, and a good many of the natives, will be glad to have what the Statutes of Parliament years ago provided for, that is, a Governor in Council there.
It would ill become me to make comparisons between the Lieutenant-Governors trained in the Indian Civil Service, and knowing the ways of the people and those statesmen sent from Europe who occupy the position of Governors; but I believe that the British inhabitants in Calcutta would much prefer to have Governors rather than to have, as hitherto, a member of that service to which I have the honour to belong. I was particularly pleased when the question of the Indian Civil Service was dealt with the other day to hear my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary state that there would be no change made in regard to appointments, nor to their status; and that, as has been pointed out, the service will gain something by way of new appointments in the new part of the 571 Bengal Province. I will just make one observation as to the agitations which were recapitulated by the Noble Lord. If they were called "movements" it would sound not so bad. If they were called "representations" it would sound much milder. But I do not think the Noble Lord accused the persons who made those representations of misrepresenting anything or of doing anything contrary to law, or to that which was not well within their rights as citizens, which, by our laws, they are. Altogether I think this discussion must have had a good effect. The Bill has been well discussed, and nearly all its points dealt with. I for one will be very well pleased to vote for the Third Reading.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the third time, and passed.