§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion, made by Viscount Peel on Monday, July 21, That an Humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers relating to the situation in India.
§ LORD MESTON:
My Lords, in the speech with which the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India closed the first stage of this debate he said that he had not come to any conclusions as regards the workability of the Government of India Act, 1919. Indeed, if I did not mishear him, he went so far as to say that he had not formed any judgment at all as to whether it was necessary to come to any conclusions. All I desire to do to-day is to suggest to your Lordships that there are very strong reasons why a definite conclusion should very shortly be arrived at, and to put before you a few general considerations which I trust will be added to the materials which the Secretary of State will utilise when forming his judgment.
If there is one desire on the part of all who are interested in India, it is that we should approach the Indian problem without anything in the nature of Party bias. It is a huge Imperial responsibility and calls for a great united Imperial policy If, therefore, in the suggestions which I put forward I seem to be approaching this matter from a slightly different point of view from that of the noble Viscount who introduced the debate and from the Secretary of State, it is a difference of angle only and not any difference of objective. Our objective, and the objective of everyone interested in India, has always been the same. In the first place, it is to advance the happiness and promote the reasonable progress of the Indian people. Lord Parmoor. 128 In the second place,, it is to retain India within the British Empire. The latter consideration may seem to be so obvious that it hardly requires stating, but for reasons which I will refer to briefly in a moment, I think there is some advantage in laying particular emphasis on that aspect of the subject at the present juncture. Whatever may have been our mistakes and shortcomings we certainly have, at least within living memory, devoted ourselves exclusively and wholly to the achievement of these purposes.
Five years ago a very momentous and historic step was taken in pursuance of this object. That step had the approval of your Lordships. It had been investigated with the greatest fullness and care by a Committee which represented every shade of opinion in your Lordships' House, and in the other House. Its incidence and its implications had been thoroughly examined, and so far as political foresight could guarantee were provided for. The measure was nothing less than the introduction into India of democratic institutions, Coupled with a system of training Indians to befit those who were the leaders of India for the task of governing India on democratic lines. Without cynicism it is safe to say that we have had very little experience of true democracy in this country or in any other Western country, and certainly it is a wholly exotic plant in India. At no time within ascertained history, and certainly on no recognisable scale, has India ever had practical experience of the working of democratic rule. In spite of that, and in all good faith, England gave the principle and promise of democracy, because she believed it was the greatest political gift in her power to bestow.
At the same time, so great was the novelty that certain obvious general safeguards were considered imperative, and were deliberately made part of the machinery of the new Constitution. They were safeguards designed in no way to retard the growth of the individual spirit, but to prevent that spirit being wrecked at the outset by inexperience, from being swallowed up and replaced by some subtle form of the old Oriental autocracy. Let me briefly enumerate the safeguards. The first was diarchy. Diarchy in essence was an attempt to preserve to Parliament the control over the essentials of administration, while it gave to the new Indian 129 Ministry a field in which they could exercise the practice of government and learn a sense of responsibility. The second safeguard was that curious arrangement by which the Central Executive is independent of its own Legislature. That, again, was obviously justifiable at the time, because it was intended to protect the great economic interests of India, internal and external, and provide for the defences of the country. The third safeguard was a group of provisions which certainly were unusual in such a Constitution. This group included such things as certain overriding powers in the hands of the Governor, specific protection for public Services, and that most important provision, that there was to be no radical alteration in the Constitution for the first ten years—surely a reasonable enough precaution against impatient tinkering with one of the most daring political experiments in modern history.
Such were the conditions in which Parliament launched India on its course of political freedom. That was only five years ago; in fact, it is only three and a half years since the work was actually started; and yet to-day you have all over the length and breadth of India a vehement outcry against every one of these safeguards. " Diarchy," say our critics in India, " is dead. It has been an utter failure. The veto and the power of certification are an insult to our national spirit, and are intolerable as obstacles to the will of the people. The public Services have been bolstered up into a position in which they are able to thwart the policy of those whom they ought to serve. And finally, the ten years moratorium is a period far too long to wait for the next step forward, and in any case "—and this is always the clinching argument—" it is not for you Englishmen to sit in judgment upon us and to say when the next instalment of responsibility is due. Any such claim is an insult to our national spirit. It is for us to say whether or not, and when, we are fit for more responsibility."
I trust that I am not overstating the demands that are made by the more advanced section of Indian politicians. If anything, I think that I am understating them. I need only appeal to the fact that the leaders of that which we used to know as the Moderate Party are 130 here in England at the present moment pressing forward an entirely new form of Constitution by which, as I understand, the Central Government is to concern itself wholly and exclusively with the defence of the country and with its external relations, while all the other Imperial powers and the whole of the Provincial Governments are going to be handed over to popular control. This is, of course, to sweep away completely the whole idea of preparation and training in the new system. It plunges India at once into the whole of the complexities of Parliamentary government on the basis of an electorate which at the present time is wholly unfamiliar with such a system. A Parliamentary system is entirely unknown to the vast mass of the people in India, or to any but a very small fraction of the population. This scheme, if it is approved, will leave the Government of India with no duty whatever except that of preserving order in the country and protecting it from external aggression for whatever fee the Legislatures may choose to fix.
If the safeguards of 1919 are shown to have worked unfairly, or in a manner contrary to the spirit of the reforms, then by all means let us find a remedy. That is what I think and hope we must assume to be the scope, and the exclusive scope, of the work which is now being done by the Committee of Inquiry under Sir Alexander Muddiman. If recommendations of a more drastic and far-reaching nature are to be considered, surely it is not for that Committee to consider them. Any new Constitution, any radical alteration in the present Constitution, or any radical change in the policy of 1919, could not be entertained except after an inquiry which would be as authoritative, as detailed and as strongly endorsed by the needs of the time as that which preceded the passing of the Act of 1919.
What I would submit to His Majesty's Government is whether there is any case for a second inquiry of this type at the present moment. Is there any reason why that which was accepted five years ago by nearly all except the wildest extremists as generous and politic is now to be regarded as useless and fruitless? My own complaint of the Constitution is, not that it has been a failure or that it has fallen short of any reasonable expectation, but that it has never been worked 131 with any pretence of good will by the vast majority of those for whom it was designed, and by whose help it was intended to work,) There have been quite a number of Indian gentlemen who, as Ministers or in other capacities—and all honour to them—have sat down loyally to work the new Constitution and to help their country through this difficult transition period, and they themselves, I am sure, would be the first to admit that they had only touched the fringe of the matter. But as for the great majority of the Indian leaders, what have they done except to use their influence, directly or indirectly, to prevent the new Constitution from working?
It may be quite natural to ask why it is that those who endorsed the new scheme five years ago should now turn so vitally against the working of the scheme after such a short period. Surely, it will be said, there must be something radically wrong, there must be some real grievance against which this is their only form of protest. The answer to this question is certainly not a pleasant one, either for India or for ourselves, but it is time that the answer should be given. It is no use our wrapping ourselves up in robes of optimism, or fencing with this question. The plain truth-is that for several years, practically ever since the war, India has been going through a period of violent reaction—reaction against us and our work, with all its blessings and all its defects, and against our rule as a whole] This may be, and probably is, in considerable measure our own fault, but it is by no means wholly our fault. Historians of the future can allocate the blame, but it is surely for us to face the results.
[The practical issue of this reaction has been a growing belief—and of that belief Mr. Gandhi and his lieutenants were only accidental exponents—that India no longer requires us, and that it can be made self-sufficient without us.] I am far from saying that this is believed by every Indian gentleman who claims to be a leader of political opinion, and certainly it is not believed by the great majority of Mahomedan gentlemen in India, but I am absolutely convinced that the orthodox Hindu mind cherishes the idea of getting back to its own ancient civilisation and its own archaic ideals of life and society. It does not look for any progress along Western paths. It hopes that we 132 shall soon go, with all our paraphernalia of culture, for it believes that then, and only then, will India find her own salvation.
[It is this section of India opinion, not always visible, not always audible, but always present, that dominates, consciously or unconsciously, the great majority of Indian leaders to-day. It is perfectly sincere, perfectly logical, and at the same time, perfectly unbending. It makes an enormous appeal to the masses, and it can breed martyrs. But no terms that we can offer—and this is, I think, a point for us to consider very closely—no concessions that we can make, will ever satisfy it, except for a decent interval, after which the demands will be renewed and the outcry will begin again. It will sit down at round-table conferences with us, it will participate in Royal Commissions with us, but it will never be deflected from its ultimate aim. That is the dominant factor in the Indian political situation to-day, and it cannot be too clearly recognised.]
Every observer who returns from India brings news of the growing mistrust that is felt in the Provinces regarding the Central Government. This unfortunate state of affairs, if it is due to any cause that I can suggest, seems due in large measure to the belief, whether unfounded or not, that Simla is at the present moment giving far too much time and importance to petty manoeuvres for position, small triumphs in debate, negotiations and cajolings, while it shuts its eyes to the great foundamental issues which lie before it. I apologise if I seem a little dogmatic on this point, but as one who has served India, and who loves India and the Indian people, I cannot help feeling anxious about the future, as many of our Lordships do. The danger centre is not in India, but is here. The danger lies in false analogies and loose sentiment. Do not let us for a moment forget that we are facing an implacable alternative—a definite hostility to our rule. No concessions, no release of a political prisoner here, or the curtailment of a period there, or any other makeshift of that sort, will meet the situation or do anything except stimulate fresh demands and new outcries.
[Behind the screen of moderate men who present us with impossible alternatives to our policy of 1919 is that deep and 133 permanent irreconcilable element, which has always opposed all progress in India, from the days of Gautama Buddha down to the present day, and will always do so. Do not let us stultify ourselves by attempting to conciliate that. If we are to move forward on the lines of 1919, His Majesty's Government will best serve the interests of peace. and of real progress in India if they make it abundantly clear that the policy then adopted by Parliament is to be pursued in all its essentials. Meanwhile, the first half of the ten years' period of trial has already lapsed. During the five short years that remain it is our clear duty to help the party of common sense in India by all means in our power, and it is their duty—and surely they can be induced to accept it—to set themselves to carry out the duties which are offered them, and to prove their fitness for still higher responsibilities.]
§ VISCOUNT INCHCAPE:
My Lords, I did not intend to intervene in the debate, but my noble friend Viscount Lee of Fare-ham, in his speech last week, put a question to me asking whether, as a purely business proposition, apart from any philanthropy, I had increased the emoluments of my various staffs in India beyond what they were before the war. My answer to that question is this: Young men going out to India to my business now go out with emoluments considerably higher than they were before the war. In my own case I went out as an assistant to my firm at the age of twenty-one, on an inclusive salary of 300 rupees per month. A young assistant going out now receives, with allowances, 500 rupees per month for the first year, 550 for the second year, and 600 for the third year. Men with special qualifications are more highly paid. At the end of three years the emoluments increase according to the ability displayed.
After five or six years' service in India our men get a free passage home, with eleven months' leave with half pay, and a free passage back to India if they return, as ninety-nine per cent. do. After a second spell of five years' service in India another eleven or twelve months' leave is given, with half pay, and thereafter similar leave every four years, with half pay and in all cases with free passages. The home leaves are in addition to yearly leaves of a month or so in India on full pay. Where men are 134 stationed not in Presidency towns they get six months' leave every three years on half pay, with passages both ways. I have looked into the salaries which my European staff receive after, say, nine, ten or twelve years' service, and find that they range from 1,125 rupees to 1,525 rupees per month. Beyond that they 'rise gradually to 3,000 rupees, according to merit, and those who have shown exceptional ability are admitted as partners, though, of course, this is not possible in every case, just as it is impossible for every midshipman to become an admiral.
The expenses of Europeans in India have greatly increased during the last ten or fifteen years, alike in the way of food, rent, servants' wages, clothing and railway fares, and I am free to admit— as the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for India, mentioned, with a glance at me—that the passage rates of the Peninsular and Oriental line are higher than they were before the war, owing to the great increase in the cost of running the ships. The conditions of life of my European employees in India, living as they do for the most part in Presidency towns, are far more agreeable than those of the bulk of the men in the various Civil Services. The latter are often banished for long periods to the jungle, where the amenities of life are to a great extent absent, with very little, sometimes no, European society, where there is no electric light, no electric fans, and a very limited area in the shape of decent roads, where supplies of good food are difficult to get, and where, when they are obtainable, their cost is far greater than in the trading centres.
Their wives bear the hardships of this banishment in a way that only British women do. They suffer in health, they lose their looks, they see their children pale and pining through the long spell of hot weather, and they have to endure separations, torn between their love for their husbands and their love for their children. Those of us who have spent twenty or twenty-five years in the Plains, with the thermometer standing at anything from 85 to 100 for eight months of the year, know what it is to go through the long Indian day. I can assure my noble friend Lord Lee that the benevolent sympathy to which he referred 135 on the part of commercial employers does exist. We are not tied by any hidebound rules, as I admit a Government Department must necessarily be, and we do have, if I may venture to say so, a certain amount of the milk of human kindness towards those who grind out our corn.
The Committee over which I had the honour to preside last year was called upon to make proposals for the reduction of Expenditure in India, which we did. But we made no suggestion to reduce the emoluments of the Europeans in the various branches of the Government Service. The reductions which we did propose have, I believe, been carried out practically in their entirety, and the finances of the country are now on a sound basis. India, I am credibly informed, is able to balance her Budget and leave something to the good.
The Europeans in the service of the Government of India are a gallant band. There are no men, so far as my experience goes, who are more loyal or more devoted, more able or more hard working, or who have a higher sense of duty, than the Europeans in all branches of the service of the Government of India. They have accepted the so-called reforms in the very best spirit, and it will be a fatal blunder if we fail to treat them with consideration. If we do we shall not retain them, and we shall not get the best brains and the highest class of men to go out to India, not only to the Civil Service proper, but to all the other branches. I am in entire agreement with the noble Viscount, Lord Lee of Fareham, that the time has come to improve the emoluments of the European Government servants of all classes if we are, as is absolutely essential, to retain and attract the right type of men to enable us to carry on the great and unselfish work, with which we are entrusted, of governing, administering, and developing our Indian Dependency.
In my humble opinion it will be some time yet before India is able by itself to carry on the development of the country by means of roads, railways, canals, irrigation, afforestation, sanitation, water supply and the like, to which, so far, the country is entirely indebted to the British. It will be many a. long day before India is able to govern itself to the advantage of the dumb millions and the hundred and one diversified races and 136 creeds of which the population of India is composed. If the authority of the Viceroy and the Civil Service should be undermined then woe betide the country! Murder, riot, and rapine will be rampant and, as even the late Lord Morley said some years ago, " Remove the supremacy of the British Raj from India, and the population will be at each other's throats."
§ LORD SYDENHAM:
My Lords, a very common infirmity of old age prevented me from hearing the speech of the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for India, the other day, but I have read that speech most carefully, and I hope he will forgive me if I tell him quite plainly that I gather from it that [he has not attained to any real, clear understanding of the grave realities of the situation in India at the present moment] I do not blame him for a moment, because I know well that it is almost impossible for any one who has not lived some years in India, and studied the country and the ways and thoughts of the people, to grasp the meaning and the implications of those very ominous facts which the noble Viscount gave to us the other day. But a Secretary of State can get good advice. He can get plenty of advice from all kinds of people, and it is his business to weigh that advice, and form his decisions accordingly.
I note from the speech that the noble Lord apparently relies upon an informant who, as he says, " laughingly " gave him his opinion. There is nothing whatever to cause amusement in the situation of India at the present moment. One of his advisers, whom he describes as " a high authority on Indian politics," told him that Mr. C. R. Das " has the reputation of being a particularly upright and scrupulous politician, second only to Gandhi himself in saintliness of character." Perhaps that is some other Mr. Das, because there are a good many of that name in Bengal, or it maybe, to use a vulgar expression, that the noble Lord's informant was trying to " pull his leg." But I am quite certain that Mr. C. R. Das's followers would fail to recognise him in the description given by the noble Lord. Before making up his mind I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will take some other opinion. If he knew India he would understand that saintliness is a 137 solid political and economic asset, and, if he would take the trouble to look up the antecedents of the Mahdi, who laid waste the Sudan, he would understand the essential truth of that proposition.
Two facts emerge, in my mind, from the speech of the noble Lord. First, it must now be understood throughout India that any one, in speech or in writing, is free to glorify the murderer of a helpless Englishman, who was not even a police official, as the noble Lord seemed to have been induced to believe. The noble Lord has not one word of condemnation for this glorification of an assassin, but I am glad to find that he did say that he did not condone this grave offence. He went on to add that:It is not necessary for the Government to assume in this connection an attitude of high moral condemnation of Mr. Das as a politician on this account.I venture to think that that is not the moral standard which the British Government has hitherto upheld in India and elsewhere. In the second place he has made it clear that he has flung the Constitution of India into the melting pot before it has existed for five years.
The records of our debates in the past seven years abound in warnings of what would happen in India, and of what has now happened. On October 24, 1917, before the then Secretary of State started on his disastrous tour throughout India, the noble Marquess, Lord Lansdowne, and the noble Earl, Lord Midleton, both expressed their anxiety and pleaded for caution, and both pleaded in vain. In opening that debate on a Motion almost exactly similar to that of the noble Viscount, I used these words:If the masses in India ever come to believe that the Government can be coerced by the threats of a noisy minority, then India will be launched on the road to" anarchy. The paramount authority which alone holds, and alone can hold, together the vast medley of races, languages, castes and creeds which constitute India, must be maintained. Peace and order are the greatest interests of the people of India:What has happened since then? A little minority did either coerce or cajole the Government. The paramount authority has been shaken to its foundations, and we have put nothing in its place. Peace and order have been rudely and widely disturbed, and can now only be restored by freely using the military force, as we have lately seen. India is evidently on 138 the road to disorders similar to, those which are occurring throughout China at the present time.
The Government of India Act, which affected the destiny of 320,000,000 human beings, was rushed through Parliament at headlong speed, and we are now beginning to realise the fatal fruits of a most rash piece of legislation. The noble Lord said that " every progressive politician in India claims that the Act is unworkable." I think that a great many people in this country are coming to that conclusion. I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord Mcston, who was an expert adviser on this Constitution, though he does not quite arrive at that decision, evidently thinks that we have gone as far as we can do, and that it will be most dangerous for us to go any further. The Secretary of State told us, as an instance of the difficulty of working the Constitution, that in the Bengal Council votes were actually bought for cash, as is, of course, well known to many of us.
The fundamental defects in. this Constitution were mainly three. I say nothing about diarchy, because that was always impracticable, and that, after all, was merely a detail. The first defect was that .the Act ignored the vital interests of the vast mass of helpless people, for whose welfare we are, and must remain, solely responsible. In fact, it left a rural population of over 80 per cent, entirely at the mercy of the townspeople—lawyers, moneylenders, and so on. In the second place, it did not provide for the political protection of powerful minorities like the Mahomedans which have hitherto relied upon us to give them equal justice, and they found themselves politically swamped by the huge superiority of the Hindus in numbers. Thirdly, it dangerously weakened the paramount authority which had hitherto held India together, and which alone can hold India together until such time as the Indians can be guided in the direction of self-government.
As regards the feeling of the Moslems at this moment, may I quote a very important despatch from the experienced correspondent of the Daily Telegraphwhich was sent from Simla only last Tuesday week? He said this—So disgusted are Moslems with what they regard as the weakness, if not the disloyalty, of the British, that it is possible that they will unite with Hindus in any action that tends to drive British authority 139 out of the country in the immediate future, but their intention will be merely to clear the ground for a contest for supremacy with their secular enemies. That they will be content to submit to the inequality of playing permanent second fiddle to the Hindus is ridiculous—and more ridiculous than ever at a moment when the success of Turkey has made every Moslem in the world hold his head an inch higher. Should matters ever come to an armed struggle between the two in India there can be only one end to it.That agrees entirely with the information that I have received. What can the end be? The end would, of course, be the reassertion of Mahomedan rule throughout the greater part of India and it would be the rule of the sword.
What have been the outstanding results of this great democratic experiment in India—the experiment which the noble Lord, Lord Meston, described as " wholly exotic " and which Mr. Montagu once described as " very dangerous "? Everywhere confidence in the British Government has been shaken in the minds of senior British officials and in the minds of the humblest dwellers in the villages of India. That loss of confidence is wrecking the great Services on which India has depended in the past for order, for progress and for prosperity. My noble friend Lord Lee of Fareham, who has just been in India and has discharged with very marked ability a most difficult task, recognises this fully. He has told us that the patience and morale of the Services had almost reached breaking point, and he warned us that unless their position was restored it would be the first step on . the road to losing India altogether. I cannot altogether agree with him on that point, because I do not think it was the first step. I think it is a necessary consequence of the policy which we adopted in regard to India and that this danger was pointed out at the time.
The Services are visibly crumbling away, and it may be impossible to restore them even if, as I hope, all the proposals of my noble friend are now carried into effect without delay. But the effect of this crumbling of the Services is a growing corruption on the one hand, and, on the other hand, violent disorders and the appearance in many places of just the same kind of banditry which marked the fall of the Mogul Empire. In one Province there have been some painful cases of corruption, but nothing could be done on account of the grave scandals that would Lord Sydenham. 140 be involved in any investigation. But the result of our waning prestige has been seen in the terrible total loss of human lives running into thousands and unknown, since the days of the great Mutiny.
Most of the great towns of India have now been the scenes of murderous riots. In Calcutta, the other day, mobs were murdering Sikhs; at a later date the same or other mobs were murdering Ghurkas. At Nagpur and at Delhi, the capital of India, the Hindus and the Moslems have been engaged in violent civil war, and British troops were required to save Delhi from probable destruction. The Akali movement among the Sikhs is also in a very serious position. I think it was badly handled at the beginning. But the main thing was that it was diligently exploited by the politicians of the Congress, not because they had the smallest sympathy with Sikh aspirations but because they saw a chance of injuring our position in India. The Akali movement has already cost a number of lives- and the more ignorant rural Sikhs have been led to believe that the Government is hostile to their religion and also that we are about to withdraw from India. Never until the reforms were proclaimed has rioting be n so widespread, so frequent, and so serious; never were the relations between the two great religious communities of India so strained as they are to-day, and never were the relations between cause and effect so transparently clear as they are in this case.
[The Government of India Bill was hustled through Parliament, as I have stated, because, so we were told, it would bring peace and contentment to India. It has brought nothing except the sword It alienated our best friends and supporters in India. It satisfied no one and it became the starting point of further political demands, as my noble friend Lord Meston has so clearly pointed out. Having handed over most of our authority to Councils which are seeking to paralyse their Governments at the present time, we are now pressed under threats, as the noble Lord has said, to hand over all the rest.]
What is the noble Lord going to do He said that he was considering how to enable the officials of Bengal to draw their salaries. I hope that, at least, he will arrive at a decision on that point 141 in as short a time as possible. He was very vague about the Central Provinces where, of course, the Act has ceased altogether to run. Now the question is this: Are we going to allow disorder to go on increasing and to be forced to shoot down misguided people, people whom we allow to be misguided and to be incited to acts of violence? The present situation has been well described as " the result of a long series of .ineffectual compromises." That situation cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. It must soon become necessary for us to decide whether we intend to govern, or to leave India. But if we do not govern we shall certainly have to go, because somebody must govern those teeming millions of India and must give them the peace and order which, as I have said, is their first interest. Now that the great Services are suffering, as my noble friend so clearly stated, from creeping paralysis, it may be impossible in future to govern unless, by adopting all his most important proposals, we can bring back to them confidence and contentment. So long as we really governed India these disturbances to which I have referred were rare and comparatively mild. Most of them could be and were averted by stouthearted British officials with the prestige and the power of a great Government at their backs. In great native States like Mysore and Hyderabad these things do not happen, because those States are governed. On the other hand, I saw yesterday that at Srinagar there had been riotous strikes, and I have no doubt whatever that they were fomented from outside of the State of Kashmir. [In Iraq, as in India, we have set up democratic institutions which are wholly exotic. Those institutions depend entirely upon the British armed forces. If those forces were withdrawn either from Iraq or from India the Constitution would crumble to pieces in a week.]
That is the amazing position in which we now find ourselves. Believe me, in the East the value of prestige is far above rubies; it is absolutely priceless. Our prestige in the East is distinctly falling away. The Soviet Government, with which His Majesty's Government has been painfully negotiating for many months, is now doing all it can to make our position in India and in the Far East impossible. We 142 know what it accomplished in the Central Provinces, but we do not know what operations it is carrying out in other parts of India, and what part it is taking in the dangerous secret societies which exist in Bengal. It has had some success there already, and if it got the loan, which is the only thing that it came to this country to get, then it would be able to extend its operations, and would be still more dangerous to us than it now is.
The abandonment of the Singapore naval base will undoubtedly send the British barometer still lower down, because it must be understood as meaning that we no longer intend to defend our territories in the East. What the noble Marquess, Lord Curzon, once most happily called " the whispering galleries of the East " do not repeat the speeches of Ministers, and would not explain what the noble Viscount, the First Lord of the Admiralty, described the other day as the policy of " appeasement," but what they do repeat and re-echo is that British power and authority are gradually passing away. This is being said in the bazaars not only in India, but in Japan, China, Afghanistan, Persia and Iraq, and even in Syria, Palestine and Egypt. In the conditions which I have tried most briefly to describe, and which the noble Viscount who moved this Motion has strongly emphasised, I am convinced that real peril lies before us, not only in India, but elsewhere in the East, and it does seem to me that the speech of the noble Lord will add to the great anxiety which all feel who love India and her peoples, and who think first and last and always of their peace, progress and prosperity.
My Lords, it is with a great deal of hesitation and timidity that I rise to speak at all upon this most -important subject, and I do so only from a very deep affection for the masses of the Indian people. I have had some experience of India. I was there for some years as a little child dependent upon the. kindly and affectionate offices of the natives of the country. I went there, as many of your Lordships have done, as a traveller to see and observe as much as I could. I went there a third time in a Government office, and spent some years there. Finally, I went as a visitor to an august ceremony. The result of my experience of India is that I am perfectly 143 satisfied that the voices that we hear coming from India are not the true voices of India. They are the voices of an uneducated, small minority; they are not the voices of the mass of the Indian people.
I might illustrate that with a story told me by Sir George Birdwood, whose acquaintance with India was immense. He had served during the Mutiny in the column operating in Central India under Sir Hugh Rowe, who was in charge of a medical party working on the flank of the column. As he went along an engagement was going on, and he came across a ploughman singing, as one often hears them doing at their ploughs. He said to him: " What is all this outcry about? " The ploughman replied, " I do not know; it is something to do with the sahibs." That ploughman was not troubling himself about politics; he had his own business to attend to. And so it is with the masses of the Indian people. I do not think they care very much who is at the top so long as they get their land at a fair assessment, and are left in peace to cultivate it. I do not think they are concerned very much whether it be Hindu or Mahomedan or Christian who is governing the country. They want to be left alone to carry on their business. It is a wrong idea to think that the Indians are intent upon having thrust upon them the political system of a foreign country which is the result of centuries of trial and struggle and experience.
I would venture to ask your Lordships to bear in mind this. Except for the reign of the Moguls, has India shown any capacity except under us for central control? What foreign Government that has been there and established central control has produced such advances and advantages as has the British? I do not care in what direction you look—whether it be in trade, means of communication, peace within its borders, protection from external attack—no Government has ever done so much as we have for India. By what is our system to be replaced if we hesitate in our task? The idea that the Hindu and Mahomedan populations are going to sit down like the lion and the lamb is a complete delusion. You are faced by a difficulty the moment that a Central Indian Government is established, and that is the difficulty of officering the 144 Departments right through the country down to the lowest official position. If there was an Indian Government do you think the Mahomedans would have half a chance? At this moment it is the fact that we have to protect the Mahomedan population. In order to give them an official position at all we have to reserve a proportion of the official appointments for the Mahomedans. They are not so clever a race as the Hindus.
Most of this agitation, as I expect the noble Lord knows, is being engineered by the Brahmin of the Deccan. The Mahomedans have no voice in it. They are being wagged from the Deccan by the Brahmin, who is the most astute politician in the whole world. That is what we are confronted with. If you ever carried out the idea of retiring from India in the belief that an Indian Government is possible, the country would be at once domineered by the Brahmin of the Deccan, and the Mahomedan would not have half a chance. That is the inevitable result. When have the Indians ever shown any capacity for real self-government? For centuries of their history what was there but strife and disturbance, and incapacity to rule themselves'? That is the experience of centuries. We have introduced all these advantages and reforms, and is it conceivable that now, having brought them to this pitch of civilisation and comfort, we can hesitate? Is it possible that we can now retire from the task that we set ourselves, and which we have carried out, I venture to say, as honestly and as creditably as ever any nation carried out a great work in the history of the world? Can we contemplate for one moment retiring from that task?
In my humble opinion, what we have to do is to tell India very plainly that they are incapable of governing themselves; that they are incapable of protecting themselves from external violence or internal tumult. I am not going to have any sympathy for the merchants and other people who have invested their money in India, for foreigners who have invested their money there, although they are entitled to be considered. What I am thinking of is the mass of the Indian people who will be subjected to great discomforts, much brutality and much tumult, if we hesitate in our task. They are the only people of whom. I am 145 thinking—the ignorant masses. And what we have to do is resolutely and courageously to tell the Indian people that they are incapable of self-government, incapable of self-protection either from the outside or inside.
[I endorse very much of what was said by Lord Meston. We have introduced incautiously and too suddenly, in my opinion and in the opinion of other noble Lords with experience of India, a system of Parliamentary government to which the country is quite unsuited and of which it had had no experience previously. But we have done it, and we have to face the position. [The only thing to do now is to carry on with that system resolutely and courageously on the basis that was laid down originally and without making any further concession.] I had the advantage of listening to a speech delivered early this year to the Empire Parliamentary Association by a distinguished native Indian gentleman of the agricultural classes, a man with great official experience in Madras and, I believe, at Simla. It was an interesting speech. It was delivered in the purest English; one could understand every word he said, and one had every respect for it coming from a man of his experience, his caste, his birth and training. There was every reason to expect that it would display the capacity of India for self-government. I came away absolutely hopeless. If that is the attitude of mind of a man of his caste, his education and his training, if they believe that they are capable of self-government, as this gentleman indicated he believed they were, from the military point of view as well as the civil point of view, then I am justified in saying that the mental capacity of those men who are now supposed to be voicing the opinions of India is very small. Their arguments could be easily upset by a reference to previous history and existing facts.
Arriving at this hopeless state, so far as their mental and practical capacity for carrying out self-government is concerned, I can only fall back on the advice which Lord Meston gave in his speech—namely, that all we can do now is to carry out courageously the reforms we incautiously introduced. We cannot go back on them for at least ten years, possibly never, but at the same time we should let it be clearly understood throughout India that 146 we are doing so because they are in a state of tutelage, a state of infancy, so far as self-government is concerned, and that we should endanger the comfort and peace of many millions of people if we were afraid of the voices of the few who can make their voices heard. We must not be afraid of these voices, and. we must have sympathy for the masses of India.
§ LORD AMPTHILL:
My Lords, I do not intend to deliver a set speech on this question and, indeed, I have not prepared any speech for this debate. Nevertheless, I venture to ask your Lordships' indulgence for a few moments. I am tempted, to do so by the speeches to which we have listened from Lord Meston and Lord Harris. If those speeches had been made in 1919 Parliament would not have made, incautiously as Lord Harris says, so great an experiment as was made then. I am delighted to find myself more or less in agreement with Lord Meston. At the time when the Government of India Bill was being discussed in Parliament five years ago he and I were in disagreement almost bitter in its intensity. Now I find that there are a great many points, so far as his speech went, on which we are in entire agreement. And it is not I who have changed my opinion in any way. My noble friend seems to have removed or burst through some political crust that has overlaid the whole of the experience and wisdom he gained in his long years of brilliant Indian service and has come down to those convictions and impressions which must have absolutely saturated his mind during the whole time he was in India.
He has discovered now that this great gift of representative government is exotic to the people of India, he seems to recognise that the people of any country do not welcome gifts which are strange to them and which are, in fact, exotic. He recognises now what he refused to recognise five years ago—namely, that in order to work the diarchy system at all goodwill is required—and he is pained and surprised to find that good will does not exist on the part of those to whom this greatest and best gift, as he describes it, was handed. I agree with what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Lee of Fareham, that we depend absolutely and entirely on the Public Services in India for that good will which alone can make the reformed system 147 workable and I thoroughly endorse everything that he and Viscount Peel said about the magnificent loyalty and good will with which the Public Service in India has endeavoured to do its best to make the scheme workable. Nothing throughout the generations of magnificent achievement of our fellow-countrymen in India becomes them better than the way in which they have tried to " play the game " in this respect.
There was, however, one observation of Lord Meston's which has tempted me to intrude for a few moments. It struck me as profoundly true, and if it had been known to Parliament five years ago it is impossible that so grave a mistake as was then made would have been made. I was unable to take down the exact words of the noble Lord but they were to this effect: that the orthodox Indian's mind looks to a return to its own religious and; social institutions. That absolutely hits the nail on the head. Lord Meston calls it reaction. I do not think that is the right term. It is not so much a reaction as the climax of that great struggle which has been going on ceaselessly between Eastern and Western belief, thought and I expression.
[Although Hindu politicians glibly use our terms, such as self-determination, popular government, votes for the people, and so on, the last thing in the world they want is a form of government on Western lines. The only purpose for which they are seeking to obtain self-government is to reintroduce social and religious institutions as they existed generations ago before we came to India. When Mr. Gandhi talked of the British Government as " satanic ". he was only using an expression which correctly expressed the mind of every orthodox Hindu, and the reason why during the past twenty years such slanderous and violent attacks have been made upon British officials, both civil and military, is not that it is thought that they have been unjust or unfair in any way, but that they are regarded as the ostensible guardians of a civilisation which is anathema maranatha to the followers of Shiva and Vishnu and their personified female energies.]
Lord Meston said that no terms which we can offer will ever satisfy the Hindu politician. There, again, I agree with him absolutely, but if he and Lord Harris had said that five years ago they would 148 have been doing a better service to your Lordships' House and to Parliament generally than -they did in blessing the reform scheme. What is the present state of affairs? In the first place, we see that in two Provinces the Nationalists have refused to allow the Councils to legislate at all. Secondly, we have seen in the Imperial Assembly repeated attempts to bring the machinery of administration absolutely to a standstill. In the third place, we witness, as the result of our well meant endeavours and our conciliatory offers, a sudden and bitter recrudescence of religious and racial antagonism, and we also see that thing which, above all others, we had hoped to avoid in offering them so-called democratic institutions—namely, the immediate denial of any share in administrative posts to minorities. That is the position, and it is a situation in which the European Services in India alone can furnish not only the knowledge, experience and firmness which are required to make the scheme of reform a success but also the good will and encouragement which is required by those who do not wish to-put an end to British rule.
I cannot sit down without uttering one word of warning, which I have very much on my conscience, it seems to me, so far as I am able to appreciate the situation in India, that we are getting very near to a time when it will be necessary for us to intervene with military force. If that necessity does not arise on account of riotous disturbances in British India, it will very certainly arise on account of attempts to unsettle-the States under native rulers. The Indian Princes will be obliged to suppress with armed force any attempt to upset their rule in their own States, and we are obliged by Treaty to support them against any attempt to overthrow the present system of governance.
My warning is this. Is it not better to anticipate that fatal and dreadful necessity of using armed force which, before long, will inevitably arises in India? Prevention is surely better than cure, and there is only one way in which this can be prevented and anticipated, and that is by making it clear that, so long as we remain in India, we intend to govern—that is to say, to support and uphold all those who are exercising the rightful authority of the British Govern- 149 ment. That can be done by a clear, explicit and unequivocal statement on the part of His Majesty's Government that they intend to adhere to the letter of the Act of 1919, both as regards the explanation which is contained in the Preamble and also as regards the very explicit conditions which are set forth in Section 41—namely, that there will be no further advance in so-called democratic government until this trial of ten years is over, and until the people of India have shown that they wish to co operate with real honesty and good will to make the scheme a success.
§ LORD PENTLAND:
My Lords, I regret extremely that, owing to my own mistake, I missed the advantage of hearing the observations of my noble friend Lord Meston and my noble friend Lord Syden-ham on this very important subject, and consequently it is with some hesitation and diffidence, though I have heard the whole of the rest of the debate, that I offer a very few observations to your Lordships on this subject. The first topic which has been opened by the debate has been the Report of the Commission of the noble Viscount, Lord Lee of Fareham. I say little about that, because it must be generally agreed that, except for any urgent points of detail with which the Secretary of State in his discretion may feel obliged to deal at once, any general action on the Report should be deferred until the Legislative Assembly at Simla has discussed it and until the Secretary of State is in possession, as he can only then be fully in possession, of the views of the Government of India upon the Report. It seems to me that this is wise on all grounds. The Government of India has to work with the Legislative Assembly, and, however much some of us may regret it, it is surely desirable that the advice of the Government of India on this subject should have the fullest possible weight, especially as the initiative in establishing this Commission came, as I gather, from the Secretary of State himself.
I join in all the appreciation that has been expressed to the Chairman of the Commission in regard to the promptness and rapidity with which they carried out their work. And let me add one observation concerning the Report of the Commission. It may relieve the financial difficulties of the superior Civil Services, 150 but it will not really do everything that is necessary for the welfare and good working of those Services. It is more than financial help that is required. The work, the outlook, the career, the future before them must influence men at present in the Services and men about to join the Services, and it is essential in the interests of India itself that we should do our utmost to maintain the spirit, the traditions and the efficiency of these Services as they have been known in the past. But the welfare of these Services is intimately bound up with the whole question of the reforms.
Now, [there are many criticisms which were made at the time of the introduction of the reforms, and which have been made since, with which many noble Lords have much sympathy. It was said at the time that they were hastily constructed. It is undoubtedly the fact that they were imposed upon India. They were not the result of any growth or evolution of Indian institutions. We were then under the difficulties of the immediate legacies of the great war, and it has often been said, not without justice, that Parliament was somewhat rushed into passing these reforms.] There are many other criticisms of the kind which have legitimately great weight, although not sufficient weight, in my opinion, was given to them at the time. There was no hearing for such criticisms at the time. On the other hand, we have to recognise the facts of the situation.
As Lord Ampthill has just pointed out, ands previous speakers have said, the fact is that the Government of India Act of 1919 was passed, and has been working for the last four or five years, and criticisms which were apt and appropriate enough during the period of consideration before that Act was passed, are open to be misunderstood at the present time. They are open Ho be misunderstood especially in India, where opinions and feelings are sensitive. When, for instance, it is argued as against further advance that the population is illiterate, Indian opinion reminds us that we knew that before we passed the 1919 Act. When it is urged that the electorates are narrow, again it is answered that that was all known before. When the caste system is brought up as an objection, and when Hindu and Moslem rivalry is spoken of, again we are legitimately reminded that 151 all these circumstances were known to us before the passing of the 1919 Act.
Therefore, I would plead for some discrimination in applying these criticisms to the present situation. They are much too apt to act as irritants. I regret it, but it is the case, and we had much better, in my judgment, accept the 1919 Act, and its having been in existence and working for the last four or five years, as facts, and as the foundation upon which we have to build for the future. It is all true. Diarchy was an experiment never tried elsewhere before. We chose to try it upon India, and the responsibility is ours. All these circumstances seem to me to point to a full and frank recognition—to which nobody gives more eloquent expression than the noble Marquess, Lord Curzon—of the fact that we are bound by what we have done, and must do our best loyally to help India on her way towards self-government.
I say this because I believe there is no greater need at the present moment than to restore confidence in India in our ability and our good intentions to carry out the pledges we have given. I believe that anything we can do now to restore confidence in our ability and our good intentions to carry out loyally our pledges to India, to see her in her own interests through this difficult transition period, will do more to act as a solvent, and as a powerful aid in all these minor questions of detail and organisation, than anything concrete that we can do at the present moment.
I hesitate to intrude at any length upon your Lordships' time on this occasion, but I will say one word about the Civil Services, or perhaps I have said enough to indicate that I yield to nobody in my appreciation of what the Civil Services and British rule have done for India. But it is a task that is not finished, and we have still to carry on under more difficult conditions than have hitherto existed, if we are to discharge our responsibility to that country. I have urged that we should do everything we can to restore confidence. Let us recognise also that besides giving these constitutional reforms to India we have done our very utmost to awaken the political self-conscioueness of India. We have, of our own act, admitted India through her representatives to the Imperial Conference and to Versailles.
152 All that has tended, perhaps in an exaggerated degree, but nevertheless in a real degree, to awaken and give force to the political consciousness of India. Having done that, we have got to recognise it and take it by the hand, and try to guide it, and it is no use at this time trying to turn the tide back and suppress it. These two facts will have to be recognised—the grant (shall we say?) of these reforms, and the strenuous efforts made by our Government here to awaken the self-consciousness of India and to put, her, theoretically at least, on a par with our self-governing Dominions.
These being the facts, what can we do? Are there any practical steps that we can take in relation to these reforms—for I confine myself to the reforms at present— to give effect to what I believe are our real intentions? I hesitate to suggest definite steps, because I have left India for five years, and I know how easy it is to get out of touch with Indian opinion and Indian conditions, but I suggest three steps in which action may be possible. In the first place, with regard to the Elections, I think it should be carefully considered and examined whether the electorates, or the different elected bodies, are serving the purpose of truly representing the opinion of India. The Council of State, for instance, was deliberately, and I am willing to admit wisely, constructed in order to represent powerful interests of men with a large stake in the country. I pass briefly over those matters because there is no time to examine them fully.
Now I come to the Imperial Legislative Assembly It has been suggested— and there may be force in the criticism— that in that Assembly the interests of what goes by the name of theintelligentsiaunduly outweigh agricultural and provincial interests. If that is so, that is a point which may well be examined within the limits of the present Constitution. It is remarkable to find, when you come to the Provincial Assemblies, that opinion there is less urban, that it is more general and more diluted with the representation of other interests. Then I come to the Central Government. We all agree that, for the great central interests of India—foreign affairs, defence, relations with native States, the maintenance of a uniform system of Taw throughout India, banking and commercial interests, and there may 153 be others—it is essential, for the sake of India herself, that a strong Government should not only be maintained, but maintained in full strength. It seems to me of great importance that everything that is possible should be done within these limits to make Indians feel that it is their own Government, and that we maintain this Central Government in its full strength as a guarantee for the orderly progress of India towards full responsible government.
Next take the Provincial Governments. We have heard during this discussion a great deal about the misgovernment, and the difficulty of government, in the Central Provinces and in Bengal, but, so far as I have been present, we have heard nothing about Provinces where the reforms have been creditably worked, where there has been substantial evidence of an honest and loyal intention to work the reforms, and where, in the exercise of that intention, there has been displayed a considerable measure of sound sense and political judgment. Surely that drives home to us what has been repeatedly pointed out, and what was too much forgotten in the initiation of these reforms—namely, that the whole of India is not on the same level of political knowledge and achievement, or the same level of intellectual advancement? Is it too late to recognise that in our practical politics? If the Government of India is to be placed in the position so-to-speak of guiding and nursing India to a fuller realisation of self-government, surely it is reasonable to suggest that Provinces which have worked the machine well should be given opportunities of an extension of the area of their working? Given safeguards for the depressed classes, given safeguards for any special difficulties peculiar to such Provinces, could there be a better guarantee of good faith on our part, could there be any greater encouragement to India on its path of self-realisation, than to discriminate between such Provinces as Madras, Bombay, and, I understand, the United Provinces and possibly Bihar and Orissa (I cannot speak for them, but I suggest them as worthy of consideration), and Provinces which have not succeeded in working the reforms so well?
When I say that the difference of Provinces was not recognised in the initiation of these reforms, let me safeguard myself against criticism by saying 154 that I know well that in certain Provinces certain Departments were not Transferred Subjects, and that there was a certain measure of discrimination. But I would urge that in regard to the electorates, in regard to the Central Government, and especially in regard to these Provinces which have loyally and successfully endeavoured to work the reforms, there should be some special consideration shown in the steps to be taken now by the Government in India. I cannot conceive any method by which more encouragement could be given, or a more hopeful view held out to the peoples of India, than such action. And I submit, with all respect, that it is impossible— and, if not impossible, unwise—for us to take other than a hopeful view of the situation in India. We may have made mistakes, but they are mistakes which can be repaired, above all if we can succeed in restoring throughout India a sense of our ability and good intention to pursue the path to which we are pledged, it we can make some immediate advance in any direction which seems favourable, and if we can abandon our habit, to winch we are all too prone, of raking up objections which are out of date, and which are misinterpreted as showing reluctance on our part to carry out our pledges.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON:
My Lords, I have listened to every word of this debate on the two days for which it has lasted, culminating in the sympathetic, although perhaps in some respects rather over-sanguine, opinions to which we have just listened from the noble Lord, Lord Pentland. It will not be denied that the pivot of this debate is necessarily the speech which was delivered by the Secretary of State ten days ago. Coming as it did from the lips of the Minister of the Crown who is mainly responsible for the Government of India, it was, in my judgment, in some respects which it will be my duty to point out, an extraordinary speech. [It was a speech,. as I know, which has created apprehension, if not dismay, in some quarters, and from a very careful study of the Press both here and in India, I have not discovered that it has met with the approval even of those whom it was intended to placate.
In one respect I hope the noble Lord will forgive me if I say that he placed 155 us at some disadvantage. On these occasions it is the more ordinary practice for a noble Lord representing the Government to give an opportunity to all those who, with authority, may desire to speak or to interrogate him before he replies; but after my noble friends Lord Peel and Lord Lee had completed their observations the other day, the noble Lord, Lord Olivier, rose at once and for an hour and a half spoke to us—I am not certain that it would not be truer to say that he read to us—an oration which effectually closed the discussion and postponed the reply that might be desired to be given by any of us on this side, for a period of ten days. I recognise the desire of the noble Lord on that occasion to put the views of the Government before the country and before India as soon as possible, but some of us would have liked his procedure to have beer, more in conformity with our ordinary practice.
The subjects over which the speech of the Secretary of State and the whole of the subsequent discussion have ranged have been these. Firstly, there was the Report of the Commission presided over by my noble friend Lord Lee of Fareham. Next, there was the situation in India, in Bengal and elsewhere, and the proceedings and personality of Mr. Das. And finally, there was the policy of the Government in respect of all these particulars. I hope your Lordships will allow me to make a few observations on each of these points. The first I take is the Report of the Commission of Lord Lee. I join in the tributes of congratulation and admiration that have been offered to him from all quarters both as to the rapidity of the work of his Commission, as to the completeness of their labours, and as to the unanimity of their Report. It was a remarkable achievement for a man visiting India, I am inclined to think, for the first time and at a time when opinion was a good deal divided and when many people thought that it would be quite impossible to arrive at an agreed result. It was a remarkable achievement; but it is only fair to add that, as the noble Lord himself has told us, it is the essence of his proposals, the proposals of himself and of his colleagues, that they should be taken as a whole. Indeed, I think he somewhere used the words " a treaty" as having 156 been in some.measure concluded between the different parties. It is in that aspect, I think, that we here ought to regard it.
There are only three features of his Report about which I ask leave to say a word in passing. The first is that of the concessions as regards pay, allowances, passage-money, pensions and the like, which the Commission proposes .should be granted. I was glad to note that the Secretary of State described these as moderate and reasonable, and I hope from his use of those words that we may anticipate that he, at any rate, will use his best efforts to see that they are put into operation. May I say, since the point, has been raised, that these concessions will amount to a crore or a crore and a half, I think I heard the words used —
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON:
A crore and a quarter. I think that is but a small price to pay for the recovery of the contentment of your Services and for the rendering of what I, at any rate, regard as an elementary act of justice. Surely there can be no compunction among all right thinking people in making a concession such as this when we have only to read what passes in India and to see that many crores of money are being thrown away at Delhi in constructing the new quarters of Government with a degree of recklessness and profuseness for which I at any rate can find no excuse.
The other points which struck me very forcibly in the Report of the noble Viscount are these. Firstly, the proposal that a Public Service Commission should be constituted to recruit and control the All-India Services in the future. That seems to me to be a very valuable safeguard. But when the noble Viscount and his colleagues go on to urge that this body should be composed of five men of the highest public standing, detached from political associations, two of them possessed of high judicial and legal qualifications, while I entirely agree with him I wonder where they are to be found. I wonder whether in India or in England you will be able to obtain the men who, for the kind of salary you can give them, will undertake this critical and responsible job. Anyhow, whether the personnel of 157 this Commission be English, or Indian, or whether it be composite, I urge my noble friend the Secretary of State, when it come to a question of creating this Commission, to spare no effort and, I may add, to spare no money to get the right men upon it, for upon the choice of the right men, believe me, will depend the success of this great change.
The second point about which I desire to say only a word is1 the proposal that the Provincial Governments should in future recruit and appoint the personnelof all the Transferred Departments. I wonder how that will work in practice. I wonder whether the Provincial Governors, of whom several have spoken in this debate, can look with perfect confidence to the working of such a, scheme. Will Englishmen of the right type come forward in response to this appeal I Will they amalgamate and co-operate with their Indian brethren? Will you get the same type of man in the Transferred Services thus recruited as you have hitherto done in the Indian Civil Service as a whole? I devoutly hope this may be the case, but I must take this opportunity of saying that I am far from sanguine and that it may even be that this proposal, put forward with the best intentions rather on the lines of what my noble friend Lord Pentland suggested, may ultimately end in extruding the greater part of the Englishmen in the Transferred Services of the local Governments altogether.
I agree with my noble friend Lord Pent land in one respect. He said:"Do not criticise this proposal only from the financial point of view. The real test is what will be its effect upon the Services." Will it enable them to continue as they have done before the great work to which he and others have paid such a splendid tribute? None of us who have served in India looks back with anything but pride and gratitude upon his connection with that Service, even where we did not belong to it. Certainly, it is the proudest reminiscence in my life that for nearly seven years I was the official head of that Service. I can truthfully say that at that time, now nearly a quarter of a century ago, the Indian Civil Service was distinguished above all others I believe in the world, not merely by its capacity, efficiency and integrity, but by the spirit 158 of enthusiasm for the work and the country by which it was inspired. They looked to the Government of India, and they looked more particularly to the Viceroy as their protector and head, and certainly he, and I think the Secretary of State at home, always felt it a particular obligation resting upon themselves to defend the interests of those of their countrymen without whose labours neither of them would ever have effected anything.
What has passed in the interval? We have often heard attacks made upon Englishmen in India—sometimes, perhaps, with too much justification—for a harsh attitude towards the natives. But what has been the attitude of the natives? I do not use the word in an invidious sense. What has been the attitude of large sections of the Indian population towards the Indian Civil Servant during the past few years? Many of these men have been the target of misrepresentation, of abuse, of political intrigue. From what has transpired in the- course of this debate I am afraid that many of them, though Whether justly or not it is not for me to say, have not had that support and protection from the headquarters of Government in India upon which they formerly relied. Their financial position has been getting steadily worse, and all the while, at the back of their minds, has been the carking uncertainty as to their future.
The result is—you cannot deny it, it comes out in the Report of the noble Viscount, Lord Lee of Fareham—that that kind of enthusiasm of which I have been speaking has been dying out, and, while the better men of the Service have gone away from India, the best men from the Universities have not gone out from here. Take the Indian Medical Service alone—a splendid service which in my day the best men from the medical schools competed to enter. It is killed and dead, and the utmost that the noble Viscount, Lord Lee of Fareham, has been able to do is to propose its resuscitation in another form. Bear in mind in all your criticisms, and in all your actions, the effect that they are going to produce upon your Civil Service. I deplore the attempt that is made in some quarters to break it down, and I say that any money that you can spend upon it in securing their contentment, in maintaining their high level, in inducing them to go out and work 159 in India, will be repaid ten thousand times over in the efficiency of your administration.
What is the attitude of the Government of India, or rather of the Secretary of State, upon the subject of Lord Lee's Report? I do not take quite the same view of it that was urged just now by Lord Pentland. The Report was 'presented in the month of May. The Legislative Assembly was sitting in India in the month of June. There was no reason whatever, so far as I can see, why it, should not have discussed it. But no: the discussion was postponed. It was put off till the next meeting in September, and the Secretary of State told us the other day that before a decision can be arrived at the Secretary of State in Council has to consider it, the Governor-General in Council has to consider it; they have to consider it with the Provincial Governments, and they have to consider it with the members of the Legislative Assembly; and he does not anticipate that final orders will be issued till six months after the issue of the Report. That means until the month of December.
Thus we arrive at this position. These recommendations have been made, and somehow or other, at this moment, a fatal inertia seems to have settled down upon everybody. Nobody can make up their minds what they are going to do, except the Swarajists. My noble friend asked if we could not get the Legislative Assembly to say what they think about the proposal. I would point out to him that they have told us in advance what they think. We know perfectly well that when the proposals come before the Legislative Assembly they will denounce them, probably in every respect, certainly in regard to their financial cost, and I should not be surprised if they take such steps in the Assembly as to force the Viceroy to certify the grant of these sums in exercise of his executive authority.
I think that at an early stage the Secretary of State himself said that there were points of urgency with which he had the power and ability to deal. If that be so, why does he not deal with them? Why does he not deal with, them at once? Pray believe me when I say that every month you allow to pass before action is taken will create and multiply the points of divergence until, eventually, when you come to Delhi in September, and come to a decision in December, you may find 160 it very difficult then to carry what you could without difficulty effect now. Meantime, while all this hesitation and uncertainty goes on, the fibre of your Service is getting weakened. The men's spirits are getting disheartened, and recruitment will stand still. I urge the Secretary of State for India to show a little more energy and keenness in dealing with this matter, and I should like to hear from my noble friend Lord Chelmsford, if he is going to reply, that there are certain respects in which action can be taken on the Report of Lord Lee's Commission without delay.
I pass to the situation in India. I must say that I have not gathered from this debate that there is in your Lordships' House at all an adequate appreciation of the seriousness of the position in India at the present time as my information leads me to believe that it exists. Take the Province of Bengal. There is, in the first place, the local political situation arising out of the action of the Swarajist Party which is in a majority on the Legislative Council. We have been told that the Legislative Council has refused supplies for the greater number of the Reserved Subjects, that they have declined to pay salaries to the Ministers, and that, in consequence, notices have had to be given to several hundreds of employees in several Departments, notably the Education Department. Lord Lytton, the Governor, is, we are told, going to submit these salaries again in a few weeks' time. Supposing they are again refused, what is he going to do, and what is the Secretary of State going to do, in such a situations?
But the situation in Bengal is not confined to the local political situation in the Councils; it is much more serious. Yesterday I read, in a communication to theDaily Telegraph from their correspondent in Calcutta, this passage which I ask your Lordships' leave to read:There is startling proof in support of the police theory that the revolutionary party of Bengal, encouraged by the recent drift in Nationalist politics towards methods of violence, is preparing another campaign of terrorism. The following document, signed' President in Council, Red Bengal,' was received yesterday by the Commissioner and Deputy-Commissioners of Police, and a score of prominent officers of the C.I.D., Judges of the High Court, and editors of leading European newspapers:' The public is hereby informed that the Bengal Revolutionary Council has 161 passed a resolution deciding on a campaign of ruthless assassination of police officers. Any one actively or passively obstructing our comrades, when in action or retiring, or helping the Government by taking prosecution briefs from the Government or giving evidence when any such comrades are in the hands of the Government shall be considered as doing an act highly prejudicial to the best interests of the country. From the moment that any such action is taken by any one he shall be considered condemned by us to be immediately despatched.'This document, headed by a picture of the Hindu Goddess Kali, " the Destroyer," was posted to several officers of the special branch at their private addresses, and in addition to the posted copies a large number of leaflets were posted on the walls of public buildings and lamp standards.
Mr. Tegart, a Commissioner of Police, on whose life several attempts have recently been made, says this:Despite the probability that the Extremist Press will dismiss the leaflet as a hoax or the idle threat of a few lunatics, the authorities regard the matter as of serious importance. Not since 1915, when a succession of outrages followed, have such leaflets been issued.That statement is not an invention of the Press; it is not a figment of the imagination. It is true. It represents the actual condition of affairs existing in Bengal at the present time, and I am certain that the Secretary of State will be the last to deny it. The fact is there is a revival in Bengal at the present moment of the old revolutionary party, the methods of which are procedure by assassination, by bombs, and by terrorism. Their object is to pick off these police officers one by one. As you know, the life of this officer has been attempted more than once, and the poor European merchant who was killed in the streets of Calcutta was mistaken for a police officer who would otherwise have been done to death.
This organisation exists; it is amply supplied with funds. At this moment it is tearing at the foundations of your rule and government in Bengal, and the leader of the Extreme Party, whose exact connection with this policy it is not for me to say, is this gentleman Mr. Das, to whom the noble Lord, the Secretary of State, went out of his way to pay a superfluous and unprecedented tribute in your Lordships' House. Will your Lordships allow 162 me, because I do not want to misrepresent him, to read the actual words which the Secretary of State employed. Referring to the Conference of the Bengal Extremists which passed a resolution condoning the murder of this young European merchant in Calcutta, the noble Lord said:In the episode… Mr. Das appears unquestionably to have associated himself with the support of a resolution which, although it did not expressly go so far as to approve the assassination of Mr Day, expressed an admiration for the character and motives of the assassin which has been, and not unnaturally, generally interpreted as implying a commendation of his deed. After the resolution referred to had appeared in the Press in its actual original form, an amended and altered version of it was published, touched up by inserting a phrase intended to dissociate the eulogy from the character of the action itself, and to confine it to the motives and mentality of the assassin.I have here a subsequent resolution or amendment moved by Mr. Das himself at a meeting of the Congress in which he openly expressed his appreciation of the murderer's ideals and self-sacrifice and expressed his respect for this great self-sacrifice.
The self-sacrifice of a man who goes and shoots an Englishman in the streets! Such was the action; and then the Secretary of State goes on to give the view of His Majesty's Government upon this class of procedure. In the words which were quoted just now by Lord Sydenham he says:It is not necessary for the British Government to assume in this connection an attitude of high moral condemnation of Mr. Das as a politician on this account. The operations of secret murder societies are detestable, and occasionally, in their effects, atrocious. They impose a constant strain on the vigilance of the police. But they are not in themselves a political force, nor do they ultimately strengthen any political Party that dallies with them. It has been the continual policy of the Party to which I belong to repudiate and condemn all such forcible methods, quite independently of their moral turpitude, on the ground of their foolishness and their futility.Yes, they are to be condemned because of their futility and because they are foolish, but they are not to be allowed to incur the moral condemnation of His Majesty's Government!
If you go from the actions and the policy to the man, let me remind your 163 Lordships what the Secretary of State did say about this Mr. Das. This is what he said:I am informed by a high authority in Indian politics that he has the reputation of being a particularly upright and scrupulous politician, second only to Gandhi himself in saintliness of character. He is unquestionably a man of high and admirable ideals" —I have just read out to your Lordships the idealism of this saintly individual—on behalf of his country which he has finely and uncompromisingly expressed‥2025; The political attitude and proceedings of Mr. Das, in the light of all the study that I have been able to make of them, appear to me to present a typical illustration of methods and reactions quite familiar in the development of a struggle for political evolution in the direction of self-governing national institutions.Then the noble Lord went on to define these methods as an appeal to organised force, or, failing this, to secret methods, and pointed out how successful they had been in the case of Ireland.
He went on to say that the theory upon which these actions arose was that " Great Britain will never do anything unless there is a threat of armed force, and will always do something if there is a threat of armed force." These words of the Secretary of State speak for themselves. It was with a gasp of horror and surprise that most persons read this language emanating from a Minister of the Crown. This saintly man whose attitude is one of high idealism is the leader of the Party whose avowed object it is to reduce British Government to contempt and, indeed, to render all foreign government in India impossible. He is the man who has, in the language I have referred to, openly condoned the crime of political murder and applauded the character and motives of the assassin. He has even gone so far that he has had to be repudiated by the section of the Nationalist Party that is led by Mr. Gandhi. I do not say that the language of the Secretary of State amounted—I am sure he would repudiate it—to an actual condonation of the action or the morals of Mr. Das, but I do say that language of that kind, incautiously used here, is an encouragement to a repetition of these acts of violence in India, and that when there is a recrudescence of this trouble, as there will be probably within the next two or three months, men will point to the speech of the Secretary of 164 State and say:" He practically told us that this is the only way by which we can get what we desire."
As I heard these remarks I could not help wondering what Viscount Chelmsford, who was sitting on the Ministerial Bench, was thinking all the time. I could not help wondering what I should have thought of them if, when I was Viceroy of India, I was confronted with this sort of difficulty, if I had had that type of encouragement from, the Secretary of State. I wonder what is thought about it by the Government of India, and here, fortunately, we have some clue, for I read a day or two ago, in a communication from the same correspondent of the same newspaper, theDaily Telegraph,words which I will read to your Lordships. Let me first remark that this Mr. Das is coming to England and will shortly be here. The correspondent writes:It is not necessary to dot the 'i's ' of the communication sent by the Governor-General in Council to the Press on Friday, wherein His Excellency"—that is, Lord Reading—expressly denies that the Government of India had been consulted about the suggestion that Mr. Das should now visit England, as the present was a suitable time for political agitation. There has not been the slightest change at Simla in the attitude of the Indian Government towards sedition as the result of Lord Olivier's condonation of violence.—
§ LORD OLIVIER:
May I ask the noble Marquess what he understands, or intends to suggest, by that quotation to the effect that there is no necessity " to dot the 'i's"? It may be that he is making a mistake as to what has happened.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON:
That may be; I do not know. All that appears from this passage is that the Governor-General in Council has thought it necessary to send a communication to the Press. I know nothing about it.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON:
I was reading the passage, and, if the noble Lord will allow me—
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON:
If he will allow me to finish, it will be for him to make inquiries as to whether the reference is correct or not. I have no information, but this is what I read:It is not necessary to dot the 'i's' of the communication sent by the Governor-General in Council to the Press on Friday, wherein His Excxellency expressly denies that the Government of India; had been consulted about the suggestion that Mr. Das should now visit England, as the present was a suitable time for political agitation.That is the statement which appeared in theDaily Telegraphtwo days ago from its special correspondent at Simla.
§ LORD OLIVIER:
I suggest that, if the noble Marquess wishes to convey anything to the House by what he has read, it is for-Mm to say what he means by "dotting the i's"? What interpretation would be put upon that? If he would inform me, I am prepared to tell him whether it is the proper interpretation or not.
§ LORD OLIVIER:
Will the noble Marquess say whether it is relevant to what the Government of India thinks?
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON:
I really think that the noble Lord is entirely off the point. I am reading a statement which has appeared in the Press, the authority for which is not my own but that of a correspondent at Simla "well known to many of your Lordships. He communicates to us that which is news to me, that a certain communication has been made to the Press by the Governor-General in Council. I read it to the noble Lord. It is for the noble Lord to make inquiries as to whether that communication is here correctly described or not, but it would appear, if the correspondent is correct and if this communication has had to be sent, that the Government of India are rather alarmed at the suggestion that Mr. Das is coming to England at the present time with a view to having a consultation with the Secretary of State.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON:
Very well. In that case, I am rather surprised that the Government of 166 India should have gone out of their way to deny it. On this branch of the subject i will only add this. In view of what I have said about that which is passing in Bengal, in view of what I have said about Mr. Das, in view of the position in which our people are placed in India, I think it would have been better the other day if the Secretary of State, instead of giving a sort of certificate to Mr. Das, had spoken a few words of encouragement to our own men in India whose lives are in danger, who look to the Secretary of State for support and who might have expected something better from him than a tribute to the saintly character of a man who is connected with those who are plotting their assassination.
There is another respect in which the attitude of the Secretary of State appears to me to be similarly open to criticism. I am alluding to the points, more than once mentioned in this debate, regarding that which is passing in the Central Provinces and in Bengal. I have already mentioned the events in Bengal. In the Central Provinces there has been similar action. The Legislative Council has refused to consider any measures of Government, it has refused to make any grants for the ensuing financial year, the Government has had to take over all the Transferred Departments and the Legislative Council is actually not now functioning. When the noble Lord spoke of these matters the other day he seemed to regard it, I will not say as a thing that was not regrettable, but as a rather natural thing to happen in the circumstances, and he seemed to think that all that had to be done was for the Government, whether in Bengal or in the Central Provinces, to deal with this matter by Executive Decree.
But does the noble Lord not see that if this action takes place in these two Provinces—and, believe me, if it takes place there it will shortly take place elsewhere—the whole scheme of reform associated with the name of the noble Viscount who is sitting beside him has broken down absolutely, and that not only has diarchy gone but that the whole scheme of democratic government is vitiated at the start? When that scheme was started, how often did I not listen to speeches in which noble Lords who advocated it 167 said that the days of benevolent despotism in India were over; that it was very well for the past, and very well indeed was it exercised, but that we now had finer ideals and more modern conceptions! And yet here you are, in the third year after these reforms were started, having in two of the principal Provinces of India to fall back upon the benevolent despotism which you have destroyed in order to get yourself out of the difficulties which the reforms have caused. I am not, of course, for a moment bringing the reforms as a reproach against the noble Lord— I would not be so unjust—but I am pointing out the situation to which the collapse of the reforms has brought us, and the singular anomaly of the position that we are actually drifting to a point at which we can extract ourselves from the difficulty only by turning the Provincial Governments of India into executive authorities to carry on government independently of the reforms which they have been instructed to pursue.
I pass for a moment—it shall not be long—to the question of the attitude of the Government of India to the main question of the extension or otherwise of the reform scheme. Let your Lordships realise what the position is. In 1919 we gave to India con amore, with generous intention, a large and liberal scheme of reform. I agree with that which Lord Pentland has said that we cannot go back upon our word. We must be true to that, and we must endeavour not only to make it succeed in Provinces where it has already attained some partial success— and there are such Provinces—but we must endeavour to remove obstacles to its success in places where it has failed. But ever since that scheme was introduced a deliberate effort has been made to break it down, to prove that the scheme is impossible and to force the Government to give a full measure of self-government without delay.
What is the attitude of the Government in this respect? We were first led to believe that they proposed to set up a Committee of Inquiry—as, indeed, they did—in order to ascertain what blemishes or defects there might be in the Act, with a view to amending it by the exercise of their Rule-making power, and the representative of the Government at Delhi said that the inquiry did not extend beyond that scope to the amend- 168 ment of the Constitution as it was. But presently the Government began to be squeezed. A larger Committee, containing many non-official members, was appointed, and we were told by the Secretary of State, in his speech ten days ago, that this Committee was to inquirewhether there are any defects in the working of the Act in its effect on the work of the Government, which can be remedied by alterations in the structure of the Act itself, without really altering the principle of the Constitution.And then he went on to say—and these words are very ominous—I cannot deny that if the result of the labours of that Committee should be to find that there are certain defects in the working of government under the provisions of that Act, which apparently cannot be remedied by any amendment of Rules, or by any amendments of the Act short of an alteration of the Constitution, then a question would arise as to whether any further steps should or ought to be taken for dealing with the question as to whether any further constitutional advance can be contemplated.Again, he said: —it is just possible that the result of this Inquiry may impose upon them"—that is, His Majesty's Government—the duty of coming to such a conclusion —that is to say, as to whether some steps should or should not be taken to re-examine the constitutional position.Here again the Government seem to me to be hanging out a sort of signal to the advanced Nationalist Party in India that they are ready for Borne sort of deal.
I think that is a most unwise suggestion. It is going far beyond what they contemplated themselves in the first place, and I am not certain that it is not open to another criticism—namely, that it contemplates taking from Parliament that which was laid down in 1919 as being the sole function and duty of Parliament. I think some noble Lord quoted the words of Article 41 of the Act which says that the reopening of this question and the appointment of a Commission to enquire whether further advance ought to be made is a matter for Parliament. The suggestion made by the noble Lord seemed to indicate that there is to be some sort of arrangement or proposal upon the point. I hope the noble Lord will at least remember the terms of that Act, and realise that nothing can be done without the consent of Parliament, and 169 that the prerogative then laid upon us was not one that we have the slightest intention of abandoning.
Before I conclude I only want to make an observation or two upon the general situation in India. I said just now that I thought its seriousness was not thoroughly realised in this country, and I will explain what I mean. Five years have now elapsed since the reforms of 1919 were first foreshadowed. Four years have elapsed since the Act was passed and the reforms came into operation in India. What can we say as to their results? It seems quite clear that they have not satisfied the legitimate aspirations of those for whom they were intended. On the contrary, they have encouraged and embittered their hostility. They have dispirited and alienated the Indian Civil Services. They have produced a general impression in India of weakness on the part of the Central Government. I am not aware that you can point to a single class of the population of India that has benefited by the introduction of the reforms, and in many parts they have led to that shocking recrudescence of racial and caste antagonisms to which a noble Lord on this side alluded.
This is a very serious situation. Your new Councils, which were supposed to be the highest expression of democratic principles, are breaking down. At Delhi they have openly voted against the Government, and in two other Provinces they have brought government to a standstill. The policy of civil disobedience is being widely preached, and is not distinguishable from revolution. In Bengal you have revived the campaign of assassination and terrorism to which I have referred, and everywhere throughout the country in India you have got this feeling fermenting that the old restraint of the British Raj is being withdrawn, and old animosities and feuds can now safely be revived. Look at what is passing, or has passed, at Delhi, in Calcutta and in the Punjab. In one case you have Moslems against Hindus. In another case Moslems against Sikhs, and in another case Sikhs against Hindus. All the old passions of the ancestral cauldron are boiling up again, and you see what is at the back of it all. What democracy means to these shrewd people who look below the surface is not a fair chance for the Moslems, but 170 Hindu ascendancy, which means Brahmin ascendancy, and that means the ascendancy of a highly accomplished oligarchy framed on the strictest lines of creed and caste.
Somehow we have got to the position where all these old feelings are being revived, and where all our best efforts to create popular institutions seems to be crumbling in our hands. It is a desperate confession to make, and it is a confession the fault for which I do not attempt to lay upon one Party more than another— perhaps it ought to be equally distributed —but at least consider how we are going to meet it. I have listened to all the speeches delivered in this debate, and there is one point on which they have been absolutely at one. I am not including Lord Pentland's remarks, when he suggested that in certain respects which he indicated he thought that in some Provinces advances might be made, or reforms might be introduced, but broadly speaking every noble Lord who has taken part in this debate has come to this conclusion—that the time has arrived when , the Government ought to stand firm; that some definite statement of how far we can go and are -willing to go ought to be made; and that if the Government cannot say that, at any rate you ought to say the-point beyond which we decline to go.
If we could get; some definite pronouncement from His Majesty's advisers I believe that the best moderate opinion, not only in this country but in India, would rally to their support. What are the Government going to do? Are they going to embark once again, as it is such a temptation to Governments to do, upon a course of vacillation here and compromise there, and surrender somewhere else —a policy of drift all round? If they do that they will go from bad to worse. A policy of drift in India, believe me, is a policy not merely of despair but of destruction. The whole bases of the fabric that we have reared for a century and a half in India are, I will not say shaken, but are being imperilled. For the first time a deliberate effort is being made by a powerful section of the community—powerful even though they be numerically small—into whose hands you have placed the power, to get rid of you out of the country altogether. That, as every speaker allows, means disaster and damnation, not only to us but to India itself.
171 [That process can only be arrested, believe me, by some measure of unity among ourselves, by strong pronouncements and definite action on the part of the Government, supported, as you will be, by every section of the community, both in England and in India. I am going to be followed by a noble Viscount who has filled the same post which I once had the honour to occupy. I am sure he will realise the force of what I have been endeavouring, however imperfectly, to point out, and I look forward to receiving from him some statement which will indicate that, by a policy of refusal to have any truck with conspiracy, by a policy of firmness, not unattended by conciliation, by a policy that will reconcile and revive the enthusiasm of our own Services, we may hope to recover the ground that has been lost, and to look forward with some confidence to a future which I admit, as I regard it, is heavily clouded at the present time.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (VISCOUNT CHELMSFORD):
My Lords, any one who has to follow the noble Marquess, with his unrivalled authority and the perfection of his presentation of a case, suffers under a very grave disadvantage. It is a misfortune in which I am placed that I have to attempt to follow him, and I shall endeavour to put before your Lordships a plain and unvarnished tale with regard to various points of issue in this debate. The debate has covered a wide field, but I think I may take four points on which I may give the House information with regard to the attitude of the Government. Let me record what those points are: First of all, the subject of the Lee Report; in the second place, the working of the reformed Constitution; in the third place, the activities of the revolutionaries; and, in the fourth place, the situation in the Punjab.
Taking the question of the Report of my noble friend Lord Lee, my noble friend, when he was addressing your Lordships, made a quotation from a speech of mine when I was Viceroy of India. I well recollect the circumstances in which I made that speech, and that the words in which I couched my utterance were very carefully weighed and considered. I can tell him now, as, of course, I told the Legislative Assembly at that time, that I accept the principles underlying that speech in their entirety, and I recognise 172 no qualifications with regard to the principles which I laid down in it. I will not trouble your Lordships with the utterance whch I delivered on that occasion, for it is to be found in the noble Lord's speech in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the last debate, but I can only say from my place here to-night that I adhere, literally and in principle, to everything that I said then.
With regard to the problem of the British Services in India, a continuous misfortune seems to have dogged all our attempts to deal with the question. In the first place, Lord Islington's Report was issued just at the outbreak of war. It was considered in India at that time—I was not then Viceroy—that it was unwise to attempt to deal with it so long as the war was on. I arrived in 1916, and I felt that this situation could not continue, that even though it might be impossible to deal with the Report as a whole at all events the examination of the proposals in that Report might well go on. So I took up the questions in Lord Islington's Report at once. But I must make a confession that, having only lately arrived in India, I think I made a grave mistake with regard to the treatment of the examination of that Report. I was over-urged that the examination of it should proceed according to the usually accepted, prevailing system of Departmental and Provincial examination. I must plead guilty to having made that error of judgment, because, as everyone knows, it was some two or three years before we were able to come to our final conclusions on that Report.
I may say that I think I profited by that experience later during my time of office, because, when the great Report on the industrial development of India was made by the Committee over which Sir Thomas Holland presided, I determined that we must have a more expeditious mode of dealing with these great Reports, and I immediately sent round a Secretary of Government direct to the various Provincial Governments, to explain the recommendations of that Report, and to nail them down to their conclusions with regard to those recommendations. Similarly, when we received those, I sent home an officer of Government straight to the Secretary of State to get his sanction to what the Government of India had determined. In that way we disposed of that great Report, I think, in something like 173 two to three months, and we got the sanction of the Secretary of State to what we had done. I have urged my noble friend the Secretary of State that he should endeavour to get some expeditious form of that sort used with regard to the Lee Report, so that we could get an answer as soon as possible.
There were two misfortunes,—first, the war intervened, and delay undoubtedly took place in the examination of that Report; secondly, as the Secretary of State mentioned in his speech the other day, when we at headquarters were examining the problem the rupee at that moment stood at something like 2s. 8d. to the £. The Committee which had been appointed to deal with the rupee had fixed the rupee at 2s. and promised us in their Report that that was what the value of the rupee was likely to stand at in the future. Your Lordships can well see that recommendations with regard to salaries, with the rupee at 2s. 8d., or certainly at 2s., were recommendations which must foe dealt with in a very different manner from when the rupee was standing at Is. 4d. The whole problem of the cost of journeys would be almost halved for the civil servant. The cost of remission home to England, similarly, would be greatly lessened. We frankly thought at that time that the question of the salaries really did not arise, that the Indian Civil Service, with the rupee standing at that figure, would be in a very admirable position. Then, as we all know, the rupee fell again to 1s. 4d. subsequent to our recommendation; hence all the trouble in which we find ourselves. I believe that on whichever side of the House we sit we are all agreed in substance with regard to the grave necessities of this problem, to the need for a remedy being applied, and upon the fact that the problem has to be tackled.
Now I come to the question of the method of tackling the problem and the time within which the problem should be tackled—two things which are really interdependent. I do not think there is really any substantial difference between my noble friend Lord Lee and myself and the noble Viscount, Lord Peel, with regard to the method by which this problem must be tackled. No one can doubt that there must be an examination of Lord Lee's Report. He would not pretend to regard it as so inspired that 174 we must accept it in every jot and tittle. Therefore, there must be an examination on the part of the Secretary of State, the Government of India and the Provincial Governments. But, so far at all events as India is concerned, I hope that a. more expeditious method of examination may be adopted than those, which have hitherto prevailed under the Government of India.
May I say a word about certain remarks which fell from the noble Viscount, Lord Lee, concerning the slowness of the working of the Government of India, because I am anxious that we should not do an injustice to the working of that great machine? Let me remind the noble Viscount and your Lordships' House of two facts in connection with the working of the Government of India, and, in the first place, of how small is the staff which is at the disposal of the great Departments there. Normally speaking, a great. Department has the Member in charge, and he has a secretary, a deputy-secretary and an under-secretary, and that is the sum total of the thinking portion of the staff. Of course, there is a clerical staff. When one compares that staffing of a great Department with the staffing-of great Departments in Whitehall one wonders how any work can be really got through at all, and one is amazed at the efficiency of the work which is done by the great Departments in India.
Let me remind your Lordships of another fact in regard to the staffing of the Secretariat in India. It has been held desirable, and it has come down for many, many years, that the higher staff of the secretariat should be recruited from the district administration. The underlying principle of that is that there should be close touch between the secretariat at headquarters and the district officer who is administering in the plains. It follows from this practice that it is not like our great Government Departments here in Whitehall, where a man enters, it may be, the Home Department at the age of twenty-three or twenty-four and for a period of forty years perhaps goes up through the same Department, a repository of all the knowledge of all the problems which are connected with the administration of that Department. In India, owing to the system of recruitment from the districts, you have to have minuting and recording of everything 175 that takes place in order that when a man comes in at the head of the office he shall toe in a position to take up the complete story of the problem before him.
Every Viceroy has come up against the question of minuting. The noble Marquess who leads the Opposition was very emphatic upon the undesirability of this extensive minuting. But we have all fought, I think, a losing battle against the practice that has grown up, and it is very difficult to get away from the fact that unless you have a complete record the new man who comes in as deputy, or as head secretary, in the office has not a complete record of all that has gone before. That is by the way. I feel that, in justice to the Government of India, and, in fact, to the other Governments in India and the Civil Service there, one ought to remind your Lordships' House of the practice which prevails there and the difficulties under which the work is carried on.
Going back to the method, the Secretary of State told your Lordships the other day that he was doing everything he possibily could to get the whole case prepared for a speedy decision as soon as he received information from India as to their attitude towards it. Time, the second problem in the matter, is dependent, of course, on the method; but I think you may take it that if the procedure which the Secretary of State and I have indicated with regard to this Report is followed no time will be lost in dealing with the Report when the essential examination has taken place.
Now may I turn to the second of the subjects round which I said that this debate has turned; that is, the working of the reforms? I must say a word or two with regard to this matter because even the noble Marquess opposite who was a member of the Government which made the famous announcement of August, 1917, seemed to throw some doubt upon and to offer some criticisms against the reforms themselves. I would remind your Lordships that' these reforms are the logical outcome of Macaulay's famous Minute of nearly a century ago Macaulay laid it down that English was to be the medium of instruction and that India was to be introduced to all the literature and all the thought and ideals which belonged to the West, saying distinctly that in his mind practically all the Indian literature was valueless in 176 face of one English book. I think that everything has followed logically upon that. When you have introduced Indians to Western civilisation through the medium of English instruction, and held out to them the Western ideals which they find in that literature as the best gift which we have it in our power to bestow, it is almost inevitable that they will make a demand for that gift.]
I am not standing here at this Table, and I think few noble Lords or any one would stand here, to say that the policy underlying Macaulay's Minute can be regarded as the best policy that could have been pursued, and many Indians will say the same. But the point I would make, and which I would impress upon your Lordships, is that once that policy was initiated by means of that famous Minute, practically everything else followed as its logical outcome, because you had created in the minds of the educated Indian a desire to have those constitutional ideals which we had held out to them as the best thing that we could offer. And so we passed through certain preliminary stages. We have had the stages of the Acts of 1865 and 1892 and then we came to the Morley-Minto reforms. When, in 1916, that matter came to be considered, His Majesty's Government put a finger on the weakness of the Morley-Minto reforms. They said that they were merely creating a body of critics who had no powers; they merely had the power of criticising the Government; and that if we were to continue on those lines there was no real development except increasing the number of the critics, because you could only go straight from the Morley-Minto reforms into the full constitution of self-government, which was obviously an impossibility.
They said that if there were reforms there should be an introduction to responsibility. That was the basis of the great announcement of August, 1917. There were two principles in that announcement. I will not weary your Lordships with the full announcement; but, first, there was the progressive realisation of responsible government, and, secondly, progress was to be achieved by successive stages. When that announcement had been made the actual form of the Constitution which was adopted involved a diarchy, which, indeed, became absolutely inevitable. I may say 177 quite frankly that when Mr. Montagu came out to India he and I, when we made the tour of India, received deputations and had interviews with all classes of people—officials and politicians and anybody who had a right to have an interview. We explored every avenue which offered us any escape from this system of diarchy, but no other advance in reform could carry out the terms of our reference—namely, the announcement of August, 1917. We held that announcement of August, 1917, strictly before us as our terms of reference, and we considered all the various suggestions for advance strictly from that point of view—Were they or were they not consistent with the announcement of August, 1917?
As your Lordships know,[the proposed Constitution came later under the scrutiny of the Committee presided over by my noble friend Lord Selborne. [That Committee again, under his guidance, recognised that the Secretary of State at that time had strictly observed the terms of our reference-—the terms of the announcement of August, 1917—and they saw no other way of making an advance in this matter of reform except through this diarchic system. Therefore, when we have the system of diarchy criticised, we must remember that that diarchical system was inevitable after the announcement of August, 1917, because the terms of that announcement made any other line of constitutional advance absolutely impossible. We explored every avenue, and we always came back to this: That if we were to follow the terms of the announcement of the Government of which the noble Marquess was a member we could not avoid following the diarchical method. I would remind the noble Marquess that Lord Selborne, when he presided over his Committee, came to absolutely the same conclusion.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON:
I did not in my speech criticise or attack the diarchical system. I profoundly detest it if the noble Viscount wants to know. All I did was to point out that it had broken down.
§ VISCOUNT CHELMSFORD:
I am prepared to argue that with the noble Marquess. Let us see how the diarchical system has worked, because we must take that name as a short and convenient way 178 of describing the form of constitution under which things are worked at present in India. I would remind your Lordships—this is familiar to the noble Marquess—that there are three Presidencies in India and five Provinces, plus Burma. We do not hear anything of the working of the Constitution in the Provinces other than the Central Provinces and Bengal, of which we have heard so much this afternoon, because, whatever the difficulties that arise from time to time in those other Provinces, those difficulties are inseparable from the introduction to responsibility which was the keynote of the policy of His Majesty's Government in 1917. You cannot offer responsibility and then expect them to follow slavishly the policy laid down by the Government of the particular Province. The whole object of offering responsibility is also the opportunity of making mistakes, and so I may say that with the exception of those two Provinces —the Central Provinces and Bengal—I think, on the whole, one may say that the Constitution is working.
Even when I come to the Central Provinces I would remind your Lordships that the Constitution embodied in the Act of Parliament is working. The noble Lord, Lord Meston, who opened the discussion this afternoon, alluded to the fact that safeguards had to be introduced into the Act of 1919, lest the experiment was wrecked through inexperience. Safeguards were introduced into that Act for that very purpose. I think the noble Marquess alluded to some of them in his speech in reference to the Central Provinces, where the local Legislative Council has refused to work the reforms as they are embodied in the Act. The safeguards embodied in the same Act have come into operation. It is, of course, an unfortunate thing, and is to be deplored, but the safeguards were intended to see that the administration should be carried on, even though the Constitution in its wider form was not carried on. I think the Secretary of State has already shown, in the speech that he has made, how the safeguards are capable of meeting the situation.
Again, with regard to Bengal, there is not a very dissimilar position. There it is complicated by the intervention of the judiciary, but that, we hope, has been corrected by the amendment of the Rules, 179 which the Secretary of State announced in his speech the other day. As to the question whether the position is only legal under the theory of emergency, I would remind your Lordships of what the Secretary of State said the other day, because it is obvious that the matter cannot be left where it stands, and the Government must explore how far it is possible to meet this situation, if it were to continue.
This is what the Secretary of State said in this relation:The question arises as to what procedure the Government should take to bring to an end this position, in the Central Provinces and Bengal, which is only legal under the theory that it is a position of emergency; and the question also arises whether the Governor should exercise his power to suspend the transfer or revoke the transfer. That is now under the consideration of the Viceroy with the Governor of Bengal."VISCOUNT PEEL: And the Central Provinces?
"LORD OLIVIER: Yes. The question as to what further course of action may be taken is now under consideration."
We cannot rush the consideration; but the matter is being gravely and seriously considered. Of course, it is disappointing to those who have looked forward to the fulfilment of the policy which was announced in 1917, and I would like, in this connection, to associate myself absolutely with what Viscount Peel said in opening this debate.
It is so important that it should be emphasised that I will venture to repeat it. He said this:I have always deeply regretted that the Indian politicians have not addressed themselves more vigorously to the work of carrying out the present Constitution. If they had diverted one-tenth of the energy they have shown in standing out of the Constitution, obstructing that Constitution and making the working of it difficult, India would now be far more advanced than it is at present on the road to constitutional reform and change.Those are very true words. If the Indian people had devoted that energy to carrying out the Constitution as it was drawn in 1919, we should have a very different tale to tell. [The truth is that it is not so much the form of Constitution that is important as the spirit in which it is worked; and that principle was emphasised by the Earl of Balfour in a previous debate in your Lordships' House.
180 May I turn now to the question of Mr. Das and the revolutionary proceedings which have been mentioned by the noble Marquess? May I say quite plainly that it is the policy of the Government to leave full discretion to the Government on the spot to enforce the law? We shall support them in any action they feel it necessary to take in quelling a revolutionary movement. I wish it was sufficiently realised over here how difficult it is, at this distance from India, to form a sound and considered judgment on some of these problems such as are raised by the utterance of Mr. Das, which has been quoted so often in this House. The noble Viscount, Lord Peel, may form one inference on what is before him; the Secretary of State forms another inference from what is before him. But the truth is that when it comes to policy the only people Who can form a correct inference are the people on the spot with all the facts before them.
I recollect so well that in the early days of non-co-operation I took counsel with my legal advisers as to our legal position with regard to the agitation which had been developed in different stages. The general public, in the meanwhile, criticised me and my Government because no steps were being taken to deal with non-co-operation. But I got quite clear advice that there was unsound ground for a prosecution in the early stages of that agitation, and a Government cannot afford to fail if it institutes proceedings. Of course, it is clearly impossible for a Government, when it has taken advice on a position of affairs such as I have mentioned, to disclose to the public the nature of the advice it has received. Therefore, we feel that it is wise in this matter to leave it to the full discretion of the Government of India; they know the facts, and they know what evidence is at their disposal.
Let me pass very briefly to the situation in the Punjab. With regard to that there is really nothing to add beyond what the Secretary of State has already said, but this, I think, has to be remembered in connection with the Punjab. The noble Viscount, Lord Peel, from his recollection of the situation when he left the India Office, will probably endorse what I have to say—namely, that non-co-operation, apart altogether from the Akali movement, has no hold on that Province and that it is dying out as a motive force.
181 It is the Akali difficulty which is the outstanding menace, and the Secretary of State traced for your Lordships the origin of that trouble. The Secretary of State has asked me to give an answer to the noble Viscount, Lord Peel, which he was not in a position to give him the other day when he addressed your Lordships.
Perhaps I may read the exact words in which he wishes to give the reply:— With reference to the question raised in the debate on July 21 by the noble Viscount, Lord Peel, as to whether one of the reasons for the failure of the Birdwood Committee was that the Sikhs made it a condition of assenting to the proposals that the Maharaja of Nabha should be restored to his State, it is true that at an early stage in the negotiations some difficulty was experienced about the public abandonment by the 'Shrines Committee of the Nabha agitation but that it does not appear, so far as can be gathered, that this was a deciding factor in the final stages.
No one can say with regard to this Akali difficulty that the utmost consideration has not been paid to the religious susceptibilities of the Sikhs. Throughout, we have been anxious to avoid anything which would touch the religious aspect, but order and peaceful security must be maintained; and that is the policy which the Punjab Government and the Government of India are determined to enforce in the Punjab. Sir Malcolm Hailey has only just taken office with the approval of all, and it would be hard at the present moment to expect him to launch out in any direction which would be widely different from that pursued by his predecessor until he has held the reins for a longer time. But the policy with regard to the Punjab is the same. The Punjab Government, with the approval of the Government of India, intend to maintain order and peaceful security by a consistent application of the law against all offenders, while neglecting no means of arriving at a speedy and equitable solution with regard to the matters in controversy.
I think I have covered in the main the four points around which the discussion in this debate has centred, but the noble Marquess opposite expressed in most eloquent terms the hope that the Government would be able to give some indication of their general policy in regard to 182 the grave situation in India at the present moment, and I think I cannot do better than read to your Lordships the first two paragraphs of the letter which Mr. MacDonald wrote to India on January 6. I might read the whole of the letter, but the first two paragraphs seem to me to embody the whole substance of the policy of this Government, though it is true that the letter was written before the Prime Minister came into office. It was published, however, after he came into office, on January 20. The Prime Minister wrote:I watch sometimes with no little anxiety the progress of affairs in India During all my political life I have anchored myself firmly upon the conviction that if progress is to be well-rooted, it can only be carried on by what is called political or constitutional ways. We have seen in our own generation all sorts of revolutionary movements which seem to be successful and which have broken contacts with the past, but in the end, after much physical suffering and the creation of evil tempers and a vicious spirit, they have had to return to pick up the contacts that had been broken and to apply the very principles they had rejected.I can see no hope in India if it becomes the arena of a struggle between constitutionalism and revolution. No Party in Great Britain will be cowed by threats of force or by policies designed to bring government to a standstill; and if any sections in India are under the delusion that that is not so, events will very sadly disappoint them. I would urge upon all the best friends of India to come nearer to us rather than to stand apart from us, to get at our reason and our good will.I have read that passage from the letter which was written by the Prime Minister before he became Prime Minister, but published subsequently to that date, because it embodies the policy with regard to India of His Majesty's Government, and I believe that there are no better words with which to express the policy of He Majesty's Government at the present time with regard to the state of affairs in India.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL:
My Lords, I do not wish to detain your Lordships after this long debate for more than three or four minutes, but perhaps I may be allowed to touch very briefly upon three points that have been raised by the noble Viscount opposite. First of all, I notice that he has not replied to the very definite challenge that was given by Lord Meston as to whether the Government do or do not intend to abide by the provisions of 183 the Act of 1919, and whether they wish to anticipate those provisions by an earlier constitutional development. In reply to that we have only been treated to a repetition of the letter written by the present Prime Minister before he became Prime Minister, a letter by whose provisions I am not quite sure that the Government are at this time abiding.
The second point as to which I wish to say a word is this. I was rather interested to know what would be the reply of the noble Viscount opposite to the severe rebuke administered by my noble friend behind me to the Secretary of State for some observations that he made about Mr. C. R. Das. I knew that the noble Viscount opposite was a dexterous debater, and I think he showed some skill in drawing us away from that subject to the famous Minute of Lord Macaulay, which I think was perhaps a little remote from the subject with which we were dealing. But what is his defence of that statement? He told us that the Government had left, and intended so far as possible to leave, these questions of the prosecution of crime, and so on, to the Government of India. But that intention was never criticised by my noble friend behind me. It was not the action of the Government of India, or whether the Government of India ought to do this or that, but the observations that were made by the Secretary of State for India about Mr. C. R. Das which brought upon him that grave indictment.
That was really the issue that was raised. It was quite clear that the Government of India were very much disturbed by the noble Lord's statement, and that they had to issue the communiqué to the Press to which reference has been made—a very remarkable incident indeed in Indian government— to declare that there was no truth in the statement that Mr. Das was going to England to be consulted. In fact, I think my nob'e friend was standing up for the Government of India rather than criticising it. He was afraid that the many difficulties in its path would be increased, rather than diminished, by the remarkable observations of the Secretary of State for India about Mr. C. R. Das.
The third question to which I wish to make a brief reference is that of diarchy.
184 I do so with some hesitation, because the noble Marquess said, I think, that he detested the whole scheme. It all depends upon what you mean by diarchy. If you take diarchy in its strictest theoretical sense, I think it is probable that it is an unworkable proposition, but I have never taken it quite in that sense. If you have your Government divided sharply into two halves, if one half of that Government is to be responsible to the Council and the other half is to be responsible to the Governor, and if those two halves work in completely water-tight compartments, such a system of Government is, of course, impossible But it has not been worked in that manner, and, I think, quite rightly. Different Governors have, of course, worked it under rather different systems, but the wisest of them, I think, have seen to it that the two halves of the Government should consult together. In fact, they were bound to consult and to work together, for it is obvious that finance itself would be impossible if the Government were to be cut up into two separate departments. Those who have worked it best, I think, are those who have been most determined that action shall be taken only after discussion, after the Ministers have heard what the Executive Councillors had to say and the Executive Councillors have heard what the Ministers had to say, and after it has been made quite clear that in the last resort the responsibility for their actions as to the Transferred Subjects rests upon the Ministers and upon them alone, as responsible to the Councils.
I do not think that it is so much this particular system that has been at fault as the sense of responsibility to which reference has been made in the course of the debate. The great difficulty in the way of working this diarchical system, and, indeed, any Ministerial system, in the Provinces, has been that the attitude of the Councils has been almost wholly critical, not only of the actions of the Councillors but also of the actions of the Ministers. They have not preserved this nice distinction between Minister and Councillor. They have been apt to treat all those in the Government as being one, and they have not felt any sense of their own responsibility and the necessity for supporting their own Ministers. That is one of the reasons why I think that a further instalment of self-government would be so unwise at the present time.
185 You have not that development of Parties in the Councils which is necessary if you are to have responsible government. Ministers axe too often regarded as persons who have gone over to the Government and have separated themselves from their fellow countrymen. They receive plenty of criticism but very little support. No Party seems to regard a Minister as its leader, or that his success or failure affects its own fortunes.
I am bound to say that the noble Viscount seemed to me to defend the reforms in a somewhat paradoxical manner, because he pointed out that all these methods that have been adopted to carry on the work of government in the Provinces, owing to the refusal of the Councillors to vote supplies, were adopted under the Act. That is, of course, perfectly true. These safeguards are embodied in the Act, but I think it is rather paradoxical to say that the fact that it has been absolutely essential to have recourse to these particular safeguards because the actions of the Councillors have been so irresponsible is in itself a sign of the proper working of the Constitution. I think that is an argument which would be very ill received by the Swarajists, who themselves are always complaining that these particular reserve powers, which according to the noble Viscount are the reason for the working of the Constitution, are the only blots on the Constitution, and that if they were removed it would be quite possible to carry on constitutional government in the Councils.
The last point upon which I would like to say one word is this, that although I am obliged for many of the sympathetic references to the Services made by the Secretary of State, and also by the noble Viscount, yet I do not feel even now that they fully realise or—shall I say?—are sensitive to the extremely unfortunate position in which these Services are now placed. The Secretary of State generally, I understand, has accepted the reforms as suggested in the Report as a whole, but he tells us that it will be some six months at least before Orders can be passed carrying them out. What I want to urge upon him is that if he accepts the Report as a whole it is not necessary or essential that all parts of the Report shall be carried out at one and the same time. Some matters are bound to take 186 time and require consultation—for instance, the setting up of the Commission and the reforms in the Medical Service, which must be the subject of great consideration, and matters like the legislation required in the Provinces to deal with the new methods of recruiting for the Services in the Provinces with reference to Transferred Subjects.
Those matters must take time, but there are many matters which need not take time at all. For example, there is the question of passages, and other things for the relief of the Services. Those things can be dealt with at once by the Secretary of State, and I strongly urge upon him not to be deterred by the necessity of carrying out the whole Report at the same time, but to deal with some of these subjects at once without the delay which would otherwise occur. I think it would have an admirable effect upon the Services if he were to take that course, because, after all, these reforms and changes have been so long delayed, and the Services have lost so much heart, that I believe it would be an earnest to them that the changes were to be carried out as a whole. I believe that would be the best thing the Secretary of State could do to restore heart to the Services, whose position, as my noble friend has stated, has in some of the Provinces almost reached the breaking point. I cannot honestly say that I am fully satisfied with the reply of the Secretary of State on many points, but nevertheless I do not think that at this hour it would be in your Lordships' interest that I should press for Papers. Indeed, I think the Papers are before us, and therefore I do not press my Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.