§ VISCOUUNT PEEL had the following Notice on the Paper:—
§ To call the attention of His Majesty's Government to the letter written by the Secretary of State for India to Mr. 806 Satyamurti, member of the Madras Legislative Council, and particularly to the statement contained in that letter that the maintenance of the communal system is antagonistic to the possibility of any proper working of democratic institutions in India; and to move for Papers.
The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I desire to call the attention of your Lordships, and of His Majesty's Government, to a letter written by the Secretary of State for India to Mr. Satyamurti, and I think I ought to read the letter, which is quite short, before I comment upon it. It runs thus:
I have been glad to receive your letter, end am strongly disposed to share your confidence that closer contact with the Swaraj Party is very desirable. I am interested to receive your observations on the working of the diarchy in Madras, and your project for forming a non-communal Party. I rather gather from the debates in the Council that this was already the platform the Swarajists desired. It certainly seems, to mo that the maintenance of the communal system is antagonistic to the possibility of any proper working of democratic institutions in India.
I do not know why Mr. Satyamurti was selected by the Secretary of State as the recipient of this important missive. As far as I have been able, to discover the past and the political predilections of this gentleman, he is a member of the Legislative Council of Madras, and is well-known as a non-co-operator and as a strong supporter of the Swaraj movement.
§ I may say at once that this letter which was addressed by the Secretary of State was not authorised by him to be published, and that, I think, is one of the unfortunate aspects of this incident; because when a private letter is published it gives people the impression that you are really getting at the inner mind of the individual who has so published it. When we express ourselves in public documents or in Despatches, we naturally make use of that dignified solemnity and occasional obscurity of language which is sometimes necessary in that class of communication. But in private, letters we express ourselves with the directness and familiarity which is permitted in those documents. Although this letter, I agree, ought not to have been published, we have to deal with the facts of the case as they are and the effects which that letter may have had.807
§ It is common knowledge that this question of communal representation—that is to say, of representation by religious communities—is, and has long been, a very burning and controversial one in India. It is well known that the abolition of this communal system is the aspiration, and the very natural aspiration, of a large body of Hindu politicians, for the very simple reason that, if that were done, they would get far larger representation in the Assembly and in the Councils, and would have far more political control. I do not know whether this consideration appealed to the mind of the Secretary of State when he addressed the letter to this gentleman. What did he suppose? Did he suppose that this gentleman wa3 going to go about for the rest of his life, all on fire with information which he is bound to suppress, and burdened with a secret which, if delivered to the public, must, of course, give him a natural precedence among his political fellows? The Secretary of State has had a long career. He has had great experience in the Civil Service. He has been a Colonial Governor, and, I believe, head of another great political Department, and I think it argues very well for that simplicity of mind which he has been able to maintain through all the changes of political and official life that he still, no doubt, considered that a politician would not do violence to his own intimate private feelings, and consider that in the public interest he must publish a matter of public import.
§ I wish to examine this matter from one or two different aspects. What, I ask, is, and what must be, the position of the Viceroy and his Government in face of communications of this kind? Constantly communications, public and private, important and intimate, are passing between the, Secretary of State and the Viceroy, and it is of the highest importance for the good government of India that there should be complete and absolute confidence existing between those two great officials. What must be the opinion or the feelings of a Viceroy—and his position is difficult enough in all conscience in these days—when he does not know, or may feel that he cannot know from moment to moment, what other communications on important subjects are passing, not through the recognised channels of correspondence but through politicians—not even officials—selected at 808 will, I suppose, from prominent Swarajists or non-co-operators in various parts of India? His nervousness is bound to be increased, because, even if these declarations or letters are upon the same subjects as those which have been dealt with in correspondence between the Viceroy and the Secretary of State, you may have different versions, differently expressed, of the same policy, and these versions, I can assure your Lordships, are carefully compared, collated, and contrasted by some of the most ingenious minds that you have in the world, by lawyers of great acuteness, by persons who may be said to be the lineal descendants of the old commentators on the Upanishads. They are most skilled in all the intricacies of language, and the danger of communications of this kind is that different inferences will be drawn by these gentlemen as to the policies guiding the minds of the Viceroy and the Secretary of State.
§ The remarkable thing is that the Secretary of State himself has drawn attention to the danger of any looseness of language. He commented not long ago in your Lordships' House with great severity upon a statement made by Mr. Lloyd George when he was Prime Minister in a well-known speech known as the "steel frame speech." The intention of that speech was perfectly clear. It was intended to give fresh heart to the Services, which were suffering from the situation in which they found themselves, very largely as the result of the new reforms. But he used one loose expression from which at once arose a flood of deduction, of speculation, and of inference, which seemed to suggest that the Prime Minister was going to go back on the declarations of 1917, and the Act of 1919, that the reforms were to be stayed, and that the word of Great Britain was to be imperilled. You may say that these are large buildings to erect either upon a phrase or upon a letter, but that is a characteristic of many of these Indian politicians, and you have to deal with them, indeed, as you find them. And there is no soil in which these seeds of suspicion can grow more rapidly than in the rather heated and inflammable soil of Indian politics.
§ Perhaps I do some injustice to the noble Lord, because, after all, he is only following the example that has been set him by so many of his colleagues in the 809 Labour Government. It has been one of the marked characteristics of this Government that they seem to have a singular aversion from making their first statement on important subjects within the walls cither of another place or of this House. There are many instances in which they have thus spread the light of their countenance, and in which the first beams of some new project has appeared in a newspaper, either in America or elsewhere. Their international sympathies,.I suppose, require some degree of international propaganda. Anyhow, it is, I think, the greatest contribution of the Labour Government—their main contribution in fact—towards constitutional innovation.
§ Now let me ask what is the exact interpretation of the words of the Secretary of State. First of all, I would observe that in the first portion of the letter he was "strongly disposed to share your confidence that closer contact with the Swaraj Party is very desirable." On that I have only to make one observation—that if it is thought wise that there should be any rapprochement in this connection with the leaders of any Party in India it is far better left to the Viceroy and to his advisers there. After all, they are on the spot and they know the whole situation in a way that the Secretary of State cannot know it. Moreover, they know the individuals there who are to be trusted and those who are not to be trusted.
§ The latter part of the statement to which I attach more importance—that as to the communal system—is, I think, capable of more than one interpretation. It may, for instance, suggest that communal representation is necessary; that this is incompatible with democratic government, and that until the deep-seated and deep-rooted differences on which communal representation is founded are reconciled, the democratic aspirations of Indian politicians must remain unsatisfied. If it mean that, it is apparently a mild, philosophic rebuke administered by the Secretary of State to Mr. Satyamurti. But, after carefully investigating the evidence, I cannot help coming to the conclusion that this is not the right gloss or interpretation to be placed upon this particular document. You have to regard the general views and sympathies of the Party with which the noble Lord is 810 associated, and looking at those associations and sympathies, I think the simplest interpretation (and in textual criticism it is said, I believe, that the simplest explanation is generally the best) is that communal representation is an obstacle to self-government, and that it ought, therefore, to be removed. I remember examining at the General Election many of the Labour declarations and Election addresses with a view to deciding what their policy was. They were certainly based upon the most colossal ignorance of the situation, and their ignorance was only equalled by their colossal self-confidence. But they were all in the same direction—a general feeling that immediate self-government should be granted to India. Therefore, that inclines me to this latter interpretation
§ Let me say this only about their speeches. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said the other day how valuable a thing it would be if all their pre-Election speeches were to be burned. I am certainly inclined to echo that sentiment. Unfortunately, whatever you may do in this country, there can be no purification by fire of this kind in India. These observations, thrown out casually and carelessly very often, are treasured and made note of in the retentive memory of the Indian politician.
§ I understand from a letter or statement that I think was published by the noble Lord that he has more than one explanation. It is always useful to have more than one explanation of any particular course one has taken. He says that this is a mere speculation; it is not a declaration of policy. I submit to your Lordships that the mere speculations of the Secretary of State for India ring and reverberate throughout India and that on this matter, though individual Secretaries of State may have their own opinions, if they differ in any sense from the political and public opinions that they are putting forward, for Heaven's sake let them bury them in the remotest safe that they possess in their chambers. Another statement by the noble Lord was that he was only repeating some statement that he had already made to your Lordships on another occasion.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (LORD OLIVIER)
What is the noble Viscount quoting from? He referred 811 in the previous sentence to something I said. He is now talking of something else that I said, and I want to know where it comes from.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I was quoting from a statement which was stated to have been received from the noble Lord and published in the Daily Telegraph.
§ LORD OLIVIER
I cannot imagine what the noble Lord is referring to. If he will tell me I shall be very glad.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I will read the exact statement. It was a statement published, I think, in the Daily Telegraph, and it learns—
§ LORD OLIVIER
Will the noble Viscount read precisely what it is he is quoting? Will he read the whole statement? I do not, know what he is referring to
§ VISCOUUNT PEEL
I am referring, first of all, to the defences that may be put forward by the noble Lord.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I referred, of course, to a statement that was published in the Daily Telegraph, which I presume—if I am wrong, of course, I withdraw it—was issued by the noble Lord, and in any case it is said to be the same as the statement already made in your Lordships' House.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
Then may I put it in this way—that it is possible that the noble Lord may contend that this statement has already been made, or words very similar to it uttered, in your Lordships' House? I put it in that form, and the noble Lord does not object to that statement?
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
To the statement I have just made. I say that it is quite possible that the noble Lord may contend that the statement contained in the letter has been already made in the same or in another form before your Lordships' House.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
The noble Lord takes no objection to that, and I am much obliged to the noble Lord, because I have examined rather carefully and read through the very long statement he made in your Lordships' House in February last, and I cannot see there any statement similar to the one that is contained in this letter. There is, I agree, a statement with reference to affairs in Kenya, but that, of course, is a very different business from India. There is also a general statement about the representation of common interests—unless a Parliamentary system is welded together by predominant common interests from its foundation in the electorate upwards no theoretical constitution that may be arrived at by a concordat among leaders of divergent interests … can prevent it from flying asunder.That is the only passage that I can recall which has any likeness to the passage in the present letter. As your Lordships know the term "communal representation" is a very special term of art meaning a specific thing, and I do not think that any one reading the speech of the noble Lord could have supposed from his observations about common interests that he was really referring to the substitution of a common electoral roll for the communal representation now obtaining in India.
However that may be. I attach no very great importance to that point for this reason—that it all depends, of course, on the circumstances under which the statement is made, on the importance that is given to that statement, and the surrounding conditions and feelings under which the statement is made. At the present moment, as your Lordships know, an investigation is going on into the defects in the working of the Act of 1919. A Committee has been investigating that matter. I understand that a further Committee with unofficial members is also going to deal with these defects. I do not think that the reference to the Committee 813 which the noble Lord was kind enough to send me would admit of their dealing with this great subject of communal interest, but I suggest that people do not read very carefully terms of references to Committees, and it is very unfortunate that a reference should be made to the mind of the Secretary of State on so important a matter as communal representation just at the moment when an investigation is being conducted into the working of the Constitution; for a suspicion may very easily arise that this, among other subjects, is going to be considered by that particular Committee.
Let me address myself to the real gravity of spreading through India a statement of this kind in the present situation. It suggests, as I have said, that the Secretary of State is in favour of the abolition of communal representation—a great and an immense boon from the political point of view to the Hindu politician, but a great risk and danger to the vast Moslem community, the Sikh community, and the other smaller communities which have separate representation, a representation which they would not be entitled to if merely heads were counted.
This is a very old subject, as the Secretary of State knows. I was looking at the Report signed by Mr. Montagu and Lord Chelmsford on the Indian Constitutional Reforms. They have a paragraph dealing with this case. They express, first of all, as strongly as a Secretary of State can, that communal electorates may be a serious hindrance to the development of a self-governing system, but, after having expressed that opinion, they go on to say, in the strongest way, that they are in favour of communal representation, especially as regards the Moslems. They say that the Mahomedans were given special representation with separate electorates in 1909, and that the Mahomedan regards these reforms as settled facts, and that any attempt to go back on them would raise a storm of bitter protest and put a severe strain on the loyalty of an India which has behaved with conspicuous loyalty during a period of very great difficulty. The Mahomedans, again, regard separate representation and communal electorates as their own adequate safeguards. It is plain from this, and it is plain from 814 other events, that the Moslems have a very strong feeling on this question of communal electorates.
Whatever their feeling may be—whether for home rule for themselves, or whether they would prefer to be under the Government of this country—there is no question that there is one form of Swaraj they do not want, and that is a Hindu Swaraj. Indeed, if self-government were granted to-morrow, if the declarations in many of these Election addresses were put into force to-morrow. I think it is probable that the desire and the determination of Moslem India to have separate communal representation would be even stronger than it, is to-day. But, after all, this political aspect of it is only another aspect of the feeling which is expressed in a common speech. Whereas in this country you may ask whether a man is a Frenchman or an Englishman, in the East you are more inclined to ask: Is he a Moslem, is he a Hindu, or is he a Sikh?
There may be objections from the abstract political point of view to these communal electorates. There is, at the present moment, a very considerable reaction in many quarters in India against the impact of Western ideas. I think it would be very unfortunate, if we strengthened the forces of that reaction by trying to force upon those communities one form of our Western institutions which is not justified by the conditions of the day, and by the political situation. It is very unfortunate, especially at this time and in view of recent history, that there should be any risk of stirring up again Moslem feeling in that country. We know what disturbances were caused by the feeling respecting the tight bonds in which Turkey was tied by the Treaty of Sèvres, but as regards the Treaty of Lausanne which, as your Lordships know, in some quarters of this country met with criticism, then can be no doubt that so far as Indian feeling is concerned the settlement under that Treaty of Lausanne was wholly beneficent. It is very unfortunate when, after that settlement, Moslem feeling is quietening down that it should be stirred up again, and I am afraid, from certain evidence we have seen in the papers, it is being stirred again by the suspicion or the fear that there may be some desire in the mind of the Secretary of State—some sympathy in the mind of the Secretary of State with 815 the suggestion—to go back on that settlement which was reached after so much discussion and examination.
I do not want to go over the whole field of Indian politics, but I should like to add that the same applies in the case of the Sikhs. We know very well that there has been a great disturbance, especially in the Punjab, mainly owing to the Akali movement which, starting as a religious movement, was seized upon by the politicians, and became a very large political movement. It has caused trouble to the successive Governors in the Punjab, but that feeling is quietening down and it would be a thousand pities if a fear that they would be swamped electorally by the surrounding population were to be aroused among the Sikhs by the publication of this letter.
I am going to ask one thing of the Secretary of State. I am going to ask him if he will be good enough—and I hope that he will do it—to state definitely in this House that whatever may have been the statements of the letter, whatever may have been his abstract view as to the relations of the communal system in the electorates to democratic government, yet that he has himself not the slightest intention—that it is far from his thought—of making any disturbance, or of altering in any way the settlement that was then arrived at. Therefore I urge upon him to quench the fire he has kindled before, by the breath of rumour and suspicion, it grows into a mightier conflagration. I beg to move.
§ LORD OLIVIER
My Lords, I have been wondering for about a week what it was that we were to hear from the noble Viscount this evening; how, upon such an extraordinarily trivial and flimsy foundation as there has been for this Motion, he could venture to make a speech in your Lordships' House which would necessarily impose upon me the duty and the necessity of making you a rather long and serious reply upon a subject totally unworthy of so much attention. The noble Viscount has moved for Papers. I do not know quite what Papers he wants, but I will give him all the Papers that I have in this matter—that is to say, I will give him the history of the whole of this correspondence.
816 There is a gentleman in the Madras Council named Mr. Satyamurti. He is a member of the Swaraj Party. The Swaraj Party means the self-government Party, and it is the most advanced section of the reform movement in India, which is distributed into sections known as the Swarajists, the Independents, the Liberals and the Moderates, all of them aiming at self-government for India, but desiring to pursue a somewhat different pace of acceleration towards its attainment. Mr. Satyamurti had an interview with Mr. Montagu when he was in Office, and consequently I imagine him to be a person of some consideration and, at any rate, of reasonable address. Mr. Ben Spoor, now the Chief Whip of the Labour Party in the House of Commons, was in India some years ago and he formed the acquaintance of Mr. Satyamurti. When the Labour Government came into Office in January last Mr. Satyamurti forthwith addressed a friendly letter to Mr. Ben Spoor expressing his views on certain questions. Mr. Ben Spoor wrote back to Mr. Satyamurti and suggested that anything he wished to say about Indian matters should be addressed to myself.
I then received from Mr. Satyamurti this letter, which I will read:— "Dear LORD OLIVIER,You will kindly excuse the liberty I take in writing to you without having the privilege of your acquaintance. My friend Mr. Ben Spoor has suggested my writing to you, and I am doing so. I may say at once that I quite recognise the limitations of your Party, in Office, and not in power. I may add that I am a Swarajist and I believe fully in our programme, but I want to assure you that we are not political ogres and that we are only waiting for a right gesture on your part. Summon a round-table conference and you will find our leaders reasonable, practical and willing to recognise real Imperial obligations. Naturally, I am particularly interested in Madras. Diarchy has worked havoc here. A purely communal Party, with no political faith or programme, has been put in power and Madras promises to become the Ulster of India. We are just now forming a non-communal Party in the local Council. It is up to Lord Goschen to help us to the extent he can. I shall be glad to sec him and put my point of view before him if he sends for me. I shall be glad to write to you in more detail on hearing from you.I replied to that letter. I did not mark my letter private.
817 Some comment has been made by the noble Viscount as if it was an improper thing on the part of my correspondent to publish that letter. I did not write with the idea or the desire that he should publish it; but when I am writing a letter of an intimate character which I do not want on any account to be published, I mark it private. All my life I have made this my role in ordinary circumstances—that if any person of any political Party whatever, however distant from my own views, whatever reputation he may enjoy among any other Party, writes to me a civil letter expressing certain views, then he will receive from me a civil and frank answer to the best of my ability.
And the answer I gave to this gentleman was a civil and frank answer, and in my opinion a perfectly discreet answer. I will read it to you again:—I have boon glad to receive your letter"—May I have the noble Viscount's attention, and I hope it will not be interrupted. The noble Viscount said that this letter will be studied by pundits who are careful interpreters of language. I am glad to think that that is so. I wrote as follows:—I have been glad to receive your letter of the 3rd instant, and am strongly disposed to share your confidence that a closer contact with the Swaraj party is very desirableThat was an echo of a statement I made in this House with the authority and consent of His Majesty's Government. Consequently it was not a new pronouncement on my part, but it expressed my sincere feeling and desire.
Let me read the passage to which I refer and as anticipating that communication:His Majesty's Government have been impressed by two characteristics in the atmosphere of Indian politics. The first is the intense and, as they are convinced, the greviously mistaken mistrust and the determination of uncompromising intransigence indicated in the election manifesto of the Swaraj party last autumn, and also the dissatisfaction expressed by more moderate advocates of self-government. Secondly, and more recently, an appreciable modification of that hostile and intransigent attitude has been indicated"—And I may say that Mr. Satyamurti's letter is a very good example of it—not only in the recent proceedings in the Legislative Assembly, but in many communi- 818 cations and expressions of opinion which have reached His Majesty's Government, both through official and unofficial channels"—I had not at that time received Mr. Satyamurti's letter—from persons representing weighty and influential opinion who are anxious that by some manner of conference a way forward may be found out of the present difficulties.His Majesty's Government … are earnestly desirous of availing themselves in whatever may be found the host possible method of this manifest disposition towards effectual consultation. Various modes of making this approach have been unofficially suggested. The Legislative Assembly have proposed a round-table conference. The Indian National Conference is proposing to send a deputation over, and representatives of Indian interests in his country have suggested a Mission to India. His Majesty's Government, while they are open to consider any practical proposals, are not yet satisfied as to what may be the best means for establishing that closer contact and better understanding that is so manifestly desirable. Some means of arriving at that closer contact must, they are convinced, be sought, and they hope, after due consultation with the Government of India, to be able with the least avoidable delay to decide upon the means they will desire to adopt.I am repeating that statement because it is precisely the temper in which I wrote and phrased my answer to Mr. Satyamurti.
No one in this House will deny that better contact and a better understanding between members of the Swaraj Party and all other progressive Parties in India who are coming over to England, and sending deputations here to the Secretary of State, cannot but work for the good of India and also for the better understanding of the difficulties with which we have to deal. Can any one take the slightest objection to the suggestion of that reasonable and very necessary resort? That is the first phrase of my letter. The second one is this:—I am interested to receive your observations on the working of diarchy in Madras and on your project of forming a non-communal party.I do not think that phrase can be held to express any declaration of policy. I say "I am interested." I was.I rather gather from reading the debates of the Council that this was already the platform Swarajists desire.In the Madras Council, owing to the enormous preponderance of non-Brahmins, a 819 wholly non-Brahmin Ministry has been set up, and I noticed a movement in the Madras Council to protest that the interests of minorities were not being properly considered; that is to say, that the communal system, giving an enormous preponderance of non-Brahmin voters in Madras, was, in the opinion of the Swarajists, being somewhat misused.
Now I come to the phrase upon which the noble Viscount has built an enormous edifice:Certainly it seems to me that the maintenance of the communal system is antagonistic to the possibility of any proper working of democratic institutions in India.The word "antagonistic" is a Greek word with the strict significance of which some journalists may not be familiar. To say that in my opinion a certain system is antagonistic to the working of democratic institutions is not, I can assure the noble Viscount, tantamount to saying that I am going to use my powers as Secretary of State immediately to force the Viceroy and his Council, the House of Lords and the House of Commons, to upset the Constitution of India. It expressed an opinion, and that opinion appears to me to be an exceedingly innocent opinion.
I heard in this House with great pleasure, about two or three months ago, a disquisition by the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, in which he surveyed the question as to how far and in what respect the peculiar characteristics of the Indian nation might make them fit for democratic institutions, and. so far as I myself was concerned, I did make, on February 26, the observation which the noble Viscount has quoted regarding the effect of the communal system on the working of democratic institutions. Since the noble Viscount has proposed to raise this question in this House and to challenge me upon it, I have looked up the statements
820 of other authorities upon this subject, other critics of Indian Government and Indian institutions, and I have found, as I expected, that they are one and ail of exactly the same opinion as myself, including the noble Viscount—I will quote the noble Viscount—that the working of this system is antagonistic to democratic institutions.
Mahomedans Non-Mahomedans (i.e., in effect, Hindus) Europeans Anglo-Indians (generally people of mixed race) Sikhs Indian Christians
Before I pass to that point, however, I should like to give your Lordships a sketch of that which is called the communal organisation of politics in India, and I think that when I have given it your Lordships will admit that it is rather in the nature of a crazy quilt, liable to produce nightmare in any of those who have to administer the Constitution under it. The rules made under the Government of India Act prescribe, inter alia, "the qualifications of electors, the constitution of constituencies and the method of election for. … Councils, including the number of members to be elected by communal and other electorates," and "the qualification for being and for being nominated or elected a member of any such Council." The rules framed under these provisions classify electorates as general and special, and the general constituencies are on a territorial basis—that is to say, each covers a defined territorial area consisting, in the case of certain constituencies, of a single town or a group of towns, and in the case of rural constituencies of a district or group of districts, and in a few cases of a whole Province. With the single exception of Burma, general constituencies are communal; that is to say, a given area in a Province forms several constituencies, which consist of the qualified electors of a particular community resident in the area.
§ Communities for which their own general constituencies thus exist are:
§ In all Provinces, except Burma.
§ In all Provinces, except Burma.
§ In all provinces, except Assam. (In the Punjab and the Central Provinces, by nomination.)
§ In Madras, Bengal and Burma. (In Bombay, the United Provinces and the Central Provinces, by nomination.)
§ In the Punjab.
§ In Madras. (In Bombay, Bengal, the United Provinces, the Punjab and Bihar, by nomination.)821
§ In all these cases the electors must be of the community specified, and members of one community cannot vote in the electorate of any other community. In all cases also the candidate must be of the same community as that of the electorate for which he sits, except in Assam and the United Provinces where this restriction on candidatures does not (in theory) apply. In Burma the bulk of the general constituencies are non-communal, but there are constituencies set apart for Europeans, Anglo-Indians and Karens and Indians, who, if they live in areas which form these constituencies, can vote only for candidates of their own race.
§ The special constituencies are of the following kinds, to give special representation to the interests denoted by the names: to landholders, in all Provinces; to Universities—that is an anomaly of which we are still suffering the presence—in all Provinces: to commerce and industry, in all Provinces except Bihar; to planters, in Madras, Bihar and Assam; and to mining in Bihar and the Central Provinces. These are instances of the special representation of classes or communities. Besides communal electorates, provision exists in the rules for the special representation of certain classes or communities by nomination, that is, by earmarking for them one or more of the seats which the Governor fills by nomination. These are:—(1) Depressed classes—in all Provinces but the Punjab and Assam: (2) inhabitants of "backward tracts"—in Madras and Assam; (3) the labouring classes—in Bombay, Bengal, Bihar, Assam and Burma; (4) the cotton trades—in Bombay; (5) Punjabi officers and soldiers—in the Punjab; (6) aborigines—in Bihar; (7) Bengali domiciled community—in Bihar; (8) industrial interests—in Bihar; (6) Indian commerce—in Burma. It will thus be seen that the special provision by nomination partakes of the character in some cases of general (communal) constituencies and in others of special constituencies. It is made in cases in which the nature of the interest or community in question is such as to make the provision of electoral facilities difficult or impossible. In Madras and Bombay twenty-eight and six seats respectively in certain plural-member non-Mahomedan constituencies are reserved for non-Brahmins by an arrange- 822 ment which ensures that, if there is a non-Brahmin candidate for one of these seats, he secures it whatever his position at the poll.
Those are the electoral arrangements which resulted from the attempt to put into force the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms under the best system possible at the present time. With regard to the statements of my noble friend Lord Chelmsford and of Mr. Montagu, the noble Viscount has given a very garbled extract; that is to say, he took out one particular sentence of what they wrote. I am going to read to your Lordships what is practically the more important part of what they wrote, indicating the place where the reservation which the noble Viscount made comes in. First of all they say, under a heading to the effect that communal electorates are opposed to the teaching of history:—
The crucial test to which, as we conceive, ah proposals should be brought is whether they will or will not help to carry India towards responsible government. … But when we consider what responsible government implies and how it was developed in the world we cannot take this view. We find it in its earliest beginnings resting on an effective sense of the common interests, a bond compounded of community of race, religion and language.
The noble Viscount quoted me as saying—and I am much obliged to him for quoting it, for it will save me the trouble—that one of the great difficulties of establishing democracy in India was that the community was so divided by divergent racial and temperamental interests, and His Majestys Government did not believe that until those divergent interests and temperaments had been consolidated into a common public purpose you could have stable institutions in India. That he quoted from me, and I am obliged to him for doing so.
The Report continued:—
In the earlier form which it assumed in Europe it appeared only when the territorial principle had vanquished the tribal principle, and blood and religion had ceased to assert a rival claim with the State to a citizen's allegiance; and throughout its development in Western countries, even in eases where special reasons to the contrary were present, it has rested consistently on the same root principle. … We conclude unhesitatingly that the history of self-government among the nations who developed it, and spread it through the world is decisively against the admission by the State of any divided allegiance; against the
State's arranging its members in any way which encourages them to think of themselves primarily as citizens of any smaller unit than itself.
Indian lovers of their country would he the first to admit that India generally has not yet acquired the citizen spirit, and if we are really to lead her to self-government, we must do all that we possibly can to call it forth in her people. Division by creeds and classes means the creation of political camps organised against each other, and teaches men to think as partisans and not as citizens; and it is difficult to see how the change from this system to national representation is, ever to occur. The British Government is often accused of dividing men in order to govern them. But if it unnecessarily divides them at the very moment when it professes to start them on the road to governing themselves, it will find it difficult to meet the charge of being hypocritical or short sighted.
There is another important point. A minority which is given special representation owing to its weak and backward state, is positively encouraged to settle down into a feeling of satisfied security; it is under no inducement to educate and qualify itself to make good the ground which it has lost compared with the stronger majority. On the other hand, the latter will be tempted to feel that they have done all they need do for their weaker fellow countrymen and that they are free to use their power for their own purposes. The give-and-take which is the essence of political life is lacking. There is no inducement to the one side to forbear, or to the other to exert itself. The communal system stereotypes existing relations.
We regard any system of communal electorates, therefore, as a very serious hindrance to the development of the self-governing principle. The evils of any extension of the system are plain. …
Then the writers of the Report refer to the fact that communal representation had been necessarily granted to the Moslems, and that there was no question of recommending its being withdrawn. They also went on to say that communal representations of the Sikhs was suggested. The Report goes on:—
At the same time we must face the hard facts. The Mahomedans were given special representation with separate electorates in 1909. … We have been pressed to extend the concession to other communities. Some have based their claim on their back-ward, others on their advanced condition. Thus the Sikhs in the Punjab, the non-Brahmins in Madras (although in that Presidency these actually constitute a majority), the Indian Christians, the Anglo-Indians, the Europeans, and the Lingayat community in Bombay have all asked for communal representation. The large landowning classes also generally desire representation in an electorate of their own. … Any general extension of the communal
system, however, would only encourage still further demands, and would in our deliberate opinion be fatal to that development of representation upon a national basis in which alone a system of responsible government can possibly be rooted.
A very able and distinguished Committee was appointed on that Report under the Chairmanship of Lord South-borough, to make recommendations with regard to the franchise and electoral districts. They were appointed to advise on arranging a system of representation, and this is what they say:—
The Joint Report recognises the necessity for the communal representation of Mahomedans in Provinces where they do not form a majority of electors. The evidence received by us and the opinions of local Governments concerned were almost unanimous in favour of this course. In the Punjab we have recommended a separate electoral roll and separate constituencies for the Sikhs. The other communities for which we recommend separate communal electorates are Indian Christians, Europeans and Anglo-Indians. … In recommending communal representation for these and other communities, we have done so in the hope that it will be possible at no very distant date to merge all communities into one general electorate.
Those are the recommendations of Lord Southborough's Committee. Not, as the Daily Telegraph puts it, the recommendations of regrettable doctrinaires, but of sober English and Indian opinion, public officials and statesmen of long experience. Their opinion coincides exactly with my own.
Then there is the Government of India's Despatch on the above Report, No. 4, dated April 23, 1919, and it is as follows:—
In the event, communal electorates are now proposed not only for Moslems everywhere and for Sikhs in the Punjab, but also for Indian Christians in Madras, Anglo-Indians in Madras and Bengal and Europeans in the three Presidencies, the United Provinces and Bihar and Orissa. We feel the objections of principle to the communal system as strongly as the authors of the Reforms Report but see no advantage at this stage in reiterating them. India is not prepared to take the first steps forward towards responsible government upon any other road. The road does not lead directly to that goal, and we can only echo the hope expressed by the Committee that 'it will he possible at no very distant date to merge all communities in one general electorate.'
Now, I will read to your Lordships one or two extracts from speeches in Parliament. In the House of Commons, during the debate in Committee on the Government
of India Bill on December 3, 1919. Mr. Montagu said:—
Nobody objects more than I do to communal representation. I believe it to be a great mistake, but there is one mistake which would, be greater and that is to get Legislative Councils in India that are not properly representative of all classes; and if communal elections are provided for temporarily in order to ensure that, I believe they are well worth having.
Then, in the House of Lords, during the debate on the Second Heading of the Government of India Bill on December 12, 1919, Viscount Midleton said:—
I do not suppose under any circumstances in this country could it occur that we should be placed in the position in which the members of the Committee were placed, of having a remonstrance addressed to us most fervently, and continuously pressed home, that we should carry out the communal system of representation, described by Lord Sydenham, in such a way that although the non-Brahmin population in Madras is 27,000,000 and the Brahmin population 1,000,000 we should give, quite a different representation to the Brahmins, in order to preserve the great influence of the small minority. That is a state of affairs which shows that you have to deal with India in a different spirit from that in which you would deal with any electorate in this country.
Again, in the House of Commons, during the debate on the Rules under the Government of India Act on July 23, 1920, Mr. Montagu said:—
I would welcome the disappearance of communal representation in India, but it can only be done at the request of the community itself and at a far Infer stage of development.
Then Mr. Ormsby-Gore said these words to the same effect:—
The vast majority of the radian Christians in Madras do for the present wart this communal representation. I quite agree that the sooner we can get rid of it in India altogether the better.
Finally, I come to the noble Viscount. In the debate on the communal franchise in Kenya, on July 26, 1923, the noble Viscount spoke as follows:—
Let me allude to one or two points in the White Paper. My noble friend Lord Selborne made a most eloquent defence of the communal system. It was so eloquent and earnest that I thought that he, as Chairman of the Joint Committee, must have been the author of it. I am sure it will interest him to know that, although that system in many ways has prevailed in India, there is in the Assembly and in the Council of State a very strong feeling against it.
Although the noble Earl says it is an Indian invention they do not seem to be so proud of their own offspring. They say: 'We do not look upon it as a great invention. We think that where it can be avoided it should be avoided.'
I should have thought that I was entitled to quote what the noble Viscount said as evidence of his own feelings, but I gather-that he rather objects.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I was expressing there not my view. I was trying to express in this House the view prevailing in certain political circles in the Assembly and in the Council of State. I did not say it was my view.
§ LORD OLIVIER
I am satisfied to leave it at that, and to say that that view prevailed in the Council of State, in which ease I cannot be accused of being extremely subversive of the Indian Government by saying that that is also my opinion. But, the noble Viscount having demurred to my quoting him. on the ground that he was speaking of Kenya, I will not press that argument.
Those, then, are the views of the Government of Indian in Council, of high Government officials, and of members of all Parties in this country, to the effect that the communal system of representation is antagonistic to the progress of democratic institutions. As I said, not everybody appears to understand what the word "antagonistic" means. It means that it militates against the progress of democratic institutions. That appears to be an obvious truism, and I do not believe there is anybody in this House who has given any attention to political philosophy who would for a moment question it, or would attempt to traverse the very strong arguments that were put forward in the Montagu Chelmsford Report to that effect, all of which I have not read. It must be a political truism that to have a mosaic of communal constituencies, all of which are exacerbating their own differences, is antagonistic to the progress of democratic institutions; and no possible exception can be taken to that.
I want to refer to some of the comments that have been made upon this letter of mine, because I think the attitude which has been taken up towards this episode evidences a temper and a habit of judgment which are extremely antagonistic to 827 the public interest, and I want to comment upon it rather freely. We get first this statement in a telegram from Calcutta:The fear that the Labour Government, despite the assurances to the contrary which have been given in statements in Parliament, its inclined to seek a compromise with the Indian extremists is likely to be increased by the wording of a remarkable letter which has been received—Then the letter is quoted, and this ominous paragraph follows:The Secretary of State's explanation as to how he reconciles these sentiments with his recent public pronouncements, is awaited with eager interest in India.I have pointed out already that this letter is exactly in accordance with what I stated in your Lordships' House.
Another paper says this:An extraordinary story circulated by an Indian news agency last night purporting to quote a letter from Lord Olivier to Mr. S. Satyamurti, the well-known Swarajist and member of the Madras Legislative Council, was temporarily suppressed by the papers here in response to a request from the issuing agency.You observe the way in which a newspaper sensation is being worked up. The next day the following telegram appeared:The alacrity with which Mr. S. Satyamurti, the Swarajist member of the Madras Legislative Council, agreed to accept full responsibility for the publication of Lord Olivier's letter is a strong piece of evidence favouring the widely held opinion in India that the Secretary of State has been trapped into a carefully prepared plot by the Swarajists. … To say that Lord Olivier's letter, though carefully worded, is regarded here as a grave error of judgment, is putting the case very mildly, and it is felt that some official pronouncement is called for immediately.My official pronouncement would be that His Majesty's Government consider that improved contact and understanding between the Government and the Swaraj and other advanced Parties in India is not only desirable, but that the Viceroy is considering with His Majesty's Government the best means by which that contact can be established, and is taking means towards that end. Also, I am of opinion that communal representative institutions are antagonistic to the progress of sound democracy. That is the statement which I have to make.
The newspaper quotes from the Statesman: 828Private advices from England indicate that a determined attempt is being made to stampede public opinion and the Labour Government into a hasty, ill-considered action with regard to the reforms. Among other points upon which these attacks are converging is the question of communal representation, to which the extremist politicians and, to some extent, the Hindus, are generally opposed because they consider the earmarking of certain constituencies for certain communities is likely to prejudice their interests.. … It is evident from Lord Olivier's letter that the politicians who are now pressing the claims of India to a fuller measure of autonomy have placed the communal system in the forefront of their case and it is only too clear that they receive a sympathetic hearing. Unless, therefore, wise counsels prevail, there is reason to fear that the proposed amendment to the Government of India Act will force India a long step further on the path towards tyranny. … India, alas! seems doomed to suffer from the dreams of the doctrinaire"—such as the noble Lord, Lord South-borough, and the Council of India and Lord Chelmsford—and it is a grave disappointment to learn that a man of Lord Olivier's experience is powerless to shake himself free from the influence of preconceived opinion.The whole of that is a mare's nest, so far, at any rate, as either I myself or, so far as I am aware, any members of the Government are concerned.
I have had conversations, as it was proper for me to do, with the representatives of all shades of opinion in India, beginning with ex-Governors, members of the European community, members of the mercantile community, Indians of almost all shades of opinion, including Mr. Rangachariar, who is now on an official mission to this country, deputed by the Government of India, and Mr. Sastri, a member of the Liberal Party. Curiously enough, I had myself, without having been previously "entrapped," expressed that view to Mr. Satyamurti, but not a single, one of any of the Indians who have spoken to me has as much as raised or mentioned the question of commuunal representation, except Mr. Sastri, who criticised it in respect of its operation in Madras. Mr. Sastri has made to me no official representations on behalf of the Independent Party which he represents. I understand that the Independent Party propose at a later date to approach the Prime Minister or myself by a deputation to put before us their views. But there has been no shadow of an indication on the part of these deeply-plotting 829 Swarajists in England, or India, or elsewhere, so far, that they want to stampede the Labour Government or to entrap them into any kind of promise that they are going to abolish the communal representation, and if the noble Viscount wants any assurance from me that His Majesty's Government have not taken into consideration for a moment up to the present the question of any modification of the communal representation he has it, and he has no ground whatever for assuming from anything that I wrote in my letter that either His Majesty's Government or I had any intention of doing so.
I will go on now with a few more of these choice extracts. The determined effort to stampede is again referred to. Then there is a further comment—While the official statement from London that Lord Olivier's letter to Mr. Satyamurti contained nothing that the Secretary of State had not already said, may be literally accurate"—That statement was made by Mr. Richards in Parliament in reply to a Question, and it had my authority. The letter was not written with a desire for it to be published, and the letter contained nothing, as I said, that I have not already given expression to. This comment, however, is made—While the official statement … that Lord Olivier's letter … contained nothing that the Secretary of State had not already said, may be literally accurate, his expression of desire for closer contact with the Swaraj Party, being made to a notoriously anti-British politician, is a big advance on Mr. Richards' House of Commons statement of April 15 that the Government desired to establish contact with those Indians who were prepared to co-operate.That brings me really to the close of what I wanted to say. These Press extracts, culminating in that statement that I had expressed the desire for closer contact with a notoriously anti-British politician, indicate throughout the temper in which the Party in India who resist all progress habitually approach these matters. That is a very mischievous temper. I have no ground whatever, and I do not suppose that anybody has any ground whatever, for saying that Mr. Satyamurti is an anti-British politician. His letter to me contradicts it. He says that he is not an anti-British politician. He desires to maintain the union and association of India with Great Britain.
§ LORD OLIVIER
The noble Viscount did not, but this is the quotation from a Calcutta correspondent and the whole of this Press "stunt" is inspired, it is perfectly clear, by what one may call a suppressed complex of suspicion, first of all, of the Labour Government and, secondly, of that particular Party in Indian politics who are called the Swarajists. That is to say, it is immediately assumed that when the Labour Party come into office they are prepared to be stampeded, and it is immediately assumed that the Swarajists are prepared to entrap and stampede them. It is also indicated that it is something disloyal or improper or strange on the part of the Secretary of Slate that he should address a civil letter to an elected politician. You have that sort of feeling reflected in the supplementary Questions that were asked in the House of Commons the other evening.
Lieut. Colonel Howard-Bury asked this supplementary Question—Is this an example of the new methods of the Government for communicating Cabinet decisions to the people of India?A frivolous question! Then Viscount Curzon asked—Are we to understand that the Government view with approval the action of the Secretary of State in communicating direct with this extremist leader in Indian?I wonder in what sort of political world I am living when that kind of question can be put in all seriousness in the House of Commons of this country. Because a man happens to be a member of the Cabinet he is not to write such a civil letter as. I wrote to a man who is a representative, and a constitutionally appointed representative, of a considerable Party in India!
The Swaraj Party, the Home Rule Party, are, as I have said, the most advanced cohort of the entire Indian national movement. They have at present a considerable majority in two or three of the Councils, and altogether they have the strongest representation of any political Party in the Councils and in the Assembly in India. They have a constitutional position and a constitutional right to be recognised as enjoying the privileges, the confidence and the credit attaching to their constitutional position which your Lordships have created for them. You have no business whatever to 831 say that any one should have any more prejudice against a Swarajist than against a Moderate, or an Independent or a Liberal. They are all of them elected representatives in their various Councils, and they are entitled to be regarded without prejudice either by the Government of India or by the Government of this country. I repudiate entirely the theory that because the Swarajists are giving the Government of India a certain amount of trouble, as I have said, because they are pursuing their perfectly constitutional aim in what we consider to be a factious and mistaken manner, they are to be regarded as a kind of political outcastes and as antagonists and enemies of Great Britain, and that we are to he asked: "Why do you write civilly to these people? If you write civilly to them you at once discourage the Moderates and the Independents who would be your backers."
We desire, by arriving at an understanding with all Parties, to get as much backing as we can on all political questions from all Parties, and we have said that again and again. I have said it in this House, and my right hon. friend has said it in another place. It is not the fact that the Swaraj Party are at the present time entirely non-cooperating. At the present moment there is being discussed in the Legislative Assembly in India a Tariff Bill for the protection of steel. That was referred by the Assembly to a Select Committee. That Select Committee included members of the Swaraj Party. Those members of the Swaraj Party are dealing with it without any prejudice, simply on its merits as a political question. They are not saying: "This is a Bill of the Government of India and we are going to hamper it and to sabotage it." They are dealing with it on its merits. That is an advance, at any rate, to that kind of co-operation which the Swarajists can perfectly well undertake without in the slightest degree prejudicing their political programme, and in my opinion they will very much strengthen their chance of advancing towards that programme by adopting that line of action. I do most entirely protest against the attitude which is too often taken up, and I am sorry to say I see it in some of the Reports which I get from the Government of India, regarding the Swaraj Party, simply because of their constitutional 832 agitation, as being persons who are to be discriminated against as distinguished from other politicians.
On February 26 the noble Marquess, Lord Curzon, made a comment upon one of the matters to which I referred—namely, the handling by the Government of India of the Jaito disturbance, and he expressed very bodly the opinion that "there must have been regrettable mismanagement somewhere to have brought about a state of affairs in which you have bodies of Sikh fanatics marching about the country," and so on. That is the sort of criticism of the Government of India which, if I had made it, would have meant at once a tremendous attack upon me for belittling the Government of India.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I said that there must have been mismanagement somewhere. I did not attack the Government of India. I did not attack anybody. I alluded to a deplorable situation, to a state of affairs which has grown up in India with the explanation of which I was not acquainted, but which, evidently, did indicate some gross mismanagement on the part of some persons. Then the noble Lord gets up and says I am making an attack on the Government of India.
§ LORD OLIVIER
I do not think I used the word "attack." The noble Marquess said there must have been grave mis management somewhere. Who was responsible for managing the affair if not the Government of India? The noble Marquess went on to say that he thought things would be put right when we got. Sir Malcolm Hailey as Governor of the Punjab. If he could manage it right, who could manage it wrong? The noble Marquess said that he made no direct attack. No, he made a criticism. When I want to steal a horse I shall get the noble Marquess to do it, and I shall turn my back to the hedge carefully. I should not have dared to say so much in disparagement of the management of India as the noble Marquess clearly and definitely said in those words.
I say this further, that I, unfortunately, see in the reports which I receive from districts and otherwise that there is a constant tendency on the part of officers of the Government rather to hold them selves justified in regarding the Swarajists 833 as treasonable persons and to treat them in a somewhat objectionable manner, subjecting them to pin-pricks, to disparagement, and special treatment, regarding the Swarajist Party as we used to regard the Home Rule Party in Ireland, as a Party with which no respectable politician could possibly associate or have anything to do. That is unfortunate. This Press "stunt," which has come from Calcutta and elsewhere, is an indication of the miserable temper of supposing that the Swarajists are traitorous people, that they are worse than other politicians, and want to entrap and bamboozle the Secretary of State and the Labour Party, as if the Labour Party were capable of being stampeded by them. The policy of the Labour Party has been stated to your Lordships' House, and it is proceeding.
Having regard to the complaints that have been made as to the working of the present Constitution in India, the Government of India has established a Committee with a view to finding out what amendments, if any, are required in the Act by rules or otherwise. First of all, that Committee was appointed as an official Committee. It has now been enlarged, and I have given the noble Viscount the reference to it. Only yesterday the Government of India proceeded on these lines which I indicated that His Majesty's Government would be glad that they should proceed, and are adding unofficial members to that Committee with a view to seeing whether we shall receive from unofficial critics representations with regard to the working of the Government of India Act. That is an advance towards greater and better contact, and if, by perhaps harmless letters and such harmless correspondence as has passed between myself and Mr. Satyamurti, any kind of better contact or understanding can be established between ourselves and those advanced politicians in India, I shall be exceedingly glad, and I shall not for a moment be ashamed of what I have done.
I do hope that no one of your Lordships who is to follow me will say that you have received any relief or satisfaction from what I have told you. What I have told you with regard to the policy of His Majesty's Government has been told you already. The policy of His Majesty's Government has not been altered or modified or departed from. I must; say 834 that, on the whole, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for having given me this opportunity of expressing myself on the subject and of making this protest. I beg him to believe that, while I should myself have considered it too trivial a matter for so serious notice to be taken of it, I am not at all sure that it has not been, on the whole, in the public interest that some discussion should have taken place.
THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTOIN
My Lords, I do not think the speech which the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for India, has just delivered is one of which, if he reads it in print to-morrow morning, he will have any particular occasion to be proud. Of one thing I am sure he has not convinced your Lordships, and that is that this matter is as trivial as he led your Lordships to think, and that, to quote the words with which he opened, it was quite unworthy of the attention of your Lordships' House. If that were his view he would not have spent fifty-five minutes in attempting to demonstrate the contrary. He evidently regarded it as a matter of very serious importance, so important indeed that, having dealt with the charge, to which matter I will confine myself, he thought, it necessary to attach to his argument a discussion of almost every other aspect of the Indian question, and to indulge in observations with reference to the political position in India, and to those who criticised him, and so on, the greater part of which was wholly irrelevant to the comparatively narrow, though important, point that was raised by my noble friend Lord Peel.
The chief reflection that was borne in upon me as I listened to the rambling remarks of the noble Lord was this, that His Majesty's Ministers are really the most inexperienced, the most ignorant, and the most sensitive body of men who ever sat upon that Bench. They make the most astonishing speeches, and are surprised when they are asked to explain them. But whatever you may think of their speeches, their letters are positively amazing. We never know from day to day with what new situation we are going to be confronted. One day it is the Home Secretary who, although a politician of some experience, plunges unasked into the maelstrom of European 835 politics, and has to be disowned by his chief. The same Home Secretary, only daring the last week, has made another divagation into the field of South African politics. Subordinate members of the Ministry cannot keep quiet for a week. Now the noble Lord, whom I have hitherto regarded as a rather quiet and stable sort of person, seems to me to be the worst offender. And the worst part of it is, he is wholly unconscious of his error, and has spent the greater part of an hour this afternoon in pointing out to your Lordships' House that he is a most innocent person, and that everybody else in the world is carrying on a "stunt," to use his classic phrase, of which he himself especially is the quite unmerited victim.
Let us deal with the case. The noble Lord has written a letter. The terms of that letter were read by my noble friend. What is the defence of the noble Lord in reply? He says, in the first place, that his letter was written to a highly respectable Indian politician who was a friend of Mr. Montagu's. I do not desire to say one word against the gentleman referred to. He seems to me, if I may say so, to have been, on the evidence of the noble Lord, an exceedingly shrewd person, and to know pretty well the sort of conditions under which Labour Ministers can be approached. He said, in the first place, that he was aware of the limitations under which a Labour Government rests. He did not know how easy a Labour Government finds it to relax those limitations, at any rate in speech and in letters. He said, in the second place, that he was expecting some sort of gesture—"right gesture" I think the phrase was—from His Majesty's advisers.
Now we will take the gesture itself. The noble Lord seemed to think it was an adequate defence to say that when a civil communication is sent to him he ought to return a civil reply—a civil and frank reply. I do the noble Lord the justice of believing that he is incapable of returning any other reply. But this is not a case of the ordinary exchange of civil letters between a correspondent and a gentleman who chooses to address him in England. This is the case of correspondence between an Indian politician of admittedly advanced views and a Secretary of State. The noble Lord then says, in self-defence, that all he expressed was an innocent and a philosophical opinion. I agree with the 836 noble Lord as to his innocence. It is almost incredible. But as for his philosophy it is not the business of Secretaries of State to be philosophers. If the noble Lord desires to make philosophical statements about Indian politics let him do it in the silence of his own chamber. Do not let him do it in letters which are published to the world. Indian Secretaries of State are not abstract persons who can indulge in abstract generalities They are concrete individuals charged with great responsibilities whose words pre circulated throughout India and whose opinions carry an importance which the noble Lord seemed quite unable to appreciate.
The third defence which the noble Lord offered for his action was that he was merely expressing in his letter opinions to which he had already given utterance in your Lordships' House. That is not so. I do not say anything about the first part of the letter, his general sympathy with Swarajist aims, because I have not sufficient time in which to deal with it. But the second part of the letter, which is the real gravamen of the charge brought by my noble friend—namely, that "the maintenance of the communal system is antagonistic to the possibility of any proper working of democratic institutions in India"—is certainly not what the noble Lord has said on previous occasions, and it is a point of view which he admitted in the concluding sentences of his speech is not shared as regards action by the Government of India or even by His Majesty's Government at home.
Why is it that a statement by the noble Lord, even couched in abstract and philosophic form, upon this question is unwise? I think I would put it as follows. In the first place, it can only produce, and it has already produced as is obvious from the quotations which the noble Lord gave, considerable excitement and unrest in India. He seemed to confine himself to the disparaging remarks about himself that have emanated from the European Press. I do not attach any particular importance to them. What I look to are the sentiments that have been expressed by those communities in India whose security consists in the retention of the communal system. I look to the feelings of Mahomedans, to whom the noble Viscount called attention, and such in- 837 dications as I see lead me to think that the Mahomedans in India are gravely alarmed at the suggestion that the Secretary of State for India disapproves altogether of that which they regard as the main safeguard of their interests and the individuality of their community.
Take again the Sikhs. The noble Lord was quite angry that I had indicated that the recant agitation in the Sikh community was due to mismanagement somewhere. I do not desire to pursue that point, but he will agree that the one thing we want as regards the Sikhs is to get them back into the condition of contentment and loyalty which up to a few years ago they had observed. If you indicate to them that the Secretary of State is opposed to the communal system without which they will be submerged and their voice extinguished, you are going a long way to exaggerate the feelings of distrust that unhappily already exist among that important community.
There is also the point made by the noble Viscount behind me. Did the noble Lord consider, in making that declaration, whether the announcement at the present time would be acceptable to the Government of India and whether it would strengthen their hands? Did he consider whether it was consistent with the general lines of policy we have been pursuing ever since the Montagu-Chelmsford Report took the shape of legislation, which, was passed by your Lordships' House. The noble Lord comforts himself by the statement that it is merely the legitimate expression of opinion to say that "the maintenance of the communal system is antagonistic to the possibility of any proper working of democratic institutions in India," Why should the noble Lord set himself up as a judge of what is the proper working of democratic institutions in India?
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
Then my remarks are not applicable to the noble Lord alone. Why should any one lay down, of a population of 320 millions, split asunder by every diversity of race, religion, language and creed, that the communal system, introduced by His Majesty's Government themselves, is inconsistent with the development of 838 democratic institutions? And are you quite certain that the democratic institutions of which you speak, and the principles which you are advocating, are suitable to the peoples of India at all? Are we wise here in laying it down that because we in Western countries, with centuries of development and experience behind us, have arrived at certain broad principles and conclusions, we are therefore justified in laying them down for, or offering them to, all the diversified communities of India? The answer, of course, is contained in the very document which the noble Lord quoted. To justify himself he referred to the Report signed by Mr. Montagu and Viscount Chelmsford, and he read from that Report passages containing a metaphysical discussion of what responsible self-government really means, or ought to mean. I have read those passages also. From whom they emanated I have no idea, but I can hardly believe that they represent the views of so sensible a man as Lord Chelmsford. They are written in a general philosophical and abstract way.
But after paying this lip service to the real meaning of democracy, what did the Montagu-Chelmsford Report go on to do? It went on at once to provide for the creation and maintenance, of the very communal system which, in theory, they denounced, and which the noble Lord himself proceeded to explain to your Lordships. His speech was the most powerful vindication of the communal system in India that could be desired. What did he tell us? He said not merely do Mahomedans in India require for their due representation to have a system of special, representation of their own, not merely is it necessary for the Sikhs to have an opportunity to have it too, but you have to provide it by the creation of special electorates and nominations for such sections of the community as the planters, the Anglo-Indians, the great landowners, the miners—I might indefinitely extend the list quoted by the noble Lord. Therefore, he himself showed that the Government, which is the author of these reforms which he is defending and desires to extend, finds itself unable to act up to its abstract principles and is compelled in practice to introduce as the whole basis of representation in India a system which he dislikes.
839 That is the position, and I confess that the action of the Secretary of State, from which, as he has told us, he is not going to depart, and from which the Government of which he is a member dare not depart—the action of a Secretary of State who, in an incautious letter to a prominent politician in India, says that he personally dislikes the system thus administered and would like to see it abolished, and that it is not compatible with the principles which he and his colleagues avow—is not only indiscreet, but is deserving of the gravest condemnation at the hands of your Lordships' House. I promised I would be short in my observations, and I will not pursue the matter. I regret that the noble Lord thought it necessary in the latter part of his observations to think that he is the victim of some special and malignant misrepresentation or attack at the hands either of the European community in India or of any body of opinion in this country. That is very far from being the case.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I think the noble Lord did signal out the attacks which have been made upon him personally in newspapers in India, but, whether he was referring to himself or to the Labour Party, I would ask him to disabuse himself of that idea.
§ THE MARQUESS CURZON OF KEDLESTON
I think the noble Lord has really shown undue sensitiveness upon that point. In this House, certainly, every consideration has been shown to him on every occasion when he has addressed your Lordships. I would beg him, therefore, not to pursue that line of argument, and not to be surprised if incautious utterances of his call for the explanation for which the noble Viscount has asked to-night.
It only remains for me, in conclusion, to take note of the fact, and to nail the point to the counter, that the noble Lord, although he has expressed these abstract views of his own, has stated with even greater clearness that the Government of 840 which he is a member has no intention of abolishing the communal system, that this pronouncement must not be taken as indicating any change of policy, that it was an utterance on his part, as we think, irresponsible, as he thinks innocent, and that no importance whatever must be attached to it. That it should require a reply of fifty-five minutes' duration on the part of the noble Lord to demonstrate to the House that we need not attach any importance to that which he said is, I think, an extraordinary phenomenon, but at the same time I am prepared to accept it if only for the satisfactory nature of the general declaration with which he has furnished us.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.