Part 9 (1/2)

There are also an appreciable number of retired officers and others whose working life has been given to India, settled in the cooler parts of the country. When complaints are rife that European commercial interests are selfish and drain the country of wealth which it ought to retain, it _is well to remind ourselves how much of India's material prosperity is due to European commerce_.” [The italics are ours].

We have no desire to raise a controversy over the a.s.sumption which underlies the last statement in the above extract. The authors are themselves cognizant of it when they remark, later on, that the ”benefit” which India has received by her commercial development in European hands is ”not less because it was incidental and not the purpose of the undertaking.” These are matters on which the Indian Nationalist may well hold his own opinion and yet endorse the spirit of the following observations:

”Clearly it is the duty of British Commerce in India to identify itself with the interests of India, which are higher than the interests of any community; to take part in political life; to use its considerable wealth and opportunities to commend itself to India; and having demonstrated both its value and its good intentions, to be content to rest like other industries on the new foundation of Government in the wishes of the people. No less is it the wish of Indian politicians to respect the expectations which have been implicitly held out; to remember how India has profited by commercial development which only British capital and enterprise achieved; to bethink themselves that though the capital invested in private enterprises was not borrowed under any a.s.surance that the existing form of government would endure, yet the favourable terms on which money was obtained for India's development were undoubtedly affected by the fact of British rule; and to abstain from advocating differential treatment aimed not so much at promoting Indian as at injuring British commerce.”

We must say that the last insinuation is perfectly gratuitous. Nor is it correct to say even by implication that the non-official European community has. .h.i.therto abstained from taking part in politics. The fact is that Indian politics have hitherto been too greatly dominated by the British merchant both at home and in India. The British merchant doing business in India had to submit to the prior claims of the British manufacturers in Great Britain in matters in which their interests did not coincide, but otherwise their interests received the greatest possible attention from the Government of India. In proportion to their incomes derived from India by the employment of Indian labour on terms more or less guaranteed to them by the Indian Government's special legislation they have made the smallest possible contribution to the Indian Revenues; yet they have been the greatest possible hindrance in the development of Indian liberties. They have all the time owned a powerful press which has employed all the resources of education and enlightenment, all the powers of manipulating facts and figures in maintaining and strengthening the rule of autocracy in the country. We do not propose to open these wounds. But we cannot help remarking that so far they have exercised quite a disproportionate influence in the decisions of the Government of India. Those of them who are domiciled in the country are our brothers and no Indian has the least desire to do anything that will harm them in any way. Their importance must, in future, be determined not by their race or colour or creed but by their numbers, their education and their position in the economic life of the country. They must no longer lord it over the Indians simply because they are of European descent. They should claim no preferences or exemptions because of that fact. As an integral part of the Indian body politic they are ent.i.tled to all the consideration which they deserve by virtue of their intellectual or economic position. They should henceforth be Indo-British both in spirit and in name. They will find the Indians quite ready to forget the past and embrace them as brothers for the common prosperity of their joint country.

As regards the other European merchants who are not domiciled in India but are there just to make money and return to spend it in their native land, they are no more ent.i.tled to any place in the political machinery of the Indian Government than the Hindus who trade in the United States or in England. So far every European, of whatever nationality he might be, has occupied a position of privilege in India. He was granted rights which were denied to the sons of the soil. Every German or Austrian or Bulgarian could keep or carry any number and kind of arms he wanted without any license, while the natives of India, even of the highest position, could not do so unless exempted either by virtue of their rank or by the favour of the Administration. Jews and Armenians, Turks and Russians, Scandinavians, Danes, Italians and Swiss all enjoyed the privilege. When charged with any serious offence punishable by imprisonment for more than six months, they could claim trial by a jury having a majority of Europeans on it, while no Indian outside the Presidency towns of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras had that right. Even there, the jury trying an Indian could include a majority of Europeans.

In the famous trial of Mr. B. G. Tilak in 1908, the jury was composed of seven Europeans and two Pa.r.s.ees. It is obvious that these discriminations in favour of the Europeans must cease and that no European not domiciled in India should enjoy a position of special privilege. Indians are noted for their hospitality and chivalry. Their own codes of honor effectively prevent them from doing any harm or injury to a foreigner. Every European doing business in India or on any other errand is a guest of honor and ent.i.tled to that treatment, provided he does not a.s.sume racial superiority and look down upon the people of the country and take advantage of their being subjects of a European power. No Indian will be so foolish as to injure the commercial development of his country by scaring the foreign trader or the foreign capitalist. All that he wants is freedom to lay down the terms on which that trade will be carried on consistently with the interests of India's millions. What he stands for is equality and reciprocity. As other peoples are free to name the conditions on which the foreign trader may do business in their countries, so must the Indians be. Nothing more and nothing less than this is demanded.

As regards the citizens of the British Empire also, the same right of reciprocity is demanded. We are glad that the representatives of the Dominions have recognized the justice of that claim and expressed their willingness to concede it.

Coming to the Missions, European and American, the advice given is rather gratuitous. The Indians have left nothing undone to show their grat.i.tude to them for the good work done by them in spite of the fact that they, too, in the past, have not hesitated to use the fact of their race and colour for the benefit of their propaganda. The person of a religious man is sacred in the eyes of an Indian, regardless of his particular creed. The Christian missionary has so far enjoyed a unique position of safety and freedom in the country even to a greater extent than the Hindu or the Moslem priest. The latter have often quarrelled amongst themselves, but the former they have always respected and honored. There is absolutely no reason to think that this is likely to change in any way by the grant of political liberty to the Indians.

It is possible, however, that, with the growth of free thought in India, religious teachers of all denominations may not continue to be the recipients of the same honour as has been paid to them in the past by virtue of their religious office. Dogmatic religion, whether it be Hinduism, Mohammedanism or Christianity is in a state of decay. In that respect India is feeling the reaction of world forces and no amount of political coercion or repression can stop it. In my humble judgment the average Indian has thus far been more tolerant of and more considerate to the Christian missionary than the latter has been to the Indian. Even in the matter of grat.i.tude the Christian missionary may with advantage learn from the Hindu. The instances are not rare in which all the hospitality, respect and honor which a Christian missionary has received during his stay in India have been repaid by the latter's freely traducing the character of the Indians in his home land. To no small degree is the Christian missionary responsible for the feeling of contempt with which the Indian is looked down upon in America and other countries of the West. We do not object to his speaking the truth, but it is not the truth that he always speaks. Of grat.i.tude, at least, he gives no evidence.

The European Community in India is divided into two (a) pure Europeans, who number a little less than 200,000 in the total population of 315,000,000. (178,908 in the British provinces and 20,868 in the native States.)

(b) Anglo-Indians, hitherto called Eurasians, who number about 83,000 (68,612 in British territories and 15,045 in the Native States). Thus the whole European community in India is less than 300,000.



The Native States of India const.i.tute one of the anomalies of Indian political life. They are the honored remnants of the old order of things--an order in which personal bravery, resourcefulness and leaders.h.i.+p with or without capacity for successful intrigue enabled individuals to carve out kingdoms and princ.i.p.alities for themselves and their legal successors.

In the case of some of these Native States the genealogies of the ruling houses go back to the early centuries of the Christian era by historical evidence and to pre-Christian times by tradition. Their origin is somewhat shrouded in mystery. In popular belief they are the descendants of G.o.ds--G.o.ds of light and life, the Sun and the Moon. Next to the Royal family of j.a.pan, they are perhaps the only houses among the rulers of the earth which can claim such an ancient and unbroken lineage of royalty with sovereignty of one kind or another always vested in them.

There have been times in their history when the royal heads of these states had no house to live in and no bed to sleep on, much less a territory to rule and an army to command. This was, however, a part of their royalty. In struggles against powerful enemies, sometimes of their own race and religion, but more often foreign aggressors of different blood and creed, they were many a time worsted and driven to extreme straits of poverty and helplessness. In peace or in war, in prosperity or in misery, they never gave up the struggle. Their right to lead their people and to rule their country they never yielded for a moment. It is true that sometimes they submitted to the superior power of the enemy and accepted a position of subordination, though in one case, at least, even this was done only for a short time under the Moguls. In the darker days of Indian history, when the military devastation of foreign invaders left nothing but tears and blood, ruin and ashes, defeat and misery in their track, these houses kept the lamp of hope burning. For full ten centuries they carried on a struggle of life and death, sometimes momentarily succ.u.mbing before the overwhelming force of their adversaries, but only to rise again in fresh vigor and life to reclaim their heritage and preserve their own and their country's independence.

The _Sessodias_ of Mewar called the _Ranas_ of Mewar (Udaipur) and the Rahtores of Marwar (including Jodhpur, Bikaner, Rutlam, Kishangarh and Alwar) have written many a glorious page of Mediaeval Indian history and dyed it with their own blood as well as that of their adversaries. Not only their men but their women have made themselves immortal by their bravery, chivalry, purity and self-immolation. The one thing which distinguishes the Indian Rajput from the peoples of other lands is that he has never waged war against the poor, the helpless and the defenceless. Numberless men gave their lives freely and ungrudgingly not only in protecting the lives of their own women and children but also in doing the same service to the women and children of their enemies. The Rajput never fought an unfair fight. He never took advantage of the helplessness of his enemy and always gave him right of way and the use of his best weapons for a free and fair fight in the open. Anyone desirous of knowing their deeds may read them in that poem in prose, known as the Annals of Rajhasthan by Col. Todd. Col. Todd has drawn a most faithful and thrilling picture of Rajput bravery and Rajput chivalry in a language worthy of the best traditions of English literature. Here and there in matters of minor details his authority has been questioned; otherwise the results of his monumental labors still remain the best picture of Rajput India. The Rajput States of India are thus the objects of reverent honor to the 220 million Hindus of that country. Next to the Rajput States comes the native ruling family of Mysore as the representative of a very ancient Hindu Kingdom. The Mahratta States are the remnants of the Mahratta Empire and the Sikhs those of the Sikh Commonwealth. The biggest of all the Indian Native States, Hyderabad, arose out of the ruins of the Mogul Empire and is supposed to be the most powerful guardian of Moslem culture and tradition. From this description the reader will at once see why the Native States are so dear to the peoples of India and why the Indian educated party has always stood by the Native States, whenever either their treaty rights or the personal dignity and status of their chiefs was threatened by the British authorities. Lord Dalhousie's policy of annexation by lapse was so much resented by the people of India that it had almost cost the British their Indian Empire. Only in the Native States do the Indians see remaining traces of their former independence. That fact alone covers all the defects of native rule or misrule in the States, in their eyes. Some of these Native States have been so well administered that in education, social reform and industrial advancement they are far ahead of the neighboring British territories. But their chief merit lies in the fact that ordinarily the people get enough food to eat and are seemingly happier than British subjects. This fact has been noticed by several competent observers of contemporary Indian life, among them the Right Honorable Mr. Fisher, President of the Board of Education in England. In his book _The Empire and the Future_ he has observed:

”My impression is that the inhabitants of a well governed native state are on the whole happier and more contented than the inhabitants of British India. _They are more lightly taxed_; the pace of the administration is less urgent and exacting; their sentiment is gratified by the splendor of a native court and by the dominion of an Indian government. They feel that they do things for themselves instead of having everything done for them by a cold and alien benevolence.” (Italics are ours)

But after all that is favourable to the Native States of India has been said, their existence in their present form remains a political anomaly.

As at present situated, they are an effective hindrance to complete Indian unity. Although ”India is in fact as well as by legal definition, one geographical whole,” yet these Native States, occupying about one-third of the total area of the country and with a population of about 70 million will, for a long time, prevent its becoming a h.o.m.ogeneous political whole. Thus a circ.u.mstance which was. .h.i.therto looked upon as a piece of good luck will operate as a misfortune.

”The Native States of India are about 700 in number. They embrace the widest variety of country and jurisdiction. They vary in size from petty States like Rewa, in Rajputana, with an area of 19 square miles, and the Simla Hill States, which are little more than small holdings, to States like Hyderabad, as large as Italy, with a population of thirteen millions.”[1]

The general position as regards the rights and obligations of the Native States has been thus summed up by the distinguished authors of the joint Report (Lord Chelmsford and Mr. Montagu):

”The States are guaranteed security from without; the paramount power acts for them in relation to foreign powers and other States, and it intervenes when the internal peace of their territories is seriously threatened. On the other hand the States'

relations to foreign powers are those of the paramount power; they share the obligation for the common defence; and they are under a general responsibility for the good government and welfare of their territories.”

As regards the a.s.similation of the principles of modern life, it is remarked in the same doc.u.ment:

”Many of them have adopted our civil and criminal codes. Some have imitated and even further extended our educational system.... They have not all been equally able to a.s.similate new principles. They are in all stages of development, patriarchal, feudal or more advanced, while in a few states are found the beginnings of representative inst.i.tutions. The characteristic features of all of them, however, including the most advanced, are the personal rule of the Prince and his control over legislation and the administration of justice.”