Speeches & Writings
Expansion of Legislative Councils
In supporting the following resolution of the third Indian National Congress held at Madras in 1887, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya said:
That this Congress re-affirms the necessity for the expansion and reform of the Council of the Governor General for making laws, and the provincial Legislatives Councils, already set forth in Resolution III of the Congress of 1885 and 1886, and expresses the earnest hope that the Government will no longer delay action in the direction of this essential reform.
Mr. President and Gentlemen, my heart beats high within me as I rise to speak on this great subject. You have listened to the weighty words of Sir T. Madhavi Rao and the eloquent appeals of Babu Surendranath Banerjee and Mr. Eardlev Norton and others, and if after such speakers as these I venture to address you, it is with the hope that you will grant me that indulgence which, being placed in this position, I earnestly crave of you. Gentlemer., after what has been said, it would be difficult to advance further arguments or to, bring forward additional reasons as to the expediency and necessity for this great reform. But allow me to say this much, that, placed as we are in this country under a foreign Government, however benevolent and generous its motives-the motives of those who take part in the administration-we stand in the greatest, need of our own representative in the Legislative Councils. Gentlemen. the whole of Europe, with the exception of Russia, has declared that the most efficient and best form of Government for any country which has made any advance in civilization is a Government, conducted not solely by the few of the many, but to a greater or less extent by the many for themselves+-a Government, in fact in which the representatives of the people have some potential-share-and if this be expedient for European countries, where the rulers and the ruled are of the same nationality, and where they are of the same religion, I think it must be conceded that it is even more essential for India, which is inhabited by people whose habits, manners, customs, language race and creed differ from those of their rulers. If we demand for India that there should be representatives of her people in the state councils, we only ask for what, not simply Europe, but America, Australia, and almost the whole Civilized world have declared with one unanimous voice to be essential for any Government that is to be suitable to any country, as it is only where the representatives of the people are allowed to take part in that administration that the wants and wishes, the aspirations and grievances of the people can be adequately set forth, properly understood or duly provided for, That being so, gentlemen, I think there cannot possibly be two opinions on the point that the reform which we crave for from Government is one so essential for the well-being of this country that it should be conceded to us without the least avoidable delay. This is now the third time that we have thus been meeting at yearly intervals; we have come from every district, from the most distant portions of this Empire, and in many cases at the cost of great personal sacrifice. We have nothing personally to gain, no selfish aim to serve. We come together, chosen by our fellow-countrymen primarily to press upon Government the fact that the country stands badly in need of this reform, and that the entire nation prays for it. But, unhappily, Government has not yet listened, to our people's prayer!
What is it that we see year after year? People assembling from all parts of India,-from the Punjab, Sindh, Assam, Madras, Bengal, Bombay, N.W. Provinces, Oudh, the Central Provinces, from every province, from every town-coming together to implore Government humbly to grant this reform, which is after all their birth right as free born British subjects. (Loud cheers) It is no desire or motive of self-ambition that brings these people together at such heavy cost and at such great personal inconvenience. There is no taint of self- interest in the matter. No. Their sole idea is that India, their country, of all things stands badly in need of this fundamental reform, and they hope-and God, grant that they may not hope in vain-that their un- selfish persistence in asking may secure for their native land this great boon I cannot possibly believe that there is one single educated Indian, who after studying this question can rest happy in his mind, without trying his very best to secure this reform. (Applause.) I cannot possibly believe that any good man who once really understands what this reform truely means for his country and his countrymen, for his kinsman, his children and himself, can remain indifferent Ito it. And, gentlemen, neither we nor any other intelligent Indians are indifferent to it; and though thus far success .has not crowned our efforts, we must only go up to Government again and ask their earliest consideration of our demands or of our prayers (call them which you will) and entreat them again and again to concede to us this reform. Gentlemen, it is nothing very great we are asking them to do. The British Government has already made this concession to so many countries. So many colonies, so many British colonies, enjoy it. Canada, the Cape, the Australian colonies, innumerable smaller places, even the so-called crown colonies, except perhaps Fiji Islands, and some purely military pests, all enjoy some measure, and most of them the fullest measure, of Representative Government. Britain has granted or conceded this concession to all these places. (Applause). Why should she with hold it from the people of India? (Hear, hear) Does she think that we are less loyal than her subjects other lands?
(Hear, hear, and applause). Austral would break with her tomorrow if she ventured prevent Australia from taxing British goods, while we in all good temper, accept an odious income tax, vilely administered, and imposed not to meet the expenses of our own Government, but to provide funds to en Great Britain to annex Burma or menace Russia. (Loud and continued applause) Does she think we are n prepared for the privilege? I think this very Congress is proof positive of our ripeness for the task and of the intelligence and knowledge which would be brought to bear upon the affairs of the nation if only the Government were kind enough to accede to our wishes. (Applause)
Gentlemen, I am sorry that looking to the announcement our worthy President has made, I cannot venture to take up much more of your time, but if you will permit it I will go on for a few minutes more. (Voices, "Go on") I thank you, Gentlemen, for this indulgence. This question of the reform the Legislative Councils is one in regard to which too much can hardly be said. Something was said in speeches in Parliament about the Budget being introduced there at an earlier date, but what effective criticism can we hope for there if we do not supply the materials by our criticisms when the Budget is introduced here? But how can we outside criticise a thing of details when those details are skillfully veiled from us? It is only when we have our own representatives inside the Government, who can get at those essential details, that we shall ever be able to control, or at any rate effectively protest against, financial mismanagement. The Indian Councils Act was passed when the Government was transferred from the East India Company to the Crown. According to the provisions of that Act the expenditure of this country should be checked and controlled by the Secretary of State assisted by a Council. But how has this been carried out? We see that provision was made for the Budget being presented to Parliament with the object of securing some check. But we also know that no Jess a personage than Professor Fawcett, of lamented memory, speaking in Brighton in 1872, was compelled to confess that "the most trumpery question ever brought before Parliament, a wrangling over the purchase of a picture, a road through a Park, excited more interest than the welfare of 180,000,000, of our Indian fellow-subjects." (Loud applause). And as it was than, so it is now. It is not only Professor Fawcett, moreover, who has protested against this monstrous injustice. Year after year some honest independent politician has raised his voice against a state of things which if it means our misery means also England's shame. Even this last session, Mr. Bradlaugh rose to protest against the practice of bringing this subject (the Indian Budget) forward at so late a period of the session. Last year the Budget was considered on June 21st and the year before on August 6th.
It was not right to leave to the last moment oil the session the only opportunity that was afford to Parliament of considering the wishes and the grievances of the 200,000,000 of people whom we rule. That any Parliamentary control should be exercised over the affairs of India was impossible when the Indian Budget figured upon paper as the eighth order upon one of the last days of an expiring Session (Applause). Following him Mr. Reid said:-"How could Parliament do anything when these matters were only brought to its cognizance on one of the very last days of a weary session when only fifteen or sixteen gentlemen had sufficient energy left to watch the proceedings The debate was almost reduced to a farce. The discussion was begun at about a quarter past six o'clock and in four or five hours from that time they would have settled the affairs of 200,000,000 of their fellow-subjects and sanctioned the expenditure of between seventy and eighty millions of money. Surely it would be better to delegate these duties than to continue doing that which was a mere mockery. Would it not be possible to appoint a Committee to overlook the affairs of India, in order that the people of that country might know that their interest were being cared for adequately by the Imperial Parliament?" (Loud applause).
Then, again, Sir John Gorst, in connection with this matter said: "The regret which the Honourable member expressed with regard to the late period of the session at which the affairs of India had come up for-discussion was shared by the Government with those who sat on the opposite side of the House. He believed everyone would be glad, if it were possible, to bring the affairs of India under consideration of the House at a time when more members were present and when greater interest would be taken in the matter. Although many promises to introduce Indian financial statements earlier in the session had been made, no Government had ever succeeded in fulfilling those promises, and ever since he had a seat in the House the Indian Budget had been one of the incidents of the Sessions that had immediately preceded the prorogation" (Applause).
Now, gentlemen, you see that Parliament will not or cannot give that consideration even to our Budget, even to the expenditure of eighty millions of money wrung Out of the country, and none know better than you do with w hat hardships to the people, that we have a right to expect from them that commonsense justice demand and if this be the case with the Budgets what chance, have the rest of our affairs of getting hearing of any kind? I say, none, and therefore ask Parliament to allow us to look after our own- affairs. We say if you cannot or will not do your duty by us at least put us, in a position to-do some portion of our duties to ourselves. We say, we entreat you in fairness to allow us some control over our Budget, put us in a position to say something through our representatives about it when it is brought into council-(applause)-to give us some voice here in the management of our domestic affairs. But it would seem as if our entreaties were vain. They will not do their duty by the country themselves and they will not do allow us to do it. (Applause). Can anything be mo cruel, or more unjust, of the English nation which professes to love freedom and justice and boasts itself the founder of constitutional and free Government? Gentlemen, after this, I think nothing need be said by England about justice and freedom if this concession is not granted to us. Gentlemen, I must express my regret that the rapidly passing minutes debar me from speaking on this subject more fully, as I should wish, to do, though I know it does not require much further illustration after the speeches you have heard. Allow me now to say in conclusion that we should continue to press this righteous demand on the Government, and if all else fail simply ask them to act according to their own Christian principles which tell them to do unto others as they would be done by. (Applause) Would the English nation .like to have their affairs treated in this way; would they tolerate it for one instant? Would they even dare to treat us in this way, did they not know that we are the most patient and law-abiding people on the face of the earth? Only twenty-nine members present out of six hundred and seventy five or some thing like that, when the welfare of two hundred and fifty million souls is to be discussed, and when a sum of seventy or eighty millions is to be disposed of Loud applause.) How would they like their own affairs to be treated in that way? Would they, I repeat, stand it for one week? Would they dare thus to deal with only five million's Irishmen? Gentlemen, I must leave them to reply, and that reply, if truthful, must be their own condemnation. No, gentlemen, let them allow us a gradually increasing liberty to look after and manage our own business, and they w ill find that we shall forget any temporary in- justice that their negligence has caused us, and always, remember per contra all the good they have done us, and be grateful to them for all this and not least grateful for that concession we are now urging. (Applause).