Speeches & Writings
Congress and Political Reforms
The following speech was made by Pandit Madan Mohan in proposing a vote of thanks to the President of Lucknow Congress in December, 1916.
When we started in 1885, we reposed great trust and confidence in those to whom Providence had entrusted the guidance of the affairs of India. For the time we began with appealing, with praying, with begging, with entreating. Resolution after resolution has been passed during the last 30 years; it is a written record which nobody can destroy or remove; it is a record showing the patience, the confidence the people of India had in the administrators of India. Their willingness to proceed by gradual steps, almost painfully slow steps, towards envolving a better system of administration. The record of these 30 long years tells us how we have asked not once, not twice, but repeatedly during these so many years. It is how, after an experience of 30 years, that the conviction has sunk into our hearts that those to whom Providence has entrusted the administration of the affairs of India, the members of the Indian Civil Service as well as the members of the British Parliament have failed and sadly failed to respond to the call of reason and justice. I am sorry to say it. I should have rejoiced if I could say in gratitude they had made a response worthy of the members of the great British nation. There has been some response in some small matters and for that we do feel grateful, but the response in all the most important matters has either been wanting or it has been slow. The result of this is, that the conviction has come to us that unless we ourselves have a potent and determining voice in the administration of our country’s affairs, there is not much hope for that progress which it is the birthright of every civilized people to achieve.
We have on our record a repetition of resolutions asking for such simple justice as the separation of judicial and executive functions; we have on our record a cry of children for bread, repeated year after year to be given some education; we have on our record the fact that while we have prayed that primary education should be made compulsory and universal, the provision that has been made for it up to this time is extremely disappointing and unsatisfactory. We have on our record that even with the enlarged Councils, when our dear brother Gokhale did make an attempt by introducing a Bill into the Council to make provision for the permissive introduction of compulsory education, that effort was baffled by the solid official majority which sits in the Council, to do no other work than simply to vote against resolutions moved by popular representatives. On the other hand, what has happened to bring home the conviction to us we know. In Russia, there was no self-government until few years ago, but after being beaten by Japan, Russia learnt wisdom and roused herself into consciousness of what the conditions of modern civilization required. The first Duma that met, I think in 1903, resolved being conscious that primary universal education was one of the potent causes of building up a people, upon making education universal and compulsory. It introduced a programme of 19 years, during which period it decided that elementary education shall become universal, and in the year 1916, nearly three-fourths of that programme has been carried out, and by 1922, the Russians will have provided elementary education to children of school-going age.
That was the result of power being transferred from a sovereign authority or from a bureaucracy to those who know where the shoe pinches, who feel the need and the effect of unhappy conditions, and who understand how their interest can be best promoted. I have given to you that one illustration among many already given to you as showing the urgent, pressing need of having self-government for the people in order that they may administer their own affairs. Let nobody accuse educated Indians of having put forward a proposal of reform in a light-hearted manner. That reform, so far as the Government is concerned, is supported by the entire people, though there may some small differences, as unfortunately there are with regards to some details. But so far as Government is concerned for the transferring of the power from the Government to the people themselves, this is a united demand on behalf of India and is made in no light hearted fashion. This conviction is borne after 30 years of self-sacrificing labours in the country’s cause, after having held 31 sessions of the Congress in various parts of the country, which involved no small expenditure of time and money and comfort; this conviction is borne after the question had been weighed in all possible aspects. The conclusion is forced on our mind that those who have the power are unwilling to part with that power, that those who have the power are unwilling to give the time and the attention to the consideration of your affairs, as the members of the British Parliament are and that conviction once arrived at is not likely to be shaken or departed from.
The reforms which you have put forward do not represent the maximum that you desire. They represent the minimum that is necessary. Let there be no misunderstanding about it. There are some kindly friends who caution us and wish us to proceed slowly. We have proceeded cautiously and slowly for 30 years. It does not lie in the mouth of any member of the Indian Civil Service- there are some very fine generous-hearted men amongst them- it does not lie in the mouth of any member of the Indian Civil Service or any member of the British Parliament to say that Indians are asking for an unreasonably large measure of reform today, or that that they want to take a long jump. We do not want to take a long jump. There are certain conditions which determine what is necessary and what is not. It is the right to every people to govern itself. No government can be so good as the government of a people by their own people. That being accepted in England, that being accepted for the great part of the rest of the civilized world, with what reason or justification can it be advanced here that we should be content to let our affairs be administered by a few men who, without any previous training, without any knowledge of our traditions, of our history, come to this country to enjoy a good salary and to spend a good period of their time in the sunny climate of our land? How can we expect they will be able to administer our affairs in the way in which we can? Objections have been urged but they have been refuted one by one. I do not want to detain you by recapitulating them.
I wish and hope and pray that we shall realize fully the importance of the measures that we have put forward today, and that we shall be prepared to work to bring about their accomplishment. I hope that we will not be content with an expression of our gratitude to our President and expressing satisfaction at the result of this Congress, but that we are determined, as honest, honourable, manly men, to carry out to do our share of the duty of promoting these reforms and carry them into execution. For, remember that there is no greater duty than is cast upon us to see that these reforms are carried out and granted at an early date. Remember it is not a question of personal character with any one of us. We see millions of our countrymen suffering from the evil effects of the administrator lacking in one direction or another to come up to the standard of their requirements. We see that those who have the power have failed to do it and what is more regrettable, do not show any willingness to respond their call. I will draw your attention to one other matter only. There is the question of the employment of Indians in the higher ranks of the army. You have proved by the blood our people have shed on the battlefield that you are not inferior to any other community or nationality on the face of the earth in bravery, in devotion, yet the ranks of the army have not been opened to our people. So also with regard to the Indian Civil Service. A Commission was appointed, a report has been made and it was presented to the Government. It seems to be so ugly a production that the Government have hesitated long to put it before the public. Now when that is the state of affairs, you cannot hope to bring about healthy, necessary reforms unless you get power in your own hands. That is the conviction borne in upon us by these 30 years of labour, and I hope you will do all that is necessary to carry this conviction into effect. When you do so, this great gathering of the Congress will be remembered always as the one congress where this decision was arrived at, and you will always associate in your mind with the success of the Congress the arduous, the strenuous, the patient labours of our esteemed President, who has guided our deliberations for these four days.