Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya

Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya
Speeches & Writings

Reforms Proposals


In seconding the following resolution of the twenty-third Indian national Congress held at Madras in 1908 The Hon. Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya  said :


This Congress desires to give expression to the deep and general satisfaction with which the Reform proposals formulated in Lord Morley’s dispatch have been received throughout the country; it places on record it sense of the high statesmanship which has dictated the action of the Governmentin matter and it tenders to Lord Morley and Lord Minto its most sincere and grateful thanks for their proposals.


This Congress is of opinion that the proposed expansion of the Legislative Councils and the enlargement of their powers and functions,  in theappointment of Indian members to the Executive Councils with the creation of such Councils where they do not exist, and the further development of Local self-Government, constitute a large and liberal installment of the reforms needed to give the people of this country a substantial share in the management of their affairs and the bring the administration into closer touch with their wants and feelings.


This Congress expressed its confident hope that the details of the proposed Scheme will be worked out in the same liberal spirit in which its main provisions asoutlined in the Secretary of State’s dispatch have been conceived.


Mr. Chairman, and brother-delegates, - While the eloquent voice of my esteemed friend is still ringing in your ears, it seems presumptuous on my part to try to address you on the same subject; but duty has to be done; it can either be delayed nor abandoned. I crave your indulgence for a few minutes in which I will try to explain the position of the Congress. I am sure we are all of one mind in expressing our sincere appreciation of the liberal and praiseworthy spirit which has dictated the action of the Government of India and which has inspired the proposals of reform which they have formulated. I am sure we feel warmly grateful and we feel that they have done us a real service in formulating these proposals. Therefore, gentlemen, it is that there is such anunanimity among all Congressmen in expressing our gratitude to Lord Morely and Lord Mito for the services they have done to India, for the statesmanlike wisdom, courage, and coolness they have shown in formulating these proposals and in persevering with them. Gentlemen, it is a day upon which not only we have to congratulate ourselves, but it is one on which the great English nation has to be largely congratulated. Twenty-three years ago, when the Congress met for the first time in this great English nation has to be largely congratulated. Twenty-three years ago, when the Congress met for the first time in this great city, our late lamented countryman, Raja Sir T.MadhavaRao, speaking as Chairman of the Reception Committee, said that the Congress was the soundest triumph of British education and a crown of glory to the Bright nation. (Cheers). Gentlemen, indeed the Congress has been such a triumph of Bright administration and crown of glory to the British nation. You may remember that nearly fifty years ago when Her Majesty the Queen of England assumed direct control of the Government of India, in that year there was a great deal of discussion in Parliament as to the system of Government to be introduced in this country. During the debate member after member got up and expressed the desire that India should be governed on the most liberal principles. I will not weary you by reproducing many extracts form those speeches, but I will remind you of what Mr. Gladstone said. Speaking on the subject he said “there never was a more practical writer than Mr. Kaye, and in his history he says:- the admission of the native of India to the highest office of State is simply a question of time.” And there is another name entitled to great weight in this house, Mr. Holliday says:- “I believe that our Mission in India is to qualify the natives for governing themselves.”


Other speakers spoke in the same strain and the Proclamation that was issued subsequently by her majesty promised definitely that all the privileges that her English subjects enjoyed would be extended to her Indian subjects as they received education and gained more experience, qualified themselves for the discharge of duties which they will be called upon to discharge. Gentlemen, it took many years before these excellent ideas were put into action. But a beginning was made very shortly after the Proclamation. You know how the Councils Act of 1861 had provided that Indian members should be appointed to the Viceroy’s council. Under that provision Indian members were appointed, but that measure of reform was not sufficient. Whenthe Congress met in 1885 it formulated a definite scheme of representation of thepeople of India in theCouncils ofH.E. the Viceroy and in the Local Councils. The Congress expressed its earnest belief that the representation ofthepeople of India in the Councils was essential for the good administration of the country. Gentlemen, at that time the congress laid down a scheme and that schemes one which we have yet to see realized in its full measure. In 1886 the Congress expressed theopinion that half the members of the Supreme Legislative Council should be elected, one-fourth should be officials and one-fourth should be nominated. It expressed the same opinion with regard to theProvincial Councils. It also asked for power of interpellation, for discussing the budget, for moving resolutions, in fact a complete scheme was formulated in 1886. That same scheme was repeated in greater fullness in1889 when the late Charles Bradlaugh addressed the congress meeting at Bombay. Gentlemen, in those early years the gentlemen who spoke to this resolution were men who had occupied most eminent positions in this country. The late Mr. Justice Telang (Cheers), Mr. DadabaiNaoroji (Loud and Prolonged cheers), Sr. S. SubramaniaAiyar (Cheers), Mr. Eardley Norton, Mr. George Yule, Pundit Ajodhya Nath, - men like these, had most earnestly supported the proposals which the Congress hadput forward, that half the members of the Supreme council should be elected, one-fourth should be officials and one-fourth nominated. So also in the case of Provincial Councils. That was the view which the Congress put forward again and again; that is the view which the vast majority of our educated countrymen hold at this moment to be a sound view. We believe that the time has come when, not only in the Provincial Councils, but also in the Supreme council, half the members at least should be elected representatives of the people. (Hear, hear). That being on view, if we come forward to offer our unstinted and grateful support to the proposals of Lord Morely and Lord Minto, it is not that we feel that the country is not prepared to have that measure of reform carried out in respect of the Supreme council, it is not that we feel that the need for reform is less urgent or is less pressing than it was 25 years ago, during which we have gained experience by being members of council and by working other institutions – it is not that the need for it is less pressing now; but, we feel, that we should continue to act in the wise and sober spirit which the Congress has from the very first displayed in receiving the proposals of the Government (cheers). We asked that half the members of the Legislative Councils should be elected; that was in 1885-86; yet when the time came for the introduction of the Indian councils Act, we were content to receive a very much smaller installment of reform. We feel toady as we felt in 1886 and 1889 that half the number of the members of the viceroy’s council at least should be elected by the people; yet we are prepared to receive the installment of reform which the Government are pleased to put forward for our acceptance.


Now, gentlemen, I only wish to point out – I refer to it because there is an idea in some circles, not only in England, but here, that we are receiving more than ever we asked for. There is an idea abroad, and agitation has been set on foot probably under the impression that Lord Morley and Lord Minot are under the influence of generous and liberal instincts giving to us more than what we asked for, or what is needed in the interests of thecountry. Nothing of the kind, I have told you and I will give you the reasons very briefly in order to show thevalue of the support which the Congress is rending to the Government in accepting the proposals, I want to tell you how urgent is the need for reforming to the Government in accepting the proposals, I want to tell you how urgent is the need for reforming the Supreme Council in thewaythe Congress has Advocated and how beneficial will be the results not only for the people but also to the Government. I will refer to only one or two instances. Gentlemen, you know above all things the Government of India like all other Governments require the good will and moral support of the people over whom Providence has placed them to govern. That good will is more valuable asset than all the armies which any Government has. English statesmen have always recognized that it is so.Mr.Glad stone said so; Lord Morley said so; and every liberal and far-sighted statesman has acknowledged that to be the true view evening the case of India. In order to retain the good will of the people there is nothing more important than that the Government of India should be able to conduct the administration of the country with a sole eye to the good of the people. They said in 1858 “we want to govern India for India and not to please the party here, and must adopt principles which will be thoroughly acceptable and intelligible to the people of India.” You know that the Government of India as they are constituted, are to a great extent under the thumb of the Secretary of State, and that the Secretary of State, is under the thumb of the War office. If you have a good Secretary of State, even he cannot always protect your interest. I will refer to the question of the Military burden imposed on India. Government of India afterGovernment of India have fought against the injustice of imposing the Military charge upon the government of India. We owe them our deepest thanks for the attitude they have adopted in this matter;yet they found it difficult to get justice done to India. In the matter of cotton excise duty, who does not know that the Government of India will not have imposed that unjust taxation if they had been left to themselves? If the government of India cannot, by reason of position that they occupy in the economy of the British Empire, always command or exercise that independence which is needed to protect the interest of this country, what can be more reasonable in the interests of theGovernmentofIndia themselves than that they should have a larger measure of support form the representatives of thepeople in the council? If there were half the body of the Council composed of elective representatives of the people, if they have hesitated a great deal more before they imposed either the military burden or such an impost as the cotton excise duty upon the people of India. Yet, what is the result? There is any amount of ill-feeling caused in the country by the imposition of such unjust burden. Therefore in the interests of sound administration itself, it will be an advantage to have half the number of members to be elected representatives of the people.


Look at the question from the point of view of the people. There is the question of Irrigation v. Railways. Times out of number, not only representatives of the people but some of the highest officials of the Government, nolessin authority than Lord MacDonell, presiding over the Famine Commission, expressed the strong opinion that irrigation should receive more attention than railways. Yet what do we find? The Government of India are devoting more money to build railways thantopromote irrigation. So also in the matter of Primary Education; if you had elected representatives in the Council their support would enable the government of India to carry on the administration better and to the greater satisfaction of the people and to the stronger security of the British rule in that it will win the hearts and affections of the people. I have referred to this to show that the need to the reform of the Supreme Council is very pressing and we feel that it is not that we can abandon it; yet as I told you, we are prepared to receive the installment of reform which the Government haveput forward, in a truly grateful spirit. That is a remarkable proof, I hope, of the way inwhich the action of the government will be received by the educated people of India in all matters where the Governmenttakethem into their confidence. That shows that, if they a had admitted us to the Supreme Council, we should not run away with mad ideas, pester them with mad ideas, but be reasonable and considerate inpressingfor reforms in matters which promote the well being of the people and would not hamper them inany of their actions.


I hope, having said that much, I need not take up much more time in dwelling upon the reforms. My esteemed friend has done so, and the resolution very well summarizes the main features of the reforms. There has not been time enough to discuss all the proposals, but there are one or two points which are matters of importance, which I crave your indulgence to say something about. The most important is about the question of the appointment of Executive members in the Councils. We are thankful to the Government of India and to Lord Morley that they have decided to appoint Indians as Member of the Executive Councils. That again is a prayer which the Congress had been reputing year after year for long time. Certainly it must be a matter of great satisfaction to Congressmen that so many of their recommendations have been accepted by Government. But gentlemen, with regard to this matter, there is a suggestion which it is important to make. Lord Morley has said that he proposed to take powers under the Act which is to be introduced into Parliament to appoint an Indian member to the Executive council of the Viceroy and of the Provincial Government. I beg to suggest and hope that the Congress is of one mind in this matter-that the powers should not be merely taken to appoint a member when the Secretary of State may like, but that it should be provided for in the Statue. (Hear, hear and cheers). There is any amount of reason in support of this suggestion. I will refer you only to two incidents to show that the need for it is urgent. You remember, gentlemen, as a rule, it is our experience that when matters are not provided for in the Statue, when they are left to the will and pleasure, to the particular idiosyncracies or to the generous instance of a particular representative of His majesty who may for the time control the destinies of India, the reforms are not always carried out as the interests of the country demand that they should be. When the Councils Act of 1861 was under discussion in Parliament a question was asked by Mr. Bright, and in answer to that question the then Secretary of State said that a member of Council would be able to propose a resolution to any question of revenue precisely as they could in the House of Commons. That was said in 1861, yet not once was this privilege exercised. It was not put in the Statute, it was therefore not recognized as a thing which ought to be brought into practice and it was not brought into practice. I will give you another instance. In the matter of appointment of Indian members of Council no man could have used more strong, more empathic, clear and binding language than was the language used by Sir Charles Wood in discussing that measure. Suggestions had been made by several members that the Act should provide that a certain proportion ofthemembers of Council should be Indians. That suggestion received the support of a good number of members, but then in answer it was pointed out bySir Charles Wood that, while he agreed to the desire that it should be so, he thought that it was not necessary to make a provision in the Statue. And mark the language he used. The first ground was that he wanted to regard Indian members as being equal to other members in the Councils of the Empire. “It had been said” said Sir Charles Wood in the course of that discussion “that their great object ought to be to obliterate the distinctions between the conquerors and the conquered in India. Now, that was precisely that policy which he wished to carry into effect. Those Bills distinctly provided that the natives should be employed in the Legislative Councils as well as in the highest judicial Courts, and in the most important executive offices. The same spirit ran though the whole of them – the spirit which animated that policy which Lord Canning had been most successfully carrying out, and which, he beloved, with his honorable friend would afford the best security for the permanence of our rule, for it would make the highest class of natives, as well as those of lowest degree feel that their own good was bound up in the continuance of our sway. He believed that was the best mode of consolidating and perpetuating our dominion in that country. He might observe, however, that he had not thought it at all desirable to name the natives expressly in the measures. He held the law of perfect equality (mark you equality?) before her Majesty’s subjects without distinction of race, birth, or religion, and he would not do anything which could lead to the supposition that he doubted for a moment the existence of that principle. He had never admitted that there was any distinction between any of the subjects of the Queen, whatever might be their differences of birth of race, or religion. That was the spirit of the Proclamation of her Majesty on the occasion of her assuming the direct Government of India; and that was the principle which would continue to actuate him in all his administrative measures.”


Nobler language was never used in explanations of intentions of Her Majesty’s Proclamation. There never could be a clearer determination shown to employ Indians to the highest executive offices. This was uttered in 1861; we are now in the year of Grace 1908 and not a single member has been appointed either to the Executive Council of the Viceroy or to any of the Local Government. It may be, I have no doubt you will agree, that Sir Charles Wood was prompted by the same generous instinct which prompts Lords Morley. I believe in Lord Morley’s firmness and determination to introduce reforms. I believe, so was Sir Charles Wood. It may be that a member maybe appointed today. Thereisnoguarantee that a member willbeappointed time after time to the ExecutiveCouncils unless provision is made for it in the Statute. I therefore beg to suggest, I hope the Congress is of one mind in this matter, that there should be statutory provision for the appointment of not only one Indian but at least two in the Viceroy’s Executive Council, and the Executive Councils of Governors. (Loud cheers).


There is only one other matter which involves a question of principle. (The President at this stage sounded the gong.) I am sorry I have exceeded the time; it is an old sin of mine; but the matter is of importance. I hope I shall satisfy you that I am not taking up your time uselessly. There is one other important question, that of class representation which war cannot afford to overlook on such an occasion. Now, gentlemen, I believe myself and a vast majority of educated, that there are no conflicts of interest among Indians as Indians, in 999 of every 1000 matters, the interests of Hindus, Muhammadans, landholders and merchants are all the same. We are governed by the same taxation; whatever misfortunes be fall the country, we have to share them together. Therefore I cannot see the need,I beg respectfully to say of having such class representation as has beengivena prominent place in the Reform Scheme. (A voice; there are certain questions). There are questions; it is perfectly right, but these questions do not come before the Legislative Council either of the Viceroy or of the Local Governments.


In matters of religion, in matters of faith and worship different sects Amy work apart, though not with hostile feelings; but in matters secular their interest do not conflict. Their interests are not interests of one class against the other. However, if they do let us consider what the proposals are (Here the speaker’s attention was again drawn by the President to the time limit. The speaker apologized and promised to finish soon and resumed his address). Now, gentlemen, I was going to say in the matter of class representation, Lord Morley’s proposals, so far as they go, are excellent. There has been expressed a desire in some quarters that there should be provision made to enable members of separate communities to vote apart from other members that there ought to be a fixed number of members in each community, who could sit in the councils. That will work manifestly injuriously to one community at least in Upper India. In my own Province, the United Provinces, there are 1,246 elected Councilors of whom 436 are Mussalmans. According to the proportion of population only 225 will be entitled to sit if the rule suggested were adopted. At present, therefore, I think gentlemen; we should leave Lord Morley’s proposals as they stand in these matters and not ask that any different principle of representation should be introduced. I will not take up any more of your time. Let nobody be under the delusion that the reforms are final. We must receive them with grace, with warm gratitude. We must hope for more and more


Not enjoyment and not Sorrow,

Is our destined end or way,

But to act that each to-morrow

Find us farther than to-day.


Only by the kind dispensation of an all-kind Providence and by the help of Government which Providence has placed over us, we are to achieve that measure of Self-government for which expression has been given by the best Indians during the last 25 years. (Loud and prolonged cheers)


Mahamana Madan Mohan Malaviya