Speeches & Writings
Delhi Congress Presendial Address
Presidential Address of the Hon. Pandit Madan Malaviya delivered at the thirty-third Indian National Congress at Delhi on Thursday, December 26, 1918.
Mr. Chairman, Brother-Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As has often been said the Presidentship of the Congress is the highest honour which the people of this country can bestow upon any one. It is doubly so when it is conferred a second time. This honour is enhanced in the present instance by the fact that you have been pleased to call upon me to guide the deliberations of our great national assembly at a time when momentous events which affect India as well as the rest of the civilized world are taking place, and when questions of the most far-reaching importance, which have a direct and immediate bearing on our future, are to be considered by the Congress. I am most deeply grateful to you for this signal mark of your confidence in me. I am also grateful to my esteemed friend Mr. Vijaraghava Achariar, whom I so much miss in the Imperial Legislative Council where his unyielding independence and incisive logic made him a source of great strength to the people’s cause, for having retired in my favour because his selfless anxiety for the country’s cause, and his partiality for an old friend led him to think that my election would serve that cause better at this particular juncture. I sincerely wish I could feel that I deserved all this honour and confidence. I pray to God that with your generous help I may prove not unworthy of it, and that our deliberations may be such as will rebound to our credit and the honour and advancement of our country.
The importance of the session of the Congress does not need to be emphasized. We meet to-day in this ancient capital of the Indian Empire, hoary with all its historic traditions and associations. It irresistibly brings to our minds a crowd of thoughts, happy and reverse- of the glories and the vicissitudes which our ancient land has known. The impulse to dwell upon them is strong, but I will not do so at this place. I will dwell here rather upon the living present. We are meeting at a time when the civilized world is celebrating the happy end of the greatest and bloodiest war known to history. That end was announced in a memorable utterance by the distinguished premier of England when, addressing the people of Britain, he said: “You are entitled to rejoice, people of Britain, that the allies, the dominions and India have won a glorious victory. It is the most wonderful victory for liberty in the history of world.” You, too my countrymen, are entitled to rejoice, as you have actually been rejoicing, that this great victory has been won. You are also entitled to feel justly proud that your country has played a noble part in this Great War, and made a magnificent contribution to its glorious end. As His Excellency the Viceroy very well said the other day, “she was early in the field helping to stem the rush of Teutonic hordes and she has been in at the end, and her troops largely contributed to the staggering blow in Palestine which first caused our foe to totter to his fall.”
India has many grievances against England when the war broke out. But she had not lost faith in the Britain’s love of justice and liberty. And the moment the message of his majesty the king of England and emperor of India was received announcing that he had been compelled to draw the sword in defense of liberty and of treaty rights and obligations, India loyally put aside her grievances, buried her differences, and her princes and people readily identified themselves with the cause which England had taken up, because it was the cause of righteousness and liberty. Both our national traditions and our national aspirations pre-disposed us to that attitude. In days long past, the memory of which is still cherished, our ancestors had waged the greatest war recorded in our history –the Mahabharata- and sacrificed the entire manhood of the nation to establish “the triumph of righteousness.” And for thirty years we had been carrying on a constitutional struggle to obtain some measure of power to administrate our own affairs. Consequently, all classes and communities of our people enthusiastically united in giving an assurance of unswerving loyalty and unflinching support to his majesty the king emperor in the prosecution of the war to a successful end.
The ruling princess and people of India made what his majesty was pleased lovingly to describe in his gracious message of September 14, 1914, as ‘prodigal offers of their lives and treasure in the cause of the realm.’ Let us thank god that our deeds have been as good as our word. We have helped to a full extent of the demand made upon us, and more, in men, money and material. Both our honored rulingprinces and our parents have contributed their quota of personal service to the war, and both have made money contributions, in numerous instances beyond their means. From the day His Majesty’s message was received, India urged with one voice that her valiant soldiers should be sent to France to be in the forefront of the conflict. Our late Viceroy, Lord Hardinge, who trusted the Indians and who was trusted of them, appreciated our proposal and with the foresight and courage that distinguished him, he dispatched Indian troops to France. Both India and the Allies owe him gratitude for this act of statesmanship. Our troops saved the situation in France in 1914 and covered themselves with glory.
The full value of the contributions of the princes and people of India in money and resources remains to be calculated. But we know that it amounts to over two hundred millions, or three hundred crores. As regards our contributions in men, the Secretary of State for India stated the other day in Parliament that 1,161,789 Indians had been recruited since the war began, and 1,215,338 men had been sent overseas from India, and that of those 101,439 had become casualties. These are contributions of which we have every reason to be proud. More proud are we of the fact that throughout all these four years of trial and tribulation, in the face of the extreme suffering which the war inflicted upon our people, and even when the sky seemed to be much overcast, India remained unshaken equally in her loyalty to the King-Emperor and in her resolve to do her utmost to help the Empire till the end. This is particularly noteworthy in the case of our Mussalmanbrethren. Everyone knows how deep are their religious sentiments towards Turkey, and how profound their concern in everything that affects her. When, therefore, unfortunately, Turkey was persuaded by the Central Powers to join them against our King-Emperor and his Allies, the feelings of our Mahomedan brethren were put to the sorest test. No thoughtful Mahomedan could be indifferent to the fate which might overtake Turkey. But it must to-day be a source of the sincerest satisfaction to every Indian Mahomedan who loves his country and community, that the community did not at any time allow its religious sentiments to overpower its sense of duty to the King and to the Motherland and that it remained firm in its support of the cause of the Empire. This is a fact of great moment in the history of our country. It is matter of sincere thankfulness and congratulations to all our fellow subjects and ourselves.
Before we proceed further, let me ask you, men and women of all faiths, whom It is my privilege at this moment to address, and who worship our one common God under different names and in diverse ways, to join in offering Him our humble and profound thanks that the war has come to a happy end, and in praying it may prove to be the precursor of a lasting, just and universal peace. Let me next, on your behalf and on mine, offer our loyal greetings and dutiful congratulations to His Majesty the King-Emperor on the happy termination of the war.
It gives us Indians particular satisfaction to think that while the despotic monarchs of other lands have disappeared, our noble King-Emperor, exercising his beneficent power in consonance with the constitution of the country and the will of his people, sits even more firm in the affections of the people than before. We also offer cordial congratulation to our fellow-subjects of the United Kingdom, and their sturdy children in the Dominions overseas, on the glorious result of their great efforts and sacrifices in the cause of liberty and right. If England had not joined the war and thrown her whole strength and resources into the fight, like Belgium, France would long ago have been compelled to give up the fight, and Germany’s ambitions would have been realized. Great have been the sacrifices England has made.
But greater therefore is the glory she has won. I am sure you also offer your cordial congratulations to the noble people of France, who have won imperishable glory by sustaining the most splendid fight against tremendous odds in defence of their great land of liberty, equality and fraternity. We watched their struggle with the deepest sympathy and with the sincerest admiration; and it is a matter of particular pride and gratification to us to think that our Indian Expeditionary Force was able to reach France in the nick of time to be of help to them and to save the cause both of the Allies and in civilization in the fearful struggle of 1914-15. Lastly, we must offer our thanks and congratulations to the great people of America whose unselfish entry into the war, involving all the tremendous sacrifice of men and money it did, was the finest tribute to the righteous character of the war which the Allies had been waging, as well as the greatest contribution to the cause of liberty and justice. Humanity owes a deep debt of gratitude to America for the decisive part which she has played under the wise and firm guidance of its noble President in the overthrow of German militarism. Adopting the words of the President: “We must all thank God with the deepest gratitude that the Americans in into the lines of battle just at critical moment when the whole fate of the world seemed to hang in the balance, and threw their fresh strength into the ranks of freedom in time to turn the whole tide and sweep off the fateful struggle.” It is our privilege and our pride to send our congratulations to the people of those great nations because our soldiers fought on the same side with them on the battlefields of France and Flanders, and thereby established between them and us a comradeship in a righteous cause which we fervently hope will be the basis of lasting friendship between us.
The Hand of Providence in the War
Ladies and Gentlemen, to my mind the hand of Providence is clearly discernible both in the development of this war and its termination. The world, and particularly the European world, needed a correction and a change. It had been too much given up to materialism and had been too much estranged from spiritual considerations. It had flouted the principle that righteousness exaltech a nation. In spite of the vaunted civilization of Europe some of its nations have been living in a state of international anarchy and their relations to one another and to the outer world turned upon force. They have been dominated by an overpowering passion for wealth and power, and in their mad pursuit of it have trampled upon the rights and liberties of weaker states and peoples. Spain, Austria and France each sought the mastery of Europe in the past. Germany attempted it now England has not, since the fifteenth century, attacked in the independence of any European State, but has befriended them when they have been threatened by their more powerful neighbours. But she too has followed a different policy in Asia and Africa. During the last half century only, she has waged wars to annex Egypt, the Sudan, the South African Republics, and Burma, besides several other minor wars. There have been great quarrels among the nations of Europe about markets and colonial possessions. There have been contentions between France and Germany, for the control of Morocco, between Russia and Austria for the control of Balkans between Germany and other powers for the control of Turkey. These great rivalries among them have led them to live in constant fear of war, and ever to keep themselves prepared for it. The earth has been groaning under the burden of big battalions and alliances, but they were entered into to keep up the balance of power among them. The determining factor in international relations has been force. Any nations which wished to attack another could do so with impunity if it made itself superior to that other in brute force. England had by a long course of events, gained the highest position and power among the nations of Europe. She naturally wanted to maintain it at all costs. Her younger sister Germany became jealous of her and was fired with the ambition to outshine her. For decades past she pursued a systematic policy of national development- military, naval, industrial, and economic- with the object of striking a blow for world power. She converted a whole nation into a wonderfully well-organized, disciplined and equipped army.
It is difficult to imagine how any nation can prepare itself better to carry everything before it by force than did Germany. She wanted and only broke the peace of the other world when she thought it was most advantageous for her to do so. Her force was strengthened by the forces of stubborn Allies. On the other side were arrayed the forces of the Allies, English, French, Russian, Italian, the people of the Dominions and of India. It is difficult to imagine a stronger array of forces on either side than there actually was in the war. If diplomacy had not led Russia to fail the Allies, they might probably have succeeded earlier. But the purpose of the war would not have been served in that way. The war therefore went on in its grim horror. A few months before the termination of the hostilities it seemed as if the Germans were going to succeed. The hearts of France and England and the rest of the allied world trembled with fear that in spite of all combined effort of the Allies and all the sacrifices which they had undergone for four years, the Germans were going to succeed in their wicked ambition. But they were not to succeed because they were in the wrong Providence had declared that the Allies would succeed because they were in the right. But Providence did not yet bless their efforts for they had still to learn that the laws of Karma are inexorable, that
‘Our acts our angels are, or good or ill,
Our fatal shadows walked by us still.’
Many of the Allies also had too often in the past acted on the evil principle that might is right, and not all of them perhaps were yet prepared to act in their dealings with all nations and peoples on the principle that right is might.
At the Special Service of penitence and humble prayer held on the third anniversary of the war, the high souled Lord Bishop of Calcutta dwelt upon the fact that time and again the Allies had been held back from victory by circumstances which were not or could not be expected. And, His Lordship said: “What was God saying all this while to our nation and Empire? ‘You must change; you must change, before I can give you victory.’ ‘You must change’ is addressed to the nation as a whole and to all the individuals of it. The United States of America joined with us, and their adhesion makes the continuation of the war certain. Thus our nation is granted another chance to change itself. The same divine demand is reiterated ‘you must change before I can give you victory.”
It was the evident purpose of Providence that the powerful nations of the world should undergo a moral rebirth and not only that this war should reestablish the principle that right is might, but that international anarchy should be ended and the warring nations of the world should agree to establish a moral order and a permanent arrangement among them to ensure just and fair dealings with one another and the rest of the human family in the future. For the accomplishment of this purpose it was necessary that the war should not end until America joined it and until the nations agreed to the peace proposals which were to be the basis of this order. It was therefore only when they had so agreed that Providence enabled America to come in at the critical moment to help the Allies and to turn the scale against Germany.
This is not a matter of mere inference and argument. President Wilson has distinctly said that America did not come into the war merely to win it. As he put it, she came to be “instrumental establishing peace secure against the violence of irresponsible monarchs and the ambitions of military coteries and make ready for a new order, for new foundation of justice and fair dealing.” “We are about to give order and organization,” said the great American who has evidently been appointed by God to be the master-mason in building his new temple if international justice; “We are about to give order and organization to the peace not only for ourselves but for other peoples of the world as well, as far as they will suffer us to serve them. It is international justice we seek, not domestic safety.”
He had outlined the basis peace. The allied Governments had accepted his proposals at once; the Central Powers when they could not help doing it. And he is now at the Conference at Paris to help in the settlement of peace. As he recently said:
“Peace settlements which are now to be agreed upon are of transcendent importance to us and to the rest of the world. The gallant men of our forces on land and sea have consciously fought for the ideals of their country. I have sought to express these ideals and they have been accepted by statesmen as substance of their own thought and purpose. As the Associated Governments have accepted them, I owe it to them to see to it so far as in me lies that no false or mistaken interpretation is put upon them. It is now my duty to play my full part in making good what they offered their lives and blood to obtain.”
The Ideals of America
Now what are the ideals that America has fought for? President Wilson stated them in the clearest terms in his memorable address to Congress on the 9th of January last. It is necessary to recall them to mind. He said: - “The way of conquest and aggrandizement and secret understanding is past. We entered the war in consequence of the violation of right which touched us to the quick and our life impossible unless they were corrected and we would be secure against their recurrence. We therefore demand that the world should be made safe and fit to live in. All peoples of the world are in effect partners in this interest. Therefore the programme of the world’s peace is our programme.” He then enumerated his now famous fourteen points. Briefly these were: -
(1)Open covenants of peace openly arrived at without any secret diplomacy ; (2) the freedom of the seas subject to certain international conditions ; (3) removal of all economic barriers and equality of trade conditions among all peoples consenting to the peace and associating for its maintenance ; (4) the national armaments to be reduced to the lowest point consistent with domestic safety ; (5) free, open-minded and absolutely impartial adjustment of all colonial claims based on the strict observance of the principle that in determining such questions the sovereignty and interests of the populations concerned must have equal weight with the equitable claims of the Government whose title is to be determined ; (6) the evacuations of all Russian territory and the securing to her of unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for independent determination of her own political development and national policy ; (7) the evacuation of all Belgium and the complete restoration of her sovereignty ; (8) the evacuation of all occupied French territories and the restoration of Alsace-Lorraine ; (9) the readjustment of the frontiers of Italy along clearly recognizable lines of nationality ; (10) securing to Austria-Hungary opportunity for autonomous development ; (11) the settlement for the disputes of the Balkan States by mutual agreement and international guarantees of their political and economic independence and territorial integrity ; (12) securing sovereignty to Turkey over the Turkish portions of the present Ottoman Empire, but assuring security of life autonomous development to other nationalities now under Turkish rule ; (13) the creation of an independent Polish State with international guarantees of political and economic independence and territorial integrity and ; (14) the formation of a general association of nations under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantee of political independence and territorial integrity for great and small states alike.
President Wilson concluded his message to Congress with the following summary of the ideals of America: - “An evident principle runs through the whole programme I have outlined. It is the principle of justice to all peoples and nationalities and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another. Unless this principle be made its foundation, no part of the structure of international justice can stand. The people of the United States could act upon no other principle; and in vindication of this principle they are ready to devote their lives and honor and everything they posses. The moral climax of this culminating war for human liberty has come, and they are ready to put their own strength, their own highest purpose, their own integrity and devotion to the test.”
These noble sentiments are worthy of the great people of America and, I am sure; they have filled all lovers of right and liberty with gratitude and the hope of a better world. There have been attempts made before this to have international disputes settled by arbitration. There have been organizations made for preventing wars and preserving peace among the nations. But never before in the known history of the world has there been such a great attempt at establishing new foundations of justice and fair dealings among the nations of the earth and at forming a world-wide organization to carry out the scheme. The great war was needed to bring this about. The fact that three such liberty loving nations as Great Britain, France and America are united in purpose to give effect to these proposals, and that Germany, Russia and all other nations concerned have accepted them, is a matter for most sincere thanks giving and congratulations.
If the proposals are carried out, as we must all hope and pray they will be, they will go for to establish a reign of righteousness among nations and usher a new era of peace on earth and god-will among men. If this comes about, the enormous sacrifices of life and treasure which the war has entailed will have been made to good purpose. I am sure, my countrymen, that you who are the inheritors of great spiritual civilizations, most heartily and reverently welcome these proposals and that you will be willing to undergo any sacrifices to give them your cordial support. I would suggest that as representative of one-fifth of the human-race and of this great and ancient land, we should send to the gentlemen who are engaged in this holy task at Paris, our respectful good-wishes and our fervent prayers for the success of their noble undertaking. I venture to suggest that we may also convey to them an humble expression of our willingness to contribute whatever lies in our power to the success of the scheme. We may assure them that thousands of our young men will gladly and for gratefully enroll as Soldiers of God in any international organization that may be formed to support the proposed League of Nations.
India and the Peace Conference
You will remember, Ladies and Gentlemen, that when speaking of our contributions to the war, Mr. Lloyd George had promised that India’s necessities would not be forgotten when the Peace Conference would be reached. We are thankful to him and to the British Cabinet generally for having recognized the justice of India’s claim to be represented at the Conference. We are also thankful that the Government have appointed an Indian- our distinguished countrymen- Sir. S.P. Sinha, to represent her at the Conference. But he has been appointed by the Government of India without any reference to the public. As he has been so appointed, presumably he will represent at the Conference views which are in consonance with the views of that Government. It may be that those views will be in agreement with the views of the Indian public, or it may not be so. We do not know what are the conditions under which Sir S.P. Sinha has been appointed, or what instructions the Government of India have given him. Unfortunately the Government of India are not yet responsible to the Indian public ; and, as matters stand, there often is a great divergence of views between them and the public of India. This being so, one may be allowed to say, without any reflection against my esteemed friend Sir S.P. Sinha, that it would have been more in consonance with the spirit and aim of the Conference and also in keeping with the proposals of constitutional reform which contemplate the appointment of ministers from among the elected members of the Councils if the Government had seen their way to ask the Congress and the Muslim League which they know were going to meet here this week, or the elected members of the Imperial and Provincial Legislative Councils, to recommend an Indian or Indians for appointment by the Government as India’s representatives at the Conference. In view of the fact that Canada is going to have as many as six representatives, it need not have been apprehended that a request that India should be allowed to have more than one representative would be regarded as unreasonable. There is widespread opinion in the country that something like this should have been done. This view is not urged because of any delusion that the proposals for constitutional reform relating to India will discussed at the Peace Conference. I suppose everyone understands that they will be discussed in the British Parliament. But it is urged because of the belief that the principles, and even some of the concrete proposals, which will be discussed and settled at the Peace Conference, will have a great, direct and indirect bearing on the interests of our country. This cannot be disputed. If it were not so, there would have been little meaning in appointing an Indian to represent “India’s necessities” at the Peace Conference. I am glad that His Highness the Maharaja Sahib of Bikaner will be there to represent the views of the Indian States and Ruling Princes, whose steadfast loyalty to and support of the King-Emperor during this war has been often times of greater value than their liberal contributions in men and money alone. But it will remain a matter for regret that British India will not be represented at this great Conference by a person appointed by the Government on the recommendation of the elected representatives of the people.
India, ladies and gentleman, occupies at present at anomalous and unhappy position. The people of India, Hindus, Mussalmans, Parsis and Christians, are the inheritors of great and ancient civilizations. About a hundred and fifty years ago, the whole of India was under the rule of Indians. At that time she was passing through one of those periods of decay and internal disorder which are not unknown in the history of other nations. By an extraordinary combination of circumstances, which had their origin in the conditions then prevailing, India came to be placed under the rule of a people living six thousand miles beyond the seas and strangers to Indians in race, religion and civilization. As has often been said, India was never conquered by the English in the literal sense of the term. The English became the paramount power in India by a series of events carried on by the help of Indian soldiers and Indian allies.
The people supported them and welcomed them because they promoted order and peace and introduced justice and good administration. In the early days of British rule in India, English statesmen regarded it as of a temporary character. They clearly said that it was their duty to so administrator India as to help her to take up her own government and administer it in her own fashion. But as time rolled on and vested interests grew up and became strong a contrary spirit came to dominate British policy in India. The administration came to be conducted less and less in a manner conductive to the development of the people as a nation and more and more so as to perpetuate their subjection. Indians noted it and protested against it. Many large-hearted Englishmen deplored it. Foreign critics also noted the fact. An eminent Frenchmen, M. Chailey, wrote in his book published a few years ago: “Had England taken as a motto ‘India for the Indians’, had she continuing following the idea of Elphinstone and Malcolm to consider her rule as temporary, she might, without inconsistency, grant to the national party gradual and increasing concession which in time would give entire autonomy to the Indians, but that is not now her aim.”
For half a century and more Indians and liberal-minded Englishmen had been urging England to adopt the policy of India for the Indians, to Indian’s the administration and to give power and opportunity to Indians to administer their own affairs. Thirty years before the war the Indian National Congress came into existence and it had ever since its birth urged that a fair measure of self-government should be given to the people. The scheme of reform which the Congress put forward in 1886 was calculated to secure them such power, but they have not got it till now. Since 1908 we had specially stated that self-government on colonial lines was our goal.
I draw attention to these facts so that it may be remembered that we had been pressing for a recognition of our right to self-government long before the war. It is not the war, its events, and its results that have led us to ask for self-government for the first time. Even if the war did not come, our claim to it should have been granted long ago as a mere matter of right and simple justice. The war no doubt came to help us. The contributions which we were able to make brought about a happy change in the angle of vision of English statesmen. In December, 1916, our two great national institutions, the Congress and the Muslim League, that is to say, the representatives of thinking India, jointly put forward a well-considered, moderate scheme of reform which would have given to the people a substantial measure of self-government. It is an open secret now that the response which the Government of India suggested to this demand was so poor and inadequate that Mr. Austen Chamberlain returned the proposals and suggested the preparation of a more liberal measure which would give some responsibility to the people. In the meantime, agitation in support of the Congress-League scheme was growing. The Executive Government in India, Imperial and Provincial, were generally strongly opposed to the proposals, many of them showed this opposition by trying to suppress the agitation by orders of internment under the Defence of India Act and in other ways, and created much unnecessary tension in public feeling. On the other hand, besides the Indians there were Englishmen and English women who urged that the promise of self-government should not be delayed. That high-souled Englishmen, the Lord Bishop of Calcutta, said in the course of the service to which reference has been made before: “We must now look at our paramount position in the light of our new war ideals. The British rule in India must aim at giving India opportunities of self-development according to the natural bent of its peoples. With this in view the first object of its rulers must be to train Indians in self-government. If we turn away from any such application of our principles to this country it is but hypocrisy to come before God with the plea that our cause is the cause of liberty.”
The situation rendered an early announcement of the intentions of Government necessary. It was in this state of affairs that the Secretary of State for India made the now famous declaration of the 20th August,1917, in which he definitely stated that the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire was the policy of His Majesty’s Government and that they had decided that substantial steps in this direction should be taken as soon as possible.
It was a momentous utterance. But it was unnecessarily cautious and cold. We did not like all the qualifying conditions with which it was weighed. But we looked at it as a whole. It promised that substantial steps in the direction of the goal of responsible government in India would be taken as soon as possible, and that His Majesty’s Government had decided that, accepting the Viceroy’s invitation, the Secretary of State should shortly visit India to consider what those steps should be and to receive suggestions of representative bodies and others regarding them. It also promised that ample opportunity would be afforded for public discussion of the proposals which would be submitted in due course to the Parliament. We therefore welcomed the announcement and were grateful for it. Though dissatisfied with its many qualifying conditions, in the circumstances then existing, we accepted it with hope and gratitude. Mr. Montagu came to India with a deputation of distinguished men. Taking the announcement of the 20th August as laying down the terms their reference, he and Lord Chelmsford elaborated proposals as to the first substantial steps which should be taken to give effect to the policy enunciated in it. The limitations of the announcement naturally had their effect in determining the nature and extent of their proposals. These proposals have now been before the public for several months. They have been variously criticized by various bodies. On the first publication of the proposals, while some of our prominent public men gave them a cordial welcome, others condemned them as unsatisfactory and disappointing. Some urged their total rejection. The Congress-League Scheme which had been put forward with the unanimous support of the public men of the country was calculated to transfer control to the representatives of the people, both in the Provincial Government and, subject to certain reservations, in the Government of India. The official Scheme proposed a limited measure of control in the Provincial Governments and absolutely none over the Imperial Government. The official proposals thus fell very short of the Congress-League Scheme. They were, therefore, generally regarded as inadequate. It was clear that while acknowledging that the proposals constituted an advance on existing conditions in certain directions, the bulk of public opinion in India was not satisfied with the Scheme as it stood. Almost everybody who was anybody wanted more or less important modifications and improvements in the Scheme. But the Scheme proposed the introduction of a certain measure of responsible government in the Provincial Governments, and was in this respect more in conformity with the announcement of the 20th August than the Congress-League Scheme, and many of us urged that the official proposals should be accepted subject to the necessary modifications and improvements. This view found general acceptance in the country.
When the Special Congress met at Bombay, it was apprehended in some quarters that the opinions of those who were in favour of insisting upon the acceptance of the Congress-League Scheme and the rejection of the official proposals, might prevail at the Congress. But the proceedings of the Congress lent no support to these apprehensions. While the Congress made its acknowledgement to Mr. Montagu and Lord Chelmsford for the earnest attempt to inaugurate a system in the responsible government in India, it made it clear that it regarded the proposals as they stood as unsatisfactory and disappointing. At the same time, it recognized that the official scheme was more in consonance with the announcement of August 20th, and it therefore decided to accept that scheme in its outline and to urge modifications and improvements consistent with the outline which, in its opinion, were absolutely necessary to make it substantial first step towards responsible government in India, that is, both in the Central and Provincial Governments. The All-India Muslim League also adopted the same view. Two months after a Conference organized by those of our prominent public men who had more cordially welcomed the proposals of reform than the great bulk of the public, met at Bombay. They too agreed with the Congress and the League in asking for certain essential modifications and improvements in the Scheme. It has thus become as clear as noonday light that enlightened Indian public opinion is unanimous in urging that the principle of responsible government should be introduced in the Government of India simultaneously with a similar reform in the Provinces, and that there should be a division of functions in the Central Government into reserved and transferred as a part of the first installment of reforms. It is unanimous in urging fiscal freedom for India. It is unanimous in urging that half the number of the members of the Council of State should be elected. It is unanimous in urging that Indians should constitute one-half of the Executive Government of India. It is unanimous in asking that the popular houses should elect their presidents and vice-presidents. It is unanimous in requiring that the elective majority should be four-fifths; and that the reserved list should be as small and the transferred list as large as possible. It is unanimous in asking that Ministers should be placed on a footing of perfect equality with the members of the Executive Council. It is unanimous in asking for a complete separation of judicial from executive functions. It is unanimous in urging that 50 per cent of the posts in Indian Civil Service, and to start with, 25 per cent of the King’s Commissions in the army, should be secured to Indians and that adequate provision for training them should be made in the country itself. It is unanimous in urging that the ordinary constitutional rights, such as freedom of the press and public meetings and open judicial trials, should be safeguarded, though there is difference of opinion about the methods suggested to secure the end. I have not attempted an exhaustive enumeration. My object here is to show that there is, notwithstanding differences over unimportant matters and notwithstanding all that we hear of divisions and parties, practical unanimity in the country about the most essential changes and improvements which are needed in the proposals of reform. I will not anticipate your decisions. It is for you to decide whether in view of events which have taken place since the Congress met, you will reconsider any or all of the matters which were considered by the Special Congress, or whether you will let its decisions stand as they are. Considering how grave and momentous are the issues involved, I would reconsider them and welcome any suggestions which would improve them. Since the Congress met, events have taken place which would obviously justify such a course. As a mere illustration, I draw attention to one. In the resolution relating to the Provincial Government, while holding that the people are ripe for the introduction of full provincial autonomy, the Congress said it was yet prepared, with a view to facilitating the passage of the Reforms, to leave the departments of law, police and justice (prisons excepted) in the hands of the Executive Government for a period of six years. Since this resolution was passed the Functions Committee as well as the Franchise Committee has already visited the several Provinces, and in two of the major Provinces it has been urged that full provincial autonomy should be granted there at once, namely, the United Provinces and Bombay, in the former by the Provincial Congress Committee, and in the latter by the non-official members of the Bombay Legislative Council, among whom are such esteemed gentlemen of known moderate views as the Hon’ble Mr. Gokuladas Parekh. We may assume that Bengal and Madras also will demand full provincial autonomy. In view of these facts the resolutions of the Congress on the subject may well be reconsidered.
India and the Results of the War
But ladies & gentlemen, by the most important event which has taken place since the Congress met is the happy termination of the war. In concluding their Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms Mr. Montagu and Lord Chelmsford said: “If anything could enhance the sense of responsibility under which our recommendations are made in a matter fraught with consequences so immense, it would be the knowledge that even as we bring our report to an end far greater issues still hang in the balance upon battle-fields of France. It is there and not in Delhi or Whitehall that the ultimate decision of India’s future will be taken.” Happily for India and the rest of the civilized world that decision has now been taken. It was announced in the memorable utterance of the Premier referred to before, in which he said: “You are entitled to rejoice, people of Britain, that the Allies, Dominions and India have won a glorious victory. It is the most wonderful victory for liberty in the history of the world.” How does this great event affect our position? How far is India going to share the fruits of the glorious victory to which it has been her privilege to contribute? It is highly encouraging in this connection to remember how generous has been the appreciation expressed by the distinguished Premier and other statesmen of Great Britain of the services of India to the war. Let me recall a few of their utterances, Speaking in September, 1914, Mr. Asquith, the then Prime Minister of England, said: “We welcome with appreciation and affection India’s preferred aid in the Empire which knows no distinction of race or class, where all alike are subjects of the King-Emperor and are joint and equal custodians of her common interest and fortunes. We hail with profound and heartfelt gratitude their association side by side and shoulder to shoulder with the Home and Dominion troops under a flag which is a symbol to all of the unity that world in arms cannot disserve or dissolve.” Mr. Bonar Law said: “I do not think we fully realize how much these Indians who have fought and died by the side of our soldiers have helped us through these long months.” Speaking on the 9th of September Lord Haldane, the then Lord Chancellor of England, said: “Indian soldiers are fighting for the liberty of humanity as much as ourselves. India has freely given her lives and treasure in humanity’s great cause; hence things cannot be left as they are.” Speaking in February, 1917, in the House of Commons, Mr. Lloyd George said: “The contribution of the Dominions and of India has been splendid. The assistance they have given us in the most trying hours of this campaign has been incalculable in its value.” In the introduction to Col. Merewether’s ‘Indian Corps in France,’ Lord Curzon said: “Indian Expeditionary Force arrived in the nick of time, that it helped to save the cause both of the Allies and of civilization, after the sanguinary tumult of the opening weeks of the war, has been openly acknowledged by the highest in the land from the Sovereign downwards. I recall that it was emphatically stated to me by Lord French himself. The nature and the value of that service can never be forgotten.”
Speaking again in the House of Commons, Mr. Lloyd George said: “And then there is India. How bravely, how loyally, she has supported the British Armies. The memory of the powerful aid which she willingly accorded in the hour of our trouble will not be forgotten after the war is over, and when the affairs of India come up for examination and for action.” Speaking on the 8th of November last Mr. Lloyd George said: “These young nations (the Dominions) fought bravely and contributed greatly and won their place at the Council Table. What is true of them is equally true of the great Empire of India, which helped us materially to win these brilliant victories which were the beginning of the disintegration of our foes. India’s necessities must not be forgotten when the Peace Conference is reached. We have had four years of great brotherhood. Let it not end there.”
I am sure we all feel most deeply grateful to these our English fellow-subjects for their generous appreciation of our contributions to the war. The question now is to what extent is India going to benefit by the principles for which she gave her lives and treasure, namely, the principles of justice and liberty, of the right of every nation to live an unmolested life of freedom and to grow according to its own God-given nature, to manage its own affairs, and to mould its own destiny. The principles for which Great Britain and the Allies fought have now been embodied in the Peace Proposals of President Wilson to which I have referred before. These principles have been adopted with the hearty concurrence and support of Great Britain.
Indeed, the credit for adopting them is in one sense greater in the case of Britain and France than in the case of America. For Britain and France had borne the brunt of the war for four years and by their unconquerable courage and heroic sacrifices the Allies to achieve the final victory. Besides, their sufferings and sacrifices had also been incomparably greater than those of America and their feelings far more deeply injured. It was the more praise-worthy of them, therefore, that they readily agreed to the Peace Proposals, which ran counter in some instances to the decisions which they had themselves previously arrived at.
Now the principle that true through the Peace Proposals is the principles of justice to all peoples and nationalities and their right to live on equal terms of liberty and safety with one another. Each nation is to be given freedom to determine its own affairs and to mould its own destinies. Russia is to have an unhampered and unembarrassed opportunity for independent determination of her own political development and national policy. Austria-Hungary is to be accorded the opportunity of autonomous development. International guarantees of political and economic independence and territorial integrity are to be secured to the Balkan States, and to the independent peace states which are to be created. Nationalities other than Turkish, now under Turkish rules are to be assured security of life and autonomous development. In the adjustment of colonial claims the principle to be followed is that in determining such questions the sovereignty and interests of the population concerned are to have equal weight with the equitable claims of the Government whose title is to be determined. How far are these principles of autonomy and self-determination to be applied to India? That is the question for consideration. We are happy to find that the Governments of Britain and France have already decided to give effect to these principles in the case of Syria and Mesopotamia. This has strengthened our hope that they will be extended to India also. Standing in this ancient capital of India, both of the Hindu and Mahomedan periods, it fills me my countrymen & countrywomen with inexpressible sorrow and shame to think that we, the descendants of Hindus, who ruled for four thousand years in this extensive empire, and the descendants of Musalmans who ruled here for several hundred years, should have so far fallen from our ancient state, that we should have to argue our capacity for even a limited measure of autonomy and self-rule.
But there is so much ignorance among those who have got a determining voice in the affairs of our country at present that, but if I had the time, I would tell them something of the capacity of our peoples-Hindus and Mussalmans-till the advent of British rule in India. I may refer those who care to know it, to the papers published at pages 581 to 624 in Mr. Dadabhai Naoraoji’s book on ‘Poverty and un British rule in India.’ I will content myself with saying that one-third of India, comprising a population of nearly 60 millions, is still under Indian rule, and that the administration of many of the Indian States compared very favorably with that of British India. Has the fact of our being under British rule for 150 years rendered us less fit for self-rule than our fellow-subjects in our Indian States are?
Are a people who can produce scientist like Sir J.C. Bose, a poet like Sir Rabindra Nath Tagore, lawyers like Sir Bhashyam Iyengar and Sir Rash Behari Ghosh, administrators like Sir T. Madhava Row and Sir Salar Jung, Judges of the High Court like Sir Syed Mahmood and Telang, patriots and public men like Dadabhai Naoroji, Ranade Pheroze Shah Mehta and G.K. Gokhale, industrialists like J.N. Tata and his worthy son Sir Dorab Tata and a servant of humanity like Mr. M.K. Gandhi and soldiers who have rendered a good account of themselves in all the theatres of war, unfit for self-government in their domestic affairs? I hope that the insult of such an assumption will no longer be added to the injury that is being done us by being kept out of our birthright to self-government, and that the principle of self-determination will be extended to India.
The Principle of Self-Determination
Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, let us make it clear what we mean when we talk of self-determination. There are two aspects of self-determination, as it has been spoken of in the peace proposals. One is that the people of certain colonies and other places should have the right to say whether they will live under the suzerainty of one power or of another. So far as we Indian are concerned we have no need to say that we do not desire to exercise that election. Since India passed directly under the British Crown, we have owned allegiance to the Sovereign of England. We stand unshaken in that allegiance. We gladly renewed our allegiance to His Majesty the King-Emperor in person when he was pleased to visit India in 1911 after his Coronation in England. We will desire to remain subjects of the British Crown.
There is, however, the second and no less important aspect of self-determination, namely, that being under the British Crown, we should be allowed complete responsible government on the lines of the Dominions, in the administration of all our domestic affairs. We are not yet asking for this either. We are asking for a measure of self-government which we have indicated by our Congress-League Scheme of 1916. We urge that the measure of self-government or responsible government, if you please, to be given to us should judged and determined in the light of the principle of self-determination which has emerged triumphant out of this devastating war. In order that this should be done it is not necessary that the proposals of reform which have been elaborated by Mr. Montagu and Lord Chelmsford should be the laid aside and a brand new scheme be prepared. The Special Congress and the Moslem League have expressed their willingness to accept those proposals with the modifications and improvements which they have advocated. This great Congress representing the people of all classes not creeds-Hindus, Mussalmans, Parsis and Christians-representing all interests, landholders and tenants, merchants and businessmen, educationist, publicist and representatives of other sections of the people, is assembled here to-day express the mind of the people on this question. One special and particularly happy feature of this Congress is the presence at it of a large number of delegates of the tenant class who have come at great sacrifice, from far and near, to join their voice with the rest of their countrymen in asking for a substantial measure of self-government. This representative Congress of the people of India will determine and declare what in its opinion should be the measure of reform which should be introduced into the country. Let the British Government give effect to the principle of self-determination in India by accepting the proposals so put forward by the representatives of the people of India. Let the preamble to the Stature which is under preparation incorporate the principle of self-determination and provide that the representatives of the people of India shall have an effective voice in determining the future steps of progress towards complete responsible government. This will produce deep contentment and gratitude among the people of India and strengthen their attachment to the British Empire.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I think I have said enough to show how strong is our case both on the ground of justice and necessity for a substantial measure of responsible government. While we have noted with thankfulness attitude of British statesmen towards the cause of Indian reform, while we have noted with satisfaction that in their election manifestoes Mr. Lloyd George, Mr. Bonar Law, Mr. Asquith, in short, leaders of all parties in the United Kingdom have pledged themselves to the introduction of responsible Government in India, we regret to find that a limited liability Company of businessmen known as the Indo-British Association have organized in London with the distinct object of opposing the cause of Indian reform and both that association and other narrow-minded European and Anglo Indian bodies in India who are opposed to any measure of power being transferred to Indians have been misusing the Rowlett Committee report to create a wrong impression in the minds of the British public that the people of India are disaffected towards the British Crown. This is a wicked attempt. One should have thought that with the overwhelming proof of the loyalty of the people of India to the British Crown, fresh in the minds of the English people and of the Allied world, not even the worst detractors of Indians would venture to make such dastradly attempt at this juncture. The Rowlatt Committee itself has brought the fact of that loyalty into greater prominence. The committee have summed up their conclusion as follows:-
“We have now investigated all the conspiracies connected with the revolutionary movement. In Bombay, they have been purely Brahmin and mostly Chitpavan. In Bengal the conspirators have been young men belonging to the educated classes. Their propaganda has been elaborate, persistent and ingenious. In their own province it has produced a long series; of murders and robberies. In Bihar and Orissa, the United Provisions, the Central Provinces and Madras it took no root but occasionally led to crime or disorder. In the Punjab the return of emigrants from America bent on revolutions and bloodshed produced numerous outrages and the Ghadar conspiracies of 1915. In Burma too the Ghadar movement was active but was arrested. Finally came a Mohammedan conspiracy confined to a small clique of fanatics and designed to overthrow the British rule with foreign aid. All these plots have been directed towards one and the same objective- the overthrow by force of British Rule in India. Sometimes they have been isolated, sometimes they have been interconnected, and sometimes they have been encouraged and supported by German influence.”
Now assuming that the whole of this statement is accurate let us note what the Committee say about them. They say: “All have been successfully encountered with the support of Indian loyalty.” This should be enough to silence the calumniators of India as well as very well observed by Mr. Montagu and Lord Chelmsford in their Report in Indian Constitutional Reform: “Whatever qualifications may be needed in the case of particular classes the people of India as a whole are in genuine sympathy with the cause which the Allies represent. However much they may find fault with the Government, they are true in their loyalty to the British Crown. In another place they truly observed: “The loyalty of the country was generally emphasized by the attempts made by very small sections of the population to create trouble.” I most sincerely deplore and so does every thoughtful Indian that any of our youth should have been misled into what the Rowlatt Committee have described as a movement of perverted religion and equally perverted patriotism. I deplore that they should have been led into any criminal organization of conspiracy against the Government. I equally deplore that they should have committed anj acts of violence against any of their follow-men. But let not the misdeeds of a small number of unfortunately misguided youths be pitted against the unswerving loyalty of 320 millions of the people of India. It is not fair.