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Gandhi, Mohandas Karamchand (1869–1948), Indian political leader and religious and social reformer
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Copy of a memorandum from Edwin Montagu to Sir Thomas Holderness and Sir Malcolm Seton

Is anxious that the Viceroy should not inaugurate an inquiry into the recent occurrences in India (which Montagu has assured the House the Viceroy always intended) without further consultation at home, since he believes the Viceroy is unaware of the general desire that the inquiry should be impartial and fearless, and should examine questions such as the use of dum-dum bullets, the needless firing on the crowd, the deportation of innocent people, the unnecessarily harsh use of military law, the mishandling of Gandhi’s prohibition as regards Delhi, the immediate causes of the outbreaks at Lahore, Amritsar, and Ahmedabad, and the actual results of recruiting on temper and economics in the Punjab. Is prepared to let the Viceroy to decide the time, provided there is no postponement, but wishes to be satisfied as to the terms of reference and personnel. The inquiry should, he thinks, be conducted by one man ‘from home’, with an Indian and an official assessor, and he has written to the Viceroy proposing Lord Cave for the appointment. Asks them to draft an official telegram asking that he may be consulted on these matters.

(Carbon copy.)

Telegram from Edwin Montagu to Lord Reading

Is going on holiday. Kenya continues to be troublesome. Is eager to discuss the proposed statement of policy at the opening of the Legislative Assembly. The decision whether to prosecute those who spoke at the Karachi conference should be made promptly. The Government’s decision to substitute a treaty with King Feisul of Mesopotamia for a mandate may improve relations with Mohammedans. It is rumoured that Gandhi intends to proclaim an Indian republic. Some, including Churchill, are optimistic about Irish peace; others, including the Prime Minister, are not.

(Typed. Used for transmission.)

Telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

Refers to Gandhi’s speech at Trichinopoly and his article in Young India, in which he stated that, as non-co-operation is legally sedition under the Penal Code, he objected to the suggestion in Sir George Lloyd’s communiqué that tampering with the loyalty of the sepoy and sedition were fresh crimes committed by the Ali brothers, and went on to encourage Congress and Khilafat workers to reiterate the Ali brothers’ formula and to spread disaffection openly till arrested. They [the Government of India] cannot arrest ‘small fry’ and leave Gandhi free; therefore the speech and article are being examined by lawyers, and Reading has canvassed Local Governments for their opinions as to the effect of prosecuting him. His own impression is that, though Gandhi has recently lost some ground, he remains popular with the masses, and that his arrest would lead to violence. Points out that Gandhi’s article is intended to bridge the gap between Hindu and Moslem.

(Typed.)

Copy of a telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

(Official.) The Governor of Bombay [Lloyd] has recommended that Gandhi should be prosecuted immediately, and has sought the Governor-General [Reading]’s approval. The Governor thinks the main charge should be based on certain articles by Gandhi, particularly ‘A Puzzle and its Solution’, the object of which is to create disaffection against, and so overthrow, the Government. In reply, the Government of India have signified their general agreement with this view, but as they believe that Gandhi’s next move must involve a more direct challenge to the Government than any hitherto attempted, and as they wish to avoid the idea that Gandhi is being prosecuted because he has made a conference impossible, they suggest that prosecution should be deferred till after 31 January, when Gandhi will probably institute civil disobedience. They also prefer that prosecution should be based on more recent statements than those mentioned by the Governor. No fresh reference need be made to them before prosecuting, if Gandhi embarks on an active campaign of civil disobedience.

(Carbon copy.)

Telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

Part 1. Reports the contents of a letter received from Gandhi describing the circumstances of the resolution taken at Bardoli to embark on mass civil disobedience, and urging the Viceroy to free non-co-operators imprisoned for non-violent activities, declare a policy of non-interference in all non-violent activities, free the press from administrative control, and restore the recently-imposed fines and forfeitures; if the Viceroy complies within seven days, civil disobedience will be postponed.

(Typed.)

(i) Telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu, and (ii) a draft of a telegram from Montagu to Reading

(i) Refers to A3/46/3 and trusts that the Cabinet will understand his reasons for postpon-ing Gandhi’s arrest. The present situation is unclear, except that the resolutions show a great change in the non-co-operators’ attitude, which he attributes to a realisation of the danger and difficulties of carrying out civil disobedience. Reiterates his belief that civil disobedience is ‘the best battle-ground for us’, particularly this year, when the crops are good. Reports indicate dissension in non-co-operation ranks. His decision to postpone the arrest was influenced by a feeling that he could not risk the resignation of Sapru and other Indians, and that the division of the European and Indian elements in Council would be awkward at present, particularly with the Budget question before them. He has been advised that a general railway strike may take place when Gandhi’s arrest is announced, and that mill-hands in various centres will come out. Sapru says he will discover the real meaning of the latest move within two or three days, but believes that it means something ‘really good and lasting’ and that Indians generally regard it as a confession of failure by Gandhi.

(Typed. (ii) is a draft of A3/42/2.)

Telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

Refers to Montagu's telegram of 6 June regarding the Prince of Wales's visit. The non-co-operation agitation is now less active. The recantation of the Ali brothers has, he thinks, had a damping effect on the Khilafat supporters and the Gandhi movement, notwithstanding Mohammed Ali's explanation of his apology. Sapru, Shafi, and Malaviya also think the situation improved. Gandhi is not succeeding in obtaining support and money. Butler is dissatisfied with the position in the United Provinces, and wishes to proceed with prosecutions against the Independent and others; the Government of India will decide on their policy on Friday. Is concerned at the number of youths in gaol for lesser offences, and favours releasing them upon expressions of regret and promises of future good behaviour. So long as Gandhi pursues his present policy of less virulence and refrains from preaching active hatred of the Government, no action should be taken by the Government; but prosecutions should be instituted wherever speeches are made inciting to violence, or whenever the agents of the non-co-operationist movement lie about Government action or preach hatred of it. It is not always easy to distinguish between speeches denouncing Government policy and thus exciting disaffection against it, and speeches containing serious mis-statements, accompanied by incitement to hatred, but he recommends prosecution only in the latter case at present.

(Typed.)

Telegram from Edwin Montagu to Lord Reading

He thinks Reading should know the attitude at home towards affairs in India. The general opinion of the press is that action should be taken against ringleaders. There is perplexity at the fact that action is only taken against those actually dealt with in riots, and great uneasiness at reports of drilling. Recent speeches of Lord Willingdon and Sir George Lloyd suggest a difference of opinion between the former and the Government of India as to Gandhi’s connection with the spreading unrest, for the public believes that if the Government shared Willingdon’s views some action would have been taken.

(Typed, with handwritten alterations. Used for transmission.)

Telegram from Edwin Montagu to Lord Reading

Expresses concern at the international publicity given to speeches made from the dock in the Ali brothers’ trial, and wonders, in the light of a possible prosecution of Gandhi, whether anything could be done to prevent such trials becoming centres of propaganda.

(Typed, with handwritten alterations. Used for transmission.)

Copy of a telegram from Sir George Lloyd to Edwin Montagu

On 8 April Horniman published a passive resistance manifesto in the [Bombay] Chronicle. Gandhi was arrested in the Punjab, taken to Bombay, and ordered to remain in that Presidency. A serious riot at Ahmedabad resulted on the same day. On the 11th a large mob attacked and burnt the telegraph office and several other Government buildings, and injured the power house. On the 12th the Inspector General of Police and the Commissioner arrived with a military force, order was restored, and the city remains strongly picketed. Telegraphic communication has been restored. The casualties so far reported at Ahmedabad are one European sergeant and an Indian constable killed, and about 250 rioters killed or wounded. On the 12th a mob at Virangam attacked and burnt the railway station, and are reported also to have burnt Government buildings and stocks of famine grass. An Indian revenue official was murdered and telegraph communication was severed. On the same day two British officers and 200 Indian troops were dispatched from Ahmedabad to restore order. A telegraph and railway party also left to reopen communications. Order has now been restored at Virangam. On the 11th there was rioting at Bombay, but no casualties occurred. The city is now quiet. Gandhi arrived on the 11th and addressed a meeting, making an appeal against violence. He was allowed to go to Ahmedabad the next day. Military forces have been sent to various places in Gujarat where disturbances may be expected. Anticipating that Gandhi’s arrest would lead to disturbance, Lloyd decided to make no prominent arrests till military precautions had been taken in areas where disorder might arise. But immediately he heard of Gandhi’s arrest he made dispositions for maintaining order in Bombay and arranged a meeting with the Viceroy. On his way up, news of Ahmedabad came, and he and the Viceroy decided to leave Gandhi at liberty for the present but to deport Horniman and certain other leaders. Arrangements are being made to do so, but he is having trouble with Sir Ibrahim on this point, and may have to defer action for two or three days, as he does not want to risk the resignation of a Moslem member of the Council. Though he has been very patient, he cannot allow the open advocacy of law-breaking to continue. Opposition to the Rowlatt Bills is a pretext for a carefully planned revolution, of which Gandhi is a tool, not a principal. Mob violence has so far been directed against telegraphs and railways, and the attacks on Virangam show design, in as much as the seizure of that place cuts off all communications with Kathiawar.

(Carbon copy.)

Memorandum by Sir William Duke

India Office.—In view of Gandhi’s decision to call off civil disobedience, he is not surprised that the Government of India has decided to postpone his arrest, but the result will probably increase the Secretary of State [Montagu]’s difficulties with the House of Commons. It can be argued that the respite will allow the non-co-operators to become better organised; but on the other hand many in India believe that the movement has only been sustained by the opportunity given to them by the Prince of Wales’s visit to organise hartals and provoke a reaction from Government, and that the discredit which has now accrued to them and the dissipation of their funds may cause them to lose ground. In either case, he does not think this a good moment to undertake what may be a serious struggle, if it can be postponed. ‘The Empire has too many unsolved difficulties which cumulatively may be too much for its strength. All its other principal difficulties aggravate and complicate the Indian one, and they ought to be got rid of in the proper order. … To my mind that order should be, Ireland, Egypt or Turkey, India.’

Telegram from Edwin Montagu to Lord Reading

The debate in the Commons has revealed a hardening in British opinion on Indian affairs. ‘There is an uneasy feeling, possibly strengthened from Ireland, that our Empire is slipping away.’ Unless the Government are able to reassure the public, they will lose their policy. There are similar difficulties with regard to affairs in Kenya. Montagu’s reply to the notification of Gandhi’s non-arrest was drafted in consultation with Chamberlain and the Prime Minister, and they emphasised that Gandhi should not be allowed merely to postpone challenges whenever his arrest became imminent. He believes his speech in the Commons was a success, but he has lost the support of the Northcliffe newspapers.

(Typed, with handwritten alterations. Used for transmission.)

Copy of a telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

Has told Malaviya that, by refusing to suspend controversy during the Prince of Wales’s visit, Gandhi had given the impression that India was disloyal; and he repudiated the rumour that if the Prince was well received the Government would claim that India had no real grievances. Malaviya suggested that Gandhi might yet relent if the obstacle of the Ali brothers could be negotiated, but Reading refused to discuss their case, which is now in the hands of the courts. The Statesman, The Englishman, and the Times of India are opposed to the arrest of Gandhi.

(Mechanical copy of typed original.)

Printed copy of a telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

News of the Prince of Wales’s visit [to Bombay] will be found in Lloyd’s reports. Things are quiet there now, though bitterness between different sections of the population may cause further trouble. The Khilafat movement is still active across the country in bringing about hartals and intimidating the public, particularly in Delhi, where volunteers are picketing foreign cloth shops. Reading has sent for the Chief Commissioner, as strong steps must be taken. Council has decided to urge Local Governments to take all available means to prevent disorder. They are awaiting Gandhi’s next step. He has arranged to reply to a deputation of Mohammedans on Saturday.

(A cutting from a larger document.)

Telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

Malaviya has come to see him, urging that, when the Prince of Wales arrives, an announcement should be made that all remaining martial law prisoners will be released, and that the British Government will undertake to do its utmost for the restoration of Thrace and Smyrna to Turkey. Malaviya believes this would effect a marked change, and a conference could be called to discuss swaraj. Reading pointed out that, with regard to the prisoners, he had already done the utmost he could recommend. Malaviya suggested it might be politically expedient, and Reading asked for whom he was speaking, suspecting him of being optimistic as to Gandhi’s future action. Malaviya admitted it, but claimed to speak for most Indian people, and pointed out that he had persuaded Gandhi to mollify his statements regarding the people’s attitude on the Prince’s visit. But Reading was little impressed, pointing out that all Gandhi’s organs continued to advocate boycott, and that his few sentences in Young India were of little account compared with previous injunctions and resolutions. He believes Malaviya is anxious for the success of the visit, but is powerless in view of the political crowds surrounding Gandhi. Reading told him that his policy of conciliation had failed, and that Gandhi and his movement had become more violent. Malaviya objected that, though a resolution for civil disobedience had been passed, there was little enthusiasm for it outside the Committee and a few extremists, and claimed conciliation was working. He suggested holding a conference at which all the various parties would be represented, and asserted that Gandhi would attend. Reading asked for more precise proposals, and Malaviya said he would consider the matter with his friends. He believes Malaviya and Jinnah are working together, but does not know how far they represent Gandhi. Malaviya believes Gandhi intended to spend one or two months at a village in Gujarat organising civil disobedience, but this is doubtful.

(Typed.)

Telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

Refers to A3/27/8. Civil disobedience at Bardoli has not yet started, and the Congress Committee meeting at Surat has requested persons throughout the province to pay taxes, except in cases where Gandhi’s consent has been obtained for suspension, in preparation for mass civil disobedience. This is apparently because Malaviya, Jinnah, and others are trying to persuade Gandhi to postpone civil disobedience until the question of a conference is cleared up. He is preparing an answer to the secretaries of the Bombay Conference, who have asked him what his objections are to a conference are, as they desire to meet them, and he also has some letters from Gandhi, which he has postponed answering. Montagu should do as he thinks right about the Cabinet. The only point of difference between the Government of Bombay and the Government of India was that the latter did not wish Gandhi to be prose-cuted for seditious statements made at the Bombay conference when it was clear that he was about to declare for civil disobedience. Confirms his objections to deporting Gandhi. Recent reports indicate that Gandhi is trying to find a way out of civil disobedience. The Bombay Government have not yet sent a definite answer about the prosecution of Mohani. Public meetings for civil disobedience may be prohibited either under the Seditious Meetings Act or the Criminal Procedure Code.

(Typed.)

Letter from Hasan Shahid Suhrawardy to R. C. Trevelyan

P & O. S. N. Co. SS 'The Malwa', Marseilles. - Is leaving France in a few hours. Apologises for not replying to Trevelyan's letter of farewell; he was too on edge due to his departure. Now he feels 'better & reconciled', though would be happier if he were coming back to some work in Europe. The man who got him his job at Geneva is also on the ship, and has been telling Suhrawardy about other Indians who have got permanent work there, and he is an 'ignoramus' who does not know the difference between Victor Hugo and 'the man who has written a book on French without tears'; this is bitter to him. Supposes it is too late to convey his views on the minority question to Trevelyan, but will try, hoping that some of it 'might appear plausible to Clifford Allen'.

Believes that the British government really are determined on 'putting India on her feet and help[ing] her in her logical constitutional - & not revolutionary - development'; has faith in [Ramsey] Macdonald, who should not be doctrinaire, and approach the India question as 'terre vierge'. The 'Muhamadan' wish for a majority of seats where they are the majority of the population, and 'weightage' seats in other areas due to their historical importance, should be refuted; they are not really worried about 'tyranny' by majority Hindu rule, as they pretend, but that other Muslims who will not adopt their intransigent position will be let in. Reservation of seats is sufficient, the idea of separate electorates is retrograde, and Suhrawardy is personally against reservation though realises it perhaps should be conceded. Gandhi is astute and even concedes the point of separate electorates, so they will 'rally to his view about obtaining virtual control of government at the centre', but not to the 'depressed classes & the Indian Christians'. A helpful politician would support him in this, and resist the 'cynical principle of divide (in partibus) et impera'. Supposes Macdonald will have to allow the principle of separate electorates, since the Moh[amedans] are 'fanatical' and have 'worked up their community to such a frenzy'. The Punjab and Bengal present special difficulties, where the Hindu minority demand 'weightage'; Sir Geoffrey Corbett has suggested a redistribution of the Punjab to create a substantial Muslim majority; Suhrawardy does not think this necessary. His view is that separate electorates might be granted, to the Muslims and Europeans only, and only in provinces where they are in a minority, while introducing the principle of joint electorates for all majorities to encourage them to create national programmes. Believes this should be combined with adult franchise, despite the opposition there will be from Anglo-Indians, Muslim leaders in London and other groups, as from his experience in Russia, despite his hatred for many things under the Soviets, he thinks this will create a 'consciousness of political self-respect' and allow for the provincial and central legislatures to be 'the culminating rung in a ladder of smaller representative bodies'. Sends love to Mrs Trevelyan; asks to be remembered kindly to the Allens.

Extract from a letter from Sir George Lloyd to Edwin Montagu

The policy declared at the Congress at Ahmedabad is very serious. Moslem leaders were for complete independence, and though Gandhi hedged in his speeches in an attempt to gain the moderate vote, the resolution of the Working Committee, over which he presides, was more revolutionary. Lloyd and his Council believe that Gandhi should be prosecuted immediately and, in view of the necessary repercussions across India, they sought the Viceroy’s approval to do so, but the Viceroy would not give it. Lloyd has urged him to reconsider.

Memorandum headed 'Position as regards the Prosecution of Mr. Gandhi'

The attitude of the Government of India on 25 January with regard to the prosecution of Gandhi was as follows. It was expected that after the 31st Gandhi would personally inaugurate mass civil disobedience and thereby offer a more direct challenge to Government than ever before. There would have been no room for misunderstanding, prosecution could take place with the maximum of public support, and the risk of disorder would be reduced. The Government of India therefore decided to stay their hand, though they were fully convinced of the necessity of prosecution at an earlier date. There was always the chance that Gandhi might commit some prosecutable act earlier, and the Local Government was free to act in such a case. Refers to recent telegrams regarding the present position [A3/25/8–10].

(Typed.)

Letter from Hasan Shahid Suhrawardy to R. C. Trevelyan

21, Theatre Road, Calcutta. - Is very grateful for the trouble Trevelyan has taken with his MS; agrees that it is unfair that no publishers will take his poems even when costs will be covered. The publication of his book would also have helped his chances of getting the University Professorship of English which will soon fall vacant; prefers this position to his own due to the lack of 'concrete material of the Asiatic arts' which necessitates indulgence in 'fantastic theories'. Cannot afford to have it printed himself, and will not hear of Trevelyan spending more money on him. Used to know a man called Coppard at Oxford, a 'towering intellectual from the working classes', whom he heard has had success as a novelist; he used to like Suhrawardy's verses, especially the ones printed in the 1916 "Oxford Anthology" (Amelie Brázdová must have mistaken this for the "Oxford Book of Verse"; would like to know in English what she has written about him; she makes mistakes as she is not familiar with England and Suhrawardy is 'horrified' that his friends might think he has given her false information). Coppard suggested getting the poems privately printed at the Golden Cockerel Press, with which he had some connection. If Trevelyan could lend him the expenses for a year, he would like to have the poems published there or with the Chelsea Press. Is sorry John Lane have rejected his book; used to know [Ronald?] Boswell, in the management there, at Oxford, and once met him at Trevelyan's friends the Archibalds' [Dorothy and George]. Tells Trevelyan to do what he thinks best, but only if he really thinks it worthwhile to get the work published: he himself is out of touch and cannot judge the merits of his verses properly.

Very glad Trevelyan saw [Marie] Germanova in Paris; they write in detail about each of his visits. Sends love to Bessie. Hopes Julian and Ursula are happy. Strange times in India: he had 'great sympathy with the Congress' and stood as a candidate for the Upper House in Bengal by 'indirect selection'. Due to 'indiscipline and bungling' he lost, for which he is now very glad as the path the Congress is following is 'sterile'. Does not understand the 'Congress formula', nor its tactical value. Calls Gandhi 'the divine bungler'. No chance of escaping the heat and coming to Europe in the summer; hopes he can persuade his father to consult his doctor this autumn, in which case he will come then. If not, he hopes to come next year, for longer. Is taking up the study of Chinese: when getting on in years 'one must have a quest that is endless', and Chinese will last him 'several reincarnations'.

Letter from —— to Lord Pethick-Lawrence

The British Broadcasting Corporation, Broadcasting House, London, W.1.—Invites him to prepare and deliver, on stated terms, a radio talk on Mahatma Gandhi for the General Overseas Service.

(A printed form, with details typed in. Signed p.p. Ronald Boswell, Talks Booking Manager.)

Script of a talk recorded by Lord Pethick-Lawrence for the BBC on 14 Sept. 1954

(Carbon copy. Date of recording, etc., taken from 5/120a.)

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Transcript

I made the acquaintance of Gandhi long before he was a world figure. In the early years of the century he became interested in the British Suffragette movement and came to lunch with my wife and myself in our London flat. He told us about his non-violent resistance campaign in South Africa. We found that we had much in common, not least in his doctrine that a willingness to endure suffering was a surer way to win political reform than to inflict it upon others.

The bond of friendship thus formed remained unbroken throughout the many vicissitudes of our political relationship. Even when I was most in disagreement with him I never doubted his sincerity and singlemindedness and I am confident that he never doubted mine.

I had many talks at different times with Gandhi—in India in 1926 when his resistance movement was at its height, in London in 1931 when we sat together on the Round Table Conference and during the many months when as Secretary of State I was in India with the British Cabinet Mission discussing daily with him and other leading Indian Statesmen the future governance of their land.

I have sometimes heard it said that Gandhi had an animosity against this country, and that particularly in the later part of his life he tried to do harm to Britain and her Empire. This is quite untrue. Gandhi had no such feelings or designs. Throughout his life he carried with him friendly memories of the time he spent in England as a young man and of the English friends he made then and on other visits.

What distressed Gandhi was imperialism as he saw it expressed in the attitude of the British Government towards India. He believed passionately that this was soul-destroying not only to his own countrymen but to the nobler instincts for freedom inherent in the British people. It was against this that he formulated his battle cry of “Quit India” which he was careful to explain did not mean expulsion from India of men and women of British race but the end of British rule. And it was because the word Dominion smacked to him of Domination that he rejected the offer of Dominion Status.

I never discussed with him the precise form of relationship between India and the British Commonwealth which would be most acceptable to him after India obtained her independent status and in fact he died before the matter came to be decided at a Conference of Commonwealth Prime Ministers. But I have no reason to think that he would have disagreed with the attitude taken up by Pandit Nehru which was accepted there.

I did not find Gandhiji a very easy person with whom to negotiate a political settlement. Where he considered a matter of principle was at stake he was very unwilling to make concessions. Even when in verbal discussion he appeared to have conceded a point I frequently discovered afterwards that his interpretation of our talk was not the same as mine. Some little word or phrase he had used which seemed unimportant at the time, I found later rendered the concession nugatory.

On the other hand Gandhi was often most generous in attributing good motives to those who differed from him. Another of his endearing qualities was his unbounded faith in the possibilities of ordinary men and women. There was no height of nobility or sacrifice which he would hesitate to demand from them. And it was wonderful how often they responded to his faith in them.

But this too had its dangerous side for he did not always seem to me to realise that Governments in the exercise of their responsibilities must sometimes use compulsory powers to restrain wrongdoers from doing harm to others.

Gandhi was known as a Mahatma on account of his ascetic life and his great spiritual faith which he drew from Hindu, Christian, Moslem and other religious sources. He was a great man too in the mundane sense because he won the allegiance of tens of millions of his fellow men and women and was rightly accounted one of the architects of Indian independence. I treasure his memory not only for these qualities but as that of a firm personal friend during the major part of a long life.

Circular letter by F. W. Pethick-Lawrence

En route to Calcutta.—Outlines his and his wife’s activities during the last fortnight. Discusses in detail the political situation in Madras and the labour conditions there, and describes visits to Mysore and Madura.

(Mechanical copy of a typed original.)

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Transcript

En Route to Calcutta.
November 22, 1926.

It is only a month yesterday since we left England, and a fortnight ago in the train to Madras I was writing an account of our first experiences of India {1}.

I have rarely lived as strenuous fourteen days as those which I have just experienced. Thanks to the businesslike arrangements made by my friend Campbell I have seen almost everyone of any account in Madras—the Governor, all the non-elected members of the Madras Government, all but one of the elected Madras ministers, and all the principal members of the three political parties in Madras, “justisites”, “independents”, and “congressmen”; I have visited most of the factories of the city, I have addressed three trade union meetings and have discussed the labour position with the commissioner of Labour and with all the principal trade union officials; in addition I have travelled 300 miles west and spent 3 days in the State of Mysore seeing sights in the capital city Mysore and addressing two meetings in the adjacent city of Bangalor, and 300 miles south to Madura where we stayed with a landowner and spent two days visiting temples and investigating conditions in a neighbouring village.

Let me deal first with the political situation. We arrived in Madras on the day immediately following the election which had gone off quietly but not without considerable interest and excitement. We were told that quite a number of women had exercised the franchise, and that one woman had stood as a candidate in a rural constituency on the West Coast. Previous to the election the “Justice” members had formed the principal party in the Madras Legislative Council and therefore from them the Ministers had been selected. These ministers had charge of what are known as the “transferred” subjects, while the “reserved” subjects, according to the diarchy installed by the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms, were controlled by the members of the Legislative Council appointed by and responsible to the Governor alone.

My first meeting was with the members of the “Congress” party who are the Swarajists in Madras. Their main plank is the utter inadequacy of the amount of self government provided by the existing constitution. The diarchy of the provincial governments and the very limited powers given to the elected representatives in the (federal) Government of India are alike condemned by them. They do not want a commission appointed in 1929 by Britain to consider what modifications of the constitution she will be graciously pleased to grant to India, but a round table conference of Indians and British to arrange the details of the change over to complete “Dominion” status. They have abandoned the “boycott” of the Council as implied in the “non-cooperation” of Gandhi, and the “walk-out of the Chamber” as ineffective political weapons and substituted obstruction based as far as they understand it on the tactics of Parnell. On local issues they deny that they are in any sense either a “capitalist” party or a Brahmin party, pointing to the fact that most of the Trade Union leaders hold prominent positions in their ranks, and many non-Brahmins were their candidates at the recent elections. They support a wide franchise but point out that an illiterate franchise provides grave opportunities for corruption.

The Justice party consider the diarchy a piece of rather badly constructed machinery which will need very considerable repairs if it is to be made to work. But they are quite averse to jumping from that into complete self-government either in the local or in the federal government. They regard the Swaraj and Congress parties of Indian† as essentially Brahmin, and fear that they would use any power given to them [to] rivet fetters of Brahmin tyranny upon India. They look upon themselves as champions of the non-Brahmins generally including the large section of outcast “untouchables” who are so terribly oppressed at the present time.

The Independents have not any one point of view and hold many divergent opinions, some approximating to the “Congress” and others to the “Justice” party.

The Mohammedans have a special franchise of their own for the Assembly and a specially appointed member of the Legislative Council of Madras. As traders they have not troubled much about the higher education which has been so much sought after by the Brahmins, and some of those whom I saw are fearful lest greater self government may mean in practice subordination of Mohammedan to Hindu which they would resent and resist perhaps even by violence.

The English in Madras hold many varying opinions and those in official positions are naturally chary of expressing very definite views as to the future. I think however there is a general consensus of opinion that there has been a genuine attempt made both by the British and by the Indian majority-party to work the constitution and that it has not proved at all easy. Some think that self government ought to have been confined first to taluk boards and district boards (rural district councils and county councils). Few however would think it possible to go back on the provincial self-government already conferred. The most advanced x† view that I heard was that (since people prefer self-government to good government) complete self-government should be bestowed in 1929 on the Madras Presidency, the Governor becoming entirely constitutional, all the subjects including law and order and finance being “transferred” to the control of the popularly-elected assembly, and the whole government to be in the hands of ministers to be selected, as in England, from the majority party. But, and those who took this view were emphatic on this point, this handing over the reins in Madras must be accompanied by a tightening instead of s† loosening of the reins in the Government of India as a whole, and further it must by no means be assumed that self governing powers similar to those proposed for Madras should be given to all the other component parts of British India.

I do not propose, at this stage, to express any view of my own, and I will therefore only add that the result of the elections in Madras presidency has been a considerable victory for the Congress party, who are now the largest single party and will perhaps constitute an absolute majority of the elected members (out of a Chamber of about 130, 30 or more are official or nominated). The woman in S. Canara just missed being elected. Whether the Congress party will accept office—as minister for the “transferred” subjects remains to be seen. Their originally avowed policy was the reverse and they have given pledges to the Indian National Congress itself to this effect. But it is thought that Congress itself this December may give them absolution from this promise and that that may not be too late for their final reply to the Governor.

I pass now to Labour conditions. It is essential in this connection to remember that town factory labour forms but a tiny part of the total labouring population of the country. This is of the greatest importance both in itself—in order that true proportion may be preserved in the mind—and also because the conditions of agricultural labour have necessarily a great effect upon wages and conditions in the factories. If the factory worker retains one foot on the land he has to that extent a refuge from unlimited oppression in the factory. If there is a horde of ill paid half-starved agricultural labourers at the factory gates that will make a successful strike very difficult.

I am glad to say that after considerable investigation I obtained substantial agreement as to facts from the employers’ and workmen’s sides. But here the satisfaction ends, for the conditions are certainly deplorable. In the cotton mills of Madras a skilled man working nine hours earns from less than a rupee a day or some R24 a month (8/- a week) up to about R36 (12/- a week) with a few at higher amounts. At the railway works the hours are 8 and the wages of about 50% of the skilled men vary from about R18 a month up to R24 (6/- to 8/- a week), another 30 or 40% getting 9/- to 12/- a week, with some at higher levels. The coolies (labourers) get R10, R12, and sometimes as much as R15 a month (3/6, 4/-, and 5/- a week).

Of course the Indian has far fewer expenses than the British worker having next to nothing to find for clothes and fuel, while rent will be from 4d to 1/- a week. Nevertheless at least R32 a month (11/- a week) is needed for bare subsistence for man wife and 3 children, while R72 a month (24/- a week) was given me by some of the workers as a real living wage for a family. Consequently existing wages do not in many cases provide even a subsistence level unless several other members of the famil[y] are also working.

One of the obnoxious features of Indian factory life is that wages often do not commence to be paid until full six weeks after a man starts work. In the meanwhile he often gets into the hands of the moneylender and can never extricate himself again. Other complaints are as to fines and victimisation, and the fact that while there are elected representatives of employers on the legislative councils there are no elected representatives of Labour, also the utterly disproportionate wages given to Europeans and Anglo Indians (children of mixed marriages) who probably start at R84 a month (28/- a week) and rise to far higher figures.

In fairness I should like to say that I found one of the British-owned cotton mills considerably superior to the Indian ones. Some attempts were being made at good housing, education of children of the operatives, and welfare work generally including the provision of well ventilated rooms for mid-day dinner. In the Indian mill I was shocked to see workmen eating their food squatting on the floor in the midst of the machinery.

Behind the town operative lies the ryot (peasant farmer), behind the ryot lies the landless agricultural labourer of whom perhaps 50% are outcasts. Taking one year with another the peasant with the help of his family may get an average monthly income of R10 (3/6 a week) and upwards, the landless may get R9, R12, or even R18 or R24 (3/6, 4/-, 6/-, 8/- a week) in busy times for his own labour alone but his wages will sink to R9 a month (3/- a week) or less or nothing when times are slack. Of course his wife and children may also be able to earn something and there may be something to be got out of a cottage industry or even a village industry. But the total family income may very likely not reach R100 a year (£7. 10. -) and of that pittance the money-lender and other harpies may secure a considerable part. I do not give these figures as in any way accurate but rather as a rough estimate from the general talks that I have had. Possibly I may have occasion to correct them later. In any case they relate only to Madras.

{2} In the early part of my letter I spoke of my visits to Mysore and Madura. My wife and I went to the former as guests of the native ruler, the Maharaja. This Indian State is governed exclusively by Indians and has recently received a constitution from him in which there are two properly elected Houses. Though the Maharaja is not obliged to accept their advice I gather that he usually does so except on certain questions which he reserves exclusively for himself. The State is acknowledged to be very well governed and has to its credit the construction by exclusively Indian design and labour of the second largest dam in the world.

In madura† we were entertained by Mr. Foulkes a friend of Mr. Campbell’s. We went inside two most interesting Hindu temples, one of them having an area of some 40 acres including a beautiful artificial lake. I climbed an intricate stairway to the top of one of the towers and overlooked the city. On our second visit it was festival night and the temple was illuminated. Great crowds of worshippers as well as sacred cows wandered everywhere at will except into the holy of holies.

Not far from Madura is the village of Usilempatti where the interesting experiment is being made of weaning the tribe of Kullahs from dacoity (robbery) by the simple expedients of giving them water and thus enabling them to earn their own living from their irrigated fields, & by giving their children education in an elementary school. It appears to be quite successful so far, showing once more that the roots of crime are poverty and ignorance.

This letter should reach you a few days before Christmas. Please accept from my wife and myself for your own circle and for all your friends our hearty good wishes for Christmas and the New Year.

F. W. PETHICK-LAWRENCE.

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{1} PETH 6/125.

{2} The last sheet, which begins here, is marked “Keep Carefully only Copy.” and there is a cross in the margin alongside the paragraph about the village of Usilempatti. At the foot of the preceding sheet is written, ‘Note last Page taken by FWPL to Edinburgh 22/2/45 EK.’

† Sic.

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