Item 104 - Letter from Hasan Shahid Suhrawardy to R. C. Trevelyan

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Letter from Hasan Shahid Suhrawardy to R. C. Trevelyan


  • 6 Nov 1931 (Creation)

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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.

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Several annotations, perhaps in another hand.

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