« PreviousContinue »
shrift, broke off from the Moderates, and held a congress of their own at Bombay on Aug. 29, under the Presidency of Syed Hassan Iman, ex-judge of the Patna High Court. The Extremist Congress rejected the Reform scheme, and demanded completely responsible government for the Provinces at the end of six years, and, for Hindustan as a whole, at the end of fifteen. After this split Mrs Besant severed her connexion with the Extremists, and in consequence was compared by them to Putanna, the fiend who tried to strangle the infant Krishna. In January 1921 she broke away from the National Congress altogether, regarding it as the organ of the Extremists, and likely to lead India to ruin.
During the war, a widespread anarchical conspiracy was revealed by the Rowlatt Sedition Inquiry Commission. In 1916 Lord Carmichael, Governor of Bengal, gave the figures of political crime in that province, in the period 1907-16, as amounting to 39 murders and over 100 political dacoities. In 1917, his successor, Lord Ronaldshay, in a speech at Dacca, regretted that the gruesome catalogue has been added to, even during the short period of my own rule,' and announced the appointment of a Commission of Inquiry under an English Judge of the High Court. The Commission was presided over by Mr Justice Rowlatt, and included two Hindu lawyers of high caste and Congress sympathies. Its report, which was unanimous, was published on Aug. 15, 1919. The report includes a survey from 1907 to 1917 of seditious conspiracies and crimes in Bombay, Bengal, the United Provinces, the Panjab, Madras, and Burma, with special emphasis on Bengal and the Panjab, as the worst centres of conspiracy. It describes the dangers which threatened India in 1915, from German intrigues for the purpose of fomenting rebellion in Bengal and of landing cargoes of arms for the use of the rebels, and from the anarchical activities of the emigrants of the Ghadr conspiracy in the Panjab, who had returned from America. This Ghadr conspiracy was aimed at the British Government of India with the object of taking revenge upon it, for the action of the self-governing Colonies, especially Canada and South Africa, in restricting the free immigration of Asiatics. The report goes on to refer to anti-British associations among the Mahomedans, and describes the method of organisation of secret societies. It concludes by giving reasons for the failure of the administration of justice under the Ordinary Law, and makes suggestions for its amendment.
Since the Defence of India Act (1915), which was very useful in fighting sedition, became inoperative six months after the Peace, and since the danger from sedition still threatened, it was important to have some legal provision to put in its place. The Rowlatt Commission proposed certain emergency measures, to be put in force after a notification by the Governor-General declaring a province or district to be so disturbed as to justify them. In the proclaimed province or district, (1) All persons accused of sedition were to be tried before three judges of the highest status, without appeal and without assessors or juries who might be influenced by public opinion or terrorism. (2) Provincial Governments were to be invested with powers of internment, without trial, of persons suspected of seditious crime, similar to those provided by the Defence of India Act, but modified by checks in the shape of local investigating and visiting committees, in which non-officials were to take part.
The system of internment under the Defence of India Act had been inquired into by Mr Justice Beachcroft and Sir Narayan Chandravarkar, ex-judge of the Bombay High Court. Out of 806 cases inquired into by them they recommended release in only six. The Rowlatt Commission, therefore, saw no risk in the continuance of internment even in time of peace. Early in 1919, the Government of India announced that they would introduce legislation, on the lines of the Report of the Rowlatt Commission, in the February session of the Imperial Legislative Council. The Government Bills to cope with anarchical and revolutionary crime' met with bitter opposition in the Legislative Council, which was not disarmed by the Government concession that they should be only in force for three years; but the Bills were ultimately passed into law on March 18, 1919.
It was this event which brought Mr Gandhi into prominence as the leading champion of Indian nationalism.
a member of the English bar who first became known through his opposition to the
restrictions imposed upon Indian trade and immigration by the Government of South Africa. Early in 1919, he started an opposition to the Rowlatt legislation by calling on all his followers to take the Satyagraha' pledge of insistence on truth or passive resistance. They were .faithfully to follow the truth and refrain from all violence to life, person, and property,' but to refuse obedience to the Sedition Law, and all such other laws as a Committee to be hereafter appointed might condemn. We have a description of the effect of the Satyagraba pledge by the Hunter Commission appointed to inquire into the Panjab disorders.
We have no hesitation in saying that, both in the Panjab and elsewhere, a familiarity and a sympathy with disobedience to law was engendered among large numbers of people by Mr Gandhi's movement, and the law-abiding instincts, which stand between Society and outbreaks of violence, were undermined, at a time when their full strength was required.'
In addition, he proclaimed a universal 'hartal,' or cessation from business, as a protest against the Rowlatt legislation. The most mendacious rumours were circulated as to the effect of this legislation; and the consequent unrest was aggravated by scarcity, following on bad harvests. The first result of Mr. Gandhi's pernicious activity was seen in the riots at Delhi (March 30, 1919). He was on his way to the Panjab, but was turned back by Government order, and fresh outbreaks of disorder followed. On April 10, there were civil disturbances at Bombay, Ahmadabad, and Viramgam; and at Nadiad a troop-train was deliberately derailed. At Lahore, about the same date, the rioters, both Hindus and Mahomedans, banded themselves together against the Europeans. At Amritsar, the excesses of the mob forced the civil authorities to summon the military to restore order, and on April 11, General Dyer, who was in military command, fired on the crowd at Jallianwala Bagh. General rioting and attacks upon Europeans followed, till, on April 15, martial law was proclaimed throughout the Panjab, and military forces, including an armoured train and aeroplanes, were used against the rioters. Sir Michael O'Dwyer proposed that civilian magistrates should advise on the administration of martial law, but the Government
of India refused to consent, on the ground that the responsibility then solely rested with the military. Had Sir Michael's advice been followed, the 'freak' punishments so much complained of, which were imposed by young and inexperienced military officers, might have been avoided. When all this mischief had been done and the forces of disorder unloosed, Mr Gandhi complacently confessed that he had 'underrated the forces of evil,' and ordered the suspension of civil disobedience.
On May 22, 1919, Mr Montagu announced his intention to appoint a commission, under the chairmanship of Lord Hunter, a Scottish judge, to inquire, during the winter of 1919-20, into the disorders in the Panjab and elsewhere. The debates in both Houses of Parliament, following the publication of the Hunter Commission Report in April 1920, are so fresh in all memories that it is unnecessary to discuss them beyond remarking that it was a misfortune that, after the Commons had given their decision, the Lords did not allow the fires of racial hatred to die down, but insisted upon reopening the matter, and, by their opposition to the Government and the Lower House, giving Indian malcontents the opportunity to assert that, after all, the opinion of the governing classes in England approved the action of General Dyer.
The penalty of dismissal inflicted on General Dyer for what was called 'preventive massacre' was denounced as totally inadequate in India. To remedy the so-called Panjab miscarriage of justice' by the infliction of a heavier penalty on General Dyer and the punishment of all the officers concerned in the administration of Martial Law was one of the objects of the Khalifat agitation. The other object, the amendment of the Treaty of Peace with Turkey, was a result of PanIslamism. The agitation was greatly assisted by the unfortunate delay in the signature of the Turkish Treaty, and the plots of Mustapha Kemal and other Turkish Nationalists. It had no justification, after Turkey had herself signed the Treaty of Peace, but it was continued by Mr Gandhi with the avowed object of ruining the prospects of success of the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms. The Khalifat Committee, presided over by Mr Gandhi and Mr Shaukat Ali (who, with his brother Mahomed Ali, was interned during the war for his proTurkish sympathies), has, during 1920, taken up an attitude of constantly increasing aggressiveness towards the British Government. It began by the threat of boycotting the visit to India of the Prince of Wales. It engineered the movement of the Muhajireen, by which numbers of Mahomedans were induced to sell their goods by the persuasion and assistance of Hijrat (or Migration) Committees, and to emigrate to Afghanistan as a country under Mahomedan rule. In August last the Amir refused to receive any more emigrants from India; and many of the emigrants have since returned to India sadder and wiser men.
Mr Gandhi's failure to obtain the removal of the • Colour Bar' in South Africa has affected his whole attitude towards British rule in India. He looks on British administrators as hypocrites, falsely professing an interest in India's welfare, when they are really animated by selfish ends. He is both Mahatma and Revolutionary, being a man of ascetic life and voluntary poverty, as well as an advocate of the most sweeping political changes. He unites politics with religion, which is the secret of his influence, for, to the ignorant Indian masses, politics mean little, unless connected in some way with religion. He has adopted NonCo-operation from Tolstoy, who, twelve years ago, advised a Hindu correspondent as to his relations with the British Government in India thus : *Do not fight against the evil, but on the other hand take no part in it. Refuse all co-operation in the Government administration, in the law courts, in the collection of the taxes, and above all, in the army, and no one will be able to subjugate you.' He is an opponent of modern civilisation on account of its materialistic tendencies.
India's salvation consists in unlearning what she has learnt during the past fifty years. The railways, telegraphs, lawyers, doctors, and such-like have all to go, and the socalled upper classes have to learn to live consciously, and religiously, and deliberately the simple peasant life, knowing it to be a life giving true happiness.'
In this effort to set the clock backwards, he is not