The New Nationalist Movement in India

Four decades before Indian independence, a writer raises the question, "Why is England in India at all?"

Another burden upon the people of India which they ought not to be compelled to bear, and which does much to increase their poverty, is the enormously heavy military expenses of the government. I am not complaining of the maintenance of such an army as may be necessary for the defense of the country. But the Indian army is kept at a strength much beyond what the defense of the country requires. India is made a sort of general rendezvous and training camp for the Empire, from which soldiers may at any time be drawn for service in distant lands. If such an imperial training camp and rendezvous is needed, a part at least of the heavy expense of it ought to come out of the Imperial Treasury. But no, India is helpless, she can be compelled to pay it, she is compelled to pay it. Many English statesmen recognize this as wrong, and condemn it; yet it goes right on. Said the late Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman: "Justice demands that England should pay a portion of the cost of the great Indian army maintained in India for Imperial rather than Indian purposes. This has not yet been done, and famine-stricken India is being bled for the maintenance of England's worldwide empire." But there is still worse than this. Numerous wars and campaigns are carried on outside of India, the expenses of which, wholly or in part, India is compelled to bear. For such foreign wars and campaigns—campaigns and wars in which the Indian pcople had no concern, and for which they received no benefit, the aim of which was solely conquest and the extension of British power—India was required to pay during the last century the enormous total of more than $460,000,000. How many such burdens as these can the millions of India, who live on the average income of $6 a year, bear without being crushed?

Perhaps the greatest of all the causes of the impoverishment of the Indian people is the steady and enormous drain of wealth from India to England, which has been going on ever since the East India Company first set foot in the land, three hundred years ago, and is going on still with steadily increasing volume. England claims that India pays her no "tribute." Technically, this is true; but, really, it is very far from true. In the form of salaries spent in England, pensions sent to England, interest drawn in England on investments made in India, business profits made in India and sent to England, and various kinds of exploitation carried on in India for England's benefit, a vast stream of wealth ("tribute" in effect) is constantly pouring into England from India. Says Mr. R. C. Dutt, author of the Economic History of India(and there is no higher authority), "A sum reckoned at twenty millions of English money, or a hundred millions of American money [some other authorities put it much higher], which it should be borne in mind is equal to half the net revenues of India, is remitted annually from this country [India] to England, without a direct equivalent. Think of it! One-half of what we [in India] pay as taxes goes out of the country, and does not come back to the people. No other country on earth suffers like this at the present day; and no country on earth could bear such an annual drain without increasing impoverishment and repeated famines. We denounce ancient Rome for impoverishing Gaul and Egypt, Sicily and Palestine, to enrich herself. We denounce Spain for robbing the New World and the Netherlands to amass wealth. England is following exactly the same practice in India. Is it strange that she is converting India into a land of poverty and famine?"

But it is only a part of the wrong done to India that she is impoverished. Quite as great an injustice is her loss of liberty,—the fact that she is allowed no part in shaping her own political destiny. As we have seen, Canada and Australia are free and self-governing. India is kept in absolute subjection. Yet her people are largely of Aryan blood, the finest race in Asia. There are not wanting men among them, men in numbers, who are the equals of their British masters, in knowledge, in ability, in trustworthiness, in every high quality. It is not strange that many Englishmen are waking up to the fact that such treatment of such a people, of any people, is tyranny: it is a violation of those ideals of freedom and justice which have been England's greatest glory. It is also short-sighted as regards Britain's own interests. It is the kind of policy which cost her her American Colonies, and later came near costing her Canada. If persisted in, it may cost her India.

What is the remedy for the evils and burdens under which the Indian people are suffering? How may the people be relieved from their abject and growing poverty? How can they be given prosperity, happiness, and content?

Many answers are suggested. One is, make the taxes lighter. This is doubtless important. But how can it be effected so long as the people have no voice in their own government? Another is, enact such legislation and set on foot such measures as may be found necessary to restore as far as possible the native industries which have been destroyed. This is good; but will an alien government, and one which has itself destroyed these industries for its own advantage, ever do this? Another is, reduce the unnecessary and illegitimate military expenses. This is easy to say, and it is most reasonable. But how can it be brought about, so long as the government favors such expenses, and the people have no power? Another thing urged is, stop the drain of wealth to England. But what steps can be taken looking in this direction so long ns India has no power to protect herself? It all comes back to this: the fundamental difficulty, the fundamental evil, the fundamental wrong, lies in the fact that the Indian people are permitted to have no voice in their own government. Thus they are unable to guard their own interests, unable to protect themselves against unjust laws, unable to inaugurate those measures for their own advancement which must always come from those immediately concerned.

It is hard to conceive of a government farther removed from the people in spirit or sympathy than is that of India. There has been a marked change for the worse in this respect within the past twenty-five years, since the vice-regal term of Lord Ripon. The whole spirit of the government has become reactionary, increasingly so, reaching its culmination in the recent administration of Lord Curzon. The present Indian Secretary, Lord Morley, has promised improvement; but, so far, the promise has had no realization. Instead of improvement, the situation has been made in important respects worse. There have been tyrannies within the past two years, within the past three months, which even Lord Curzon would have shrunk from. There is no space here to enumerate them.

Presented by

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

Video

The Rise of the Cat Tattoo

How a Brooklyn tattoo artist popularized the "cattoo"

More in Global

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In