My Lords, you will have appreciated the comprehensive and able statement which has been made to-day on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, and will have particularly welcomed the fact that it has been made by the noble Earl, Lord Munster, who, after a period of active war service, has now returned to resume what was already a promising Ministerial career. We who are accustomed to sit on these Benches naturally follow with close and keen interest the development of the Indian situation, for the cause of Indian nationalism has always been of special concern to British Liberalism. We recall how the first great constitutional step forward during the present century was made on the initiative of Lord Morley—the Morley-Minto Reforms. That step was carried further by the initiative of the Secretary of State at the end of the last war, Mr. Edwin Montagu; and, when the discussions took place which resulted in the passing of the Government of India Act of 1935, it was Lord Reading and Lord Lothian who played a large and perhaps a decisive part in the course of the preceding negotiations.
When that Bill was passed, and when democratic Assemblies were elected under its provisions in the Provinces of India on a broad franchise, with Indian Governments responsible to them, we regarded that fact with the greatest satisfaction. We looked upon it as a triumph of constitutional democracy, by far the greatest achievement in that sphere that had ever come about in any oriental country. A year or so later I went to India in order to study the working of that Constitution, and, after visiting most of the Provinces and many of the States, and talking to some hundreds of people of all grades, classes and communities, I formed the very clear opinion that the Provincial Constitutions were working with remarkable success. Tributes to that success were paid by all who were in a position of authority, from the Viceroy downwards, and the fact was a matter of universal gratification throughout the whole of the British Commonwealth. Within the last few weeks a book has been published, the second part of the report of Professor Coupland of Oxford, who had been sent to India by Nuffield College to make a survey of the constitutional situation. This second part, with the title Indian Politics, 1936 to 1942, gives a careful review of the successes and the non-successes of the Provincial Assemblies and Governments, and on the whole reaches the conclusion that their achievements were admirable. They maintain firmly law and order. Your Lordships will remember that at the time of the Round-Table Conferences that was a subject of great anxiety—anxiety whether freely-elected Assemblies and Governments could be relied upon to maintain with firmness and success law and order in the great territories that were put under their rule. Those doubts, those anxieties were relieved by the course of conduct of those Ministries in the two-year period—a period all too short—during which they remained in office. In social legislation they had a remarkable record. Agrarian, industrial and educational reforms were carried of great scope and with great rapidity, and they were able, as it was anticipated they would be able, to carry far more drastic measures in that sphere than would have been possible to any alien Government, no matter how well disposed. The Budgets of the Provinces as a whole showed on social amelioration a doubled expenditure, and we Liberals felt that our faith in constitutional democracy had been justified. While through the history of the last fifty years we of course condemned the occasional outbreaks of disturbance and outrage, on the whole the aims and polities of the Indian national movement commanded our sympathy and our support. And what is true of the Liberal Party is true also, I think I may say, of the Labour Party, who shared and continued the Liberal democratic tradition.To our deep regret, of recent years there has come a divergence. The Congress Party, by far the best organized, the most active and most effective of the Indian Parties, has to a great extent thrown over the democratic philosophy which it has purported to defend and to promote. In spite of what has just been said by the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, it does show signs of turning towards totalitarianism. Not that it regards Mr. Gandhi as a dictator—I do not think he is—and the Working Committee of Congress plays a very large part, although undoubtedly under his strong personal influence. But they are a single Party claiming to speak for a whole nation, and they have insisted that the elected Ministries in the Provinces shall be subject to the instructions of their Working Committee and those within the Congress whom they term the “Higher Command.” Next to Mr. Gandhi the most distinguished figure and the most eminent figure in the Congress ranks is undoubtedly Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who has been designated by Mr. Gandhi himself as his successor, and whose ability and self-sacrificing devotion to the cause in which he believes, his lofty character and his great intellectual powers have made him a striking figure in the politics of India. In November, 1937, Pandit Nehru, referring to the electorate under the Provincial Constitutions, wrote as follows:
“That electorate plumped for the Congress candidates”—
that was in the Elections that had recently taken place—
“not because of their individual merits but because they represented the Congress and its programme. The vote was for the Congress. It is to the Congress as a whole that the electorate gave allegiance and it is the Congress that is responsible to the electorate.”
These are the significant words:
“The Ministers and the Congress Parties in the Legislatures are responsible to the Congress, and only through it to the electorate.”
And when the war came in September, 1939, and the Congress Party took a hostile attitude to the action of the Government of India at that time, the Working Committee sent instructions to the Congress Ministries in the Provinces where they had majorities in the Assemblies to resign, and they did resign. They resigned, not because they had lost the support of their Assemblies and were subjected to votes of censure, not because there was any movement of dissatisfaction among the people, not because it was their own desire to resign because they felt themselves unable to fulfil the tasks they had undertaken, for it was well-known that they resigned with the greatest possible reluctance, and were sorry indeed to put an end to the beneficent activities in which they were engaged. They resigned because, while de jure they were responsible to their electors, de facto they were responsible to the Working Committee of the Congress, the High Command, to a Party Committee. That is not democracy, that is totalitarianism. It is essentially the same political creed as animates Nazism, Fascism, and Communism. The Congressmen used to appeal to the principles of Macaulay and Mill, of Gladstone and Bright, but those great men would have profoundly disapproved this course of action, and undoubtedly would have sternly condemned it. Best organized and most active as they are, they are a Party and nothing more. And India is unhappy in that the line of Party division is the worst that any country can have: it is a division according to religious communities. The Congress undoubtedly would desire to include the Moslems within its own ranks, and there was a short period during its campaigns when it did secure a very large measure of Moslem co-operation. That is not so now. At the Provincial Elections where, as your Lordships know, the seats are allocated to a great extent according to communities, there were 424 seats, taking the Provinces as a whole, which were allotted to the Moslems. The Congress was only able to contest 58 of those seats with Moslem Congress candidates, and of those 58 they won only 26, and most of them were in the North-West Frontier Province, where the conditions are altogether exceptional. If you take the population of India as a whole—now approaching 400,000,000—the non-Congress sections, Moslems, Indian Christians, Sikhs, and the Scheduled Castes of Hindus number 183,000,000. The remainder, the Hindu community—and Congress is essentially a Hindu organization—number 206,000,000. So that the elements that support Congress, even if regarded as being entirely pro-Congress, which of course they are not, just as the other sections are not unanimously anti-Congress—still if you take in bulk the Hindus on the one side and the other communities on the other side, together with the Scheduled Castes (who are definitely in opposition to Congress), you have a proportion of 206 to 183. Therefore Congress can claim, at best, barely more than one-half of the population of India. Yet in the totalitarian spirit they claim to speak for the whole. Mr. Gandhi, when he called upon the British to quit India, said it would be for Congress to “take delivery.” The Moslems, of course, in no degree accept that position, and in no circumstances will assent to the solution which Congress proposes. They have claimed, in fact, what I regard as a most deplorable proposition—the division of India into at least two separate sovereign States, the policy of Pakistan. In August, 1942, the Moslem League Working Committee appealed not only to Indian opinion and British opinion, but to the whole of the United Nations, when they passed this resolution to which I would invite the very special attention of your Lordships. This is the resolution of the Working Committee of the Moslem League, which undoubtedly represents the political mind of the great bulk of the Moslem population:
“Having regard to the oft-repeated declarations of the United Nations to secure and guarantee the freedom and independence of the smaller nations of the world, the Working Committee invite the immediate attention of the United Nations to the demands of 100,000,000 Moslems of India to establish sovereign States in the zones which are their homelands and where they are in a majority.”
That is a very formidable development of the Indian situation. Those of us who believe in the principles of democracy cannot adhere, in all cases, to the simple principle of majority rule. That will apply in countries which are substantially homogeneous, like Great Britain, France, or the United States as it has now in effect become; but it cannot apply to countries where there are fundamental divisions, whether of race or religion, and divisions on matters which the people care more about than for anything else. It does not apply to countries like Ireland or Palestine or India. This divergence between Liberal opinion in this country and Congress has been accentuated by the fact that the Congress Party has not yet frankly recognized that. Mr. Gandhi has indeed said “there can be no Swaraj without a settlement with the Moslems,” and has used similar expressions on many occasions; but as yet Congress has made no suggestion of any sort or kind which would achieve such a settlement. Democracy means government by consent of the governed, and it is quite clear that democracy based on the principle of majority rule in India would, so far as the one-fourth of the Indian population who are Moslems are concerned, not mean the consent of the governed. There is a further divergence. This war which is now being waged in almost every part of the world is unquestionably a major crisis in the history of the world. That being so, all minor issues ought to take second place. The Parties in this country recognize that and have put aside, at all events for the time being, their controversies in order to unite in common action for the defence of world liberty. This country has, almost with unanimity, come forward in defence of these principles. But if this country, which, after all, had not been directly or immediately attacked by Germany, or if Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, or the United States had abstained from action, as Congress India has abstained, or as Eire has abstained, then indeed the principles of freedom everywhere would have gone under. We are fighting not only for our own liberties but for the liberties of India and of every other country, and those who now stand aloof are doing less than their duty to mankind. I mentioned just now the name of John Stuart Mill, who once wrote this:
“History is an unremitting conflict between good and evil powers in which whoever does not help the right side is helping the wrong.”
That is a principle which far surpasses any considerations of mere domestic politics. It is a pity that the leaders of Congress do not realize that glory is not to be won for the cause of India by abandoning the cause of mankind. They have not merely abstained from action. At first their policy was, if not to support, at all events to put no hindrance in the way of the war effort of this country and its Allies. But that was changed. Deliberately Congress proclaimed a formula which was shouted in the streets and became the slogan of the crowds in many parts of India. This was the formula:
“It is wrong to help the British war effort with men or money. The only worthy effort is to resist all war with non-violent resistance.”
With that slogan thousands courted arrest and imprisonment, and some 20,000 were, in fact, convicted in the courts and most sent to short terms of imprisonment. Then, finally, in the name of non-violence, they let loose a movement which was characterized in many places by the utmost violence. Of that the White Paper gives conclusive proof, and gives clear proof also of the complicity of Congress leaders in the disorders. There were disorders in which one thousand people lost their lives and material damage was done to the extent of more than £1,000,000. Lastly in this movement came Mr. Gandhi’s fast, which was an utterly illegitimate method of political controversy, levying blackmail on the best of human emotions—pity and sympathy. If it had been right for Mr. Gandhi to carry on his campaign by such a method as that, then it would be equally right for anyone else who feels deeply in any great cause to do so. If that were to become a method of political agitation, and if it were in any degree successful, it would mean that the management of the world’s affairs would be more irrational, confused, and unsuccessful than it is to-day. The only thing creditable to Mr. Gandhi about that fast was the ending of it. Meanwhile the Cripps Mission had been sent to India. Many of us in this House for two or three years were very active in criticism of the Government with regard to their Indian policy, or lack of policy. We were continually complaining that the Government had taken no initiative and the uniform answer was given from the Government Bench that it was not for the Government to take any initiative, that it was useless to do so, that it was only when the Indian Parties themselves had agreed that any progress could possibly be made. Then suddenly the Government, very wisely, changed their view, accepted all that we had been saying, withdrew all that they had been saying and sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India with very comprehensive and definite proposals. They chose the best spokesman who could be chosen and by general assent he discharged his task admirably. That the proposals were very comprehensive was all the more remarkable since it was done under the Premiership and with the authority of Mr. Churchill, who, in the controversies before 1935, had taken an opposite view. There was a breakdown in the Indian negotiations, but it was on points which would never have given ground for the collapse of those negotiations if there had been any real desire on the part of Congress to arrive at any settlement. Where there is a will there is a way, and a way would easily have been found if Congress had wished to come to a settlement. But that was a moment when Burma had just been occupied by the Japanese; the Andaman Islands also; there were air-raids on Colombo; the Eighth Army was standing on the defensive and its guns could be heard in Alexandria. The Germans were advancing on Stalingrad and into the Caucasus. It was a year ago to-day, April 6, when the Congress Committee sent to Sir Stafford Cripps a rejection of British proposals. That was the day on which for the first time enemy bombs were falling on the mainland of India, in the coastal towns of the Province of Madras. One can well understand that in the councils of the Congress Party at that moment there were many who would say: “Why should we have a settlement at this moment, and share in responsibility for the conduct of events and accept the invitation to take an active part in the war?” “Britain,” they would have said, “is clearly unable to defend India any more than she has been able to defend Malaya and Burma, and if India is to be conquered why antagonize the conquerors? At the best there is likely to be a long war; why should we share responsibility for imposing the hardships, and sacrifices, and restrictions that are inevitable upon the people? Let there be no settlement; let the British go now and leave the consequences to chance.” That was the view that was taken.Mr. Gandhi has made a clear pronouncement as to that. It has been reported in two versions. The White Paper gives one version and Professor Coupland’s book gives another, the same in substance but verbally slightly different. I will quote that because it is not exactly the same as the White Paper which your Lordships have. In Professor Coupland’s book Mr. Gandhi is quoted as saying on May 24, 1942:
“Leave India in God’s hands, in modern parlance, to anarchy, and that anarchy may lead to internecine warfare for a time, or to unrestricted dacoities. From these a true India will rise in place of the false one we see.”
That is not democracy. Democracy stands for good government, orderly government, strong government, and so far as British Liberals are concerned we would not consent, in the supposed name of liberty, to Britain marching out of India in order that chaos may rush in, with confusion, riots, civil war, and economic collapse. For that to be the end of 200 years of beneficent, constructive and pacific British activity in India would be an ignominous ending indeed. It would hold this country up to the scorn of our contemporaries and to the just censure of posterity in this country, in India and all over the world. So the hands of the friends of Indian nationalism in this country are tied by the doings of Congress itself and we must feel, since the Cripps Mission, that it is not the British Government which ought to be the object of our criticism. We may regret minor points, we may regret some action that has been taken in minor matters, we may regret the tone of pronouncements and publications that have come from Downing Street and New Delhi, not always very happily phrased. It is not only important what you say, but also how you say it. This White Paper itself may be very good journalism but it is not so good as a State document. We may urge that there should be a change in the constitutional position of the Viceroy, as I urged in the last debate, for reasons which I then gave and which I will not repeat, a change which would put the Viceroy in the same position as a Governor-General of the Dominions, would make him a true Vice-Roi, and would enable him to appoint some Indian statesman as a Prime Minister and to constitute an Indian Government. But such points could not bring a solution so long as Congress takes the attitude that it does and so long as the Moslem League adheres to its present position. We must await a change in the atmosphere in India, and perhaps there may be brought about by military victories a change in the atmosphere not only in India but everywhere. Meanwhile, to come to an end, the only new suggestion that one can make—it is not wholly new for others have made it—is that since the active politicians have brought matters to a complete deadlock and that deadlock seems likely to endure, would it not be possible, in order to help some change of atmosphere to take place, to relegate the matter from the active politicians to the realm of the political scientist, to let some studious exploration be made into the possibilities of various forms of Constitution applicable to the conditions of India? The principle of the majority rule having brought us to a dead end, what other possible principles might be applied? Professor Coupland himself is now engaged on the third part of his report which will deal with the constitutional possibilities. Nothing could be better than if Indians themselves, and perhaps on the initiative of the political science departments of the great Indian universities, were to take the initiative here, perhaps with the co-operation, if they so desired, of constitutional authorities of the United States and of this country. Meantime, this House has no alternative but to support His Majesty’s Government here and the Government of India, in the measure which is now before us to-day and any other measures necessitated by the intransigence of the Congress Party. We rejoice in the staunchness of the police, the Civil Service and the troops in India under conditions of great danger and difficulty. We rejoice at the enlistment of 1,500,000 volunteer soldiers in the Indian Army and the other Services. We rejoice, too, in the vast material resources that have been made available for the conduct of the war from India, and we hope for and look forward to the day when, in a Council of Asia, such as was adumbrated in the Prime Minister’s great broadcast of a few weeks ago, with a wiser leadership than has been vouchsafed to-day, India may be able to take a full and helpful part in world affairs.