Gandhi Versus the Empire

By Haridas T. Muzumdar | Go to book overview

CHAPTER..XXIV
PROVINCIAL AUTONOMY

This is Mahatma Gandhi's ninth speech at the Round Table Conference, the seventh before the Federal Structure Committee, delivered on November 25, 1931.

With the resurrection of the Simon Commission's recommendation for qualified Provincial Autonomy divorced from Central responsibility the Round Table began to sing its swan-song. Into the dying body oxygen was pumped by Professor Lees-Smith who insisted upon a discussion of the problem of responsibility. Were Provincial Autonomy to be anything like the position of the States in the United States of America, each with its full rights and privileges as a commonwealth, bound to the Center (i.e., the Federal Government) by a common loyalty, Gandhi would at once accept the proposition for Provincial Autonomy, even divorced from Central responsibility for the time being. But no, that was not to be. The British Ministers spoke of Provincial Autonomy but they were anxious all along to maintain intact the iron hand of the autocratic irresponsible British bureaucracy at the Center. Complete Provincial Autonomy would mean a weakened Center. But the British wanted to eat their cake and have it too!

Gandhi gave his definition of Provincial Autonomy-- of live Provincial Autonomy--and asked the British Ministers if they were willing to give it to India. Needless to say the British statesmen were flabbergasted. The hollowness of British pretensions is now exhibited to the world.

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