CHAPTER XXXIV
The Twenties

When the Duke of Connaught inaugurated the reforms in February, 1921, nonco-operation was at its height. Mahatma Gandhi described this new system, which he had proposed to accept without conditions fifteen months earlier, as "a whited sepulchre." Feeling was intense; in some cases (as in Delhi) illiterate candidates were put up for the legislature and elected in derision. Nevertheless one-third of the electorate voted (about half the usual voting strength, as subsequent experience has shown) and enough able men were elected for ministries to be formed. The start was inauspicious but a start had been made.

History has shown that this was the moment when India crossed the Rubicon from authoritarianism to democracy. For there was to be no going back, only successive and lengthening strides toward freedom and popular government. The decade of the process in the twenties falls naturally into three sections. The first we may term the Liberal prelude, the second the Swarajist era, and the third the Simon boycott. During the first period the government of India had to work with Liberal ministries in India while facing right-wing criticism in Britain and Congress nonco-operation. It was fortunate for the experiment that Liberal influence was still considerable in the Lloyd George coalition and in Britain and was represented by Viceroy Lord Reading in India. Those in supreme authority wanted the experiment to succeed and were prepared to take risks on its behalf. While nonco-operation reached its emotional peak with threats of a no-tax movement and disintegrated after the arrest of Mahatma Gandhi, the new system gradually gathered confidence. At the center there was a new awareness of public feeling and a new desire to meet its wishes. There was a new sense of the dignity of India together with a reduction of pressure from London. The British official had often championed Indian interests against British commercial ones in the past, and now Whitehall no longer over

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India: A Modern History
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