Speeches and Documents on the Indian Constitution, 1921-47 - Vol. 1

Speeches and Documents on the Indian Constitution, 1921-47 - Vol. 1

Speeches and Documents on the Indian Constitution, 1921-47 - Vol. 1

Speeches and Documents on the Indian Constitution, 1921-47 - Vol. 1

Excerpt

In his famous speech in the House of Commons on the Charter Bill of 1833, Macaulay, who then held the post of Secretary to the Board of Control (which exercised supreme supervisory authority in respect of Indian affairs), said: 'It may be that the public mind of India may expand under our system till it has outgrown that system; that by good government we may educate our subjects into a capacity for better government; that, having become instructed in European knowledge, they may in some future age demand European institutions. Whether such a day will ever come I know not. But never will I attempt to avert it or retard it. Whenever it comes it will be the proudest day in English history.' Such sentiments were often expressed by British statesmen and administrators, but reforms in the democratic direction were slow in coming. Although Bentinck and Dalhousie had advocated the inclusion of eminent Indians in the Legislative Council, it was not until 1861 that the first step in this direction was taken. But, even after fifty years, under the reforms of 1909, a majority of official members was maintained in the Central Legislature, and a majority of nominated members (official and non-official) in the Provincial Legislatures, except in the Province of Bengal, wherein the elected members were in a majority of two. No claim was made at the time that the Government of India was in any sense democratic. Morley, the Secretary of State for India, disclaimed that his proposals led directly or necessarily to the establishment of a parliamentary system in India. While he hoped that India would reach the status of a self-governing colony some day, he made no secret of his conviction that 'for many a day to come--long beyond the short span of time that may be left to us--this was a mere dream'. Similar views were expressed by Lord Crewe, who succeeded Morley as the Secretary of State for India. The official policy from 1861 onwards was to associate Indians in an increasing degree with the administration of the country, but there was no intention to develop self-governing institutions.

Almost until the dawn of the present century the people of India seemed to acquiesce in this policy of their masters with mild protests and prayers for a better deal. The first popular movement began under the leadership of Tilak in Maharastra in the nineties of the last century, and the partition of Bengal in 1905 gave a great fillip and a radical turn to the nationalist movement. In 1906 Dadabai Navroji, in his Presidential address to the annual session of the Indian National Congress, placed before the people swaraj or self-government as the goal to be attained. World War I had a remarkable effect on the attitude of both the rulers and the ruled. In India there was a great quickening of political consciousness. The Home Rule movement led by Mrs Annie Besant and Tilak created considerable enthusiasm among the mass of the people. In England, too, there was a good deal of re-thinking and re-evaluation of old policies, and these led to the historic announcement of 20 August 1917: 'The policy of His Majesty's Government, with which the Government of India are in complete accord, is that of the increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire. . . . I would add that progress in this . . .

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