Gandhi Versus the Empire

By Haridas T. Muzumdar | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXI
THE CONTROL OF THE ARMY

This is Mahatma Gandhi's sixth speech at the Round Table Conference, the fourth before the Federal Structure Committee, delivered on November 17, 1931.

For two months the Conference pursued its devious course discussing non-essentials, shelving the essential points which had brought Gandhi to London, namely, federation, responsibility at the Center and safeguards which might be demonstrably necessary in the interests of India. As Mr. Wedgwood Benn, former Secretary of State for India, put it, "We had reached the very last meeting of the Federal Structure Committee without approaching the center of the problem." Or as Mr. H. N. Brailsford put it more strikingly, "Matters of secondary importance it had been permitted to debate with tedious completeness. All were agreed that the Upper House of its Assembly shall have one hundred, and the Lower House two hundred members. But whether these three hundred persons will constitute a Parliament or a Debating Society is still in doubt, for no one knows whether, or when, or how far they may meddle with Finance, the Army or Foreign Policy."

For the transfer of control of the army from British to Indian hands Gandhi puts forth the clinching argument: "A nation that has no control over her Defense Forces and over her External Policy, External Affairs, is hardly a responsible government." On the score of that fundamental postulate he had no difficulty in saying what should happen to the British and the Indian sections of

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