Reactions In India


Foreign rule over a civilized community suffers from many disadvantages and many ills follow in its train. One of these disadvantages is that it has to rely on the less desirable elements in the population. The idealists, the proud, the sensitive, the self-respecting, those who care sufficiently for freedom and are not prepared to degrade themselves by an enforced submission to an alien authority, keep aloof or come into conflict with it. The proportion of careerists and opportunists in its ranks is much higher than it would normally be in a free country. Even in an independent country with an autocratic form of government many sensitive people are unable to cooperate in governmental activities, and there are very few opportunities for the release of new talent.

An alien government, which must necessarily be authoritarian suffers from all these disadvantages and adds to them, for it has always to function in an atmosphere of hostility and suppression. Fear becomes the dominant motive of both the government and the people, and the most important services are the police and the secret service.

When there is an actual conflict between the Government and the people, this tendency to rely on and encourage the undesirable elements in the population becomes even more strongly marked. Many conscientious people, of course, through force of circumstances, have to continue functioning in the governmental structure, whether they like it or not. But those who come to the top and play the most important roles are chosen for their anti-nationalism, their subservience, their capacity to crush and humiliate their own countrymen. The highest merit is opposition, often the result of personal rivalries and disappointments, to the sentiments and feelings of the great majority of the people.

In this turgid and unwholesome atmosphere no idealism or noble sentiment has any place, and the prizes held out are high positions and big salaries. The incompetence or worse failings of the supporters of government have to be tolerated, for the measure of everything is the active support given to that government in crushing its opponents. This leads to government cohabiting with strange groups and very odd persons. Corruption, cruelty, callousness, and a complete disregard of the public welfare flourish and poison the air.*

While much that the Government does is bitterly resented, far greater resentment is caused by those Indian supporters of it who become more royalist than the king. The average Indian has a feeling of disgust and nausea at this behaviour, and to him such people are comparable to the men of Vichy or the puppet regimes set up by the German and Japanese governments. This feeling is not confined to Congress men but extends to members of the Muslim League and other organizations, and is expressed even by the most moderate of our politicians.**

The war afforded a sufficient excuse and was a cover for intense anti-national activities of the Government and novel forms of propaganda. Mushroom labour groups were financed to build up ‘labour morale,’ and newspapers containing scurrilous attacks on Gandhi and the Congress were started and subsidized, in spite of the paper shortage which came in the way of other newspapers functioning. Official advertisements, supposed to be connected with the war effort, were also utilized for this purpose. Information centres were opened in foreign countries to carry on continuous propaganda on behalf of the Government of India. Crowds of undistinguished and often unknown individuals were sent on officially organized deputations, especially to the U.S.A., despite the protest of the central assembly, to act as propaganda agents and stools of the British Government. Persons holding independent views or critical of Government policy had no chance of going abroad; they could neither get a passport nor transport facilities.

All these and many other devices have been employed by the Government during the last two years to create a semblance of what it considers ‘public tranquility.’ Political and public life becomes dormant, as, indeed, it must in a country more or less under military occupation and rule. But this forcible suppression of symptoms can only cause an aggravation of the disease, and India is very sick. Prominent Indian conservatives, who have always tried to co-operate with the Government, have been filled with anxiety at this volcano which has been temporarily sealed at its mouth, and they have stated that they have never known such bitterness against the British Government.

I do not know and cannot tell till I come into contact with my people how they have changed during these two years and what feelings stir in their hearts, but I have little doubt that these recent experiences have changed them in many ways. I have looked into my own mind from time to time and examined its almost involuntary reaction to events. I had always looked forward in the past to a visit to England, because I have many friends there and old memories draw me. But now I found that there was no such desire and the idea was distasteful. I wanted to keep as far away from England as possible, and I had no wish even to discuss India’s problems with Englishmen. And then I remembered some friends and softened a little, and I told myself how wrong it was to judge a whole people in this way. I thought also of the terrible experiences that the English people had gone through in this war, of the continuous strain in which they had lived, of the loss of so many of their loved ones. All this helped to tone down my feelings, but that basic reaction remained. Probably time and the future will lessen it and give another perspective. But if I, with all my associations with England and the English, could feel that way, what of others who had lacked those contacts?

* The Bengal Administrative Inquiry Committee, presided over by Sir Archibald Rowlands, in their report, issued in May, 1945, say: ‘So widespread has corruption become, and so defeatist is the attitude taken towards it, that we think that the most drastic steps should be taken to stamp out the evil which has corrupted the public service and public morals.’ The Committee received, with surprise and regret, evidence that the attitude of some civil servants towards the public left much to be desired. It was stated that ‘they adopt an attitude of aloof superiority, appear to pay greater regard to the mechanical operation of a soulless machine than to promoting the welfare of the people and look upon themselves rather as masters than as servants of the people.’

** Hitler, an expert in compelling others to submit to his yoke, says in ‘Mein Kampf : ‘We must not expect embodiments of characterless submission suddenly to repent in order, on the basis of intelligence and all human experience, to act otherwise than hitherto. On the contrary, these very people will hold every such lesson at a distance, until the notion is either once and for all accustomed to its slave’s yoke, or until better forces push to the surface to wrest power from the infamous corrupters. In the first case these people continue to feel not at all badly since they not infrequently are entrusted by the victors with the office of slave overseer, which these characterless types then exercise over their own nation and that generally more heartlessly than any alien beast imposed by the enemy himself.’

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The Discovery Of India – Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru

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