The India Bill became law yesterday. The more than Herculean task which is now at last completed began with the appointment
of the Statutory Commission in 1927. From first to last our statesmanship suffered because the Secretary of State for India,
sitting in Westminster, was constantly tempted to think more of the difficulties in carrying a Bill through the British Parliament
than of the need for devising a Constitution not only suitable to Indian conditions but also satisfactory to India's natural
aspirations. Hence the original mistake of appointing a Statutory Commission composed exclusively of British Parliamentarians.
Hence, too, it came that in drafting the Commissions Report Sir John Simon wrote as an Englishman addressing himself mainly
to the British public, thus missing an opportunity to speak for and to India. The mistake was partially rectified and India's
voice was given a hearing at the three Round-table Conferences. Better results would have been achieved had those conferences
been more fully representative. But for their defects the Indian Congress must share the blame. In spite of all, these
conferences made an extraordinary change in men's minds both in England and in India, and active co-operation between the
Indian Princes and British India, hitherto regarded as unattainable in this generation, was surprisingly and immediately
secured on the initiative of the Princes. When the design for the new Constitution left the conferences and came back to
the hands of the British Cabinet, the Joint Select Committee and, and Parliament the atmosphere in India rapidly deteriorated,
the old mists of mistrust and pessimism rolled up again. Few of the men of the Round Table had much heart to dispel them.
Indeed, they had little chance of doing so., since in England the champions of the new Constitution had their thoughts
concentrated on defeating Mr. Churchill and his cavemen. For that end they laboured mightily to prove that the reservations
and safeguards gave the Governor General , the Provincial Governors, and the Princes complete control over India's future.
Young India paid more attention to these arguments than did Mr. Churchill or Lord Lloyd.
The contention that the new Act puts full dictatorial powers in the hands of the Governor General and the Provincial
Governors is perhaps true in law. But the crucial question is: "How far will these officers find it necessary to exercise
these powers?" The official answer may be: "As far as they judge it necessary and right so to do." But in practise
considerations of expediency must creep in beside considerations of morality. Cabinets responsible to Indian Legislatures
cannot in practice be overruled if they have behind them not merely emotional or factious excitement but the persistent will
of all good Indians - that is, a genuine national will. This same will force - not so far removed from Mr. Ghandi's soul
force - can make its influence felt also on the princely members of the Federation persuading them to raise the law and
administration in their States up to a standard of humanity not lower than that prevailing in Britain India. Thus the first
task for Indian statesmen at the Federal Centre and in the Provinces should clearly be to create such a national will,
capable of overriding communal differences, the selfish interests of races, castes, and occupations and even the doubts
and fears of a Governor General. The obstacles in the way of creating such a national will are many. First among them
some place the communal system of election which has been imposed by the demand of the Moslems, But not less serious
are the prevalence of poverty and weakening disease, the lack of education and knowledge of the world, especially among
the women, and defective communications which breed a more dangerous form of ignorance than illiteracy itself. These evils
explain why it was impossible to introduce adult suffrage and perhaps why it is undesirable that adult suffrage should be
introduced till some progress has been made towards remedying them.
But Indian politicians may choose to use the new Constitution not for creating a national will but tot demand it.
DISCLAIMER: The public material presented here is taken from various sources as it becomes available. It is presented without any
bias to, or interpretation of, the contents whatsoever. We would be grateful for any help anyone can provide in obtaining other such
public material of national importance to Pakistan in order to aid intellectual discourse and debate.
Return to List