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The debate on the 17th of December of last year, in which Lord Morley introduced, after long and laborious gestation, his scheme of Indian Reform before the brilliant assembly of the House of Lords, was an event of the highest national importance, and has rightly arrested universal attention. Indeed, it may almost be said that the spirit in which the debate was conducted (in spite of one disagreeable incident) lifted the measures into a higher atmosphere than they would themselves have been likely to reach to if treated on their own merits. Lord Morley's noble and courageous speech, the sincerity with which he expounded and justified his views, and the immovable calmness with which he refused to be deterred by any clamour from the course which he held to be right, together with Lord Lansdowne's dignified and cordial acceptance of the main outlines of the scheme, were in the very best Parliamentary manner, and showed how it is still possible to treat Indian affairs without the intrusion of any spice of party spirit ; whereas the measures themselves, if treated apart from the circumstances and conditions under which they are brought forward, might easily be belittled as containing hardly anything more than a moderate extension of the power of the Legislative Councils, whose first inception was in 1861 and which were created in their present form in 1892. VOL, LX-Vo, 384
This would, of course, be a very imperfect description of their nature; but Lord Morley, while claiming that he was opening a very important chapter in the history of the relations of Great Britain and India, did not fail to point out that he was making no departure from the past, but was pursuing the principle of increasing the share to be taken by the natives of India in controlling the affairs of their country, which the Indian Government has always held out as the goal of its efforts. In this connexion he referred to the address sent from certain English associations in Calcutta, which urged that drastic measures were needed to crush the prevalent spirit of anarchy, and that Orientals invariably interpret kindness as due to fear. This dogma he rightly repudiated as inapplicable to the present occasion, but it seems doubtful if his correspondents would so apply it; rather they would say that he had given them the drastic measures they desired by sanctioning the Summary Jurisdiction Act and the use of Regulation 3 of 1818, and that the reforms he was introducing could not be interpreted as concessions made from kindness or wrung from weakness. If, however, he had consented to other changes advocated by the discontented agitators, such, for instance, as the separation of the Judicial and Executive Services, which is not a step in the regular foreordained course of progress, but a reversal of all previous order, they would no doubt urge that, at the present time, it would not be accepted with gratitude, but would be treated as a sop thrown to smoothe down opposition.
It was wise for Lord Morley to insist as he did on the fact that his scheme is but an item in the normal historical progress of our rule, because that is so commonly forgotten by evil-disposed critics, who assert that the official tendency is to oppose the claims of the educated classes, the real fact being that the aims of both sides are the same, the only difference being whether the progress should be fast or slow. So generally is the fact ignored that even English visitors to India are frequently deceived and believe that there is habitual dislike of and opposition to native aspirations among the English community at large. Mr. Nevinson, for instance, who, though frequently misinformed, writes with much candour and sympathy, records that a lady said to him, 'To us in India a pro-native is a rank outsider. Such sentiments may perhaps exist among young subalterns or railway subordinates, but to anyone who knows the state of feeling in good society, and especially among the Civil Service, it sounds the acme of absurdity. If I may be allowed here to speak for once of my own experience, I know that I would never have joined the Service if I had not believed that the ultimate result of our rule would be to raise the people to a capacity for self-government, and for forty years I never ceased to labour to that end; and in this I was not singular, but rather a type of my class. If only Lord Morley's words sink into the minds of the eager aspirants for greater political power, who think that because they have passed the B.A. Examination in their University they have learned the secret of administrative rule, and if they help them to understand that we all of us desire what they desire, but know that it will come more slowly than they think, the great debate will have been an effectual solvent of much of the impatience and irritation which have led immature minds into law-breaking and anarchy.
Turning now to the measures themselves, the principal change is in the constitution, numbers, and powers of the provincial legislative, &c., councils. These bodies have consisted till now in the four chief provinces of from twenty-four to sixteen members, of whom more than half were officials. The remaining members were representatives of different interests, and were elected by such bodies as the Corporations and the Chambers of Commerce of Calcutta, Bombay, or Madras, the Universities, the groups of District Boards and of Municipal Boards, and in one case of landholders' associations. But when the word elected' is used it must be understood that the district and municipal boards did not elect their members direct, but chose delegates, who then proceeded to the election; and in all cases it was in the power of the Governor or Lieutenant-Governor to reject a person so elected, though that power was never, or hardly ever, exercised. Under the new scheme the Government of India's proposal was that the numbers should be raised to forty-seven in the four chief provinces, with smaller figures in the three other provinces, a sufficient number of officials being nominated to ensure a majority to the Government on all occasions. The classes to be represented were the same as before, and in addition, in all cases, there were to be elected members representing landholders and Mahommedans. They adhered to the principle adopted in 1892, that representation by classes and interests is the only practicable method of embodying the electoral principle in the constitution of their Councils. With regard to the landholders, a constituency might be created of all the larger landholders of the province, or of parts of it, who would vote for their member; or if it was found impossible to work such an electorate over a large area the power of election might be vested in the landholders' association. The case of Mahommedans is a little more difficult, because of their being in many cases a scattered and unorganised body. All the local governments approve the principle of special representation of Mahommedans chosen by a Mahommedan electorate, but it is criticised adversely by the Hindus as being an attempt to set one religion against another and to create a counterpoise to the influence of the educated classes. To this it might be answered that Mahommedans differ from Hindus not in religion only, but in social customs, habits of thought, history, and to a large extent in race, and that it is wise to recognise the facts which keep the two classes apart. As to the mode of election, the Government proposal was that when the formation of a regular electorate (based, for instance, on property and literary qualifications) was possible, that method should be adopted ; failing that, Mahommedan Associations should be made use of; and where neither method was practicable nomination by Government should be resorted to.
In the Secretary of State's despatch Lord Morley writes that he is in entire accord with these general principles, especially as regards the limited interests of corporations, universities, planting communities, &c., but he is impressed by the difficulty of securing satisfactory electoral bodies in the case of landholders, and especially of Mahommedans, and he attributes some weight to the Hindu criticisms mentioned above. He also objects that if a special electorate of Mahommedans commands a definite proportion of seats they ought not to have a right also to vote in the territorial electorates, based on rural and municipal boards, as that would give them a double vote. But the same objection applies to all the other special electorates, such as corporations, chambers of commerce, landholders' associations, or universities, the members of which often have seats on those boards; and, if necessary, it would be easy to provide by legislation against plural voting, while not rejecting the Indian proposals. He throws out an alternative scheme for consideration, founded on the principle of electoral colleges. He would form an electorate not for the whole province, but one for each suitable portion ; in the hypothetical example he gives there would be three such areas in a province of 20 millions. Each electorate would consist of (a) the substantial landowners, (b) the members of all the different kinds of boards, district, sub-divisional, and municipal; and these two classes would choose the electoral college of, say, one hundred members, according to numerical strength. Thus if the population consists of three-fourth Hindus and one-fourth Mahommedans, there would be seventy-five Hindus and twenty-five Mahommedans; and this college would then proceed to elect the actual representatives-say, three Hindus and one Mahommedan. If it is desired to give separate representation of landholders, the same system could be applied to the representation by choosing the proper proportionate number of candidates who belong to that class, to form a part of the electoral college to join in selecting a member. It does not appear, however, to have occurred to him that this suggestion violates the fundamental principle in which the Government of India and all the local governments agreethat the Mahommedan member should be chosen by a special electorate composed of Mahommedans alone.
This suggestion has called forth some not very intelligent criticism from people who have not taken the trouble to study the despatch, like Lord Macdonnell, who in a letter to the Times seemed to think that it would be possible for two Mahommedans to get in if they received more votes than any Hindu candidate. Others again have
thought that if the twenty-five Mahommedan electors scattered their votes among several candidates no one would obtain a sufficient majority, and that they could only get their man in if all plumped for him. Both these criticisms were erroneous, because the essence of the scheme is that there must be one Mahommedan member: if only one vote were given for him and ninety-nine for Hindus still the one Mahommedan would get in, and if ninety votes were divided between two Mahommedans only one would get in. But it also evoked very sound criticism from Major Synd Hussun Bilgrami and the All-India Moslem Association, who realised at once that it was a total departure from what they desired and expected. Mahommedan representation, as promised by Lord Minto, in reply to the great Mahommedan deputation, and as advocated by all the local governments as well as the Government of India, meant representation of Mahommedans by Mahommedans, whereas Lord Morley's scheme means election of Mahommedans by a united body of Hindus and Mahommedans, in which the former would generally preponderate. The result might very likely be that they would get a man chosen for them by Hindu voters who was very far from being agreeable to them and might be a renegade and a traitor to their cause. Mr. Ameer Ali has written forcibly, ' A nominee of the majority posing as a Mahommedan representative would often do more harm to Musulman interests than if they were wholly unrepresented.' Thus, in the hypothetical case stated in the despatch, even if the twenty-five electors united to vote for one Mahommedan whom they thoroughly trusted, the Hindus might throw twenty-six of their votes in favour of one who was pledged to take their side in a conflict of opinion, and then devote their remaining forty-nine votes to the choice of three Hindu candidates.
It is hardly possible that Lord Morley can have foreseen such a result as this, or can have intended, without explicitly saying so, to favour a plan directly contrary to that submitted to him, and there can be little doubt that the Government of India will urge that the Mahommedan members of Council must be elected by their coreligionists alone, and the suggestion in its present form will be dropped. I think, moreover, it will be found that both the Government of India and the Secretary of State have underrated the extent to which * Anjumans,' or Mahommedan associations exist and can be utilised for the purpose of choosing representatives. They have certainly increased in number of late years, and it may be doubted if there is any considerable town in which one such body does not exist. At any rate, if it were given out that a representative status would be given them, they would spring up everywhere, and it would perhaps be necessary to pass a law to provide for their registration (as also the registration of land holders' associations) under conditions which would afford proof of their reality and durability; and if this is done,