Tour Of India – South Indian Topics

February 5, 1912, MADRAS. -The Nationalist leaders here are extremely nice to talk to, and I think perfectly sincere. They admit the necessity of British rule for a long time to come yet, but they think a much larger percentage of Civil Service appointments should be given to them. In this respect their first demand is for simultaneous examinations, viz., an examination at Calcutta simultaneously with that in London. In itself that seems to me reasonable, but practically it would, I should think, bring about the break-down of the examination system, which is already extremely difficult to work satisfactorily out here, in the Universities. What happens is that when books are set for the B.A. degree (just as books are set for Greats or History at oxford), the Indians learn them absolutely off by heart. Consequently if you set a question like ” What did Mill owe to Ricardo ? ” they will write down Mill’s whole chapter on Ricardo verbatim without comment. Then when they are ploughed they hold protest meetings, sign petitions, agitate the Press, and even riot and mob the Senate House, demanding that all who have failed by one mark only should be passed, and so on. Learning by heart is their sole idea. of education at present : the Brahmans often teach their children the whole of some Sanskrit epic by heart, before the children understand a word of Sanskrit : and they’re all about as long as the Old Testament.

As for this Nationalist demand, the two sides give flatly contradictory evidence. Every English civil servant tells you that whenever an Indian has been given the final responsibility for any department, things have gone hopelessly wrong, and that their municipal corporations, etc., are as corrupt and incompetent as they can be. The Indians tell one that they are never given the chance of a free hand, and that English officials have an idée fixe that they will fail, and so never let them try. In the few cases, like the judicial service, where Indians rise to the top, they are as competent as English : and their corporations are no worse than English ones, and would be better if they weren’t official-ridden. My own impression is that in point of fact the Anglo-Indians are right, but that they don’t try enough to teach Indians the right way to regard public service. They give them their own example, of course, but then every Indian regards every Englishman as a confirmed madman, so that mere example doesn’t have its due effect. Also the Anglo-Indians, being thoroughly English, think that because Indians are clever therefore they are not able : whereas many of them are very able as well as clever : what they haven’t got is moral courage and stamina and ” character ” in that sense. But there are exceptions, and we ought to be keenly on the look-out for them and snap them up into our service.

If the Nationalists had their way now, I’m afraid the administration would soon fall into hopeless chaos : but I don’t believe the men I’ve met here are selfish and merely want to recover the Brahman monoply. They are quite unconscious of their weakness, and of course nothing will convince them of it—just like the Celts, who know they are cleverer than the Saxons, and will never see that that is no proof that they are as fit to govern.

February 7M, MADRAS. Madras has an air of its own, an air of peace and mildness and content. It has had good rains this year and looks much fresher than the districts dependent on the southwest monsoon. I believe it has only had one recent famine, the great one of 1877-8, when five million people died and the canal was dug. The natives are said to be the nicest and quietest in all India, and the whole place looks it. The I.C.S. people complain bitterly of the way they are always treated—neglected and sent to the wall. Bombay calls it the ” benighted Presidency.” The Government of India never asks for Madras civil servants ; it is ignored. Certainly it was very shabbily treated over the Durbar. Only seven honours, I’m told, out of four hundred and fifty were given to the whole Presidency—Bombay, no bigger, had about fifty or sixty—the King never came near it, and their Governor has been filched for Bengal. They are all so hurt about this that they take no interest in the change of capital or in the Bengal policy.

My hosts are friends of all the Nationalist leaders here and have asked several of them up for me to meet—none whose names are known in England, but quite important ones.

The first two to come were both members of Gokhale’s Society of the Servants of India. This Society has about twenty-five members, who, after undergoing a four-years novitiate, take seven vows to the effect that they will devote their lives to the service of India unselfishly and without thought of gain. They are vowed to poverty (thirty rupees a month), and are non-political ; but of course all the members are Nationalists, and (I expect) Hindus of high caste ; so that it is in great danger of degenerating into politics. At present they teach the poor, slum among the out-castes (behold Brahmanism shamed into imitating Christianity, clean against its own system !), and perform other philanthropic works. One of them is going to take me to see his slum work to-morrow : it involves breaking caste, of course, but apparently they dispense themselves.

The next day I met a Brahman who is a publisher of Nationalist works and the Secretary of the League for the Protection of Indians in South Africa (of which the Bishop is President). He explained to me the Indian grievance in South Africa, not adding anything new, except that he considered it a fallacy to suppose that the more expensive standard of living which white people have is a sign or part of higher civilization, and that he him-self still lived in a native house, though he had made a lot of money, and when he saw young English clerks on three hundred rupees a month taking houses at eighty rupees a month, he thought their ostentation barbarous and a selfish wastefulness.

After tea he complained of the Anglo-Indian attitude. He said they had . so come to regard India-ruling as their Divine right that they unreasonably denied that any Indian could rule any-thing, and when proposals to give charge of anything to Indians were mentioned to them it instantly roused their spleen.

I’ve no doubt that that is true. Nine times out of ten the Anglo-Indian is right, and so when the tenth and exceptional man comes along he refuses to judge him on his merits.

But you get, of course, a direct conflict of evidence, the I.C.S telling you that it is fearfully hard to find a trustworthy man for a native post, and the natives telling you that trustworthy men are not given a fair chance or proportion of posts. I here believe the I.C.S., and a proof is the judicial service. The Indians told me that so far as that went; at least, there was no reason why there should be a single English judge. The English tell you that the native judges follow precedents slavishly, and that native magistrates are corrupt. The proof of which if right is that native litigants often ask to be tried before English judges, and never ask not to be.

When I get an opportunity I will try and find out what they think about the Durbar, etc. A Mohammmedan merchant who came to tea approved of the changes, because, he said (sententiously), the aspirations of the Bengalis had been satisfied, and (with a grin) the capital was now to be Delhi. This man seems to me to have more sense than his co-religionists in Bengal. He did not seem to think much of the ” shattered good faith of England,” which is the only big argument, in my humble judgment, on the other side. But since everything goes by comparison, perhaps England could break faith every Durbar and still be regarded as a fabulous monster of honesty.

I am reading an anti-English and most interesting book called ” Essays in National Idealism,” by Ananda Coomaraswamy. He makes out a good case on many points, especially education, but the book as a whole is far the gravest indictment of the Nationalist movement, quite apart from sedition, that I have yet seen. It is fundamentally reactionary, and settles what are really ethical questions by aesthetic standards, as I believe the Irish do. For instance, he compares Imperialism to a gardener who roots up a soil’s natural flowers and plants sickly ones of a single type from a different soil. On that analogy we have done wrong in trying to eradicate the rank and luxuriant Indian growths of war, corruption, tyranny, and cruelty, and in replacing them by the sickly exotics of peace, honesty, justice, and mercy. The root of the whole conflict seems to me to be the question of the transmigration of souls.

February 1 have stayed on here another two days because my host pressed me to, and he was so interesting that I gladly did.

Of course he talked most about ecclesiastical affairs, but he said the most interesting things about the change of capitals that I have heard here. Most people here are indifferent, and say, ” Government will be farther off than ever, but in any case we can’t be more neglected than we are now, and we may hear less of Calcutta.” But my host argues thus : Hitherto Madras has been tied hand and foot to the apron-strings of the Government of India. For instance, he gave this example : One of the clergy (Government chaplains) in Madras had to go away on sick-leave for three months. The Bishop got another chaplain to take his work as an extra for that time gratis, but had to grant him L20 travelling expenses. This arrangement saved appointing a new chaplain, and therefore saved the Government L60. But the Government of Madras are in such a funk of the Government of India that they dared not sanction the expenditure, and it had to go to Calcutta. Permission was then granted, and arrived, after four months, when the sick chap-lain was back. Similarly every legislative reform has to be referred at each comma to Calcutta, and takes about five years to get through.

This over-centralization has grown possible because the Government of India is identified with the biggest city in India, so that the balance is upset : Bombay suffers almost as much as Madras ; whereas in future Calcutta will be a counterpoise to the Government of India, and never having been fettered it won’t submit to asking Delhi’s per-mission to spend every There is, therefore, great hope that Calcutta’s independence will win independence for Madras and Bombay, since every Presidency will have to be treated alike, and the balance may be restored.

If all this is true, I think this bureaucratic centralization is quite a legitimate grievance with the native politicians. It must choke the machine so that the work can only be got through by a mechanical rigidity of officialism. Thus, I am told, the Calcutta people know very little about South India, but try and force on it exact conformity to the Bengal pattern of administration. Then when they are criticized they denounce the critics as seditious.

This intolerance of criticism seems to me, as an outsider, one of the greatest defects of the Government here. It is the demoralizing effect of autocracy—the vice of schoolmasters on an Imperial scale. But the result is that they tend not to employ or trust any man with a spark of independence, and so drive honest men into the same pen with real disloyalists. Consequently they are unsympathetic to even the best native thought, and from this misunderstanding arises most of the friction and suspicion that were so rife a little while ago. When Lord Morley’s reforms were first promulgated, they wouldn’t put any of these important natives on to the Executive Councils, but appointed in each case a ” safe ” and useless man, and then complained that the Native Member of Council was no use. Whereas if, e.g., Bombay had appointed Gokhale, the ablest man (they say) of any colour in India, he might have done a tremendous lot.

That, at least, is roughly the Liberal (in a real sense) point of view, as voiced by the moderate Nationalists who are loyal. I must say I think their point is a just one : and the facts are hardly disputable in regard to the present state of things. Where I think (I have to give what I think for want of knowing better qualified people’s thoughts) the Nationalists* wrong is in imagining Indians are competent administrators. Experience proves clearly that very few of them are. Good government requires that we should run the machine for a long time to come yet : but we ought to jump at every really good Indian and use him, instead of driving him into opposition—remember the wisdom of Augustus. And we ought not to be afraid of criticism and a lot of the Indian criticism is good. Above all, we ought to keep our fingers on the pulse of Indian thought (and this is where Native Members of Council could be supremely useful), and be sympathetic to their ideas which are not our ideas. In matters like education we have been stupidly Western, and this galls the best Indians who care for Indian ideals.

The more intelligent, sympathetic, and liberal we are the more we shall isolate the disloyalists, and strengthen our position : and Heaven and civilization demand that we should not abandon India, at any rate till the Brahman power and monopoly is broken : to hand India over to them (as they now are) would be to set back the clock three thousand years.

I heard the following account of the Bengal affair, from an Englishman who was in Calcutta up to 1900. The universities were very, incompetently run. They are governed by senates, and a fellowship or seat on the senate had been used by Government as a cheap ” honour,” to palm off on promiscuous people. Consequently the university staff, course, and so on was settled by quite unfit persons, and the standard had got very low ; so that hundreds of men were in the universities who had no business to be there at all. In fact, seventy per cent. of the students were unfit. The universities charged extremely low fees and could only keep solvent by admitting large numbers, so that they dared not raise their standard for fear of driving the seventy per cent. to other universities. Consequently, the examinations, lectures, etc., were all framed for the unfit seventy per cent., and the fit thirty per cent. were intellectually starved. The numbers are so big and staffs so small that individual tuition is impossible. (Last year the candidates for matriculation in Calcutta University alone numbered ten thousand, of whom three thousand passed.)

Things were so bad that only Government could cope with it, and as Government finances the universities, it had ample right to interfere. Lord Curzon’s scheme was to screw up the whole thing all round—raise the fees, lessen the numbers, stiffen the examinations, and reform the senates. This was a difficult task anyway, and the talk of Government interference was so phrased as to be understood in some quarters as a menace. Consequently when the Bill appeared raising the fees and making a university career less easy, the educated Indians read into it sinister motives. They thought its aim was to reduce their numbers by seventy-five per cent. in order to weaken their power correspondingly. So they joined with the vested interests, viz., the university mandarins, and the seventy-five per cent. to oppose the whole scheme. The storm began in the Calcutta University, of which Lord Curzon was ex- officio Chancellor, and throughout the Bengalis took a leading part.

Lord Curzon was naturally angry with the Bengalis for opposing and in many points thwarting him. He regarded them as an unfriendly faction, whose power he would be glad to reduce.

Then came the question of Partition. It was necessary to divide Bengal for purely administrative reasons ; the only question was how to divide it. Well, the division ultimately adopted was one that left the Hindu Bengalis in a minority in both halves, since in Eastern Bengal they were out-numbered by Mohammedans (who are uneducated), while in Bengal itself they were outnumbered by the Oriyas, etc.

Whether Lord Curzon chose this division for this reason nobody knows, but since he was known to have his knife into the Bengalis, it was inevitable that they should think so : hence their agitation. The remarkable thing about that agitation was that it revealed the solidarity of the educated Indian politicians. The national idea had taken hold of them strongly enough to show them the value of acting together : and this was the first time they did so. Lord Curzon had not foreseen this new factor, and imagined he could ride rough-shod over the *educated Bengalis but the result was he raised a hornets’ nest all over India.

The unrest has now subsided, largely owing to Lord Morley’s reforms ; but it may break out again when some fresh question raises a grievance. And when that comes we are likely to find a number of really good men in opposition who might have been won to our side.

February, 1912, MADURA.-I have been moving in ecclesiastical circles all this week. It’s much more thrilling than it sounds, because there is everywhere an atmosphere of expectation, which one does not find at home. I only rather regret having only seen the Church of England at work. I did go round the Madras Christian College, how-ever, which is run mainly by Presbyterians. It is a very big one : there are eight hundred boys in the college and nine hundred in the school. They have a compulsory Scripture lesson, but no evangelizing. There are about a hundred Christians in the college, and of the remaining seven hundred about five hundred are Brahmans.

It is extremely rare for them to convert any-one ; but the boys assimilate a great deal of Christian ethics into their Hinduism, and their minds are cleared of active hostility or blind prejudices against it. The religious value of this familiarity may be realized by some future generation. It will help to steer them clear of the danger of mass-movements. A sudden Christianity is a dangerous thing. Down here they haven’t yet shaken off caste; and you get Christian congregations which drive Pariahs out of the churches, or demand a separate chalice, or refuse to work among them. In bad cases the bishop interdicts the congregation till it submits.

I saw a very practical illustration of the defects of the caste-system when I went slumming in Madras. The condition of the sweepers’ quarter was unspeakably filthy; and they told me it belonged to a high-caste landlord, to whom it would be pollution to come and see for himself the foetid condition of his property. It really was rather painful to see. The only alleviating touch was introduced by the two imps who showed us the way. We passed an old cow tethered by the hind-leg. We stepped over the rope, but they both suddenly went flat on their faces in the dirt and crawled under it, explaining with grins that it was not right to show disrespect to cows. If you could have seen the cow!

I met a police-officer in Madras who for once stood up for that much-abused body. He denied, for instance, that they ever tortured ; but some of the things he admitted they did do seem to be almost worse. For instance, he told us a story of how they were short of evidence against a suspected murderer : so they badgered him till he was cowed, and then induced him to confess by promising to do their best to get him off if he would. Once they had extorted the confession they proceeded without delay to try, convict, and hang him. This strikes me as at least a gross violation of the decencies of criminal investigation.

Of course the native police think us wholly unreasonable in objecting to their little practices. As they pathetically complained to their chief in Bombay, ” A crime is committed. If we catch no prisoner, the sahibs blame us. If we catch one, and make him confess, they blame us still more.” The same man who stood up for the Indian police was rather scathing about Indian judges. He said they weren’t corrupt, though native litigants always assumed they were : but they were often incompetent, and he also instanced one who was always drunk and another who was a physical wreck. Of course one source of difficulty is that the I.C.S. people, being very competent themselves, are so intolerant of incompetence that they can’t endure to wait while Indians learn through their own mistakes. That is why the old-fashioned civilian is disgusted at the amount of work entrusted to Indians already, and I have heard them say they will never advise ‘a son of theirs to come out here, as it is ” no longer a white man’s country!”

That reminds me, this place is afflicted with the quaint curse of Eurasian beggars. The Eurasian’s prime aim in life is to prove himself a white man, so he will never do manual work, and often,. being quite uneducated, he is reduced to begging. But even begging has to be done sahib-fashion : so they drive up to your door in a bandi (which you have to pay for) and tell you a heartrending story of their destitution ; but if you are moved to give them a cast-off pair of trousers, they insist on your sending your servant to carry it home for them.

I forgot to tell you last week a pleasing story I heard from one of the South Mahratta country clergy. He introduced cricket into his school to foster a manly spirit, and the boys got quite keen on it. Gradually he evolved a team and arranged a match with a neighbouring school. He told his team that they must work their hardest to win, and to encourage them he gave them fifteen rupees to spend on new bats or whatever would be most useful. When the day came, the team turned out for the match full of quiet confidence, but with all their old accoutrements. “Why,” asked the padre, “what have you done with those fifteen rupees I gave you?” “Well, sir,” replied the captain, “we thought it best to spend it all on the umpire.”

They won.