22 FEBRUARY 1930, Page 18

[To the Editor of the SPECTATOR.] SIR, —I doubt if

the British Democracy sees the political cata- clysm before it in India. If it takes the extreme course on either side it will, it seems to me, create in history a shameful record. One is—to lock the door against further develop- ment, having brought the people by an unselfish policy well on the road to self-government ; the other is to hand over the moulding of the future to an uncontrolled section of men and boys who applaud assassination, who would repudiate public

debts and (worst• of all-in the end) who are under the—often subconscious—influence of the cruel spirit of caste, though it may be hidden for the time for the beguiling of the British public. - - Most of us who have lived among the people and studied them would choose a middle course. The suggestion that popular opinion in the villages desires absolute " self-govern- ment" we believe to be quite untrue. A stranger can have no idea of how a few active propagandists, with the local Ian-. gtiage on their tongues, can set a-going for a time in a whole district the most egregious fictions, especially if they concern the rulers. In the earlier days of plague it was a generally accepted belief that the disease was spread by emissaries of Government, who went about poisoning the wells in order to counteract the overgrowth of population.

Cases actually occurred of assaults on Europeans who hap. pened to be alone near villages at evening time. The votes of credulous electorates such as these are easily manipulated. Yet, in spite of all, the remaking of India has been steadily going on under silent British influence. To take perhaps one of the chief outstanding results, we found the many millions of " untouchables " denied all human rights, treated as lower animals, not men. Gradually, with British sympathy 'and backing, they have won equality before the law and, to some extent, in social life. Deprived of that support and left to stand alone they will gradually slip back into the degradation from which they have been half raised. • -

Again, sixty years ago there was no medical-help for women of the better class. If a lady fell ill she was treated barbarnualy or left to die or get well as the ease might be,' tiOchrding'to custom. Now the land 'is dotted with women's litkpitals -and respectable women are' taking up, though slowly, the pro- fession of healing. Great areas which some still living remem- ber as barren are now irrigated fields or clothed with a wealth of forest, but a few years of laxity will undo all. These and innu- merable other advances are the result of European -forces working on the passive loyalty and steadying conservatism of the peasant masses. It is a mistake to regard the English- man as a stranger. He has dug himself into the life of the country like the Mohammedan and Parsee, though with different ideals. Many of us still alive have seen the slow growth in the last sixty years of individuality, of clean justice, of resistance to famine and other natural foes. Both sides have contributed, but the motive power has come from the British.

If a file of early vernacular newspapers are examined they will bear ample proof of how the new life was not encouraged or even noticed by the literary classes. The daily or weekly journal was filled with complaints about individuals or mis- statements of the intentions of Government. To sweep away the leaven of British influence before the time, and while its co-operation and example are still needed, would be a [We agree with our correspondent. We think that British co-operation and help will be required in India for many years to come. We have advocated a policy of sympathy with the politically-minded in India who desire self-government, but we have always thought that British help and guidance would be required. What we have appealed for is a new outlook and no patronage.—En. Spectator.]