29 JUNE 1918, Page 6


IT isprobable that within a few days the Government will publish the scheme of Indian reforms which has been drawn up by Mr. Montagu in consultation with Lord Chelmsford. In the meantime, it is desirable to consider some of the essentials of the problem which the Secretary of State and the Viceroy doubtless believe they have solved. Two books recently published will help very con- siderably towards this preliminary consideration. The first is by His Highness the Aga Khan, whose apt title for his book, India in Transition (The Medici Society, 18s. net), has been adopted as the heading of this article. As most people know, or ought to know, the Aga Khan is the head of a very important section of the Mohammedan community with a large number of followers in India, East Africa, Arabia, and Persia, who regard him with at least as much reverence as a good Roman Catholic regards the Pope. Apart from this religious 'status, the Aga Khan possesses the immense advantage of being a thorough man of the world in the Western sense, as well as possessing a profound knowledge of the East. He has long taken an important part in Indian politics, and approaches most questions from the Liberal point of view. Although a Mohammedan, he worked in close co-operation with that distinguished Hindu leader, the late Mr. Gokhale, who entrusted to him, as a last will and testament, a document sketching out a scheme of Constitutional reform for India. Many of the features of this scheme are embodied in the Aga Khan's book.

In setting out the case for far-reaching reforms at an early date the Aga Khan rightly says : " British tenure in India must be one of continuous amelioration." On this point we are all agreed. The matter at issue is how continuous amelioration is to be attained. The Aga Khan holds that a necessary condition of progress is the entrusting of further powers of self-government to the peoples of India. Here, too, there is substantial agreement so far as the broad principle of self-government is concerned. We cannot permanently govern India by means of a foreign bureaucracy. There must be a progressive extension of the power of natives of the soil to influence, if not to control, the Government of this gigantic country, or collection of countries. That is common ground. Where differences arise is with regard to the lines upon which Constitutional reform should proceed. The Aga Khan, in this matter closely following the lines of Mr. Gokhale's testament, insists that the model to be taken for India is rather that of the German Empire than of the United Kingdom: That is to say, the Executive Government must not be liable to be turned out of office by a hostile vote in the Representative Chamber. The business of the Chamber is to advise, not to dismiss, the Government. On the other hand, Mr. Lionel Curtis, who as a representative of the Round Table has spent about a year in India studying Indian problems, urges in his LetterS to the People of India on Responsible Government (Macmillan and Co., 3s. 6d. net) that India ought to be endowed at once, though only for certain limited purposes, with the British form of Constitu- tion, of which the essential characteristic is an Executive Government responsible to an elected Parliament and liable to be dismissed by a hostile vote of that Parliament. According to Mr. Curtis's scheme, a series of Governments of this type should be set up at once in what he calls the different " States " of India. By " States " he means, not the existing provinces, but large sub-divisions of those provinces with populations of ten to twelve millions each.

It is hard to believe that Mr. Curtis could have made such a proposal if he had been more fully cognizant of the depth of the numerous divisions into which the Indian peoples are separated. The very title of his book—Letters to the People of India—is itself misleading. There is no people of India ; there are many peoples in India. Quite frankly, a careful perusal of his book suggests that he is looking at Indian problems with something of the attitude of a visitor from another planet. Yet on some points at any rate he has realized the practical difficulties which would face any system of government on the lines he suggests. One of these is the language question. There are at least a hundred different languages in India, not mere dialects but in many cases fundamentally different languages. In addition, Hindustani, which next to English is the nearest approach to a lingua franca throughota Northern India, takes a different form for Hindus and Mohammedans respectively. For literary purposes Hindus use Hindi words and Mohammedans tend to use Persian or Arabic words ; while the script which Hindus use is totally different from the script which Mohammedans use. Besides fundamental differences of form, one script is written, or printed, from left to right, the other from right to left. For many years past a conflict has been raging with regard to which form of the language should be used for legal records and for secondary education. Successive Lieutenant-Governors have tried to get the educational side of the question settled by inviting representative Hindus and Mohammedans to meet in conference and agree on a com- promise. No agreement could be reached. Finally Sir James Meston in 1914 came to the conclusion that he must decide the matter on his own authority, and gave a decision which Mr. Lionel Curtis admits has been accepted without demur by both parties because they recognize that it comes from an absolutely unbiassed authority. Yet after making this admission Mr. Curtis proposes that one of the first duties to be entrusted to the popularly elected Parliaments which he wishes to create should be the settling of all questions connected with education. Instead of producing unity, he proposes, by his own confession, to create a producing of contention.

Apart from the question of language in India, there is the even more vital question of religion. The majority of the inhabitants of India look upon themselves not as Indians— which is a useful word borrowed from Europe—but as Moham- medans or Hindus, or as members of a particular caste or a particular race. The idea of a common Indian nationality is as yet remote from their minds. For this reason we cannot get a true representation of Indian opinion except by allowing the different communities to possess what is known in India as " communal representation." The Aga Khan insists on this as absolutely essential. Practically all Mohammedans, including those who are most anxious to co-operate with Hindus, take this view. It is also insisted upon by the non- Brahmins of Southern India. Mr. Curtis, on the other hand, realizing that this recognition of existing facts cuts across his abstract conception of Indian nationality, is almost fiercely opposed to communal representation. He wants to impose upon India, where language and religion divide people even in the same village, a system of government borrowed from Britain, which for centuries has possessed a unified nationality. The Aga Khan is proceeding on much sounder lines when he urges that reforms in the government of India should be based upon Indian traditions and Indian habits. In par- ticular, he lays stress upon the value of the Native States. The Native States—which, as Mr. Curtis happily suggests, might better be described as Indian Principalities—are an essential bond between Britain and India. As the Aga Khan points out, the handful of Indian revolutionaries who wish to cut the painter admit that an insuperable obstacle to their designs is to be found in the loyalty of the Indian Princi- palities and of the Princes who rule over them. It is to be regretted that even a larger area of India cannot be restored to this typical Indian form of rule. But in any case it is possible without turning our backs upon democratic ideals, which finally no doubt may affect India as well as Western Europe, to utilize, perhaps for many long decades to come, the aristocratic principle of government, and to call upon Indian Princes to share in the government of British India as well as of their own Principalities. Indian aspirations and Indian pride would probably be far more nearly satisfied by the occasional appointment of some prominent Indian Prince to the Governorship of a province in British India, or even to the Collectorship of a district, than by the attempted establishment of the British Parliamentary system with all the difficulties of party politics intensified by the bitterness of racial and religious animosity.