TIRE situation regarding India may be summed up 1 in the statement that the British Government is going steadily forward in its prosecution of a policy, the establishment of responsible government in India, which the action of Indians themselves makes it increas- ingly difficult to prosecute. Evidence of British policy is the appointment of the three committees, on franchise, on federal finance and on Indian States' finance, whose members, are leaving for India this month. The choice of Lord Lothian as Chairman of the franchise committee is particularly welcome. Evidence of the difficulties created by a section or sections of Indians is provided by the terrorism in Bengal, the no-rent campaign in the United Provinces, the unrest on the North-West Frontier, and the endeavours the extremists in the Congress Party are making to drive Mr. Gandhi into new opposition to the Government on the morrow of his arrival in India. Of these the North-West Frontier agitation is the least important. Bengal is a very different problem. A deliberate campaign of terrorism, instigated by the least scrupulous sections of the Press and almost condoned by the faintness of the disapproval pronounced by more responsible political elements, culminated in a crime, the murder of Mr. C. G. B. Stevens at Comilla on December 14th, which it was out of the question to place in the categories of what may be termed routine murders. The reply of the Bengal Government, and of the Govern- ment of India, whose sanction for the special Ordinance promulgated was necessary, was the issue of decrees aimed at stamping out the terrorist movement throughout the province. That in turn has been used by the agitators, as might be expected, as excuse for more agitation. In the midst of it all Mr. Gandhi has arrived home from the Round Table Conference, welcomed enthusiastically in Bombay, in spite of a counter-demonstration by untouch- ables, angry because in _London Mr. Gandhi opposed separate representation for them in the new Indian Parliament, and since subjected in the Congress Working Committee to urgent demands for a new non-co-operation campaign as a reply to the Bengal Ordinances.
Once mire, it is obvious, vast responsibility rests on Mr. Gandhi, who has wisely refrained from any immediate declaration. His defence of the Delhi Pact with Lord Irwin as an act of statesmanship is encouraging, and the interview he is said to be seeking with the present Viceroy may tilt the balance in the direction of peace, for the Mahatma, like all temperamental persons, is sensitive to his immediate milieu and it is not to be desired that his only contact should be with Congress circles. The Congress Working Committee itself appeals to be divided. Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru is under arrest. Mr. Vithalbai Patel is attacking Mr. Gandhi and urging war to the knife, but at any rate precipitate decisions have been avoided and there is still time for relations between Mr. Gandhi and Lord Willingdon to develop on sufficiently friendly lines to dispose the Mahatma to reject the demands for a new non-co-operation campaign.
But two fundamental principles must be observed. The Government of India, whether in its present form or in the form it will take when the aims of the London Conference have been realized, has one first. duty—to govern. A purely Indian Government could no more tolerate conditions such as the Bengal terrorism has created than the existing Government at Delhi can. If Mr. Gandhi were in a position to guarantee security in Bengal it might be a different matter. But he is not. And in any case the Government in being, whether at Calcutta or at Delhi, could not abdicate its functions. It must take the steps it finds itself driven to take, reverting at the earliest moment to the normal operation of the law. It is profoundly unfortunate that the Ordinances should have had to be enacted just before Mr. Gandhi's return, but that synchronization was due not to Lord Willingdon or Sir Stanley Jackson, but to the murderers of Mr. Stevens and other British officials. The other principle is 'that the fixed resolve of this country to put in operation the scheme of responsible self-government for India, promised by the Prime Minister and approved by an overwhelming majority of the present Parliament, must be carried through without haste but without rest. The Indian extremists are playing all the time into the hands of British reactionaries, just as British reactionaries are playing all the time into theirs. But no words, however inflammatory, no actions, however criminal, can affect the essential soundness, the essential justice and the essential wisdom of the policy to which ibis country stands committed. From that conviction neither West- minster nor Delhi can waver.