6 JUNE 1931, Page 19

India : Two Points of View

Volume Two. By Katharine Mayo. (Jonathan Cape. 7s. Gd.) India. By the Rt. Hon. Winston S. Churchill, P.C., C.H., M.P. (Thornton Butterworth. 2s.)

Mother India was a bad book that did a great work. Anger can sharpen vision ; where Miss Mayo was furiously interested, she kept watchful eyes, and her social argument was well documented. But when she brought all Hindu practice under survey for the sake of making her book com- plete, she accepted secondhand tea-table talk as history or as philological and scientific fact.

In Volume Two she leaves no exposed flanks ; she sticks to one rigid theme, the doctrine and practice of Hinduism as regards woman. I see that reviewers who applauded Mother India are deploring Volume Two ; and its author, who three years ago was garlanded on false charges, is now to be hanged equally unjustly. Yet sooner or later the world must pay Indian civilization the only compliment worth having, that of criticism by the best standards that sifting time has given us. " If I do well, I shall be blessed, whether any bless me or not."

Volume Two dismisses summarily (which is all they deserve) such parrot statements as that Hindu marriage is only a betrothal ceremony and that Moslem influence is responsible for child-marriage. It is true that Indian married life is full of deep affection, and that no nation is anything like as bad as its customs permit it to be. Nevertheless, child- marriage robs the race of several years of childhood. And the girl once married has no security against the breaking of body and mind, except her husband's forbearance. If you agree (as Indian Nationalists do) with Abraham Lincoln's opinion that no nation is good enough to rule another, will you not admit that no person, male or female, is good enough to be trusted with absolute power over another ? India, whose passionate desire for the status of full nationhood wins sympathy the whole world over, is undoubtedly brought up against a conviction which all her skilled apologists have failed to eradicate, that her accepted ideas as to woman are mean and shabby. Miss Mayo notes that " exactly like the rest of mankind, the Hindu covets more and yet more of his fellows' deference "—which he will not get until the Indian civilization, both Hindu and Moslem, is as ruth- lessly overhauled as our own (at any rate, its thought, if not its practice) has been and is being. But individuals, in every nation and age, have only a limited responsibility for the wrongs perpetrated by the society in which they live. Miss Mayo, quoting solely for polemical purpose and in pursuit of her theme, seems quite unaware of the moral stature of some of the men she quotes (for example, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru and Mr. Jayakar). They confront a dreadful and complex task, and the frankness and courage of their denunciations of child-marriage should make us proud that such men are our friends, and that humanity in its world- wide battle for decency has such captains in India.

Mr. Churchill's rhetoric glitters with insolence and far- shining contempt for lesser breeds, whether British or Indian. Some of us may make the mistake of thinking that Mr. Ramsay MacDonald or Mr. Wedgwood Benn held Cabinet rank by the same right as Mr. Churchill has held it, by ordeal of election and His Majesty's appointment. They are really only unfortunate episodes. "The formal plighted word of the King-Emperor is inviolable. It does not follow, however, that every Socialist jack-in-office can commit this great country by his perorations." Let us hope that other countries, especially India, will avoid the mistake of taking seriously pledges other than those made by Mr. Churchill and his

friends ! He thinks that Lord Irwin began this chatter of Dominion status, " in the winter of 1929, opening up in general, guarded, but still spacious terms the idea of Dominion status." Unfortunately, Lord Birkenhead, when he was a " Conservative jack-in-office " in 1925, permitted the Indian Government to issue " under authority and with general approval of the Secretary of State for India " a year-book that carelessly talked of " Dominion status " as if everyone knew we meant it to come. May I refer Mr. Churchill to pages 6, 23, and 35 in particular? Mr. Churchill's scorn for " perorations " we have just seen. But is there a greater masterof perorations, that sweep you along on their exhilarating torrent ? Who would be so pedantic as to examine the basic thought of such a magnificent piece of rant as this ?

" Would France bo chattered out of Indo-China ; would Italy relinquish her North African possessions ? Would the Dutch give up Java to please the Javanese ? Would the United States be hustled out of the Philippines ? All these countries assert themselves, and insist that their rights and wishes in their own sphere shall be respected. We alone seem afraid of our own shadow. The British lion, so fierce and valiant in bygone days, so dauntless and unconquerable through all the agony of Armageddon, can now be chased by rabbits from the fields and forests of this former glory."

But lie is capable also of reflections that arc of a more tender and touching sort. " I have asked myself whether if Christ came again into this world, it would not be to the untouch- ables of India that He would first go, to give them the tidings that not only are all men equal in the sight of God, but that for the weak and poor and downtrodden a double blessing is reserved." (" Chuck it, Smith ! ") I had marked down a number of statements that are main pillars of Mr. Churchill's argument, for which I want to know where I can find the evidence. They will have to he kept for a more convenient occasion. His book contains some unpleasant truths that need broadcasting. And he is right when he points out that :

" Progress would have been more swift, health and prosperity more abounding, if the British civil and technical services in India had not been hampered by the forbearance we promised to observe towards Indian religious and social customs."

That is so. We give ourselves a lot of unmerited bouquets for what we have done in India ; we ought to have done far more, while we had the power. We arc paying now for a century of slovenly thinking. We let ourselves accept the easy explanation of the Mutiny as due to interference with Indian customs ; we stabilized a great deal that we should have overturned, and would have overturned if the pre- Mutiny mood had been preserved. And now, when we want to set things right, it is too late. Therefore the political

quarrel must be settled, as a vexing and obsolete " hang-over," and then India must be criticized without favour, treated as an adult and responsible nation that will not be allowed to " get away with " nonsense or mischief on the grounds that " the West does not understand, because she is materialistic while India is spiritual." Once the political quarrel is settled, things are going to march fast in the Unchanging East. As matters stand, it is useless for outsiders to criticize Indian social practice ; that has now got to be left alone, as a domestic affair (which is why Miss Mayo's new book is partly a waste of time). But the ideas under- lying the practice are part of the world of thought that knows no privacy ; and once criticism of these has ceased to be like hitting a man when he is down or abusing a dependent who cannot answer you back, they should be handled for what they are worth, no more and no less.