Εικόνες σελίδας
PDF
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

administration generally that the Government of India should be located in that city. Then, if the necessity for the change is admitted, few who are acquainted with the past history and present sentiments of the Indian peoples will deny that, in proposing Delhi as the future capital, the Government of India have made the best selection possible. Its ancient imperial character, its central and easily accessible position, and the splendid associations with it in the minds of both Hindus and Mohammedans, point to this city as the most suitable for the Indian capital.

If there is, prima facie, on the papers an appearance of unconstitutional action in respect of the procedure adopted in deciding on and announcing this change, there is at the same time a statement of sound constitutional principle in respect of the basis of the decision which is most satisfactory. The recognition of the fact that the maintenance of British rule in India depends on the ultimate supremacy of the Governor-General-in-Council,' along with the clear statement of the necessity for satisfying 'the just demands of Indians for a larger share in the government of the country,' is a most important feature of the despatch of the Government of India of the 25th of August last. And it is well said that the question is, how this devolution of power can be conceded without impairing the supreme authority of the Governor-General-in-Council,' and that 'the only possible solution of the difficulty would appear to be gradually to give the provinces a larger measure of self-government, until at last India would consist of a number of Administrations autonomous in all provincial affairs, with the Government of India above them all, and possessing power to interfere in cases of misgovernment, but ordinarily restricting their functions to matters of Imperial concern.' The clear enunciation of these truths is worth a great deal. If the statesmanlike policy here indicated is really carried into effect in the future, it will greatly conduce to the sound administration of the Indian Empire; and there can be no doubt that this policy demands that the capital of the great central Government should be separate and independent.

Under these circumstances it may be hoped that those whose local and personal interests are undoubtedly affected by the change will take a broad view of the case, and express their views with becoming calmness and loyalty. The Government of India have frankly anticipated possible opposition on the part of the European commercial community of Calcutta ; and we are informed by telegram that some of the European papers, notably the Englishman and Statesman, have written strongly in denunciation of the change. This was only to be expected in the first feeling of disappointment; but broader and wiser views may be expected to prevail with the commercial community. They are accustomed to take reasonable views of their own interests. At the time of the partition of Bengal, when it was undoubtedly expected that the fact that the great port of Chittagong would greatly develop under the care of a separate Government from that of Bengal, there were many who believed that the commercial interests of Calcutta would suffer. But the Chamber of Commerce declined to oppose the partition on any such ground. They adopted the entirely sane view that any imaginary line which separated the territories of one Local Government from another could never really affect the course of trade within the Empire, and that any change which drew more trade to Chittagong would be entirely in the interests of trade itself. This view must be held as strongly now as then. It is difficult to conceive of any effect on Calcutta commerce from the movement of the Government of India to Delhi, other than that which affects merely the trade with the entourage of that Government itself-& matter of infinitesimal importance.

I have, indeed, heard it said with regret by a distinguished commercial man belonging to Calcutta, that one effect of the change will be to make the commercial community less in touch with the Government in the future than even in the past. It must, however, be admitted that the commercial community of Calcutta will be as much in touch with the Government of India as the commercial community of Bombay; and now that there is to be a Governor in Calcutta, its influence with the Government of India will be as great as that of Bombay. The almost universal commerce of Calcutta, and its practical monopoly in more than one branch of trade, will, I believe, be altogether unaffected. The fact also that the city will in future be definitely the concern of a powerful Local Government ought to be a source of great satisfaction to its residents.

The Bengalis may also be expected to feel some regret that their city ceases to be the capital of India. But, on the other hand, they receive at the same time a great compliment, which the past history and present influence of Bengal generally and of Calcutta in particular undoubtedly deserve, in the appointment to the new province of a Governor-in-Council.

The Government of India, in their despatch of the 25th of August last, justify the proposed Governorship by citing arguments employed by the late Sir Henry Maine in the correspondence of 1867-68. But these arguments are not so relevant as they appear detached from the context. The system which Sir Henry Maine was defending was that of a Governor with a Council as against a Lieutenant-Governor without a Council. The

a objection taken in the old days to the system he supported, was that the necessity for consulting the Council involved delays and

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

the absence of that personal responsibility for prompt and effective action which was then regarded as necessary. The changes which the flight of time and the progress of events have made in the circumstances of the country have already included the appointment of an Executive Council in Bengal as in other large provinces. The only change now proposed is the substitution of a Governor for a Lieutenant-Governor. The former is regarded as of somewhat more dignified rank than the latter, and as therefore perhaps more suitable for a province like Bengal. It is rather amusing to find that, not two months before the Delhi announcement, a leading native paper in Calcutta devoted a long article to proving that Lieutenant-Governors 'who have studied Indian life and Indian character all their lives' may generally prove more successful' than Governors recruited from England. If, however, the Governor rules constitutionally, as Governor-inCouncil, the additional dignity to the province will now involve very little if any disadvantage. It can hardly be said that the Bengalis are called upon to make any real sacrifice when they are merely placed alongside of Bombay and Madras by the transfer to Delhi of the seat of the Government of India. And it ought to be easy for them, in view of the undoubted advantages of the change to India generally, to reconcile themselves to any sentimental sacrifice which they may think involved. Those who are readiest to criticise any Government measure, and have been loudest in agitation in the past, have already signified their willing acceptance of this change, in consideration of the other parts of the scheme.

The other three changes involve the revision of Lord Curzon's great scheme of partition. That scheme was introduced after very full consideration and after public discussion of a character probably without precedent in regard to any measure carried out by the Government of India. It has sometimes been said that Lord Curzon did not adequately consult the public, or consider their views. As a matter of fact, every means was taken to have the views of the public before the Government of India ; and Lord Curzon himself, with that tremendous energy and selfsacrifice which characterised him in the discharge of the great duties and responsibilities committed to him, went round to the districts affected, heard local opinion fully, and expounded and explained the Government policy. The Government of India in their despatch hardly do justice to this aspect of the case. The statement that the partition is the root cause of all recent troubles in India demands distinct and definite repudiation. The Government of India are not distinct and definite enough. There are before that Government the clearest proofs that preparations had been made years before the partition for precisely the kind of

movements in sedition and anarchy which have given trouble in Bengal.

Nor are the statements made in the despatches of the Government of India and of the Secretary of State regarding the improvement of administration since the partition, in the districts handed over to the province of Eastern Bengal and Assam, by any means strong enough. It was not 'the Mohammedan community of Eastern Bengal' that had been neglected. It was the whole community, both Hindu and Mohammedan. The administration of these districts had been a blot on Indian administration in its neglect and inefficiency; and for all classes of the people there has been enormous improvement. Nor is it correct to say, as the Government of India do, that the resentment among the Bengalis in both provinces of Bengal is as strong as ever, though somewhat less vocal.' There were many who have changed their minds; and the opposition to the partition had, not only in tone but also in spirit, largely passed away. This may be said-and must be said, in view of facts which are distinctly on record-without disputing the Government of India's position, that, in respect of the changes introduced by the Indian Councils' Act, the Bengalis suffer to some extent unexpected disabilities. It is quite right that this change of circumstances should now be considered, though it certainly would not justify any serious reversal of past policy, but only some slight modification in detail.

We are faced here, however, with the fact that the old ‘partition of Bengal' has been suddenly set aside. That measure was proposed by one Viceroy and sanctioned by one Secretary of State; and it was accepted by the successors of both these great functionaries. It had been declared again and again that this partition would not be touched; and the opposition to it was dying out, as time was showing its wisdom. Now the measure appears to have been revised and, indeed, entirely set aside. It must be borne in mind, however, that the primary and principal object of Lord Curzon's scheme was to reduce the area of the province of Bengal to a manageable size. The present scheme also secures this object, though in another way. The second object of the old scheme was to raise the area of the Assam province, so that it might have a self-contained and effective Administration. Now in regard to this matter the Government of India hold that circumstances have entirely changed and that reconsideration has become necessary.

The Government of India now declare that it is, in their opinion, essential to have a small province on the north-east frontier of India similar to that which was created under Lord Curzon's Government on the north-western frontier. Trouble has arisen in the former similar to that which had led Lord Curzon

[ocr errors]

wisely to propose the formation of the small province on the northwest, and the Government of India now ask for the same remedy. This is a matter in regard to which the opinion of the Government of India ought to have the greatest weight. But if it be admitted that this frontier province is to be constituted, then it is clear that the delimitation of boundaries made by Lord Curzon in his partition of Bengal must be reconsidered. This is a justification of a revision of policy which rebuts the allegation that it is due simply to a weak desire to avoid the difficulties arising from the opposition of a section of the community to a change which had been decided on as expedient. No strong Government ought to abstain from any action which it regards as sound merely because there may be some who will attribute that action to weakness.

The revision, then, must be considered on its own merits. The first point--after accepting the necessity for the new north-eastern frontier province--is the formation of a province consisting of the five purely Bengali divisions at present separated between Bengal and Eastern Bengal and Assam. This secures the unification of what is called the Bengali people. The telegrams inform us that the Bengali organs in Calcutta have stated that they are entirely satisfied with the arrangement. They have not even a word to say against the removal of the Government of India from Calcutta ; because they hold that ' no price is too great to be paid ' for the unification of their race under one Government. Apparently Sylhet and some other Bengal tracts are to be left to the frontier province of Assam ; but they have been connected with Assam for many years apparently to their complete satisfaction. To some it will be matter of regret that educated Bengalis will be deprived of the enlightening and broadening influence of service in the subprovinces of Behar, Chota Nagpur, and Orissa ; that the Bengalis who have estates there will be personally inconvenienced in respect of them; and that Bengal politics will be deprived of the influence of these sub-provinces. But, on the whole, it cannot be denied that the province as now constituted, with a population stated by the Government of India at forty-two millions and found by the recent census to be over forty-five, is large enough. Bombay has not much more than half of that population; and Madras has just about the same. With a powerful Local Government to administer such a territory, successful administration ought to be perfectly possible. It is presumed that Darjeeling will go to the new Bengal province to be a hot-weather residence for the Governor; but this is one of the details still to be settled.

The Mohammedans of Eastern Bengal will no doubt be somewhat disappointed at being included in the new province along with the Hindoo Bengalis of Bengal proper, who have recently attacked them with unmeasured violence. But the Government

[ocr errors]
« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »