Questions Answered (By “Plain Speaker”)
I give below the answers to some of the questions put by Mr. N. Subramania Aiyar in the issue of the HINDU. The questions raised are of the utmost public interest and importance and hence I shall take them one by one and try to answer them.
Q. “If justice is the end and democracy the means, what are they exactly in their honest and understandable import?”
A. Justice of course means fair dealing with all people irrespective of caste and creed, nation or rank. Democracy is Government of the people by the people of the country.
Q. “If to the Justice Party, as to the other political parties, Swaraj is the goal, what is Swaraj?”
A. This question is a very difficult one to be summarily answered. It presumes the existence of more than one party, having Swaraj as the goal. Before we proceed to examine into the connotation of the term “swaraj’ if that is the goal of the Justice party, I desire to know the so-called parties who are really aspiring for Swaraj.
If so what is the kind of Swaraj for which they are a severally working? When it is taken for granted that all these parties work for Swaraj, where is the necessity for the existence of several parties if all of them mean one and the same thing by setting their ideal on Swaraj? The truth is with some parties, Swaraj is self-government in the sense that they themselves should enjoy the monopoly of the Government of the country. In this sense, Swaraj is not the ideal of the Justice Party. There are some others whose conception of Swaraj is a Government in which they can play any part in any manner they like. There are still some other leaders who want to work and move about under high sounding names without worrying themselves for an exact import of the term “Swaraj” since they are always on the alert to carve out something substantially useful for themselves while the sun shines. A crore of rupees was subscribed to the Tilak Swaraj Fund and the public know how the fund was collected and managed. There is yet a fourth conception of Swaraj. This is because that some have fallen foul with the present British Raj and find themselves unable to exhibit all their idiosyncrasies with impurity and hence they cry for a changed Government i.e., a form of Swaraj. They say they are so immensely patriotic, it is their last resort, as per Dr. Johnson’s dictum.
There are still sincere persons, who honestly believe that if we unite now, we can get complete independence and the moment we get full freedom all our social, political, religious and economic ills will automatically come to an end, and India will become a paradise on Earth. With great respect to such thinkers, I submit that this conception is too Utopian to be realised in the near future.
The ideal of Swaraj as understood by the Justice party does not conform to any of the conceptions mentioned above. The Justicites do realise the injury caused to a country by an alien Government. At the same time they are aware of the helpless condition of the nation and the force at the back of the Government with which we may have to fight and wring out Swaraj from them.
They have also to reckon the many and varied social and religious evils under which the nation has been smarting for centuries past and as a result of which unity has well nigh become an impossibility in this country. Composed as it is by a large number of castes and creeds, speaking various languages, following different social rules the problem of a united Indian nation is unique by itself and does not admit of comparison with the evolution of other countries on the face of this earth. India is verily a continent. Hence the Justicites feel that if every community or caste works for its own educational, social, economic amelioration then the nation would become composed of men best fitted to work for the political regeneration of this country.
Students of History and Literature would have heard of Edmund Burke, who in his famous book “Reflections on the French Revolution” writes:
“To be attached to the sub-divisions, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it was) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed towards a love to our country and to man-kind. The interests of that portion of social arrangement is a trust in the hands of all those who compose it.”
It is this sacred trust that the leaders of the Justice party find themselves bound to discharge first and foremost, since they believe that in doing so they only work for the national regeneration in as much as this movement embraces within its fold more than 90% of the population. Similarly if every community strives for its own uplift and advancement, then the whole nation is bound to progress automatically. Thus the masses send their true representatives. These representatives undergo practiced training under a well established constitutional Government
– a training involving the least risks. Gradually they are bound to monopolise every department of the Government and then we would have got Swaraj in reality though not in name. Thus in this comprehensive sense Swaraj is the goal for which the Justice party is working.
The other questions asked under this head are purely academic in character and as such outside the scope of practical politics.
Q: “If Justice meant equal opportunities for all caste and sects, may we ask equal opportunities to do what?”
A: “Equal opportunities for all people to participate in the administration of the country”.
Q: “Is it to beg for doles of food, i.e., employment in the services controlled by other nations Governmental or non-Governmental – fawning on or foaming against them alternately?”
A: Plain questions indeed! They deserve to be answered plainly, I shall just explain what the “Justice” party does not mean by its demands.
It does not mean that all the Brahmins should be provided first before the case of Non-brahmin is taken into consideration. It does not mean that the bench and the Bar are the exclusive monopoly of the one only caste. “Begging for doles of food” – yes. They do not fight shy of this, since they have been reduced to beg irrespective of caste and creed. Food is indispensable to keep body and soul together. And begging is certainly more honourable than stealing and aggrandisement. “Employment in the services” – Why is this feigned aversion to the services! I am reminded of the “story of the fox and the grapes”. It was the Brahmins that entered the government services from the very beginning in such large numbers. Having monopolised the services the incumbents began to patronise their own Kith with the result that it gave rise to the stout opposition on the part of the Justice movement. Who is to be blamed for this? The aggressors should thank their own stars for bringing upon them the latest catastrophe of a Communal G.O.(1) Mr. N.S. Iyer refers to “fawning or foaming”. Evidently Mr. Iyer refers to the Coimbatore decisions and the subsequent role played by Mr.A. Ramasami Mudaliar till now. May I submit that men like Bhupendranath Basu, Surendranath Banerjee and a host of others who have roared vehemently on the Congress Platforms against the present Government have not shown the least hesitation to be employed in the services controlled by a foreign government? After getting employed in discharging their official duties, they have done not a little to retard the national movement in India. But as soon as their period of service was over, they have once again gone back to their old pulpits and harangued about national honour, and indignity in accepting office under an alien bureaucracy. Now I leave it to the readers to realise for themselves in what camp real fawning or foaming is found in abundance.
Then Mr. Iyer observes, “If, again “public service” is the service undertaken by Government and paid for by the people, to be discharged by the best men available, is it not sheer repudiation of conscience to make birth any the smallest test of eligibility?”– Most certainly! The overwhelming majority of the Non-brahmins contribute the major portion of the revenue. They prefer having Non-brahmins to serve them. Is this against the dictates of conscience? Why should anybody presume that the Non-brahmins are made up of inferior metal? If birth is not at all to be taken into consideration in any department of life, is it lawful that a Brahmin young man however wicked in conduct, is allowed to enter into the Sanctum-Sanctorum of a temple whereas even the most pious man of 70 or 80 years of age is not allowed to enter simply because he happens to be born in a Non-brahmin family. Who is the author of this mischievous regulation in public life-based on the criterion of birth? Does not the conscience of Mr. Iyer revolt against this rule?
If merit is the consideration what was the unusual exhibition of merit by a Fourth Form boy to be made a Postal Superintendent to begin with! Then he proceeds to say that this proportional representation is of no use to the communities so represented. He further elucidates his point thus: “One can understand the advantage if a distribution of the sums doled as salaries is to be made among all the members of a particular community. If Mr. Ramasami Mudaliar or Mr. Satyamurthi becomes minister – their salaries will not be made available for distribution per capita for all Mudaliars and Iyers.” I am really very sorry that a fellow countryman should entertain such crude notions as these. Does it not follow from his reasoning that a man should not give his vote or consent unless he gets a benefit in return? Let me take an example. It is rumoured that Sir Sankaran Nair will be appointed Governor of Central Provinces instead of an English man. Will Mr. Iyer be glad at the appointment of an Indian only when he doles out every month something to Mr. Iyer and other Indians in response to whose agitations he is made a governor? The absurdity involved in this argument is too patent to need any further elucidation. Does not this argument savour of voters selling their votes which are quite illegal?
Mr. Iyer sums up his view-point of the present situation thus: “what is wanted is a clear and universally accepted definition of “Nation”. This is a fit subject to be referred to the next session of the National Congress at Lahore. Then he enumerates certain indispensable characteristics of a nation and winds up by saving that England is no nation! I am afraid he is too much obsessed with the academic side of politics to take a correct perspective of men and matters. He is like the proverbial Vaidya who went to the market to fetch vegetables. How grossly erratic he is in his views, the march of time alone can prove to demonstration. Meanwhile I would earnestly entreat all my readers to remember that in politics more than in any other department of life, practice is a thousand times more difficult and more useful than precept. The age of tall talk is no more. Let us gird up our loins and be prepared for spade work.
– Revolt, 13 October 1929