Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Colonial British's discriminatory policy against Indians in India - Series I

The British policy of racial discrimination was further revealed in what is known as the llbert Bill Controversy. Lord Ripon, the Viceroy of India got a draft bill prepared through his law member Sir IIbert. The Bill was aimed at removing certain racial inequalities by putting Indian judges at partnership with the European judges in dealing with all cases in Bengal Presidency. Hitherto the Europeans could only be tried by special court consisting of European judges.

The IIbert Bill was approved by Lord Ripon's executive council as well as by all the provincial Governments. The Bill brought the Indian and European Judges on the same footing. The Bill was about to abolish the criminal procedure code of 1873 according to which no Indian Magistrate or Sessions Judge could try a case in which an European was involved. The European culprits were tried only by European judges, because the European considered it beyond their dignity to be prosecuted and punished by the Indians.

The European community in India reacted violently against the bill. They criticized Ripon vehemently; Ripon was ultimately forced to bring about some changes in the Bill in order to avoid an unhealthy situation. The educated Indian was highly influenced by this incident. Their dissatisfaction against the British grew in intensity. A sense of keen patriotism began to gain ground in their minds. This patriotism and national awakening finally led to the establishment of Indian National Congress in 1885

Whatever opportunities were available in the educational institutions were mostly for Britishers.

“Indians of approved merit and sometimes aristocratic `noodles’, were drafted into the Civil Service who would draw two-thirds the pay of the grade. The competitive examination in England was to be thrown open only to Britons (including of course the Irish). These regulations also permeated the Educational Service. Jagadis Chandra Bose, who had returned home three years before me, after a brilliant career at Cambridge and London, and who had to encounter untold hardships in entering the Higher Service in the land of his birth, was only allowed to cross its threshold on condition that he should waive his claim to the full pay of the grade and draw on the two-thirds scale. It was only in rare cases that the children of the soil were admitted to the Higher services, which made darkness more visible. As a rule Indians of even approved merit could only enter the subordinate branch of the service. Agitation in India as also in the British Parliament by friends of India against the virtual exclusion of Indians could no longer be ignored. The government of Lord Dufferin under instructions from the Secretary of State appointed the “Public Service Commission” with a view to devise means for finding extended employments for Indians. The recommendations of the Commission were of the nature of a compromise; whatever might be done to satisfy he aspirations of the Indians, every care must be taken to safeguard the interests and privileges of the dominant race. Two distinct services were created—one the Imperial and the other the Provincial. The former was meant to be reserved for Britishers and the latter for the Indians; in the former again the average emoluments worked out to nearly double that of the latter.” - P.C.Roy( father of Indian Chemistry)

Surya Sen along with Tarekeshwar Dastidar was hanged by the British on 12 January 1934. He was brutally tortured before the death sentence. It was reported that the British executioners broke all his teeth with hammer and plucked all nails and broke all limbs and joints. He was then dragged to the gallows unconscious. Nobody performed his funeral after his death. It was found later that the prison authority put his body in a metallic cage and dumped it into the Bay of Bengal.

Surya Sen sent the following last message to his comrades through a letter, "Death is knocking at my door. My mind is flying away towards infinity, this is the moment for myself to embrace death as the dearest of friends. In this happy, sacred and crucial moment, what am I leaving for you all? Only one thing, my dream, a golden dream, the dream of a Free India. Dear friends, march ahead; never retrace your step. Days of servitude are receding. Freedom’s illuminating ray is visible over there. Arise and never give way to despair. Success is sure to come."

Bhagat Singh threw two bombs and leaflets inside the Central Legislative Assembly while shouting slogans of Inquilab Zindabad and subsequently he volunteered to surrender and was arrested. Singh was sent to the Mianwali jail from the Delhi jail, where he witnessed discrimination between European and Indian prisoners, and led other prisoners in a hunger strike to protest this illegal discrimination. Held on assembly bomb dropping charge, he gained widespread national support when he underwent a 116 day fast in jail, demanding equal rights for British and Indian political prisoners. They demanded equality in standards of food, clothing, toiletries and other hygienic necessities, as well as availability of books and a daily newspaper for the political prisoners, who they demanded should not be forced to do manual labour or any undignified work in the jail, as detailed in their letter to the Home Member on 24 June 1929.

The Government tried to break the strike by placing different food items in the prison cells to test the hungry prisoners' resolve. Water pitchers were filled with milk so that either the prisoners remained thirsty or broke their strike but nobody faltered and the impasse continued. The authorities then attempted forcing food using feeding tubes into the prisoners, but were resisted. With the matter still unresolved, the Indian Viceroy, Lord Irwin, broke his vacation in Simla to discuss the situation with the jail authorities. Since the activities of the hunger strikers had gained popularity and attention amongst the people nationwide, the government decided to advance the start of the Saunders murder trial, which was henceforth called the Lahore Conspiracy Case. Singh was transported to Borstal Jail, Lahore, and the trial of this case began there on 10 July 1929. In addition to charging them for the murder of Saunders, Singh and 27 other prisoners were charged with plotting a conspiracy to murder Scott and waging a war against the King. Singh, still on hunger strike, had to be carried to the court handcuffed on a stretcher: he had lost 14 pounds (6.4 kg) weight from 133 pounds (60 kg) before the strike.

By now, the condition of another hunger striker, Jatindra Nath Das, lodged in the same jail had deteriorated considerably. The Jail committee recommended his unconditional release, but the government rejected the suggestion and offered to release him on bail. On 13 September 1929, Das died after a 63-day hunger strike.After his death, Lord Irwin informed the British prime minister Ramsay MacDonald:
Jatin Das of the Conspiracy Case, who was on hunger strike, died this afternoon at 1 pm Last night, five of the hunger strikers gave up their hunger strike. So there are only Bhagat Singh and Dutt who are on strike ...

Almost all the nationalist leaders in the country paid tribute to Das' death, and Mohammad Alam and Gopi Chand Bhargava resigned from the Punjab Legislative Council in protest. Motilal Nehru moved a successful adjournment motion in the Central Assembly as a censure against the "inhumane treatment" of the Lahore prisoners.

Singh's attention now turned to his trial, where he was to face a British team representing the Crown and comprising C. H. Carden-Noad, Kalandar Ali Khan, Gopal Lal and the prosecuting inspector, Bakshi Dina Nath.The defence was composed of eight lawyers. When Jai Gopal turned into a prosecution witness, Prem Dutt, the youngest amongst the 28 accused, threw his slipper at Gopal in court. The magistrate ordered that all the accused should be handcuffed, despite all other revolutionaries having dissociated themselves from the act. Singh and others refused to be handcuffed and were therefore subjected to brutal beating. The revolutionaries refused to attend the court and Singh wrote a letter to the magistrate citing various reasons why they had done so. The trial was henceforth ordered to be carried out in the absence of the accused or members of the HSRA. This was a setback for Singh as he could no longer use the trial as a forum to publicise his views

To speed up the slow trial, the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, declared an emergency on 1 May 1930, and promulgated an ordinance setting up a special tribunal composed of three high court judges for this case. The ordinance cut short the normal process of justice as the only appeal after the tribunal was at the Privy Council located in England The Tribunal was authorised to function without the presence of any of the accused in court, and to accept death of the persons giving evidence as a concession to the defence.

Reactions to the judgment of hanging:
After the rejection of the appeal to the Privy Council, Congress party president Madan Mohan Malviya filed a mercy appeal before Lord Irwin on 14 February 1931. An appeal was sent to Mahatma Gandhi by prisoners to intervene. In his notes dated 19 March 1931, the Viceroy recorded:
While returning Gandhiji asked me if he could talk about the case of Bhagat Singh, because newspapers had come out with the news of his slated hanging on March 24th. It would be a very unfortunate day because on that day the new president of the Congress had to reach Karachi and there would be a lot of hot discussion. I explained to him that I had given a very careful thought to it but I did not find any basis to convince myself to commute the sentence. It appeared he found my reasoning weighty

Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were sentenced to death in the Lahore conspiracy case and ordered to be hanged on 24 March 1931. That schedule was moved forward by 11 hours to 23 March, although Singh was not informed of this until the day arrived. Singh was hanged on 23 March 1931 at 7:30 pm in Lahore jail with his fellow comrades Rajguru and Sukhdev. It is reported that no magistrate of the time was willing to supervise his hanging as was required by law. The execution was supervised by an honorary judge, who also signed the three death warrants as their original warrants had expired. The jail authorities then broke the rear wall of the jail and secretly cremated the three martyrs under cover of darkness outside Ganda Singh Wala village, and then threw the ashes into the Sutlej river, about 10 km from Ferozepore (and about 60 km from Lahore)

Criticism of the Special Tribunal and method of execution
Singh's trial has been described by the Supreme Court as "contrary to the fundamental doctrine of criminal jurisprudence" because there was no opportunity for the accused to defend themselves. The Special Tribunal was a departure from the normal procedure adopted for a trial and its decision could only be appealed to the Privy Council located in Britain. The accused were absent from the court and the judgement was passed ex-parte. The ordinance, which was introduced by the Viceroy to form the Special Tribunal, was never approved by the Central Assembly or the British Parliament, and it eventually lapsed without any legal or constitutional sanctity

LALA LAJPAT RAI:In 1928, the British government set up the Commission, headed by Sir John Simon, to report on the political situation in India. The Indian political parties boycotted the Commission, because it did not include a single Indian in its membership, and it met with country-wide protests. When the Commission visited Lahore on 30 October 1928, Lala Lajpat Rai led a non-violent protest against the Commission in a silent march, but the police responded with violence. The superintendent of police, James A. Scott, ordered the police to lathi charge the protesters and personally assaulted Rai, who was grievously injured, later on Rai could not recover from the injury and died on 17 November 1928 with Heart attack. It was obviously known that Scott's blows had hastened his demise. However, when the matter was raised in the British Parliament, the British Government denied any role in Rai's death

LOKMANYA TILAK: "Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it!"

A plague epidemic spread from Bombay to Pune in late 1896, and by January 1897, it reached epidemic proportions. In order to suppress the epidemic and prevent its spread, it was decided to take drastic action, accordingly a Special Plague Committee, with jurisdiction over Pune city, its suburbs and Pune cantonment was appointed under the Chairmanship of W. C. Rand, I.C.S., Assistant Collector of Pune by way of a government order dated 8 March 1897. Troops were brought in to deal with the emergency. The measures employed included forced entry into private houses, examination of occupants, evacuation to hospitals and segregation camps, removing and destroying personal possessions, and preventing plague cases from entering or leaving the city. By the end of May, the epidemic was under control.

Even if the British authorities' measures were well-meant, they were widely regarded as acts of tyranny and oppression. Tilak took up this issue by publishing inflammatory articles in his paper Kesari (Kesari was written in Marathi, and Maratha was written in English), quoting the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, to say that no blame could be attached to anyone who killed an oppressor without any thought of reward.

Following the 1905 Partition of Bengal, which was a strategy set out by Lord Curzon to weaken the nationalist movement, Tilak encouraged the Swadeshi movement and the Boycott movement.The Boycott movement consisted of the boycott of foreign goods and also the social boycott of any Indian who used foreign goods. The Swadeshi movement consisted of the usage of goods produced by oneself or in India. Once foreign goods were boycotted, there was a gap which had to be filled by the production of those goods in India itself. Tilak, therefore, rightly said that the Swadeshi and Boycott movements are two sides of the same coin.
Tilak opposed the moderate views of Gopal Krishna Gokhale,

In 1907, the annual session of the Congress Party was held at Surat, Gujarat. Trouble broke out between the moderate and the radical factions of the party over the selection of the new president of the Congress. The party split into the "Jahal matavadi" ("Hot Faction" or radicals), led by Tilak, Pal and Lajpat Rai, and the "Maval matavadi" ("Soft Faction" or moderates). Nationalists like Aurobindo Ghose,V. O. Chidambaram Pillai were Tilak supporters.

On 30 April 1908, two Bengali youths, Prafulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose, threw a bomb on a carriage at Muzzafarpur, in order to kill the Chief Presidency Magistrate Douglas Kingsford of Calcutta fame, but erroneously killed two women travelling in it. While Chaki committed suicide when caught, Bose was hanged. Tilak, in his paper Kesari, defended the revolutionaries and called for immediate Swaraj or self-rule. The Government swiftly arrested him for sedition. But a special jury convicted him, and the Parsi judge Dinshaw D. Davargave him the controversial sentence of six years' transportation and a fine of Rs 1,000. The jury by a majority of 7:2 convicted him. On being asked by the judge whether he had anything to say, Tilak uttered these memorable words "All that I wish to say is that, in spite of the verdict of the jury, I still maintain that I am innocent. There are higher powers that rule the destinies of men and nations; and I think, it may be the will of Providence that the cause I represent may be benefited more by my suffering than by my pen and tongue"


Bose, who had been ousted from the Indian National Congress in 1939 following differences with the more conservative high command, and subsequently placed under house arrest by the British

Bose was refused permission by the British authorities to meet Atatürk at Ankara for political reasons. During his sojourn in England, only the Labour Party and Liberal politicians agreed to meet with Bose when he tried to schedule appointments. Conservative Party officials refused to meet Bose or show him courtesy because he was a politician coming from a colony. In the 1930s leading figures in the Conservative Party had opposed even Dominion status for India. It was during the Labour Party government of 1945–1951, with Attlee as the Prime Minister, that India gained independence. On the outbreak of war, Bose advocated a campaign of mass civil disobedience to protest against Viceroy Lord Linlithgow's decision to declare war on India's behalf without consulting the Congress leadership. Having failed to persuade Gandhi of the necessity of this, Bose organised mass protests in Calcutta calling for the 'Holwell Monument' commemorating the Black Hole of Calcutta, which then stood at the corner of Dalhousie Square, to be removed. He was thrown in jail by the British, but was released following a seven-day hunger strike. Bose's house in Calcutta was kept under surveillance by the CID

Netaji was put in prison eleven times and at times he was put on exile away from India by frightened British. On adter his last escape from house arrest, secret shoot at sight death warrant was issued against him though he never committed any so called crime under British Law that would led to death penalty other than asking for complete freedom and swaraj by whatever menas.

Under Netaji's taking over of the charge of INA, the troops of the INA were under the aegis of a provisional government, the Azad Hind Government, which came to produce its own currency, postage stamps, court and civil code, and was recognised by nine Axis states—Germany, Japan, Italy, the Independent State of Croatia, Wang Jingwei regime in Nanjing, China, a provisional government of Burma, Manchukuo and Japanese-controlled Philippines. Recent researches have shown that the USSR too had recognised the "Provisional Government of Free India". Of those countries, five were authorities established under Axis occupation. This government participated in the so-called Greater East Asia Conference as an observer in November 1943

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