The Case For India/Chapter I

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The Case For India by Annie Wood Besant
Chapter I: Pre-War Military Expenditure

PRE-WAR MILITARY EXPENDITURE.

The Great War, into the whirlpool of which Nation after Nation has been drawn, has entered on its fourth year. The rigid censorship which has been established makes it impossible for any outside the circle of Governments to forecast its duration, but to me, speaking for a moment not as a politician but as a student of spiritual laws, to me its end is sure. For the true object of this War is to prove the evil of, and to destroy, autocracy and the enslavement of one Nation by another, and to place on sure foundations the God-given Right to Self-Rule and Self-Development of every Nation, and the similar right of the Individual, of the smaller Self, so far as is consistent with the welfare of the larger Self of the Nation. The forces which make for the prolongation of autocracy—the rule of one—and the even deadlier bureaucracy—the rule of a close body welded into an iron system—these have been gathered together in the Central Powers of Europe—as of old in Ravana—in order that they may be destroyed; for the New Age cannot be opened until the Old passes away. The new civilisation of Righteousness and Justice, and therefore of Brotherhood, of ordered Liberty, of Peace, of Happiness, cannot be built up until the elements are removed which have brought the old civilisation crashing about our ears. Therefore is it necessary that the War shall be fought out to its appointed end, and that no premature peace shall leave its object unattained. Autocracy and bureaucracy must perish utterly, in East and West, and, in order that their germs may not re-sprout in the future, they must be discredited in the minds of men. They must be proved to be less efficient than the Governments of Free Peoples, even in their favourite work of War, and their iron machinery—which at first brings outer prosperity and success—must be shown to be less lasting and effective than the living and flexible organisations of democratic Peoples. They must be proved failures before the world, so that the glamour of superficial successes may be destroyed for ever. They have had their day and their place in evolution, and have done their educative work. Now they are out-of-date, unfit for survival, and must vanish away.

When Great Britain sprang to arms, it was in defence of the freedom of a small nation, guaranteed by treaties, and the great principles she proclaimed electrified India and the Dominions. They all sprang to her side without question, without delay; they heard the voice of old England, the soldier of Liberty, and it thrilled their hearts. All were unprepared, save the small territorial army of Great Britain, due to the genius and foresight of Lord Haldane, and the readily mobilised army of India, hurled into the fray by the swift decision of Lord Hardinge. The little army of Britain fought for time; fought to stop the road to Paris, the heart of France; fought, falling back step by step, and gained the time it fought for, till India's sons stood on the soil of France, were flung to the front, rushed past the exhausted regiments who cheered them with failing breath, charged the advancing hosts, stopped the retreat, and joined the British army in forming that unbreakable line which wrestled to the death through two fearful winters—often, these soldiers of the tropics, waist-deep in freezing mud—and knew no surrender.

India, with her clear vision, saw in Great Britain the champion of Freedom, in Germany the champion of Despotism. And she saw rightly. Rightly she stood by Great Britain, despite her own lack of freedom and the coercive legislation which outrivalled German despotism, knowing these to be temporary, because un-English, and therefore doomed to destruction; she spurned the lure of German gold and rejected German appeals to revolt. She offered men and money; her educated classes, her Vakils, offered themselves as Volunteers, pleaded to be accepted. Then the never-sleeping distrust of Anglo-India rejected the offer, pressed for money, rejected men. And, slowly, educated India sank back, depressed and disheartened, and a splendid opportunity for knitting together the two Nations was lost.

Early in the War I ventured to say that the War could not end until England recognised that autocracy and bureaucracy must perish in India as well as in Europe. The good Bishop of Calcutta, with a courage worthy of his free race, lately declared that it would be hypocritical to pray for victory over autocracy in Europe and to maintain it in India. Now it has been clearly and definitely declared that Self-Government is to be the objective of Great Britain in India, and that a substantial measure of it is to be given at once; when this promise is made good by the granting of the Reforms outlined last year in Lucknow, then the end of the War will be in sight. For the War cannot end till the death-knell of autocracy is sounded.

Causes, with which I will deal presently and for which India was not responsible, have somewhat obscured the first eager expressions of India's sympathy, and have forced her thoughts largely towards her own position in the Empire. But that does not detract from the immense aid she has given, and is still giving. It must not be forgotten that long before the present War she had submitted—at first, while she had no power of remonstrance, and later, after 1885, despite the constant protests of Congress—to an ever-rising military expenditure, due partly to the amalgamation scheme of 1859, and partly to the cost of various wars beyond her frontiers, and to continual recurring frontier and trans-frontier expeditions, in which she had no real interest. They were sent out for supposed Imperial advantages, not for her own.

Between 1859 and 1904—45 years—Indian troops were engaged in thirty-seven wars and expeditions. There were ten wars: the two Chinese Wars of 1860 and 1900, the Bhutan War of 1864-65, the Abyssinian War of 1868, the Afghan War of 1878-79, and, after the massacre of the Kabul Mission, the second War of 1879-80, ending in an advance of the frontier, in the search for an ever receding "scientific frontier"; on this occasion the frontier was shifted, says Keene, "from the line of the Indus to the western slope of the Suleiman range and from Peshawar to Quetta"; the Egyptian War of 1882, in which the Indian troops markedly distinguished themselves; the third Burmese War of 1885 ending in the annexation of Upper Burma in 1886; the invasions of Tibet in 1890 and 1904. Of Expeditions, or minor Wars, there were 27; to Sitana in 1858 on a small scale and in 1863 on a larger (the "Sitana Campaign"); to Nepal and Sikkim in 1859; to Sikkim in 1864; a serious struggle on the North-west Frontier in 1868; expeditions against the Lushais in 1871-72, the Daflas in 1874-75, the Nagas in 1875, the Afridis in 1877, the Rampa Hill tribes in 1879, the Waziris and Nagas in 1881, the Akhas in 1884, and in the same year an expedition to the Zhob Valley, and a second thither in 1890. In 1888 and 1889 there was another expedition against Sikkim, against the Akozais (the Black Mountain Expedition) and against the Hill Tribes of the North-east, and in 1890 another Black Mountain Expedition, with a third in 1892. In 1890 came the expedition to Manipur, and in 1891 there was another expedition against the Lushais, and one into the Miranzal Valley. The Chitral Expedition occupied 1894-95, and the serious Tirah Campaign, in which 40,000 men were engaged, came in 1897 and 1898. The long list—which I have closed with 1904—ends with the expeditions against the Mahsuds in 1901, against the Kabalis in 1902, and the invasion of Tibet, before noted. All these events explain the rise in military expenditure, and we must add to them the sending of Indian troops to Malta and Cyprus in 1878—a somewhat theatrical demonstration—and the expenditure of some £2,000,000 to face what was described as "the Russian Menace" in 1884. Most of these were due to Imperial, not to Indian, policy, and many of the burdens imposed were protested against by the Government of India, while others were encouraged by ambitious Viceroys. I do not think that even this long list is complete.

Ever since the Government of India was taken over by the Crown, India has been regarded as an Imperial military asset and training ground, a position from which the jealousy of the East India Company had largely protected her, by insisting that the army it supported should be used for the defence and in the interests of India alone. Her value to the Empire for military purposes would not so seriously have injured at once her pride and her finances if the natural tendencies of her martial races had been permitted their previous scope; but the disarming of the people, 20 years after the assumption of the Government by the Crown, emasculated the Nation, and the elimination of races supposed to be unwarlike, or in some cases too warlike to be trusted, threw recruitment more and more to the north, and lowered the physique of the Bengalis and Madrasis, on whom the Company had largely depended.

The superiority of the Punjab, on which Sir Michael O'Dwyer so vehemently insisted the other day, is an artificial superiority, created by the British system and policy; and the poor recruitment elsewhere, on which he laid offensive insistence, is due to the same system and policy, which largely eliminated Bengalis, Madrasis and Mahrattas from the army. In Bengal, however, the martial type has been revived, chiefly in consequence of what the Bengalis felt to be the intolerable insult of the high-handed Partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon.

On this Gopal Krishna Gokhale said:

     Bengal's heroic stand against the oppression of a harsh and
     uncontrolled bureaucracy has astonished and gratified all
     India.... All India owes a deep debt of gratitude to Bengal.

The spirit evoked showed itself in the youth of Bengal by a practical revolt, led by the elders, while it was confined to Swadeshi and Boycott, and rushing on, when it broke away from their authority, into conspiracy, assassination and dacoity: as had happened in similar revolts with Young Italy, in the days of Mazzini, and with Young Russia in the days of Stepniak and Kropotkin. The results of their despair, necessarily met by the halter and penal servitude, had to be faced by Lord Hardinge and Lord Carmichael during the present War. Other results, happy instead of disastrous in their nature, was the development of grit and endurance of a high character, shown in the courage of the Bengal lads in the serious floods that have laid parts of the Province deep under water, and in their compassion and self-sacrifice in the relief of famine. Their services in the present War—the Ambulance Corps and the replacement of its materiel when the ship carrying it sank, with the splendid services rendered by it in Mesopotamia; the recruiting of a Bengali regiment for active service, 900 strong, with another 900 reserves to replace wastage, and recruiting still going on—these are instances of the divine alchemy which brings the soul of good out of evil action, and consecrates to service the qualities evoked by rebellion.

In England, also, a similar result has been seen in a convict, released to go to the front, winning the Victoria Cross. It would be an act of statesmanship, as well as of divinest compassion, to offer to every prisoner and interned captive, held for political crime or on political suspicion, the opportunity of serving the Empire at the front. They might, if thought necessary, form a separate battalion or a separate regiment, under stricter supervision, and yet be given a chance of redeeming their reputation, for they are mostly very young.

The financial burden incurred in consequence of the above conflicts, and of other causes, now to be mentioned, would not have been so much resented, if it had been imposed by India on herself, and if her own sons had profited by her being used as a training ground for the Empire. But in this case, as in so many others, she has shared Imperial burdens, while not sharing Imperial freedom and power. Apart from this, the change which made the Army so ruinous a burden on the resources of the country was the system of "British reliefs," the using of India as a training ground for British regiments, and the transfer of the men thus trained, to be replaced by new ones under the short service system, the cost of the frequent transfers and their connected expenses being charged on the Indian revenues, while the whole advantage was reaped by Great Britain. On the short service system the Simla Army Commission declared:

     The short service system recently introduced into the British
     Army has increased the cost and has materially reduced the
     efficiency of the British troops in India. We cannot resist the
     feeling that, in the introduction of this system, the interest
     of the Indian tax-payer was entirely left out of consideration.

The remark was certainly justified, for the short service system gave India only five years of the recruits she paid heavily for and trained, all the rest of the benefit going to England. The latter was enabled, as the years went on, to enormously increase her Reserves, so that she has had 400,000 men trained in, and at the cost of, India.

In 1863 the Indian army consisted of 140,000 men, with 65,000 white officers. Great changes were made in 1885-1905, including the reorganisation under Lord Kitchener, who became Commander-in-Chief at the end of 1902. Even in this hasty review, I must not omit reference to the fact that Army Stores were drawn from Britain at enormous cost, while they should have been chiefly manufactured here, so that India might have profited by the expenditure. Lately under the necessities of War, factories have been turned to the production of munitions; but this should have been done long ago, so that India might have been enriched instead of exploited. The War has forced an investigation into her mineral resources that might have been made for her own sake, but Germany was allowed to monopolise the supply of minerals that India could have produced and worked up, and would have produced and worked up had she enjoyed Home Rule. India would have been richer, and the Empire safer, had she been a partner instead of a possession. But this side of the question will come under the matters directly affecting merchants, and we may venture to express a hope that the Government help extended to munition factories in time of War may be continued to industrial factories in time of Peace. The net result of the various causes above-mentioned was that the expense of the Indian army rose by leaps and bounds, until, before the War, India was expending, £21,000,000 as against the £28,000,000 expended by the United Kingdom, while the wealthy Dominions of Canada and Australia were spending only 1-1/2 and 1-1/4 millions respectively. (I am not forgetting that the United Kingdom was expending over £51,000,000 on her Navy, while India was free of that burden, save for a contribution of half a million.)

Since 1885, the Congress has constantly protested against the ever-increasing military expenditure, but the voice of the Congress was supposed to be the voice of sedition and of class ambition, instead of being, as it was the voice of educated Indians, the most truly patriotic and loyal class of the population. In 1885, in the First Congress, Mr. P. Rangiah Naidu pointed out that military expenditure had been £1,463,000 in 1857 and had risen to £16,975,750 in 1884. Mr. D.E. Wacha ascribed the growth to the amalgamation scheme of 1859, and remarked that the Company in 1856 had an army of 254,000 men at a cost of 11-1/2 millions, while in 1884 the Crown had an army of only 181,000 men at a cost of 17 millions. The rise was largely due to the increased cost of the European regiments, overland transport service, stores, pensions, furlough allowances, and the like, most of them imposed despite the resistance of the Government of India, which complained that the changes were "made entirely, it may be said, from Imperial considerations, in which Indian interests have not been consulted or advanced." India paid nearly, £700,000 a year, for instance, for "Home Depôts"—Home being England of course—in which lived some 20,000 to 22,000 British soldiers, on the plea that their regiments, not they, were serving in India. I cannot follow out the many increases cited by Mr. Wacha, but members can refer to his excellent speech.

Mr. Fawcett once remarked that when the East India Company was abolished

     the English people became directly responsible for the
     Government of India. It cannot, I think, be denied that this
     responsibility has been so imperfectly discharged that in many
     respects the new system of Government compares unfavourably
     with the old.... There was at that time an independent control
     of expenditure which now seems to be almost entirely wanting.

Shortly after the Crown assumed the rule of India, Mr. Disraeli asked the House of Commons to regard India as "a great and solemn trust committed to it by an all-wise and inscrutable Providence." Mr. George Yule, in the Fourth Congress, remarked on this: "The 650 odd members had thrown the trust back upon the hands of Providence, to be looked after as Providence itself thinks best." Perhaps it is time that India should remember that Providence helps those who help themselves.

Year after year the Congress continued to remonstrate against the cost of the army, until in 1902, after all the futile protests of the intervening years, it condemned an increase of pay to British soldiers in India which placed an additional burden on the Indian revenues of £786,000 a year, and pointed out that the British garrison was unnecessarily numerous, as was shown by the withdrawal of large bodies of British soldiers for service in South Africa and China. The very next year Congress protested that the increasing military expenditure was not to secure India against internal disorder or external attack, but in order to carry out an Imperial policy; the Colonies contributed little or nothing to the Imperial Military Expenditure, while India bore the cost of about one-third of the whole British Army in addition to her own Indian troops. Surely these facts should be remembered when India's military services to the Empire are now being weighed.

In 1904 and 1905, the Congress declared that the then military expenditure was beyond India's power to bear, and in the latter year prayed that the additional ten millions sterling sanctioned for Lord Kitchener's reorganisation scheme might be devoted to education and the reduction of the burden on the raiyats. In 1908, the burdens imposed by the British War Office since 1859 were condemned, and in the next year it was pointed out that the military expenditure was nearly a third of the whole Indian revenue, and was starving Education and Sanitation.

Lord Kitchener's reorganisation scheme kept the Indian Army on a War footing, ready for immediate mobilisation, and on January 1, 1915, the regular army consisted of 247,000 men, of whom 75,000 were English; it was the money spent by India in maintaining this army for years in readiness for War which made it possible for her to go to the help of Great Britain at the critical early period to which I alluded. She spent over £20 millions on the military services in 1914-15. In 1915-16 she spent £21.8 millions. In 1916-17 her military budget had risen to £12 millions, and it will probably be exceeded, as was the budget of the preceding year by £1-2/3 million.

Lord Hardinge, the last Viceroy of India, who is ever held in loving memory here for his sympathetic attitude towards Indian aspirations, made a masterly exposition of India's War services in the House of Lords on the third of last July. He emphasised her pre-War services, showing that though 19-1/4 millions sterling was fixed as a maximum by the Nicholson Committee, that amount had been exceeded in 11 out of the last 13 budgets, while his own last budget had risen to 22 millions. During these 13 years the revenue had been only between 48 and 58 millions, once rising to 60 millions. Could any fact speak more eloquently of India's War services than this proportion of military expenditure compared with her revenue?

The Great War began on August 4th, and in that very month and in the early part of September, India sent an expeditionary force of three divisions—two infantry and one cavalry—and another cavalry division joined them in France in November. The first arrived, said Lord Hardinge, "in time to fill a gap that could not otherwise have been filled." He added pathetically: "There are very few survivors of those two splendid divisions of infantry." Truly, their homes are empty, but their sons shall enjoy in India the liberty for which their fathers died in France. Three more divisions were at once sent to guard the Indian frontier, while in September a mixed division was sent to East Africa, and in October and November two more divisions and a brigade of cavalry went to Egypt. A battalion of Indian infantry went to Mauritius, another to the Cameroons, and two to the Persian Gulf, while other Indian troops helped the Japanese in the capture of Tsingtau. 210,000 Indians were thus sent overseas. The whole of these troops were fully armed and equipped, and in addition, during the first few weeks of the War, India sent to England from her magazines "70 million rounds of small-arm ammunition, 60,000 rifles, and more than 550 guns of the latest pattern and type."

In addition to these, Lord Hardinge speaks of sending to England

     enormous quantities of material,... tents, boots, saddlery,
     clothing, etc., but every effort was made to meet the
     ever-increasing demands made by the War Office, and it may be
     stated without exaggeration that India was bled absolutely
     white during the first few weeks of the war.

It must not be forgotten, though Lord Hardinge has not reckoned it, that all wastage has been more than filled up, and 450,000 men represent this head; the increase in units has been 300,000, and including other military items India had placed in the field up to the end of 1916 over a million of men.

In addition to this a British force of 80,000 was sent from India, fully trained and equipped at Indian cost, India receiving in exchange, many months later, 34 Territorial battalions and 29 batteries, "unfit for immediate employment on the frontier or in Mesopotamia, until they had been entirely re-armed and equipped, and their training completed."

Between the autumn of 1914 and the close of 1915, the defence of our own frontiers was a serious matter, and Lord Hardinge says:

     The attitude of Afghanistan was for a long time doubtful,
     although I always had confidence in the personal loyalty of our
     ally the Amir; but I feared lest he might be overwhelmed by a
     wave of fanaticism, or by a successful Jehad of the tribes....
     It suffices to mention that, although during the previous three
     years there had been no operations of any importance on the
     North-West frontier, there were, between November 29, 1914, and
     September 5, 1915, no less than seven serious attacks on the
     North-West frontier, all of which were effectively dealt with.

The military authorities had also to meet a German conspiracy early in 1915, 7,000 men arriving from Canada and the United States, having planned to seize points of military vantage in the Panjab, and in December of the same year another German conspiracy in Bengal, necessitating military preparations on land, and also naval patrols in the Bay of Bengal.

Lord Hardinge has been much attacked by the Tory and Unionist Press in England and India, in England because of the Mesopotamia Report, in India because his love for India brought him hatred from Anglo-India. India has affirmed her confidence in him, and with India's verdict he may well rest satisfied.

I do not care to dwell on the Mesopotamia Commission and its condemnation of the bureaucratic system prevailing here. Lord Hardinge vindicated himself and India. The bureaucratic system remains undefended. I recall that bureaucratic inefficiency came out in even more startling fashion in connection with the Afghan War of 1878-79 and 1879-80. In February 1880, the war charges were reported as under £4 millions, and the accounts showed a surplus of £2 millions. On April 8th the Government of India reported: "Outgoing for War very alarming, far exceeding estimate," and on the 13th April "it was announced that the cash balances had fallen in three months from thirteen crores to less than nine, owing to 'excessive Military drain' ... On the following day (April 22) a despatch was sent out to the Viceroy, showing that there appeared a deficiency of not less than 5-1/4 crores. This vast error was evidently due to an underestimate of war liabilities, which had led to such mis-information being laid before Parliament, and to the sudden discovery of inability to 'meet the usual drawings.'"

It seemed that the Government knew only the amount audited, not the amount spent. Payments were entered as "advances," though they were not recoverable, and "the great negligence was evidently that of the heads of departmental accounts." If such a mishap should occur under Home Rule, a few years hence—which heaven forbid—I shudder to think of the comments of the Englishman and the Madras Mail on the shocking inefficiency of Indian officials.

In September last, our present Viceroy, H.E. Lord Chelmsford, defended India against later attacks by critics who try to minimise her sacrifices in order to lessen the gratitude felt by Great Britain towards her, lest that gratitude should give birth to justice, and justice should award freedom to India. Lord Chelmsford placed before his Council "in studiously considered outline, a summary of what India has done during the past two years." Omitting his references to what was done under Lord Hardinge, as stated above, I may quote from him:

     On the outbreak of war, of the 4,598 British officers on the
     Indian establishment, 530 who were at home on leave were
     detained by the War Office for service in Europe. 2,600
     Combatant Officers have been withdrawn from India since the
     beginning of the War, excluding those who proceeded on service
     with their batteries or regiments. In order to make good these
     deficiencies and provide for war wastage the Indian Army
     Reserve of Officers was expanded from a total of 40, at which
     it stood on the 4th August, 1914, to one of 2,000.

     The establishment of Indian units has not only been kept up to
     strength, but has been considerably increased. There has been
     an augmentation of 20 per cent. in the cavalry and of 40 per
     cent. in the infantry, while the number of recruits enlisted
     since the beginning of the War is greater than the entire
     strength of the Indian Army as it existed on August 4, 1914.

Lord Chelmsford rightly pointed out:

     The Army in India has thus proved a great Imperial asset, and
     in weighing the value of India's contribution to the War it
     should be remembered that India's forces were no hasty
     improvisation, but were an army in being, fully equipped and
     supplied, which had previously cost India annually a large sum
     to maintain.

Lord Chelmsford has established what he calls a "Man-Power Board," the duty of which is "to collect and co-ordinate all the facts with regard to the supply of man-power in India." It has branches in all the Provinces. A steady flow of reinforcements supplies the wastage at the various fronts, and the labour required for engineering, transport, etc., is now organised in 20 corps in Mesopotamia and 25 corps in France. In addition 60,000 artisans, labourers, and specialists are serving in Mesopotamia and East Africa, and some 20,000 menials and followers have also gone overseas. Indian medical practitioners have accepted temporary commissions in the Indian Medical Service to the number of 500. In view of this fact, due to Great Britain's bitter need of help, may we not hope that this Service will welcome Indians in time of peace as well as in time of war, and will no longer bar the way by demanding the taking of a degree in the United Kingdom? It is also worthy of notice that the I.M.S. officers in charge of district duties have been largely replaced by Indian medical men; this, again, should continue after the War. Another fact, that the Army Reserve of Officers his risen from 40 to 2,000, suggests that the throwing open of King's Commissions to qualified Indians should not be represented by a meagre nine. If English lads of 19 and 20 are worthy of King's Commissions—and the long roll of slain Second Lieutenants proves it—then certainly Indian lads, since Indians have fought as bravely as Englishmen, should find the door thrown open to them equally widely in their own country, and the Indian Army should be led by Indian officers.

With such a record of deeds as the one I have baldly sketched, it is not necessary to say much in words as to India's support of Great Britain and her Allies. She has proved up to the hilt her desire to remain within the Empire, to maintain her tie with Great Britain. But if Britain is to call successfully on India's man-power, as Lord Chelmsford suggests in his Man-Power Board, then must the man who fights or labours have a man's Rights in his own land. The lesson which springs out of this War is that it is absolutely necessary for the future safety of the Empire that India shall have Home Rule. Had her Man-Power been utilised earlier there would have been no War, for none would have dared to provoke Great Britain and India to a contest. But her Man-Power cannot be utilised while she is a subject Nation. She cannot afford to maintain a large army, if she is to support an English garrison, to pay for their goings and comings, to buy stores in England at exorbitant prices and send them back again when England needs them. She cannot afford to train men for England, and only have their services for five years. She cannot afford to keep huge Gold Reserves in England, and be straitened for cash, while she lends to England out of her Reserves, taken from her over-taxation, £27,000,000 for War expenses, and this, be it remembered, before the great War Loan. I once said in England: "The condition of India's loyalty is India's freedom." I may now add: "The condition of India's usefulness to the Empire is India's freedom." She will tax herself willingly when her taxes remain in the country and fertilise it, when they educate her people and thus increase their productive power, when they foster her trade and create for her new industries.

Great Britain needs India as much as India needs England, for prosperity in Peace as well as for safety in War. Mr. Montagu has wisely said that "for equipment in War a Nation needs freedom in Peace." Therefore I say that, for both countries alike, the lesson of the War is Home Rule for India.

Let me close this part of my subject by laying at the feet of His Imperial Majesty the loving homage of the thousands here assembled, with the hope and belief that, ere long, we shall lay there the willing and grateful homage of a free Nation.