A Glimpse Into the Future of the Storm Centre of the Empire
Will Time Solve the Enigma of India?
A Glimpse Into the Future of the Storm Centre of the Empire
Does the average Canadian need a new viewpoint, a wider outlookt I8 interest in matters pertaining to other parts of the British Empire as strong in Canada as it should bef Few Canadians, comparatively speaking, know much about Australia, South Africa, India. Neivs from these isolated parts of the Empire appeals as information relating to foreign lands. MacLeanfs Magazine believes that there should be a closer relationship, a more intimate knowledge of all subjects of Imperial interest. Perhaps the present article will enable readers to gain a freer knowledge of India—the storm centre of the Empire.
THE race to maintain Britain’s supremacy of the seas has been when all is said and done a grand thing for the Empire. Looking beyond the staggering array of figures that represent the cost of new armaments one sees that the naval crisis has awakened a new spirit of Imperial unity, that the bonds binding the colonies to the Mother Country have been immeasurably strengthened.
A new conception of Imperialism is being formed. The Canadian feels that his interests are identical with his Australian brother’s. He has begun to realize that Australia is more to him than a mere Island continent on the other side of the globe; that he should know something of the Great Bight, the Barrier Reef and the Arafura Sea. The Australian reciprocates with a lively interest in the Rocky Mountains, the Great Lakes and the untold possibilities of the far north land. Problems of one part of the Impire are of vital import to all other parts. Sectionalism is on the wane.
To speak of torrid, turbulent India, therefore, is not to introduce a subject of foreign interest to the Canadian.
India is a part of the Empire, the storm centre of the most pressing problems that confront John Bull, an Economic
Enigma, the one question mark that faces us when we think of the future.
Will time solve the Enigma of India? Does the status of India affect the solidarity of the Empire as a whole?
These are questions that every loyal British subject asks.
It might very naturally be supposed that India would bulk largely in the World’s interest, because India is an ancient land. India, if not the actual cradle-land of our Aryan race, was the scene of our Aryan short-coating. The conquest of India has been the dream of every great conqueror since the days of Alexander the Great. And yet, how little the average man knows about India. All that the average man knows of India he receives from missionary reports, and the mendacious reports that sometimes come to us through the foreign press. To the average man India is a mere word, an abstract idea. Naught to him is the delicate tracery of the mosque where the imaum prostrates himself five times each day in adoration of distant Mecca. He cannot picture the Hindu temple, where are gathered the priests of Siva, the sacred Bull, the swinging devotees, the sacred apes, and the idols on whose carved marble surface, there scintillates the ransom of a dozen kings. Strange indeed to him are the street scenes of India, the dark swarthy faces, the long beards, the splashes of yellow,
denoting the different sects, the ascetic Brahmin, the pious Buddhist, the haughty Mohammedan, the Bheestie-wallah, the punkah-coolie, the pompous Parsee and the lowly Sudra, the chatter and gossip of the native bazaars, and the stillness of the Towers of Silence.
To understand the present condition of affairs in India and the undoubted unrest which exists it is necessary to know something of the way the mixed races live, the creeds they hold to, the ideals they place before them.
Decidedly the outstanding feature of this mystical land is the caste system. We hear much of the breaking down of the caste system, but the end will not be in our day and generation. India has for centuries been closely narrowed down to the system of caste. Outside of his caste, the world does not exist for the twiceborn Hindu. Caste is his fatherland; the unity of India has no place in his thoughts. To lose caste is to lose everything—parents, relatives, friends. Each of these turns his back upon the culprit and refuses to have any dealings with him. He must enter the casteless category, which is employed only for the most abject functions.
Broadly speaking, there are the caste and the casteless—the twiceborn, and the once-born; those who wear the sacred thread, and those who are denied the sacred thread. The twiceborn are divided into three classes, whose
members possess unequal privileges. These are the Brahmins, the Kehatryas, and the Vaisyas. The once-born are the lowly Sudras, the men to whom are relegated the meanest offices. The Brahmans consider themselves, and are considered, a higher caste than the others, for the Brahmins were the intermediates between men and the gods. They were the law-givers and to them was orally committed the whole of the Vedic hymns. The Kehatryas were the warriors. For a long period these struggled with the Brahmins for supremacy, but ultimately they were compelled to take a secondary position. The Brahr mins wrote and recited the liturgies and conducted the sacrifices. The Kehatryas went out and fought the enemy at the gates. But a community must have something more substantial than the priest and the soldier to fall back upon. Thus we have the third estate—the Vaisyas, the agriculturists. Very soon tho priestly caste drew itself away from the warrior caste, and the warrior caste drew itself away from the agriculturists. These three orders, the Brahmins, the Kehatryas and the Vaisyas, ultimately became totally separated by a cessation of intermarriage. The Sudras, the once-born, are the servile dregs of the population. From the cradle to the grave these cruel barriers still intervene between the social strata of Hindustan, relentless as Fate, and insurmountable as death.
It would be childish to deny that there is unrest in India. Such unrest is rather Asiatic and racial than Indian or national. Such unrest is the visible symptom of that resentment of prolonged European domination which is affecting the whole continent of Asia, and with which, one day, we shall have to reckon. Our rule may be disliked by a certain
section, not because it is a bad rule, but because it is an alien rule. We are in the position of every conquering race that seeks to assuage the enmity of the conquered—we are handicapped by the racial instinct, and by the fact that we are conquerors. If our rule were that of angels and archangels, the result would be the same. We have done many good works in India, and, very foolishly, we desire to be loved for having done these good works, but we lose sight of the fact that a conquered people possessing any spirit, prefer to hate their conquerors because of their presence, rather than to love them for any good deeds they may have done in the land. The individual Briton is frequently loved and revered, but the collective alien rule is hated and resented by millions of natives.
The recent partition of Bengal is not the cause of this unrest, as many imagine. It sw elled the stream, but it, by no means, furnishes the main current. There are many causes of unrest in India. First, the steady impact of alien ideas on an ancient and obsolescent civilization. Second, the more or less imperfect assimilation of these alien ideas by a small but active minority. Third, the hatred felt for these alien ideas by a privileged class which helieves that its ancient ascendancy will be weakened by the introduction of such ideas. Fourth, the disintegration of old beliefs and the aggressive revival of those beliefs. Fifth, the careless diffusion of an artificial system of education which is not grounded on real intellectuality, and which is bereft of all
moral or religious sanction. Sixth, the application of western theories of administration and jurisprudence to a social formation that is stratified on lines of extreme rigidity. Seventh, the play of modern economic forces upon primitive conditions of industry and trade. Eighth, the inevitable friction between subject races and their alien rulers. Ninth, the echo, or rather, the reverberation of distant wars, and distant racial conflicts. Tenth, the recent exaltation of a great Eastern power (Japan) and the abasement of Asiatics in South Africa and British Columbia Will the West ever understand the East, We think our ideals are best and we desire to cram those ideals down the throats of all and sundry. We are divided from the Orient by an impassable gulf. We like sanitation. The Hindu doesn’t. He prefers a short, easy, fearless and dignified death. He believes that Western strenuousness is but a sorry exchange for Eastern tranquility. Our activity he believes, is due to devils. Why should he make this a strenuous life w’hen he believes that he has millions of incarnations ahead of him? His happiness is not a matter of food, or drink or clothing. All these things have culminated in the inchoate revolt of a small but intensely active minority which frequently disguises under an appeal to the sympathy of the Western democracy, a reversion to the old tyranny of caste, and the grossest superstitions of Hinduism, and which arms, with the murderous weapons of European anarchy, the fervor of that Oriental mysticism which is compounded in varying proportions of philo-
sophie transcendentalism and degenerate sensuous ness The political skies of
India are frequently overcast, but there are no signs of any approaching exodus of the British from India. There is no need to disguise the
fact that we are secretly and publicly hated by the Bengali, to whom we have given a college education, and he, like Jeshurun of old, has waxed fat and has kicked. He represents 95 per cent, of the so-called unrest in India. He is not a fighting man in the military sense of the term, for he has long since learned that under British rule the tongue and the pen are mightier than the sword, and governs himself accordingly. He does not desire the withdrawal of British troops from India. That is bis last thought because he knows that within six months after the passing of the British raj the Nepalese would have a strangle-hold on Bengal, the ancient feuds of the Mohammedans and Mahrattas would be rekindled, and Russia would sweep the land from the Himalayas to the southernmost verge of the Carnatic. Therefore, the Bengali desires the presence of British troops to police-patrol the country whilst he and his brother Bengalis fill all the fat offices going. His political unrest is neither national, provincial, nor parochial, it springs from gross personal selfishness and the natural antipathy of the conquered against his conquerors.
The chief danger in India lies with the Mahommedan. He cannot forget that he was once the conqueror of India, and that he was dispossessed by the British. He belongs to Islam and his eyes are always turned towards Constantinople, and were the Sheik al Islam to raise the green flag and proclaim a Jehad against us, our position in India might, indeed, become precarious.
We have done great things for India, and our intentions have been even nobler than our deeds. Judged by the standard of other conquerors our attitude towards India has been humane and beneficent. We won India by the sword, and we hold India partly by the sword, partly by the grace that is born of the racial and religious hatreds of its own people, and
partly by that British justice which is engendered by the teachings of the lowly Nazarene, and which is accentuated by the larger civilization of the twen-
tieth century. Since the days of Lord Cornwallis we have held that obscurantism shall have no place in our government of the people of India. We have sent out the educationist and the missionary. We have generously supported the native school, the native college, the native university, and the native church, and we have been warned by the military party that the education of the native in the present means trouble to us in the future. But what could a great Christian empire do in the matter! We were face to face with a problem of stupendous gravity. It it was our intention to treat India merely as a conquered country, our manifest policy was to keep the people in their initial state of ignorance, playing off their racial and religious hatred against each other, with
Great Britain posted as eternal referee. But our great pro-consuls of Empire have advocated a nobler policy than that. These men have told us that India must
not be treated as a child of the sword but as the helpless ward of a great Christian empire. If it is our intention to treat India as the former we should recall the missionary, and the educationist, close down the native church, the native school, the native college, the native university, and make another Warsaw of Calcutta. Ours is a nobler and more enduring work than this. The White Man’s Burden has been imposed upon us and the redemption of India must be worked out by us and her own people. We must expect ingratitude, hatred and calumniation, but our hand has been put to the plow and we must not look backward. Britain must help, but in the last analysis India must save herself. We may guide, instruct, and inspire, but no nation was ever redeemed in spite of itself. India needs a strong and flexible bond, one that will unite her numerous states into one nation, her numerous races into one people, her numerous castes into one society, her numerous religions into one faith, and India itself must furnish that bond. India needs a type of high moral character, not the noisy, irresponsible, political demagogue, but the broad, pure, dominating character—the Hero-prophet of India. And he must be one wh has made his first journey in life astride the hip of a brown-skinned mother.
The present period may be dark, but India’s future is far from being hopeless. In political and social reform the national movement is drawing together men of different sections, creeds and castes. The success of the Arya-Brahma Samajis furnishes abundant evidence of the new movement. These men are the descendants of great forefathers, who founded great philosophies, who discovered great truths, who built great temples, palaces and tombs, which, today, are the glory of India, and the won-
der of the world. It is from the ranks of these men the sleeping genius of India will awake, and in that awakening India will be redeemed.
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