Nehru - Toward Freedom (1936).pdf

The indian states represent today probably the

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The Indian states represent today probably the extremest type of au tocracy existing in the world. They are, of course, subject to British suzerainty, but the British Government interferes only for the protec tion or advancement of British interests. A veil of mystery surrounds these states. Newspapers are not encouraged there, and at the most a literary or semiofficial weekly might flourish. Outside newspapers are often barred. Literacy is very low, except in some of the southern states Travancore, Cochin, etc. where it is far higher than in British India. The principal news that comes from the states is of a viceregal visit, with all its pomp and ceremonial and mutually complimentary speeches, or of an extravagantly celebrated marriage or birthday of the ruler, or an agrarian rising. Special laws protect the princes from criti cism, even in British India, and within the states the mildest criticism is rigorously suppressed. Public meetings are almost unknown, and even meetings for social purposes are often banned. Leading public men from outside are frequently prevented from entering the states. When such conditions prevail in the states, it would have been nat- 324
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ural for the Congress to stand up for the elementary rights of the peo ple of the states and to criticize their wholesale suppression. But Gan- dhiji fathered a novel policy on the Congress in regard to the states the "policy of noninterference in the internal administration of the states." This hush-hush policy has been adhered to by him in spite of the most extraordinary and painful occurrences in the states, and in spite of wholly unprovoked attacks by the states' governments on the Congress. Apparently the fear is that Congress criticism might offend the rulers and make it more difficult to "convert" them. More or less the same considerations apply to the talukdari and big zamindari system. It hardly seems a matter for argument that this semifeudal system is out of date and is a great hindrance to produc tion and general progress. It conflicts even with a developing capital ism, and almost all over the world large landed estates have gradually vanished and given place to peasant proprietors. I had always imagined that the only possible question that could arise in India was one of compensation. But to my surprise I have discovered during the last year or so (1934-5) that Gandhiji approves of the talukdari system as such and wants it to continue. He said in July 1934 at Cawnpore that "better relations between landlords and tenants could be brought about by a change of hearts on both sides. If that was done, both could live in peace and harmony." He was "never in favor of abolition of the taluk dari or zamindari system, and those who thought that it should be abol ished did not know their own minds." (This last charge is rather unkind.) He is further reported to have said: "I shall be no party to dispossess ing propertied classes of their private property without just cause.
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