Maulana Mohammed Ali's speech at the Fourth Plenary Session of the Round Table Conference in London, 19th Nov., 1930
[] Mr. Chairman, may I exercise the privilege of the invalid and remain seated? My friend Dr. Moonje has explained his position as to how he has been called a traitor to his country. I think we are bracketed together here again. As he knows very well, on the day when he and I were to depart from India [inauspicious] black flags were to be flown to wish us Godspeed, and the wishes of people with whom we had been working all these years were that the boat "Viceroy of India" might prove very unseaworthy. Even when I came to this country one newspaper in England which I have helped to stabilise financially-I am very glad to see it has a million sale today--the "Daily Herald," published my photograph and called me a convert--I suppose, a convert from patriotism to treachery.
There is in Parliament, besides the Conservative peer who spoke yesterday frankly and sincerely, another very Conservative gentleman, who was my tutor professor at Oxford, Sir Charles Oman, and it is from history that I quote one short sentence which formed the subject of one of the questions asked us in the Indian Civil Service Examination, for which I appeared and failed: "The Saracen alone it was impossible to convert." I do not claim to have in me Aryan blood like all the white people here and Dr. Moonje. I have the blood in me which my Lord Reading--who sent me to prison--has perhaps running in his veins. I am a Semite; and if he has not been converted from Zionism, I too am not converted from Islam, and my anchor holds. I am the only person belonging to my party who has been selected by His Excellency the Viceroy, or the Government of His Majesty here, or whoever it is who has appointed these wonderful Delegates. Whose Delegates we are we do not know. I do not pretend to represent anybody; but I will say this much, and I feel certain that when you have heard me--I hope patiently--you will say that I. am right in my claim, that at least I am not misrepresenting myself, and I think that should be enough. In politics there is too much misrepresentation even of oneself.
"I hope your Lordship is a Conservative and will remain a Conservative; because the only definition that I read of a Conservative was in Tennyson, who said.
"He is the best ConservativeI think those ideas which Lord Peel expressed, very sincerely and frankly, really represent the mouldered branch which should be lopped away. This is my only answer to him.
Who lops the mouldered branch away."
As regards the other Conservative, our own Prince from India, namely His Highness the Maharaja Sahib of Rewa, I am not quite sure about his conservatism. If he takes Burke to be a Conservative, and quotes him at the end of his speech, I would say: "Be a Conservative and stick to it, for, quoting Burke, His Highness said, "Small minds and large empires go ill together." If the British Empire--call it Empire, call it commonwealth of Nations, whatever you choose to call it I do not care--if the British Empire desires to remain big, the small minds that have been visible and audible only too long must disappear.
[] If you had followed Burke, you would not have lost America, and you would not be talking of parity today in building warships. There should be much more talk of charity. And you would not have all those debts to pay. You would not have all that worry. You would not have to go so often to Geneva to the Preparatory Commission for the Disarmament Conference. How long that preparation is going to take, Heaven only knows. All these things came in because you forgot your greatest politician, your greatest statesman, who was the man who, in the House of Commons, was called the "dinner bell," because when Burke got up to speak you all left and went to the dining room. You still do that to people who are like Burke and I therefore say--and I quote him once again--"Men, not measures." I do not care what constitution you prepare for us, but all would be well if you have got one man in England who is a real man.
"Oh God! for a man with heart, head, hand,I hope my old friend Mr. MacDonald will at least prove the man to rule, and that he would not dare to lie to his own
Like some of the simple great ones gone
For ever and ever by..
One still strong man in a blatant land,
Whatever they call him, what care I?
Aristocrat, autocrat, democrat--one
Who can rule and dare not lie."
But even more than I trust my old friend Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, I, a republican, make this confession, that I place my trust in the man--I call him a man, because "a man's a man for a' that"--who inaugurated this Conference in the Gallery of the House of Lords, whose name is George. Whether you call him His Majesty or whatever you call him, he is a man! He knows India better than any of his Ministers, past or present, and I am looking up to him to do justice to the 320 millions who constitute one-fifth of the whole of humanity, and I am strengthened in that belief by the wonderful patriotism shown by the Princes arrayed over there, the conservative element in India. It must be a revelation to my Lord Peel and to my Lord Reading; it is no revelation to me.
[] I am again a unique person. While I am a British subject--though I was yet being excluded from the Indian Civil Service Examination because they said I was not a "natural born British subject"--provisionally they admitted me, till evidence from my mother came in, and they finally admitted me--I happen also to be subject of an Indian State, and probably in that respect too I am a unique person in this Conference. I was born in a State; I have served in that State. I have served in another State, Baroda--my master, the Gaekwar, is here; I ate his salt for seven years--and when I was dying two years ago it was an Indian Prince, His Highness of Alwar, who sent me at his own cost his own doctor here. When I was supposed to be going to die once more at Simla, it was a Prince, whom I was once about to being to teach as a private tutor, the Nawab Sahib of Bhopal, who exercised the truest hospitality--which the British are not yet exercising--he turned his guest-house into a hospital for me.
The British will be extending their hospitality to me in the letter as well as they are doing in the spirit, if they make me a free patient in every hospital that there is. When I was sent to Simla to the hospital I made a judicious separation between two fiances, a lady on one side and military officer on the other, who were to be married very shortly. I occupied a room between them! Both were ailing. The lady asked our doctor, when she saw a strange-looking Indian coming into the European quarters, "What is this old man ailing from?" The doctor said, "Ask me rather what the old man is not ailing from." A man with my dilated heart; with my approaching and recurrent blindness through retinitis; with my once-gangrened foot, with neuritis--this huge bulking foot through oedema; with albuminaria; with diabetes, and the whole long list that I could give you if Colonel Gidney would not think I was becoming his rival as a medical man, I say no sane man with all these ailments would have travelled seven miles. And yet I have come seven thousand miles of land and sea because where Islam and India are concerned, I am mad, and, as the "Daily Herald" puts it, I am a "convert"; from a "rebel" against the Government, I have become a "traitor" to my country, and I am now working "with the Government." I say I can work even with the Devil if it is to be, like this work, in the cause of God.
I hope you will forgive this long introduction about my ill-health and ailments and all sorts of things; but the fact is that today the one purpose for which I came is this--that I want to go back to my country if I can go back with the substance of freedom in my hand. Otherwise I will not go back to a slave country. I would even prefer to die in a foreign country, so long as it is a free country; and if you do not give us freedom in India you will have to give me a grave here.
[] I begin with the Conservatives by thanking them. When I met Mr. Baldwin at the dinner which the Government hospitality provided for us, when. I was really very ill and ought to have been in bed, I was watching for the cherrywood pipe, and, thank God, it came out. So I went to Mr. Baldwin, and I said, "In two ways you have made history. Although a Conservative belonging to a party of the so-called idle rich, you have at least been human enough to establish this rule, that where only Coronas could be smoked after dinner an honest man could now bring out his shag, put it into a cherrywood pipe, as I used to do at Oxford, and smoke it." But, as I told him, he has done another historic thing also. He has sent out a Conservative Viceroy of the type of Lord Irwin; if any man has saved the British Empire today, it is that tall, thin Christian. If Lord Irwin was not there today, heaven only knows what would have happened. At least I would not be the "convert" I am supposed to be. We should not have been at this Round Table. It is for the sake of peace, friendship, and freedom that we have come here, and I hope we shall go back with all that; if we do not, we go back into the ranks of fighters where we were ten years before. They may now call us traitors to the country. You may then call us rebels or outlaws. We do not care.
I have said something about His Excellency Lord Irwin, but I do not wish to associate all that with his Government. They have woefully mismanaged things. The only good point about their Despatch is that it has provided us with another "historic document." The Simon Commission's Report is not the only document we have to consider. The Despatch is a most disappointing document. The best thing we can do after it is to create our own "historic document" here. The best hearts and the best brains of two big countries are assembled here. Many who ought to have been here are still in gaol in India. Mr. Jayakar, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, and I tried our hands at peacemaking between the Viceroy and Gandhiji, but we failed. I was the first in the field, bue failed. I hope we shall not fail when we go back to our country this time, carrying with us the substance of freedom.
Lord Peel said, "Oh, yes, but when you go back to your country with a constitution such as you want, those people who are not co-operating will wrest it from your hands." Wrest it! When I can fight the British, I can fight the Indians too. But give me something to fight for. Do not let me have to take back from here a charater of slavery and then expect me to fight my own people. I could not do it, and if I tried to do it, I should fail. But with freedom in our hands I would gladly go back to those in whose name my friend Mr. Jayakar spoke. He claimed to speak for Young India. I think he knows that, although I am older than him in years, I am a younger man in heart, in spirit, in temperament, and in love of fighting. I was non-co-operating when Mr. Jayakar was still practising in the law courts. (Mr. Jayakar shook his head.) Anyhow he was not in gaol with me. My brother and I were the very first to be sent to gaol by Lord Reading. I bear him no grudge for that; but I want the power also, when Lord Reading goes wrong again in India, to send him to gaol.
[] I have not come to ask for Dominion Status. I do not believe in the attainment of Dominion Status. The one thing to which I am committed is complete independence. In Madras in 1927, we passed a resolution making that our goal. In 1928, in the Convention of All Parties, the adoption of the Nehru Report Constitution was moved, the very first clause of which was about Dominion Status. Even my old secretary, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the President of the Congress today, was kept down by his father. There is a Persian proverb which says: "Be a dog, do not be a younger brother." And when you see my big brother over there, "seven feet by five," as Colonel Wedgwood called him, you can well believe, I believe, in this Persian proverb. In the case of Jawaharlal I would say, "Be a cat, do not be the son of your father." For it was .his father who, as President of the Congress, throttled poor Jawaharlal at Calcutta in 1928. Well I got up in his place, when he could not speak for complete independence, and I opposed the clause dealing with Dominion Status.
But in 1929 I would not go further like Jawaharlal and make it my creed, because once we make it our creed in the Congress, we cannot admit anybody into the Congress who does not hold that creed. I liked to keep the door open for negotiation. I would not like to slam the door in he face of anybody. His Excellency Lord Irwin, a Conservative Viceroy, was "the man on the spot." And he was sufficiently impressed by what he saw on the spot and came here. When we come to London we hear that everybody is appealing to "the man in the! street." Whether "the man in the street" is well heard or not, I do not know; but Lord Rathermere and Lord Beaverbrook and everybody else always talk about "the man in the street" as the final court of appeal. In India it is always "the man on the spot." Well, "the man on the spot" came here and he talked to the leading "man in the street," who is presiding here. I am sure he preached to the converted. They brought round Mr. Baldwin also; they brought round some Conservatives; they brought round everybody they could, and made the announcement that Dominion Status was meant, when in 1917 they said "Responsible Government." That cleared the fog which had been created in a very memorable meeting of the Indian Legislative Assembly in 1924 by the Officer in charge of the Home Department at the time, who I am glad is present here today.
[] As I said two or three days ago, India has put on fiftyleague boots. We are making forced marches which will astonish the world, and we will not go back to India unless a new Dominion is born. If we go back to India without the birth of a new Dominion we shall go back, believe me, to a lost Dominion. We shall go back to an America. Then you will witness, not within the British Commonwealth or the British Empire, but outside it, with the Indian Princes, with Dr. Moonje, with Mr. Jayakar, with myself and my brother, a Free and United States of India. It will be something more than that. As I wrote shortly after leaving Oxford long years ago, in India we shall have something better than an America, because we shall not only have a United States, but we shall have United Faiths.
"Not like to like, but like in difference;It is with these passions surging in our hearts that we have come here. It now depends upon our Conservative friends, upcn our Radical friends, upon our Labour friends, and still more upon the one man whom I trust more in England than anybody else--His Majesty King George, the grandson of Victoria the Good, whose love for India nobody dare deny. Her whole life was the Magna Charta of India, and in her grandson's time history will be written again like this: "George III lost America. George V won India"!
Self-reverent each and reverencing each;
Distinct in individualities,
But like each other, e'en as those who love."
[] We are told t.hat there are difficulties. It is said, "Look at the States." But I come from the States, and I know they present no difficulty whatever. "Then there is the Army." Well what about the Army? It is the biggest indictment against Great Britain that the Army is not ours today, and if you ever use that excuse of the Army you will condemn yourselves out of your own mouths. Let me tell you frankly and honestly, but in a friendly way, that your greatest sin was the emasculation of India.
I am glad to hear my friend, Dr. Moonje, say "Hear, hear." I was very sorry to hear him talk about our people being fired upon and therefore running away for a time and then coming back. We have 320,000,000 of people. When they can afford to die in millions from famine and from plagues, surely they can afford to die from British bullets too. That is the lesson which Gandhiji wanted to each us, and that is the lesson which we must learn now. In 1913 I was in this country when Gandhiji was leading his movement in South Africa. Mr. G. K. Chesterton presided over a meeting in the Essex Hall; he called upon me to speak. Other speakers had spoken of Gandhi's new philosophy. I said, "Please understand one thing about that. Whether it is his philosophy or Tolstoy's, Jesus Christ's or mine, it is the univeraal human philosophy". Nobody wins in a battle if there is merely the will to kill. You must have the will to die even before the will to kill. In India we have not the power to kill, but the moment we develop the will to die, numbers will tell. 320,000,000 of people cannot be killed. There is no mechanization [=mechanism?] for which you can find money to kill 320,000,000 people. Even if you have got that mechanization, even if you have got the material, you have not the morale (or immorale) to dare to kill 320,000,000 people. We must have in us the will to die for the birth of India as a free and united nation. And this we are fast developing. When this has been fully developed, what can you do? I do not for a moment imagine that you could find in all England a hundred men so hardhearted and callous as to fire for long on unarmed and nonviolent people ready to die for the freedom of their country. No; I do not think so badly of English soldiers.
[] The real problem which is upsetting us all the time has been the third problem--this Hindu-Muslim problem; but that is no problem at all. The fact is that the Hindu-Muslim difficulty, like the Army difficulty, is of your own creation. But not altogether. It is the old maxim of "divide and rule." But there is a division of labour here. We divide and you rule. The moment we decide not to divide you will not be able to rule as you are doing today. With this determination not to be divided, we have come here. Let me assure every British man and woman who thinks of shaping our destinies that the only quarrel between the Hindus and the Muslims today is [the] quarrel that the Muslim is afraid of Hindu domination and the Hindu, I suppose, is afraid of Muslim domination. (Dr. Moonje: No, the Hindu is never afraid.) Well I am very glad to hear that. In my country the she-buffalo attacks only when she is afraid; and whatever the reverence of the Hindu for the cow, I am glad he has never the fear of the she-buffalo. I want to get rid of that fear. The very fact that Hindus and Muslims are quarrelling today shows that they will not stand British domination either for one single minute. That is the point to grasp.
British domination is doomed over India. Is our friendship doomed also? My brother took service under the Government and served it for 17 years, but he did one thing for me. He sent me to Oxford. He was always taunting me in the non- co-operation days by saying: "You have a soft corner in your heart for that place called Oxford." I must admit that I had. I spent four years there, and I always carry with me the most pleasant recollections of that time, and I want to keep that feeling. I do have a very soft corner in my heart for my Alma Mater. But I can taunt my brother, too. When he was being tried at Karachi-when the jury let us off, and there was a British juryman among them, they voted for our release because we were such a sporting lot--my big brother said: "Even if it becomes my duty to kill the first Englishman I come across, if he happens to have blue eyes, my knife will not work; because I shall think of the eyes of Theodore Beck, my late Principal at my old College, Aligarh." There are several Aligarh Old Boys here, and they can bear witness to the fact that we who were brought up at Aligarh by Beck could never be without a soft corner in our hearts for Engl:shmen. Therefore, even if British domination is doomed--and it must be killed here--do not let us kill British friendship. We have a soft corner in our hearts for Great Britain. Let us retain it, I beseech you.
[] One word as to the Muslim position, with which I shall deal at length on some other occasion. Many people in England ask us why this question of Hindu and Muslim comes into politics and what it has to do with these things. I reply, "It is a wrong conception of religion that you have, if you exclude politics from it. It is not dogma; it is not ritual! Religion, to my mind means the interpretation of life." I have a culture, a polity, an outlook on life--a complete synthesis which is Islam. Where God commands I am a Muslim first, a Muslim second, and a Muslim last, and nothing but a Muslim. If you ask me to enter into your Empire or into your Nation by leaving that synhesis, that polity, that culture, that ethics, I will not do it. My first duty is to my Maker, not to H. M. the King, nor to my companion, Dr. Moonje; my first duty is to my maker, and that is the case with Dr. Moonje also. He must be a Hindu first, and I must be a Muslim first, so far as that duty is concerned. But where India is concerned, where India's freedom is concerned, I am an Indian first, an Indian second, an Indian last, and nothing but an Indian.
I belong to two circles of equal size, but which are not concentric. One is India, and the other is the Muslim world. When I came to England in 1920 at the head of the Khilafat Delegation, my friends said: "You must have some sort of a crest for your stationery." I decided to have it with two circles on it. In one circle was the word "India"; in the other circle was Islam, wiih the word "Khilafat." We as Indian Muslims came in both circles. We belong to these two circles, each of more than 300 millions, and we can leave neither. We are not nationalists but supernationalists, and I as a Muslim say that "God made man and the Devil made the nation." Nationalism divides; our religion binds. No religious wars, no crusades, have seen such holocausts and have been so cruel as your last war, and that was a war of your nationalism, and not my Jehad.
But where our country is concerned, where the question of taxation is concerned, where our crops are concerned, where the weather is concerned, where all associations in those thousands of matters of ordinary life are concerned, which are for the welfare of India, how can I say "I am a Muslim and he is a Hindu"? Make no mistake about the quarrels between Hindu and Muslim; they are founded only on the fear of domination. If there is one other sin with which I charge Great Britain, in addition to the sin of emasculating India, it is the sin of making wrong histories about India and teaching them to us in our schools, with the result that our school boys have learnt wrong Indian history. The quarrels which are sometimes visible in our streets on certain holidays, or quarrels the motives of which have been instilled into the hearts of our so-called intelligentsia--I call it unintelligentsia--by the wrong history taught us in our schools for political purposes. If that feeling, which writes "Revenge" so large over the politics of certain people in India, existed as it does, and if it existed to the extent which it does today, and the Muslims were everywhere in a minority of 25 per cent and the Hindus were everywhere in a majority of 66 per cent, I could see no ray of hape today; but thanks to the gerrymandering of our saints and our soldiers, if there are Provinces like that of my friend Dr. Moonje, in which I am only 4 per cent, there are other provinces where I am 93 percent, as in the Province of my friend Nawab Sir Abdul Qaiyum, for which we demand equal freedom. There is the old Province of Sind, where the Muslims first landed, where they are 73 per cent; in the Punjab they are 56 per cent, and in Bengal 55 per cent. That gives us our safeguard, for we demand hostages as we have willingly given hostages to Hindus in the other Provinces where they form huge majorities.
[] I want you to realise that for the first time you are introducing a big revolution into India; for the first time majority rule is to be introduced into India. In the days of Lord Rama there was no majority rule, or he would not have been exiled. The old Pandu and Kuru rulers, who gambled their kingdoms away, did not have majority rule; Mahmud of Ghazni and Akbar and Aurangzeb did not have majority rule, nor did Shivaji; when Ranjit Singh ruled in the Punjab, he too did not have majority rule; when Warren Hastings and Clive ruled india, they did not have majority rule; and even in the days of Lord Irwin there is no majority rule. For the first time in India, we are going to introduce majority rule, and I, belonging to a minority community, accept that majority rule, although I know very well that if 51 people say that 2 and 2 make 5, and 49 people say that 2 and 2 make 4, the fact that 51 say that 2 and 2 make 5 does not cause them to make 5. Still I am prepared to submit to majority rule. Luckily, hewever, there are Muslim majorities in certain Provinces, and with the federal form of government which is suited to India, not only for the solution of the Hindu-Muslim problem, but is essential for the sake of the Princes also, this is in our favour. The centrifugal and centripetal tendencies are so well balanced in India that we are bound to have a federal system of government there, not as a distant ideal, as the Government of India says, but today, now this minute. We shall leave this conference only with federation established in India, with new treaties made with the Princes, with the consent of the crown and the Princes.
I sometimes hear it said that nothing can be done without the consent of the Princes. No, Your Highness, we Our Lownesses, will do nothing without your consent. But when, at the end of 1857, the powers of the East India Company were transferred to the crown, nobody ever thought of asking for your consent. There was not so much as "by your leave." Your Relationship with the Crown was establis.hed merely ipso facto, but it was with a family of Kings and Queens who were really good people, many of whom worshipped their conscience as their King, and it is that which gives us hope.
[] One more word and I have done. I wish to say that just this about the Army. I am giving away a secret in regard to the Army now. When ten years ago, H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught was sent out to India to open the Indian Legislatures, Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Motilal Nehru and myself were invited by our late lamented dear friend C.R. Das, whom our eyes seek in vain today at this Table, and who would have brought Motilal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi also to this Table had he been alive today, for he was a man of imagination. Gandhiji and I were putting up together as the guests of Das, and I was acting as Lord Chamberlain to Mahatma Gandhi. Any number of people were coming to see Mahatma Gandhi and to touch his feet--I wish he had had the feet of a centipede, but even then he could not have coped with the thousands who came to touch his feet--and in trying to satisfy them and spare Gandhiji, too, as much as possible, my life was a misery. Amongst these people I saw 10 or 12 tall turbaned men, not in uniform, but looking and dressed very much alike. I thought they were members of the C.I.D. from the Punjab. My belief, after my arrest and internment in 1915 on the report of a spy neighbour, is that there is no place where God and the British C.I.D. are not present, so that whatever I say and whatever I do, I say and do in the belief that God Almighty and the British spy are equally omnipresent! I went up to these supposed British spies, and I said: "What can I do for you? I have been doing a lot for the C.I.D. by way of sedition and I should like to do something more." They said: "We do not belong to the C.I.D.; we belong to the Army." "Then what," I asked, "are you doing in this seditious house?" They said: "We have come to pay our respects to Mahatma Gandhi; we belong to the escort that has been brought from Poona for the Duke of Connaught."
I said if they wanted to see Mahatma Gandhi I would take them in straightaway. Mahatama Gandhi asked them whether they were interested in Swaraj, and they said: "Yes." Out of respect for the British Indian Army, I will now stand up and repeat their words. Gandhiji said to them: "Are you interested in Swaraj, you who belong to the Army, and who have been brought as an escort all the way from Poona because they cannot trust the people of Bengal, their first Presidency, for the safety of the Duke of Connaught?"
They said, "Only the other day our Colonel on parade told us laughingly something about you, Gandhiji, saying, 'Do you know that bunia, Gandhiji, wants Swaraj for India' and he laughed, and asked us: 'Do you also want Swaraj?' Of course he expected we would all say 'No, Sir', but the regiment very quietly said 'Yes, Sir, we also want Swaraj for India'. Then the Colonel, who was terribly shocked, asked them why they wanted Swaraj, and they told him that when they were sent to fight in Europe, even when they saw Belgian soldiers coming back after a defeat, these soldiers would pull themselves up and proudly reply to anyone who asked who they were, we are Belgians; we belong to the Army of Belgium'. Sometimes the French came running back but if anybody asked them who they were, they drew themselves up and replied with pride that they belonged to the Army of France. It was the same with the British; but these men said that, even when they had won and had saved the French coast at a critical moment in October, 1914, when anybody asked them who they were, they could not say with equal pride that they belonged to the Army of India; they had to say 'We are British subjects. We belong to the: Army of the British Sirkar'. Now these men said that they too wanted to stand upright and be able to say, 'We belong to the Army of India!'"
I tell you this is the fact, God's own truth, about the Indian Army. You take a plebiscite of the Indian Army, God Almighty being present, and the British spies, of course, being also present, but some of us also being present, and you will find that we know more than anybody else on that subject. India will defend herself today if you honestly want her to do so.
The Government of India Despatch gees further than Sir John
Report and says that the Army should not be under the control of
of England, but under the Government of India. There are three
of the Government of India the pigment of whose skin is the same
and in some cases even darker. Two of them were my stable
England as students, and the third also studied here at that time.
people can control the Army, why cannot Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru as
Minister of India? Why cannot Sir Muhammad Shafi or Mr. Jinnah be
Minister of India, and control the Indian Army? Or why cannot even
man like myself or my big brother become the Commander-in-Chief of
I have no doubt exhausted your patience, but I can assure you my
has been, so far as I too am concerned, both exhausting and
I now take my seat and I hope I shall not be called upon to speak
in the Plenary Conference until you announce, Mr. Chairman, that
is as free as England.