TODAY THAT DAY : 15 FEBRUARY 1946


INDIA AT CROSSROADS


MOMENTOUS YEAR


For India, 1946 promises to be the most momentous year in its history.

There are several possibilities for changes in the country’s political structure, and the full development of any one would be the major historical event (writes Preston Grever from Bombay).

Conceivably India might obtain full independence in the next 12 months, or she might choose a slower course and progress towards self-government through a constitutional convention in complete and friendly co-operation with Britain. She might divide into two India – One governed by Hindus and one by Moslems, and, if conflicts arise which frustrated the hopes and plans of India’s political leaders, there might be revolution.

The end of World War II automatically eliminated all reasons for restraining political developments long held in cheek. Congress leaders, who were gaoled in 1942, were released and agitation for quick action to bring independence to India boiled up to a pitch not recalled by observers of this generation.

The Viceroy (Lord Wavell) made a final futile attempt to bring the Moslem League and the All-India Congress into agreement on the unity of the country or even on collaboration in the central government.

Elections for the Central Assembly showed that India’s major parties had split up on religious lines to a greater degree than had been anticipated.

In the Central Assembly elections, fewer than 500,000 or the country’s 400,000,000 residents voted. It was known generally as the “rich man’s election” because only wealthy property owners and a small number of others qualified under the limited franchise.

According to a tabulation by “The Times” (India) the Moslem League headed by Mahomed Ali Jinnah, polled 86 percent of the Moslem votes in Moslem areas, while in predominantly Hindu areas, the All India Congress party candidates drew nearly 89 percent of the votes.

As a result of the elections the Jinnah followers argued that the Moslem League was the sole organisation with authority to speak for Moslems, while Congress leaders contended the league was composed mainly of rich landlords and wealthy merchants.

The Congress Party contended further that the provincial elections which began in January and will end in April will show that a wider electorate including many poor Moslems will look to the Congress for leadership.

The Congress party leader Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel predicts that “freedom is coming”.

“Perhaps we will get it next year” he said in December. “It is only necessary to give one last determined push to Britain. That push will not be of any small section, but of 400,000,000 people of India united in a single resolve.”

Englishmen with long experience in India say, on the other hand that the tug of war between the Moslem League and Congress will go on for years and that it might be 10 to 25 years before anything approaching self-government could be expected.

Some observers predict that by March there will be bloody uprisings and that the full force of the British Army still in uniform in India will be required to suppress it, if suppression is possible.

One usually good barometer of sentiment is the stock market. There are no signs that British investors in India are selling out abnormal rates in anticipation that the Indian National Government will render their holdings worthless. For a long time there has been a drift in that direction with Indian capitalists purchasing whatever British investors choose to release, but the transfer rate discloses no sudden panic.

Some American and British business houses especially those dealing in automobiles and chemicals seems eager to increase their holdings in India, indicating their belief in a peaceable future.

0 Comments

close