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Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948)

From The Vegetarian (London), July 29, 1893:

The article below was not attributed, but Ganhdi had been a regular contributor to The Vegetarian before qualifying as a barrister and returning to his home of Kathiawar, in India. There can be little doubt that he was the correspondent from Kathiawar writing about the treatment of barristers.

English Misrule in India

Our Special Correspondent for the Kathiawar district of India write very bitterly of the recent action of the British Government towards barristers adnd pleades there. In his dispatch he says, "Can any student of Roman history for a moment deny that one of the principal factors that contributed to the spread of the empire underthe republic lay in their treatment of the different conquered races? Can anyone expect that Rome could have ever unfurled her baner over the distant regions of the world in case the patricians and plebians would not have been fused into one? Can anyone familiar with the name ignore the causesthat led to the atrocities of the French revolution? Can anyone forget what gave rise to the war of the American Independence? and last, but not least, can any independent thinker be blind to the necessity of the Home Rule Bill for Ireland, and the high sense of duty and justice of the British Government? It is no exaggeration to say that the British Government is one of the most civilised governments in the world, and as such, cannot, and does not, tolerate any wrong or injustice to any of its subjects either a home or abroad.

"Not wishing to take up much space of your valuable paper, I do not enter into the advantages which India reaps under the British rule. But because I am silent it is not to be construed that I ignore them. I may briefly remark thatI am proud of being one of the most loyal subjects of Her Most Gracious Majesty the Empress of India. I dare say under no foriegn rule India could have derived som many benefits as she has under the prsent rule. In fine, I pray to the Almighty that the British rule over India may last for ever.

"But must say that England is bound to fulfil her duty to India, and does fulfil, when things are rightly brought to her eyes. This fact is evidently shown by the interest taken by the present House in Indian matters. Besides, I firmly believe that there are many among the English public who have great sympathy for India, and I hope their sincere feelings for India will be more intensified when they will come to know of the arbitrary notification very recently issued by the present Political Agent of Kathiwar, a province in the Bombay Presidency, affecting legal practitioners there. Kathiawar, though small in population, is almost a great as the whole of England in area. It is divided into a number of petty states governed by different princes. These states are arranged into different classes according to their antiquity and greatness.

"It will not be out of place to mention here that the Maharajah of Bhaunugar, Thakore Sahib of Morvi, and the Thakore Sahib of Gondal, whose names are often seen in English newspapers are the princes of three first class states in Kathiawar.

"Now all these states are under the supreme supervision of a British Officer, who is called the Political Agent of Kathiawar. The original motive with which the Political Agency was established, was to preserve the rights of the princes and the people, and maintain peace throughout the province. But step by step the rights are being encroached upon till now, when the princes, though nominally independent, are subservient to the will of the Political Agent. An ordinary man in Jillah (provinces that are soley governed by the British government are called "Jillahs") enjoys greater freedom than they.

"As are the princes so are the people. The officials never look to the opinion of the people who thus have no voice and who consequently bear the oppression patiently. The freedom of the press is practically denied. If the press is to have any remark upon any unreasonable step of the officials, the next moment it is to be nowhere.

"There are many actions of the Government which require a fair criticism to keep in check the unlimited power exercised by the officials. But I am sorry to see this moral courage which ought to be encouraged in a country like India, which is proud of being civilised, under the benign British rule - is not allowed to be exercised by the officials. The notification which has been issued not many days ago will justify my statements.

"It is to the effect that all existing licenses given to legal practitioners in Kathiawar are to be cancelled, and that all the pleaders are required to qualify themselves anew by the annual payment of 30 rupees.

"It is a matter of great regret that such able officers, at whose discretion the Home Government has put the interests of thousands of people could not have imagined what confusion it would cause among the people and the pleaders on whom the sudden notification, without the least previous notice, fell like a bombshell. Leaving aside the question of the people and the pleaders themselves let me come to the Judicial Assistant Political Agent who, as he himself declared, was as ignorant of the notification before it was out, as the people and the barristers. He had to stop all the proceedings till he got a telegram from the Political Agent, who was on his circuit, in reply to his own, wherein he obtained a permission to proceed with the work pending such time as may be required for the practitioners generally to apply for and receive the new sanads under the rules.

"It seems that the notification indirectly aims at destroying the independence of every member of the Bar, for it becomes entirely impracticable for the legal practitioners to go on with their work, as they are meant to be at the mercy of the Political Agent for renewing their licenses every year. They cannot fairly criticise the injustice received at the hands of the Political Agent, through the fear of being turned out at any moment. Fornerly a formal license was required which lasted for the whole life duting the good behaviour of the practitioner. But by this notification which is meant to be an Act the Political Agent can remove the practitioners even during their good behaviour.

"This astounding notification (which will bring a change for the worse), I am sure cannot but produce a thrilling sensation in the hearts of those Englishmen who are fervent advocates of truth and liberty. In no civilised government the independence of lawyers is not repected. They are mouthpieces of the ignorant masses, and when they are deprived of their freedom everything is done up. When the freedom of press and freedom of debate are the true birthrights and privileges of the English people, why should not a small portion of them be liberally extended to Indians who are really in need of it and who have every right to claim a fair share of them from the British Government?

"Institutions which were meant to elicit trth are going to be the institutions of slavery in the time of the enlightened government merely to gratify personal ambition of power. I cannot for a moment believe that a civilised government like that of England can ever have such dishonourable intentions.

"In conclusion I appeal to the just feelings of this civilised nation to see how we are governed, and to come to our help by the voice of a strong public opinion in this our growing hour of need."