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  • An Indian Dominion?

    for someone more knowledgeable about modern indian history than i: was there any time following the Mutiny where indians wanted Dominion status vice outright independence?

    AFAIK, by the time Dominion status was being seriously considered, Gandhi and the Indian National Congress was already thinking about full independence. jinnah followed soon afterwards. was there ever a time when a less drastic step was considered?
    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

  • #2
    Following the rejection of the recommendations of the Simon Commission by Indians, an all-party conference was held at Bombay in May 1928. This was meant to instill a sense of resistance among people. The conference appointed a drafting committee under Motilal Nehru to draw up a constitution for India. The Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress asked the British government to accord dominion status to India by December 1929, or a countrywide civil disobedience movement would be launched. By 1929, however, in the midst of rising political discontent and increasingly violent regional movements, the call for complete independence from Britain began to find increasing grounds within the Congress leadership. Under the presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru at its historic Lahore session in December 1929, the Indian National Congress adopted a resolution calling for complete independence from the British. It authorised the Working Committee to launch a civil disobedience movement throughout the country. It was decided that 26 January 1930 should be observed all over India as the Purna Swaraj (total independence) Day. Many Indian political parties and Indian revolutionaries of a wide spectrum united to observe the day with honour and pride.
    From: Indian Independence Movement - Wikipedia

    AFAIK the Indian Independence Act of 1947 made India a dominion of the British empire which was until 26th January, 1950 when the constitution of India came into force, establishing the Republic of India.

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    • #3
      looking at the timing, it seems pretty clear to me that the INC only floated the idea of dominion status just to tell people, 'see, we tried the nice way'. they HAD to know that the british would never accept a year and a half's timeline between the proposal and actual implementation. so this was never a serious idea.

      and they fully expected this to fail-- see how on the very deadline of Dec 1929, the INC proposed complete independence complete with a civil disobedenience campaign vice trying to negotiate with the british.

      IIRC it took lily-white canada about 30 years between when the idea of a dominion was first floated up until they were exercising partial sovereignty as a dominion, and it really wasn't until after WWI that they had full sovereignty.
      There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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      • #4
        Apologies for not giving the context. The demand for greater share in governance eventually leading to self governance (within the British Empire) had been pushed by the Congress since its inception. The congress truely went for independence only after a number of previous proposals by either side had failed and the "Purna Swaraj" (complete independence) movement had taken popularity amongst the masses especially after incidents such as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The movement changed from greater autonomy to outright independence during the course of some thirty years and a lot of blunders by the British policy makers!

        Tilak deeply opposed the then British education system that ignored and defamed India's culture, history and values. He resented the denial of freedom of expression for nationalists, and the lack of any voice or role for ordinary Indians in the affairs of their nation. For these reasons, he considered Swaraj as the natural and only solution. His popular sentence "Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it" became the source of inspiration for Indians.

        In 1907, the Congress was split into two factions. The radicals led by Tilak advocated civil agitation and direct revolution to overthrow the British Empire and the abandonment of all things British. The moderates led by leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji and Gopal Krishna Gokhale on the other hand wanted reform within the framework of British rule. Tilak was backed by rising public leaders like Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai, who held the same point of view. Under them, India's three great states Maharashtra, Bengal and Punjab shaped the demand of the people and India's nationalism. Gokhale criticized Tilak for encouraging acts of violence and disorder. But the Congress of 1906 did not have public membership, and thus Tilak and his supporters were forced to leave the party.
        ^^ More from the wikipedia article.

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        • #5
          so there was support for dominion status pre-WWI, at least. you're right that the Jallianwala Bagh (Amritsar) Massacre was probably a big catalyst.

          interesting to see how many of the old Imperialists (Churchill for instance) was livid when news of Amritsar came out. in addition to the moral disgust at the outright murder, there had to have been some small realization that this was going to be fodder for the India Independence types.

          seems to me though that the window for India actually becoming a permanent Dominion member was going to be pretty small. the first discussions was what, 1880s-1890s, and by 1930 when the british finally started to seriously consider it, it was too late.

          i don't believe Gandhi was ever for Dominion status? as i recall after he came back from South Africa he was pretty much for independence.

          which is a bit ironic, because he assisted the British during the Boer War by establishing an Indian Ambulatory Corps to demonstrate that Indians could also sacrifice for the Empire. guess something bad must have happened then.
          There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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          • #6
            I have no doubt that if British governments had been prepared to grant in 1900 what they refused in 1900 but granted in 1920; or to grant in 1920 what they refused in 1920 but granted in 1940; or to grant in 1940 what they refused in 1940 but granted in 1947 - then nine-tenths of the misery, hatred, and violence, the imprisonings and terrorism, the murders, flogging, shootings, assassinations, even the racial massacres would have been avoided; the transference of power might well have been accomplished peacefully, even possibly without Partition.
            - Leonard Sidney Woolf


            I'll quote from Gandhi's page on Wikipedia (too lazy to look for better sources!)

            In 1915, Gandhi returned to India permanently. He brought an international reputation as a leading Indian nationalist, theorist and organizer. He joined the Indian National Congress and was introduced to Indian issues, politics and the Indian people primarily by Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Gokhale was a key leader of the Congress Party best known for his restraint and moderation, and his insistence on working inside the system. Gandhi took Gokhale's liberal approach based on British Whiggish traditions and transformed it to make it look wholly Indian.[42]

            Gandhi took leadership of Congress in 1920 and began a steady escalation of demands (with intermittent compromises or pauses) until on 26 January 1930 the Indian National Congress declared the independence of India. The British did not recognize that and more negotiations ensued, with Congress taking a role in provincial government in the late 1930s. Gandhi and Congress withdrew their support of the Raj when the Viceroy declared war on Germany in September 1939 without consulting anyone. Tensions escalated until Gandhi demanded immediate independence in 1942 and the British responded by imprisoning him and tens of thousands of Congress leaders for the duration. Meanwhile the Muslim League did cooperate with Britain and moved, against Gandhi's strong opposition, to demands for a totally separate Muslim state of Pakistan. In August 1947 the British partitioned the land, with India and Pakistan each achieving independence on terms Gandhi disapproved.
            Gokhale was the leader of the "moderate faction" within the Congress. (Gokhale wanted to remain within the British framework so would probably have an influence on Gandhi, atleast initially (speculation on my part))

            In April 1918, during the latter part of World War I, the Viceroy invited Gandhi to a War Conference in Delhi. Perhaps to show his support for the Empire and help his case for India's independence, Gandhi agreed to actively recruit Indians for the war effort. In contrast to the Zulu War of 1906 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914, when he recruited volunteers for the Ambulance Corps, this time Gandhi attempted to recruit combatants. In a June 1918 leaflet entitled "Appeal for Enlistment", Gandhi wrote "To bring about such a state of things we should have the ability to defend ourselves, that is, the ability to bear arms and to use them...If we want to learn the use of arms with the greatest possible despatch, it is our duty to enlist ourselves in the army." He did, however, stipulate in a letter to the Viceroy's private secretary that he "personally will not kill or injure anybody, friend or foe."

            World War I began with an unprecedented outpouring of love and goodwill towards the United Kingdom from within the mainstream political leadership, contrary to initial British fears of an Indian revolt. India contributed massively to the British war effort by providing men and resources. About 1.3 million Indian soldiers and labourers served in Europe, Africa and the Middle East, while both the Indian government and the princes sent large supplies of food, money and ammunition.

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            • #7
              yeah, gokhale was for a Dominion, but other than the early association i don't know whether or not Gandhi was.

              as for gandhi's combatant call-out in WWI, note that it just stated that the main purpose was to get a bunch of Indians weapons training. i suspect he was already supportive of Indian independence by then.

              i largely agree with the woolf quotation above. the british were sadly always a generation behind in their thinking, although that was significantly better than their french or spanish counterparts. they were surprisingly quick to acknowledge dominion self-governance and later sovereignty on the part of the "white" dominions, and had they done the same for their india and africa colonies i daresay a lot of the bloodshed in the de-colonization era could easily have been avoided.

              it's a strange sort of racism; IIRC the british had indian MPs in parliament and indians with british peerage by the late 1800s.
              There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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              • #8
                Originally posted by astralis View Post
                interesting to see how many of the old Imperialists (Churchill for instance) was livid when news of Amritsar came out. in addition to the moral disgust at the outright murder, there had to have been some small realization that this was going to be fodder for the India Independence types.
                Well in Churchill's case, the reason probably was the latter than the former. He himself was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions by his actions during the Bengal famine of 1943. Churchill had a pathological hatred of Indians, probably unseen even amongst other hardcore imperialists.

                An example -
                "I hate Indians," he told the Secretary of State for India, Leopold Amery. "They are a beastly people with a beastly religion." The famine was their own fault, he declared at a war-cabinet meeting, for "breeding like rabbits."

                Read more: Books: Churchill's Shameful Role in the Bengal Famine - TIME
                He is unlikely to have felt disgust of any sort at the murder of Indians ordered by a British officer.
                Last edited by Firestorm; 15 Feb 13,, 20:14.

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                • #9
                  I'm pretty sure that Gandhi started out wanting to make India a self governing sovereign state of the British empire but he later changed his stance over the course of time. Discriminatory and short sighted British policies certainly helped. The British started taking him seriously too late and even then they weren't hesitent in rolling back whatever reforms they made when it suited them.

                  For eg, Provincial level elections were agreed to, as part of the negotiations between the Congress and the Government of India in 1937, resulting in the Congress coming to power in eight of the eleven provinces.

                  When World War II started, Viceroy Linlithgow unilaterally declared India a belligerent on the side of Britain, without consulting the elected Indian representatives. In opposition to Linlithgow's action, the entire Congress leadership resigned from the local government councils. However, many wanted to support the British war effort, and indeed the British Indian Army was the largest volunteer force, numbering 2,500,000 men during the war.
                  As part of the British Empire India would have been at war with the axis automatically but not keeping the representatives in the loop (especially with the ongoing movement in India) was, well, short sighted indeed. This alienated them even more.

                  Another sign (although ceremonial) is the fact that India chose to be part of the commonwealth of nations despite considerable internal opposition. Thus, keeping the British link even though they didn't have to.

                  The issue of countries with constitutional structures not based on a shared Crown but that wanted to remain members of the Commonwealth came to a head in 1948 with passage of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948, in which Ireland renounced the sovereignty of the Crown and thus left the Commonwealth. The Ireland Act 1949 passed by the Parliament of Westminster offered citizens of the Republic of Ireland a status similar to that of citizens of the Commonwealth in UK law. The issue was resolved in April 1949 at a Commonwealth prime ministers' meeting in London. Under the London Declaration, India agreed that, when it became a republic in January 1950, it would accept the British Sovereign as a "symbol of the free association of its independent member nations and as such the Head of the Commonwealth". Upon hearing this, King George VI told the Indian politician Krishna Menon: "So, I've become 'as such'".
                  Many of the Congress leaders were educated in Britain including Nehru who had seen the examples of Canada and Australia. I do think that had the British acted fast and with sincerity and without racism or their percieved superiority as a civilization, India would have remained a Dominion within the British commonwealth. But that would be in an ideal world! You are right about the British with respect to the Spanish and the French.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    firestorm,

                    He himself was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not millions by his actions during the Bengal famine of 1943. Churchill had a pathological hatred of Indians, probably unseen even amongst other hardcore imperialists.
                    it's not as if churchill ORDERED there to be a famine to kill people; i've seen mukherjee's interpretation and i find it incomplete at best.

                    there was a lot of factors that led to the famine; churchill's influence was, i'd say, a relatively minor factor. the total amount of food exported was relatively small in comparison to the overall disaster.

                    Churchill had a pathological hatred of Indians, probably unseen even amongst other hardcore imperialists.
                    the quote below was actually fairly representative of the typical British imperialist circa 1885-1890, which is precisely when Churchill first became an adult and which he held onto for the remainder of his life. past the "martial races", the average imperialist had little use for the other Indians.

                    note the other famous churchill quote is that "India is a geographical term. It is no more a United Nation than the Equator."

                    which, up until circa 1920, when an indian consciousness began to form thanks to the efforts of gandhi, was largely accurate.

                    He is unlikely to have felt disgust of any sort at the murder of Indians ordered by a British officer.
                    re: Amritsar, he deemed a "monstrous event" in which a "great slaughter or massacre upon a particular crowd of people, with the intention of terrorising not merely, the rest of the crowd, but the whole district or country".

                    churchill was a hard man with definite racist proclivities towards Indians but he was not one to revel in murder.

                    what i never understood about him was his hard line towards an Indian Dominion, even as late as 1930. the only point i can think of in that favor is that were it not for the massive Indian contribution to the Allies in WW2, the UK likely would not have been able to fight at all after 1941. i'm not sure an independent Dominion would have done quite so much.
                    There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Astralis, there was a reason why India was strongly considered as the jewel of the Empire,i.e., it was the largest tax base for Britain. Without its tax coffers and vast raw resources at that time, Britain would never been able to pull off its Industrial Revolution or maintain its size of the navy. It was the largest and most powerful navy due to the resources of India. Canada didn't pull its weight till into the 1900s when it finally got its mining industry underway.

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                      • #12
                        BM,

                        Without its tax coffers and vast raw resources at that time, Britain would never been able to pull off its Industrial Revolution or maintain its size of the navy.
                        that's the marxist interpretation. india's importance to the empire was actually due to british textiles (and machine parts) getting sold to indians-- the Lancashire factories combined with the RN dominance of the seas as well as the suez canal made textiles from England cheaper than what indian home-weavers could produce.

                        which is why gandhi placed such a high premium on getting all the indians to weave their own clothes.

                        the factories and the navy came before india was a major factor. india played a bigger role in the Second Industrial Revolution of the 1860s-1880s, as the market above. which is another big reason why i think it's weird the brits never considered Dominion status for india more seriously; they'd still get the major benefits (the economic trade) without actually having to administer the place. although it's true they did even this on the cheap.

                        most importantly, though, india's value was demonstrated in both world wars-- without the manpower pool that India provided the UK would not have been able to fight Germany after the first year or two of the war.
                        There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Since this is a what if thread, what do you guys think would have happened if the British did accept the Congress' demand in 1929 or before the actual split in it's and the general populace's ideology? What if India was made a dominian under the British rule before the world wars and she remained so till date? Facinating, with no partition and subsiquent bloodshed and conflicts! Too many variables I think, but worth a thought?
                          Last edited by DarthSiddius; 17 Feb 13,, 09:08.

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                          • #14
                            i think it'd be a big difference if india got Dominion in 1918 (before Amritsar/Gandhi really turning up the stakes) and 1929.

                            the biggest chance would be to get the whole thing done with the existing Government of India Act reform:

                            Government of India Act 1919 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

                            frankly if I were Indian back then I'd jump at the chance of being in a Dominion, and hell, being as "British" as you can get. the end result would be England becoming a Dominion...just as England is largely a Dominion of the US today
                            There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge."- Isaac Asimov

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                            • #15
                              After 1941 its too late. American demands that the UK drop its protectionist trade policies means India as Dominion is not better for the UK economy than India as independent. Economically it had to be all or nothing after the deal with FDR for armaments.

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