Home > BRICS, Britain, History, India, Politics > Readings from January 1931 – Time Magazine

Readings from January 1931 – Time Magazine

Time magazine nominated Gandhiji as Man of The Year – even as the First Round Table was in the air. Interesting extracts from the reportage of that period.

"Saint Gandhi": Man of the Year  | 1930  |  Time magazine cover; Monday, Jan. 05, 1931

"Saint Gandhi": Man of the Year | 1930 | Time magazine cover; Monday, Jan. 05, 1931

“Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930Monday, Jan. 05, 1931

Curiously, it was in a jail that the year’s end found the little half-naked brown man whose 1930 mark on world history will undoubtedly loom largest of all. It was exactly twelve months ago that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s Indian National Congress promulgated the Declaration of Indian Independence (TIME, Jan. 13). It was in March that he marched to the sea to defy Britain’s salt tax as some New Englanders once defied a British tea tax. It was in May that Britain jailed Gandhi at Poona. Last week he was still there, and some 30,000 members of his Independence movement were caged elsewhere. The British Empire was still wondering fearfully what to do about them all, the Empire’s most staggering problem. (via “Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930 – TIME).

A British journalist of standing lately revisited India and reported his finding to North American Newspaper Alliance. Journalist Henry Noel Brailsford is a graduate of Glasgow University, where he remained for a time as assistant professor of Logic. Later he was a leading writer of the Carnegie International Commission in the Balkans (1913), and editor of the New Leader (1922-26).

“In India I saw what no one is likely to see again,” reported Briton Brailsford. “Bombay obeyed two governments. “To the British government, with all its apparatus of legality and power, there still were loyal the European population, the Indian sepoys, who wear its uniform, a few of the merchant princes, and the older generation of the Moslem minority. “The rest of Bombay’s population has transferred its allegiance to one of the British Government’s too numerous prisoners: Mahatma Gandhi.”

Carefully Briton Brailsford described the system of parallel government in Bombay, whereby members of the Indian National Congress themselves marshal and police their demonstrations. He reported that the Gandhiwomen who picket shops selling British goods, and who fling themselves down to be trodden on by any Indian determined to enter, will stand aside for occidental shoppers. “The shopkeepers themselves signed a requisition to the effect that they made no complaint against this peaceful picketing, and for a time there were few arrests.”

In and around Bombay, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Benares, Mr. Brailsford examined many Indian men and women bearing “wounds on teh feets or bruises on the stomach, made with the butt end of a rifle . . . one man with a terribly swollen arm, fractured or dislocated, hanging in a sling . . . a woman [with] a badly swollen face caused by a blow.”

In the opinion of Briton Brailsford, “cold English brains” devised the system whereby bands of native police, especially in the rural districts, set upon individual Indian men & women and beat them. “The execution [of this plan] was left to hotter heads and rougher hands,” notably to Mohuntal Shah, chief Indian official of the Borsad Taluka in Kaira District, who, Mr. Brailsford reports, has not only presided at numerous pouncings and beatings, but also “occasionally assisted with a heavy walking stick.”

Individual beatings are applied, in the main, to extort from the victim his land tax. Mr. Brailsford traveled through district after district where the peasants had taken and kept this vow: “We will pay no taxes until Gandhi is released from jail.” (via “Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930 – TIME).

millions of individual Indians are taking individual beatings which they could, escape by paying what His Majesty’s Government call, quite accurately, “nor-mal taxes.” Physical extortion, even of taxes, is in law virtually everywhere a crime. Briton Brailsford reports that the Indian agents of the British Government have pursued tax evaders out of British India into the native State of Baroda and beaten them there. This is a crime for which the Man of the Year in Yerovila Jail at Poona is to blame. He is to blame because, although His Majesty’s Government have got him in a jail staffed by British jailers, they have not yet stopped him from producing writings which are smuggled out somehow, week after week, to his people.

What Chance Success?

The Viceroy of India last week admitted at Calcutta that “some concessions” will have to be made to the Indian Nationalism, which for twelve months he has been trying to stamp out. Meantime, in London, before adjourning for the holidays, the Indian Round Table Conference decided “in principle” that the upper and lower houses of the new Indian Legislature which they are trying to create, shall be called the “Senate” and .the “House of Representatives.”

Stock reasons why Britain must hold India: 1) “she cannot relinquish her trust”; 2) deprived of the Pax Britannica, India would be torn with Hindu-Moslem civil war; 3) “Britain is the only sure defense of the Untouchables,” some 45,000,000 souls; 4) politically Indians are too “childish” to rule themselves. In India Last Week:

¶ A newspaper straw vote among the occidental community in Bombay brought 1,000 ballots, 830 of them for granting India “dominion status.”

¶ The Indian National Congress maintained its grip on the entire native market for foreign cloth in Bombay (several hundred shops), which has been closed for six months. Nevertheless Bombay (chief commercial city) and Bombay Presidency are not India, and imports to the entire continent fell only 25% during the first eight months of 1930. Mr. Gandhi’s boycott is credited with reducing imports (i. e., sales by Britain) 5%, the rest of the decline, 20%, being charged to “Depres-sion.” (via “Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930 – TIME).

¶ Strikes and mass demonstrations have decreased in frequency throughout India, but in the punjab (north) and Calcutta (east), the districts furthest from Gandhi-land proper (the Bombay Presidency), the Government faces much spontaneous violence: assaults, attempted assassinations, assassinations of British officials, particularly the military. The British Inspector General of Prisons in Bengal (east) was recently assassinated. (via “Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930 – TIME).

If. finally, the Round Table breaks down, enough spontaneous violence is expected to give His Majesty’s Government enough provocation to use at strategic points the weapon of massacre, so effective when Brigadier-General Dyer sprayed with machine gun bullets and killed some 400 Indians at Amritsar in 1919. General Dyer received the censure of the House of Commons by a vote of 230 to 129, was endorsed by the House of Lords 129 to 86, and finally accepted from the Morning Post a large sum of money spontaneously made up by individual Britons. (via “Saint Gandhi”: Man of the Year 1930 – TIME).

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