Churchill’s oft quoted sentence: It is alarming and nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer now posing as a fakir, well-known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the vice-regal palace….
This was stated on 23rd Feb 1931 by Churchill, at Winchester House Epping following the Labor government’s proposal of Dominion status to India. Now Churchill himself had spent many years in India as a war correspondent and was a staunch believer that the British withdrawal from India would weaken Britain as well as create huge turmoil in India due to all kinds of violence and bloodshed. He was proved somewhat right, but his rude utterance above alienated even conservatives from his policies. Read an interesting piece here. In his diary, Wavell concluded that the British Prime Minister "has a curious complex about India and is always loath to hear good of it and apt to believe the worst".
The full text of what he stated was - “Now I come to the administration of India. In my opinion we ought to disassociate ourselves in the most public and formal manner from any complicity in the weak, wrong headed and most unfortunate administration of India by the socialists and by the viceroy acting upon their responsibility. It is alarming and also nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer now posing as a fakir, of a type well-known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the vice-regal palace, while he is still organizing and conducting a defiant campaign of civil disobedience, to parley on equal terms with the representative of the king emperor. Such a spectacle can only increase the unrest in India.”
Seditious middle temple lawyer - The subversive nature related to the civil disobedience campaign arrangement by Gandhiji explained the sedition part. The Honorable Society of the Middle Temple is one of the four Inns of Court exclusively entitled to call their members to the English Bar as barristers; the others being the Inner Temple, Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn. It appears that Gandhiji was actually enrolled at the Inner temple.
In April 1919, a group of soldiers led by Gen Dyer fired at a crowd of unarmed Indians at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar. Speaking in the House of Commons, the same Winston Churchill described this as "a monstrous event", a "great slaughter or massacre upon a particular crowd of people, with the intention of terrorizing not merely, the rest of the crowd, but the whole district or country". Vikas Kamat puts it succinctly – Winston Churchill loathed Gandhi. Gandhi loathed none.
After 75 years the latest British Prime Minister - Gordon Brown stated in 2007 that Mahatma Gandhi would inspire him as prime minister. “I could never compare myself to Gandhi or those other heroes of mine but I do take inspiration from the way that they dealt with the challenges they faced when I think about how I will deal with the challenges the country and the world faces, including the security challenge," he said. "That means especially having the strength of belief and willpower to do what is difficult and right for the long-term, even when there are easier short-term options on offer."
Charles Dickens telling one of his friends on 4th Oct 1857 that, if he were the Commander in Chief of the British army in India, he would "do my utmost to exterminate the Indian Race" and "with all convenient dispatch and merciful swiftness of execution…blot it out of mankind and raze it off the face of the Earth."
What he actually said was – ‘I wish I were Commander in chief there. I would address that Oriental character which must be powerfully spoken to, in something like the following placard, which should be vigorously translated into all native dialects, I’ the inimitable, holding this office of mine and firmly believing that I hold it by the permission of heaven and not by the appointment of the Satan have the honor to inform you Hindoo gentry that it is my intention with all possible avoidance of unnecessary cruelty and with all merciful swiftness of execution to exterminate the race from the face of the earth, which disfigured the earth with the late abominable atrocities’.
The reason why Dickens, well known for his sympathy for the downtrodden and the poor in his own country, had this outburst was due to the many highly exaggerated reports of the atrocities on the British especially their women and children by Indian rebels during The Sepoy Mutiny which started on 10th May 1857, reaching their shores. AJ Mohammed states It is certain that Dickens empathized and had strong links with both Victorian concepts of family, duty and honor both at home and in India: his son Walter had left for military service in India in July 1857 (who died in India 1863), shortly after the Mutiny. What followed from him was a novella ‘The perils of certain English prisoners’ and commenced on the ‘The tale of two cities’ both books influenced by the said revolts.
The British press exaggerated, describing the rebels as tossing British babies into the air and bayoneting them for sport. By September, Queen Victoria was writing about the horrors committed on women and children making "one's blood run cold." She wrote that ‘Altogether, the whole is so much more distressing than [the war in] the Crimea - where there was glory and honourable warfare, and where the poor women and children were safe.’ Read even more flagrant quotes here and the article detailing the resulting repression by the British, one that is considered by Amaresh Mishra to be of holocaustic proportions with 10 million Indians killed over 10 years.
For those interested – why did the 1857 riots take place? Many explanations have been given for this uprising against the Company rule in northern India, but the East India Company's increasing racial and administrative arrogance lay at the root. Anglo-Indians were excluded from senior positions in the Company; non-European wives of the Company were forbidden to follow their husbands back to Britain. Verbal abuse mounted, with 'nigger' becoming a common expression for Indians. This slide into separatism also affected the Company's relations with its Indian soldiers, the sepoys. One by one, ties between the army and local communities were cut: Hindu and Muslim holy men were barred from blessing the sepoy regimental colours, and troops were stopped from participating in festival parades. As missionary presence grew, fears mounted that the Company was planning forcible conversion to Christianity.
Tail note – What did the Karl Marx have to say in 1853? "The question is not whether the English had a right to conquer India, but whether we are to prefer India conquered by the Turk, by the Persian, by the Russian, to India conquered by the Briton."
Ah! The English……
Additional References - Charles Dickens’s Indian dispatches