HinduPost is the voice of Hindus. Support us. Protect Dharma

Will you help us hit our goal?

HinduPost is the voice of Hindus. Support us. Protect Dharma
23.2 C
Thursday, June 8, 2023

Pan-Islamism: An Erroneous Estimate – by Bipin Chandra Pal

This is the third article of the essay series from the book ‘Prabodhan – Thoughts on Hindu Society’, which was released during the inaugural World Hindu Congress 2014.

In the words of Dr. Saradindu Mukherji, editor or Prabodhan, “Bipin Chandra Pal’s remarkable insight into Pan Islamism in 1913, is an evidence of how Bharat’s thinkers and leaders had the intellectual honesty to grasp the socio-political reality of the time, and call a spade a spade. But all this drastically changed after political censorship came to be imposed on any discussion of Pan Islamic forces after Khilafat became an item on the agenda of our mainstream political movement. Ever since the eruption of the ISIS menace, we can’t recollect any article written by any Bharatiya on it, that would come close to Pal’s. Then, must we conclude that people like Pal had much more intellectual-political space than we have since independence ! Similarly, prescient was his remarkable insight on the threat from China.”

It can no longer be denied that Pan-Islamism is gradually coming to be a very important factor in the social and political evolution, in any case of modern India, if not indeed, of the modern world. Yet neither friend nor foe seems so far to very clearly realise either the good or the evil that this new and growing force in modern world politics may work in the coming centuries.

In the consideration of all large world problems the English educated Hindu generally takes his cue from his European masters, and he is therefore not prepared to take this Pan- Islamic movement very seriously. He thinks, with Europe, that the days of religious upheavals and fanatical outbursts of ignorant and undisciplined multitudes, as a compelling social or political force, are long gone by. The race now is not with those who command the wildest religious enthusiasm, or possess the highest personal courage, but only with those who own the most up-to -date scientific training and equipment.

Japan has, practically, little or no deep religious enthusiasm. The Jap is perhaps the least religious animal in modern civilisation, unless we take his Bushido itself as a form of religion. He is prepared to accept and avow any creed that will be helpful to his earthly national ends. Yet this petty Island Kingdom, devoid of any living enthusiasm for any religious creed or cry, has within a few years won for itself a recognised place in modern world-politics. And it is entirely due to Japan’s large scientific acquisitions and perfect military organisation. It will be long, very, very long indeed, before Islam will acquire these, and particularly the former. Islam may count upon her numerical strength, and the strategic advantage which, under certain conditions, the wide distribution of her populations may give her. But these will not ensure her success, and not even her safety, in the event of any open and direct conflict between the forces of Pan Europeanism on the one side, and those of Pan-Islamism on the other. Any outbursts of Moslem fanaticism, such as may very easily be fanned into flame by the Pan-Islamic propaganda, will only help to break up the strength of Islam instead of consolidating it. This is how the ordinary European publicists and politicians feel. This is how even many of my own educated Hindu brethren feel about Pan-Islamism. But the estimate seems to my mind to be entirely erroneous.

Islam as an Aggressive Religious Propaganda

If Pan-Islamism cherishes the wild dream of once more acting, in the coming centuries, the part that Islam played in the past in shaping the course of historic evolution in the three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe, it is foredoomed no doubt to absolute and ignominious disappointment. History has never been known to repeat itself in this fashion. Islam as an invincible military force has not the ghost of a chance in the modern world. Indeed, I do not believe that any sober and thoughtful Pan-Islamist ever cherishes any such wild idea himself.

The inherent aggressive spirit of Islam will seek in fact, it is already seeking to realise itself in our age more through friendly proselytisation than through bloody conquests. Its simple creed has an appeal for primitive and unsophisticated humanity which neither Christianity nor any other system has. “There is no God except God, and Mahomed is His Prophet” is a creed that even a child may grasp. There are no mysteries, no contradictions, no fathomless metaphysics, in this simple declaration of faith. Man’s spiritual experiences may rise to much loftier heights or descend to much deeper depths than what this simple creed connotes. But the rudimentary creed of the Qoran has reduced human religion to what may best be described as its least common multiple. There is no further simplifying it. And this magic simplicity of the creed of Islam is the secret of the success of Moslem propagandist in the modern world, especially among less advanced and less sophisticated tribes, whether in Asia or Africa.

Solidarity of Islam

It seems, indeed, well nigh impossible to stem the tide of Moslem propagandism either in Asia or Africa. The only competitor in the field is Evangelical Christianity. But Christianity cannot reach primitive intelligence half so near as Islam can. Wherever the Christian missions have attained any large success it has been due to their political associations and influences rather than to their direct religious message or spiritual ideals. But Islam wins, in any case in our time, without these extraneous helps.

On the other hand, Christianity cannot, in our time, use its superior political power or military prowess to force people to accept it. It has to face and fight its rivals with only logic and reason. And so far as the primitive races are concerned this is a very great disadvantage to the Christian missions. And it is just this growing numerical strength of the Moslem populations of the world which constitutes the most serious aspect of the present Pan Islamic propaganda.

Islam is the only religious system in the world which has no regular priesthood. In the eye of Allah every Mussalman is absolutely equal to every other Mussalman. And each individual member of the Islamic fraternity stands in a close, personal, and direct relation to it. And this is the secret of the strange solidarity of Islam. Nor is it a mere matter of subjective sentiment. There are outer and visible symbols. Is it for nothing that Mahomed ordained it that every Moslem, to whatever country or race he might belong, must turn towards the Caaba every time he approaches his God? There is no parallel to it in any other religion or church. There can be no comparison, for instance, in this respect, between the position of Rome in the Catholic world and of Mecca in Islam. The Rome of Islam, if the Caaba may be styled as such, knows no Pope. This Moslem institution exercises no kind of temporal or even religious authority over the Moslem world. In fact, it is not an institution, but, strictly speaking, only an association, an ideal, a pure symbol. It works upon the Moslem populations of the world not by threats of punishment, not through fear, but through love. It works, really, not from without but from within.

It leaves every man to pursue his own temporal ends in his own way, and it does not, therefore, prevent even one Moslem fighting another for wealth or woman, for worldly power or position, but simply binds every Moslem with every other Moslem in one ever-present and indissoluble religious bond. In their relations to the Prophet, the Qoran, and the Caaba, all Moslems are eternally united. And one supreme obligation of this relation is that every fighting unit, which means every adult man, in Islam, must leave and dedicate his all, even up to his life, for the protection of the Caaba should it ever be threatened with destruction or pollution by the infidel. And it is just here that the importance and gravity of the Pan-Islamic propaganda lies.

Pan-Islamism and World-Peace

The success of this Pan -Islamism will never mean another Mussalman irruption upon the civilised world. It will not mean any aggressive movement for the conquest of either Europe or Asia. But it will mean a most determined and united stand of the Moslem populations of the world against the aggressions of Christendom.

These populations are scattered over more than two continents. Practically the whole of Northern and Central Africa, the whole of Western and Central Asia, India, and the North-Eastern Provinces of China are comprised within this Moslem zone. Within this extensive tract we have a huge Moslem population, ignorant and semi-barbarous for the most part no doubt, yet capable of seriously interfering indirectly with the peace and progress of the world.

The problem of European Peace, for instance, is no longer a mere European problem but is a huge and complex world- problem. Mr. Norman Angel has completely demonstrated it that modern industrialism has practically removed the ancient motives of international wars among the different European countries. The present Turko Bulgarian War is the last war of strictly European origin. And even this can hardly be said to have had a truly economic origin. It was moved on the part of the Balkan Allies, at any rate, by a desire for national independence. Neither the Bulgarians nor the Servians nor any other of the smaller States that rose up in arms against the Ottoman Power could forget the wrong that Turkish sovereignty had inflicted upon them. In this respect this latest war was of the old-world type, when nations fought more or less entirely upon sentimental grounds.

The modern wars are different. The main motive for power in these is economic rather than purely political or patriotic. This motive no longer exists in Europe. The present rivalry between the different European Powers is really of non-European origin. If there is any general European war in our time, it will be caused by the scramble of the European Powers over Asiatic and African carcasses.1 The present incapacity, for purposes of self-defence and self-rule, of the Asiatic and African peoples, constitutes, thus, a very real and serious danger not only to their own independence, but, what is far more serious, even to the general peace and progress of the larger and more advanced humanity of our time. Every Asiatic or African people or country which is striving for its own freedom and consolidation and self organisation is, whether consciously or unconsciously, fighting, therefore, equally for the future peace and progress of the world.

From this point of view the Pan-Islamic movement is a movement that really makes not for disturbing but rather for ensuring and advancing the peace of the world. No statesman with any vision of the future can, therefore, refuse to sympathise with this movement and wish it godspeed. Those whose imagination cannot soar higher than the vision of a federation of the world, dominated everywhere by the White races only, will naturally smell danger and disaster in the progress of this Pan-Islamic propaganda. And the narrow and selfish vision of these people constitutes, I think, the real danger of this Pan-Islamic movement.

With the friendly help and sympathetic direction of the world-powers Pan-Islamism may very easily be a power for good even in the modern world. But it requires very delicate handling. Above all it requires a frank and honest recognition of the legitimate claims of Islam to readjust itself to the needs of the modern thought and life and organise itself as a self-controlled and autonomous Federation of the Mussalman States of the world. The independence and integrity of Persia, Afghanistan, and the Moslem Principalities of Africa, as well as of the Ottoman Empire, must be maintained. This is the first condition for winning the confidence of Islam, without which this Pan-Islamic force will never be guided and controlled by the leaders of the modern world politics. The European Concert has unconsciously worked for a similar end in Europe. As a result, the independence and integrity of the different European States, both small and large, have been fully assured. In their own self-interest, the greater Powers have had to do this.2 In the interest of European peace itself, a similar assurance is needed for the larger and smaller States of Asia and Africa also. These States must be fully modernised and consolidated and strengthened; for upon their strength and advancement will ultimately depend the peace and progress even of Europe itself.

Pan-Islamism In India

Those who think that the recent defeat of Turkey in Europe has killed the backbone of Pan-Islamism, seem to me to lack a thorough grasp of the psychology of this movement. In fact, all the recent troubles of the Ottoman Empire have been a veritable god-send to the Pan-Islamist. He has exploited the sympathy and enthusiasm of the Moslem populations of the world on behalf of Turkey, in the interest of his pet idea.

In one sense, the present Pan-Islamic movement may be said to have originated in India. Thirty years ago, Jelaluddin came from Cabul to India, inspired with the vision of an All-World Confederacy of the Princes and Peoples of Islam, that will rejuvenate it and give back to it the position that it once had as a moving and shaping force in human history and civilisation. He passed through India inoculating many a leader of Mahomedan thought in Calcutta and Bombay and other cities with this new virus. As a messenger of this gospel, Jelaluddin went from India to Egypt and Turkey. But the seed that he had sown among us grew in secret for over a quarter of a century. Its only outer manifestation was seen in a new self-consciousness of our Moslem neighbours, a new conceit of separate communal interests, and a new desire to revive, in the name of purity, the old iconoclastic spirit of the Islamic faith and thereby to work a new religious cleavage between the Mahomedans and their Hindu neighbours.

The political conflicts between educated Moslems and Hindus were attributed to the natural jealousy of rival aspirants to office and rank, and the religious feuds to a desire to revive the original ideals of Islam and reorganise the old propagandist activities of that faith. But nobody ever suspected these as the slow and silent development of the seed that Jelaluddin had sown in his confidential conferences with the Moslem intellectuals of Calcutta and other places. Mr. Blunt refers to some of these conferences, especially to those held in Calcutta, at most of which the Right Hon. Syed Amirali, then a member of the Calcutta Bar, was present—in his last work “ INDIA UNDER RIPON.”

Things, however, commenced to move apace both in and outside India, which soon brought this Pan- Islamic idea to the public view. In India the Indian National Congress at first, and the more virile Swadeshi Movement later on, quickened a self consciousness in the country, and especially among the Hindu populations. The Swadeshi propaganda developed a particularly pronounced Hindu ideal, which was naturally interpreted by some at least of the Mahomedan leaders in the country as a distinct and real menace to their own political future. Had they thrown themselves heart and soul into this new Nationalist Movement in India, this excessive Hindu emphasis might have been very easily removed. For then the Swadeshi Movement would have developed into a purely economic and political propaganda fully representative of the composite Indian people. But they held aloof. Many of them even set themselves up openly against this movement. The result was that the Hindu influences became predominant and the Hindu note the most pronounced in this new upheaval.

It was, perhaps, well that this should have been so. For this Hindu Nationalism will gradually help the evolution of a real Federal Nationalism among us, which seems clearly to be the ideal-end and the ultimate aim of modern historic evolution in India. For the realisation of this Federal Ideal of Nationalism it is necessary that the different Indian communities, representing different world-cultures, must evolve in their own way, along their own line, preserving and developing to the full their respective personalities, be autonomous social units themselves, and then join the others, as members of a great Federation, which will present to the world a new and far more advanced and complex type of Nationality than what the world has so far known. I have always read this as the one eternal aim of historic evolution in India.

I do not, therefore, regret this Hindu emphasis of what in the nature of things was bound to be practically a Hindu Movement. I do not regret that our Mahomedan friends practically kept away from it. But what, I regret is their spirit of antagonism. What the situation really required of them was the initiation of a real Moslem National Movement, along parallel lines, moved by the same spirit, working for the same ultimate end, but organised in Islamic forms, with the symbols and sacraments, familiar to higher Islamic thought and culture. But the Mahomedan leaders already bewitched by the vision of an All-World Islamic Confederacy which Pan-Islamism held out to their view, not only refused to do what was really needed as much in their as in our interest, but secretly commenced to exploit the unrest in the interest of this Pan-Islamism. Lord Minto did not see through the game, and therefore easily played into the hands of the Pan-Islamic leaders.

Pan-Islamism Not Religious But Political

The Turko-Italian conflict of 1911-12 while giving a new impetus to Pan-Islamism, particularly in India, helped also to bring out its true motive and character before all the world. Encouraged by the success of his game of bluff in the matter of the Indian Council Reforms, Syed Amirali now almost openly avowed his allegiance to Pan-Islamism, while his following commenced to exploit the natural sympathy of the Indian Mussalman with the Ottoman Government in their conflict with Italy, in the interest of this propaganda.

The bond that binds the followers of Mahomed together is not a political but absolutely and exclusively a religious and spiritual bond. One Moslem prince or community may fight another Moslem prince or community without doing outrage to the Islamic fraternity. In any case they have frequently done so in the past, in this country and elsewhere. Even the Ottoman throne itself is reared upon such a fratricidal feud. If the power of the Mogul had lasted till our day, and Delhi had become the seat of one of the great world-powers, there would have been no religious bar against its declaring war against the Emperor of Turkey himself. The Indian Mussalman was, strictly speaking, under no religious obligation whatever to side with Turkey as against Italy in the last war. The religious obligation would come not merely to side with, but even to fight for Turkey, unto death itself, if the Holy Places of Islam were threatened with possession by the Kaffir, and Turkey stood up for their defence. Neither Tunis nor Tripoli, neither Adrianople nor Stamboul are counted as the Holy Places of Islam. No Mussalman is bound by his religion to defend and keep these temporal and profane cities in the possession of any Moslem potentate. The appeal to the Indian Mussalman both during the Tripoli and the Balkan war, on behalf of Turkey, was not, therefore, really based on religious but only on purely secular and political grounds. And the politics that worked at the back of these agitations was purely Pan-Islamic.

What Does It Mean?

It is impossible to read this frank declaration of faith of the Pan-Islamist without being impressed by its essentially political character. The religious reference is feeble and flimsy compared to its pronounced political aims and ends. We all know that it is not merely “the brotherhood of Islam” but every credal and missionary religious fraternity in the world that transcends all “considerations of race and colour.” It is the same with Christian and Buddhistic brotherhoods as with Moslem brotherhood. All Christians religiously and spiritually are no less brothers to one another than are all Mussalmans. But though an extra-territorial character may be legitimately claimed for Christian brotherhood as for Moslem brotherhood, it betrays a very sad confusion of thought to claim it for any nation, whether Christian or Moslem.

The Moslem populations of the world were never, after the first few years of the Caliphate spent in Medina and its neighbourhood, one nation. Unity of state-life, based upon unity of territorial possessions, constitutes the very soul and essence of the nation-idea. Even a federal nation fulfils this elementary condition. An Imperial Federation may transcend territorial limitations and be extra territorial; but even then it must be built and worked upon some unity of state-life and state-organisation. A nation indeed, is not a term of the purely religious life. There is such a thing as Christian or Moslem or Buddhistic or Hindu fraternity, but nothing as a Christian or a Moslem or Buddhist nation meaning all Christians or all Moslems or all Buddhists. There maybe such a thing as a Hindu nation, because all Hindus of our time have one common territorial abode and are subject to one common state-authority and belong to one state-organisation. Had China and Japan and Australia and South America been peopled by Hindus, we could never have used the term Hindu nation as we do now. In fact, the writer completely gives the religious plea away when he comes to close quarters, and declares that “the object of Pan-Islamism……….. is not to cherish projects of an aggressive nature against Christendom ……….. but to act purely on the defensive and to protect what little remains to the Moslems of their once splendid Empire against further encroachments.” The italics are mine; and the words thus italicised bring out the political motive of Pan-Islamism most clearly.

In fact, even an “aggressive propaganda against Christendom” which the Pan-Islamist is so anxious to disclaim, might have been interpreted in a purely religious sense. To convert the Kaffir is as much a duty of the Moslem as to convert the heathen is recognised to be a duty of the Christian. This political Pan-Islamism is a distinct challenge to every non-Moslem state-authority holding sway over any Moslem population. It is a standing menace to the peace of every people composed partly of non-Moslem and partly of Moslem populations.

 The Logic of Political Pan-Islamism

Nor is it easy to see how this Pan-Islamism can hope to secure this end without very seriously weakening the legitimate and natural allegiance of every Pan-Islamist to the non-Moslem Governments under which they may be living, whether in India or Egypt. It is all very well to say that this Pan-Islamism seeks to realise its ends by purely peaceful methods, through the organisation of universities and industries, but we all know that empires are neither built up nor preserved by these innocent weapons. Universities may initiate the Mussalman into the secrets of science, and industries may help him to the acquisition of wealth, but these, of themselves, will not equip him with the modern implements of war or organise invincible Moslem armies, the two things which still determine the fates of empires and kingdoms.

The only possible line of work for this political Pan-Islamism must lie, therefore, (i) in creating a Pan-Islamic sentiment among the Moslem populations of the world by appealing to their religious passions; (ii) in helping them to the acquisition of modern scientific knowledge, both for economic and military ends; (iii) in helping the organisation of the modern army and the modern navy fully equipped with all the most advanced instruments and methods of modern warfare with the knowledge and wealth thus acquired, in those independent Moslem States where this can be done safely and freely; (iv) in helping to preserve the independence and integrity of these States until they are fully equipped and organised, by securing on their behalf the moral support of the immense Moslem populations that are subject, for the time being, to the political authority of non-Moslem Governments or peoples; and (v) in the event of any conflict between these latter and any Moslem State or States, in embarrassing these non-Moslem Governments by the organised passive resistance or open revolt of their Moslem subjects, and aiming ultimately even at their complete overthrow.

These are the only conceivable means by which this political Pan-Islamism can hope to “keep to the Moslems the remnants of their once glorious Empire.” All these, from the organisation of universities and industries to the incitement of revolts, are parts of an organic whole. By themselves, working separately, none of these have any appreciable worth so far as the object of Pan-Islamism, as enunciated here, is concerned. Thus, the moment we subject it to a searching analysis, we find what a serious menace this political Pan-Islamism, as distinguished from what may be called religious or cultural Pan-Islamism, is to the peace and progress of modern humanity in general and of those countries in particular where there is, as in India, a mixed population of Moslems and non-Moslems.

The Pan-Islamic Propaganda in India

Nor, so far at least as India is concerned, is this menace either very imaginary or very distant. It seems to me that if one were to construct a chronological story, of the present cleavage between the Mahomedans and the Hindus and subject the facts and dates thus collected to a critical psychological analysis, it would be found that this Pan-Islamism in one shape or another has been partly responsible for it. Owing to its long contact with Hinduism, Indian Islam had developed a spirit of toleration of other faiths and practices than those of the Qoran, such as was and is unknown to Islam in perhaps any other part of the world. The Mahomedan masses, especially in Bengal, even associated themselves, so far as maybe, with the current ceremonialism of their Hindu neighbours. They frequently made pujas to the Hindu’s Gods and Goddesses through Hindu priests in Hindu houses, even as Hindus went and made offerings, with due faith and reverence, to Moslem Peers or Saints at Moslem dorgas or mausoleums. And all these had practically killed the possibility of any religious feuds between the two communities.

But the missionaries of a new Purist Movement in Indian Islam soon revived the old iconoclastic spirit of the Moslem faith, and thus worked up first a religious cleavage, and gradually, as this new enthusiasm grew, a new religious antagonism between these two sections of the Indian community. How far this new Purist Movement in the Mahomedan community in India was inspired, either partly or wholly or directly or indirectly by Pan- Islamism, cannot be said, and perhaps will never be known. But that this propaganda became very active since the early eighties of the last century is well known. Jelaluddin passed through India, early in the eighties, and the attitude of aloofness of the educated Mahomedans of India from the political activities of their Hindu fellow countrymen was, I think, openly and avowedly taken up gradually immediately after his visit.

I still remember the memorable utterance of Sir Syed Ahmed at a reception held in his honour at the house of Babus Pyari Mohan and Hari Mohan Ray, in Amherst Street, when the Syed was on a visit to Calcutta in 1876 or 1877, in which he compared the Hindus and the Mahomedans of Hindusthan, to the two eyes and two hands of a man. It was really the same metaphor which Mahommed had himself used in speaking of the Islamic brotherhood. It is notorious how rapidly this spirit and attitude was changed and the revered Syed openly set himself up as an antagonist to the Indian Nationalist Movement, then represented by the Indian National Congress. We attributed it at the time to the influence of the Anglo -Indian bureaucracy. That influence was no doubt at work, but though it may explain something it cannot explain everything in the history of this conflict between the educated Hindus and educated Mahomedans which grew along with the Congress agitation. The Pan-Islamic spirit was at least partly responsible for it.

Is It Confusion of Thought—or What?

But whatever its historic origin or its psychological justification, the sinister logic of this political Pan-Islamism cannot be disguised and should not be ignored. These implications are very clearly brought out in the very statement regarding the aims and scope of Pan-Islamism, as presented here by Mr. Zafar Ali Khan. And what is most important in this connection is that Mr. Khan here repeats what accredited leaders of the movement like the Rt. Hon. Syed Amir Ali and others have frequently said. I refer to the dictum that the Indian Mussalman is first a Moslem and then an Indian. Either it betrays a most woeful confusion of thought, unworthy of the intellectual leaders of a great world-movement, or it has a very sinister meaning behind it.

The term Indian is either a geographical or a political term. It connotes either the place of birth or residence of the human who calls himself by this name ; or it connotes his political or state-life and relations. As an Indian, a person is either a native of India, or a subject of the Government of India (like the statutory Indians) or both. This is all that the word Indian means, and absolutely nothing else, neither his race nor his caste nor his creed. On the other hand, the term Mahomedan is a term that connotes only a religious fact, that the person calling himself such belongs to a particular religious communion. It does not connote his geographical habitat or his political associations and obligations. And when a person says, therefore, that he is a Mahomedan first and an Indian next, all that he can mean by it is that his religious associations and obligations must have absolute precedence over his political associations and obligations. In other words, his allegiance to the non-Moslem State of which he may be a subject or a citizen, must give way to his allegiance to the Moslem peoples and princes of the world, when these two come into conflict with each other. This is the necessary logic of that political Pan-Islamism which is evidently represented by Mr. Zafar Ali Khan and Syed Amir Ali and the Moslem League. And as such it is the common enemy of Indian Nationalism in its truest and broadest sense, as well as of the present Government in India.

The True Cure

And the real cure of this mischievous religio-political movement, so far at any rate as India and Egypt are concerned, must be found in the evolution of a true Nationalist Ideal and the constitution of a Federal Government in India, forming part, as an equal among equals, of the larger Federation of the present British Empire, which has been persistently advocated in these pages.

Calcutta : May, 1913.

And I made my position as clear as I could in an interview with the late Mr. W.T. Stead, which he subsequently published in the Reviews (October 1911), from which I quote the following:

Such a partnership between Great Britain and India …… would be preferable to isolated independence for India…..….I have been led to this by reflecting upon the great problems which threaten to convulse the world in the near future. These problems are three in number. There is first the problem of the White against the coloured races…….The second question is that of Pan-Islamism…….The third question is that of the Mongolian Confederacy…….

These three problems are among questions which have no mercy for the peace of nations. Yet in all three it seems to me that Britain and India united will be able to exercise a far more potent influence for the avoidance of war and the arrangement of some modus vivendi than could be done by Britain alone or India alone. it is in the combination of Britain and India that my hope of the future lies. I object to call it an Empire. I would rather call it a co-operative partnership.”

Upon no other condition can the British Empire be truly and permanently worked into a real federal unity. Upon no other condition. as far as as human reason and imagination can foresee, can the British connection with India also be made permanent. The thing is simply unthinkable, first in view of the awakening self -consciousness of the different Indian races and communities, who have already commenced to shake off their old stupor and to rapidly move forward to occupy their rightful place as builders of a new nationality and history in India, and whose spirit of self-confidence and self-assertion is mainly responsible for the present Indian unrest; and second, in view of the general trends of contemporary politics and especially Asiatic politics, as manifested in the rejuvenescence of China on the one side, and the revival of Islam as new force in world history on the other.

But I press this Federal Imperial Ideal upon the attention of my countrymen not merely because it is ideally higher than isolated sovereign independence, but also because there is humanly speaking, no other alternative before us for the attainment of national autonomy. Granting that sovereign independence is the highest national ideal, the question is, how is India to attain it in her present helpless condition? As long as we had to consider only Great Britain or any other European power, for the matter of that, as standing in our way, this was not perhaps absolutely inconceivable, and we might have thought it possible to attain this national independence by making the situation impossible for our present rulers. But the emergence of Japan into the rivalry of world dominion, and the rejuvenescence of China on the one side, and the rise of Pan -Islamism on the other, have practically killed all chances of any isolated national autonomy for India.

To hold our own against China or Japan, we must have a powerful navy and a large army equipped and organised according to the most up-to-date methods. And there is practically no possibility of our securing these, except through the continuance of the British connection, or through a long period of undisturbed national self-rule should this connection be severed. But neither China nor Japan will impose a self-denying ordinance upon them to help us to this essential period of undisturbed self-rule, and thus enable us to realise our ideal of isolated sovereignty. Nor will the Pan-Islamist refuse to exploit the helpless and disorganised State that must follow any violent break up of the British connection, in favour of a fresh Moslem domination in India. All these are patent possibilities. They are more, almost absolute certainties. And a consideration of these forces upon us the ideal of Federal-Self-Rule in preference to that of isolated sovereign independence.

This is briefly the central thesis of this volume. This federalism is our only salvation. This is also the only means of preserving the integrity of the British Empire. Indian Nationalism and British Imperialism both demand, in their own interest, the pursuit of this ideal. Will not the larger statesmanship of both India and England join hands in the pursuit of an ideal which is so essential to the future of both these countries?


1.The Real as Distinguished from the apparent, cause event of the present Pan-European War is the secret ambition of Germany for a ambition of securing the Suzerainty of Europe.

2.Even the present war has not falsified this conclusion; and it is obvious that finally, whichever party wins, neither Belguim nor Servia, nor any other smaller States that may be involved in this struggle, will lose their independence. The only States that may be completely wiped out of the map of Europe is Turkey, but even that is a very distant contingency.

(Excerpts taken from B.C. Pal Nationality and Empire: A Running study of some current Indian Problems, Calcutta & Simla, Delhi 2012-Reprint)

Author Info

Bipin Chandra Pal (1858-1932), born near Srihatta(Sylhet in Bangladesh), an ancient Shakti peetha, educated in Presidency College, Calcutta was an uncompromising nationalist belonging to the Lal-Bal-Pal group called the Extremists, and opposed the Moderates. A journalist, great orator and writer (Soul of India, Memories of My Life and Mission), he played a major role in the Swadeshi anti-Bengal partition) movement with the ideas of Purna Swaraj, Swadeshi and Boycott of foreign goods). Differences with Congress led to his moving away from it later on.

Did you like this article? We’re a non-profit. Make a donation and help pay for our journalism. 

Subscribe to our channels on Telegram &  YouTube. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles

Sign up to receive HinduPost content in your inbox
Select list(s):

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.