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Was Britain divided about Indian independence, 1930-47?

Source 1

Letter to Winston Churchill from Waris Ameer Ali, 9 Feb 1931


 CHAR 2/180A/75-76

Simplified Transcript

Dear Mr Churchill

Sir Mark is away on holiday.
Your kind letter about the Albert Hall meeting has been sent to our Committee members.
A Colonel Mansin has asked whether you’d be able to speak at an event in Bedford in March.
Please let me congratulate you on tour speeches in Manchester and Toxteth recently.
It shows that a sincere politician can influence the country’s policy. The Moslems of India have rejected the plans for assemblies in India which the British government is proposing. They won’t accept any changes unless the rights of minorities are protected.
The Untouchables in India held a conference at Allahabad in November and said they were loyal to the British crown and didn’t want to be dominated by Hindus.
The British Socialists say that the majority of Indians want independence from Britain. If you take away the Untouchables and other minorities and the Indians ruled by the princes who will not enter the proposed Federation, where is this majority of Indians?
I’m enclosing a letter from the wife of an official which shows that it’s not true that the Indian campaign for self-government has nationwide support.

With all good wishes
W Ameer Ali

Original Transcript

The Indian Empire Society

February 9th 31

Secretary: Sir Mark Hunter
28 Alfred Place

Dear Mr Churchill,
Sir Mark Hunter is away on a short but well earned holiday.
Your kind letter about the Albert Hall Meeting has been sent to all members of the Committee of the Indian Empire Society, and Sir Mark will answer you in due form after our next meeting on Thursday.
A Colonel Mansin [or Manson] writes to enquire if you would be so kind as to speak at Bedford on any of the following dates March 18th, 20th, 25th, 27th, 30th, or 31st. His project has the support of the Mayor and they propose that Lord Ampthill should take the Chair.
Will you permit me to congratulate you on the marked effect of your Manchester and Toxteth speeches?
It only shows that a Statesman of sincere patriotism can still have some influence on the country's policy. ¶ [mark to show new paragraph] The strongest organisation of the Moslems of India, 70,000,000 strong, haves just repudiated the scheme of Federation foreshadowed by the Round Table Conference, and declared that they will not accept any constitutional advance without full guarantees for the minorities.
The Depressed Classes, at their Conferenec [Conference] at Allahabad in November, commencing with a declaration of loyalty to the Crown, declared their unwillingness to be placed under Brahmin domination.
Subtract other Minorities and the subjects of those Princes who will probably not enter the Federation, and where is the majority that the British Socialists are so desirous of supporting?
I beg to enclose an extract from the letter of the wife of an official whose winter tour carries him all over the United Provinces, from which you will see how unfounded is the idea that the Indian Swaraj movement is “nation-wide”.
With all good wishes for the success of your patriotic efforts.
I am,
Yours very truly,
W. Ameer Ali

I.C.S. Ret. [Indian Civil Service, Retired]

The Rt. Hon. Winston Churchill C.H., M.P
Chartwell Manor,
Westerham. Kent.

What is this source?

This is a letter written by Waris Ameer Ali of the Indian Empire Society written to Winston Churchill, dated 9 February 1931.

Background to this source

Waris Amir Ali came from an Indian Muslim family of Persian descent who trained as a lawyer in London, married a British woman and became very pro-British. After serving the British Raj in India as a privy counsellor and a judge, he retired to London but viewed the rise of the Hindu dominated Indian National Congress with alarm. He supported Churchill`s effort in resisting the attempts of the British Labour government to negotiate a federal constitution for India. He kept Churchill well-informed about Muslim opinion in India and supplied him with information which Churchill used in his speeches.

At the time of writing the question of Indian self-rule was a lively one. There were campaigns for ‘Swaraj’, or self-rule, led by the Indian National Congress. The British Labour Party (the Socialists mentioned in the source) favoured greater independence for India on the basis that the majority of the population wanted it. The Conservative Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin held consultations and a conference and a series of proposals emerged which would turn India into self-governing territories similar to Australia or Canada but without the same degree of independence. These measures later formed the basis of the 1935 Government of India Act.

How can we use this source in the investigation?

Remember, we’re hoping that the source can be useful to us in investigating whether opinion in Britain was divided on the question of Indian independence. The sources can be analysed in two ways:

Surface level

  1. What does Ali claim India's Muslim population feel about the idea of a federal constitution for India?
  2. What does Ali claim that Indian Muslims are looking for?
  3. Why does Ali, an Indian Muslim, also mention the reaction of the representatives of the depressed classes (Hindu Untouchables) to the Round Table proposals in this same letter?
  4. Why does he also mention other minorities and the subjects of the princes?

Deeper level

Which of the inferences below can be made from this source?

On a scale of 1-5 how far do you agree that this source supports this inference? Which extract(s) from the source support your argument?
Ali supports greater independence for India.

The Indian Empire Society had influence in Britain.

Churchill was a popular speaker on the subject of India.

There is evidence that some people in Britain supported Indian independence.

There is evidence that some people in Britain opposed Indian independence.

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Need help interpreting the source?

  • The Indian Empire society was founded in 1930 by British former members of the Indian Civil Service and provincial governors.
  • The Round Table conferences set up by the British Labour government included representatives of different groups in Indian society.
  • Opponents of a federal constitution encouraged Indian minorities, fearful of Hindu and Congress domination to object to a settlement.
  • Some Indian princes were expected not to enter any federation.
  • The term ‘swaraj’ refers to Gandhi`s campaign of non-violent civil disobedience.
  • Ali was standing in as Secretary of the Indian Empire Society while Sir Mark Hunter was on holiday.

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