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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
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Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C

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Home > Sathyam - Truth is a Pathless Land > Unfolding Consciousness > Relevance of Aurobindo > Sri Aurobindo on the Minto Morley Reforms

The Relevance of Aurobindo

Comic Opera Reforms

Sri Aurobindo on the Minto Morley Reforms

Bande Matram, June 1907

[see also Thirteenth Amendment to Sri Lanka Constitution
- Devolution or Comic Opera ? - Nadesan Satyendra, March 1988

Mr. Morley has made his pronouncement and a long-expectant world may now go about its ordinary business with the satisfactory conviction that the conditions of political life in India will be precisely the same as before. We know now what are the much talked of reforms which are to pave the way for self-government under an absolute and personal rule and to quiet Indian discontent.

Let us take them one by one, these precious and inestimable boons. They are three in number, a trinity of marvels : an advisory Council of Notables, enlarged Legislative and Provincial Councils, admission of one or two Indians to the India Council.

An advisory Council of Notables - we can see it in our mind's eye. The Nawab of Dacca and the Maharaja of Darbhanga, the Maharajas of Coochbehar and Cashmere, the Raja of Nabha, Sir Harnam Singh, a few other Rajas and Maharajas (not including the Maharaja of Baroda), Dr. Rash Behari Ghose, Mr. Justice Mukherji, a goodly number of non-official Europeans, the knight of the umbrella from Bombay, etc. etc. with Mr. Gokhale bringing up the tail as the least dangerous of those whom Mr. Morley felt that he must reluctantly call "our enemies".

And what will the business of the illustrious assembly be ? It will find out what the opinion of the country is (on which the members will be better authorities no doubt than a highly inconvenient Press) and inform the Government; they will also find out the meaning of the Government (if that is humanly possible) and inform the country. We suppose it would be seditious to laugh at a Secretary of State, for is he not part of the Government established by law ? So we will merely say that the right place for this truly comic Council of Notables with its yet more comic functions is an opera by Gilbert and Sullivan and not an India seething with discontent and convulsed by the throes of an incipient revolution.

As to the "enlarged" Legislative Councils we can say little. Mr. Morley does not enlighten us as to their composition but he has explicitly said that the official majority will be maintained -a piece of information, by the way, which the Bengalee's "Own Correspondents" forget to cable out to Colootola. That is enough for it means that the Legislative Councils are to be precisely what they were before, only bigger. The people are not to be given any effective control of check on the management of their own affairs. We had gilted shams before; they will be bigger shams, with more gilt on them, but still shams and nothing but shams.

Finally, Mr. Morley says that the time has come when it will be really quite safe to have an Indian or even two (what reckless daring!) on the India Council. Really? A year or two ago, we suppose, it would have been very dangerous, - indeed, brought the Empire down with a sudden crash. So Mr. Romesh Dutt and Justice Amir Ali's expectations may at last be satisfied and we shall have two Indian tongues in the Council of India. We wish them luck; but for all the use they will be to India, they might just as well be in Timbuctoo, or the Andamans. Indeed they would probably be of much more use in the Andamans.

We find it impossible to discuss Mr. Morley's reforms seriously, they are so impossibly burlesque and farcical. Yet they have their serious aspect. They show that the British despotism, like all despotisms in the same predicament, is making the time-honoured, ineffectual effort to evade a settlement of the real question by throwing belated and now unacceptable sops to Demogorgon.

Morley - Minto Reforms, 1909
From the Story of Pakistan

In 1906, Lord Morley, the Secretary of State for Indian Affairs, announced in the British parliament that his government wanted to introduce new reforms for India, in which the locals were to be given more powers in legislative affairs. With this, a series of correspondences started between him and Lord Minto, the then Governor General of India. A committee was appointed by the Government of India to propose a scheme of reforms. The committee submitted its report, and after the approval of Lord Minto and Lord Morley, the Act of 1909 was passed by the British parliament. The Act of 1909 is commonly known as the Minto-Morley Reforms.

The following were the main features of the Act of 1909:

1. The number of the members of the Legislative Council at the Center was increased from 16 to 60.

2. The number of the members of the Provincial Legislatives was also increased. It was fixed as 50 in the provinces of Bengal, Madras and Bombay, and for the rest of the provinces it was 30.

3. The member of the Legislative Councils, both at the Center and in the provinces, were to be of four categories i.e. ex-officio members (Governor General and the members of their Executive Councils), nominated official members (those nominated by the Governor General and were government officials), nominated non-official members (nominated by the Governor General but were not government officials) and elected members (elected by different categories of Indian people).

4. Right of separate electorate was given to the Muslims.

5. At the Center, official members were to form the majority but in provinces non-official members would be in majority.

6. The members of the Legislative Councils were permitted to discuss the budgets, suggest the amendments and even to vote on them; excluding those items that were included as non-vote items. They were also entitled to ask supplementary questions during the legislative proceedings.

7. The Secretary of State for India was empowered to increase the number of the Executive Councils of Madras and Bombay from two to four.

8. Two Indians were nominated to the Council of the Secretary of State for Indian Affairs.

9. The Governor General was empowered to nominate one Indian member to his Executive Council.

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