on the the Present Discontent by Muhammad Ali Jauhar is the
cornerstone of historiography of the Indian Muslim community in
the modern period.
It was published in 1907, first as a series
of articles in the press and then as a booklet. It gave Jauhar an
instant popularity as a journalist, and established him as a leading
spokesperson for his community.
Dr. Afzal Iqbal writes about the background:
"The articles were written almost in one night, when sleep
was both difficult and impossible, owing to a great storm that heralded
the break of the monsoons. They created a profound impression and
won immediate recognition for Mohamed Ali as a serious political
Thoughts on the Present Discontent
Moderates and extremists
the twain shall meet”
The education bacillus
Not councils but clubs
Noli me tangere
Reaping the whirlwind
Moghal and the British
We have seen that the present discontent is due partly,
and inevitably, to the advance of Western education and enlightenment,
aggravated by the blunders of the educationalists, and extended
and amplified by the active support of the Congress Extremists,
and the contributory negligence of the Moderates. But it is also
partly due to the actual discourtesy of some Europeans, and the
social exclusiveness of all. An additional impetus is also given
by the lavish promises of the English and their tardy performance.
These pledges were not given by Machiavellian politicians as the
Extremists would have us believe, but were the outcome of those
generous impulses which a free people are bound to feel from time
to time. When our politicians complain of the casuistical interpretation
put upon the Queen's Proclamation by pro-Consuls and Parliaments,
they are apt to forget that the most gracious sentences were not
the compositions of some pettifogging lawyer, but of our Sovereign
Lady, Victoria, who was every inch a woman and a queen. In fact,
hardly any Indian patriot has rendered India such valuable services
as Englishmen of the type of Burke and Bright, Macaulay and Bentinck.
But all cannot take the wings of angels. Because the average Englishman
lacks the fluffy growth on his shoulder blades, is it any reason
to credit him with the cloven foot? He is really and truly much
more commonplace, being merely a man.
It is true, however, that nobody in the wide world
is half so sanctimonious as an Englishman. His insularity, added
to his puritanic bent of mind, makes him an admirable hypocrite.
What the French would cynically acknowledge and laugh over, and
the Germans would boastfully proclaim from housetops, the English
would disguise with the most praiseworthy pertinacity. It is this
trait of their character which makes alien nations suspect them
of conscious hypocrisy. They feel annoyed if other people take them
at their word. "We rule India for India's benefit only,"
says the Anglo-Indian. Yet no philanthropist was ever so persevering
in doing good to others against their will. Every civilian talks
of exile, and yet I fancy there is not a little regret when the
would-be Governor is denied by the examiners the privileges of martyrdom
and life-long exile. Such pugnacious altruism and persistent philanthropy
are liable to be misunderstood. A little more self-introspection
and cynical frankness could sweep away much of the prevailing discontent.
A writer in the Empire Review from Johannesburg has put the case
with true Colonial directness. "It is not to-day nor to-morrow,"
says he, "but the day will come when the Indians can justly
claim they can rule themselves, and then we must cast aside hypocrisy,
and either acknowledge we do not govern India merely for India's
benefit, or we must retire. Self-interest in trade is why we rule
India, and not pure philanthropy. It remains to be seen which we
If this were wholly true, and-what is more,-if the
interests of India and England were to become contradictory and
mutually exclusive, there would, then, be ample justification for
seditionists to do their work. For sedition would then lose its
stigma, and become a war of independence. The English would then
have to say frankly: "Snatch, if you can, the club from the
hand of Hercules," and deport all their disaffected subjects
to another continent, or crush three hundred million malcontents.
To hope to succeed by persuasion and reasoning would then be as
futile as it would be treacherous.
But if that time has not yet come,-and I refuse to
believe that it has come,-then, let the elect on the European side
curb the petty passions of European Extremists, and let the Indian
Moderates silence the rabid Radicals in their own camp, or disown
them as courageously as they pronounce anathemas on Fullers and
Curzons. The slow but sure method, however, of crushing disaffection
is by courting affection. And for that there is no other royal road
than that trod by the Afghan and the Moghal. Believe me, there is
no greater Little Englander than your Imperialist. His seclusion
behind a purdah that neither morality demands nor religion sanctions,
and living in the midst of the people, yet avoiding the touch of
a sixth of the whole human race, is a folly that would be amusing,
did it not lead to a tragic end. Cannot Imperial Rome-with all her
failings, truly Imperial-teach the simple text of the Poet, "Homo
sum, nihil humani a me alienum puto"? Could but a few men at
the top ponder deeply over the rejoicings of an Empire Day in which
but a small slice of this gigantic Empire participated, there would
be food enough for thought, and hope enough for the Empire's permanence
and Speeches of Maulana Mohamed Ali (1944/1987) by Dr.
Afzal Iqbal. Islamic Book Foundation, Lahore
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