Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Col Archie Pugh - Comment from Abhay Datar in India

Dear Mr. Lawford,

I recently came across your blog on your grandfather, Colonel A J Pugh. I had been looking out for information on Col. Pugh since I read his oral evidence to the Franchise Committee of 1918-19. There he advocated joint electorates for Indians and Europeans in order to build racial harmony and improve relations among the two communities.

This proposal was quite fascinating and stood apart from the evidence from the other representatives of the European community in India. Furthermore, Col Pugh had also initiated the presentation of a joint address by Europeans and Indians of Calcutta to Edwin Montague, the then Secretary of State for India and Lord Chelmsford the Viceroy in 1917 asking for sub-provincial autonomy- one finds this aspect to be a precursor of the linguistic reorganization of states in India of 1956. What fascinates me the most is that Col Pugh made this proposal when he was connected with the upper echelons of the Raj, his father being the Attorney General of Bengal and father-in-law the Home Member under Lord Curzon.

Many thanks for putting up the information on the Net.

Yours sincerely
Abhay Datar
Pune, India 22nd November 2008

Summary of Colonel A J Pugh’s Evidence before the Franchise Committee of 1918-19

The Franchise Committee headed by Lord Southborough had been set up as per the Report on Indian Constitutional Reforms popularly known as the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms. The Committee toured the country examining witnesses.

Most non-official European witnesses were keen to have separate electorates so that they could have a say in the new expanded provincial legislatures, which were to exercise significant control over many departments of the government. It is here that Colonel A J Pugh’s evidence stand out. He ruled out purely European electorates as also the previous method of protecting non-official European interests – indirect elections by the European dominated Chambers of Commerce. Colonel Pugh advocated joint electorates for Europeans and Indians in the new Bengal Legislative Council. Colonel Pugh pointed out that non-official Europeans to have a say in the government in the changed circumstances only through constant association with Indians. Joint electorates with multi-member constituencies would provide the best opportunities for this. He rejected representation through the commercial bodies on two grounds; these bodies were not wholly European and secondly British interests were not confined, to use his words 'to jute and tea'. Furthermore, these European members would serve as the link between India and Britain.

But he does not quite make it clear whether this was to be done through a guaranteed minimum of seats reserved for the European candidates. But he did ask for certain safeguards. The candidates had to be members of representative community associations like the European Association and had to receive at least 100 votes from the European community. Non-official pure Europeans were to have 50 seats in the new Legislative Council – 30 elected non-officials and 20 nominated officials out of the total of 150, as per Colonel Pugh’s proposal. This might seem excessive but then in 1918 a meeting of all the non-official members of the then Bengal Legislative Council, including both Indians and Europeans, had agreed that the proportion of European representation should be maintained in a future Council. Pugh argued further that the Europeans’ representation should not be based on mere numbers but on the strength of their interests in the country.

But he did retreat a bit by saying that if adequate representation of non-official Europeans was not possible, then he would not advocate any grant of self-rule to India. This might sound strange given his previous arguments but then many individuals were opposed to the very principle of self-rule. Colonel Pugh’s idea of non-official Europeans and Indians running the government under the Empire certainly did not come true. But his liberality in advocating joint electorates needs to be remembered as a corrective to the uniform picture of racial difference and superiority advocated by the non-official community.
Abhay Datar
Pune, India 25nd November 2008
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