D.V.G's Himalayan Service to Public Life: The Anti-Partition Champion

This article is part 5 of 10 in the series DVG Profile by S.R. Ramaswamy

Public Organisations

The public meeting that took place towards the end of 1919 was organized by D.V.G. In the South Indian Princely States Conference held in 1929 in Travancore, D.V.G was the secretary to its president, Sir M. Visvesvaraya.

In the People’s Conference of South Indian States held in May 1925 in Pune, in the All India States People’s Representative Conference held in December 1927 in Mumbai, and on numerous such occasions, D.V.G’s opinions were sought and discussed.

In 1927, the Indian States People’s Conference, a pan-Indian organization was established under the leadership of Ellore’s Diwan Bahadur M. Ramachandra Rao. D.V.G. was appointed as the representative of the South Indian Princely States. This gathering included such luminaries as Balwant Rai Mehta from Bhavnagar, and G.R. Abhyankar from Sangli. D.V.G. played a promient role in a similar people’s assembly of the Princely States that took place in 1921.

In the middle of 1928, the famous Motilal Nehru Report about the problems of the Indian Constitution that was published under the pretext of the All Parties’ Conference was severely criticized by D.V.G. He said that this report consoled itself by condemning the Maharajas of the Princely States in an entertaining manner and that it paid no attention to the real problems of the citizens or to the fundamental and complex constitutional issues.

When Babasaheb Ambedkar spoke in the Second Round Table Conference in London, he cited D.V.G’s writings.

Butler Committee

In 1928, the British Government formed a committee under the presidentship of Sir Harcourt Butler in order to examine the issue of reorganizing the Princely States. The Mysore Government requested DVG to put forward arguments on behalf of Karnataka (i.e. the Mysore Princely State) before the Butler Committee. By this time, DVG had already attained widespread renown as an expert on this matter. Much before the actual meeting, DVG had already written a critique that the Terms of Reference in itself had a lacuna.

A Committee member, Holdsworth put this question: “You said that once the citizens of the Princely State are granted constitutional rights, the responsibility of the British Government ends. However, when the people of the state do not carry on the administration effectively, shouldn’t the British government step in?”

DVG: “People are aware of their own interests much better than others. If they commit an error due to lack of experience, they will correct themselves. This self-education is also an organ of Responsible Government.”

Butler, Holdsworth: “So you say that Responsible Government is the best among all administrative methods?”

DVG: “Isn’t this the same view of the British Parliament? That administrative system which is regarded as the best for the British, how will it be improper for British India? Of late, we have the instance of H.G. Wells and others critcising British democracy. In spite of that, my faith in that system hasn’t diminished.”

Sydney Peal: “Do you mean to say that all the subjects of all Princely States should become part of British India?”

DVG: “I did not say that. My argument is that the people of the Princely States are deserving of the rights available to the citizens of British India. Taking cognizance of this is an important step in the direction of the country’s constitutional reorganization.”

Cabinet Commission

During the 1935-45 decade, Indian leaders and British officials had assumed a hardened stance towards each other. As a result, the deliberations about the constitution had more or less come to a standstill. It was infused with renewed life during March – June 1946 with the arrival in India of a delegation of three British Cabinet members (Pethick Lawrence, Stafford Cripps, A.V. Alexander). This was the Cabinet Mission. The specialty of the constructive suggestions offered by Pethick Lawrence lay in rejecting Churchill’s naked espousal of Empire and agreeing that India was qualified to obtain freedom. The other specialty lay in rejecting the demand for Partition and upholding the indivisibility of India. However, Churchill stuck to the formula that if at all the British had to leave India, it would do so only after partitioning it. The Viceroys Linlithgow, Wavell and Mountbatten implemented this formula with extreme craftiness.

When India was partitioned according to the “Mountbatten Plan,” it brought tremendous grief to DVG. He said with great dejection: “Perhaps the Congress had no other alternative. But Mountbatten had alternatives.”

Opposition to the Creation of Pakistan

DVG opposed the creation of Pakistan till the very end. In 1945, DVG repeated his argument in reply to a series of questions posed by Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru: “I am totally opposed to the idea of erecting a State on the basis of a religion.” Later, he reaffirmed the same thing in numerous writings on the subject. Writing in February 1946 in a book titled All-India Federal Union, he said:

We must completely oppose the demand for Pakistan. (1) It is an endeavor to create a state based on people’s sectarian loyalty. This is dangerous. (2) It will be unable to solve the problems of the minorites. Because even Hindus, Sikhs and Christians will also need to live in Pakistan. (3) Because resources will be diminished, it will only result in problems for Pakistan. (4) Since untold antiquity, it has been recorded that from the Himalayas up to Sri Rama Setu, this is the land of Hindus. (5) If India will be partitioned, it will become a toy in the hands of foreign powers. (6) In this matter, if the principle of a plebiscite is accepted, it will be akin to laying the foundation for splintering the country. Some crazy group at some time in future might demand independence for itself.

In analyzing the failure of the Simon Commission and the Shimla Conference and various other episodes, DVG fiercely castigated the appeasement attitude of Congress leaders in his writings, speeches and appeals to the Government. Writing about the Shimla Conference in 1945, he said, “The obstinacy of Jinnah and the Muslim League is not new. During the discussions in the wake of the Cripps Mission, Wavell had himself observed this obstinacy. Still, instead of giving it a fitting reply, Wavell has fallen into the same path in Shimla, as before.”

In order to forget the deep pain he felt at the country’s partition, DVG immersed himself in relief activities held in Bangalore towards the close of 1947 aimed at helping the Punjab refugees.

To be continued

Author(s)

About:

Dr. S R Ramaswamy is a renowned journalist, writer, art critic, environmentalist, and social activist. He has authored over fifty books and thousands of articles. He was a close associate of greats like D. V. Gundappa and Rallapalli Anantakrishna Sharma. He is currently the honorary Editor-in-Chief of Utthana and the Honorary Secretary of the Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs.

Translator(s)

About:

Sandeep Balakrishna is a writer, author, translator, and socio-political-cultural analyst. He is the author of "Tipu Sultan: The Tyrant of Mysore" and "The Madurai Sultanate: A Concise History." He translated Dr. S L Bhyrappa's magnum opus "Avarana" into English.