Cancellation of Sastri’s Lecture
It had been announced that V S Srinivasa Sastri—member of the Servants of India Society—who had come to Bangalore, would be delivering a lecture on the subject of ‘Education’ the very next evening (of the previous incident) or perhaps it was three days later. A thousand people came, in batches, to listen to that lecture – I was a witness to it.
Even this programme was revoked upon the orders of the government. After being informed of the programme’s suspension, I vividly remember how Srinivasa Sastri, Madhavayya—a giant scholar in Tamil and English—and our circle of friends went to Lal Bagh, enjoyed a humorous chitchat, and returned home. What amazed me the most that day was the fact that Sastri never spoke a word about the government or that evening’s event. He neither criticized nor speculated the cause. When somebody amongst us asked, he said thus – “Since our guru Gokhale has ordered us to ‘neither display resentment nor independently criticize in times of such political oddities. If the concern is related to democracy or justice, it can be carefully analyzed and an appropriate action can be taken over time. At that immediate instant, the concern can be left to be managed by the prominent members of the Society.’ I am not supposed to say anything. Even I will need some matter and evidence to hypothesize. Won’t I? I haven’t yet gathered any such thing. And so I too am as baffled as you are!”
In this manner, Ananda Rao unintentionally became the cause for political turmoil among the people.
The commotion that resulted spread all across the State. Neither was Ananda Rao hasty by nature nor did he hold extreme views. For such a person to act like this, people suspected that the British Resident must have persuaded him. The reality, however, still remains hazy.
Upon learning about the details that led up to the cancellation of Srinivasa Sastri’s lecture by the government as well as the subsequent events, Gokhale must have decided that there was nothing that we could so. Sastri had once mentioned to me the facts that Gokhale had asked him, which he had possibly communicated with the British government by means of a letter.
We can recollect a few things about Indian politics from that period in time.
The Three Parties
It had been twenty-five years since the establishment of the Congress party. During that time [c. 1910], there were three parties in the political arena –
1. We are supposed to ask only a few concessions and facilities from the British Government. We should not do anything that will make the British feel that Indians are their opponents. We should gradually achieve – a larger share of opportunities for locals in the highest positions of the government such as the Civil Services; reduction of duties and taxes; development of industries; and improvement of tanks and lakes, and things that result in the country’s prosperity. We shouldn’t strike at the roots of the British. This was Ananda Rao’s father, Raja Sir T. Madhava Rao’s party.
2. Small concessions and facilities alone are not sufficient for us. Most essentially, we need the power to govern the state. The British Empire should even give us ‘Dominion Status’ – the position of a vassal power just like it has been provided to their colonies such as Canada and Australia. The British Government must give an oral commitment to this effect and gradually create the opportunity for India to rise to that level. This was the party of Gokhale and others.
3. The British government should vacate the country lock, stock, and barrel. There is no room for any intermediate system. Let them leave. This was the party of people such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
Ananda Rao’s Behaviour
When such was the situation, being a staunch supporter of his father’s party, did Ananda Rao sense a lack of compassion from members of the second party and therefore did he behave in this manner with Gokhale’s disciple Srinivasa Sastri? We don’t have any demonstrable evidence to prove this theory.
The following are the possible reasons for Ananda Rao’s conduct –
1. He might have behaved thus because of the Mahārāja’s persuasion.
2. The British Resident might have persuaded him to do what he did.
3. Assuming that to have been the intention of the British, Ananda Rao might have acted in such a manner (as a pre-emptive step).
4. Consulting neither the British nor the Mahārāja, Ananda Rao might have taken the decision independently.
The third or the fourth possibilities seem to have greater weight. There’s absolutely no reason why the Mahārāja should be dragged into this. Even the British Resident could have not intervened in this matter all by himself. Gopal Krishna Gokhale and V S Srinivasa Sastri were from the British India [as opposed to Mysore, which was a princely State]. There were umpteen opportunities for political activism in British India itself. Why would the British Resident have interfered in a matter that had been left unrestricted by the government there?
Sir. T Madhava Rao—Ananda Rao’s father—had once said that ‘the grace of the British Government should be earned by pleasing them through ordinary arguments and not posing any opposition.’ Ananda Rao cancelled the programme either because he was afraid, perceiving Sastri’s lecture as a possible danger for the British Empire, or with the intent of assuring the British Government that he was not sympathetic towards its rivals. This is one of my inferences. I can’t provide any evidence stronger than this.
I suspect that Ananda Rao did not have any sense of great admiration for V S Srinivasa Sastri.
Sometime during 1912–13, Gandhi started the Satyagraha movement in South Africa to give voice to the displeasure of the Indians towards the whites. Gokhale made an appeal to the people of India, asking them to express their solidarity towards the cause and to support it with monetary contributions. To mobilize funds, a meeting took place in Bangalore and a committee was formed. One fine morning, representing that committee, Rao Bahadur B K Garudachar, K S Krishna Iyer, and I went to Ananda Rao’s residence seeking a contribution. By that time, he had retired from his position. To our misfortune, just a day before our visit, a copy of Indian Review—an English monthly from Madras—consisting of a prominently published article written by Srinivasa Sastri, had reached Ananda Rao’s hands. We were explaining our request to him and his facial expressions turned rigid. During our explanation, he used to interrupt us by saying things like, “Why does this gentleman…,” placing his fingers on the line printed on the cover page of the Indian Review, which read “By Mr. V S Srinivasa Sastri.’ For some reason, he had made up his mind never to speak out Sastri’s name aloud!
Sastri’s article [in the Indian Review] was also about our purpose. The subject of the article was an analysis of the history and the consequences of injustice and humiliation suffered by Indians residing in South Africa, inflicted upon them by the whites. Ananda Rao was enraged further and argued, “Why did our people go to South Africa in the first place? Who asked them to go? And if they went at their own risk, taking responsibility for their own actions, let them suffer. Or let them return home!”
None of us retorted. Asking me not to reply, my elderly companions—Garudachar and Krishna Iyer—shut my mouth. “What you’re saying is debatable. We have come here seeking contributions towards a crisis relief. People are suffering, aren’t they?” I said. In response, he said, “I am a pensioner now! What do I have?”
We returned from there, empty handed.
I first met Ananda Rao circa 1910. I had visited him seeking his suggestions for my book about Dewan Rungacharlu. I have spoken about this incident elsewhere. On that occasion, apart from treating me with a lot of regard, Ananda Rao said thus – “I had your book read out and listened to it. I enjoyed it. Soon after the printed copies of the book are ready, you shall have the first hundred copies sent to me along with a bill.”
The amount he paid me as per my bill was my first ever earning from writing a book. It was dispensed towards partial payment of the loan I had taken, by signing a bond, to get the books printed.
There is one thing that should be kept in mind. During that time, Ananda Rao hadn’t yet learnt about my political leanings. My introduction to Srinivasa Sastri happened only after 1910 – at the time when Ananda Rao’s government cancelled Sastri’s lecture. Thereafter, Ananda Rao must have somehow learnt that Srinivasa Sastri had developed admiration for me and that I had immense respect for him.
Around the year 1914, the British Government appointed a sovereign war committee called the ‘Imperial War Council’ [or Imperial War Cabinet] and nominated Sir Ganga Prasad Varma [Sir Ganga Singh], the Mahārāja of Bikaner, as a member representing India.
To be concluded...
This is the second part of a three-part English translation of the seventh chapter of D V Gundappa’s Jnapakachitrashaale – Vol. 4 – Mysurina Diwanaru. Edited by Hari Ravikumar.