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HEMANTAKUMAR SARKAR, B.A.,

Research Student, Senior Post-Graduate Department, University of Calcutta.

ANY are of opinion that the democratic form of Government is an invention of the new age and that also is a monopoly with the Western peoples. The idea of autocracy has a good deal been associated with the name of the Orientals. But the religious and political history of ancient India at least gives a direct lie to this erroneous and mischievous idea.

BY

In those days of hoary antiquity when the Vedic literature was composed, the people had no mean place in the polity of ancient India. During that period the monarch was often elected. There is no paucity of allusions to the King being elected and his duties and obligations to the people even in the Rig Veda

"We place you on the throne, O King! May your reign be permanent, may you be firm on your throne and may the people all desire your sovereignty" (Rg. Veda. X. 1. 3. i)

In the Aitareya Brahmana (Abhisheka Prakarana VIII. 15) we find that the King was made to take solemn oaths to protect the people, the Veda and the religion based upon the Veda. He was even plainly given to understand that he would meet with dire destruction in the event of his failure or neglect in fulfilling those pledges.

In the Shatapatha Brahmana we find all sections and communities of people-at least their representatives-sprinkled the King during the inauguration ceremony.

In the Mahabharata also we find mention of Kingless states. At the time of Vena, the descendant of Manu who was, according to the Hindus the first King, the good relations between

*For some of the materials of this essay I have drawn upon some of the writings of the Hon. Mr. S.N. Banerji, Prof. Bagabatkumar Sastri, Babu Akshoykumar Maitra, Dr. P. N. Banerji, D. Sc., and others to whom I thankfully express my indebtedness. H S. "The Brahmins, the Kshatriyas and the Vaisyas sprinkled the King with Palasa, Nyagrodha and Asvatha branches respectively."

the King and the people were subverted. Vena became a tyrant and oppressed and terrorised the people. The Brahmins rebelled against him and killed him. Prithu his son, was next installed on the throne, but was made to swear serious obligations. (Mahabharata, Rajdharma, 59.)

There is another episode in the Mahabharata illustrating how in the case of violation of the pledges made by the King, he was liable to be deposed. King Khaninetra of the Ikshvaku line, a very powerful monarch, did not rule his Kingdom properly. So the people rose against him, removed him from the throne and placed his son in his stead, who devoted himself entirely to the task of doing good to his subjects, having profited by the lesson given to his father.

We have it on the authority of Prof. Rhys Davids that 'the earliest Buddhist records reveal

the survival, side by side with more or less powerful monarchies, of republics with either complete or modified independence.'

Clan republics were a recognised form of government also in the time of the Maurya King Chandragupta (322-298 B. C.), whose minister Chanakya alias Kautilya in his famous " Arthasastra" says Sovereignty may be the property

of a clan "

At the time of Alexander's invasion, many of the nations of the Punjab lived under democratic institutions. The Ambasthas dwelt in cities in which the democratic form of Government prevailed. Curtius mentions a powerful Indian tribe whose form of government was entirely democratic.

The Kathanians, the Oxydrakai, the Adraistai and the Malloi-all lived under a democratic form of Government; at the city of Nysa, the administration was in the hands of 300 wise men.

The system of conducting public administration by means of an assembly of the people prevailed in India in the early Vedic times (of Atharvaveda XV. 2. 9. and VII. 1. 12.) This system became a regular institution in the Buddhistic age. Even in states where the monarchical form of Government prevailed, the popular assemblies played a very important part in the administrative affairs.

"The Buddhistic records extending over a period of 700 years from the second century B. C. to the fifth century A. D. emba'm the democratic view that the sovereign owes his authority to the choice of the people. The original theory of Kingship is described in the Mahavas'u-abandon-a work written in the 2nd century B. C. The theory is that after the establishment of society, the members of the local organisation found themselves in need of a powerful man to guard their fields, to protect the good and punish the wicked and divide the produce among the owners of the fields. Having found their man they offered him one-sixth of the produce for his services. As he was the elect of all, appointed with the concurrence of all, he was called Matrasammata (‘agreed by all'). It was in a royal family thus installed that the Lord Buddha was born. In his commentary on chatushatika written by Arvadeva (2nd cent. A. D.), the commentator asks'Why should a king be haughty? He is simply the servant of a guild ('gana') with a salary amounting to a sixth part of the produce"

Coming down to the later times in the 5th century. A.D. we find the same democratic ideas supported by Chandrakiriti. We also learn from the history of Samudra Guptas' reign that Malava was a republic under the Indian Napoleon's suzerainty' (4th cent. A. D.)

The ideal of civilisation, which was the vision of Tolstoy and others, was fulfilled in the rural life of India some twenty five centuries ago in the village community system. In this miniature republic the rights of the people were undisturbed and the king had hardly any other thing to do than rest satisfied with the amount paid as tax Land for protection from external enemies. settlemert, justice, police, education, sanitation, etc. were all in the hands of the people themselves. Some of these village communities are preserved intact even now in the extreme South of India. The village Panchayat system in Bengal shows only a remnant of it. "The self

elected headman of the village not recognised by the villagers" as runs the Bengali proverb, only proves in a way how the ideal of democracy had been mixed up with the life blood of our common people.

The reign of King Demos continued even down to comparatively modern times in India. According to the Tibetan historian Taranath who referring to a tradition says-Gopala, the first king of the Pala dynasty, was elected the ruler of Bengal early in the 8th cent. (cir. 730-40 A.D.) This is corroborated by an inscription in which is written the following:

"The people made him wedded to the goddess of rovalty (elected him king) to prevent the oppression of the weak by the strong

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From the copper plate inscriptions of the kings of medieval Bengal, we learn that in granting lands to their subjects the kings used to address This thus-"Let your sanction be to this." significant custom shows the relation even in those days between the King and the people who must have enjoyed considerable political power.

As they elected Kings so could they dethrone them if necessity demanded it. Mahipala II of the Pala line was thus deprived of his throne and killed for the improper use of his royal power.

Certain long inscriptions of the Chola King Parantaka I (907 A. D.) give us the full details of the manner in which Local Self-Government was carried out by well-organised local committees, exercising their administrative and judicial powers under royal sanction.

It will come as an agreeable discovery to learn that a republic existed in India till less than 150 years ago. It was the little republic of Lakhneswar which was founded in the 13th cent. A.D. by a heroic little band of Sengar Rajputs who had fled from the irresistable on slaught of the mahomedans. It lasted for about 500 years.' (K.S. N. Singh,-The Last Republic of the Hindus-Modern Review. Nov. 1918.)

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From all this we see that the Indians in the palmy days of their history were a nation of free people enjoying extensive popular rights; and it may be said that the cradle of democracy lies in the lap of India's ancient civilisation.

The Reports of the Southborough Committees on Franchise and the Division of Functions were issued on the 16th instant together with the Government of India's despatches on these reports and the Minutes of dissent of two members of Government-Sir Sankaran Nair and Sir William Vincent. We regret to point out the omission of the Government of India's earlier Despatches. We give below the official summaries of the reports of the Southborough Committees.-[Ed. I. R.] FRANCHISE COMMITTEE'S REPORT.

HE committee recommend the retention of the existing general disqualifications of electors and the addition of a further disqualification based on nationality which would not, however, apply to subjects of Indian States. They decided that the social conditions of India make it premature to extend franchise to women.

2. It is proposed that the general franchise should be based on residence within the constituency and the possession of certain property qualifications as evidenced by the payment of land revenue, rent or local rates in rural areas, and of municipal rates in urban areas, and of income-tax generally. An important exception to these general principles is the recommendation to enfranchise all retired and pensioned officers of the Indian Army. No attempt has been made to arrive at any uniform property qualification. The qualifications proposed vary not only from province to province; but also, in some cases, in different areas within the same province. An important point is that the same qualification is proposed for all communities within the same area.

3. The number of electors, which the franchise proposed for the various provinces will give, is roughly estimated as follows:

Madras

Bombay

Bengal

United Provinces

Punjab

Bihar and Orissa

Central Provinces Assam

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159,500 300,000

It is proposed to replace the existing system of indirect election to the provincial Legislative Councils by a system of direct election. The district will ordinarily be the electoral unit, but in some provinces single cities with large populations and in other provinces smaller towns in groups will form urban constituencies. Single member constituencies are generally recommended, but some latitude is left to local Governments in this matter. The committee are opposed to the introduction of elaborate systems of voting, such as proportional representation, the limited vote and the cumulative vote. They recommend that

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plural voting should be forbidden except where a constituency returns more than one member in which case each elector will have as many votes as there are members. Electors will also be allowed to vote in one general or communal constituency in addition to voting in a special constituency.

4. The average number of electors in the general and communal constituencies in the various provinces is estimated to be as follows:Madras 7,200

Bombay
Bengal

8,900

16,400

United Provinces
Punjab

Bihar and Orissa

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Madras
Bombay
Bengal

United Provinces
Punjab

Bihar and Orissa Central Provinces Assam

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17,700

4,900

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9,700

Central Provinces Assam The size of individual constituencies will, however, vary enormously, from 500 electors in the Mahomedan constituency composed of the towns of Madura, Trichinopoly and Srirangam to 96,000 in the constituency of Almora in the U. P.

5. The size of the council which the Committee recommend for each province is :-`

9,100

3,400

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special electorate, and the Central Provinces ;

(iv) labour in Bombay, Bengal, Bihar and Orissa and Assam;

(v) excluded tracts in Madras and the C. P. (vi) military interests in the Punjab ; (vii) industrial interests other than plant(viii) ing and mining, aborigines and (ix) domiciled Bengalis, all in Bihar. The number of nominated non-official members proposed varies from 5 in Bengal and the U. P. to 9 in Bihar and Orissa and Assam.

6. Special electorates are proposed for the following interests:

(i) universities, in all provinces, except
Assam ;
(ii) landholders and

(iii) commerce and both in all provinces.
industry,

The number of landholding members varies from 2 in Assam to 7 in Madras and of representatives of commerce and industry from 2 in the Punjab and the Central Provinces to 15 in Bengal. In the representation of commerce and industry the following special interests share:

(i) planting in Madras, Bihar, and Orissa and Assam ;

(ii) mining in Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and C.P. (iii) European Chambers of Commerce in Madras, Bombay, Bengal and U. P. (iv) Indian Chambers of Commerce in the same four provinces ;

(v) Trades' Associations in the three presidencies;

(vi) & (vii) Millowners' Association and cotton trade in Bombay;

(viii) (ix) (x) & (xi) the jute trade, the tea trade, Indian Associations and Inland Water Transport Board in Bengal:

(xii) general industrial interests in the Punjab, Bihar and Orissa, C. P. and Assam.

7. The extension of a system of communal electorates is proposed in the interests of (1) Indian Christians to whom three seats are given in Madras; (2) Anglo Indians who are given one seat each in Madras and Bengal; (3) Europeans who are given two seats in Bombay and Bengal and one seat in Madras, the United Provinces and Bihar and Orissa; and (4) Sikhs to whom eight seats are given in the Punjab. In the case of Mahomedans, the existing system of communal election is retained and following the Congress

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The claims to separate electorates of the following minor communities are not supported: Mahishyas of Bengal and Assam, Marwaris of Calcutta, Bengali domiciled community of Bihar and Orissa, Ahoms of Assam, Mahars of the Central Provinces, Uriyas of Madras and Parsis of Bombay. The majority of the committee would also reject the claims of the Maharattas. In regard to nonBrahmans of Madras, the committee observe that they were deprived of the opportunity of examining the non-Brahman leaders and of testing their views since they refused to appear before the committee. The communications from Dr. Nair and other non- Brahman leaders are included in an appendix (XV) to the report. The committee regret that the refusal of these leaders to appear at the enquiry made a settlement by consent impossible. They considered certain solutions of the non- Brahman problem; but in the end decided to make no difference between Brahmans and nonBrahmans; but they add a suggestion that the matter may be further considered hereafter if the non Brahmans make a move.

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Bombay

Bengal

United Provinces

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Punjab

Bihar and Orissa

Central Provinces

Assam

3

Burma

4

Delhi

1

Of these 80 members 36 will represent general non-Muslim interests, 19 general Muslim interests, 1 general Sikh interests, 5 non-Muslim land holding interests, 4 Muslim landholding interests, 1 Sikh landholding interest, 6 European commerce and planting and 4 Indian commerce. To these will be added 14 members appointed by nomination and 26 officials. The committee hold that a system of direct election is not feasible, except in the cases of the landholding and commercial interests, and recommend that the general represen. tatives should be returned by the non-official members of the provincial legislative councils voting on a communal basis.

COUNCIL OF STATE.

Punjab

Bihar and Orissa

Central Provinces Assam

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The elected members, with the exception of the two representatives of European commerce, will be returned by the non-official members of the various provincial councils, the distribution of seats among the provinces being as follows:

Madras

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12

12

13

12

9

9

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11

7

1

2

2

1

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5

6 3

31*

21* 11+

11+

One landholding seat to be filled alternately from Bengal and Bihar and Orissa.

+One Mahomedan seat to be filled alternately from the Central Provinces and Assam.

DIVISION OF FUNCTIONS.

HE report is in six sections, The important sections are No. II, which deals with provincial functions and relations between the provinces and the Government of India, No. III in which the transfer of functions and the powers of the Governor-in-Council in relation to transferred subjects are discussed, and Nos. IV and V in which proposals regarding the Public Services and Finance respectively are put forward. Much of the report does not lend ititself readily to summary being of a technical and complicated nature but the main proposals can be briefly described.

2. Section II.-The committee have prepared two lists showing (i) all-India subjects and (ii) provincial subjects. Among the most important subjects proposed for inclusion in the all-India list are, naval, military and aerial matters, foreign relations and relations with native states, railways (with certain exceptions), communications of military importance, posts and telegraphs, currency and coinage, sources of imperial revenue, law of status, property, civil rights etc., commerce, shipping and major ports, criminal law, central police organisation and railway police, possession and use of arms, central institutions of scientific and industrial research, ecclesiastic administration and all-India services. In the provincial list the most important items are local self-Government, medical administration and education, sanitation, education (with certain exceptions), provincial buildings, communications other than those of military importance, light and feeder railways in certain cases, irrigation and canals, land revenue administration, agriculture, civil veterinary department, fisheries, co-operative societies, forests, excise, administration of justice, development of industries, police, prisons and reformatories, control of newspapers and presses, provincial borrowing.

3. The provincial subjects will be divided into reserved and transferred, and it is proposed that the powers of the Government of India in regard to provincial subjects should vary according to this division. The committee recommend that intervention in transferred subjects should be allowed only for two purposes, viz:

(1) To safeguard the administration of all. India subjects.

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