Monday, February 1, 2010

Pakistan, Govt. of India Act, 1909 (contd-1)

The Act of 1909 was important for the following reasons ;
1. it effectively allowed the election of Indians to the various legislative councils in India for the first time.Previously some Indians had been appointed to Legislative Councils. The majorities of the Councils remained British Govt. appointments. Moreover the electorate was limited to specific classes of Indian Nationals.
2. The Introduction of the electoral principle laid the the ground work for a parliamentary system even though this was contrary to the intent of Morley. As stated by Burke and Quraishi ;
"To Lord Curzon's apprehension that the new councils could become 'parliamentary bodies in Miniature,' Morley vehemently replied , "if it could be said that this chapter of reforms led directly or indirectly to the establishment of a parliamentary system in India, I for one would have nothing at all to do with it." But he had already confessed in a letter to Minto in June 1906 that while it was inconceivable to adapt English political institutions to the nations who inhabit India .. the spirit of English institutionsis a different thing and it is a thing that we cannot escape, even if we wished ... because the British constitutencies are the masters, and they will assuredly insist... all parties alike... on the spirit of the British system of Government could be achieved without its body.
Muslims had expressed serious concern that a 'first past the post' British type of electoral system would leave them permanentlysubject to Hindu majority rule. The Act of 1909 stipulated as demanded by the Muslim Leadership
* that Indian Muslims be alloted reserved seats in the Municipality and District Boards, in the Provincial councils and in the Imperial Legislature;
* that the number of reserved seats be in excess of their relative population (25 5 of the Indian population); and
* that only Muslims should vote nfor the Muslim seats (separate electorats).
The concessions were a constant source of strife 1909-47.British statesmen generally considered reserved seats as regrettable in that they encouraged communal extremism as Muslim candidates did not have to appeal for Hindu votes and Vice versa. As further power was shifted from the British to Indian politicians in 1919, 1935 and after, Muslims were ever more determined to hold on to, and if possible expand , reserved seats and their weightage. However, Hindu politicians repeatedly tried to eliminate reserved seats as they considered them to be undemocratic and to hinder the development of a shared Hindu-muslim Indian national feeling.