On Fri, 28 Aug 2020, 16:54 , Manus O’Riordan wrote:
Dev on the War of
Independence and Solidarity with India, 1920
In 1948 Éamon de Valera visited India, meeting with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and Nehru returned the compliment with a visit to Ireland in 1956.
In the special July/August 2010 issue of ‘History Ireland’, on the connections between Ireland and India, Kate O’Malley related:
“On 26 January 1950, Éamon de Valera was asked to be guest of honour at a reception in Birmingham to celebrate the declaration of India as a republic. At first glance it seemed an unusual choice. The organisers were asked why they had not chosen a fellow Indian. Their response was unequivocal: ‘We and the Irish had strong ties of friendship. We suffered under the same tyranny for many centuries. They had the Black and Tans; we had the massacre of Amritsar. They had de Valera and Casement and MacSwiney; we had Gandhi and Nehru and Bose. They had Sinn Féin; we had our National Congress. They had the IRA; we had the INA. It is not only for the smile and the shamrock we know Ireland. It is for the toughness of their leaders and for the rebellion in their hearts.’”
Writing in “Century Ireland” last year, and marking the centenary of the Amritsar massacre of April 13, 1919, Kate O’Malley further related:
“In February 1920 in New York, Éamon de Valera was a key note speaker at a ‘Friends of Freedom for India’ gathering in the Central Opera House, which, according to reports, was jammed to the rafters. His talk was titled ‘Ireland and India’, and in it he referenced Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer, later dubbed ‘the Butcher of Amritsar’, no less than five times. The speech was published in pamphlet form, sold for 25 cents, it received extensive press coverage and its circulation was banned in India.”
So, what exactly did Dev say? In the pamphlet ‘Ireland and India’, whose cover announced both the name and the elected office held by its author, Éamon de Valera, President of the Republic of Ireland, he himself said it was “DEDICATED to the Memory of the Martyrs Who Gave Their Lives to Make India and Ireland Free and Independent”. Dev wrote:
“Citizens of other countries may be shocked when they learn that 32,000,000 of human beings were starved to death in India last year… But terrible as it is, it does not surprise us in Ireland who know what British rule means. It is within the memory of men, living in Ireland when this same British rule struck down in the same manner, not one in ten as in India, but one in every five, in a land no less fertile than India and people no less active and industrious. And the shooting of an unarmed, helpless, protesting multitude, and the hangings and the floggings – we have not to go back far in Irish history to know of these. The British frightfulness of the General Dyers is nothing new to us… Almost perpetual famine reigns in India. Of course there is bound to be famine when an alien power’s greed takes away all the wealth and all the food that its forces can extract. The figures … only tell us whether the number who die are a few million more or less…”
“It is only under the influence of a reign of frightfulness and of terror that men with warm blood in their veins would allow the food which is needed for their mothers and wives and children … to be filched away from them by an enemy marauder. There are a thousand native Indians to one foreigner. Isn’t it obvious that the Dyers must be there, else the imperial robbery would not be allowed to continue? All the books can tell us is whether the numbers shot is a few thousand more or less… A British statesman once spoke of the increasing Irish population as a menace to Britain, and in a few years an artificial famine killed off our people by the million. Do we doubt that in full consciousness, they act likewise today in India? The people of India, we are told by the British apologists, are backward and ignorant, lazy and unable to rule themselves. They have made exactly the same pretence about Ireland at other times. The Indians are ‘mere’ Asiatics, we are told. We were the ‘mere’ Irish. Irishmen, anyhow should not be deceived by the British cant about the Indians… The British are in India, not for India’s good but to exploit India and the Indians, and that to ensure the continuance of their exploitation the British do not hesitate to resort to any means, no matter how revolting or how cruel, provided these means appear to them the readiest and most effective for their purposes. Dyer had to shoot the people of India else the British Empire could not endure in India…”
“It has become a fashion to say that it is only the English ruling classes who are to blame. I am ready to admit that it is they who benefit the most directly by the exploitation, but the British labouring man is often the loudest in proclaiming the democratic nature of the British system of government. The British labouring man can no longer be excused on the plea of ignorance. The common citizen’s vote it is that maintains his government in power; it is in his name that the government acts. He is responsible for the acts of his government if he does not bring that government to book. I hold that the British system being what it is, and the power being in the average voter’s hand if he will exercise it, the whole British nation, every part of it, is equally responsible. They will pretend to throw up their hands in horror at the deeds of their General Dyers, but, as I have said, the Dyers are the necessary instruments of their imperial system. The government that maintains the system is their government, the responsibility is their responsibility, and we should not help them to evade the responsibility, evade the blame. The labouring classes can bring about a change if they want to; if they do not, they are guilty with the others… The rule of a people by a foreign despot is a terrible thing, but the rule of a people by a foreign democracy is the worst of all, for it is the most irresponsible of all…”
“The English are very sensitive to what the world thinks of them. They have long played the hypocrite with success; they hate now to see the mask torn from them. Today they are more afraid of it than ever, for their conduct at the Peace Conference has made them suspect to the whole world… And here I come to the policy of physical force. Can we, struggling for our freedom, afford to fling away any weapon by which nations in the past have achieved their freedom; any weapon by which, in conceivable circumstances, nations may win their freedom? We in Ireland hold today that we may not. On that account our opponents call us the physical force party. But we are not a physical force party only. The fact that we are making an appeal to the moral forces of the world is sufficient to show that we do not rely upon the sword as the only weapon. If those who advocate the use of moral force only assist us now that we appeal to them, there will be no need of any appeal to the other forces. No one appeals to physical force except as a last resort when there is no hope of securing justice otherwise.”
See https://archive.org/details/indiaireland00deva/page/n3/mode/2up for the full text.
See also www.historyireland.com/20th-century-contemporary-history/politics-learning-the-tricks-of-the-imperial-secession-trade-irish-and-indian-nationalism-in-the-30s-and-40s/ for Kate O’Malley on Irish and Indian nationalism in the ’30s and ’40s.