Back to WHKMLA Main Index . WHKMLA, Students' Papers Main Page . WHKMLA, Students' Papers, 13th Wave Index Page

Historiography of India between 1936 and 1940 : Focusing on John Gunther's Inside Asia

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Yeon, Haram
Term Paper, AP World History Class, June 2010

Table of Contents

I. Introduction
I.1 Purpose
I.2 Sources in Use
II. Important Background Information
II.1 Indian National Congress Party
II.2 Government of India Act of 1935
II.2.1 Reflection in Primary Sources
II.2.2 Reflection in Secondary Sources
II.2.3 Differences among Sources
III. The Election of 1937
III.1 Representation in Inside Asia
III.2 Representation in Encyclopedia Yearbooks
III.3 Representation in Secondary Sources
III.4 Differences among Sources
IV. The Untouchables Issue
IV.1 Representation in Inside Asia
IV.2 Representation in Encyclopedia Yearbooks
IV.3 Representation in Secondary Sources
IV.4 Differences among Sources
V. Moslem Separatism
V.1 Reflection in Inside Asia
V.2 Reflection in Encyclopedia Yearbooks
V.3 Reflection in Secondary Sources
V.4 Differences among Sources
VI. Conclusion
VI.1 Notable Features of Gunther's Inside Asia
VI.2 Final Evaluation

I. Introduction

I.1 Purpose
            History always involves the subjective interpretation of the author. Ultimately, no account of history can be absolutely objective. This is why, in studying the history of a certain period, a comparison of sources written in different perspectives is of paramount importance.
            This general truth about the study of history is only more applicable in the case of pre-independence India, about which numerous conflicting views, some native and some foreign, claim their own historical reading. This paper will attempt a comprehensive comparison between various sources that discuss the era in concern. The major purpose of the paper would center the popular book Inside Asia, written by John Gunther in 1939. By comparing the discussion of recent events in India written by Gunther and that written by others, this paper will assess how accurately John Gunther depicts and analyzes the history of his era. By evaluating both his comprehensiveness of information and objectivity of representation, ultimately this paper will try to establish how the Western public would have viewed India in the era preceding the Second World War.

I.2 Sources in use
            In general, four main source bases, two of which are primary sources, will be used. The primary source of foremost importance is, of course, John Gunther's Inside Asia, a book written about Asia during his time using his own experience in the places in concern. 'In 1937-38' Gunther 'visited every important place I [Gunther] have written about, except Saudi Arabia and Mongolia'; therefore this book can be treated as a primary source, written by someone closely intimate with the events in concern (1). Because of the immense popularity of this book, this source will be treated as reflecting the general public view of the Western - in particular American - societies. Then, the other primary source is a series of encyclopedia yearbooks ranging from the year 1936 to 1940. Because of the difficulty encountered in obtaining a continuous series books in this period, two kinds of encyclopedias have been chosen : The New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book and The New International Year Book (the perspectives of these two books have no significance difference, since they are edited by the same person in the same company). These sources are to provide an essentially Western view, but in comparison with Gunther's Inside Asia, it can be expected that these books are (1) more scholarly, for they are written mainly for the intellectuals, and (2) less detailed in their observations, for they are not based on direct observations. The first of the two major secondary sources is History of Indian National Congress, 1885-2002, written by Deep Chand Bandhu, a former Minister of Industry, Environment, Forest and Wild Life, Labour, Employment and Election in Government of Delhi (2), which will provide an indirect Indian National Congress's view on the events. Then the other is Kashmir and the freedom movement, written by Paramanand Parashar, which will provide a Pakistani account of the events. Additionally, other sources - for instance, the Encyclopaedia Britannica or Wikipedia, will be cited for the sake of comparison.
            There may be numerous events to discuss in this era, but four major events - the 1937 election, the Untouchables' issue, British Rule and reactions toward it, and the Pakistan Resolution of 1940 - will be the focus of this paper. Some events, such as the initiation of the Second World War in Europe, is of a great importance and are dealt with in the yearbooks, but are not treated here because they do not appear in Gunther's book, which was written based on information prior to 1938.

II. Important Background Information

II.1 Indian National Congress Party
            Indian National Congress Party is a major political party of India, "founded in 1885 with the object of obtaining a greater share in government for educated Indians" (3). No source used for this paper doubts that the National Congress Party was an organization of a much greater importance that as a mere party. Many major political figures of the day, such as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Subhas Chandra Bose, were as will be discussed, the Funk & Wagnalls Company Yearbooks' discussion of political history in India centers almost solely on the actions within and by the party, and Gunther writes a separate chapter just for the party, in addition to writing a few more in which its actions or its members are mainly treated, stating that "it [The Indian National Congress] is in a sense the organized expression of the aims and will of the Indian people." (4)
            In the events centering the Government of India Act of 1935 and the subsequent election according to the Act in 1937, internal disputes within the party (between the more moderate faction represented by Mohandas Gandhi and the more liberal by Jawaharlal Nehru) play a vital role in forming the general political atmosphere of India. Therefore, it is important, in dealing with this facet of Indian politics during this period, to take into consideration in what connotation the sources account the actions of the members of the party.

II.2 Government of India Act of 1935
            The Government of India Act of 1935 was, as all the sources agree, an important turning point for all factions within India (although it might vary from group to group how positively or negatively they look at the Act). This Act reformed the Government of India as formed according to the Government of India Act of 1919, and among its major features were 'grant of a large measure of autonomy to the Provinces of British India' and 'provision for the establishment of a "Federation of India"'. (5)
            The Act itself, having been enacted one year prior to the years in concern of this paper, is not exactly at the focus of the paper, but considering its tremendous importance in determining the events to follow in several years in various factions of the country, it is meaningful to note how different sources have differently viewed the implications of the Act, for there seem to be cases in which such differences are significant.
            An article in the Encyclopaedia Britannica describes the Government of India Act of 1935 as follows.
            "The Government of India Act of 1935 gave all provinces full representative and elective governments, chosen by franchise extended now to some 30 million Indians, and only the most crucial portfolios - defense, revenue, and foreign affairs - were "reserved" to appointed officials. The viceroy and his governors retained veto powers over any legislation they considered unacceptable, but prior to the 1937 elections they reached a "gentleman's agreement" with the Congress' high command not to resort to that constitutional option, which was their last vestige of autocracy. The act of 1935 was also to have introduced a federation of British India's provinces and the still autonomous princely states, but that institutional union of representative and despotic rule was never realized, since the princes were unable to agree among themselves on matters of protocol." (6)

II.2.1 Reflection in primary sources
            To Gunther and his book, in which the events centering the aftermath of the Government of India Act of 1935 constitute the most contemporary issues, fully explaining the significance of the Act is of great Importance. Thus, Gunther spends about three pages in exclusively discussing the issue of the Act. He describes the Act as follows :
            "The Act is in essence a compromise. It was opposed just as grimly by Winston Churchill and pro-Empire diehards in England as by Jawaharlal Nehru and the Congress nationalists in India. It does not in any sense modify the central fact of British sovereignty in India, but it goes a considerable way beyond the reforms of 1919 in giving India a measure of self-government.
            ... The Act gives enormous powers to the Viceroy or Governor-General. ... Moreover, three key subjects ... are "reserved" to the hands of the Viceroy, besides which he has special powers to deal with ...
            ... By terms of the Act, India is made a federal country. ... Congress bitterly opposes full federation for many reasons, among which is the fact that the composition of the new central legislature has been so devised as to give the British members ... an unshakable preponderance."
            Meanwhile, the yearbooks used in this paper, which span from 1936 to 1940, do not contain such detailed accounts of the Act of 1935. Rather, they talk more in detail how different groups reacted to the Act and how the Act was brought to implementation; this feature of the Act of 1935 will be discussed later along with similar features discussed in other sources.

II.2.2 Reflection in two major secondary sources
            Bandhu's History of Indian National Congress and Parmanand Parashar's Kashmir and the Freedom Movement make a sharp contrast in the amount of coverage dedicated to explaining the Act itself, but they make a general agreement in which part of the Act they place an emphasis. The former elaborately describes the Act as a 'New Turn' :
            "The year 1935 saw the completion of the existence of half a century of the Indian National Congress as one of the most remarkable political organisations in history.
            ... Laying maximum emphasis on the unity of the country, the policy-makers came to a conclusion that, unless the Indian States under the princes came into a constitutional relationship with British India, the issue of unity could hardly take shape. An All-Indian Federation was thus thought of, with the hope that the ruling princes would become its willing members, giving strong support to a powerful central government ..."
            In Parashar's book the Act is also mentioned as an important initiator of events, but the only explanation given to the Act is simply 'federal scheme envisaged by the Government of India Act of 1935'. (9) It is evident from these explanations that to the two writers, the issue of the establishment of a Federation of India was of paramount importance in the issues discussed by the Act of 1935.

II.2.3 Differences among Sources
            The descriptions of the Act, in general, focus on two major points: Indian self-government and the Federation of India. In the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the issue of sovereignty is explained in more detail, with more focus on the progress made. Inside Asia also discusses this issue, but although it does mention that it was a significant progress, the perspective on the issue is rather more pessimistic, with reference to 'the central fact of British sovereignty in India'. (10) In Bandhu's and Parashar's books, in contrast, there is almost no mention of the government structure reform.
            What may be the reasons behind this difference can be found in the books' explanation of the second issue, the Federation issue. The Encyclopaedia almost treats this issue as marginal, attributing the failure of the Federation to the inability of the princes 'to agree among themselves on matters of protocol' (11) when according to other sources it was a reflection of important regional conflicts, mainly the religious conflict between the Hindi Indian National Congress and the Muslim League. While the Encyclopaedia almost completely neglects this aspect of the problem, Gunther discusses it to some detail, referring to the problem of British political preponderance, apparently taking the view of the Congress Party. Then, in the two secondary sources appear discussions of national unity and separatism (from both sides), in which the Act is described as an instigator of negative reaction from both native parties.
            These differences show that Western sources, especially the secondary source the Encyclopaedia, tend to be rather more distant from the real issues the Indians had about the Act of 1935. They talk of government structure reform as a significant progress, when the Indians¡¯ views show that discussions of Federation and religion-inspired separatism were much more important to them. Thus it can be concluded that perhaps the improvement in Indian sovereignty was only nominal, while it has to be admitted that in comparison with the other Western source, Gunther¡¯s Inside Asia tends to be more akin to the perspective of the natives.

III. The Election of 1937
            While there are many - direct or indirect - consequences following the Act of 1935, one of the most directly apparent is the reaction of Indian political groups directly following the enactment and the Election of 1937 which established a new government according to the Act of 1935.

III.1 Reflection in Inside Asia
            In Inside Asia, John Gunther talks only briefly about the period between the Act of 1935 and the subsequent Election of 1937. It is the Election itself and conduct of the members of the National Congress Party that he rather focuses on; alluding to the election even as 'the core of the whole story', (12) he mainly emphasizes the difficulties that certain parts of the Congress faced in accepting the positions determined by the Election.
            "Elections in February, 1937, gave Congress majorities in seven out of the eleven provinces, and later an eighth province, Assam, went to Congress. Congress had spent years in attacking the Act, and at first it refused to take office, though it did not boycott the elections. After some months of haggling and delay, Mr. Gandhi evolved a compromise. So in eight provinces Congress governments, elected by the Indian people, are ruling" (13).
            "... after the passage of the new Government of India Act, elections were held in the eleven provinces of British India, and Congress won in seven of them and took office. ... Thus the Congress, the same Congress which had so bitterly fought Britain, came into the British structure.
            Nehru and his Leftist followers violently opposed taking office. They thought that autonomy, as defined in the Act, did not go far enough; they thought that acceptance of office, working under British governors, was a fatal compromise. But after almost four months of final negotiation Mr. Gandhi invented a formula which seemed to permit Congress to rule without loss of face. A kind of gentleman's agreement appeared to bind - perhaps not quite bind - the viceroy and the governors not to use their veto powers except in circumstances of great public crises. The right wingers in Congress were satisfied, and the Congress governments took office."
            "Two dangers, from the Left point of view, faced the new governments. First, as in the case of the Wafd nationalist organization in Egypt, they found that the sweets of power were - sweet. They were tempted by the comforts and advantages of their position to modify the pure fervor of their nationalism. Second, they found that running a government is a great deal more difficult than criticizing it ¡¦
            Provincial autonomy was a highly shrewd gesture by the British though many Englishmen think - and fear - that it gave the Congress 'too much.' But in essence it was masterly, because it brought Congress for the first time within the fold of governmental responsibilities; it gave Congress most of the prickly things to handle ..."

III.2 Reflection in Encyclopedia Yearbooks
            In the yearbooks of 1936 and 1937, the events concerning the Act and its aftermath are shown in considerable length with in the History section. The 1936 yearbook writes :
            "Under vigorous pressure by Lord Linlithgow, who became Viceroy on Apr. 18, 1936, the complicated arrangements for putting into effect the 1935 Government of India Act were virtually completed by the year's end. ... The speed with which federation would follow provincial autonomy was dependent largely on the attitude of the Indian princes.
            The Viceroy's plea for cooperation of all groups in giving the new constitutional system a fair trial fell on deaf ears so far as the Alll-India National Congress was concerned. ... He [Jawaharlal Nehru] denounced the new Constitution as a charter of slavery, declaring that the only solution to India's problem lay in socialism ... This program was opposed by powerful elements within the Congress party, especially the more moderate faction led by Mahtma Gandhi. At the Faizpur convention of the party late in December, Nehru was obliged to state ... that the party would enter the elections to the provincial legislatures set for early 1937 not to cooperate with 'British imperialism' but to combat the Government of India Act."

Then, in the 1937 yearbook:
            "On Apr. 1, 1937, the new Constitution came into effect simultaneously with the inauguration of political autonomy for the 22 provinces which had been directly administered by native princes. The entire 1935 Government of India Act became operative except the provisions for federation with the Indian States ruled by native princes having British relations. Federation was delayed pending its formal acceptance by half the princes.
            ... Despite a communal voting system that gave Moslem and other minority groups more than proportionate representation, the All-India Congress Party, supported by Mohandas K. Gandhi and the popular press and having a virtual Monopoly of other propaganda instruments, won an absolute majority ... the Congress party entered the elections to force repeal of the new Constitution and convocation of a Constituent Assembly to draft a new organic law in line with the Indian nationalist program.
            ... a Congress party committee ... voted to accept office under the new Constitution, but on condition that British-appointed provincial governors agree 'not to use special powers tof interference or set aside the advice of Ministers in regard to their constitutional activities.'
            ... The governors asserted such a pledge would be a violation of the Constitution. Accordingly the Congress majorities in 6 provinces declined to form ministries ... Acute unrest followed, with the more radical elements in the Congress party demanding a complete break with the government and renewal of civil disobedience. ... The British in April gave assurances that provincial governors would not use their special powers ... and on the basis of this promise, Gandhi ... induced the working committee of the All-India Congress to accept office."
            Almost the one-half of the content assigned for the ¡®History¡¯ section under the 'India' article discusses the issue of the election and the conflicts around it. The books juxtapose Nehru and Gandhi as two opposing figures within the Party, the former radical and the latter moderate, and place the issue of the extraordinary power given to governors at the center of the conflicts surrounding the issue.

III.3 Reflection in Secondary Sources
            In Parashar's book, the entire focus in discussing the aftermath of the Act of 1935 is dedicated to explaining how the provision for federation incited a new desire for a separate Moslem nation to the Moslem Indians. The term 'Election of 1937' does not even appear in the book, and there is no explanation whatsoever given for the conflict on the Congress Party's internal or external conflicts.
            In contrast, Bandhu places a considerable part of his book to explaining the Election.
            "When the Act finally came into existence, it came as a challenge to the Indian people and the Congress decided to face it as such. ... It was pointed out that the struggle for freedom was not merely for the liberation of the land from the foreign oppression but also for securing social and economic justice for the uplift of common man. ... Describing the new Act as 'a charter of slavery', he proclaimed: 'To this Act our attitude can be one of uncompromisng hostility and a constant endeavour to end it.'
            ... On one hand, every party was dissatisfied with the so-called autonomy, yet, on the other, most parties wanted to make the best use of the election in order to serve their respective purposes. For the Congress, the election was desirable for educating the people and after the victory for utilising the popular verdict for attaining higher objectives.
            ... The elections were over, the immediate issue before the Congress leadership was to decide whether to assume another office or not in the Congress-dominated provinces. Of late, Nehru had been in a more radical mood in looking at the 'slave constitution' ... so that the way could be paved for a constituent assembly of the Indian people. Many others, however, did not share this view. "
            Relatively, his book places rather greater emphasis on explaining the goal of Nehru and the Congress Party in opposing the Act of 1935. The book depicts the party more as struggling against the scheme of the British party rather than as having internal conflicts among disagreeing factions of the party. Thus, unlike in the yearbook, in this book the party is depicted rather as a uniformly opinionated organization.

III.4 Differences among Sources
            A great deal of information is given for the description of this process in all three books except the Pakistani one. The yearbook, of course, is the most detailed, in the sense that it is confined to the events that happen in each year; the complex conflict within the National Congress Party is the most well described here. Inside Asia almost completely neglects the period between the Act and the Election, but with the description of the aftermath of the Election, on which a great deal of emphasis is placed, it is unique in that it also suggests the British view on the issue of the Election.
            The most important point on which the sources vary is the perspective of depiction. Gunther essentially takes an outsider view - a Western view - trying to understand the intentions of the Indian parties. He does suggest what would be at the focus of the problem for the Congress Party, but he is more akin to the British view on the issue. The yearbooks are even more matter-of-fact, concentrating almost solely on describing the course of conflict between the radicals and moderates within the Congress Party. What these books have in common are their essential aloofness from the view of Indians in conflict and their depiction of the Congress as a disparate, conflicting body composed of groups with different opinions. In contrast, Deep Chand Bandhu has a greater tendency to look at the matter from the perspective of the Congress Party; he talks of 'higher objectives' of the party (of which the reader is yet ignorant), and constantly describes the Act as a 'challenge to the Indian people and the Congress' (19)
            Thus, the major differences in this aspect among the sources can be explained in two perspectives: depth of explanation and perspective. The fact that Parashar almost completely neglects giving any description of this issue whatsoever suggests that, to a Pakistani perspective, the Election, which essentially is related to the sovereignty issue of the Government of India Act of 1935, is of no importance. His book as well as that by Deep Chand Bandhu, as expected, clearly show a tendency to concentrate more on their respective parties' perspectives on the issue. John Gunther looks at the issue from what could be an informed Western perspective; he remains essentially at the Western perspective, but with the information he possesses about the issue, he also makes judgments from the Indians¡¯ perspective. Overall, his book, at least on this issue, is a very competitive one, both in the amount of information and the objectivity of perspective.

IV. Treatment of the Untouchables
            As it comprises an extremely controversial aspect of Hinduism, the issue of the treatment of the Untouchable class is discussed in many of the sources. Gunther explains it in several separate sections of his book, and the yearbooks also treat the issue as one of the major problems to be dealt with by the National Congress Party and Mohandas Gandhi. The central issue is whether to liberate the Untouchables from the caste system or to improve their treatment within the Hindi system.

IV.1 Reflection in Inside Asia
            Two primary figures in Gunther¡¯s book become the focus of his discussion of Untouchables. One is Mohandas Gandhi, whose views on Untouchables is briefly introduced and criticized, and the other is Bhimaro Ramji Ambedkar, an Untouchable leader. Also, there are short mentions about the issue mainly about policy decisions concerning the Untouchable issue. Here are some important excerpts from his book :
            "Another Great paradox is his [Gandhi's] attitude to caste and the Untouchables. Mr. Gandhi devotes the largest share of his energy nowadays to uplifting the Untouchables, but he resisted with his life an attempt to remove the Untouchability from Hinduism, which would have been the effect of the British plan (which he succeeded in modifying) to give Untouchables a separate electorate. He adores the Untouchables, and would do anything for them ? except remove them from Hinduism, which makes them what they are". (20)
            "Mr. Gandhi, that complicated man, believes firmly in the caste system, but Untouchability he thinks is a degradation, a disgrace. ... he calls it a 'rotten excrescence' on Hinduism. He denies that Untouchables are less clean than other Hindus; early in his attempts to uplift them he is delighted to find that their houses ... and latrines are cleaner and better kept than those of the rich of the town." (21).
            "The socialists include various types of Marxists. Most are fairly radical, though their main preoccupation is of course nationalist opposition to British rule. By and large they are anti-religious, and most of them do not believe in caste; indeed they are contemptuous of caste structures, and consider the Untouchables from a class point of view, namely, that they are merely the submerged proletariat". (22)
            "Dr. Ambedkar, son of a soldier and Untouchable leader, was a poor boy in Bombay. As a child he learned quickly and painfully what the stigma of Untouchability meant. Somehow, showing rare initiative, he got to Baroda, where the old Gaekwar became interested in him and financed his education. ... Returning to India he could get no decent job because he was an Untouchable. ... Ambedkar returned to Bombay in humiliation and disgust and set himself up, alone, in practicing law. Almost at once he was successful.
            ... Ambedkar stands for the abolition of caste. He thinks caste must be approached from the religious as well as the economic attitude, and that to say facilely that the Untouchables are merely the proletariat is not enough. The Untouchables are the proletariat - certainly - but the proletariat that cannot, at any price, get jobs except as agricultural serfs or laborers of the lowest category. He differs sharply from Gandhi, who wants to improve the lot of the Untouchables within caste. ... The orthodox Hindus, he says, embark on these partial and minor ameliorations not out of genuine concern for the Untouhables, but to purify themselves in penance for their own sins.
            The British sent Ambedkar to London as representative of the Untouchables at the Round Table Conference. This was smart politics, because it served to split the Hindu front. Ambedkar assumed a strong anti-Congress line, which forced Gandhi to take up the Untouchables as a political issue. When Mahatma made his great fast for the Untouchables, he certainly had politics partially in mind; if the Untouchables became a separate community, they might vote against instead of with the Hindus.
            ... He [Ambedkar] fiercely hates Congress, and has founded a new Independent Labor League. Recently he has stated that he was no longer a believer in democracy in all circumstances, ¡°and that India needs the strong hand of an enlightened autocrat."
            The most interesting of these excerpts, of course, is the one about Ambedkar. He is introduced as one of the leaders of minority factions in a chapter named 'Aga Khan and Others' (24) Gunther explains his political thoughts in length, remarks on how popular his view is among the less privileged of India, and establishes his political significance in his conflict against Gandhi's Congress, but he does not explain how Ambedkar had made any practical changes for the Untouchables. Thus Gunther shows how difficult it is to make changes on this traditional issue. Also, he abstains from identifying himself with any of the explained views about Untouchables, especially from that of Mohandas Gandhi, to whom he otherwise shows a considerable degree of admiration.

IV.2. Reflection in Encyclopedia yearbooks
            "While the National Congress party was concentrating on purely political objectives, its former leader, Mahatma Gandhi, isolated himself in a Central Indian village inhabited solely by untouchables and other outcasts. Living and working among them and guiding them in the establishment of village industries, he sought to call India¡¯s attention to the fact that a united and progressive nation was impossible without emancipation of the lower classes and breaking of the caste system. His movement received powerful support on Nov. 13 when the young Maharajah of Travancore granted to some 2,000,000 untouchables among his subjects the right to enter and worship in public temples. This was hailed as one of Hinduism's greatest reforms in 800 years.
            Reform of the caste system was demanded also by the untouchables, who under he leadership of Dr. Bhimaro R. Ambedkar had become articulate for the first time in history. Ambedkar had pledged himself in 1935 to take his 60,000,000 fellow outcasts into other religions unless Hindu treatment of the untouchables was improved; this was followed by numerous conversions to the Christian and Moslem religions."
            This is an excerpt from the 1936 yearbook of The New Standard Encyclopedia; apart from this, the untouchable issue is not discussed in the other four yearbooks, of which two (the 1937 and 1938 yearbooks) concentrate on the Election of 1937 and the other two on the development of the Second World War. Unlike Gunther's book, the yearbook takes a rather pro-Gandhi stance and almost sanctifies him as a personal hero; it is remarkable, however, that it does mention Ambedkar and his efforts to emancipate the untouchables.

IV.3 Reflection in Secondary Sources
            It might be surprising to find that, in Deep Chand Bandhu's History of National Congress Party, there is no mention whatsoever about these issues. The name Ambedkar does not appear anywhere in the book, and the issue is discussed only in a larger context of the caste problem in general in some other places that discuss caste reforms.
            Similarly, in Kashmir and the Freedom Movement also there is almost no mention of the caste problem. The only place where the issue is mentioned is when the book discusses the amendments made to the Constitution of the Muslim Conference in a 1939 meeting of the General Council of the Muslim Conference. In the list of amendments, there is a brief note to caste: '(ii) that the membership of the National Conference should be thrown open to all people in the state, irrespective of caste, religion or creed.' (26) This amendment does show the Muslim care for dealing with the problem of caste, (which would only be natural since caste is a Hindi tradition) but it does not, by any means, provide a view on the conflicts of this era concerning the untouchables issue.
            In reference to a contemporary secondary source written in the perspective of the untouchables, it is easy to find how remarkably revolutionary Gunther was in this aspect. This is an excerpt from an article written by Thomas C. Mountain, the publisher of the Ambedkar Journal on India's Dalits [untouchables]:
            "Most readers are familiar with Gandhi's great hunger strike against the so called Poona Pact in 1933. The matter which Gandhi was protesting, nearly unto death at that, was the inclusion in the draft Indian Constitution, proposed by the British, that reserved the right of Dalits [untouchables] to elect their own leaders. Dr. Ambedkar, with his degree in law from Cambridge, had been chosen by the British to write the new constitution for India. Having spent his life overcoming caste-based discrimination, Dr. Ambedkar had come to the conclusion that the only way Dalits could improve their lives is if they had the exclusive right to vote for their leaders, that a portion or reserved section of all elected positions were only for Dalits and only Dalits could vote for these reserved positions.
            Gandhi was determined to prevent this and went on hunger strike to change this article in the draft constitution. After many communal riots, ... Dr. Ambedkar agreed, with Gandhi on his death bed, to give up the Dalits right to exclusively elect their own leaders and Gandhi ended his hunger strike."
            This article, named "Why Do India's Dalits Hate Gandhi ?", apparently represents the view of an extreme minority on this issue. Meanwhile, the fact that Gunther's book partly embraces even such an extreme view suggests its remarkable objectivity and comprehensiveness of viewpoint.

IV.4 Difference among Sources
            The fact that the two secondary sources in use do not treat the problem of untouchables during this period suggests that to these writers, whose primary concerns were to write history in their parties¡¯ perspectives, the conflict over Ambedkar¡¯s untouchable faction was perhaps considered either unimportant or unbeneficial due to the criticized perspective of their party on the issue. Unlike Gunther, whose primary goal is to objectively describe the contemporary state of India, the two books show a tendency to dramatize their respective factions as struggling against enemies, in the Congress's case mainly against the British and to a lesser degree the Moslems, and in the Moslem League's case mainly against the Congress and to a lesser degree the British. Thus, it would have seemed unnecessary to depict the Congress struggling with an apparent minority whose claims apparently has a greater appeal to the contemporary reader of the 21th century.
            The yearbook partly treats the issue, although not as completely as does Inside Asia, but abstains from criticizing Gandhi¡¯s view. Because Gandhi's great fast, as mentioned in Thomas Mountain's article, took place in 1933, it was impossible that the yearbooks, spanning from 1936 to 1940, would include a view on the issue. Considering how influential Gandhi was in this period, the yearbooks are remarkable in that they mention Ambedkar's movement to some detail, but it still is disappointing that they eventually refuse to evaluate either Gandhi's or Ambedkar's view on the issue.
            In Gunther's case, the chapter named 'Aga Khan and Others' itself is a remarkable distinction from all other sources in use; he deliberately puts some effort to explain the opinions and states of certain minority groups that are more or less neglected in other sources. The fact that he was able to keep himself from talking only about the influential National Congress Party and its popular leaders Gandhi and Nehru suggests that Gunther was truly concerned about the contemporary issues of India and that he actually did put much effort to differentiate himself from the cliche Western view of India.

V. Moslem Separatism

V.1 Representation in Inside Asia
            Having said so, it is not at all surprising to find Mohammed Ali Jinnah and his All-India Moslem League listed as one of the minority leaders. Considering how other sources place a rather greater emphasis on this issue, the amount of information given in Gunther's book may seem insufficient; however, although briefly, Gunther does summarize some of the important points of his day's Indian Moslem movement.
            "Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the president of the All-India Moslem League, which is the Moslem analogy to Congress (though it is not nearly so powerful), is a prominent lawyer who was born in 1876. ... For many years he fought for Indian nationalism, but recently he has all but ruined his position by adopting a fierce separatism. His opposition to the Hindus is bitter and inflamed ... Jinnah says that he was driven into communalism and the resurrection of the Moslem League by the intransigeance of the Hindus.
            ... The Moslem attitude toward Federation is very important. They fear Federation even more than do Hindus, because almost all the princely states ... are ruled by Hindus; thus a federal structure would increase Hindu predominance in India. Mr. Jinnah has been fighting Federation for almost a decade. A recent proposal is to unite the Moslem areas in the north west in a new province, 'Pakistan'".

V.2 Representation in Encyclopedia Yearbooks
            There is only limited mention of Hindu-Moslem conflict in most of the yearbooks, while the 1940 yearbook talks in some length about the decisions of the Moslem League.
            "While Gandhi began preparations for a civil disobedience campaign, the All-India Moslem League held its annual conference at Lahore. On March 23 it adopted a resolution rejecting an all-India federation and urging the union of the predominantly Moslem areas in a group of autonomous states. Jinnah declared that the All-India Congress's program meant 'the complete destruction of all that is most precious in Islam' and would lead to civil war. He said Moslem India would support the British in the European War as 'our practical interests are to have British win'. (29)
            There is no mention of what Gunther would be referring to as 'A recent proposal.' It is difficult, however, to examine whether or not the coverage given in the yearbooks is sufficient; a reference to some secondary sources is necessary.

V.3 Representation in Secondary Sources
            Considering how until here, for most issues, the two secondary sources tended to be rather negligent, it is surprising to see how enthusiastically detailed they are - not only Parashar's Pakistani book, but also Bandhu's Congress book. While Parashar concentrates on depicting the struggle within the Moslems in deciding their attitude toward Moslem separatism as endorsed by some, Bandhu gives some explanation on the conflict between Moslems and Hindus during this period from the Hindi perspective.
            "Jinnah, meanwhile in his frantic attempt to establish his hold on his co-religionists, was searching for faults in the Congress in order to prevent the Muslim masses from going over to it in response to its principle of economic emancipation of the poor and the downtrodden. He was alarmed at what Nehru was about to do in uniting the Hindus and Muslims.
            ... Some of the elected Muslim legislators in the UP Assembly, as elsewhere, were meanwhile thinking of joining the Congress because of its new approach to people's problems. To Jinnah, however, these trends appeared most dangerous. He warned such waverers not to betray the party. ... Rapidly Jinnah transformed himself into a spirited communal leader, having everything to say against the Congress ministries, against Hindi and Bande Mataram, the Congress flag and Hindu nationalism, even though his conception for separation was yet to take shape."
            As expected, Parashar's view on Mohammed Ali Jinnah makes a sharp contrast with the bitterly critical view endorsed by Bandhu in the above excerpt. He spends considerable length in discussing the Lahore resolution, or Pakistan resolution, which is a declaration made in the 1940 annual session of All India Muslim League at Lahore. In this part, the author explicitly dramatizes and dignifies the resolution for a separate Muslim Indian nation.
            "... the Muslim League declared that 'no constitutional plan would be workable in this country or acceptable to the Muslims' unless it was designed on the basic principles that 'geographically contiguous units are demarcated with regions which would be constituted ... that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority ... should be grouped to constitute, independent state in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.' President of the All India Muslim League, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, while speaking in the session, observed :
            'The problem in India is not of an intercommunal character but manifestly of international one, and it must be treated as such. ... If the British Government are really in earnest and sincere about the peace and happiness of the people of this sub-continent, the only course open to us all is to allow the major nations separate homelands by dividing India into autonomous national states."
            "The Muslim League session at Lahore and the demand for a separate homeland for the Muslims was the most stupendous development in the history of the Muslims in India. The Lahore session completely changed the perspective of the Muslim movements in India. The resolution for Pakistan gave a new direction to the politics of the League, and offered the Indian Muslims an independent Muslim State, which in effect promised them deliverance from the predicament of being a minority." (32)

V.4 Differences among Sources
            Unlike with other issues discussed in this paper, the two secondary sources written respectively in the Hindi and Muslim perspectives are enthusiastically vociferous on this issue. The primary sources relatively assign a lesser degree of attention to this issue, perhaps because to them, living at a time when the issue against the British was of a much greater importance than that between the Hindus and the Muslims.
            Meanwhile, it is notable that while the yearbooks, as in elsewhere, resort to a largely indifferent point of view, John Gunther explains the issue in the perspectives of the groups in conflict, in this case the Muslim League. Because he, writing in 1939, had no knowledge of Lahore resolution, it is impossible to expect him to have written about it; instead, he writes about an earlier proposal, which perhaps refers to Jinnah's 'Two Nation Theory', which he adopted after Sir Muhammad Iqbal's proposal of 'an independent state for Muslims in 'northwest India''. (33)
            The secondary sources are explicitly political, viewing the problem from the views of the National Congress and the Muslim League, respectively. Deep Chand Bandhu depicts Muhammad Ali Jinnah as an opportunistic politician who tried to find faults within the Congress and earn Muslim support as a politician, mainly in his 'frantic attempt to establish his hold on his co-religionists' (34) In contrast, to Parashar, Jinnah appears almost as saintly as Gandhi to the Congress; he would not only deliver his fellow Muslims 'from the predicament of being a minority' (35); his true concern is for 'the peace and happiness of the people of this sub-continent'. (36)

VI. Conclusion

VI.1 Notable Features of Gunther's Inside Asia
            The most significant feature of Inside Asia that differentiates the book from other sources discussed in this paper is, of course, is the unique perspective that Gunther presents. He of course is looks at the issues from an outsider's view; on this point he is of no advantage above the Encyclopedia Yearbooks, as he himself admits in his Note to the book ('I wanted to call it Outside Asia instead of Inside Asia, but my publishers politely overruled me. ... My attitude was that in Asia I was 'outside' looking in.') (37)
            However, the most decisive factor that differentiates his book from the yearbooks is his relative freedom in choosing an attitude. While the Yearbooks are bound by their obligations to remain objective, Gunther can choose the manner in which he writes; therefore, he sometimes takes his the perspectives of certain groups rather than others to describe certain issues. When the Yearbook writes 'He [Jawaharlal Nehru] denounced the new Constitution as a charter of slavery, declaring that the only solution to India's problem lay in socialism', (38) Gunther writes instead 'They [Congress Party's Left Wing] thought that autonomy, as defined in the Act, did not go far enough; they thought that acceptance of office, working under British governors, was a fatal compromise'. (39) He talks of the 'thoughts' of the groups in concern, unlike the yearbook which talks only about the facts of their actions; thus he shows himself more akin to the people who constitute the India he describes.
            What is yet more important, then, is that although he does occasionally choose the attitudes of certain groups to describe an issue, he still remains on a generally objective perspective. For all the major issues covered in this paper - the Government of India Act of 1935, the subsequent Election of 1937, the Untouchables and Ambedkar, and Muslim Separatism - he dedicates a certain amount of his book, sometimes briefly and sometimes lengthily, unlike other sources in which some of the important issues are completely neglected. Even when he does take a certain view on the issue, he does not forget to take an alternative look to view the issue in a different light; in the issue of the Government of India Act, quoted in the above paragraph, he mentions not only Nehru's, but also Gandhi's, the British (40), and later even the Muslims' view on the issue (41). Thus, while he gives a lively discussion of India unlike the matter-of-fact description in the Yearbooks, he effectively remains relatively neutral in his views unlike the Secondary Sources whose views are coarsely and explicitly political.

VI.2 Final Evaluation
            In his book, John Gunther shows both the advantages of an outsider looking in and that of an insider engaging directly with the internal elements of the problem. Because he is an outsider, he remains essentially neutral, but because he also is actively engaged in direct research over the issues in concern, his views are not confined to simple discussions of facts. From the four major sources discussed, his book showed the greatest balance between neutrality and depth of explanation; the Encyclopedia lacked depth, while the Secondary sources lacked neutrality. There may be problems that Gunther, as an outsider, could have mistakenly not discussed, but overall, the examination of his book shows that Inside Asia provides a rich yet balanced source of information for someone trying to understand the events in India between 1936 and 1940.


1.      Gunther 1939 Pg. ix
2.      Article: "Deep Chand Bandhu," in
3.      Article: "Indian National Congress" in
4.      Gunther 1939 pg. 426
5.      Article: "Government of India Act of 1935" from Wikipedia
6.      Article: "India," from Encyclopaedia Britannica.
7.      Gunther 1939 pg. 375-376
8.      Bandhu 2003 Pg. 143-144
9.      Parashar 2004 Pg 154.
10.      Gunther 1939 pg. 375
11.      Article: "India," from Encyclopaedia Britannica.
12.      Gunther 1939 pg. 429.
13.      ibid. pg. 377.
14.      ibid. pg. 429.
15.      ibid. pg. 430.
16.      Vol. 1936 of The New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book. pg. 253-254.
17.      Vol. 1937 of The New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book. pg. 259-260.
18.      Bandhu 2003 pg. 145~146.
19.      ibid. pg. 146.
20.      Gunther 1939 pg. 345
21.      ibid. pg. 398.
22.      ibid. pg. 435
23.      ibid. 467~468.
24.      ibid. pg. 463.
25.      Vol. 1936 of The New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book. pg. 254
26.      Parashar 2004 pg. 142.
27.      Mountain, Thomas C. Article: "Why do India's Dalits hate Gandhi ?" from Online Journal.
28.      Gunther 1939 pg. 466-467.
29.      Vol. 1940 of The New International Year Book. pg. 350-351.
30.      Bandhu 2003 pg. 147.
31.      Parashar 2004 pg. 163-164.
32.      ibid. pg. 166.
33.      Article: "Muhammad Ali Jinnah" from Wikipedia
34.      Bandhu 2003 pg. 147.
35.      Parashar 2004 pg. 166.
36.      ibid. pg. 164.
37.      Gunther 1939 pg. ix.
38.      Vol. 1936 of The New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book. pg. 254.
39.      Gunther 1939 pg. 429.
40.      ibid. pg. 430.
41.      ibid. pg. 467


Note: websites quoted below were visited in May/June 2010.

Primary Sources
1.      Gunther, John. Inside Asia. New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1939. Written after two years of personal investigations involving interviews with important figures in the areas covered.
2.      The New International Year Book. Ed. Vizetelly, Frank H., and Charles Earle Funk. New York and London : Funk & Wagnalls Company, volumes 1938 to 1940.
3.      The New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book. Ed. Vizetelly, Frank H, and Burchard, Marion J. New York and London: Funk & Wagnalls Company, volumes 1936 and 1937.

Secondary Sources :
4.      Bandhu, Deep Chand. History of Indian National Congress Party. Delhi, Kalpaz Publications: 2003. Written by a former member of the Indian National Congress Party.
5.      Parashar, Parmanand. Kashmir and the Freedom Movement. New Delhi, Sarup & Sons: 2004.
6.      Parashar, Parmanand. Nationalism: its theory and principles in India. New Delhi, Sarup & Sons: 1996.
7.      Encyclopaedia Britannica. Article: "India." Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. 17 Jun. 2010 .
8.      Wikipedia Article: "Government of India Act of 1935". <>
9.      Wikipedia Article: "Muhammad Ali Jinnah". <>
10. Article: "Deep Chand Bandhu." 15 Jun. 2010. <>
11. Article: "Indian National Congress." 17 Jun. 2010. <>
12.      Online Journal. Mountain, Thomas C. Article: "Why do India's Dalits hate Gandhi ?". Jan 4th, 2007. <>
13.      Jaffrelot, Christophe. A History of Pakistan and Its Origins. London: Anthem Press, 2002.

Back to WHKMLA Main Index . WHKMLA, Students' Papers Main Page . WHKMLA, Students' Papers, 13th Wave Index Page

Impressum · Datenschutz