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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 26 July 2018
This article studies the extraordinarily broad advocacy of military enlistment by India's political and intellectual elites during the First World War. Though often interpreted as politically motivated, it shows above all a preoccupation with the enlivening effects of military experience—in particular its development of courage and manliness. In this it followed an established pattern of Indian elite concern with martiality. It also reflected anxieties of Indian weakness and effeminacy—something elites indicted themselves for, but which, importantly, they assumed to be more generally prevalent. Sampling calls for enlistment in the public space throughout the war, the article focuses on Bombay Presidency—a region that gave rise to such prominent Indian voices for enlistment as M. K. Gandhi, B. G. Tilak, and M. A. Jinnah. Bombay's recent experience of relative exclusion from military recruitment, and from membership of the ‘martial races’, was representative of much of India. This article enables us to view the effects of such ‘demartialization’ away from the classic case of Bengal. It suggests that it helped to inspire the call to enlist, especially as public spokesmen for the ‘martial race’ ideology explicitly linked martiality with manliness. The concern for enlistment ultimately superseded political calculation even for so hard-nosed a politician as Tilak. And though elites were most obviously concerned for their own martial vigour and leadership, they were also concerned with the manliness of the bulk of India's population, especially in Gandhi's conception of war as a preparation for satyagraha.
*For their valuable comments and guidance on this research, I would like to thank Maria Misra, Robert Fletcher, William Gould, Polly O'Hanlon, and Vedica Kant. The work was undertaken with the support of the Research Support Fund at the School of History, University of Leeds.
1 Proceedings of the War Conference held at Delhi, 27–29 April 1918 (Government Press, New Delhi, 1918), pp. 3ff.
3 Its population in 1911 was 27,084,317, approximately the same as Austria. Census of India 1911 (Superintendent of Government Printing India, Calcutta, 1912), vol. 7, p. 1.
4 G. K. Gokhale's use of the term is noted in Srinath Raghavan, ‘Liberal thought and colonial military institutions’, in Bajpai, Kanti P. et al. (eds), India's Grand Strategy: History, Theory, Cases (Routledge India, New Delhi, 2014), p. 95CrossRefGoogle Scholar; for a classic statement on Bengal, see Rosselli, John, ‘The self-image of effeteness: physical education and nationalism in nineteenth-century Bengal’, Past and Present, 86 (01), 1980, pp. 121–148CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed.
5 761,862 of these were in combatant roles. Recruiting in India Before and During the War of 1914–1918 (Army Headquarters India, Delhi, 1919), pp. 24–26; Appendix IX, p. 67. The remainder were in auxiliary roles; a recent account of the experience of non-combatants and its representation is given in Singha, Radhika, ‘Front lines and status lines: Sepoy and “Menial” in the Great War 1916–1920’, in Liebau, Heike et al. (eds), The World in World Wars: Experiences, Perceptions and Perspectives from Africa and Asia (Leiden, Brill, 2010), pp. 55–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The comments discussed below offer little differentiation between the two, but largely imagine military service in terms of combat.
6 For example, Singh, Gajendra, The Testimonies of Indian Soldiers and the Two World Wars: Between Self and Sepoy (Bloomsbury, London and New York, 2014)Google Scholar; Das, Santanu, ‘Indians at home, Mesopotamia and France, 1914–1918: towards an intimate history’, in Das, Santanu (ed.), Race, Empire and First World War Writing (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Omissi, David E. (ed.), Indian Voices of the Great War: Solders’ Letters, 1914–18 (Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 1999)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The implications of this experience for imperial politics are described by Jarboe, Andrew Tait, ‘Propaganda and empire in the heart of Europe: Indian soldiers in hospital and prison, 1914–18’, in Fogerty, Richard S. and Jarboe, Andrew Tait (eds), Empires in World War I (I. B. Taurus, London, 2014)Google Scholar and also in military histories such as Roy, Kaushik (ed.), The Indian Army in the Two World Wars (Brill, Leiden, 2011)Google Scholar.
7 For instance, Das, Santanu, ‘Imperialism, nationalism and the First World War in India’, in Keene, Jennifer and Finding, Michael Neiberg (eds), Finding Common Ground: New Directions in First World War Studies (Brill, Leiden, 2010), pp. 75–79Google Scholar foregrounds ‘strategic calculation’, though hints at other concerns in discussing ‘prestige’ and the desire to prove ‘courage and loyalty’ in addition. Much of the recent spate of popular scholarship on India's contribution to the war, though drawing on a growing field of scholarly writing, is somewhat simplistic in this regard: Basu, Shrabani, For King and Another Country: Indian Soldiers on the Western Front (Bloomsbury India, New Delhi, 2015)Google Scholar merely refers to the political classes’ desire to win ‘brownie points’ in the form of political rights (pp. 47–48).
8 Chowdhury, Indira, The Frail Hero and Virile History: Gender and the Politics of Culture in Colonial Bengal (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001), pp. 21–22Google Scholar.
9 Sinha, Mrinalini, Colonial Masculinity: The ‘Manly Englishman’ and the ‘Effeminate Bengali’ in the Late Nineteenth Century (Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1995), p. 91Google Scholar.
10 Streets, Heather, Martial Races: The Military, Race and Masculinity in British Imperial Culture, 1857–1914 (Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2004), pp. 2, 13Google Scholar; pp. 116ff. deal with the impact on British popular culture.
12 Bacon, James (ed.), Kitchener in His Own Words (T. F. Unwin, London, 1917), p. 193Google Scholar.
15 ‘Memorandum for the Indian representatives at the forthcoming Imperial War Conference’ (February, 1918), Annexure 1, p. 5, India Office Records (IOR), L/MIL/17/5/2396.
16 Streets, Martial Races, p. 13.
17 Roberts, Frederick Sleigh, Forty-one Years in India: From Subaltern to Commander-in-Chief (Richard Bentley and Son, London, 1898), p. 532Google Scholar.
20 Betham, R. M., Marathas and Dekhani Musalmans: Compiled under the Orders of the Government of India (Superintendent of Government Printing India, Calcutta, 1908), p. 49Google Scholar.
21 Bonarjee, P. D., Handbook of the Fighting Races of India (Thanker, Spink and Co., Calcutta, 1899), pp. 214, 216Google Scholar.
22 Figures and calculation from ‘Indian Army: Annual Caste Returns of the Native Army 1914–16’, IOR/L/MIL/14/228.
23 Pradhan, S. D., ‘Indian Army and the First World War’, in Ellinwood, DeWitt C. and Pradhan, S. D. (eds), India and World War I (Manohar, New Delhi, 1978), pp. 56–57Google Scholar.
24 ‘Memorandum for the Indian representatives at the forthcoming Imperial War Conference’, Army Dept, February 1918, IOR/L/MIL/17/5/2395, Annexure 1, pp. 3, 5 (Lieut.-General H. Hudson).
25 Recruiting, Appendix XIII, p. 75. Spellings as in the original.
26 See below. Act number III of 1917: A Collection of the Acts Passed by the Governor General of India in Council in the Year 1917 (Superintendent of Government Printing India, Calcutta, 1918), p. 3. The act received Assent on 28 February 1917. The Indian portion of force was only 2,672 in April 1918: ‘Memorandum’, Annexure 1, p. 12.
27 Recruiting, p. 22.
29 Reasons for enlistment—or the lack of it—themselves, as noted above, are outside the scope of this study, but ironically the political activity of Tilak and Gandhi more broadly, with its encouragement of resistance, likely had some impact. On Bombay as a medical site, see Harrison, Mark, The Medical War: British Military Medicine in the First World War (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2010), esp. Chapter 5CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Shruti Kapila, ‘The making of colonial psychiatry, Bombay Presidency 1849–1940’ (unpublished PhD dissertation, School of Oriental and African Studies, 2002).
30 Collection 425/1430, ‘Proposed measures to stimulate recruitment for the Indian Army; award of badge in recognition of services for recruiting in India’, IOR/L/MIL/7/18599. See also Ganachari, Aravind, ‘First World War: purchasing Indian loyalties: imperial policy of recruitment and “rewards”’, Economic and Political Weekly, 40 (8), 19–25 February 2005, pp. 779–788Google Scholar.
31 Act No. I of 1910. A Collection of the Acts Passed by the Governor General of India in Council in the Year 1910 (Superintendent of Government Printing India, Calcutta, 1911).
32 Act IV of 1915. A Collection of the Acts Passed by the Governor General of India in Council in the Year 1915 (Superintendent of Government Printing India, Calcutta, 1916).
33 Government of Bombay, Political Department War Files, Maharashtra State Archives (MSA). ‘Warning to the press not to publish certain information’ 1914 2W and 1916 41-1; ‘Warning to the press’ 1916 41 II W.
34 ‘Bombay Presidency: action under the Press Act and the Defence of India Act as to presses and periodicals’, IOR/L/PJ/6/1640 file 7754.
35 Section 108 Criminal Procedure Code, IOR/P/Conf/12 1916; IOR/P/Conf/36 Judicial (Confidential) 1918; MSA Home Dept. Special File 398_K(1).
36 Speech by Balubhai Kahandas (attachment of Kahandas to Robertson, 4 January 1915), ‘War lectures by certain individuals’, Government of Bombay Political Department, MSA War File 1915 6-W.
39 ‘The present war and the dark powers’, vol. 37, October 1915, p. 65, italics original.
40 Report on the Native Press in the Bombay Presidency (hereafter ‘Press Report’), 8 August 1914, p. 14; 24 February 1917, p. 11.
41 For instance, Santanu Das, ‘The singing subaltern’, Parallax, 17 (03), 2011, pp. 4–18, esp. p. 6.
42 Press Report, 15 August 1914, pp. 11–12.
45 See IOR/L/PJ/6/1640 file 7754; excerpt from confidential Diary of Superintendent of Police, Sind Railways (MSA1916 41-1); Press Report, 15 August, p. 14.
46 Press Report, 8 August 1914, p. 11. That total was calculated at 18 million.
47 Kolhatkar to Government of Bombay, 27 July 1918, MSA Government of Bombay Judicial Dept. Compilations 1918, file 1299.
49 Press Report, 15 August 1914, p. 15.
51 MSA, Bombay Government Judicial Department, 1498 of 1917.
52 See, for example, Press Report, 11 May 1918, p. 6.
53 The Collected Works of Quaid-e-Azam, Mahomed Ali Jinnah (3 vols) (East and West Publishing Company, Karachi, 1984–) (hereafter Collected Works), vol. 1, p. 276 (‘Manifesto of nin[e]teen’); his personal scepticism was also reflected two years earlier: ibid., p. 156.
54 Jinnah, Collected Works, vol. 1, p. 248 (‘Interview with Bombay Chronicle’, 16 November 1917).
55 Kesari for instance in early 1917 stated in matter-of-fact terms that the British had already tried to ‘depend upon their ally, Japan’. Press Report, 24 February 1917, p. 10.
56 Press Report, 13 April 1918, p. 4.
57 ‘Japanese military assistance in the Middle East’, Memorandum by Political Department, India Office, 13 December 1917, IOR/L/PJ/11/127.
58 Streets, Martial Races, p. 12.
59 He uses the term in a letter to Desai, Pragji (15 November 1914). The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi (Electronic Book) (Publications Division Government of India, New Delhi, 1999), 98 vols (hereafter CWMG), vol. 14, p. 313Google Scholar.
63 Gandhi to H. S. L. Polak, 2 August 1918, ibid., p. 174.
64 Speech at Ras, 26 June 1918, ibid., p. 101.
65 Speech at Sandesar, 16 May, ibid., p. 32; Speech at Ras, 26 June 1918, ibid., p. 101.
67 Peter Brock, ‘Gandhi's nonviolence and his war service’, Gandhi Marg, 23 (02), 1981, pp. 601–616.
68 Gandhi to C. F. Andrews, 6 July 1918, CWMG, vol. 17, p. 122.
69 Interview with Bombay Chronicle, 16 November 1917, ibid., vol. 16, p. 248.
70 Speech at Nadiad, 21 June 1918, ibid., vol. 17, p. 80. Misra further notes Gandhi's concern with independent India's military arrangements in the 1940s, ‘Sergeant Major Gandhi’, p. 705.
71 Speech at Nadiad, 17 June 1918, CWMG, vol. 17, p. 76.
72 Speech at Karamsad, 14 July 1918, ibid., pp. 129–130.
73 MSA, Government of Bombay Judicial Department, 1498 of 1917.
74 The hoped-for benefit went far beyond contesting Indians’ ascription of effeminacy and thus achieving Home Rule, as argued by McLain, Robert, Gender and Violence in British India: The Road to Amritsar, 1914–1919 (Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2014)CrossRefGoogle Scholar: ‘fighting effectively would earn Britain's respect’ and thus overturn ‘colonialism's gendered ideologies’ (pp. 27, 31–32).
75 Brown, Judith M., Gandhi's Rise to Power: Indian Politics 1915–1922 (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1972), p. 148Google Scholar.
76 Speech at Nadiad, 21 June 1918, CWMG, vol. 17, p. 80.
79 Gandhi to C. F. Andrews, 29 July 1918, ibid., p. 157.
81 Gandhi's views are noted by Misra, ‘Sergeant Major Gandhi’, p. 699; B. G. Tilak , Sri Bhagavad Gita Rahasya (trans. Bhalchandra Sitaram Sukthankar, 2 vols) (Kesari-Mahratta Trust, Pune, 1935).
82 Press Report, 3 March, 1917, p. 8.
84 There is a significant literature on the modes of resistance thus engendered, and especially modified forms of pan-Islamism. See, for instance, Aydin, Cemil, The Politics of Anti-Westernism in Asia: Visions of World Order in Pan-Islamic and Pan-Asian Thought (Columbia University Press, New York, 2007), p. 110CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Ozcan, Azmi, Pan-Islamism: Indian Muslims, the Ottomans and Britain, 1877–1924 (Brill, Leiden, 1997)Google Scholar; Ramnath, Maia, Haj to Utopia: How the Ghadar Movement Charted Global Radicalism and Attempted to Overthrow the British Empire (University of California Press, Berkeley, 2011), esp. Chapter 6Google Scholar.
85 Press Report, 8 August 1914, p. 12; 15 August 1914, p. 16.
87 Press Report, 8 August 1914; 15 June 1918, p. 2.
88 2 February 1917, Collected Works, vol. 1, p. 196.
89 Press Report, 11 May 1918, pp. 6–7.
90 Speech at Kirloskar Theatre, Poona, 22 June 1918 (enclosure to Cresar to District Magistrate, Poona, 31 July 1918), MSA, Government of Bombay Home Department (Special), 398 (1918). There was controversy over Tilak's exact words. Horniman noted an ‘amazing discrepancy’ between the words quoted in the banning order and those reported in the press, claimed ‘some knowledge of the unreliability of C.I.D. reports’, and expressed disbelief that Tilak could say anything so ‘extravagant’ and so ‘opposed to his record’ (ibid., excerpt from Bombay Chronicle, 5 August 1918). Kesari’s report of the speech on 25 June merely had Tilak stating that ‘paid mercenary soldiers were recruited and this was partially responsible for the destruction of the Peshwas [chief ministers of the Maratha empire]’, after which the British ‘started keeping paid soldiers’, whose only qualities are ‘following orders and being loyal’ (my translation). The file indicates that two CID shorthand reporters took the speech down, from whom the Judicial Department sought and received via the District Magistrate declarations on oath, satisfying itself that the English translation was concordant with both of their sets of notes. Upon this, the government forwarded the order to the District Magistrate. Despite these apparent pains, the possibility of concoction or finessing of the evidence, most likely from the level of the District Magistrate downwards, cannot be discounted. In his own protest to the governor of Bombay, however, Tilak did not dispute the words, merely their context, and invoked his previous assistance in recruiting (Samagra Lokamanya Tilak [Tilak's Collected Works] (8 vols) (Kesari-Mahratta Trust, Pune, 1974–95), vol. 7, p. 381). It is, further, pace Horniman, very much in character. For these reasons, I have included his remarks.
91 This is a translation of the original Kesari report of Tilak's statement, 25 June 1918.
92 Presidential address to the Second Gujarat Educational Conference held at Broach on 20 October 1917, Speeches and Writings of M. K. Gandhi (3rd ed., Nateson and Co., Madras, 1922), p. 342.
93 Press Report, 3 March 1917, pp. 8–9. It here advocated educated Indian enlistment in the Defence Force.
94 Press Report, 15 June 1918, p. 1.
95 Samagra Lokamanya Tilak, vol. 4, Chapter 25: ‘Swarajya, protecting one's country and enlistment in the army’ (2 July 1918).
96 Press Report, 13 April 1918.
97 Jinnah, Collected Works, vol. 1, p. 276.
98 Press Report, 20 April 1918, p. 1.
100 Samagra Lokamanya Tilak, vol. 3, Chapter 179 ‘What happened at Delhi . . .?’.
101 War Conference Proceedings, op. cit., p. 16.
102 Jamndas Dwarkadas and N. C. Kelkar, respectively. Bombay Judicial Department Confidential Proceedings, 1918 (IOR/P/Conf/36).
103 Times of India, 13 August, p. 8; Gandhi to Maffey, 30 April, CWMG, vol. 17, p. 12; Gandhi to Viceroy, 29 April 1918, ibid., p. 7.
105 Press Report, 6 July 1918, p. 15, italics original.
107 Ranade was the widow of Mahadav Govind Ranade, a noted presidency judge and ‘Moderate’ reformist-nationalist. IOR, Judicial Department Confidential Proceedings, 1918.
108 Speech at Nadiad, 21 June 1918, CWMG, vol. 17, pp. 81–82.
109 Press Report, 27 April 1918, p. 1.
110 Press Report, 27 April 1918, p. 5.
111 Speech at Nadiad, 17 June, CWMG, vol. 17 p. 76.
112 Cf., for example, Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru (Orient Longman, New Delhi, 1972–82), vol. 12, p. 262 (Address at Jorhat, 23 April 1942); Press Report, 4 May 1918, p. 9 (Praj Mitra and Parsi).
113 Ibid., 8 August 1914, p. 11, The Parsi noting that ‘India must have to defend herself with a bare minimum of European leadership’; 13 April 1918, p. 2 (Rast Goftar).
114 Pati, Budheswar, India and the First World War (Atlantic Publishers, Delhi, 1996), p. 33Google Scholar. The classic expression of British fears of the Central Powers’ fanning revolt in Central Asia is John Buchan's thriller Greenmantle, published in 1916.
115 Press Report, 25 May 1918, p. 3.
116 Samagra Lokamanya Tilak, vol. 4, Chapter 25: ‘Swarajya, protecting one's country and enlistment in the army’ (2 July 1918).
117 Bal Gangadhar Tilak, His Writings and Speeches (3rd ed., Ganesh and Co., Madras, 1922), p. 334, ‘Home Rule’, Speech at Madras, [?] March 1918.
118 Press Report, 20 April 1918, p. 5.
119 MSA, government of Bombay Home Dept. Special 389J (1918).
121 Speech at Girgaum, 16 June 1918; Mahratta, 23 June 1918.
122 Samagra Lokamanya Tilak, vol. 4, Chapter 25: ‘If not Swarajya, the bureaucracy should at least be ready to give military rights.’
123 Press Report, 13 April 1918, p. 3; 27 April, p. 3.
124 The granting of King's Commissions was discussed in the Legislative Council as a temporary wartime measure in March 1917 (Times of India, 3 March 1917, p. 10); one officer attached to the Mesopotamia Commission publicly called for a revision of the ‘old-fashioned prejudice’ debarring natives from Commissions (Report of the Commission Appointed by Act of Parliament to Empire into the Operations of the War in Mesopotamia (London, 1917) [Cd. 8610]; separate report by Wedgwood, Commander J. C., p. 132). Substantive change had to wait until the 1930s, however: Martin, ‘The influence of racial attitudes on British policy towards India during the First World War’, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 14 (02), 1986, p. 104Google Scholar. The resilient complaint is in evidence for instance in Samagra Lokamanya Tilak, vol. 4, Chapter 25; Jinnah, Collected Works, vol. 1, p. 156.
125 Press Report, 24 February 1918, p. 9.
126 See also, for instance, Shatkari’s emphasis on the pay and status of recruits. ibid., p. 11.
127 27 February 1917, Samagra Lokamanya Tilak, vol. 4, Chapter 20: ‘This is the time, join the army.’ Tilak used the same coterminous words sainya and lashkar for both the regular army and the Defence Force.
128 Mahratta, 11 March 1918, p. 120.
129 Press Report, 3 March 1918, pp. 1, 4, 5, 7.
130 See above, fn 124; Press Report, 3 March 1918, pp. 7 (Phoenix), 6, 8.
131 Samagra Lokamanya Tilak, vol. 4, Chapter 20.
132 Press Report, 27 April 1918, p. 5 (Hindustan); Praj Mitra and Parsi also called for a ‘large citizen army’, along with political concessions including the release of political prisoners, ibid., 13 April, p. 3.
134 Jinnah, Collected Works, vol. 1, p. 156.
136 CWMG, vol. 17, p. 100 [Speech at Ras, 26 June 1918]. See Tilak, Speeches, p. 409 (‘Loyalty Resolution’, [?] April 1916).
137 CWMG, vol. 17, p. 171 [Speech at Surat, 1 August 1918].
138 Rosselli, ‘Effeteness’, p. 133.
140 Press Report, 20 April 1918, p. 5 (Rast Goftar).
141 Press Report, 15 August 1914, p. 12.
143 Samagra Lokamanya Tilak, vol. 8, p. 861 (26 April 1885, ‘Natives as volunteers’).
144 Report of the Second Indian National Congress Held at Calcutta on the 27th 28th 29th and 30th December 1886 (n.p., s.l., IOR/8022i. Reports given hereafter by year). Resolution XII, Rajah Rampal Singh, pp. 93–94.
146 Congress Report (1887), Resolution VIII, p. 65; ibid. (1888) Resolution VI, p. 137.
147 Congress Report (1886), Resolution XII.
148 Chandramohan, Balasubramanyam, ‘“Hamlet with the Prince of Denmark left out”?: the South African War, empire and India’, in Lowry, Donal (ed.), The South African War Reappraised (Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2000), pp. 151, 154–155Google Scholar. See also Omissi, David, ‘India: some perceptions of race and empire’, in Omissi, David and Thompson, Andrew (eds), Impact of the South African War (Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, 2002), p. 221Google Scholar.
149 Misra, ‘Sergeant Major Gandhi’, pp. 691–694, 700, 703.
150 This has been unnoticed in work on the Leagues. Some of Virkar's work is displayed in the Lokamanya Tilak Museum, housed in the Kesari Wada in Pune.
151 Jinnah, Collected Works, vol. 1, p. 197; Press Report, 15 June 1918, p. 14.
153 Waldron, Arthur, ‘The warlord: twentieth-century Chinese understandings of violence, militarism and imperialism’, American Historical Review, 96 (4), 1991, pp. 1073–1100CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hanioglu, M. Sukru, Preparation for a Revolution The Young Turks, 1902–1908 (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001), p. 304Google Scholar.
154 Mahratta, 15 August 1914, p. 12.
155 The English translation of Bernhardi's Germany and the Next War was published in London in 1912. Pearson's National Life from the Standpoint of Science (2nd ed., Adam and Charles Black, London, 1905) is an example of a popular account of such quasi-Darwinian notions: see, for instance, his insistence, ibid., p. 46, that a nation should be ‘kept up to a high pitch of external efficiency by contest, chiefly by war’ (although for Pearson this should be against ‘inferior races’).
156 (Mufid-e-Rozgar) Press Report, 10 February 1917, p. 17.
157 On the broader theme, see Watt, ‘Education for national efficiency’.
158 War Conference Proceedings, op. cit., p. 15.
159 Press Report, 11 May 1918, p. 5 (Rast Goftar).
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