Saturday, 7 July 2012

Bombay Manifesto

Among Indian big business, by the 1920s, two major groupings had emerged,neither fundamentally antagonistic to the other but pursuing different policies.The first, led by the Tatas and containing such major forces as the Bombay Millowners' Association, was openly loyal to the British. The second, headedby Birla and containing the various Indian Chambers of Commerce (formed later into the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry) gave supportto the Right wing of the Congress leadership - at times decisively pressing it toward a deal.

Though neither of the two schools was prepared for an anti-imperialist struggle,they pursued different strategies in heading it off. Of the two strategies,that of the Birla group was certainly more sophisticated, and eventually persuaded most of the proponents of the group headed by Tata. Sir PurshottamdasThakurdas, probably the biggest cotton trader in India, was in a sense a bridge between the two schools - a director of many Tata firms as well as of many foreign-owned ones (such as Killick Nixon), he was also Birla's closest confidante.

A few days after the Lucknow Congress A.D.Shroff of Tatas fired off a refutation of Nehru's speech. Three weeks later, on May 18, 1936, 21 leading Bombay businessmen issued what came to be known as the "Bombay Manifesto" - against Nehru. Among the signatories were Sir N.Saklatvala, Sir Purshottamdas Thakurdas,Sir Chimanlal Setalvad, Sir Pheroze Sethna, Sir Cowasji Jehangir, WalchandHirachand, Dharamsey Khatau and A.D.Shroff. It began with a quotation fromthe Lucknow address which advocated socialism for India, and which gave Russia as an example of the sort of civilisation India should work for. The signatories then stated:
  "We have no hesitation in declaring that we are unequivocally  opposed to ideas of this kind being propagated, as in the present condition  of widespread economic misery in the country, they are likely to find a ready  though unthinking reception. We are convinced that there is a grave risk  of the masses being misled by such doctrines into believing that all that  is required for the improvement of their well-being is a total destruction  of the present social and economic structure. The inculcation of such ideas  into the minds of unthinking millions of this country would lead to a situation  in which not only the institution of private property but the peaceful  observation of religion, and even personal safety, would be jeopardised."