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Speech from the Dock

December 10, 1932 — Speech from the dock, Madras Court, India


The fact that I am on trial in this court today is no accident. It is the result of seventeen years of intimate living and working with my Indian sisters and brothers. In moving freely with them in attempting to do constructive work, I and my husband learned how exploitation and injustice through foreign rule is crushing them down. I was a co-worker for Home Rule for years with Annie Besant, and took part in the agitation connected with her internment in this cause. I also shared in formulating the Commonwealth of India Bill. Government repression of organised Congress opinion, the largest representative opinion in India, has become ever more severe since then. I watched it in 1930-31. I reported what I had seen, in New York and Geneva during my visits there in the past eighteen months. In those centres of international opinion I laid bare the dual game Britain is playing; its pretence of making a Constitution to give India freedom, but its determination to hold tight to everything essential to India’s self-government,. I showed that its demands for unity and social reforms as necessary to swaraj were conditions such as no country had ever complied with. I proved that, instead of freedom, government by Ordinances was designed to break, if possible, the spirit, ruin the health and cripple the resources of all the people of India who are determined to win the political freedom they want. Representative associations of eighteen countries have deputed me to tell the people here that they “sympathise with them, and that they denounce the rule of violence now imposed on India,” as the New York protest meeting expressed it. Now that I return I find that the Ordinances have been turned into law for three years. This is a challenge to every believer in free speech, free political assembly, free press, free picketting, free peaceful self-expression. I adhere to everything I said in public. I reiterate tha the Ordinance Bill and Ordinance Law should be made inoperative by everyone ignoring them by nonviolent defiance. Evidently the Government think me a valuable ally of the Congress when they priced my freedom by bail at thirty thousand rupees. If it is their intention to strike me dumb for a year, are we to deduce that their new Constitution is going to be so unsatisfactory that I must be locked up for all that time to prevent my criticism of it? If this is British justice and democracy, then I am proud to stand here in support of free speech and Indian national freedom, and I am ashamed that English idealism has fallen to the present depths of oppression and suppression.



Source: We Two Together, by James H. Cousins and Margaret E. Cousins (Madras, India: Ganesh & Co.) 1950, pp. 582-583.