Chitta Ranjan Das
Chitta Ranjan Das was an Indian nationalist politician, and leader of the Swaraj (Independence) Party in Bengal, during British rule in India. Although educated in England, he returned to India to play a major role in the independence movement, including such episodes as the “Non-Cooperation” movement of 1919–1920. Like the better-known Gandhi, Das was a believer in nonviolence and was trained as a lawyer, perhaps influencing his constitutionalist approach to independence. Along with pacifism he also saw Muslim–Hindu cooperation as an essential element of Indian independence and national success. It was at the Gaya meeting in 1922 that he formed the Swaraj Party, having lost a motion to Gandhi’s faction. In this excerpt from his speech, Das discusses how Indian nationalism must not copy the aggressive, competitive nationalism of Europe, but must find its place in a greater Humanity of which it is a part.
From Presidential Address of Chitta Ranjan Das, Indian National Congress at
Gaya, December 1922. An appendix to P. C. Ray, Life and Times of C. R. Das/ Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1927, pp. 261–74 (extracts).
George Orwell is the pen name of Eric Blair (1903–1950), one of the most important writers in the English language during the twentieth century. Orwell is famous for two widely read novels, Animal Farm (1946) and Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), in which he pilloried modern totalitarian governments whose suave claims to act in the name of “the people” could not disguise their unprecedented intrusion into the private lives of citizens. But Orwell deserves to be well known for his investigative reporting and prose essays of the interwar period as well. After World War I he worked as a police officer in Burma (modern Myanmar), lived the life of homeless and subsistence workers in Paris and London, explored the hardships of Welsh coal miners, and fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1938). His writing about these experiences, along with criticism and political commentary, is distinctive for its clarity and vivid detail and for the unsentimental decency with which he addressed the realities of life for ordinary people.
ii Orwell was educated, not very happily, at boarding schools in England. Rather than go to university he joined the Indian Imperial Police in Burma for five years in the 1920s. The experience produced his novel Burmese Days (1934) and the essay reprinted here. Britain fought three wars in the Victorian era (1824–1826, 1852, 1885) to bring the ancient Burmese kingdoms under its control. Even after annexation to the Raj, village resistance and jungle insurgency taxed the authorities’ ability to police the countryside. Very few Europeans wished to settle in Burma for long. Those who did tended to be employees of distant firms attempting to establish rubber plantations in the drier zones of upper Burma. As Burmese Days reveals, British soldiers, police, minor civil servants, and businessmen, with a handful of family members, secluded themselves as much as possible from native life. Those any distance from the cultural life of the capital city experienced long periods of discomfort, tedium, and frustration, unalleviated by much sense that they were bringing progress or prosperity to those they ruled.
George Orwell, Shooting an Elephant and Other Essays, 3–12. Copyright © 1950 by Harcourt, Inc.