The Case for India

Annie Besant
The Case For India, by Annie

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Title: The Case For India
Author: Annie Besant
Release Date: July 5, 2004 [eBook #12820]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
E-text prepared by Jonathan Ingram, Asad Razzaki, and the Project
Gutenberg Online Distributed Proofreading Team

The Presidential Address Delivered by Annie Besant at the

Thirty-Second Indian National Congress Held at Calcutta 26th
December 1917

Everyone who has preceded me in this Chair has rendered his thanks in
fitting terms for the gift which is truly said to be the highest that India
has it in her power to bestow. It is the sign of her fullest love, trust, and
approval, and the one whom she seats in that chair is, for his year of
service, her chosen leader. But if my predecessors found fitting words
for their gratitude, in what words can I voice mine, whose debt to you
is so overwhelmingly greater than theirs? For the first time in Congress
history, you have chosen as your President one who, when your choice
was made, was under the heavy ban of Government displeasure, and
who lay interned as a person dangerous to public safety. While I was
humiliated, you crowned me with honour; while I was slandered, you
believed in my integrity and good faith; while I was crushed under the
heel of bureaucratic power, you acclaimed me as your leader; while I
was silenced and unable to defend myself, you defended me, and won
for me release. I was proud to serve in lowliest fashion, but you lifted
me up and placed me before the world as your chosen representative. I
have no words with which to thank you, no eloquence with which to
repay my debt. My deeds must speak for me, for words are too poor. I
turn your gift into service to the Motherland; I consecrate my life anew
to her in worship by action. All that I have and am, I lay on the Altar of
the Mother, and together we shall cry, more by service than by words:
There is, perhaps, one value in your election of me in this crisis of
India's destiny, seeing that I have not the privilege to be Indian-born,
but come from that little island in the northern seas which has been, in
the West, the builder-up of free institutions. The Aryan emigrants, who
spread over the lands of Europe, carried with them the seeds of liberty
sown in their blood in their Asian cradle-land. Western historians trace
the self-rule of the Saxon villages to their earlier prototypes in the East,
and see the growth of English liberty as up-springing from the Aryan

root of the free and self-contained village communities.
Its growth was crippled by Norman feudalism there, as its
millennia-nourished security here was smothered by the East India
Company. But in England it burst its shackles and nurtured a
liberty-loving people and a free Commons' House. Here, it similarly
bourgeoned out into the Congress activities, and more recently into
those of the Muslim League, now together blossoming into Home Rule
for India. The England of Milton, Cromwell, Sydney, Burke, Paine,
Shelley, Wilberforce, Gladstone; the England that sheltered Mazzini,
Kossuth, Kropotkin, Stepniak, and that welcomed Garibaldi; the
England that is the enemy of tyranny, the foe of autocracy, the lover of
freedom, that is the England I would fain here represent to you to-day.
To-day, when India stands erect, no suppliant people, but a Nation,
self-conscious, self-respecting, determined to be free; when she
stretches out her hand to Britain and offers friendship not subservience;
co-operation not obedience; to-day let me: western-born but in spirit
eastern, cradled in England but Indian by choice and adoption: let me
stand as the symbol of union between Great Britain and India: a union
of hearts and free choice, not of compulsion: and therefore of a tie
which cannot be broken, a tie of love and of mutual helpfulness,
beneficial to both Nations and blessed by God.
India's great leader, Dadabhai Naoroji, has left his mortal body and is
now one of the company of the Immortals, who watch over and aid
India's progress. He is with V.C. Bonnerjee, and Ranade, and A.O.
Hume, and Henry Cotton, and Pherozeshah Mehta, and Gopal Krishna
Gokhale: the great men who, in Swinburne's noble verse, are the stars
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