Sunday, 29 November 2015


 The first and natural feeling which the news of Lord MAYO'S murder aroused in every breast was one of commiseration for the man thus cut off in his prime, while worthily occupying an office which raises a subject far above nine-tenths of the monarchs of the world, so far as regards the extent of his government and the plenitude of his power. That a man who, to all intents and purposes, was the despotic ruler of over 150 millions of people, should have been struck down in the midst of his guards by a common assassin, armed with no nobler weapon than an ordinary table-knife, is a sad but forcible commentary on the instability of human greatness. But while his death, and more especially the manner of it, have been deplored in every land owing allegiance to the British Crown, it is not in the nature of our race to waste time over fruitless regrets. Holding, as we do, imperial rank amongst the nations of the earth, we have long ago become aware that it cannot be maintained without occasional sacrifices both of blood and treasure. These, however, are only the unavoidable penalties we pay as the price of our distinguished position. It is well, then, that we should turn our misfortunes " to commodity," by striving to ascertain their causes, and so preventing their recurrence. The question which puzzles the rulers of India is whether this murder was determined on, as it was carried out, by the murderer alone, or whether it formed the second act of an assassination tragedy which has yet to be played out. It is remarkable as showing the uneasy feeling at present existing in the minds of the English in Hindostan, that the first murder—that of Acting Chief Justice NORMAN—was thought by many to have been committed as part of a preconceived plan. It is not astonishing that the late event should have confirmed them in their opinion. That those who trace both crimes to the machinations of the Mahomedans, who are now plotting to overthrow our rule, have good grounds for their belief, is indisputable.

And here it is necessary that we should say a few words concerning that remarkable sect whose teachings and precepts exercise at the present moment such a remarkable influence throughout Islam, The Wahhabees, or followers of ABD EL WAHHAB, have been the means of bringing about what religionists call a "revival" amongst the followers of the Prophet. So great has been their success, that whereas at one time Mahomedanism appeared to be tottering to its full and speedy extinction, it has regained a vitality within the last few years which may again cause it to play an important part in the world's affairs. Mr. PALGRAVE affirms—and no better authority on such a subject could be found-that the revolution wrought through the influence of these Moslem reformers is most striking—almost miraculous. Once more Islam is becoming noted for sobriety in all things and attention to the ordinances of religion. Drunkenness, at one time very prevalent, has almost disappeared ; the licentious have learned to "live cleanly ;" old mosques and schoolhouses are being repaired or new ones built ; pilgrimages to Mecca, the cradle of the faith, are in fashion ; the Ramadan, or month of strict abstinence, is regularly observed ; and the teachings of the Koran are again held in that reverence which was originally accorded them. We have nothing to say against all this ; on the contrary, we consider that the Wahhabees, in thus reclaiming their co-religionists from the errors of their ways, and enforcing the duty of observing that strict morality which the founder of their religion inculcated, have done good service. But, unfortunately, there is one article of their creed which they are compelled to advocate along with the rest, which renders their existence in India a perpetual menace to British authority. "War to the knife with infidels" was the rule laid down by the Prophet for the guidance of his followers, and those who are seeking to revivify his religion in our Eastern possessions make this duty the cardinal point of their teaching.

It is, unfortunately, true that as a necessity of their position the Wahhabees in India are not only religious reformers, but also active disseminators of sedition. As the former they would never have acquired any preponderating influence, for men, as a rule, are not over ready to listen to those doctrines which proclaim the duties of self-denial and purity of life. But although they could not command attention to their religious teachings outside a limited circle, no sooner did Wahhabeeism come to mean rebellion against the hated foreigner, than it attracted universal attention amongst the Mussulman population. These people have long been ripe for revolt. At one time the conquering rulers of the land, they look back with vain regret to the vanished past, and mournfully contrast its glories with the present gloom. It is no wonder, then, that this "revival" in Islam should have peculiar attractions for them, inasmuch as it exalts the extermination of those whom they deem their infidel oppressors into a religious duty. When once the members of an excitable race become the victims of fanaticism, there is no crime that they will not commit at the bidding of the devil which possesses them. Death met in the discharge of a solemn duty has no terrors for such men as these—it is but the portal of that paradise wherein all zealous and obedient followers of the Prophet shall have their fill of sensuous delights.

The complete organisation which this wonderful sect has established throughout India is something marvellous. At an early period its leaders perceived the necessity of having a base of operations against our dominion, and they accordingly established their head-quarters amongst the wild tribes which dwell in the almost inaccessible mountains beyond the Punjaub. From this stronghold they sally forth to harass their foes. Between 1850 and 1863 we had to send 20 expeditions to endeavour to reduce them to order, in the last of which we lost no less than 847 men, killed and wounded. In 1868 we were at war with them again, without however producing any impression. In summing up the results of our campaign, the Punjaub Government remarks that "these fanatics are no harmless and powerless religionists, and that they are a permanent source of danger to our rule in India." They have a central propaganda at Patna, whose agents, numbered by thousands, permeate the country in every direction, preaching sedition and collecting men and money for the purpose of prosecuting the border struggle. So perfect are their arrangements that a recruit obtained in the south setting out upon his weary tramp of some two thousand miles, may be sure of food and a night's lodging, for hospices have been specially provided for his entertainment and shelter. Could anything demonstrate more clearly than this the extent of the conspiracy? To show that all classes are implicated in the plot, we need only say that in one batch brought to trial in 1864—and the virus of disloyalty has spread rapidly since then—there were to be found priests of the highest families, an army contractor and wholesale butcher, a scrivener, a soldier, an itinerant preacher, a house steward, and a husbandman. In the short sketch we have given of this great movement, we have only been able to skim the surface of the subject. Some knowledge, however, of the existing state of affairs in India is absolutely necessary to enable us to form any judgment whatever on the conflicting opinions expressed concerning the motives which led to the deplorable murder of the late Viceroy.

The Argus 15 April 1872

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