Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ilbert Bill: Mrinalini Sinha's article

Mrinalini Sinha, "Chathams, Pitts, and Gladstones in Petticoats: The Politics of Gender and Race in the Ilbert Bill Controversy, 1883-1884." From Western Women and Imperialism, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.

Bill introduced on February 9, 1883, to correct a racially discriminatory clause from the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1872.

Quote from Sinha: "On 25 January 1884, after almost a year of conflict, Act 111 of 1884 was finally passed. However, the spirit of the Ilbert Bill had been compromised. Even though native officials were granted limited criminal jurisdiction over European British subjects living in the districts under their charge, the Anglo-Indians had won a substantial victory: they were assured the right to demand a trial by jury at least half of whose members were European British subjects themselves." (98)

Primary source quotes:
Flora MacDonald: "Hindoo women are degraded, they are totally devoid of all delicacy, their ideas and language are course [sic] and vulgar, their term of reproach and abuses are gross and disgusting in the extreme. Although they manifest much shyness and outward modesty there is little real virtue of the higher order among them." (quoted 100. Englishman 26 April 1883, p.2)

R.H. Wilson, magistrate of Midnapore: "Is it likely that time will ever come when Englishmen in India or elsewhere will acquiesce in a measure subjecting their wives and daughters to the criminal jurisdiction of Judges whose ideas on the subject of women and marriage are not European but Oriental?" (quoted 100)

A senior Anglo-Indian officer of the Indian army: "Many English officers have English servant girls attached to their families; a native Magistrate, puffed up with importance might set eyes upon one of the girls and make overtures to her. If she refused, as she probably would do, what would be easier than for this native, acting under the smart of disappointment to bring a case against the girl to be tried in his court? A few annas would bribe all the native servants of the household and we might guess the result. (quoted 100-101)

Flora MacDonald again: "Englishmen try to picture to yourselves a mofussil court, hundreds of miles away from Calcutta--in that court a Native Magistrate is presiding with the supercilious assurance that a native assumes when he has an Englishman in his power. Before that man stands an English girl in all her maidenly dignity; she has been accused by her ayah for revenge of a loathsome crime, a crime that is common among native women; the court is crowded with natives of all castes who have flocked to hear an English girl being tried for an offence; this motley crowd laugh and jeer; and stare that English girl in the face; and spit on the ground to show her the contempt they have for the female sex; scores of witnesses are present to give evidence; a native Doctor has also been hired for that occasion; witnesses are cross-examined by a native pleader; the most irrelevant questions are asked, questoins that only a native dare to ask. Picture to yourself that girl's agony of shame! By her stands her only protector, a widowed mother, who has not the means wherewith to secure the protection and counsel of her countrymen. That innocent girl so kind, so affectionate, so loving, the stay of her widowhood, must go from the court with shame, with a blighted name....It cannot be that Englishmen renowned for chivalry are willing to subject even the humblest of their countrywomen to dishonour. (Quoted 101; 13 March 1883, p. 2)

Historical event: trial of Mrs. James Hume in Calcutta. Allegedly assaulted by her former employee, a sweeper called Hurroo Mehter. Convicted on 30 July 1883.

Allahabad-based newspaper, Pioneer

Calcutta-based newspaper, The Englishman (later merged with The Statesman)

A counter-argument in The Statesman: "The time is out of joint . . . incidents which, in ordinary times, would have no political significance, are now being seized upon on all hands, and a political significance is attributed to them which, whether it rightly belongs to them or not, has the same effect upon the public mind as if it did." (quoted 103; Statesman 25 June 1883, p. 2)

Edward Stanhope in the House of Commons, complains of the "horrible outrages upon English lades in Calcutta and Howrah." Response from a Mr. O'Donnell, "Whilst he is on the subject, could not the Honorary Gentleman obtain a statement of annual number of outrages on English women by English men?" (quoted 104)

Case of a Mary Pigot, who ran the Church of Scotland's Orphanage and Zenana Mission in Calcutta, who filed a defamation against Reverent William Hastie. Accused of improper relations with a native Christian, Baboo Kali Charan Bannerjee. Did not entirely vindicate Pigot. "Norris found Pigot's relations with Bennerjee not of a 'proper character'." (quoted 105)

Annette Akroyd -- she came to India as a reformer, a Unitairan philanthropist, on invitation of the Brahmo Samaj. She hahd hosted mixed gatherings of natives and Anglo-Indians at her home. But politically she came out against her husband and against the native cause. She wrote a letter protesting the Ilbert Bill to the Englishman, on 6 March 1883. She condemned the bill as a "proposal to subject civilized women to the jurisdiction of men who have done little or nothing to redeem the women of their race, whose social ideas are still on the outer verge of civilization." (quoted 110)

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