A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, April 28, 2016

April 1916: The Easter Rising and its Echoes in Egyptian, Indian, and Zionist Nationalist Thought, Part II: India

Irish Stamps Honoring Gandhi
Yesterday we looked at echoes of the Easter Rising of 1916 on Egyptian nationalism.Today we'll look at influences in Indian nationalism and Zionism.

India and Ireland
It is easy to forget today that many supporters of Irish Home Rule were Protestants rather than Catholic, from rebel leader Wolfe Tone to Parliamentarian Charles Parnell. Yesterday we mentioned W.B.Yeats, Lady Gregory, and G.B Shaw, all Protestants from the Anglo-Irish ascendancy. Anglo-Irishmen had long been involved in the British Army (including Wellington, though he didn't identify with Irish causes (he notoriously responded to being called Irish by saying being born in a stable did not make him a horse), and the Administration of the Raj,

But not all the Irish in India were defenders of the status quo. Alfred John Webb (1834-1908), a Dublin Quaker and supporter of Irish Home Rule, in 1894 in Madras became the third non-Indian presiding officer of the Indian National Congress, which led the independence movement. Margaret Gillespie Cousins (1878-1954), a Protestant from Boyle in County Roscommon, was a supporter of Home Rule  and women's suffrage who had founded the Irish Women's Franchise League before moving to India, where she co-founded the Women's Indian Association. In 1922 she became the first female magistrate in India. She is credited with writing the tune of the Indian National Anthem Jana Gana Mana (the words are by the poet Tagore).

But the Irish in India were not the only influences of the Irish on India. Michael Davitt (1846-1906) was an Irish republican and agrarian reformer, founder of the Irish National Land League, who was an early advocate of nonviolent resistance; Gandhi would explicitly cite him as an inspiration for his own movement.

Gandhi supported the movement for Irish independence but predictably deplored the violence of the war of independence. Many Indian nationalists saw parallels between the massacre on Bloody Sunday at Croke Park in Dublin on November 21, 1920, when Black & Tans killed 14 civilians at a Gaelic football game, and the far bloodier Amritsar massacre of 1919, when hundreds were killed. Ironically, the perpetrator of Amritsar, Col. Reginald Dyer, was himself of Irish background.

This article cites a number of Gandhi's speeches and writings referring to Ireland.

As this is running late, I'll deal with Zionism in a Part III tomorrow.

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