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India As I Knew It

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About the Book

This volume is a critical assessment of the Indian political situation in the early decades of the present century by a British administrator who played a significant part in the events it describes. To the author who belonged to that coterie of stern, hardheaded administrators, the nationalist agitation was the handiwork of a small class of vocal, privileged and politically minded Indians echoing uncertain democratic formulae, who did not represent the real India which was to be found in the masses of the ignorant millions, Burke’s famous simile anticipated this attitude. Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate cries, while thousands of great cattle, repose beneath the shadow of the British Oak, chew their cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the fields.” To govern this real India, he believed, authority and justice should be in full view, backed by the power necessary to enforce them. It was with these convictions that he took over the administration of the Punjab as Lieutenant Governor in 1912. He held the post till 1919. Forewarned on his appointment about the existence of ‘inflammable material’ in the Punjab, O’Dwyer, as head of the administration was determined to hold aloft the banner of imperial prestige and to crush ruthlessly all those who dared agitate. The policy culminated in the large-scale massacre of Jallianwalla Bagh, followed by widespread disorders in many parts of the country which had significant repercussions. These developments signalled the emergence of Gandhi on the political stage and a drastic change in the Congress policies.A vivid, forceful and provocative book by one who played a crucial role in the great events of the time India As I Knew It is essential reading of inestimable value for all students of modern Indian history.


Shri Michael Francis O’wyer (1864-1940) was born on 28th April 1864 and educated at St. Stanislaus College, Tullamore. He passed the open competition for the Indian Civil Service in 1882 and final examination in 1884. He spent two years of probation at Balliol College, Oxford and in third year he obtained a first class in Jurisprudence. He joined service in India in 1885 and first posted to Shahpur (Punjab), later made Director of Land Records and Agriculture in Punjab in 1896, incharge of the settlements of the Alwar and Bharatpur States. He married Una of France in 1896 and later had a son and a daughter. O’Dwyer was selected by Lord Curzon for a prominent part in the organisation of the new North-West Frontier Province and its separation from the Punjab: he was Revenue Commissioner from 1901-1908: Agent to the Governor-General in Central India from 1910-1912. He was appointed Ltd. Governor of the Punjab in 1912 a post which he held until 1919. O’Dwyer was a fine writer and sportsmen, a warm sympahizer with the rural classes and a master of the vernacular. He was shot from behind by Udham Singh of India at the close of a crowded meeting of the Royal Central Asian Society in London on 13th March 1940.

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