HC Deb 09 August 1898 vol 64 cc657-8
SIR W. WEDDERBURN (Banffshire)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that, on the 28th April last, the Assistant-Commissioner on plague duty ordered the 6,000 inhabitants of Garshankar to leave the city within 24 hours; that no sufficient number of huts had been erected outside the city to shelter these people from the excessive heat; that a disturbance arose in carrying out these orders; and that the police fired upon the people without orders, killing nine and wounding 48; whether 48 of the survivors were prosecuted and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment; and whether he will cause inquiry to be made by some impartial authority into all the circumstances of the case; also is it the fact that the police refused to stop firing when ordered to do so by the European officers?


It is rather inconvenient that the Question on the Paper should be extended without notice, but I think I am acquainted with the facts of the case. As soon as it became clear that the plague had established itself in Garshankar every form of persuasion and inducement was used in order to bring about the voluntary evacuation of the town; but, as these means failed, it became necessary at the end of a month to issue positive orders. As to the number of huts provided, I have seen no allegation that it was insufficient. A body of police, on entering the town to enforce these orders, was violently attacked by rioters, and 26 of them were more or less seriously injured; they fired in return, with the result that nine rioters were killed and 27 wounded. I have received no information as yet as to the number of rioters who were prosecuted or the nature of their sentences; but, as at present advised, though I deeply regret the loss of life which occurred, I see no reason to order a special inquiry. As to the supplemental Question, the police were subjected to a most violent assault, and they did fire without orders, but in a very few seconds, I may say, their officers were able to control them. I do not think they were in any way to blame for firing under great provocation.