HC Deb 21 February 1899 vol 67 cc47-8
MR. HEDDERWICK (Wick Burghs)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been called to statements in a recent publication, entitled "In the Forbidden Land" (vol. 1, p. 75), to the effect that of recent years the Government of India has had reported, by its own officers, cases of horrible torture inflicted by Thibetan authorities on British subjects captured by them on our side of the frontier; that some of the atrocities committed by the Llamas on British subjects are revolting; that it is a matter of great regret to the Englishmen who visit these regions to think that the weakness of our officials in Kumaon has allowed and is allowing such proceedings still to go on; that the Jong Pen of Taklakot, in Thibet, sends over, with the sanction of the Government of India, his yearly emissaries to collect land revenue from British subjects living on British soil; that the Shokas have to pay this tribute out of fear, in addition to other taxes and trade dues iniquitously exacted by the Thibetans; and that on the slightest pretext the Thibetans arrest, torture mercilessly, fine, and confiscate property of British subjects on British territory; whether the reports received by the Government in any way support these statements; and whether he could inform the House what is the state of the British territory bordering on Thibet?


My attention has been called to the statements contained in the publication referred to in the honourable Member's Question. No report on the subject has reached me from the Government of India, but I find from the pro- ceedings of the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Provinces and Oudh that his attention has since 1895 been given to the alleged exactions levied by Thibetan officials on the British side or the northern frontier of Kumaon. The frontier has since that year been repeatedly visited by British officers, who have had interviews with the Jong Pen of Taklakot and other officials from the Thibetan side, and have clearly explained to them that no dues can be allowed to be levied by Thibetan officials from Bhotiya traders, who are British subjects, within the British frontier. The last letter of the North-West Provinces Government, which appears in the Proceedings, is dated the 22nd August, and states that— The dues collected by the Thibetans from the people of Darma are clearly proved to be not land revenue, but a trade tax, to which this Government has no reason to object. The Lieutenant-Governor is gratified to learn that Thibetan outrages on British subjects have ceased.


I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether Darma, Chandas, and Bias, on the borders of Thibet, form part of the British Empire; and whether Thibetan law is enforced within these regions, and the natives driven to bring the greater number of their civil and criminal cases before Thibetan magistrates?


Yes, Sir. The portions of the districts of Kumaon to which the honourable Member probably refers, namely, Dárma, Chandáns, and Byáns, are part of British India. I have no reason to suppose that any other than British law and authority are exercised in these parts.