§ * MR. REES (Montgomery Boroughs)
asked the Secretary of State for India whether he could give the House any information regarding the riot reported from Rawalpindi; whether the disturbance was connected with the prosecution of the proprietor and editor of the Punjabi newspaper, who made a false charge of murder against an innocent Englishman, and sentences were passed by the local magistrate, against the alleged severity of which complaints were made in Questions by certain Members of this House; whether such sentences had been subsequently reduced, and, if so, to what extent upon appeal; whether the final Court of Appeal had adjudicated upon this case, and, if so, with what result; and whether the Government of India had expressed any intention of taking measures to suppress sedition, which was being fomented by agitators in the Punjaub and elsewhere in India.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Mr. MORLEY,) Montrose Burghs
said that the Answer to the first Question was in the negative; there was no reason to associate the one with the other. The duration of the sentences had been reduced on appeal; but the last Question of the hon. Member was wholly superfluous and required no Answer whatever.
§ MAJOR ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman was still sceptical as to there being any unrest in India.
§ SIR H. COTTON (Nottingham, E.)
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman could make a statement for the information of the House as to the circumstances which had led to the recent disturbance at Rawalpindi.
§ MR. MORLEY
I think the House will desire the latest information I have regarding those occurrences. I have received a telegram, which was sent from Simla on 5th May, and reached the India Office last night, from the Viceroy, which states that "On 21st April a meeting was held at Rawalpindi, said to have been attended by 8,000 or 10,000 men. A well-known pleader presided, and 1332 another pleader spoke on the subject of increased land revenue and the prosecution of the Punjabi newspaper." Perhaps I was wrong in saying that there was no connection between those disturbances and the prosecution, but it is the opinion of the Government of India that there is no connection. One speaker said the people of the Punjaub must be prepared to; sacrifice their lives for the Motherland. Those who were afraid of bloodshed had better go Home. Petitions to the British King were useless. The Punjabis had helped to put down the Mutiny; they were now ill-treated, and were suffering for their base treachery to their own countrymen. Now was the time to resist, and not to be afraid of Martinis and howitzers. The people would withhold payment of the increased land revenue. Another speaker protested against increased land revenue, water rates and forced labour. In consequence of this, the Deputy Commissioner sent notice to the three speakers who took part in the meeting to attend his Court, for the purpose of a public inquiry into the question whether they should be prosecuted for sedition, and have their licences for practice withdrawn. A crowd of students, traders, and shopkeepers assembled at the Court to express sympathy with the pleaders, and were apparently disappointed when informed that the inquiry would not be held. Then followed disturbances. The three pleaders have since been arrested, presumably for abetting the recent disturbances, and have applied to the Chief Court for bail." The telegram adds that the General Officer Commanding has telegraphed that all is now quiet, but that he anticipated further rioting if the Chief Court grants bail. I understand that bail has not been granted. The Government of India do not at present apprehend further rioting, and, of course, the House is well aware that Rawalpindi is one of the strongest garrisons in India.
* CAPTAIN FABER (Hampshire, Andover)
Was the rioting the result of a feud between Mohammedans and Hindus, or was it solely directed against Europeans?