HC Deb 13 May 1907 vol 174 cc577-8
MR. C. J. O'DONNELL (Newington, Walworth)

To ask the Secretary of State for India whether it is a fact that the five Lahore barristers who have been arrested and kept in prison, bail being refused, and Lala Rajpat Rai, who has been deported and imprisoned, without trial, under an obsolete law of nearly a century ago, were engaged in necessary agitation against enhancements of an already excessive land tax; whether the great warlike Sikh community, at their sacred city of Amritsar, recently declared that the sons of the Sikh soldiers who saved the British Empire in India in the days of the Mutiny, are now being ruined by excessive taxation; and whether such taxation already amounts to 65 per cent, of the net profits of their farms.

(Answered by Mr. Secretary Morley.) I have no official information as to the arrest of five Lahore barristers, but it is the fact that three pleaders were arrested at Rawalpindi and that bail was refused. They will be tried by the ordinary courts, and, pending the result of the proceedings I cannot make any statement regarding them. Lala Rajpat Rai has not been arrested for any legitimate agitation against any reasonable grievance, but for the active promotion of open sedition. I am not aware that the Sikhs have made any such declaration. But I am aware that it has been suggested to what the hon. Member truly calls this great warlike community, by those who are making it their business to foment disturbances, that they saved India in the Mutiny, that we are now ill-treating them, and that this is a judgment on them for betraying their country in her war of independence. The present assessment of land revenue and cesses together in the Punjab is, according to my information, less than 45 per cent, of the net assets, 50 per cent, being the ordinary standard of assessment of land revenue alone throughout India. I have asked the Government of India for information regarding the alleged recent enhancement.