HC Deb 12 June 1913 vol 53 cc1789-90

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether, in the country of the Lushai tribes under the Government of Assam, any subjects of the Crown live in the condition of serfs, being obliged to serve other persons all their lives unless ransomed by money payment; whether in connection with this status Major Cole, superintendent of the Lushai Hills, in the year 1910, asked Dr. Peter Fraser, of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Foreign Mission, residing at Aijal, to sign an agreement that he would avoid giving expression of his private opinions as to Lushai customs to any Lushai, and that he agreed to leave the Lushai Hills within one month if he broke this agreed promise; whether this agreement was concluded and whether anything has happened since; and if he can state the legislative enactment or ordinance under which such agreements can be made and enforced?


In the Lushai Hills a custom called "Boi" exists under which retainers, generally paupers, are supported by the chiefs, and in return work for them. These retainers can acquire property, and obtain complete freedom by a money payment. The system is fully described in Colonel Shakespear's recent monograph on "The Lushai Kuki Clans." The superintendent of the Lushai Hills, who is responsible for the peace of the district, having found that Dr. Fraser's action produced such acute discontent as was likely to result either in the murder of this missionary, or in a general rising, directed that his movements should be confined to certain districts, and invited him to sign an agreement of the nature indicated by my hon. Friend. Dr. Fraser refused to sign either this agreement, or an undertaking prepared by the directors of his mission; there the matter rests. Under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code the Superintendent may direct any person to abstain from a certain act if he considers that such direction is likely to prevent a disturbance of the public tranquillity; and under a regulation in force in the Lushai Hills he can order any person, not being a native, to leave a district if he is satisfied that the presence of that person is injurious to its peace or good administration. The policy of Government is gradually to modify the local customs of these uncivilised people, who, but a few years ago, were fierce and independent savages. The success of this policy is endangered by persons who, with the best intentions, take action likely to provoke an armed rising with its punitive consequences. Dr. Fraser can, by giving the required undertaking, obviate the restriction of his actions considered necessary by the authorities responsible for the peace of the district, whose conduct is fully approved by the Secretary of State.

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