HC Deb 28 April 1914 vol 61 cc1504-6

asked the Under-Secretary for India, if he can yet say when he will be in a position to lay Papers giving information as to the working of the Press Act as recently promised?


I will give the hon. Member a date as soon as I can. Meanwhile, I can only say that the necessary references to all the local governments and the collection of materials will necessarily take time. The Secretary of State has satisfied himself by telegraphic inquiry that there has been and will be no avoidable delay.

13 and 14. Mr. MORRELL

asked the Under-Secretary for India (1) whether his attention has been called to the order recently made by the local government of the Punjab, under the Press Act, in the case of a Muslim paper known as the Ahl-i-Hadees of Amritsar, requiring the deposit of a security of 2,000 rupees; whether he has read the article which was the ground for this order; whether he is aware that the paper was a purely theological paper and that the article is believed to have contained nothing that transgressed the limits of the free expression of religious thought guaranteed to the peoples of India; and, if so, whether he will direct the withdrawal of the order; and (2) whether his attention has been called to the order recently made by the Punjab Government requiring the proprietor of the Badar press of Qadian, used for printing a Muslim religious paper, known as the Badr, to deposit a security of 3,000 rupees under the Press Act; whether he is aware that as a result of this order the proprietor had to close down his press; whether he has read the article referred to in the order; and whether, in view of the fact that the action taken by the local government appears to be inconsistent with the policy of non-intervention in religious matters hitherto pursued by His Majesty's Government in India, ho will direct the immediate withdrawal of this order?


The Punjab Government has felt constrained to take action under the Press Act against two Mahomedan newspapers for publishing articles calculated to bring into contempt the Christian population of the province, and as such amenable to the Act. The Secretary of State has read the articles, and can only describe them as wantonly scurrilous and offensive. Similar action has been taken against a Christian mission paper for violent attacks on Mahomedanism. The Secretary of State does not see that any question of interfering with freedom of thought or of breach of the principle of religious neutrality is involved. He does not propose to interfere with the local government in the exercise of its discretion under the law.


Is it not the fact that one of those articles was an answer to an article which appeared in a Christian newspaper?


I think that is referred to in question No. 16.


asked the Under-Secretary of State for India, whether he has obtained information in the case of the Khalsa Akhbar (Sikh News), of Lyalpur, in the Punjab, in which case it is alleged that the district magistrate, acting under the provisions of the Press Act, demanded from the proprietor of the Khalsa Press a security of Rs. 1,000 before any number of the paper had been issued, and thus in effect suppressed the paper before its birth; whether these allegations are correct; and, if so, what is the explanation?


Information has been asked for, and I will inform the hon. Member when it is received.


asked the Under-'Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been called to a book published at the Nawal Keshore Press of Lahore in 1913, entitled "Isbat-i-Kajpara," written by the Reverend Thomas Howell, a Christian missionary of Lahore; whether he is aware that this book contains an attack upon the Mahomedan religion and upon the person of the Prophet, and that the article in the Mahomedan paper the "Ahl-i-Hadis," in respect of which proceedings were recently taken under the Press Act, was written in reply to this attack; and whether any proceedings were ever taken in respect of the Christian missionary's book?


The Secretary of State is making inquiry with regard to this book. He is aware that the editor of the "Ahl-i-Hadis" has claimed that the article referred to was written as a reply to attacks made by Christian missionaries, but there would appear to be nothing in the article itself which suggests that it was such a rejoinder.