§ 58. Captain PETER MACDONALD
asked the Secretary of State for India if he has any further information regarding the campaign of civil disobedience in India; and what action the Indian Government proposes to take to deal with the situation?
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Wedgwood Benn)
I would ask the hon. and gallant Member to await the reply which I am about to give to a question of which the Leader of the Opposition has given me private notice.
§ Mr. STANLEY BALDWIN
(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for India whether he can make a statement with regard to the position in India?
§ Mr. BENN
In respect of the day-to-day developments of the civil disobedience campaign, there is little that I can add, in the form of an answer to a question, 31 to the full and, on the whole, accurate reports which have appeared in the Press.
On the day the House rose, there were reports in the Press of a serious disturbance at Karachi, when, during the trial of six of the principal leaders of the movement in Sind, a disorderly crowd broke into the Magistrate's Court. The police were forced to fire before the crowd could be brought under control. The situation was, however, restored the same day.
Since the House rose on 17th April, there have been two particularly serious outbreaks of disorder, the first at Chittagong, on the 18th, and the other at Peshawar, on the 23rd. That at Chittagong was the work of the Bengal anarchical associations. Its immediate reactions were dealt with by the promulgation on the next day, 19th April, of an Ordinance re-enacting those provisions of the Bengal Criminal Law Amendment Act which had been repealed on the 1st April. The Peshawar outbreak was the corollary to the arrest of 11 local Congress leaders. There is nothing that I can add to the Government of India's communiqué on this subject published in this morning's papers here. In to-day's papers also there is a report of a disturbance on Sunday in Madras City, where the police were forced to fire on the crowd. I have as yet received no official report of this affair.
On the 27th April, the Governor-General promulgated, as an emergency measure, an Ordinance re-enacting with some modifications the Press Act of 1910, which was repealed in 1922. The reasons for this action, in which I concurred, were fully explained in Lord Irwin's statement published yesterday.
I fear I can make at present no further statement as to the situation, which is engaging the constant attention of His Majesty's Government and the Government of India.
Can the right hon. Gentleman see his way to publish, either as a White Paper or in some other way, the re-enacted Press Act of 1910, together with the amendments or additions which have been made by the Viceroy, because the account given in 32 the Press is hardly enough to enable one to form a clear understanding of what exactly has been done?