HC Deb 07 July 1930 vol 241 cc5-9

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he will give the House the latest information he has as to the conditions in India?


I am circulating a statement giving an appreciation of the situation by the Government of India up to 5th July.


Will the right hon. Gentleman consider whether it would not be more convenient if what is now a weekly communique could be issued in the middle of the week, so that hon. Members and right hon. Gentlemen who wish to ask questions arising out of the communique could put them down on Wednesday or Thursday?


Certainly. I will consider carefully the Noble Lord's suggestion.

Following is the statement:

Appreciation of the situation by the Government of India up to 5th July, 1930.

North-West Frontier Province.—Tribal. Alingar Fakir and other malcontents are trying to stir up trouble again amongst Utman Khel, but those sections of tribe which suffered from recent air action have so far refused to give passage to malcontents or assist them. Efforts, however, are still being made to raise fresh lashkar to occupy old position in Jindai Khwar or to attack Government levy posts. Latest news from Malakand reports outbreak of cholera in Arang and Bajaur. Haji of Turangzai is still at his home in Lakarai, but is sending out messages to tribes calling on them to renew struggle with Government. At usual Afridi jirga 27th June, hostile party of Mullas and young-bloods decided fresh lashkar should be raised against Government on 2nd July. Warning was issued to all sections of tribe announcing Government's intention to take all necessary action unless tribe abandoned intention of organizing lashkars against British territory. Further Afridi jirga on 28th June broke up owing to dissension among the various sections of tribe, and up to 4th July there was no sign of any lashkar materialising. On 30th June, front wheels of leading engine of train from Peshawar to Landi Kotal were derailed near Shagai owing to dog spikes inserted between rail points. No one was injured, and train proceeded on journey. Attitude of Pass Afridis and Orakzais remains good. On two occasions during week shots were fired at militia posts on Kurrum Border. In Waziristan, hostile Mulla Gunn has again succeeded in raising a following with proposed object of attacking friendly Mahsud sections. Warning has been issued to hostiles that air action will be taken against them in event of any further activity.

Internal situation throughout Province continues rapidly to improve. Only untoward event was on evening of 2nd July, when a light explosion occurred on railway line near Peshawar Fort when Calcutta mail was passing. No damage was done to train or passengers. On 3rd July, representative deputation of many different classes and schools of thought presented address of welcome to Chief Commissioner at Peshawar, including constructive suggestions for development of local self-government and for enhancing general efficiency of administration. Deputation deplored regrettable incidents which caused so grave discontent and strained relations between people and authorities. They strongly pressed question of reforms, and considered that recommendations of Statutory Commission for North-West Frontier Province were altogether inadequate. Suggestions for immediate action related chiefly to local self-government, Panchayats, scope of activities of beneficent departments, assurances relating to land revenue, water rates and local rates, and urged need of closer association of people with administration. Deputation said constitutional agitation is the method on which we rely, and defiance of law is not the course which we pursue or approve of. We feel that our Province cannot advance unless it be through co-operation of Government and people, both working in spirit of mutual confidence. Chief Commissioner gave sympathetic and encouraging reply, assuring deputation of sympathy and support in measures of reform under existing law. He announced that district boards and municipalities would be reconstituted and elected element introduced, and that Panchayat Act of Punjab would be referred to Committee for report. He accepted the principle that in beneficent departments standard of administration to be attained in Province should not be below that prevailing in adjoining districts of Punjab, and he gave assurances that reassessment proposals of Peshawar District would be examined in light of Punjab Land Revenue Amendment Act, and that land revenue, water and local rates would not be higher in the North-West Province than in the Punjab. He assured them that he looked with sympathy on natural aspirations of people to advance intellectually, economically and politically, and concluded with the following words: The task before us, the Government as well as the people, is a great and noble one. Its successful accomplishment needs the co-operation of both, and it is my earnest desire to see the Province prosperous, contented and progressive. Honourable Mian Sir Fazli Hussain was present with Chief Commissioner, and associated himself, on behalf of Government of India, with all assurances given. Function in political circles is believed to have far-reaching significance as heralding era of constitutional advance with peace and progress, closer association of official and non-official agencies, and more intimate union of Hindu and Muslim efforts in common cause of well-ordered development of Province.

General.—The chief event of the week has been the declaration of the All-India Congress Working Committee as unlawful association under the Criminal Law Amendment Act. The Committee consists, at full strength, of about 15 persons. For a considerable period they have been playing a prominent part in organising and directing the civil disobedience movement. Not only have they passed a number of resolutions urging the public to defy the law and to refuse payment of taxes, but they have circulated widely an incitement to the troops and the police to fail in their duty in dealing with the Civil Disobedience Movement. Simultaneously with the notification of the Committee, the President, Pandit Moti Lal Nehru, and the secretary, were arrested, and were subsequently sentenced to six months' simple imprisonment each. Following on this action there were hartals in various towns, but many of them were incomplete and there have been no clashes between the authorities and the public. Popular demonstrations have been most marked in Bombay City, where conditions continue to be unsatisfactory, and the mill-hands suspended work for two days. The day before the Committee was notified a meeting was held, the results of which have now been reported in the Press. A number of resolutions were passed, the general sense of which was to urge the continuance of the Civil Disobedience Movement with increasing vigour. The Committee confirmed the resolution inciting the troops and police to fail in their duty, reference to which has been made above, and they urged all Congress organisations to give the widest publicity to it, in spite of the fact that the resolution had been proscribed under the Criminal Law.

During the week the Governor-General promulgated an ordinance for the purpose of controlling effectively the seditious bulletins and news sheets which, since the issue of the Press Ordinance, have been published in many places in deliberate defiance of the law. These bulletins consist largely of falsehoods and misrepresentations, and their object is to stir up racial and anti-Government feelings. In spite of the vigorous activities of the Congress, the situation shows distinct signs of improvement in several directions, as already noted. The position on the frontier is rapidly returning to normal. In parts of Gujerat there are indications that the movement is losing some of its vigour, and most of the Provinces report a slackening of effort. The conviction that the Civil Disobedience Movement cannot succeed is growing, and commercial and industrial circles are showing increasing concern regarding the dangerous consequences of its continuance. There is an increase in constructive effort towards a constitutional solution of political problems, and Muhammadans, in particular, are devoting much thought and attention to the presentation of their case at the London Conference. While the situation, therefore, has still many unstable elements, these are not so numerous or so pro nounced as a few weeks ago.