HC Deb 23 June 1930 vol 240 cc777-81

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 21st June:

Following is the statement:

Appreciation of the situation by the Government of India up to 21st June, 1930.

North-Vest Frontier Province.—Tribal situation is improving but still gives cause for anxiety. Several arrests have been effected which furnish concrete evidence of statements made last week regarding propaganda amongst tribes. On Peshawar District border Utman Khel Lashkar has completely dispersed. This is result of air action taken, after due warning, on 10th-17th June, against Lashkar and against certain villages from which contingents came, and of action by troops who, on 19th June, moved out to neighbourhood of Pallai village, about one mile inside administrative border. Only small remnants of Lashkar awaited arrival of troops. Pallai village and caves in which Lashkar had been sheltering found deserted. About 15 prisoners captured, together with some rifles. Casualties inflicted on Utman Khel estimated at about 20. Our troops had one man slightly wounded. Villagers have since returned to their homes and have undertaken not to admit hostile Utman Khel within their limits. Situation in this portion of district markedly better since expulsion of Lashkar. Mohmand hostiles on Shabkadr side have not yet dispersed and continue to receive reinforcements in small numbers. Air action has been kept up against them as occasion offered. Afridi Jirga at Bagh on 13th June was well attended by young hot-heads of tribe, who refused to admit Maliks and Elders to Jirga. It was decided in first place to ascertain real causes of previous week's failure and to leave future course of action for decision on 20th or 27th June. Results of Jirga on 20th not yet known, but communication between Tirah and malcontents in Peshawar is believed to be active, and hostiles busy with attempts to arrange cessation of private feuds in Tirah with view to combined action against Government. Agitation amongst Jowakis and Hassan Khel Afridis at one time assumed threatening appearance, but steadier attitude of Pass Afridis has brought them back to reason. Orakzai tribes generally quiet but are sending representatives to Bagh Jirga.

Internal situation generally better, but agitators still at work and meetings held at various centres. In Bannu some Bizan Khel Wazirs from tribal territory appeared for first time as picketers and were arrested. Efforts by some Bannuchis to hold meeting in Mohmand Khel Wazir limits (tribal territory) were unsuccessful owing to refusal of Mohmand Khel Maliks, and meeting had to be transferred to neighbouring Bannuchi village inside district. Gathering did not, however, exceed 700, of whom 300 were Bakka and Jani Khel Wazirs from tribal territory. Deterioration of situation in Swabi Tahsil of Peshawar district necessitated despatch of small column to various villages and arrest, without incident, of selected leaders of agitation. Charsadda. — Situation greatly improved. Elsewhere nothing to report.

There have been no serious disturbances during the week, but information has been received of events in several districts which show that Congress leaders are unable to control local organisations and that trend of movement as whole is towards violence. Detailed reports have been received regarding series of disorders which have taken place during past few weeks in various parts of Midnapore district. They leave no doubt that these were organised by Congress volunteers inspired from Calcutta and that widespread attempts were made, with considerable temporary and local success, to pervert countryside. Rumour current over a large area was that British Raj had come to end, and first manifestations of this belief were attacks on small parties of police who had visited villages in discharge of their duties. These were instigated and organised by Congress volunteers, and in several cases were of a determined and savage character. One of these attacks was accompanied by murder of Sub-Inspector of Police. Other activities of volunteers include incitement to nonpayment of Chaukidari tax. The situation in this district has been brought under control and adequate force of additional police is being stationed in affected areas at cost of inhabitants. Similar situation, but of less serious character, threatened to develop in part of Bhagalpore district in Bihar and Orissa. Congress volunteers set up camp in area notorious for its spirit of lawlessness. Regular barracks were erected where volunteers drilled and practised lathi play. Early in month camp was seized by police without difficulty, but subsequently large crowds assembled which consisted, not only of sightseers, but of persons armed with staves who had been collected by volunteers from neighbouring villages. It has been necessary to disperse crowds on several occasions, but considerable area is disturbed and reinforcements of police have been sent there. In same province small party of police was attacked by some villagers belonging to aboriginal tribes. Bombay Government reports several organised attacks by tribe of criminal tendencies on Muhammadans and others including village servants, in Kaira district of Gujerat. There is said to be unmistakeable evidence that this tribe is being incited by prominent adherents of civil disobedience movement in Gujerat to stir up trouble. Above instances of trouble in rural areas must not be interpreted as indicating any serious extension of civil disobedience movement outside towns. They must be regarded rather as illustrating methods pursued by local Congress organisations and consequences that are likely to result.

Campaign for non-payment of taxes does not in fact appear to be making progress and, except in Gujerat, it has nowhere succeeded in obtaining firm footing. Picketing of foreign cloth and liquor shops has intensified in some places during week. In Bombay City European shops have been picketed with deliberate intention of defying authorities, and arrest of picketers has been accompanied by demonstrations necessitating dispersal of crowds on several occasions. Picketing of liquor shops in rural areas has on several occasions been accompanied by violence on part both of picketers and of those picketed. Bihar and Orissa reports numerous cases of riot, trespass and assault in this connection.

Marked feature of week has been increase of activities designed to seduce troops and police from their loyalty. Attempts of this kind have been carried on for some time on organised scale, but reports from several provinces show that new methods are being adopted and that special attention is being devoted to this part of the civil disobedience programme. So far as police are concerned weapon of social- boycott is also being used in many places in hope that this will compel resignations. Neither methods of persuasion nor of compulsion have had effect. In Punjab revolutionary party has put into operation a new plan, object of which appears to have been to terrorise police by organised outrages on large scale. Scheme was briefly to explode bomb in rented house or serai and to arrange for second bomb to explode some time later, interval between two explosions being so calculated as to cover arrival of party of investigating police, who would, in ordinary course of their duty, proceed to place on receipt of news of first explosion. In early morning of 19th this plan was put into execution in no less than six towns of Punjab. Fortunately it failed in four places, but in remaining two, police suffered injuries which were serious in the case of an inspector and constable. Previous to this there had been six or seven sporadic explosions in Punjab during past month or two, and there are indications that terrorist outrages are likely to increase. This was to be expected, for comparative lull in revolutionary activity probably represented nothing more than temporary quiescence pending results of civil disobedience movement. As latter fails to achieve its objects, extremists are likely to resort to methods of terrorisation.

Mention has been made in appreciation of past few weeks of mobilisation of sane and loyal opinion against civil disobedience movement. This continues to gain strength. Punjab Government, for instance, report that opposition to Congress programme is increasing in vigour and effectiveness, and that they have been inundated with resolutions of loyalty and assurance of help from all communities, including Hindu organisations. Similar reports of loyal offers have been received from elsewhere.

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