§ 3. Captain PETER MACDONALD
asked the Secretary of State for India if he has any further information to give the House regarding the situation in India?
§ 11. Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
asked the Secretary of State for India the latest information as to the conditions in India?
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
May I ask whether, in view of the uneasiness about the situation in India, an early opportunity can be taken for a discussion on this matter in the House?
§ Mr. BECKETT
Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us how, in the absence of the official Opposition raising this matter, a day for debate can be fixed?
§ Following is the statement:
§ Appreciation of the Situation by the Government of India.
- (1) The tribal situation on the North West Frontier has been the chief interest during the week. In the Malakand Agency the rulers of Dir and Swat have made loyal offers of assistance. The Kurram Agency is quiet and there is no trouble on the Kohat border. There has been some unrest in Bajaur on the border of Peshawar District, to a small extent in the Khyber Agency and in Waziristan. On the Peshawar border, the Haji of Turangzai and his son have been trying to raise a lashkar, but the Mohmands are generally holding aloof and the lashkar does not exceed 500. They have received some support and encouragement from certain villages inside the Peshawar District border. Action from the air against the Haji's son has had good effect. There is an Afridi lashkar of about 500 at Gandao, but the main tribe is so far unaffected. In Tochi, emissaries from Bannu have succeeded in stirring up some unrest and a lashkar attacked the British post of Datta Khel on 11th May. On 14th May several villages of the Madda Khel, who were concerned in the attack, were, after due warning, bombed from the air. The lashkar has now dispersed and tribal leaders are reported to be negotiating for terms. A joint jirga of Mahsuds and Shakai Wazirs was held on the 16th to decide the attitude of the tribe. The result of this important jirga is not yet known. The Wana Wazirs are quiet. Reports show that the unrest in Waziristan is due to the deliberate dissemination of false reports about the Peshawar disturbances, the Sarda Act, and the political situation in India, by malcontents connected with the Congress. On the whole, the tribal situation has shown signs of improvement during the past two or three days, but is still unstable. A favourable sign is that there has been no hostile movement of any tribe as a whole.
- (2) In the North West Frontier Province itself vigorous action has been taken to improve the position, and the Seditious Meetings Act is now in force in Peshawar, Bannu and Kohat. Congress Committees have been declared unlawful associations in the last two places, where the police with military support have made arrests of prominent, agitators. Peshawar city is still occupied by troops, and feeling is still strong, but conditions are gradually returning to normal, and leading citizens are working to improve
8 the situation. The rural areas affected are confined to a portion of the Peshawar District and a few villages near Bannu city. A movable column has operated in the Charsadda Tahsil of Peshawar District with good effect against red shirt organisation and certain villages which had been helping the Haji of Turangzai. The red shirt organisation has been declared an unlawful association, and a certain number of prominent members have been arrested. The position in the Province has definitely improved during the week. There has been practically no opposition to the action taken by the authorities, and there has been no clash between them and the people.
- (3) The week has been comparatively quiet in other provinces. Bakr'id passed off without trouble except for a riot in Assam. Martial law has been declared in Sholapur consequent on the disorders of last week, and the town is under complete control. A riot occurred in Mymensingh (Bengal) on the 14th as a result of a mob attempting to prevent delivery of Excise liquor from a Government depot to vendors, but the situation was quickly in hand. There are indications that the public are getting tired of hartals and the loss of business involved.
- (4) Strong and persistent efforts are being made to disturb the Sikh community over the Delhi Gurdwara incident, and inflammatory propaganda is being carried on. The sober elements of the community, while regretting the occurrence of the incident, appreciate the attitude of the authorities, and it is hoped that the effects of anti-Government propaganda will not be serious.
- (5) Rural areas, except in Gujerat, continue in general to be little affected, but efforts are being made to extend hostile propaganda into the villages, and the programme of the All-India Congress Working Committee, as formulated this week at Allahabad, contains a direct appeal to the rural classes in the incitement not to pay land revenue and certain other taxes. In Gujerat steps are being taken to inaugurate a campaign for non-payment of land revenue.
- (6) Breaches of the Salt Law by manufacture become progressively negligible, but there has been a new development in attempted raids by bands of volunteers on salt works, particularly on Dharasana Salt Works in the Surat district. The
9 members of the first raiding party at Dharasana, including the leader, Abbas Tyabji, were arrested, but other bands are taking its place, and the intention as announced by the Congress is to make Dharasana the centre of an All-India Satyagraha.
- (7) Deliberate dissemination of malicious and alarmist rumours continues. The absurdity of many of the rumours is to some extent defeating their purpose, and counter-publicity is having same effect. Several of the newspapers which suspended publication on the issue of the Press Ordinance are now appearing.
- (8) The minority communities in general, and Muhammadans in particular, have been heartened by the Viceroy's announcement of the 13th May, and the assurance that no solution of the political problem will be regarded as satisfactory which does not command the consent of important minorities and give them a sense of security. The Congress, however, is sparing no effort to mislead them by misrepresentation and by promises incapable of performance. Labour still remains unaffected.
- (9) The resolutions of the Congress Working Committee recently passed at Allahabad may be summarised as follows:
- (a) All-India Satyagraha at Dharasana and technical breaches of Salt Law elsewhere;
- (b) Appeals to Government servants, students, lawyers, workers, peasants and others to make sacrifices for the movement;
- (c) Intensive boycott of foreign cloth, not only in regard to future purchases, but also existing stocks;
- (d) Initiation of campaign for nonpayment of land revenue and taxes in certain provinces and areas;
- (e) Breaches of Forest Laws;
- (f) Boycott of British goods and also boycott of British banking, insurance, shipping and other institutions;
- (g) Boycott of liquor shops.
10 proposed, and its significance lies not so much in the scope of the proposals, as in the declared intention to attempt to give early effect to them. It is clear that Congress intend to carry on their mischievous programme regardless of all consequences. The intensive picketing of cloth and liquor shops involving direct interference with business of traders cannot fail to increase the dangers of disorder. The programme generally is calculated to arouse anti-Government and racial feeling. Its object is to make Government impossible, and in order to achieve this end those responsible for it are prepared to sacrifice the present and future interests of the country. To prevent this the Government will use their full resources.
- (10) The situation still contains elements of uncertainty and instability which preclude a forecast of all possible developments, but there is no weakening of control and in several directions there have been signs of improvement during the week.
§ 13. Mr. MARLEY
asked the Secretary of State for India whether any steps, and, if so, what, have been taken by the Government of India with a view to consultation with that body of Indian political opinion which has not identified itself with the civil resistance movement?
§ Mr. BENN
My hon. Friend may rest assured that the Government of India and local governments are in constant touch with all sections of opinion that are opposed to the civil disobedience movement, and lose no opportunity of informing such classes of the actual position and of inviting their co-operation in any matter on which they can render assistance to the Government. Government has received many assurances of support from influential individuals and organisations and, in particular, the minority communities, which have, in general, dissociated themselves from the civil disobedience movement and have welcomed the assurance contained in the Viceroy's statement published on 13th May.
§ Mr. BROCKWAY
Has the right hon. Gentleman still hopes of obtaining a representative Conference, in view of the fact that even moderate opinion now is drifting away from acceptance of the proposal?