HC Deb 26 May 1930 vol 239 cc784-8

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 position by the Government of India up to 24th May. I deeply regret to inform the House that I have learned by a later telegram that Mr. D. B. Murphy, Assistant Superintendent of Police in the North-West Frontier Province, was killed yesterday between Mardan and Dargai. I have not yet received full details, but I understand that Mr. Murphy was hit by a missile thrown by one of a mob met in the road.

Following is the statement:

Appreciation of the situation by the Government of India.

The following is an appreciation of the situation up to the 24th May:

"The tribal situation in the North-Wrest Frontier is definitely easier. In the Malakand there has been some agitation in Panjkora and the movement of small parties of Utman Khel has been reported from the direction of Bajaur, but all other tribes are quiet. The Spinakhwara Mullah, who has great influence with the Utman Khel, has apparently decided to hold aloof. On the border of the Peshawar District, Badshah Gul, son of the Haji of Turangzai, is still occupy- ing his position, which was bombed at intervals during the week, and casualties are believed to have been inflicted. As the presence of hostiles on the District border and the attempts to gather lashkars have a disturbing effect on the District, an ultimatum has been delivered to Halimzai Mohmands that if the Haji himself does not withdraw within 24 hours, action from the air will be taken against the villages where he had established himself. A reply has been received asking for extension of the time limit as the matter is still under discussion between the Halimzai Mohmands and the Haji. Some Mohmands are reported to have joined the latter, but the tribe as a whole is staunch. It was mentioned in last week's Report that there was an Afridi lashkar of about 500 at Gandao. This is inactive and will probably disperse. In Waziristan the action taken from the air against the Madda Khel villages in North Waziristan was immediately successful. 20 Maliks surrendered themselves as hostages, and the terms to be imposed on the tribe for the unprovoked attack on the Datta Khel Post will shortly be announced. Mention was made last week of an important jirga of Malasuds and Shakai Wazirs held on the 16th to decide the attitude of the tribe. This jirga dispersed without adopting a resolution in favour of hostilities, and a subsequent jirga convened by the hostile elements of the tribe was a failure. The loyal Maliks were able to control the position. Wana Wazirs all quiet. The Khassadars are everywhere functioning well except the Mohmit Khel.

The internal situation in the North-West Frontier Province also shows improvement. In Peshawar City normal life is gradually being resumed. In the District the Red Shirts Organisation is still active, especially in the Charsadda Tahsil, but measures to deal with the organisation continue. The inhabitants of Kohat City have now generally resolved to abstain from further agitation and the position is reported normal. In Bannu City the situation is less satisfactory, bat here also there has been improvement. Some Congress activity is reported from Dera Ismail Khan, but the District is quiet. A favourable sign in the Province is that recruiting for the additional police necessitated by the recent events is proceeding briskly and recruits are coming forward freely. The chief weapon of anti-Government agitators is now the dissemination of false reports, but active steps are being taken to counter these.

The Government of India have appointed a Committee, consisting of two High Court Judges one of whom is a Muhammadan, to inquire into the disturbances in Peshawar City on the 23rd of April, and the measures taken to deal with them. The Committee will commence their inquiry at Peshawar on the 26th of May.

In last week's report brief mention was made of a riot at Mymensingh, Bengal, on the 14th of May. Further information shows that a large hostile crowd attempted to prevent the delivery of excise liquor to vendors, and when their efforts appeared likely to fail attacked the magistrate, the police and the excise staff with brickbats. Persuasions and warnings and charges by the police failed to secure the dispersal of the mob, which continued to make violent attacks and destroyed excise liquor valued at about Rs.3,000. Eventually the police, under the orders of the magistrate, had to fire. About 40 Government servants sustained injuries, including the additional district magistrate, the superintendent of police and the additional superintendent of police. One assistant sub-inspector of police was stabbed and his condition is serious. Fifty-three rioters were treated in hospital, of whom one died.

During the present week there has been no serious outbreak, but in several places the police have had to disperse disorderly crowds. A communal riot is reported from Dacca, but complete information has not been received.

In Sholapur conditions are fast becoming normal, and it is hoped that martial law may shortly be discontinued.

The Sikh situation has not shown any considerable change during the week, but inflammatory speeches were made at several places in the Punjab on 18th May. A non-official inquiry committee is expected to issue a report on the Sisganj Gurdwara incident in Delhi within a few days. The mass of the Sikh community remains unaffected.

Persistent efforts to spread hostile propaganda in the Punjab villages continue. In the Punjab one method adopted is to send bands to tour in the rural areas. Two of these have been arrested and the activities of others are being closely watched. So far as can be judged, the rural classes have been little affected except in Gujarat, where the situation continues to give cause for anxiety.

The chief feature of the campaign against the Salt Laws has been the change of tactics in the Bombay Presidency. Technical breaches of the law have been largely abandoned in favour of mass action. This has been tried at three places, namely Shiroda in the South, Wadala within a few miles from the Bombay City, and Dharasana in Gujerat. The tactics employed are for large bodies of volunteers to try to force their way by weight of numbers into salt works and to steal salt. These tactics have definitely failed at Shiroda, where the raids have been abandoned. They achieved a temporary success at Wadala on the 18th of May, where, owing to the preoccupations of the police with a number of raiders who had been arrested, a small band was able to break into the salt works, and the sight of successful lawlessness encouraged a large crowd to do the same. A considerable quantity of salt was stolen. Similar attempts at Wadala have continued at irregular intervals during the week and a large number of arrests have been made. The raiders, however, have achieved no further success. The chief efforts of the Congress have been made at Dharasana which, in accordance with the resolution of the All-India Congress Working Committee recently passed at Allahabad, is being regarded as an All-India Satyagraha. During the early part of the week attempts on a comparatively small scale were made to obtain entry into the salt works, but the number of volunteers in the Congress campaign continued to increase and on the 21st a crowd, estimated at 2,600, tried to force their way in. The attempts were foiled, thanks to the skill and endurance shown by the police. The timely arrival of troops also, by the moral effect of their presence, gave much-needed relief to the police. On the 22nd the police cleared the Congress camp of volunteers, and the position is at present quiet, although there are reports that the attempts will shortly be renewed. The object of the Congress appears to have been to have a spectacular struggle with the police, and, if success were achieved, to demonstrate the inability of Government to maintain its authority. Apart from particular instances of violence, of which there were several, it is clear that attempts to force a passage by weight of numbers through a barbed wire fence cannot be described as non-violent.

The Congress continue their policy of disseminating deliberately false reports and rumours. It is part of their programme to discourage the circulation of correct news by the boycott of newspapers which have continued to appear since the Press Ordinance, and in some places the most objectionable methods of picketing are being adopted in the endeavour to prevent the circulation of these newspapers. In spite of this, various newspapers which bad suspended publication as a protest against the Press Ordinance have now resumed.

In last week's report it was mentioned that the immediate result of the resolutions passed at the Allahabad meeting of the Congress Working Committee would be an increase in the picketing of foreign cloth and liquor shops. This anticipation has proved to be correct. Picketing in many places has become more intense, the methods more objectionable and the scope wider; but there are signs that this interference with legitimate trade is exciting resentment among those affected, and it is not impossible that it may give rise to communal trouble in the towns. Every effort is being made by the Congress, by means of propaganda of all kinds and demonstrations, to stimulate anti-Government and racial feeling.

The assurance given to minorities by His Excellency the Viceroy in his statement of the 13th May continues to receive their warm approval, which is increasing in strength as they appreciate the implications of the methods of mass action as now practised by the Congress. The conviction is growing among Mohammedans that the civil disobedience movement is opposed to their interests and security. Labour is at present steady."