HC Deb 19 April 1937 vol 322 cc1399-402
3. Mr. Day

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India which of the suggestions have been adopted that were made by the committee appointed to inquire into matters connected with the system of tribal control and defence against rising on the North-West Frontier; and what have been the views of the Government of India on same?

Mr. Butler

I assume that the hon. Member is referring to the committee appointed by the Government of India in 1931 to review the existing system of tribal control and defence against tribal incursions on the North-West Frontier of India. The report of this committee is confidential. Its general conclusion was in favour of a continuance of the Government of India's policy in regard to the tribal areas.

Mr. Day

Have the recommendations of the Committee been put into force by the Government?

Mr. Butler

Yes, mostly.

4. Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he can make a statement regarding the situation on the North-West frontier of India, with special reference to the recent fighting in South Waziristan between Jandola and Sarwekai?

5. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India how many troops are now stationed, and will be stationed, in the region of the North-West Frontier; how far beyond the actual frontier military operations are likely to be carried; and whether he will make a statement on the present position in that area?

Mr. Butler

The recrudescence and extension of the trouble in Waziristan is due to the increasing scale of the fanatical and anti-British propaganda of the Faqir of Ipi. It was at first for the most part confined to the younger and irresponsible elements in the tribes, which appeared to he out of control by the responsible tribal leaders. Every effort is being made to restore order by means of political pressure assisted by air action. Ground operations have so far been confined to the maintenance of communications and the protection of convoys. It was while our troops were performing these duties that the fighting took place on 29th March, and again on 9th April, when a convoy was attacked by hostile tribesmen between Jandola and Sarwekai, and a regrettable number of casualties occurred. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing deep sympathy with the relatives of the officers and men who have been killed. The ground troops at present employed in the Waziristan area are approximately 25,000, consisting of the normal garrisons, now augumented by the 1st Division, with three light tank companies. My Noble Friend is in close touch with the Government of India regarding the situation, the gravity of which is fully realised. Any military operations which may be necessary would naturally take place in the tribal area between the border of the administered districts and the Indian frontier.

Sir A. Knox

Is there any truth in the report that a number of the officers who were killed had gone on in front of the convoy without the protection of pickets?

Mr. Butler

I do not know exactly where these officers were situated, but many were returning from leave to take up their duties again at Wana.

Mr. Sorensen

While joining in the sympathy expressed by the hon. Gentleman with the relatives of the deceased on both sides, would he not agree that the existence of such a large army in this part of India, together with aerial bombardment, makes less effective our protest against the attack on the Abyssinians by the Italian air force?

Mr. Butler

I do not think the hon. Gentleman's question shows that he understands the nature of air action. In regard to his question about the large army, I said in my original reply that every effort was being made to restore order by means of political pressure.

Mr. Sorensen

Have the natives in this part of India any aeroplanes of their own?

Mr. Butler

The tribesmen in that part of India have no aeroplanes.

Sir N. Stewart Sandeman

Is any information supplied about the origin of this propaganda?

Mr. Butler

The origin of the propaganda dated from the forcible conversion of a Hindu girl.

Forward to