HC Deb 06 February 1939 vol 343 cc611-2
1. Sir Nairne Stewart Sandeman

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he can furnish particulars of the murder of Major Bazalgette, political agent to the Orissa Federated States, in Ranpur at the beginning of January; and whether a military escort had, or had not, been placed at the disposal of the late Major Bazalgette?

2. Major-General Sir Alfred Knox

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he can make a statement regarding the recent murder of Major R. L. Bazalgette in the Orissa. Federated States?

The Under-Secretary of State for India (Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead)

I much regret to have to inform the House that Major R. L. Bazalgette, the Political Agent in the Orissa States, was murdered by a mob in Ranpur State on 5th January. I am certain that the House would wish to join with me in expressing sympathy with the relatives of this valuable officer.

There has for some months been agitation in the Orissa States, and Major Bazalgette was touring through his charge ascertaining which of the grievances advanced were legitimate and advising Rulers what steps they should take to remedy them. His action had done much to calm the agitation. When he arrived at Ranpur, a State with a population of some 50,000 inhabitants, he found a large crowd in front of the Ruler's palace. I understand that he entered this crowd in order to investigate the contents of a cart, said to contain the bodies of two men killed by the State police. He is said to have ascertained that the cart contained two uninjured men. Having gone some little distance he found himself, owing to the pressure of the crowd, unable to return, and was set upon with lathis and stones and killed. I understand that he fired on his assailants after the attack on him began. Major Bazalgette was not accompanied on his tour by a military escort, and it is clear that neither he nor anyone else anticipated any danger. He was, however, accompanied in the mob by a Subadar of police from a neighbouring State and six or seven Ranpur constables. The Subadar and one constable were seriously injured. There were also outside the Palace about 40 other State police. Orders have now been issued that political officers in the Orissa States must be accompanied by military escorts. An investigation into the affair is in progress under the supervision of the Assistant Political Agent. Thirty arrests have been made.

Sir N. Stewart Sandeman

Is it not a fact that trouble might have been anticipated, as the local Communist Press had been publishing fantastic lies for some time about this officer?

Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead

I could not say that. I can only say that the episode has met with general condemnation in the Press, including the Congress organs.

Brigadier-General Sir Henry Croft

Is it not a fact that while the King's Own Scottish Borderers were on patrol through this area there were disgraceful suggestions that they had been torturing women and children; and was nothing done to stop this kind of allegation against British troops?

Lieut.-Colonel Muirhead

I believe there had been such statements in the Press. The point in connection with this question is that, nevertheless, no actual danger was anticipated as a result.

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