HC Deb 30 January 1941 vol 368 cc667-8
21. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Secretary of State for India whether he has any further statement to make respecting political conditions in India; whether Dr. Manlana Azad, president of the Indian National Congress, has received a sentence of imprisonment; and how many are now in prison or in custody for offences arising out of their political convictions?

The Secretary of State for India (Mr. Amery)

As regards the first part of the Question, I have nothing to add to the reply given to two similar Questions on 21st January. The answer to the second part is in the affirmative. I presume that in the third part of his Question the hon. Member is referring to persons convicted of offences under the Defence Rules for speeches or writings prejudicial to the efficient prosecution of the war. I am not in a position to give the total number at present still undergoing sentences of imprisonment, but the number of persons convicted since the commencement of Mr. Gandhi's Civil Disobedience campaign up to 15th January, 1941, was 957. Of these, a certain number must, by now, have completed their sentences. I must remind the hon. Member that the great majority of these persons are in prison at their own wish and as the result of action taken by them with the declared intention of receiving a prison sentence.

Mr. Sorensen

Can my right hon. Friend say what was the sentence imposed on Dr. Manlana Azad, and what exactly was the charge against him?

Mr. Amery

Yes, Sir. He was prosecuted for a speech delivered at Allahabad on 13th December in which he advocated mass civil disobedience, and repeatedly exhorted his hearers not to help the war effort in any way. He received a sentence of 18 months simple imprisonment.

23. Mr. Cary

asked the Secretary of State for India whether, in view of the cessation of discussions between the Viceroy and Indian leaders, he will state the immediate practical steps which will be taken to improve the political situation in India?

Mr. Amery

His Majesty's Government have clearly set out their policy for constitutional advance in India. That policy still holds the field, and I do not see that immediate practical steps can be taken, so far as the Government is concerned, to secure that basis of agreement among Indians that will enable effect to be given to it.

Mr. Cary

Might I ask my right hon. Friend to consider the advisability of sending a good will mission from this country to India, in the hope of achieving some improvement in the situation?

Mr. Amery

it would, first, be necessary to secure the necessary good will and agreement among Indians which is a prerequisite to constitutional advance.

Mr. Cary

That method was successful in the past; why should it not be successful now?

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