HL Deb 16 May 1876 vol 229 cc769-73

, in presenting a Petition from Sirdar Narain Singh, praying for inquiry into his case, and for liberation, said, that the Petitioner was formerly in the service of the Government of Mooltan, and was now a State prisoner residing at Moulmein, in British Burmah. The Sirdar was taken prisoner at the close of the second Sikh war, sharing the fate of his master; and being considered a dangerous person, it was thought necessary to treat him as a State prisoner, and he was sent to Moulmein, and had been detained from 1849 to the present time. He had at different times made three applications to the Indian Government requesting that, in consideration of the lapse of time and other circumstances, he might be permitted to return to his native country. The first of these applications was made in 1863, and was refused because the Government of the Punjab then thought it would be unsafe to permit his return. When the second application was made in 1872 the Governor General caused the Petitioner to be informed that his prayer might possibly be taken into consideration at some future time. He renewed the application in 1874; but he was again disappointed by the answer, which was to the effect that he would not be allowed to return to Punjab, and that he must regard that answer as final. In his present Petition he expressed his desire to forget the past and to spend the remainder of his life in his native land. He prayed, first, that an investigation should be made into the facts of his case; and, secondly, that he might be allowed to return to the Punjab, or, if this were not deemed practicable, that he might at least be permitted to reside at Benares. He could not ask the House to investigate a case of this kind in a way which would remove its consideration from the Indian Government, but he hoped the presentation of this Petition might lead to the case being re-considered, at a time when an act of grace would come with peculiar grace from Her Majesty. Independently of this Petition, he had received sufficient information to satisfy him as to the Petitioner's good conduct since his original fault, and during the time of his punishment. He had copies of seven testimonials of the Petitioner dated in different years between 1856 and 1865, and signed by Commissioners, Assistant Commissioners, and other British officers who had been in charge of the Province and district in which Sirdar Narain Singh was a prisoner. He likewise found that the imprisonment of the Petitioner, which originally was strict, had been relaxed, that he had been put on parole, and that his conduct had been in all respects proper and meritorious. At one time, indeed, the Indian Government thought of making him a grant of land in British Burmah. It ought also to be remembered in his favour, that, when he was first brought, as a prisoner, down the Ganges, his conduct had been favourably distinguished from that of others in the same circumstances, upon an important occasion. Since the Notice was given, for the presentation of the present Petition, he (Lord Selborne) had received from Mr. Lushington, who was for many years a distinguished member of the British Civil Service in India, and who had had nothing to do with the suggestion or preparation of the Petition, a letter, which he would the more readily read to the House, because it attributed to the Petitioner an active, and even prominent, concurrence in the attempt then made by the prisoners to escape, which, he believed, the Petitioner himself did not acknowledge.

Treasurer's House, Guy's Hospital, May 15. My Lord,—I have seen in the public papers that you purpose presenting a Petition on behalf of Narain Singh, at present a prisoner in British Burmah, praying for inquiry into his case and for liberation. I have no knowledge of the cases in which the prisoner was sentenced to transportation for life many years ago, nor do I know what particular reasons have been set forth by him in his Petition for release. I venture, however, to address your Lordship on the subject, because when I was magistrate of Patna in 1849–50, Narain Singh, who was then under sentence of transportation, saved the honour and the life of a European woman on board the steamer which was conveying Narain Singh and other prisoners to Calcutta. All the prisoners, headed by Narain Singh, made a desperate attempt to escape; they shot down their guards, and got possession of the vessel, and several of the prisoners would then have attacked the woman had not Narain Singh protected her. It was in consequence of his good conduct on this occasion that he was not hanged for the murders on board the steamer. Some little time after this Narain Singh was sent to British Burmah, where he has been undergoing his sentence in a very exemplary manner. This part of my statement could be confirmed by Lord Napier of Magdala, who saw him a few years ago when visiting the convict prisons in the Straits and British Burmah. After the lapse of so many years there can be no fear now of Narain Singh (if allowed to return to his own country) getting up any political disturbance, and I venture to think, with reference to the facts I have stated and his long incarceration, now nearly 30 years ago, he might be considered as deserving release. I have the honour to be, my Lord, Your obedient Servant, Ed. H. LUSHINGTON, Late Bengal Civil Service. This appeared to be a case in which there were exceptionally favourable circumstances, and if the facts as he had stated them were found to be correct, he should hear with great pleasure that the Indian Government considered the time had come when the Petitioner might be safely allowed to return to his native land.


supported the prayer of the Petitioner, believing that his long absence must have destroyed the political influence which he might formerly have possessed in his native country. After the lapse of nearly 30 years all the soldiers he had formerly commanded must have left the standards. The petitioner was now a very old man, and was very anxious to end his life near the holy waters of the Ganges, and he asked to be allowed to reside at Benares, if objections were still made to his return to his native province.


said the case had been frequently under the consideration of the Indian Government; but it had not been deemed advisable that the Petitioner should be permitted to return to that part of India where he possessed influence; but the House would hardly expect him to give in detail the reasons which influenced the Indian Government in the course they had taken. He did not believe that the prisoner's life had been altogether unhappy, for his imprisonment had been softened as far as practicable—indeed, the latter period of his detention might be correctly expressed by the word "internment." Undoubtedly he had been secluded from that part of the country where his influence might have had a pernicious effect on the public peace. The mere fact of efforts having been made to provide land for him in Burmah showed his detention was not of a severe character. As to whether the Petitioner could be allowed to return to the Punjab, he should not like to give an opinion without being afforded an opportunity of fully consulting the Indian Government. This was a matter in regard to which the Indian Government were eminently qualified to form a correct judgment, as they would have means of judging which were not accessible to any person in this country. He would immediately bring the Petition under the notice of the Governor General of India, who he felt assured would be glad to have an opportunity of doing an act of grace at the present time. He would defer further observations on the subject until he had had an opportunity of consulting the Governor General.

House adjourned at half-past seven o'clock, to Thursday next, half past Ten o'clock.