§ LORD SYDENHAM had given Notice to ask the Secretary of State for India—
- 1. Whether the military and civil officers in charge at Kasur at the time of the Punjab rebellion—Lieutenant-Colonel MacRae, I.A., and Mr. Marsden, I.C.S.—were censured for "improper and injudicious" conduct by direction of the late Secretary of State, by which their careers have been seriously prejudiced.
- 2. Whether their alleged offence was to order three strokes of the cane to
645 three boys from each of two large schools, the pupils of which had formed part of a violent mob that killed two British warrant officers, wounded several British officers and men, attacked an English lady with her children, and burned the railway station, Law Courts, and post office.
- 3. Whether, beyond being examined as witnesses by the Hunter Committee, these officers were ever allowed to offer any defence of their action.
- 4. And whether, as no condemnation of that action was forthcoming in the Report of the Hunter Committee, while the Minority Report recorded the incident inaccurately, the grave injustice accorded to these officers will now be redressed.
§ There was a very significant sequel to this incident. The Education Department, which controlled the municipal school but not the other school, came to the conclusion that the punishment administered by the two officers was entirely inadequate, so an inspector, a Hindu, and a Mahomedan assistant arrived and proceeded to administer justice. Some of the pupils were expelled, many others received ten strokes of the cane, and the school itself, including the staff, was quite sharply disciplined. I might mention that one of the pupils of this school was convicted of murder. In 646 November, 1919, Mr. Gandhi, who was at that time a valued friend of the Secretary of State, visited Kasur, and congratulated the people on having such a "fair-minded and sympathetic officer" as Mr. Marsden. Those were the actual words of the Mahatma himself, and that was long after the offence for which Mr. Marsden was censured.
§ The English lady referred to in my second Question, with her three children, was rescued only just in time by the courageous action of Indian officers who proved loyal throughout the rebellion. One of these Indians gave evidence before the Hunter Committee. He has since declared that his life was made hell and he had had two houses burnt over his head, so futile was the protection we gave to Indians who proved staunch to us during the rebellion. The Hunter Committee made no comment whatever on tins Kasur case, and the authors of the Minority Report, who constituted the prosecuting Counsel, reported the case inaccurately and made no mention of the proceedings of the education inspector. I might mention that two of these prosecuting judges have since been made into Ministers. Now the Secretary of State, in a very extraordinary speech, in the Dyer debate on July 8, 1921, said that "if you take school-boys from school, guilty or innocent, and whip them publicly—these were not whipped publicly—you are indulging in frightfulness." I n other words, he classed this incident with the sinking of the "Lusitania" and the hospital ships, and the outrages at Dinant and elsewhere. I wonder what Doctor Keate, the headmaster of Eton, would have thought of such a pronouncement as that. It has been said of Dr. Keate that he once flogged soundly ten boys who had been sent up to him for preparation for confirmation.
The true inwardness of the pains and penalties inflicted on British and Indian officers who only tried to do their duty at a most critical time, is explained by Mr. Rushbrook Williams, who is the official historian of the moral and material progress of India in the year 1920. Mr. Williams writes thus—
By the end of the period under review many of those whose conduct had been censured by the Hunter Committee had left India on Government service. The balance had undergone either penalties or severe censure from the Government, and, as to the serious effects of such censure upon the personal happiness, the immediate position, and the future prospects of an officer it is wholly unnecessary to enlarge.
Then he went on to add these significant words—
But, as must generally be the case under a centralised government, the distasteful work of punishment was performed without that parade of ostentation which alone might have satisfied Indian opinion.
The evident cue of this official writer was to take as much credit as possible for ruining the careers of British and Indian officers who had saved many thousands of lives during the rebellion, and also to apologise for the absence of ostentation in the methods of punishment.
Of course, that did not satisfy in the least what Mr. Williams called "Indian opinion," and the extremists, as we all know, have been howling for more blood ever since then. It did not occur to him that, though it must be very gratifying to those extremists to see the result of their influence, they, being Asiatics, must feel strong contempt for a Government which threw over its own officers. I am sure the noble Viscount, the late Viceroy, could not have approved of these sentences, because, on October 25 last, he said—
I assured Sir Michael O'Dwyer, the Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab, and I assured, through a Resolution of the Government of India, his officers, that they would have unwavering support in any action they thought it advisable to take.
In this Resolution, I believe—though I am not quite certain—the words "however drastic" occurred, and I am certain that the noble Viscount could not consider administering three strokes of the cane to six boys to be anything in the nature of a drastic punishment.
§ This plea of mine may seem belated. These officers were sentenced, unheard, two and a-half years ago. But it would have been useless to plead their cause under the late régime, and I do so now, as I hope that the noble Viscount, the Secretary of State, will give it his close personal attention, and that he will not hesitate to remove the stigma from these officers, if he finds on examination—as I think he must find—that the sentences were wholly undeserved. These two officers, and many others in India, feel a burning sense of resentment at the treatment they have received and the feeling throughout the public ervices in India is, at the present time, much more serious than is realised in this country. If the noble Viscount can and will do anything which will 648 restore confidence to the British and Indian officers who have suffered so severely at the hands of his predecessor, and if he will do so quickly, he will render an invaluable service to India and to the Empire.
§ VISCOUNT CHELMSFORD
My Lords, these personal issues are always difficult to deal with across the floor of the House. Your Lordships will naturally, and inevitably, have sympathy with officers whose actions, done in perfect good faith, have had to be reprobated by the supreme Government. But, while your Lordships have sympathy with these officers, I am sure I can count upon your having consideration for the position of those who were in authority, and had to deal with the case. In the first place, we had a disagreeable, a distasteful, and a difficult duty to discharge. It was impossible for us to refuse to express an opinion on matters which were disclosed in a public document which had been drawn up at our request—I refer to the Hunter Committee's Report—and I hope to be able to show your Lordships that it would be difficult to contend that the Government of India could have come to any other decision than the decision they came to in this particular case.
I want, now, to come to the Questions seriatim which the noble Lord has addressed to my noble friend, the Secretary of State for India. I will deal with the first one. I take full and undivided responsibility for the action in this case. The late Secretary of State for India gave no directions whatever to the Government of India with regard to what we were to do as a result of the Hunter Committee's Report; and I strongly suspect that the late Secretary of State for India was unaware of what decision we had come to until we ourselves had informed him from India. I think that disposes of the Question which Lord Sydenham has asked, as to whether these officers were censured for improper and injudicious conduct by direction of the late Secretary of State, to the serious prejudice of their careers.
I come to the second Question, and, if your Lordships will look at it, I think you will realise that it has been couched in terms of prejudice. What I mean by terms of prejudice is this. It has been put in such a way as to make it appear as though after these very serious outrages at Kasur this slight punishment was the only 649 action taken for the punishment of those who were guilty of those outrages. May I tell your Lordships straight away, as regards the outrages at Kasur—I speak without the book, because I have not got the exact details—that to the best of my recollection there were six or more men executed in respect of the murder and murderous assaults.
§ VISCOUNT CHELMSFORD
That will relieve me greatly. There were many imprisoned and, as a matter of fact, some boys who were found guilty of taking part in these outrages were arrested and were sentenced. To continue the story with regard to this particular school, there were difficulties in this school, and the headmaster said that he was not able to manage the school. Then it was suggested by the Deputy Commissioner, Mr. Marsden, I think, to Colonel MacRae, who was in charge of Martial Law in that district, that certain boys should be pick-N1 out for punishment. The evidence of Colonel MacRae, given before the Commission, was as follows:—Q.—Then on the 18th some schoolboys were flogged, and you gave directions that the biggest six boys were to be selected for that purpose?A.—I said, 'Generally speaking, take the six biggest.' The misfortune was that they happened to be big.Q.—It was irrespective of whether they were innocent or guilty; because they were big they had to suffer.A.—Yes.Q.—Do you think that is a reasonable thing to do?A.—Yes, I think so, under certain conditions.Q.—It was a mere accident that a boy being big should invite on himself punishment?A.—It was his misfortune.Q.—His misfortune was that he was big?A.—Yes.When we had this case before us on the Commission's Report we took no exception as a Government to the fact that punishment was inflicted, but what we had to consider as a Government was whether we should, as the Government, say that vicarious punishment, arbitrary selection of certain boys irrespective of whether they were innocent or guilty, was a thing upon which we could express no opinion, and we informed the officers that we thought their action was improper.
650 I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Sydenham, has quoted in his Question the words "improper and injudicious." I am not sure whether those were the words. I noticed that the Lord Privy Seal, in another place, referred to some of these actions as ill-advised. Whether they were improper, or injudicious, or ill-advised—I do not know what epithet you are to apply to vicarious punishment—I should like to say that no other penalty was imposed at all on these officers. We merely told them, as a matter of course, that we thought the action they had taken was improper. When you put yourselves in the position of a superior authority, I doubt whether it can be seriously contended that the method of vicarious punishment can ever be right or wise, and, if it is wrong, I do not think that the epithets which have been applied to it were really misapplied.
Now, may I say a word on the third Question of the noble Lord, which really deals with the procedure which was adopted in this case? I must frankly state at the outset that I am unable, of course, to trace this case from the very beginning; I can only speak of my own knowledge when it appeared before me. But the ordinary procedure in a case like this would be that all the reports and all the documents in the case would be examined in the Home Department. The head of the Home Department would then make a recommendation upon the action that he thought should be taken in the case. Now I can say that I come in. I assume that was the case. As to whether these officers were seen or not in the Home Department, I cannot tell your Lordships of my own knowledge; I can only say that all the reports—their reports probably—and documents in the case would have been examined in the Department. Then the Home Member would make his recommendation, and that would come up to the Viceroy, and the Viceroy would order—as I ordered then—that the recommendation with all the papers should be circulated to the different members of Government. Then they would have an opportunity, each one of them, of expressing their opinion upon the case.
When that procedure had been completed we should take the case in Council. I recollect very well that these cases were very carefully considered in full Council and at great length. When we came to a decision, that decision was communicated 651 to the local Government in the case of Mr. Marsden, and to the Commander-in-Chief, who would communicate the decision of the Government, in the case of Lieut.-Colonel MacRae, to that officer. Looking back at some of the papers I have, I note that the decisions in these cases were not made public until February 19, 1921—last year. I am positive that we came to a decision in this case in the previous year, and probably fairly early in the autumn, for this reason, that I know they were adjudicated upon by Sir George Lowndes who was then my Law Member, and he left on December 31.
As soon as the decisions in these cases were communicated to the officers in question it was open to them at once, long before any publication was made, to appeal to the Government. They could have appealed to the Governor-General in Council, in which case we should certainly have heard them; and if they had appealed to the Governor-General in Council and had not received satisfaction they would have had their personal appeal to me. As regards the first course, though I cannot charge my memory with it, I am not aware that they ever appealed to the Governor-General in Council. I cannot charge my memory with that at all, but I am absolutely positive that they made no personal appeal to me. And I can say for myself that during my five years of office as Viceroy I am not conscious of ever having refused a single application, on the part of any officer who thought he was aggrieved in any matter, for a personal interview with me, and I should have been only too delighted had these officers asked to see me personally.
Those personal interviews are not always pleasant; in fact, very often they are the reverse of pleasant; but I always felt that whether one was able to give a decision which pleased the officer or displeased him, he always had a certain amount of satisfaction in having been able to get to the head of the Government of India and have a personal talk over his grievance. Therefore, I can say with regard to my own personal action that I am positive that no appeal was ever made to have an interview with me personally. The truth is that in this case there is really no dispute as to the facts. It is not the punishment that was objected to but the method of that punishment, and I have never heard it disputed that this particular method was adopted; so that the facts are not in dispute.
652 Now let me come to the last Question asked by the noble Lord. It is in these terms:And whether, as no condemnation of that action was forthcoming in the Report of the Hunter Committee, while the Minority Report recorded the incident inaccurately, the grave injustice accorded to these officers will now be redressed.It is perfectly true that there was no specific mention of this case by the Majority Report of the Hunter Committee. It was mentioned only in the Minority Report. But is it seriously contended that when a Government has instructed a Committee or a Commission to report to it, it is to look solely at the Majority Report and to pay no attention to the Minority Report? I think the noble Lord who has asked this Question is not always in the majority in his opinions in this House, and I am sure he would be the first to protest if his views in the minority were not given the due weight which attaches to them, by the Government of the day to whom his remarks have been addressed.
Apart from that, I would like to say that it is true that the majority did not mention this specific case, but they did make some very trenchant remarks on flogging generally in the Punjab. May I read their finding on that subject to your Lordships?The impression made upon our minds by the evidence is that there were too many sentences of flogging pronounced. From an examination of the cases of flogging inflicted for breaches of Martial Law orders it appears that the punishment of whipping was regarded as probably the most efficacious and convenient method of summarily dealing with most minor breaches of the Martial Law regulations.Then they proceed to give instances, and they conclude by saying:In view of the strong feeling in India against corporal punishment, we think it would be advisable that some restriction should be imposed on the discretion of area officers in giving sentences of whipping.So that they did express their view strongly on the general policy of whipping which had been resorted to.
What are the inaccuracies of which the noble Lord complains in the Minority Report? In the Minority Report it is said that six boys were sentenced to six strokes each. As a matter of fact, what happened was that three boys were sentenced to six strokes and three boys were sentenced to three strokes. That is the inaccuracy on which, I presume, the noble Lord lays some stress. I will not trouble 653 your Lordships any further with regard to this case. The noble Lord has asked that justice should be done, and do not for one moment suggest that if an injustice has been done it should not be remedied, and remedied at once, and if my noble friend the Secretary of State for India thinks that, an injustice has been done I shall be only too pleased for him to direct that it shall be rectified. I appear at this table this afternoon not to make a case against these officers, but to endeavour to put before your Lordships the position of the Government of India when it was face to face with this particular Report of the Hunter Commission. I hope I have put it temperately and fairly. I certainly have no wish in any way to make the worse appear the better cause.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (VISCOUNT PEEL)
My Lords, it is seldom that we have in this House the advantage of hearing so full and clear a statement as that to which we have just listened, from a high official like an ex-Viceroy of India, who took so responsible a part in the events to which my noble friend, Lord Sydenham, has alluded. His reply really renders it unnecessary for me to be so full as I otherwise might have been in giving an account in answer on the facts of the case. He has spoken not only with an authority but also with a knowledge with which I am unable to speak on this subject.
These Questions refer to matters three years old in India, and to facts and details many of which are not within the knowledge of the India Office itself, and could only be acquired after some research by the Indian Government itself. I think it is fair to the officer to say at the outset that I was able to see, for a few minutes, Mr. Marsden himself. It might have been thought that an aggrieved officer was anxious that his case should be brought before your Lordships' House, and I have his direct authority for saying, because I asked him, that he had no part whatever in urging that this matter should be brought before your Lordships' House. I think it fair to say, in justice to him, that the whole responsibility as to whether this action is considered wise or unwise by your Lordships will rest on the noble Lord who has introduced the subject here.
I think the best thing that I can do is to answer carefully and categorically the 654 specific points raised in the Questions by the noble Lord. First as to the censure "for 'improper and injudicious' conduct by direction of the late Secretary of State by which their careers have been seriously prejudiced," I ought to give the House the actual words of censure which were passed upon these officers. There is, first of all, Mr. Marsden—The Government of India have asked the local Government to inform this officer that his action was improper, and that the Government of India disapprove of it.The same words were used to Colonel MacRae through His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief. The inference drawn by the noble Lord in his Question is, "by which their careers have been seriously prejudiced." I should like to give the most emphatic denial to that statement. The noble Lord himself is sole author of the doctrine that the careers of these officers have been "seriously prejudiced" by this action. I should like to say emphatically that that is not so. I think it rather unfortunate that a statement of that kind should have appeared on the Paper, because it might suggest to those who know the authority with which the noble Lord speaks on this subject that there was something in this statement.
I should like, therefore, to give your Lordships, as hearing upon that point, an official statement that was communicated to Mr. Marsden from the Government of India in which, among other statements, these words were used—The Government of India are quite prepared to concede that the work done by Mr. Marsden at Kasur during the disturbances and their sequel, taken as a whole, was praiseworthy, and entitled to share in the general encomium passed on the work of civil officers in a paragraph of their Dispatch.Your Lordships will see that though it would appear by this Question that all that happened to this officer for his action in this disturbance was that he was censured, the real fact is that the Government of India exercised great discrimination, and gave him a full and wide approval for much of the action that he took in these difficult circumstances. Moreover, the final words of the statement are:—I am to request that Mr. Marsden may be informed of the views of the Government of India, and assured that in so far as his future career in India is concerned his general record will be taken into account, and not this particular incident alone.655 I think I am quite justified in saying that it is very hard indeed of the noble Lord to suggest, after the statements and communications that have been made to this officer, that his career is seriously prejudiced.
The next point is as to the alleged offence. Two points made by my noble friend, Lord Chelmsford, render it unnecessary to say anything. The first is as to an alleged inaccuracy in the Minority Report which has been, according to my information, quite accurately answered by the noble Viscount, Lord Chelmsford. I may say that exactly the same criticism as was made by him suggested itself to my mind. I am sure the inference to be drawn was not intended by the noble Lord, but anybody who was ignorant of the situation would draw the inference that these very grievous actions had been taken by this mob, and that practically the only punishment accorded was six strokes with the cane to these different boys. Though not intended, that certainly was the impression that came into my mind. I do not want to give the figures, but I think it is important to assure your Lordships that, on the contrary, very grave action and very severe punishment indeed was meted out to the authors of these particular outrages. In fact, no fewer than twenty-six persons were sentenced to death, and seventeen to transportation for life, and eleven of these persons were actually hanged for their share in these operations.
Again, there is, I understand, evidence that the boys in these schools joined with this mob; yet, I should like to correct another inference that might be drawn from the particular form in which this Question is asked. My information is that the punishment awarded to these boys had no connection with outrages committed by boys, or by the school, in conjunction with these mobs, but, as the noble Viscount has related—and I think the noble Lord told us—the place was put under Martial Law, and the request was made by the headmaster to deal with his school because the boys were out of hand. These two subjects ought, therefore, to be disconnected in the minds of your Lordships in considering this point.
As to the Question about being examined as witnesses, it has been stated that action was taken on the Minority Report of the Hunter Committee. That was not so. These officers had an opportunity and did give oral evidence before 656 the Committee, as well as making written statements. But the actual points of procedure are of less importance because there is no dispute as to the action taken, and any sort of inquiry could only elicit again precisely the same facts as were elicited by this Inquiry. There is an admission by both sides that the facts are proved.
The last Question of the noble Lord is whether "the grave injustice accorded to these officers will now be redressed." The noble Viscount, Lord Chelmsford, has clearly stated what particular issue is involved in these cases. I have stated the position of these officers, and how their action was regarded by the Government of India, but I am not certain what course I am asked to adopt by Lord Sydenham. Really, there is only one course he would wish me to take, and that is for the Secretary of State, in spite of the facts and in spite of the question of vicarious punishment, to announce, three years after these events, that he disapproves of the action of the Government of India, and that the actions of these officers were proper and judicious. That is a statement which, I think, your Lordships will hardly expect me to make.
Reference has been made to a communication made this morning to the Government of India by an official. I do not know whether there are any new facts, but my intention is to find out by inquiry from India what steps have been taken. On the facts stated I think it would be impossible for any one, anxious as he may be to do justice to officers in India, to reverse the decision of the Government of India arrived at three years ago when they were in full possession of all the facts.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
My Lords, I came utterly unprepared to speak on this Question, but really I cannot leave matters as they are after the speeches of the noble Viscount, the Secretary of State, and the noble Viscount, the late Viceroy. I do not know whether your Lordships have been able to follow this Question with the slender material before you, but I can assure you that the two speeches to which we have just listened will be profoundly disappointing to those who do know the facts and are serving in India. Your Lordships can appreciate how little satisfaction is to be obtained from the sarcastic inquiry with 657 which the Secretary of State concluded his speech.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
He enquired whether Lord Sydenham expected him to say that the action of these officers had been proper and judicious. Do your Lordships imagine that any such information was expected by the noble Lord; and is it not a matter of common sense that the proper remedy for a censure which has been unjustly pronounced is simply a withdrawal of that censure? You do not reverse the terms in which it has been given. Lord Chelmsford said, most unfairly I thought, that the Question was couched in terms of prejudice.
§ LORD AMPTHILL
And he went on to give his version of the story. As Lord Chelmsford has accused my noble friend of prejudice I must tell your Lordships that the noble Viscount left out half the story, and without knowing the whole of the story your Lordships are not in a position to judge whether the noble Viscount's remarks were worthy of the applause you gave. This is what he left out. After the disturbances had been suppressed the headmaster of the school asked for a military guard, because he could not keep his pupils in order. Lord Chelmsford said nothing about that. This request, naturally, could not be granted, and so Mr. Marsden and Lieutenant-Colonel MacRae suggested that the school should be paraded at the railway station. The masters were then asked to produce the culprits, but were unable to do so. On being further pressed they dragged out the four most miserable, ill-clad, and weakly little boys they could find. Would any Englishman have taken these small weaklings for punishment? The obvious answer is, No. They would have asked for the big boys who were the leaders.
I am not going to go into the question of vicarious punishment. No doubt, many of your Lordships have theoretical opinions on that subject, but I would remind you that it is a principle which is accepted, and necessarily accepted, all over the world in every sort and kind of circumstance. It has been accepted in all ages, and whatever your Lordships may say it will continue. When you have a mutiny or rebel 658 lion you naturally punish the ringleaders; and that was done on this occasion. But to talk of it in terms of prejudice as vicarious punishment, and suggest that this is a kind of thing which any reasonable and fair-minded man would object to ipso facto, is simply absurd.
I come to the first part of the Question which asks whether this was done by direction of the late Secretary of State. Lord Chelmsford says it was not; but against that you have the fact that the late Secretary of State, in a Despatch, I think it was of May, 1920, complained that these cases under Martial Law, and other cases, had not been visited with censure as they ought to have been, and directed that it should be done. I naturally assume, although he did not give directions, that in this particular case they were to censure Mr. Marsden and Colonel MacRae, and that he did give directions that a number of officers, who in the opinion of the Hunter Committee were not deserving of any blame at all, should nevertheless be censured; and it was done.
The noble Viscount, the late Viceroy, says that the Government cannot refuse to express an opinion on a matter referred to in a public document. We have all known Governments make such a refusal, and the answer to the noble Viscount is that if you set up a Committee to form a judicial opinion on any question, and it reports as a Majority and a Minority, you act upon the opinion of the Majority. There is no necessity, whatever, to be guided by the opinion of the Minority as well. It is deeply disappointing that the Secretary of State, when he had a great opportunity of showing his attitude towards these questions, should have adopted a tone which will carry profound disappointment to all those fellow-countrymen of ours who are serving in India, and bearing the great burden and anxiety of administration at the present time.
I hope that, in spite of what he said, he will still feel it his duty to look into this question, and see whether it is possible to withdraw the censure. He stated among other things that it would not affect their careers. There, again, we have the statement of the Government of India itself. The Government of India, in their Report for 1920, have put it on record that such censure must affect the future career of the officer censured. In spite of that, we have the statements of Lord Chelmsford and 659 Lord Peel that a little censure of that kind is of no consequence whatever.
§ VISCOUNT PEEL
I must correct the noble Lord. This is not my statement. It was an official communication made by the Government of India to the officers concerned. It does not rest upon my opinion at all.
§ VISCOUNT CHELMSFORD
Only as a personal explanation, I can assure your Lordships that I put before you all the facts I had in the document at my disposal, and the only document I had at my disposal was the Hunter Report, in which nothing of what the noble Lord has told your Lordships just now has appeared. If it had appeared there, I should certainly have placed it before your Lordships.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, I am a little disappointed that the Secretary of State for India will not bring his fresh mind to hear upon the matter. I think that if he did so he must come to the conclusion that vicarious punishment is the commonest way of dealing with matters of this kind. What is the moral? If these two officers had taken the weakly-looking boys selected by the headmaster and given them the three strokes, they could not have had any censure passed upon them. I cannot think the censure is such a light thing as the Secretary of State for India seems to think, because we have the official report of the historian of the progress of India in 1920, which points out how it must affect their happiness, present and future, and their future prospects. I am sorry that the noble Viscount has not been able to receive this Question a little more sympathetically. I should like to say that I made a mistake in thinking that the Secretary of State had been responsible for these sentences. The noble Viscount, the Viceroy, has frankly taken all the responsibility upon himself, but I was induced to believe that the Secretary of State had done so by the extraordinary strength of his language in regard to this case in the Dyer debate in another place.