HL Deb 07 May 1930 vol 77 cc370-4

My Lords, I desire with your Lordships' permission to ask the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he has any statement to make to your Lordships in reference to recent events in that country.


My Lords, the statement that I am about to read to your Lordships is identical with a statement that has been made by the Secretary of State in another place. It is as follows:—The Secretary of State is anxious that Parliament should be given the fullest and the promptest information on the Indian situation, but it will be realised that unofficial messages naturally anticipate the receipt of official news because the Government officers on the spot have, as their first duty, to deal with events, and cannot report through the Central or Local Governments to the Secretary of State until after they have taken whatever action may have been necessary. At this moment there is not much of substance that can be added to the news that has been published, but I will read to the House, in supplement, official telegrams from same areas:—

"PUNJAB.—The latest report is dated May 5 and relates to the position on Sunday and Monday:— 'Sunday and to-day quiet throughout the Punjab except for partial hartal in Lahore to-day in consequence of Gandhi's arrest. Police had to disperse demonstrations this morning and again this afternoon. Matters not serious.' "BENGAL.—The following is a report dated yesterday, May 6:— 'To-day hartal in Calcutta. No serious disturbances. Crowd at Bhowanipore started stoning tramcars and omnibuses but were dispersed. Large crowd gathered in North Calcutta but no disturbance. Police holding streets strongly and light lorry patrols running. Hindu shops generally are closed. Mahomedan shop were closed in Hindu quarter, but open in Mahomedan quarter. Tramcars and many omnibuses and taxis running, but Hindu and Sikh omnibus and taxi-owners generally observing hartal. In Howrah, European inspector, sergeant and police picket sent to stop interference with light railway were stoned by large crowd and surrounded. They fought their way out to Grand Trunk Road. Inspector and sergeant fired fifteen rounds each, casualties not reported. Superintendent of Police with armed police charged crowd repeatedly and dispersed them. Situation now in hand. European inspector attacked by crowd at Ramkristopur ferry and stoned. He and sergeant fired five rounds in all. One casualty noticed. Ferry service at Ramkristopur stopped. No pickets at Lillooah work shops and men going to work. Omnibuses working. No report from mill areas but believed to be quiet. General impression hopeful. Magistrate and superintendent of police at Howrah in car attacked by crowd near Ramkristopur. Windscreen smashed. Superintendent of Police fired seven shots, believes hit ringleaders. Eastern Frontier Rifles cleared locality. Reinforcements sent. Hooghly and mill area quiet. Railway Police Station at Ranaghat, District Nadia, reported entered by 500 volunteers believed due to arrest of assailant of man selling the Statesman. Details not reported. Relief sent.' "The latest report from Bengal, dated this morning, is as follows:— 'All quiet in HoWrah. Hooghly, twenty-four Parganas and Calcutta. Chittagong. Four raiders killed, three captured, six revolvers recovered. Details not received.' "DELHI.—Messages from the Chief Commissioner, all dated yesterday, deal with events which have been reported in the newspapers. Referring to the number of rioters who have been injured, he states that accurate numbers are not yet known although report is to the effect that some twenty or thirty have reached the police station for transfer to hospital or immediate medical treatment. As his account of the riot in Chandni Chowk is somewhat fuller than the Press account, I will read it:— 'Three police lorries were returning to the Kotwali. Two first lorries severely stoned but succeeded in reaching the Kotwali, while the third was cut off and marooned in the midst of the mob. To rescue this lorry and police it contained, senior superintendent of police led charge from the Kotwali. Immediately on issuing from the Kotwali police were assailed by floods of stones and bricks hurled from the Sikh Gurdwara next door. Only method of protecting themselves and rescuing their comrades in the lorry, who were still being savagely attacked, was for the police to open fire with buckshot, which was accordingly done. By this means the police lorry was rescued at the cost of six police casualties of which two reported severely injured. After dispersal of mob Gurdwara was then raided and various arrests made of people found hiding therein of whom some Sikhs, who protested innocence, have since been released while other suspects, Hindus, have been retained in custody. Armoured cars promptly despatched in support from Fort on news being received of attack on police near Kotwali, but it was not found necessary to utilise their services in dispersing the mob.' "BOMBAY.—The latest report, received by my right hon. friend, dated yesterday, is as follows:— 'Generally speaking the situation is still quiet following on the arrest of Gandhi. Yesterday evening, that is Monday, a large meeting was held in Bombay but was conducted peacefully. The hartal started yesterday continues to-day. In the mill area forty-four mills, more than 50 per cent. of the whole, are at work. Troops continue to be held in readiness at strategic points. At Surat the situation is quiet and some of the shops are open. At Ahmedabad some fifteen out of about seventy mills are working; police arrangements for the maintenance of order continue but troops have been withdrawn from the town.' "BURMA.—The Government of Burma reported under date May 6:— 'According to reports received no disturbances in Burma yesterday or to-day.' I have given the House all the information in the possession of the Secretary of State. It is to be noted that, except in certain parts of the Bombay Presidency, and in a single district in the North-West Frontier Province, where special conditions have obtained, there have been no disturbances reported to the Secretary of State from rural areas. Further, in general, the Moslem community has held aloof from participation in the civil disobedience campaign. The serious labour trouble on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway has, as the House knows, come to an end and the strike of carters in Calcutta, which had its origin in causes of long standing and had little or no connection with recent political activities, was, after the first disturbances, brought to an end after consultation with the leaders.

The Secretary of State would like to add a tribute, in which I am sure the House will join, to the officers and men engaged at this time on very difficult duties and an expression of the confidence felt by the Government, and, I am sure, shared by your Lordships' House, in the Viceroy.


My Lords, I do not want, of course, to comment on the observations of the noble Earl. It would be out of order to do so. I would, however, like to ask a general question. It is rather difficult, when following these details of what happened in particular places in that immense country, to know or to gather what is the general situation. There is the same difficulty in reading the newspapers, and I think it would be very useful if the noble Earl were to make a general statement or say a sentence or two as to whether the Government, from their information, really feel that they have got the whole of the situation very well in Land. I ask that for this reason, that there has been great disturbance of business in Calcutta and other great towns. That anxiety is being reflected over here, and I think that it the noble Earl were able to make a general statement it would relieve a great deal of the anxiety felt over here. The only other point is one of detail. I understand that much of the disturbance in Calcutta and Peshawar is due to some activities on the part of the Sikhs. I do not know whether the noble Earl has any information on that point. I do not think that what he told us about events in Peshawar was very full, and I do not know whether he can give us more information on the occurrences which took place.


I do not think I could answer the questions of the noble Earl without some consideration. We have no general appreciation of the situation from the Government of India, but probably by considering these details from individual places the House and the noble Earl will be able to judge what the position is. I could not answer the questions of the noble Earl without consideration and notice. I think the noble Earl will not be surprised at that.