HL Deb 24 November 1931 vol 83 cc122-52

VISCOUNT BRENTFORD rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether their attention has been called to the number of outrages and murders inflicted upon British citizens in India during the past twelve months; and what steps the Government of India is taking to prevent a recurrence of similar events; and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, although I am standing at this Table on the Opposition side of the House that must not for a moment be taken as meaning that I am in opposition to the Government. I have consulted the officers of the House, including the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, and my information is that if I so desire I may speak from this position. It so happens that I have papers and that there are quotations which I want to read to your Lordships and therefore I hope the House will forgive me for speaking from this perhaps unusual position.

I hope that the Government will be able—I see no reason why they should not—to give a satisfactory answer to the Question which appears on the Paper in my name. I think it is really time that in one House or the other inquiries should be made of the Government in reference to the long accumulation of murders and attempted murders of Englishmen and occasionally Englishwomen, most of the men being officers of the Indian Civil Service and some of them officers in His Majesty's Army, during the last eighteen months. If one looks back to the time when Mr. Gandhi and the Congress started their civil disobedience campaign it will be found that at least twelve men who were out in India as representing the Government of this country, men who were members of the Indian Civil Service or men who had gone out there as officers in the Army have been brutally murdered. I want further to enquire what is the reason for this increase of attacks upon Englishmen and occasionally Englishwomen in India during the last year or eighteen months.

You will find that in February last one of His Majesty's officers, a lieutenant in the Army, Lieutenant Hawkes, was murdered at Landi Kotal. In May a police superintendent was killed at Peshawar. In August an attempt was made to assassinate Sir Charles Tegart, Police Commissioner of Calcutta, as he was driving to his office. After all, the Police Commissioner of that great City occupies really one of the most important offices in upholding the British Raj in India, and a very definite effort was made to murder him. Fortunately the attempt failed and Sir Charles Tegart, I am glad to say, is still alive. In August another desperate effort was made to murder two Englishmen, and one of them, the Inspec- tor General of the Bengal Police, was killed. Sir Charles Tegart after that quite definitely said in public that the reason for these attempts at assassination was undoubtedly the existence of a terrorist organisation with tentacles in all parts of the country and particularly in Bengal and the Punjab. He added:— This is only the beginning. No one knows where it will end. I am going to ask His Majesty's Government this afternoon if they know where it will end, and if they are taking steps to prevent these outrages.

After that, in December last year, another Captain in the Army was killed—shot on parade—and a sergeant was also seriously wounded. Again, in December last year perhaps one of the worst attempts was that on Sir Geoffrey de Montmorency, who, as your Lordships know, was Governor of the Punjab. He was engaged in his official duties. He had been attending the Punjab University, where he was delivering an address to the students. That was not merely a strictly Governmental piece of business but a piece of business which he was doing for the benefit of Indian students and in order to make closer the friendship between Great Britain and India. As your Lordships will probably remember, his assailant drew two revolvers and fired at him. Fortunately the shots missed him, but unfortunately one of them struck a police inspector and killed him, and another wounded a lady doctor. It is not merely the men who are shot at, it is not merely the men whose murder is attempted, but as this and other cases show unfortunate people who may be there at the time may suffer even more than the man at whom the attack is aimed.

Since that time there has been the case of Sir John Hotson, the Acting Governor of Bombay during the time in which the Governor, who is very well known to many of us and a personal friend no doubt of many of your Lordships, was away in England owing to illness. Sir John Hotson, as Acting Governor, had gone to inspect the Fergusson College in Bombay. That again is an institution carried on for the benefit of young Indians. No sooner had he entered the library than he was fired at. The bullet fortunately was turned aside by something in his pocket. The aim was much better in this case than in some others. Again the assailant had two revolvers. He said he wanted to kill Sir John Hotson as a protest against his appointment, which he said ought to have gone to an Indian. That is to say, the sole reason why this young man took upon himself to attempt to assassinate the Acting Governor of Bombay was, as he said, because an Englishman was appointed to that post when the English Governor himself was over here on leave, and because he thought that the appointment should have been given to an Indian instead of an Englishman.

We can now begin to realise something of the reason which is at the bottom of these attacks on Englishmen. It is in hardly a single case a question of personal revenge—there was one case which I will mention later on—but nearly always the attack was against an English officer because he was English and because he represented the British Raj. It is because of that that I want to ask His Majesty's Government, today, whether they do not consider, for the safety of the lives and the well-being of every single English officer in India, whether in the Army or the Civil Service, that it is their duty to take every possible step to prevent assassinations of this kind, or attempted assassinations.

A few days after that Lieutenant Hext and Lieutenant Sheehan were attacked in a train. One was wounded and the other killed, merely because they were English officers, and the young Indian who attacked them thought it a clever thing, perhaps, to murder an English officer. Again, an English Judge, a Mr. Garlick, was shot at by a young Bengalese when in his Court administering justice. The assailant jumped on the clerk's table, fired at point blank range and killed the Judge. Mr. Garlick happened to have been President of a Special tribunal, appointed by the Indian Government for the purpose, which sentenced the man Dinesh Gupta to death for the murder of Lieutenant-Colonel Simpson. Obviously, these men who attempt to murder, or succeed in murdering, must be tried by Judges, and if guilty must be sentenced. Merely because this Judge, a man of the highest character in India, sentenced a criminal, another murderer, to death, this young Bengalese took the opportunity of murdering the Judge, and when he was captured a letter was found on him stating: This is the reward for injustice done to Dinesh Gupta. There are other cases. Another district magistrate was shot at and wounded at Dacca, and quite recently Mr. Villiers, President of the Indian Association at Calcutta, was murderously attacked and injured but fortunately not done to death.

There must be some reason for this constant succession of murders or attempted murders in India of British officers. If we take the trouble to look we shall find that they are contemporaneous with the attempts of the Indian Congress and of Mr. Gandhi to foment disaffection in India, and they give in fact public notice to us that so long as we remain in India, and decline to give them the independence they ask for, similar troubles will take place. Mr. Gandhi, after all, is a responsible man, a member of the Round Table Conference, and sitting in London to-day, discussing with His Majesty's Government a form of Constitution for India. If he is to be believed, in regard to the speeches he has made in the past, no Constitution which the Government or Great Britain can possibly grant would be acceptable to him. In May of last year he said this: I do not believe the slightest good for India can come of the Round Table Conference in London.… I hope myself that my movement will not lead to deeds of violence, but even in this case there can be no going back for me. Then there was the speech made in India in March of last year, and I call very special attention to this one, because it seems to sum up the political faith of this man.

I want your Lordships to notice, and particularly the noble Marquess, what is said, and to try to imagine what would be the effect of these speeches, published in the vernacular Press throughout the length and breadth of India: I regard British rule as a curse and am out to destroy this system. I have made it my religion to destroy it as early as I can. I pray God night and day that the Government may be destroyed once and for all. I am convinced that the Government is so monstrous that it is a sin to allow it to exist. Sedition has become my religion. Imagine an uneducated Indian reading that speech. The British Government is declared to be so monstrous that it would be a sin to allow it to exist. If it is a sin to allow it to exist—and Mr. Gandhi is a man of very great influence in India—young Indians inclined to sedition, and reading a speech of that kind in regard to the British Government, would not, find it more than a short step further to say that while the British Government is a sin the men who administer that Government should not be allowed to exist.

Then this year just before he came over here Mr. Gandhi said: I see no justification in the Premier's speech for calling off the civil disobedience movement. I want the substance of independence: the British can keep the shadow. On October 16 last, while ho was over here and during the time the Conference was sitting, and he was present at the Conference presumably endeavouring to come to reasonable terms for a reasonable Constitution, he said: Time was when I prided myself on being a British subject. I would far rather be called a rebel than a subject. In the Daily Herald, a paper which I do not always read, on the 6th of this month he was reported as having addressed some English Post Office workers as fallows: Possibly we shall get nothing from the Hound Table Conference. In that case there might be a violent time ahead. I want the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, to be able to tell me whether the Government have taken into consideration that threat that there may be a violent time ahead.

I am not going to discuss the Round Table Conference this afternoon, but it is more than probable that the Round Table Conference will come to an end in some form or other within the next week or two, and Mr. Gandhi has warned the Government that there might be a violent time ahead. Even in the same month, addressing some Indian students at Cambridge, Mr. Gandhi seems not merely inciting to trouble in India but also here as well, because on November 1 he said to young students at Cambridge that in the event of the Conference failing he means to resume the civil disobedience movement. The resumption, he said, was an "absolute certainty." I have no doubt the noble Marquess has seen these speeches. He must have been supplied by his Department with these speeches, and after reading these speeches in the morning he is compelled by his position to sit side by side and attempt to come to reasonable terms with this gentleman. There are other speeches, the speeches of Mr. Patel, President of the Congress, but I have said enough to show that Mr. Gandhi is, in essence, the Congress itself. He is the one man who has come here for the distinct and definite purpose of representing the Congress view at the Round Table Conference, and he goes outside the Conference to tell the people of England, those who will listen to him, what he intends to do in the event of the Conference failing.

There is another statement he has made to which I would like to call the attention of the noble Marquess. These men who have been murdered and those who undoubtedly will be in jeopardy in the near future, even if they are not assassinated, are men whose lives are given for the benefit of the people of India. There must be many noble Lords who have stayed with members of the Indian Civil Service in town and country and have seen them go about their work out in the districts unarmed and unafraid. I admit that it was ten j-cars ago that I was there. They went unarmed and unafraid because they knew that behind them was the power of Great Britain, because they knew that behind them was the Government of India and the Government of Great Britain determined that their position should be maintained as long, of course, as we were in India. If the noble Marquess were going to say—as he will not for a moment—that we were going to clear out of India, the position would be very different, Behind the maintenance of British rule in India are the prestige of the British Government and the honour of the Englishman and behind that the power of the British Army in India.

I understand that an effort is being made by the gentleman I have quoted to have the British Army delivered over to him. This was not a speech made to a meeting of Indian students at a University. The noble Lord, who was Chairman of some of the Conference Committees, was present when the speech was made and I want a declaration from the Government in regard to the speech. There was not then—as I thought there might have been—a declaration from the noble Lord. I have no difficulty, said Mr. Gandhi at the Conference, actually saying this to His Majesty's Ministers, in saving what should happen to this Army. That is to say, I would say emphatically that the whole of this Army should be disbanded if it does not pass under my control before I could possibly shoulder the burden of running the government of India under the terrible handicaps from which we are labouring as a result of alien rule. Mr. Gandhi seems to take upon himself a great deal there. I would not take upon myself the responsibility of governing India. Therefore, that being my fundamental position, I would say that if you … really wish well to India, if you will transfer power now to us, then regard this as a vital condition, that the Army should pass under our control in its entirety.

I wonder what these other young men in India thought, who have not yet been assassinated, who are in the Indian Civil Service, and who have seen this long line of assassinations during the past year, assassinations of men, many of whom must have been known to officers of the Indian Civil Service or of the Army. What must t they think to-day when they see this demand openly made? It was not only made by Mr. Gandhi but by Pandit Malaviya, who did not say that the demand for the withdrawal of the troops was impossible but that it was perfectly possible, and added: I have not asked for it because I want to carry my British friends with us as far as we can. He also said that the British Army should be handed over to the control of whatever Indian Government was established. I should have thought that the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, who I regret is not on the Woolsack at the moment, would have said that that was outside of the discussion altogether. He should have said that Mr. Gandhi and Pandit Malaviya were braver men than he was to suggest handing over the Army to the Government of India.

I want to ask His Majesty's Government whether in their view the time has not come to announce some far more definite and stringent means of protec- tion of the British in India, whether in the Army or civilians or European merchants; secondly, for a definite definition as to what their views in regard to the Army are. I shall refer to one more document, which is a document by the present Secretary of State for India, Sir Samuel Hoare. Sir Samuel Hoare issued in March this year an article in the Morning Post which has subsequently been reprinted as an official statement of Conservative policy in regard to India. It is the latest official document, on which Conservative candidates all over the country have been basing their views and putting them before the people of this country at the last Election. I have no reason to suppose that Sir Samuel Hoare has in any way modified the views then expressed. He speaks of "the obvious feeling of uneasiness in the minds of many good Conservatives" and adds: They have the uncomfortable feeling that grave issues are dangerously drifting. I am bound to say that I concur in the views of the Secretary of State. He makes no criticism of any Conservative who holds these views, but says: Indeed, I fully agree with them that there is good cause for anxiety. He has laid it down and this is the basis of the policy, which I have never heard contradicted by any responsible Conservative statesman, of at least the Conservative wing of the National Government to-day.

The answer will be given this afternoon by the noble Marquess who is a member of another wing of the National Government. Will he agree that so far as the Conservatives are concerned, there will be no repetition in the case of India of the dismal events that preceded and followed the Irish surrender. There will be no truckling to the terrorists, no treaty with the men who are determined to drive us out of India"? I would not have quoted this article if it was by an irresponsible politician, but it is by the gentleman who is to-day Secretary of State for India and we have no objection whatever to the written statement he made in March this year that: Our command of the Army must be clear and undisputed. There is the statement of the Secretary of State. Since that time men have been assassinated and open hostility has taken place in India. I feel the very gravest anxiety and I ask this Question in. no sense of hostile criticism of the Government. I devoted the whole of my time during the Election to doing my best to put them into office. I want to maintain them in office. I do not want to criticise; I want to stimulate them, I admit.

While the noble Marquess may perhaps think I am criticising, I should like to say a word of cordial congratulation to the Secretary of State on the appointment of Sir John Anderson as Governor of Bengal. I suppose there is nobody who knows Sir John Anderson's ability and character better than I do. He and I worked together at the Home Office; he was the Permanent Under-Secretary while I was Secretary of State for nearly five years. I formed a very high opinion of his abilities and character, and, I think I may say, of his firmness as well. I congratulate my right hon. friend most sincerely on that appointment, and, moreover, I congratulate Calcutta, I congratulate the British Raj there on having a man appointed who has been used to the Government Departments of this country. It is perhaps an innovation in the appointment of Governors. I can assure the Government that they could not possibly have made a better appointment.

I conclude by asking His Majesty's Government what they are going to do for the protection of the British; secondly, are they going to truckle to the terrorism in India? thirdly, what steps are they going to take to prevent the recurrence of these outrages? Are they going to take the necessary steps to restore and uphold the prestige of Great Britain, the loss of which is very largely responsible for these outrages? Lastly, will the noble Marquess make a definite statement that under no circumstances and under no conditions will the British Army be handed over to Indian control? I ask those questions with a desire to invite and elucidate a really definite and useful statement, a statement which I think it is time should be made, not merely for this country but for India. I beg to move.


My Lords, may I be allowed from a Back Bench, which is my only place in this House, to support the Question put by my noble friend Lord Brentford? I honestly believe that if it be not satisfactorily answered we are bound to drift in India into chaos and disaster. It seems to me that not only your Lordships' House but the whole country are under a debt of obligation to my noble friend for recalling us to what I will call, borrowing a phrase of recent use from the Prime Minister, the "objective realities" of the Indian situation. He is rescuing us, too, to some degree from the hopeless atmosphere of illusion and delusion in which the Round Table Conference have elected to carry on their proceedings. Swaraj has been called a dream, but there is no reason why that dream should be wrapped up in a November fog.

I often think that Mr. Gandhi has performed a service of inestimable value in bringing the people of this country to grips with the stark realities of life in India. It is useless for us to believe that Mr. Gandhi has sacrificed, by his intrigues and equivocations here, his power over the Congress Party in India. It is quite true, no doubt, that there is a large body of people in India who are of more moderate views, and who would willingly take a line of their own if they were not timid or intimidated—they are both the one and the other. There are some—including, I am told but I do not know, and I do not wish to make a statement that is not justifiable, the Undersecretary of State for India—who believe that there is a Liberal Party among the Hindus who are capable of standing up to Mr. Gandhi and will do so. I venture to think that is a complete mistake. I have myself heard Mr. Sastri, who is one of the leading Hindus now attending the Conference, a man of conspicuous ability and eloquence, describe Mr. Gandhi as "the most Christlike man now living upon earth." He is himself an example to prove that Liberals in India have no Party or following except so far as they toe the line to Congress. I very much doubt whether the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, with his experience, would describe Mr. Gandhi as the most Christlike person upon earth.

The notable thing to which I would ask attention is how thin is the line that separates the Left Wing of Congress from the revolutionary and terrorist faction. It can hardly be said that there is a dividing line, because they merge into one another. Mr. Gandhi's position itself is very peculiar. Whilst I was acting on the Statutory Commission I had brought to me a letter from a highly responsible body which had been asked to make sure of his views as to the use of physical force. As a matter of fact it was the Y.M.C.A. In reply to that question Mr. Gandhi said he was against organised violence, but he could not be held responsible for individual outrages. I am not complaining of this attitude. It is obviously one which gives great latitude for misunderstanding, and that is, of course, the whole point at issue. The Congress has two sides. Mr. Gandhi has left in India as his representative and best-loved colleague the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the son of the Pandit Motilal Nehru, and speaking on November 18, as reported in The Times, he said: It is impossible for India to achieve Swaraj without a fresh struggle, which may commence soon. He was addressing a public meeting at Calcutta. He went on: The present truce presents an impossible situation, which must soon terminate. If necessary we shall revive an All-India satyagraha without waiting for Mr. Gandhi's return, although we would prefer to have him as commander here. He finished up by urging Bengal to revive satyagraha as a protest against recent events at Hijli and Chittagong, although it is only fair to say that he condemned terrorism as a gospel of despair.

My noble friend has alluded to these outrages and the atmosphere in which they are committed as proceeding from the loss of our national prestige in India. There is one factor that threatens to be constantly growing in Governments, and that is a loss of confidence, a loss of the belief almost universally held in the impartiality, beneficence, and strength of the British Government. I will quote from the Indian Empire Review a letter to a member of the Indian Civil Service now on leave from a tahsildar belonging to the subordinate executive Civil Service, and it is merely typical of evidence forthcoming from many quarters. This tahsildar says: I am of opinion that the Congress has done more solid work after the Delhi Pact, inasmuch, as it has fully prepared the village folk for a mass civil disobedience, and I find that in villages the awe which the Government servant used to inspire no longer exists. There is much freedom and unbounded disregard of authority in the hearts of the villagers. It is generally believed in villages that all the concessions which the Government is granting them are mainly due to the force brought on its shoulders by Congress. Congress conferences and picketing have again started. This is from the November number of the Review.

My noble friend Lord Brentford enumerated a number of those outrages which have been committed and which we have all read of during the past year and more. He did not mention, I think, but I do not know that adding one strengthens the case very much, the murder of which we read recently at Dacca, though he spoke of an outrage at Dacca. But of course there is none that made a bigger impression than when the presiding Judge of the Court which tried the murderer of Colonel Simpson was himself murdered. If your Lordships will allow me, I will give the account a little more in detail because it leads up to certain consequences. Three Indians went into the offices of the Bengal Government at Calcutta, and entered the room where Colonel Simpson, a member of the Indian Medical Service in Bengal, was seated at his table working. The Indians shot him with revolvers and killed him. Two of the murderers shot themselves. The third was arrested and brought for trial. He was tried at the Court of Session and convicted and sentenced to death. The presiding Judge of the Court which tried him was Mr. Garlick. What followed? On July 8 the Corporation of Calcutta, the largest City in India, passed a resolution recording "its sense of grief at the execution of Sj. Dinesh Chandra Gupta, who sacrificed his life in pursuit of his ideal."

Colonel Simpson was a doctor of medicine, whose work should particularly appeal to all humanists. There was no animosity against him personally. He was murdered for political reasons because he was an Englishman. The elected city fathers of the Calcutta Corporation, the capital of Bengal and the most important City in India, felt no "sense of grief" that a cold-blooded murder was committed in its midst or that a loyal servant of their country should have been shot down. They do not mention that his life was sacrificed; but, as a mark of respect to his murderer, the Corporation of Calcutta adjourned its meeting. On July 27, less than three weeks after the Corporation had recorded its "sense of grief at the execution of Dinesh Chandra Gupta," Mr. Garlick, the Judge of the Court of Session before whom the murderer was tried and convicted, was himself murdered in open Court "as an act of revenge for the execution of Dinesh Gupta, murderer of the late Lieutenant-Colonel Simpson." Surely, it is of some consequence as pointing to the trend of opinion in Bengal at least, that the Corporation of Calcutta should have taken this action, which is repeated again, not only of condoning but of glorifying the murder of one of the most respected of British Judges there. Nobody denies that the Government of Bengal are in a difficult situation, but it must also be admitted that when they show such extraordinary irresolution as they have recently it no doubt adds still more to the force of their toleration of crime.

There is, as your Lordships know, a man of some notoriety in the Eastern part of India, Mr. Subhas Bose. He was, I think, Mayor of Calcutta. With other members of the Bengal Congress Committee he announced his intention of going to Dacca to investigate happenings during the recent riots. An order was made prohibiting his entry into the Dacca district because of the fear of disturbance. The police prevented his entry and conducted him to Chandpur. From there he made entry by another route and was arrested and, on refusing bail, was taken to the police station. The next day he was released by the Magistrate on conditional bail. An appeal against conditional bail was made and was successful, and, with unconditional bail, Mr. Bose was able to visit a number of houses where raids had been made and to obtain statements from the occupants which have since been published. It is announced that the authorities have withdrawn the prosecution against him for defiance of the order, and that there will be no further proceedings. You cannot expect that when the Government of a Province acts in this sort of way it tends to the maintenance of law and order. It justifies what we are told frequently now, that the growth of terrorism in Bengal and of terrorist activities in the United Provinces is a very serious menace to public order.

It is natural that your Lordships should want some better evidence than I can give of the apprehension of the European community in India in regard to what has been done. Several meetings have been addressed recently by Mr. Villiers, who himself was nearly murdered in the last few weeks, and that is very good evidence because he is President of the European Association. Addressing a European audience at Kankinarrah on November 7, Mr. Villiers said he was in a position to state that the Government of Bengal was on the eve of introducing vigorous measures for the suppression of the terrorist movement. The real challenge, he thought, might be civil disobedience and if there was a recrudescence of that it must be crushed promptly and ruthlessly. Mr. Villiers went on to say: If the Government is prompt and strong, as I have every reason to believe it will be, if by promptness and strength it shows India that the staying of its hand in the past was of choice and not necessity, then I believe there will flock to the standards of the Government untold millions in the country who however misled in the past, ask nothing better than that they should be allowed to live their lives in peace and to reassert their loyalty to the Crown. You could not have better evidence than that of Mr. Villiers.

Only in to-day's newspapers there is a report of another meeting in which he said that he and his fellow-citizens of the European community of Calcutta-were prepared to take action for themselves if they were not properly defended by the Government. As a matter of fact, I read that there was a big parade of force of all arms through Calcutta as a demonstration of a new mind on the part of the Government. It is very difficult for the Europeans there now. There is no doubt that our sympathy ought to go out to them because they and their families are enduring great anxiety as well as great peril. They cannot support, they say, the transfer of power from the agents of Parliament to Indian politicians until the latter have shown, in the most clear and unmistakable manner, that they will not flirt with the followers of violence. In Bengal recently we have witnessed the struggle for political power between two rival Con- gress groups. The leader of one group has never made any secret of his support of those who would pursue the method of violence. His rival's attitude in this matter can scarcely be considered to be better, because he said that if they did not get complete independence after the Round Table Conference he would have no objection to the believers in violence having their own way. I do not suppose anybody imagines that, in spite of the demand of Mr. Gandhi, the Round Table Conference, which, I would remind you, is not a constituent assembly and has no power in this matter, was intended to grant complete independence to India. Therefore, you have a coalescence of the two wings of the Congress which are at work and which, after all, are able to influence all such opinion as can be got together in the cities and villages of India, pulling one way.

I confess that it is rather difficult to come to general conclusions. Sir John Simon said in his Report and in his speeches has frequently said that you will not solve the Indian problem by general propositions. I agree. We are told that if we look to the winds we shall never reap, and I for one fully recognise that further legislation is inevitable, even if it is not desirable; but I respectfully urge upon your Lordships that it should be in harmony with reason and justice. One of the greatest men who ever sat in this House is said to have been "rich in saving common sense." It is just the "saving common sense" that is required in dealing with Indian affairs. Surely it is time Parliament got back to its old methods. Four years ago, without a dissentient voice, it passed an Act appointing, subject to the Royal Warrant, a Statutory Commission to report on the development of representative institutions in India in accordance with the terms of the Government of India Act. That Commission duly reported but, so far—and I speak from careful observation—its Report has been relegated to the files of the India Office. I know that at the Round Table Conference every effort has been made to avoid making any mention of the Report of the Simon Commission. I do not know whether it has been entirely successful, but that certainly vas the desire on the part of the Indian representatives. We were appointed—I am talking of the Statutory Commission —specially to advise Parliament. I would ask whether the time has not come now when, following the failure of the Round Table Conference to agree on any report, the Report of the Simon Commission should be seriously considered with the purpose of its being embodied—and I say that deliberately—in the next Government of India Bill.

I beg His Majesty's Government not to make the great surrender but to stand firm in their shoes. By the great surrender what I mean is this, not to interfere with the scales of justice which we have used with perfect fairness and evenness in India now for at least the last 100 years for the benefit of the heterogeneous collection of races and religions which divide the sub-continent among them. I hope and believe that His Majesty's Government are going to act in that sense. Speaking with such experience as I have, and I do not claim great knowledge—after all our work only extended over three years, and I see the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Reading) who has a longer and greater experience of India—I hope that the answer given will not only satisfy my noble friend Lord Brentford but will also satisfy all those who have the welfare of India at heart.


My Lords, I never speak on the subject of India without real anxiety, and a sense of deep responsibility lest any word of mine should hinder rather than help the work of real peace and progress among the great Indian people, and lest it should make more difficult the unenviable task of those who, far away from their own kith and kin, have to administer the law impartially and with a certain amount of constructive sympathy. Therefore if to-day I have to make one or two words of comment upon what has fallen from the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, and the noble Viscount, Lord Burnham, I do so with a real desire to help and not to make things more difficult. One can have the very deepest sympathy with the motive of the noble Viscount, because all of us are distressed beyond words when outrages of the kind to which he has referred occur either in India or elsewhere. They make it more difficult for the friends of India over here, or in India, to prosecute their work, and, therefore, one can sympathise with the object that the noble Viscount has in view without approving of the method in which he approaches this great problem.

I cannot help feeling that the two speeches to which we have listened really suggest that behind this rightful protest against outrage in India there is a deep hostility to the work of the Round Table Conference itself, and I beg His Majesty's Government not to be influenced by that aspect which has been put before your Lordships this afternoon, not stated with frankness but which nevertheless it has not been possible to hide. The noble Viscount said it was the duty of His Majesty's Government to prevent the assassination of British officers in India who were doing their duty. Outrage of this kind is not new either in India or other countries, and there never was a time when to deal with it required a more far-seeing vision. These periodical outbreaks of lawlessness have occurred in many countries and in many times. In India they are specially reprehensible, because they exacerbate racial feeling within India itself. They tend, because of one's anger, to destroy one's sense of proportion, and if the Government of India undertakes special acts of suppression it arouses criticism among those who have no sympathies at all with crime.

Therefore I wish to say to your Lord ships that I do not condone or try to minimise the seriousness of this subject, but I am anxious lest any act of suppression such as the noble Viscount invites His Majesty's Government to undertake should promote new crime, which is a very possible thing. We should weigh carefully the matter before we accept the advice that has been given to us. Forcible suppression of crime such as the noble Viscount invites His Majesty's Government to take does not provide any sort of lasting remedy. My own approach to it, for what it is worth, is that this matter can be more efficiently, or as efficiently, dealt with by the moral teacher and the political and social engineer as by the soldier or the policeman.

I should like in passing to enter a solemn word of protest against the discriminating selection which the noble Viscount has made of speeches of Mr. Gandhi and other people. I do not admire everything that Mr. Gandhi says by a long way, but we are entitled to remember that he has made speeches of an entirely different character. I have heard him say over and over again with what horror he receives the news of such outrages. I would like also to say that I have attended every meeting except one of the Committees of the Round Table Conference, and I have been impressed almost beyond words with the deep anxiety there is amongst the delegates attending that Conference to be fair. It is not helpful to select from propagandists of advanced thought in India particular speeches and to forget the vast number of speeches of an entirely different character that have been made by other people. No one will suspect the noble Viscount of any intention to promote mischief either in this or in any other matter, but what he could not be coerced to do if he thought it was wrong, he is very ready voluntarily, enthusiastically and without any sort of hesitation, to do out of sheer moral aggressiveness. In the old days when he and I were colleagues, and I hope friends, in another field of labour, you only had to mention the word "Arcos" and the Prayer Book to him to transform him from the genial friend of mankind into a fiery, remorseless crusader capable of slaying his ten thousand.


Do you object to crusaders?


On one of these matters I was his humble though perhaps embarrassing follower. But what he asks us to do to-day is a vaster and more difficult matter. India is not Moorgate Street and we cannot settle her problems by the policy of raid and seizure and punishment. There are vast issues involved which must be carefully weighed and we have to consider what the reaction would be from such advice as he chooses to give us. There are, for instance, the economic issues which cannot be overlooked. India has been, and is now, one of our best customers, if not our best customer, and we do not want to add the force of racial discrimination to the economic forces that operate at the present time. So I repeat that I do not wish to defend crime or the criminal. Punishment must follow crime of this character, but why the selection of British only in this discussion? Punishment must be the same for the murderer of an Indian as of an Englishman.


Hear, hear.


The law is for the protection of all citizens in a country on a basis of strict equality. But in the existing circumstances it might be better to leave this unpleasant duty to the sure and impartial dignity of the law and its officers. They have a right to expect from us and from the people of India complete support because they labour for the good of the community, and I believe they do possess that support in full measure. I wonder if I might suggest to your Lordships that, the policy of repression does not carry us very far in this matter. Those who commit crimes of this kind are, as a rule, ready to pay the price of death. You can only take from them what they are perfectly willing to give. Any spectacular act of repression might really put round people of this kind a false glamour which would add to their number. That is what we have to remember—that these things are nearly always done by impulsive and immature youths and there is a type of agitator and incendiary journalist who is ready to influence immature minds of this character. They sought to glorify Bhagat Singh and make a halo round his name, but responsible leaders of Indian thought and opinion were as horror stricken as any of your Lordships in this House. Assuming that that is so, that these people are ready to throw their lives away, how can you alter it by some act of general repression?

I venture again to utter a word of protest against selecting casual indiscretions from those engaged in the work of the reform movement in India. It is easy to produce illustrations of foolish words, but if we were all to be judged for foolish things that we have said how many of us would escape whipping? Only the man who himself has sometimes been aflame with a sense of great wrong and anger against some real or imaginary wrong can understand how easily foolish words are produced. I am thankful that most of my own indiscretions were never reported. The noble Viscount has been less fortunate because there was a time when there was something that roused his soul so much that he used words that I dare not repeat in your Lordships' House. Let us, therefore, trust rather to the ordinary operation of the law and let us keep our heads cool about it. There will be plenty for them to do in the coming months.

I repeat that these spasmodic murders are unfortunately associated with every national movement at any time in the history of the world. They took place in Ireland and it may be right to remind your Lordships that for every one Irishman there are eighty Indians. We can hope that a sense of responsibility in India will grow and that Indians will co-operate in removing this reproach from their name. Therefore, I would suggest that we should be ready to let the law take its own calm and dignified way of meeting the need that exists with its own prepared and practised weapons. If we take it upon ourselves to play any part in the matter it should be that of trying by education and by the removal of economic and social grievances to weaken the motives that engender and promote crime. I believe you get the most out of a people, as you get the most out of an individual, by putting it on its honour and I have not the least doubt that if we approach the Indian problem in this spirit we shall have as our allies the moral force and the free co-operation of the Indian people.


My Lords, the remarks I have to make will take up only a very short time. I have listened to the noble Lord, Lord Snell, with very great interest and I agree with the noble Lord that in theory a great deal of what he has said might very well be applied to most countries, but when it comes to India and the East I believe that all of us who have had anything to do with the races there know that we cannot apply these Western ideas and these Western methods to the governance of those peoples. They entirely misunderstand conciliation in the ordinary way, as you would use it in this country. They regard conciliation as a sign of weakness. The only thing they understand is firmness, tempered by justice. I do not wish to traverse again the various murders and attempts at murder which have led up to this debate, because the noble Viscount, Lord Brentford, has done this very fully indeed, and Lord Burnham, but I do wish to refer to one matter which was dealt with, particularly in the speech of Lord Brentford. That is with regard to the Mahatma Gandhi. Lord Snell has stated that you should not extract what I think he called "casual indiscretions" from the speeches of any individual, and hold them up to obloquy, but in the case of Mahatma Gandhi these are not only casual indiscretions of words or speeches, but they are actual indiscretions of act, which have been committed by him and which have very largely caused the serious conditions which exist in India to-day.

Does he call it a casual indiscretion that Mahatma Gandhi should lead a great campaign for civil disobedience against the law of the Government of India? Does he call it casual indiscretion that Mahatma Gandhi should initiate one of the biggest boycotts of British trade that has ever been carried out in the world? I do not think when he uttered those words that he believed that they were true, or if he did so then he had not examined thoroughly the facts of his case before he delivered his speech in this House. There is absolutely no doubt that the main reason why we have these serious happenings in India is due to Mahatma Gandhi, and I suggest that when he comes to this country, and tries not only to break up the Round Table Conference, as he has consistently done in the last few weeks and months, when the British Government is doing all they can, in every possible direction, to meet the new conditions in India and to present to India a Constitution which will embrace all these races in India and bring peace and quiet to India—I suggest that when Gandhi comes to this country and not only tries to break up that Conference but flings defiance in the faces of those sitting in that Conference, and demands independence, he is doing one of the greatest harms and injuries to the country from which he comes.

He has told us definitely that he wants us to get out of India. We do not intend to go out of India. We have no intention of leaving India, and if that is his proposal let us do unto Gandhi as Gandhi will do unto us, and if Gandhi returns to India after the Conference, and foments further disorders in India, I suggest that the only way in which you can deal with this gentleman, in order to relieve India of the harm that he is doing, is not to shut him up in India but to deport him, together with his fellow conspirators, and others who are fomenting these troubles, to some island in the Indian Archipelago, such as the Andaman Islands. I say this with a full sense of responsibility. I think this has gone on long enough. The Government of India have tried those methods of conciliation, which have been so tenderly outlined by Lord Snell, and those methods have obviously failed. If they had not failed we should not have had this large number of murders and attempted murders which are taking place in India practically every week. Not only that, but as a result of that gentleman's operations we have had the massacre at Cawnpore, and the recent troubles in Kashmir, where I understand there was another massacre of a similar kind, and unless we relieve India of his presence it seems to me we shall never have an atmosphere created in that country in which we can provide them with a Constitution and a new form of government.


My Lords, it is with the same sense of responsibility that was expressed by the noble Lord who spoke from the Bench opposite, that I rise to deal with the Motion which has been brought forward by the noble Viscount who opened this discussion. I do not want to say anything which can make the problems which confront our officers and administrators in India more difficult, nor do I want to say anything which could imperil in any way the proceedings of the Indian Round Table Conference. I should like to confirm everything that the noble Lord opposite has said about the proceedings of the Round Table Conference, and I venture to express the view that if some of the noble Lords who have spoken tonight had sat, as I have sat, for week after week, at that table, and listened to the speeches from the Indian side, from all parties in India, including Mahatma Gandhi himself, as well as from the British benches, they would not have uttered some of the sentiments which have fallen from their mouths to-night. I have never felt more impressed with the sincerity and earnestness of a body of men approaching a problem of unexampled difficulty—a problem which can only be solved by a resolute facing of the facts, by a frank statement of points of view, and by a readiness, on the basis of the facts, to compromise not on essentials but on matters of less relative importance.

The noble Viscount who introduced this Motion asked me a number of direct questions, one of which concerned the attitude of His Majesty's Government to the question of the Army in India. If he will allow me to say so, he travelled in his speech rather widely from the terms of the Motion which he put down and which I understood I was to deal with. The only answer I can make to that specific question is that it is not possible to give any reply to it until the Government is in a position to make up its own mind as a result of the proceedings of the Round Table Conference, which decision and which policy it will announce to Parliament in due course, when presumably an opportunity for discussing it will be given. It is not possible for me to anticipate in any way the final conclusions which the Government may reach on the vitally important matters which at the moment are under discussion.

I therefore turn to the specific matter which is the subject of this Motion. There also I feel a great sense of responsibility. The list of outrages which the noble Viscount has given is a terribly heavy one and I endorse to the full his description of the gravity of the situation which has arisen as the result of the terrorist menace. I can assure your Lordships that that situation is engaging, as it must engage, the most earnest attention of the Government of India and of the Secretary of State. How serious the position has become may be seen not only from the very considerable list of out rages which was given to your Lordships by the noble Viscount but also by further statistics which I am in a position to give you to-night, statistics of terrorist offences which include murders, attempted murders and other similar offences including the illegal possession of arms and ammunition.

In Bengal the figure for 1929 was 8, for 1930 34, and for 1931, up to the end of August, 51. In the Punjab the corresponding figures are 3 for 1929, 17 for 1930 and 9 for 1931. In the United Provinces the figures are 3 in the first year, 4 in the second, and 25 in the present year. The totals exceed 150 for the three years. In Bengal alone since last December three British officers and two Indian police inspectors have been murdered and attempts have been made on the lives of five other Europeans, including the most recent attempts to murder Mr. Villiers, President of the European Association, and Mr. Durno, the Dacca Magistrate, who fortunately was not killed as the noble Lord thought. In the Punjab there was the attempt to murder Sir Geoffrey de Montmorency, the Governor, when leaving the convocation of the Lahore University in December last, and in Bombay the attempt on Sir Ernest Hotson, the acting Governor, at the Fergusson College, Poona, in July of last year. In most of these cases the culprit, I am glad to say, has been arrested and sentenced by the Courts. These are very formidable facts.

It is the primary duty of any civilised Government to take the most resolute action against terrorism of the kind described. It is its duty to protect the lives of its own servants and of the public against terrorism and murder. It is no less its duty to make it impossible for any group of men to deflect the course of orderly government or of political progress by bringing, not reason and argument and constitutional methods, for which the amplest opportunities now exist in India, but terrorism and assassination to bear. It is the view of the Provincial Governments concerned, of the Government of India, and of the Secretary of State that drastic action must be taken to end this menace to individual liberty and social peace.

There is yet another reason why drastic action is necessary to-day. At this moment free discussions are taking place between representatives of all sections of Indian political opinion and representatives of both Houses of Parliament as to the future developments of responsible government in India on constitutional lines. The tolerance of terrorism is the negation not only of individual liberty but of constitutional government itself. Self-government, in the constitutional sense, can only develop when there is government. As experience in many countries in recent years has shown, real self-government is impossible where anarchy or terrorism has been allowed to thrust constitutional government aside. It is precisely because I want to see responsible self- government extended in India and because we are actively engaged in considering with our Indian colleagues at the Round Table Conference how that can best be done, that I am convinced that, in the highest interests of Indian freedom and constitutional advance, the resolute suppression of terrorism is imperatively necessary to-day.

Before proceeding to describe the action which has been taken, may I take this occasion to pay a tribute to the splendid services rendered by the police in India in dealing with this terrorist problem. From its very nature their work is both difficult and arduous and in carrying it out the police are in some places exposed to almost daily danger of their lives; while the arrest of an armed revolutionary is a task that demands courage of the highest order. It is also their duty to unearth and discover many other serious plots, the successful carrying out of which would have added considerably to the already heavy list of casualties. Their task of preventing these outrages is, however, becoming more and more difficult. Formerly most of these outrages were committed by organised gangs. Latterly, however, several of the crimes have been committed by young students who have been stimulated to murder either by older revolutionaries who themselves remain in the background or by the incessant incitements of the revolutionary Press. The sudden actions of obscure students in these circumstances are something that no amount of vigilance on the part of the police can forestall.

The noble Lord who spoke from the opposite Bench urged that, in dealing with crime of this kind, moral teaching was more important than repression. I do not dissent from the statement that the remedy for a great many of these evils is moral teaching and constitutional action, but in a situation where the lives of both British and Indian officials are in daily danger it is not possible to rely upon the moral pressure alone. The actual protection of the individual against menaces, which are known to be being organised against him, is and must be one of the primary functions of Government.

The measures taken by the authorities in India to assist the police to deal with this situation are these. In the first place, action has been taken against incitements to violence by the Press. Since the initiation of the civil disobedience movement at the beginning of last year, the tone of the vernacular Press, particularly in Bengal, has suffered a notable deterioration and during the summer of this year it poured out daily a spate of writing which, in effect, has been a steady incitement of its readers to crimes of violence. In some cases this inflammatory propaganda took the form of open and undisguised incitements to murder, in others the incitement was more insidious. Terrorists such as Bhagat Singh, who threw the bomb in the Indian Legislative Assembly, and who later was condemned to death for the murder of Mr. Saunders, a police officer, were extolled as national heroes who had sacrificed their lives for their country, and it was stated to be the duty of a good patriot to follow their example. There can be no doubt as to the potent influence exerted by the dissemination of inflammatory teachings of this kind, and, if evidence were needed, it could be found in the admission of several of those on trial, who have confessed that their initiation in a career of crime dates from the time when they took to reading this kind of revolutionary literature.

It was essential that action should be taken to check this evil, and in September a Bill was introduced in the Legislative Assembly and passed into law. This Act, which applies to the whole of India, enables security to be demanded from the keeper of any printing press or newspaper, and provides for the forfeit of that security or, in default of the security, the printing press itself, and of copies of the offending newspaper, if thereafter anything is published by the printing press or newspaper which contains direct or indirect incitement to murder or violence. Prosecutions have recently been instituted under this Act, and prosecutions will continue until the incitement to violence ceases. Equally mischievous, of course, are speeches which eulogise murder, and when such speeches contain definite incitements to violence they are dealt with under the ordinary law.

I turn now to the Province of Bengal which, as your Lordships are aware, has a long record of revolutionary crime, and still remains to-day the headquarters of the cult of terrorism. Between the years 1922 and 1925 an outbreak of violent crimes on a widespread scale necessitated the enactment of special measures to deal with the terrorist movement. With the approval of His Majesty's Government an Ordinance was promulgated by the Viceroy, which was subsequently followed by legislation, known as the Bengal Criminal Law Amendment Act, which came into force in 1925. This Act contained two main provisions. First, it enabled the Local Government to set up Courts of Special Commissioners to try terrorist offenders without a jury, and with an abbreviated procedure which did away with the necessity for committal proceedings. Secondly, it provided for the arrest and detention, without trial, of persons who, there were reasonable grounds for believing, had committed, or were about to commit, terrorist offences, although definite evidence against them was either insufficient or not producible in Court. These two provisions were designed to meet the twofold difficulty experienced in dealing with terrorist cases—namely, the impossibility of securing a conviction by a jury owing to fear of reprisals and the increasing difficulty of securing witnesses (approvers bad, for instance, in several eases been murdered after having given evidence) which made it impossible to prove the cases in open Court.

This Act was in force for five years, and, by making possible the arrest of most of the leading terrorists, succeeded in improving the situation. By 1928 it had been considered possible to release most of the détenus, and when the Act expired in 1930 and the question of its extension was considered, it was decided that the power of detention without trial might be dispensed with and only the special trial procedure continued. Unfortunately the hope that the terrorist movement was dead and that the special measures could be dispensed with was not justified. It is significant that a few days after the expiry of that Act there occurred the Chittagong Armoury raid in which two Europeans and five Indians were killed. The occurrence of this raid made necessary the immediate resumption of the powers under the Ben- gal Criminal Law Amendment, Act, which had been allowed to lapse. That these powers have subsequently been utilised will be seen from the fact that 621 persons have been arrested since their resumption, of whom 530 are still detained.

Before going on to discuss later developments in Bengal I should mention here the passing of legislation similar to the Bengal Act in two other Provinces. In the Punjab an Act was passed in November, 1930, which was extended also to the Delhi Province, providing for the setting up of special Courts to try terrorist offenders, with the same procedure as in Bengal; while in Burma an Act was passed early this year containing all the powers of the Bengal Act. This was made necessary by the fact that a number of the Bengali terrorists who had escaped arrest after the Chittagong raid had taken refuge in Burma, and they could not otherwise be dealt with. Eight arrests have been made under the Burma Act.

In Bengal during last summer, despite these measures, the commission of outrages had not been stopped. Although the action that has been taken by the local authorities undoubtedly hampered greatly the work of the terrorists, and prevented the perpetration of the schemes for outrages on an extensive scale, which the Government knew they had been planning, it had nevertheless failed, as the record of six murderous outrages in Bengal alone since towards the end of July abundantly shows. It had been unable to check the activities of small groups of dangerous revolutionaries, or to secure the reasonable safety of officers of Government, particularly those whose duty it is to undertake the arrest or trial of terrorists.

One of the difficulties of the police in making arrests under the Bengal Criminal Law Amendment Act lay in the fact that before any person could be arrested reasonable evidence had to be produced before two Judges, sitting in camera, that he had committed, or was about to commit, a terrorist offence. Such evidence in regard to individuals was naturally not always forthcoming. The police might know that a group of terrorists was about to commit an outrage, and they might know the names of all the members of that group, but they could not be sure of knowing the individuals of the group who were to be the actual perpetrators, and consequently they were powerless to make arrests. To remedy this difficulty, an Ordinance was promulgated by the Viceroy on October 29, which amended the wording of the Act in such a way as to enable the arrest of any person who is known to be a member of a, terrorist association, or is being instigated or controlled by a member of such an association. The Ordinance also added certain other offences under the Indian Penal Code to the Schedule of offences contained in the Act, in particular the offence of harbouring absconders from justice. This common practice of sheltering terrorist offenders has added considerably to the difficulties of the police. The effect of this Ordinance has been, as your Lordships will realise, to widen considerably the powers of the police, and a number of arrests have been, made already under these extended powers.

Your Lordships will also have been glad to see in this morning's newspapers that Sir John Anderson, at present Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, has been appointed to succeed Sir Stanley Jackson, whoso tenure of the difficult post of Governor of Bengal is drawing to a close. I need add nothing to the eloquent testimony that the noble Viscount who introduced this Motion has already paid to his eminent abilities and services. The task which will befall him will be an extremely difficult one. The situation at the present time is one of the greatest gravity. It is no exaggeration to say that in some districts of Bengal every officer of Government goes about his duty in deadly peril of his life. As I have already mentioned, two attempts at murder were made in the last week of October alone. On November 1 a meeting was held between the Government of Bengal and representatives of the Government of India to dis- cuss the situation and the steps necessary to deal with it. I cannot yet give your Lordships the result of this Conference, but I can give you the assurance that the Government of India, acting in full accord with the Local Government, are determined to take all necessary measures to deal with the terrorist movement, to secure the lives of their officers, and to restore the respect for law and order which organised terrorism seeks to destroy. In these measures the authorities in India will have the complete support of His Majesty's Government.


My Lords, with great respect, I desire to thank the noble Marquess for the statement he has just made in reply to my Question. If he will allow me to say so, his speech has been far more grave than my speech. I was only able to give your Lordships facts which were in the public eye culled from the public Press; but the noble Marquess has made a speech the gravity of which it would be impossible to exaggerate. In those circumstances I need hardly say that I would not offer one word that could possibly interfere with what the Government of India deems to be right in this matter. It is clear from the statement of the noble Marquess that certain events have taken place and certain measures have been passed. I gather from his statement that the Government of India, and also of course the Government of this country, are fully alive to the gravity of the facts which he has put before us. I do not wish to press the matter further at the present time. It may be that before the House rises for the Recess the noble Marquess will be able to give us further information, but I do not press for it at the moment. In those circumstances I ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at twenty-three minutes past six o'clock.