§ Sir J. D. REES
asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether the Government of India or the Secretary of 1801W State have received any complaints from Lushais regarding any of the tribal customs in force among them?
asked the Under-Secretary if he is aware of the statement, dated 26th January, 1910, issued and signed by the superintendent of Lushai, British India, reporting himself to have replied to a chief named Khanvelthanga, who was desirous of releasing his bawi, that it was not a Lushai custom, and the other chiefs might object as regards their slaves, and adding that if any other Lal's slaves came and a claim was established against them the usual ransom of 40 rupees each would have to be paid; and whether, in view of this recognition by a British official of slavery amongst the Lushai tribes, he will take steps to give these slaves their freedom?
§ Mr. ROBERTS
The Secretary of State has not seen the statement attributed to the superintendent of the Lushai Hills except in an unofficial publication, which appears to give the statement quoted in the question on the authority of a clerk. In the passage to which the hon. Member presumably refers there is an important qualifying statement to the effect that the superintendent told the chief that it was right that the bawi should be released according to the Maharani's (i.e., British Sovereign's) custom.
asked whether bawi in the Lushai district in India can be compelled by their chief to live in his house and work for him without wages; whether those permitted to live elsewhere and earn wages are liable to have their earnings taken by the chief; and how long the Government propose to allow this system to continue?
§ Mr. ROBERTS
I would refer the hon. Member to the answers given him on the 22nd July, and to the papers placed in the library at his request.
asked the Under-Secretary whether the compensation recoverable by a Lushai chief, which is recoverable as a judgment debt from any bawi who leaves his service, is what is described by the superintendent of the Lushai as the usual ransom of forty rupees; whether this is a payment to secure the bawi's freedom; whether the principle lately adopted by the Assam 1802W Government which fix this payment is a recognition and endorsement of the status of slavery; and what steps he proposes to take to bring to an end the existence of a status of slavery within the British Empire?
§ Mr. ROBERTS
If the hon. Member will consult the papers placed in the Library he will see that the sum of 40 rupees releases an entire family, however large, from their obligations undertaken to the chief in return for free maintenance. I do not understand how he can distort into an endorsement of slavery the Government's declaration that any bawi is free to leave the chief's service.