HC Deb 04 May 1926 vol 195 cc220-1W

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he is aware of the fact that Sj. Ambika Prasad Khan, a prisoner under the Bengal Ordinance, is reported to have committed suicide in Alipore gaol; whether an inquiry into the circumstances of his death has been held; and whether the result will be made public?


Yes, Sir; an inquiry has been held. So far as I am aware the result has not been published. But the following is the substance of the information which my Noble Friend received from the Government of India. Ambica Charan Khan was detained under Bengal Criminal Law Amendment Act. He was interned on 19th November, 1924, and had been at Alipur Gaol for the last eight and a-half months. In temperament he was normally cheerful and took part in games and amusements with otherdetenus but appears to have had short and sudden periods of moroseness and, occasionally, imposed a vow of silence on himself. He lived with five other detenus in a room, communicating with another room in which convict attendants, who acted as detenus' servants, lived. On the night of 2nd April, detenu went to bed at 8.30 p.m. About 11 p.m. one of the attendants was roused by a shout and found Ambica Khan with his clothes in flames. The man eluded him and ran through the rooms till attendants managed to seize him and pull off his burning clothes. Ambica was taken to the gaol hospital and everything possible done for his treatment, but he died at eight next morning. Ambica's clothes, and also his body, smelt of kerosine. It is clear that he had emptied oil from his reading lamp over himself and had then deliberately set fire to himself.

It is difficult to reach any definite conclusion regarding the cause of this act. In the evening before going to bed Ambica was cheerful. He had never threatened suicide, and his companions can give no reason why he should have killed himself. It is true that on 31st March. when he was allowed to visit his brother in hospital, he was disappointed at only staying a few hours, whereas he had hoped to get seven days' leave. He was also hoping for a transfer to another gaol as the society of his fellow prisoners was not congenial. He had made verbal representations about this but had not made any petition in writing for transfer. In August and September, 1925, he had sent several petitions asking to be allowed to visit his home to see his father. On inquiry it appeared that the father was not seriously ill and permission to visit his home was refused. None of these incidents provides any sufficient motive for his action. There seems to be no doubt that he had occasional short fits of depression and was somewhat eccentric, but there were no symptoms of insanity. The Bengal Government suggest that his misdeeds were weighing on his mind. The Government of India are satisfied that Arnica 'Khan was well treated and well looked after in gaol and that there was nothing in his treatment by the gaol authorities which offers any reasonable explanation for his suicide.

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