HC Deb 17 March 1947 vol 435 cc1-2W
Brigadier Low

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India if he will make a statement on the situation in the Punjab.

Mr. A. Henderson

On 25th February a settlement was reached between the Punjab Coalition Ministry and the Provincial Muslim League Party, who for the last month had been conducting an agitation against the Punjab Public Safety Ordinance. Under this settlement the Ministry undertook to remove the ban on public meetings which had been imposed under the Ordinance and, during the forthcoming session of the Provincial Legislature, to introduce legislation to replace the Ordinance. Meanwhile, the bans on military drill, the bearing of arms, and processions were to remain. On 2nd March, the Premier of the Punjab announced that he had tendered his Government's resignation in order that all political parties in the Province might have a chance of evolving between them an administration to which sovereign power could be transferred should this become necessary. The Governor thereupon invited the leader of the Muslim League party which has the largest number of seats in the Provincial Legislature, to form a Ministry. The Muslim League, however, have up to the present been unable to make proposals to the Governor for an alternative administration which would be assured of a stable majority in the Legislature. On 4th March the resigning Ministers, who had been requested to remain in charge of the administration till a new Ministry could be formed, insisted that their resignation should take effect forthwith and as a result the Governor found himself obliged, on 5th March, to take over the administration under Section 93 of the Government of India Act. Owing to widespread communal disturbances and the bitterness and anxiety caused by them, efforts to find a basis for the formation of a Ministry have not yet succeeded, and it is impossible to say when a Ministry is likely to be formed.

With regard to the ensuing disturbances, I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to the reply I gave today to a Question by the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson).