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The Unrest In India

Volume 178: debated on Tuesday 16 July 1907

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I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India what steps have been taken in the Punjab to allay the unrest by concessions; whether the land tax has been abated in any part of the province; and, if so, by how much; and whether any reduction has been effected in the amount of water rates in the Lyallpur district, where there was lately so much agitation.

To speak of "concessions" in this connection is misleading and inappropriate, because it is the duty of the Government to see that its subjects have no legitimate grievance. So far as I am aware, the land tax was mentioned as a grievance only in the case of the Rawalpindi disturbance. The new assessments have been accepted without complaint by the agricultural population. The Local Government will deal considerately with any genuine instance of over-assessment which may come to light. In the Chenab irrigation colony, where the spring crop has been seriously damaged by rust, it is proposed to remit half the land revenue and half the water rate. In this colony, which forms the Lyallpur district, there has been no enhancement of the water rates, and agitation there did not concern these rates. The Bari-Doab Canal, on which the rates were to have been raised next September, does not enter the Lyallpur district. The levy of the proposed new rates on the Bari-Doab Canal was in April postponed until September, 1908, and pending further inquiry.

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been called to the publication in Eastern Bengal of an inflammatory pamphlet, known as the red pamphlet, inciting the Mahomedans to violent measures against the Hindoos; whether one Ebrahim Munshi, the author of this pamphlet, has been prosecuted under Section 108 of the Criminal Procedure Code; whether the proceedings against him have been kept confidential by the magistrate; and whether he can state what the result of these proceedings has been.

My attention has been drawn to the publication of the pamphlet in question. I am informed that proceedings under the section mentioned were instituted against the author, but that, on his undertaking to publish no more copies, and to withdraw the pamphlet as far as possible from circulation, he was released on his own recognisances. The case was accordingly not brought to trial, and the proceedings, as far as they went, were confidential.

:asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he was not aware that the circulation of this pamphlet was one of the principal causes of the unfortunate riots and disturbances which had been so marked a feature of Eastern Bengal.

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been drawn to the proceedings of the Deputy Commissioner of Hazavibagh, in Bengal, proposing to give leases to several Europeans to build bungalows on the sacred hill of Parasnath, and to the feeling this proposal has excited among the Jain community in India, by whom the entire hill, which is their principal place of pilgrimage, is regarded as sacred; and whether he will inquire into the case, with a view of allaying disquiet among this influential community and protecting their rights and privileges which have hitherto been always recognised on the Parasnath Hill.

I have no official information on the subject, but from references in the newspapers I gather that, as a result of a conference between the Deputy Commissioner of Hazavibagh and representatives of the Jain community, it was arranged that the latter should submit a statement of their views within two months, for the consideration of the authorities concerned. I am advised that all parts of the hill are not regarded as sacred. A large area was actually occupied as a military sanitorium from 1862–8, and the building then erected is still standing. I see at present no reason why a settlement satisfactory to all parties should not be arrived at.

Owing to the extreme dissatisfaction caused to an influential and loyal section of the community will the right hon. Gentleman institute further inquiries?

said he could not promise to make further inquiries than those he had already made.

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether, in view of the fact that prisoners of State, confined under the Indian Ordinance of 1818, have no means of making any defence, except under the provision of the Ordinance which expressly allows them at all times freely to bring to the notice of the Governor-General in Council any circumstances they may wish in connection with their deportation and confinement, he will take steps to have Lala Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh informed of their rights, and ascertain whether either of them desires to make any defence or complaint in respect of matters alleged against them.

Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh have already been informed of their right to communicate with the Governor-General in Council. The former has done so; the latter has not.

asked if the defence of Lajpat Rai would be communicated to the House.

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India whether he will place in the Library copies of the Wafadar of 28th January, and of the Punjabee of 27th March, in which newspapers Lajpat Rai is reported to have preached sedition in Lyallpur and Lahore; and whether he will state to the House on what other grounds the law of 1818 was resorted to in the matter of the arrest and deportation of Lajpat Rai.

My reply to the first part of the Question is in the affirmative. As for the second part, I can only refer my hon. friend to the Answers which I gave to the hon. Members for East Nottingham and East Clare on the 2nd instant,†

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the latter part of the Question simply asks for the grounds upon which the law was resorted to?

I am afraid I do not understand the Question. The hon. Member asks whether I will state to the House "on what grounds the law of 1818 was resorted to" in the matter of the arrest and deportation. I have already told the House that there were matters connected with this arrest and deportation which I did not think it would be in the public interest that I should state.

asked Mr. Speaker, in view of the unsatisfactory nature of the right hon. Gentleman's reply, whether the Government of India were responsible to the House for its action in the administration of the law; and, if so, whether a Member of the House had not the right to demand that definite information should be supplied to him, publicly or privately, as to the ground for the arrest and deportation of any of His Majesty's subjects.

It is open to any hon. Member to put any Question that comes within the rules of order, and it is equally open to the Minister to decline to give a reply.

asked whether the hon. Member was entitled, to read a supplementary Question as he had just done. He himself had done so and had been declared out of order.

It depends upon the nature of the supplementary Question. There is no rule against reading.

†See (4) Debates, clxxvii., 522–3, 524–5.

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for India why it was that the Government of Eastern Bengal and Assam gave instructions for an appeal to be lodged against the acquittal of one Johar Mandel, charged with the petty crime of a theft of paddy; whether his attention has been called to the fact that the appeal was rejected by the High Court, and to the remark of Mr. Justice Mitter in the case that there is no safety of the subject if the Government appeal in such petty cases; and, in view of the fact that intervention by the Government in such cases amounts to a denial of justice, what steps, if any, he intends taking in the matter.

I have seen a newspaper report of the case referred to, from which it appears that the Government of Eastern Bengal and Assam, being of opinion that there had been a failure of justice, ordered an appeal to be filed. In dismissing the appeal Mr. Justice Mitter is reported to have used the language which the hon. Member quotes. I do not follow his suggestion that the intervention of the Government amounts to a denial of justice, and I have no doubt that the High Court in other cases, as in this, will see that justice is done.

asked if it came within the functions of the High Court to take notice of the petty cases of this character.

It is not for me to say what is the duty of the High Court. It administers justice and is guided therein by statutory authority.

Have not appeals of this nature become very much more common of late years than previously?

And does not the very rejection of this appeal by a Hindoo Judge of the High Court of Bengal conclusively prove that the intervention of the Government in such cases does not mean a denial of justice?

I should have thought so. I will inquire as to the number of appeals. I do not think it bears out the suggestion of the hon. Member for East Nottingham.