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Political Prisoners

Volume 155: debated on Tuesday 27 June 1922

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asked the Under-Secretary of State for India how many Indians have been found guilty of offences under the Criminal Law Amendment Act, the Seditious Meetings Act, and the sedition Clause of the Indian Penal Code in each of the nine major Provinces of India and in the North-West Frontier Province, respectively, during the last 12 months; and how many are now in gaol in each Province for such offences?

I am unable to supply the comprehensive figures asked for by the hon. and gallant Member. As I have already stated, the Government of India have been consulted as regards the particular return for which he asked on the 22nd February last. I do not see my way to asking them now for a different set of figures. They have just telegraphed that they hope very shortly to communicate figures of the persons undergoing imprisonment for offences which can be regarded as political. I may add that from the information at present available, I consider it most unlikely that their number will exceed 4,000, and not, as recently suggested, 20,000.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he is aware of the stories of ill-treatment of Indian political offenders in gaol; whether Pandit Madan Mohan Maleviya asked for permission to make inquiries into conditions in the gaols at Montgomery and Dera Ismail Khan; whether and, if so, why this request was refused, in view of the confidence felt both by Englishmen and Indians in the impartial honesty of the said Pandit; and will he consider the making of some definite inquiry and publishing the results, so that the truth may be known in India?

I am aware that allegations as to the treatment of political prisoners are frequently put forward in the Indian Press and elsewhere. I have seen a newspaper report of correspondence between the Governor of the Punjab and the Pandit, from which it appears that the latter desired to visit the Montgomery and Dera, Ghazi Khan (not Dera Ismail Khan) gaols in connection with some complaints brought to notice in another paper. The Governor replied that the rules did not permit visits to gaols by non-officials other than regularly appointed visitors, and that the complaints would he investigated. I see no reason to take action in the matter.