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Papers of Edwin Montagu, Part II
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Copy of a telegram from Lord Chelmsford to Edwin Montagu

Quotes a telegram from the Punjab [from O'Dwyer; see A2/5/3], 24 April, as follows: 'All quiet in Lahore and Amritsar. Report from Kasur shows arrest of 13 men concerned in Kasur riots. Yesterday Amritsar Movable Column from Ferozepore arrived. Another Column accompanied by Deputy Commissioner left this morning. Loot from Amritsar is said to have been found in remote villages in Jullundur and Lyallpur. Gurdaspur reports that misunderstandings are evaporating. Arrests in progress in Gujrunwala. Telegraph wire cut at Begowal between Wazirabad and Sialkot. Officer Commanding Troops proclaimed martial law in Lyallpur in durbar. Movable Column and armoured train operating in district. Gross exaggerations prevalent regarding punishments imposed under martial law. As regards Lahore civil area (which includes city civil station and Mogulpur) facts are that since martial law proclaimed 28 persons in all dealt with by Courts Martial. Of these 2 remanded for further enquiry, 5 discharged and only one insane and sent to asylum. Remaining 12 sentenced to flogging. 2 receiving also sentences of imprisonment and one of fine. In addition 8 have been fined. Men flogged were all with the exception of one petty shopkeepers of menial or servant class. Average number of stripes, ten. Charges in five cases was of tearing down notices and in seven of being out after hours. Since 20th no cases of any kind.' There have been three cases of incendiarism on the lines of the 1/34th Sikh Pioneers, Ambala. In the United Provinces local agitators are still active at Meerut. Nothing is reported from elsewhere.

(Carbon copy.)

Copy of a memorandum from Edwin Montagu to Sir Thomas Holderness and Sir Malcolm Seton

Is anxious that the Viceroy should not inaugurate an inquiry into the recent occurrences in India (which Montagu has assured the House the Viceroy always intended) without further consultation at home, since he believes the Viceroy is unaware of the general desire that the inquiry should be impartial and fearless, and should examine questions such as the use of dum-dum bullets, the needless firing on the crowd, the deportation of innocent people, the unnecessarily harsh use of military law, the mishandling of Gandhi’s prohibition as regards Delhi, the immediate causes of the outbreaks at Lahore, Amritsar, and Ahmedabad, and the actual results of recruiting on temper and economics in the Punjab. Is prepared to let the Viceroy to decide the time, provided there is no postponement, but wishes to be satisfied as to the terms of reference and personnel. The inquiry should, he thinks, be conducted by one man ‘from home’, with an Indian and an official assessor, and he has written to the Viceroy proposing Lord Cave for the appointment. Asks them to draft an official telegram asking that he may be consulted on these matters.

(Carbon copy.)

Memorandum from Alan Parsons to S. K. Brown

British Delegation, Paris.—The Secretary of State recalls that at the beginning of the trouble in India the Viceroy sent him a telegram (A2/1/14(i)) telling him not to worry about ‘getting the right people back on our side’, and that he had a scheme in mind. Asks Brown to find it and send it in the next pouch.

Telegram from Edwin Montagu to Lord Chelmsford

Has been informed that the Bombay High Court is asking pleaders to show cause why they should not be disbarred for taking the satyagraha [passive resistance] vow. Questions whether it is worth proceeding against satyagraha now it is over. Is telegraphing to [Sir George Lloyd at] Bombay for facts in connection with a question to be asked by Wedgwood [in the Commons] on Thursday.

(MS in the hands of Montagu and S. K. Brown. Used for transmission.)

Telegram from Sir Narayan Chandavarkar to Edwin Montagu

The Western India National Liberal Association ask for the Army Commission to include one or more additional Indians experienced in public life and familiar with the wants, conditions, and aspirations of Indians under British rule with regard to military commissions and training. Expresses concern at the Viceroy’s announcement [see A2/19/3] that the Commission to investigate recent disorders is to be appointed by the Government of India, and that an Indemnity Bill will be passed as soon as possible. Since the inquiry is into the martial policy sanctioned by the Government of India itself, it ought to have been entrusted to an independent Royal Commission; while the need for an Indemnity Bill depends on the results of the inquiry, and it should therefore be abandoned for the present.

(Ticker-tape pasted to printed forms.)

Telegram from Edwin Montagu to Lord Reading

Is going on holiday. Kenya continues to be troublesome. Is eager to discuss the proposed statement of policy at the opening of the Legislative Assembly. The decision whether to prosecute those who spoke at the Karachi conference should be made promptly. The Government’s decision to substitute a treaty with King Feisul of Mesopotamia for a mandate may improve relations with Mohammedans. It is rumoured that Gandhi intends to proclaim an Indian republic. Some, including Churchill, are optimistic about Irish peace; others, including the Prime Minister, are not.

(Typed. Used for transmission.)

Telegram from Edwin Montagu to Lord Reading

He notes that the Ali brothers have been sentenced to two years’ rigorous imprisonment and queries whether such sentences are appropriate for political misdemeanants, since such prisoners need more rigorous separation from the outside world than ordinary prisoners but, in other respects, lighter treatment. Suggest they should be treated as ‘first-class political misdemeanants’.

(Typed. Used for transmission.)

Telegram from Lord Reading to Edwin Montagu

[Part 1.] The impression is being created, particularly in Calcutta, that the Government of India is pursuing a policy of ‘mere repression’. After 17 November there was an outcry against the severe action taken in protection of law-abiding citizens in response to reports of the in-timidation and coercion of the general public into hartals and of non-co-operators having taken control of Calcutta. The subsequent proclamations by the Bengal Government prohibiting volunteer associations are the direct cause of the trouble in Calcutta and elsewhere. Large numbers of otherwise respectable persons have been arrested. Has been consulting Ronaldshay constantly. Though a conference would be of doubtful benefit, he thinks it would be right to agree to one if it were suggested. Sapru asked to meet him before yesterday’s meeting of the Executive Council.

(Typed.)

(i) Memorandum from S. K. Brown to Edwin Montagu, with (ii) the draft of a telegram from Montagu to Lord Reading, in Brown’s hand, 19 Dec. 1921.

(i) The annexed telegram will be ‘all right’ if sent tomorrow morning. There is no chance of consulting the Prime Minister tonight, except at the risk of having the matter turned down out of hand.

(ii) He has been unable to obtain a Cabinet decision on Reading's telegram [A3/15/1–3], but the Prime Minister has authorised him to say that the Government accept Reading’s conclusions, provided that (1) the conference is conditional upon a change of attitude as to the Prince’s visit; (2) it will be in other respects unconditional on both sides; and (3) Reading would enter it under no other pledge than to listen and discuss, and report afterwards to the Government.

Telegram from Edwin Montagu to Lord Reading

Is distressed at the result of the Cabinet Committee communicated in A3/21/2. He did his utmost to persuade them to accept Reading’s view. The Committee had to assume that Reading is still free to either announce a conference or not.

(Typed. Used for transmission.)

Letter from Sir George Askwith to Edwin Montagu

Board of Trade, Gwydyr House, Whitehall, S.W.—With regard to the position of Messrs. Guest, Keen, & Nettlefold at Dowlais, they have today received an interim report from the investigators in South Wales collecting information for the Fair Wages Advisory Committee. The report, however, merely refers to the inquiry’s difficulties in connection with the Dowlais District and the questions of rates of wages and ‘similar’ occupations. It would be useless for the Committee to consider such a report, but it will meet when the [final] report is received. Keir Hardie knows the inquiry is being held, and if he should put any formal questions in the House before a further report is received, it would be unreasonable for him to expect any reply beyond a statement that the inquiry is in progress and that the Committee will consider their report as soon as it is received.

Copy of a letter from Edwin Montagu to the editor of The Times

Treasury Chambers, Whitehall, S.W.—Defends himself against the criticism made by Lord Curzon in moving the rejection of the Council of India Bill in the Lords, namely that the Bill is well-known to be mainly the product of the late Under-Secretary of State [Montagu], who, finding during his time at the India Office that the existing machinery did not suit his purposes, set about to destroy it. Points out, in passing, that the Secretary of State, by introducing the measure in the Lords, has full identified himself with it, though he himself is unashamed of any part he took in its origin. His main motive in helping to adapt to modern conditions a system based on a Statute founded on the conditions of fifty years ago was as follows. The lack of sympathy existing between the Government of India and the India Office is not due to the Secretary of State’s exercising of those functions of revision and determination of policy defined by John Stuart Mill in the passage quoted by The Times on 29 June, but to the unavoidable procrastination of the [present] India Office system, and a tendency from home to interfere in minutiae of administration. This interference comes not from the Secretary but from his Council, whose energies are naturally turned in this direction by their ‘Indian-formed and regularized habit of mind’. He has therefore always felt that there should be a smaller, more up-to-date and more adaptable advisory body. He is not surprised that Lord Curzon is not in favour of this policy, whose pronouncements since he resigned have supported the remark in the Times of India that ‘India is moving so fast that it is dangerous for those who have been long absent to venture on dogmatic opinions regarding current politics’. He appreciates Curzon’s continuing efforts to improve efficiency, but does not think it impossible to exceed the ‘high-water mark’ of Curzon’s achievements. In considering details of a scheme to meet the needs of 1914 it is difficult to be convinced by arguments based on speeches made by Lord Stanley in 1858, the experience of an Under-Secretary in 1891, and the pronouncements of a Viceroy of 1899–1905. Curzon is inconsistent to appeal on behalf of voiceless Indian taxpayers, but to describe a proposal to give them a voice as indefensible. He agrees with Curzon’s view that autocratic behaviour by the Government of India is not a blunder but a crime, but regrets that this statement was unaccompanied by any note of personal repentance.

(Typed transcript.)

Minute by an unidentified person

Brigadier-General Dyer has an excellent military record, and though he has committed an error of judgement [i.e. the 'crawling order'] the writer does not think he can be charged with a military crime. The order he issued, though doubtless unwise, unjust, and harmful to the izzat of those to whom it was given, did not involve material or physical damage. Dyer should be deprived of his command and sent home, but no more drastic action should be taken. If Dyer is tried by court martial there will be a great scandal, which will be magnified by the 'yellow press' in India and England, and an event which now has some chance of not being remembered for very long will achieve a notoriety which will last many years.

(Typed on a printed form headed 'Minute'.)

Printed copies of telegrams from (i) Edwin Montagu to Lord Chelmsford, 25 June 1919, and (ii) from Chelmsford to Montagu, 1 July 1919

(i) Nehru has advised that Buggu and Ratachand of Amritsar have been arrested and sentenced to death by court martial; that both trial and sentence were illegal under Regulation X; that Nehru has been instructed to appeal to the Privy Council; and that Chelmsford has refused to stay execution pending appeal. Asks Chelmsford to advise him of the facts.

(ii) The execution of Ratachand, Buggu, and the other three convicts has been postponed, pending further communication from Montagu.

(Two cuttings from larger documents, pinned to a blank sheet.)

Copy of a telegram from Lord Chelmsford to Edwin Montagu

Refers to Montagu’s private telegram of 31 July [wanting] regarding the debate in the Lords on martial law in the Punjab, and responds to the questions in his ‘first’ telegram as follows: (1) ‘Persons tried by commissions 852, convicted 582, acquitted 270.’ The number tried by summary courts will be sent when it is available. (2) The few absconders remaining to be dealt with will be tried by ordinary courts, as all martial law tribunals have been dissolved. One tribunal under the Defence of India Act still has one or two cases to try. (3) Figures for the reduction of death sentences were sent in his telegram of 23 July. Local Government has reviewed 564 convictions, and in nearly 500 cases a large number of reduction have been granted. All sentences of forfeiture are being remitted. (4) The only sentences suspended are those of the five persons sentenced to death in Amritsar and the National Bank case, whose appeals have been admitted by the Privy Council. (5) For the intentions of Local Government or Government of India he refers to his private telegram of 2 August on the proposed inquiry [wanting].

Refers to the questions in Montagu’s ‘later’ telegram. Discusses the reduction by Local Government of the sentences of Har Kishen Lal, Ram Bhuj Datt, Duni Chand, Allah Din, and Mota Singh, convicted by commission of organising protests in Lahore against the Rowlatt Act. Responds to four specific points as follows: (1) Local Government has reduced the sentences of Kichlu and Satyapal and other Amritsar conspirators, and commuted the death sentence of Doctor Bashir. (2) Eleven persons were executed for murders at Kasur and Amritsar. In commuting sentences his principle has been that the death sentence should be reserved for cases of murder. (3) Details of remissions and commutations granted by Local Government and the Governor General have already been reported. Few petitions for clemency have come before them, except regarding death sentences. Confirms that the Lieutenant General refused to reduce the sentence of imprisonment on Kali Nath Roy. (4) Besides special commissions, summary courts were created by order of the General Officer Commanding with certain limited powers. Numerous reductions of their convictions will probably be granted on review.

They desire to emphasise the following general considerations: (1) The Punjab disturbances were not sporadic riots but organised risings, with definite anti-Government and anti-British bias. (2) The simultaneous cutting of railway and telegraph lines in different places points to a common purpose. (3) The danger to the lives of Europeans in isolated stations justified prompt and stern measures, which he believes prevented the spread of disorder. (4) Unprovoked attacks by the mob at Amritsar on Europeans unconnected with Government show how the ‘latent savagery of [the] lower classes’ may be excited, and emphasise the moral responsibility of the educated leaders who incited them. Finally, when the Punjab Government requested the application of Regulation X the procedure was altered in order that it might be enforced by experienced men on specified tribunals rather than courts martial.

(Carbon copy.)

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