The 1909 Hansard Trawl - featuring one Mohandas Ghandi and fasting prisoners
"LORD AMPTHILL rose to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies what had been the result of his negotiations in regard to the question of British Indians in the Transvaal and to move for Papers...I will not take up time by repeating the past history of the question. I will begin with a period of four months ago, when the occasion of the discussion of the South African Constitution Bill raised hopes that this question—this unhappy question—which has reflected no credit on the Colony and no credit on the Imperial Government, which has been fraught with such misery to the British Indians in the Transvaal, would at last be settled; that there would be some generous concession on the part of the Colony, inspired, perhaps, by the Imperial Government, which would enable the British Indians to participate in the general rejoicing over the Union of South Africa. With these hopes in mind two Indian gentlemen, Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Hajee Habib, arrived as delegates from the British Indian community in the Transvaal on the 10th of July. They stated their case to the responsible authorities in this country, they refrained from any sort or kind of public agitation, and they waited patiently in the hope that their expectation would be fulfilled....
I've checked. It was him.
...The delegates, who had all this while maintained an admirable patience and self-restraint, made a dignified and temperate statement to the Press and left the country. Mr. Gandhi, the principal of them, is going back to the Transvaal probably to be clapped once more into gaol and treated as a common criminal. That, my Lords, is the recent history of 592 the question, and I think the time has come when we have a right to know what has actually passed between the Imperial Government and the Colonial Government....
The manner which the Colonial Government have chosen for depriving them of this right—a right which I must again remind your Lordships exists in every other part of the Empire and always has existed—is that of classing them as prohibited immigrants; that is to say, classing them with the outcast and the scum of humanity I from every other nation. What it amounts to is this. During the past three years, and while the Imperial Government has been under the direction of the Liberal Party, a colour bar has been instituted in South Africa—a colour bar such as never before existed in the history of the British Empire. While the Bill for the Union of South Africa was under discussion in both Houses of Parliament the leaders of all Parties protested in the most solemn and emphatic manner against a provision instituting a colour bar. That provision was a disqualification from future political rights. But the colour bar which has been instituted in the Transvaal is far more serious, for it amounts to a deprivation of rights which have always existed—not a deprivation of political rights but a deprivation of social rights, of the ordinary rights of the subjects of His Majesty. It is a law declaring all Indians—never mind what their status or their education—unfit even to enter the Colony, because it classes them with prohibited immigrants and places them in an inferior position to the people of any other non-Asiatic nation.
Good stirring stuff, and there's more:
Will none of your Lordships take up the question—take it out of my feeble hands—and press it as you would press any question which concerns the plighted words of our Statesmen, the honour of our race, and the contentment of the people of India. I beg to move.
Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty for Papers relating to the negotiations in regard to the question of British Indians in the Transvaal.—(Lord Ampthill.)
Sticking with India...
My Lords, I rise to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether, if he has not already done so, he will make a representation to the Government of the Transvaal on the hardship inflicted on Mahomedan political prisoners by the prison authorities making no concession during the Fast of Ramadhân in respect of their meals. This deals with only one small feature of the larger question so ably presented to your Lordships by my noble friend on my right, but it is important as it affects the religious scruples of our Mahomedan fellow- 600 subjects in India. As your Lordships are aware, the Fast of Ramadhân is a very important and stringent Fast and must be observed. No food or drop of water must pass the lips of a Mahomedan from sunrise to sundown, the only exemptions being cases of sickness or when a man is travelling. What Mahomedan political prisoners complain of is that the prison authorities make no concession to them during the Fast of Ramadhân in respect of their meals. No food is allowed to be given to them at special times which would enable them the better to stand the rigours of the Fast. They ask, if food cannot be so supplied by the prison authorities, whether their friends can be allowed to bring it in to them. I think it is very hard that there should not be greater humanity displayed towards those who are strictly political prisoners.
A pretty liberal set of sentiments for 1909.
THE EARL OF CROMER My Lords, what with Suffragettes in this country who will not eat at all and Mahomedans who will only eat at certain hours, it is pretty clear that the question of feeding prisoners is a rather difficult one. I am not familiar with the details of this question, and I cannot state offhand what was the practice in Egypt where there were a few political prisoners; but I should like to testify to the extraordinary importance that Mahomedans generally attach to this matter. The Fast of Ramadhân is, perhaps, one of the most important features of the Mahomedan religion, and I cannot help thinking that the refusal of this concession would not only affect the prisoners themselves, but would be calculated to have a bad influence on the opinions of Mahomedans generally.