§ Mr. Peter Freeman
asked the Undersecretary of State for India the number of political prisoners now imprisoned in India; and how many are being detained without trial.
§ Mr. Piratin
asked the Under-Secretary of State for India, in view of the decision of His Majesty's Government that provincial elections be held in India, what steps will be taken to release political prisoners still detained without trial, to release prisoners convicted of political offences and to rescind all orders in force in India which limit the movement, free speech and the right of political association of persons who may wish to take part in the elections.733W
§ Mr. A. Henderson
Between 1st August and 1st October the number of political detenus in India had been reduced from 1,958 to 1,109. Those remaining in detention include persons suspected of terrorist activities during the disturbances of 1942, and almost all were detained in the four Provinces where the terrorist problem has been most serious. All persons detained in connection with the Congress Disturbances of 1942 who were not associated with methods of violence have now been released. The number of persons convicted and serving sentences in connection with the Congress disturbances of 1942, which in May, 1943, attained a maximum figure of over 23,000 had fallen at the end of August last to about 6,000.
As my foregoing statement has shown, considerable progress has recently been made in the release of persons detained without trial, and the number of those serving sentences for offences committed in connection with the Congress disturbances is also falling steadily. The cases of the remaining political detenus are continuously under review, and His Majesty's Government hope that the present rapid rate of progressive release may be maintained. They are satisfied, however, that anything in the nature of a general amnesty for convicted prisoners undergoing sentences of imprisonment is not desirable, especially as it is impossible in many case to distinguish between crimes committed for political motives and those carried out for purely criminal reasons.
There are no restrictions on the right of any individuals who may wish to take part in the elections; nor on the right of free speech, subject to the maintenance of good order. There will be all reasonable freedom of movement for the parties contesting the elections. The ban on Congress was lifted several weeks ago. The position of other organisations is under continuous review.