A hundred years ago July 3, 1920 Archives

Defending Amritsar 1919.

(From an editorial)

Sir Michael O’Dwyer’s and General Dyer’s friends are many and are moving earth and heaven to condone their actions in the Punjab. The latest defender is Mr. L.F. Rushbrook Williams who, in an article entitled “Prelude to Amritsar” rushes into the fray in the XIX Century and After to draw what he wants to make out the terrible condition things in India . Mr. Williams says “It was a crisis second only to that of the Mutiny,” but is it not rather extraordinary that in every province outside of the Punjab except in Delhi and one or two other towns in which riots occurred, India was in a state of profound peace? Political excitement and agitation has been magnified into an organised rebellion notwithstanding the opinion of the Hunter Committee of inquiry. The findings of the Majority Report of that Committee Mr. Williams accepts as irrefutable, and though he tries hard to write in an impartial vein, it is not difficult to see that he apprehends that things are not right in India and that it should occasion the gravest concern in the authorities. Mr. Williams remarks in one place, “It is difficult to understand why the British public knows so little, except on the assumption too well-founded in general, that it cares little for India.” That assumption is correct but there is also another reason. Although Mr. Williams tells us “there was no censorship at the time,” that remark is perhaps little surprising as proceeding from an officer who, it was widely understood, was specifically deputed by Government to do publicity work for them in Britain. At least it clearly proves that Mr. Williams has no conception of the censorship exercised by Sir Michael O’Dwyer and the censorship which exists in the news sent by Reuter. Reuter’s agents are Europeans and a tennis match at Simhal or a Gymkhana race at Calcutta is thought to be of more importance than any question relating to Indian political aspirations or the unauthorised or questionable actions of the bureaucracy. We agree with Mr. Williams in thinking that the Punjab incidents have done an immensity of harm and that their consequences are immeasurable. Mr. Williams, with every desire that a Government Publicity Officer can be credited with to be just, wishes that steps should be taken “how best to enlarge, to render well-informed and influential a thorough understanding of India and its people.” We wish for nothing better than that facts regarding India should be placed before the British public to draw their own conclusions from them, and not from the prejudiced interpretation of facts and alleged facts by Anglo-Indians of every kind, who are interested in maintaining their prestige in this unfortunate country. We hope the information will be elicited from the Government of India at the next meeting of the Imperial Council as to what Mr. Williams’s relation to the Government of India is, whether he was on special duty, and, if so, under whose expense Mr. Williams was sent to spread news of the kind referred to above.

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