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52. The Punjab Sentences

The Commissioners appointed by the Congress Punjab Sub-committee have in their report accused His Excellency the Viceroy of criminal want of imagination. His Excellency's refusal to commute two death sentences out of five is a fine illustration of the accusation. The rejection of the appeal (See "The Amritsar Appeals", Young India, 3-3-1920) no more proves the guilt of the condemned than their innocence could have been proved by quashing the proceedings before the Martial Law Tribunal. Moreover, these cases clearly come under the Royal Proclamation (of December 1919) in accordance with its interpretation by the Punjab Government. The murders in Amritsar were not due to any private quarrel between the murderers and their victims. The offence, grave though it was, was purely political and committed under excitement. More than full reparation has been taken for the murders and arson. In the circumstances common sense dictates reduction of the death sentences. The popular belief favours the view that the condemned men are innocent and have not had a fair trial. The execution has been so long delayed that hanging at this stage would give a rude shock to Indian society. Any Viceroy with imagination would have at once announced commutation of the death sentences — not so Lord Chelmsford. In his estimation, evidently, the demands of justice will not be satisfied if at least some of the condemned men are not hanged. Public feeling with him counts for nothing. We shall still hope that either the Viceroy or Mr.- Montagu will commute the death sentences.
But if the Government will grievously err, if they carry out the sentences, the people will equally err if they give way to anger or grief over the hanging if it has unfortunately to take place. Before we become a nation possessing an effective voice in the councils of nations, we must be prepared to contemplate with equanimity, not a thousand murders of innocent men and women but many thousands before we attain a status in the world that shall not be surpassed by any nation. We hope therefore that all concerned will take rather than lose heart and treat hanging as an ordinary affair of life.
(Since the above was in type, we have received the cruel news. At last H. E. the Viceroy has mercilessly given the rude shock to Indian society. It is now for the latter to take heart in spite of the unkindcst cut. —Editor, Young India.)

Young India, 7-4-1920