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General Dyer’s downfall

29 May 2020

May 28th, 1920.

NO NEWSPAPER can feel anything but reluctance in giving prominence to news of decisions clean contrary to its own advocacy. Thus the reader of the Morning Post who yesterday morning read the headline, “General Dyer Condemned,” could have had no doubt that it represented the fact. General Dyer has Indeed come out of the business a ruined man. The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Simla in a letter to the Times on Wednesday declared his belief that General Dyer had saved India. The Hunter Commission, the Government of India, and the Cabinet came to a different conclusion. They admit that martial law was justified, but hold that General Dyer exceeded his duty. We are not in a position to form an independent judgment. We are, however, able to judge of the manner in which the findings of the committee have been presented to the public. On the whole, the Press gave a faithful summary of the findings, but we regret to observe that the Daily Herald gave so garbled an account of the report as to suggest that it was a condonation of what happened at Amritzar [100 Years Ago, 20 December 2019]. It omits to mention that General Dyer has been relieved of his command, and so handles the news as to give an utterly false impression. For example, our contemporary says the Report “very nearly manages to censure General Dyer’s famous ‘crawling order’”. What are the facts? They are that the Cabinet declare the “crawling order” to have “offended against every canon of civilized government”. A Labour newspaper has a most important part to play in present-day affairs; honest statements may at times make dull reading in its pages, but they will be a pledge of sincerity. The Daily Herald offended in a similar fashion in connexion with the police strike.

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