Chapter 24: SIMON COMMISSION
Government of India Act 1919 made a provision for a review
committee on its working after 10 years. However the
conservative government was staring at defeat and it felt
that this constitutional question couldn’t be left in the
hands of inexperienced labor party. Thus the Indian
statutory commission popularly known as the Simon
commission was appointed in 1927.
as no Indian was on the committee it was met with boycott
unanimously throughout India by all parties. The Muslim
league was split on this but Jinnah carried majority with
him in favor of boycott.
Protests against the
the committee went it was greeted with black flags and
hartals. The police response to was brutal and many places
saw lathi charges even on senior leaders. The youth got a
chance for political demonstrations and many youth leagues
sprang up throughout the country.
Nehru and SC Bose were the leaders who toured the country
and presided over innumerable youth conferences. Both
these leaders were deeply influenced by socialism
[though Nehru’s ideas were more scientific than Bose].
The youth drawn into the national struggle also were
introduced to socialist ideas.
secretary of state had complained that the Indians
couldn’t create a report on constitutional reforms that
would be support by political opinion. In response to
this the congress produced the Nehru report authored by
Motilal Nehru. It demanded dominion status for
demands were reservations for Muslims in Muslim minority
areas not Muslim majority areas; separation of state and
religion; freedom to form unions; equal right for women;
universal adult suffrage, no separate electorates.
Muslim league was opposed to the provision on no
reservations in Muslim majority areas this led Jinnah to
come up with his fourteen point plan.
led by Jawaharlal Nehru and Bose to had objections on
the Nehru report. They wanted Purna Swaraj as the goal
of the congress and not dominion status. But
Gandhiji and others felt that it would be too hasty. At
the Calcutta session, a compromise was made here and it
was decided to give the government a year to accept a
constitution based on dominion status. If that didn’t
happen then congress would accept complete independence as
its goal and launch a civil disobedience to achieve it.
Recommendations of the Simon
were continuation of communal representation, abolition of
diarchy, extension of responsible government in provinces,
creation of Indian federation of British India and
new government of the labor party was in power and the PM
Ramsey McDonald declared that once the Simon committee
submits its report a round table would be convened to
discuss dominion status to India. Following this
declaration a conference of all major leaders met an
issued the Delhi manifesto, it made clear that the purpose
of the round table wouldn’t be too discuss when dominion
status would be given but to make an implementation plan.
Viceroy Irwin told Gandhiji that such a promise can’t be
made. Hence the confrontation was necessary.
Lahore Session and Purna
the Lahore session of the congress the historic
declaration of Purna Swaraj was made in 1929. The flag of
Indian independence was unfurled on the banks of Ravi on
31st December 1929. On Gandhiji’s insistence
Jawaharlal Nehru was appointed the president after his
father Motilal Nehru. Gandhiji insisted this was due to
the sacrifice of the youth and in recognizing their
contribution to the Simon boycott.
26th January 1930 the Purna Swaraj pledge was
taken by Indians. The Lahore session gave the working
committee to chalk out a plan for civil disobedience. Gandhiji
an ultimatum to Viceroy Irwin saying 11 points demanded
have been ignored and so no other option is with the
congress except civil disobedience.
essay in his journal Young India, Mahatma Gandhi set out how the day should
be observed. ‘It would be good’, said the leader, ‘if the declaration [of independence]
is made by whole villages, whole cities even . . . It would be well if
all the meetings were held at the identical minute in all the places.’
Gandhi suggested that the time of the meeting be advertised in the traditional
way, by drum-beats.
The celebrations would begin with the hoisting
of the national flag. The rest of the day would be spent ‘in doing some constructive
work, whether it is spinning, or service of “untouchables”, or reunion
of Hindus and Mussalmans, or prohibition work, or even all these together,
which is not impossible’.
Participants would take a pledge affirming that it
was ‘the inalienable right of the Indian people, as of any other people, to have
freedom and to enjoy the fruits of their toil’, and that ‘if any government deprives
a people of these rights and oppresses them, the people have a further
right to alter it or abolish it’.
As an answer to Lord Birkenhead's challenge (inability of Indians to
formulate a concrete scheme of constitutional reforms which had the
support of wide sections of Indian political opinion), an All Parties Conference met in February 1928 and appointed a subcommittee under the chairmanship of Motilal Nehru to draft a constitution.
This was the first major
attempt by the Indians to draft a constitutional framework for the
Main Recommendations of Nehru Report :
The Nehru Report confined itself to British India, as it envisaged the
future link-up of British India with the princely states on a federal
Dominion status on lines of self-governing dominions as the form of
government desired by Indians (much to the chagrin of younger, militant
section—Nehru being prominent among them).
Rejection of separate electorates which had been the basis of
constitutional reforms so far; instead, a demand for joint electorates
with reservation of seats for Muslims at the centre and in provinces
where they were in minority (and not in those where Muslims were in
majority, such as Punjab and Bengal) in proportion to the Muslim
population there with right to contest additional seats.
Nineteen fundamental rights including equal rights for women, right
to form unions, and universal adult suffrage. Responsible government at the centre and in provinces
The Indian Parliament at the centre to consist of a 500 member House of
Representatives elected on the basis of adult suffrage, a 200-member
Senate to be elected by provincial councils; the House of
Representatives to have a tenure of 5 years and the Senate, one of 7
years; the central government to be headed by a governor-general,
appointed by the British Government but paid out of Indian revenues, who
would act on the advice of the central executive council responsible to
Provincial councils' to have a 5-year tenure, headed by a- governor
acting on the advice of the provincial executive council.
Full protection to cultural and religious interests of Muslims. Complete dissociation of state from religion.
Earlier, in December 1927, a large number of Muslim leaders had met at
Delhi at the Muslim League session and evolved four proposals for Muslim
demands to be incorporated in the draft constitution. These proposals,
which were accepted by the Madras session of the Congress (December
1927), came to be known as the 'Delhi Proposals'.
These included representation to Muslims in Punjab and Bengal in proportion to their
population; formation of three new Muslim majority provinces— Sindh, Baluchistan
and North-West Frontier Province.
However, the Hindu Mahasabha was vehemently opposed to the proposals for
creating new Muslim-majority provinces and reservation of seats for
Muslims majorities in Punjab and Bengal (which would ensure Muslim
control over legislatures in both).
It also demanded a strictly unitary
structure. This attitude of the Hindu Mahasabha complicated matters. In
the course of the deliberations of the All Parties Conference, the
Muslim League dissociated itself and stuck to its demand for reservation
of seats for Muslims, especially in the Central Legislature and in
Muslim majority provinces.
Thus, Motilal Nehru and other leaders
drafting the report found themselves in a dilemma: if the demands of the
Muslim communal opinion were accepted, the Hindu communalists would
withdraw their support, if the latter were satisfied, the Muslim leaders
would get estranged.
Not only were the Muslim League, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Sikh
communalists unhappy about the Nehru Report, but the younger section of
the Congress led by Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Bose were also angered.
. Nehru and
Subhash Bose rejected the Congress' modified goal and jointly set up the
Independence for India League. They demanded that the
Congress adopt purna swaraj or complete independence as its goal.
That the purpose of the Round Table Conference (RTC) should be to
formulate a scheme for implementation of the dominion status (thus
acting as a constituent assembly) and the basic principle of dominion
status should be immediately accepted;
That the Congress should have majority representation at the
Amnesty and a general policy of conciliation;
Viceroy Irwin promised a Round Table Conference when the Simon Commission
submitted its report but he rejected these demands on December 23, 1929. The stage of confrontation (Civil Disobedience) was to begin now.
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