Simon Commission and the Nehru Report

v  Simon Commission

§  The Government of India Act, 1919 made a provision to appoint a commission to study the progress of the governance scheme and whether India was ready for further constitutional reforms and along what lines.

§  It was set up by the British government under Stanley Baldwin’s prime ministership on November 8, 1927.

§  It was a seven member Indian statutory Commission (all the seven members were from British Parliament).

§  It is known as Simon Commission as after it chairman’s name Sir John  Simon.

§  The conservative secretary of state of India, Lord Birkenhead, was responsible for the appointment of the Simon Commission.

§  Dr. Ambedkar was appointed by the Bombay Legislative council o work with the Simon Commission.

§  It published its report in May, 1930.

§  The Simon Commission report: -

                         i.         It proposed the abolition of dyarchy and the establishment of representative government in the provinces.

                       ii.         The number of provincial legislative council should be increased.

                      iii.         It rejected parliamentary responsibility at the center.

                      iv.         The governor general was to have complete  power to appoint the members of the cabinet.

                        v.         The government of India would have complete control over the high court.

                      vi.         There was to be no universal franchise.

                     vii.         It suggested that a consultative council of greater India should be established including representatives of both the British provinces and princely states.

                    viii.         It suggested that the North-West Frontier Provinces (NWFP) and Baluchistan should get local legislatures.

                      ix.         It suggested that Sindh should be separate from Bombay, and Burma from India.

                       x.         It suggested that the Indian army should be Indianised through British forces. 

  • Ø  Some Other Commission

§  Lee Commission: - appointed in 1923 to look into the organisation and general conditions of services as well as the methods of recruitment for Europeans and Indians in the civil service in India.

§  The Muddiman Committee: - officially known as the report of the reforms enquiry committee, was set up in 1924, mainly to look into the working of the constitution as set up in 1921 under the Act of 1919.

§  The Linlithgow Commission: - officially the Royal Commission of agriculture was set up in 1926, to examine and report the condition of India’s agriculture and rural economy. The commission submitted its report in 1928.

  • Ø  Indian Response

                i.         The Indian response to the Simon Commission was immediate and nearly unanimous.

              ii.         It angered the Indians because it excluded the Indians from the commission.

             iii.         It was seen as aviation of the principle of self-determination and a deliberate insult to the self respect of the Indians.

             iv.         The congress session in Madras (December 1927) meeting under the presidency of M. A. Ansari decided to boycott the commission “at every stage and in every form”.

               v.         The Muslim  League had two sessions in 1927: -

o   Under Jinnah at Calcutta where it was decided to support congress with Hindu Mahasabha.

o   Under md. Shafi, who supported the government.

             vi.         The unionist in Punjab and the justice party in the South, decided not to boycott the Commission.

            vii.         When the Commission landed in Bombay in February 1928, a country wide Hartal and mass rallies took place. Black flag demonstration were held and the slogan ‘Simon Go Back’ was chanted.

           viii.         The youth participated enthusiastically, led by Nehru and Bose. They travelled widely and bred nationalism and socialism in the youth leagues.

             ix.         New groups such as Punjab Naujawn Bharat Sabha, workers’ and peasants’ parties, and Hindustan Sewa Dal emerged.

  • Ø  Police Repression

§  Police repression to the Indian protest was brutal and draconian.

§  Jawaharlal Nehru and G. B. Pant were beaten up in Lucknow during lathi charge.

§ Lala Lajpat Rai received fatal blows to his chest in October 1928, which lead to his death on November 17, 1928.

The blows, which fell on me today, are the last nails driven into the coffin of British imperialism.

: - Lala Lajpat Rai

  • Ø  Impact of Appointment of Simon Commission on the National Movement

The impact of the appointment of Simon Commission on Indian Polity was two-fold:

§  It stimulus the radical forces to demand not only complete independence but major socio-economic reforms on socialist lines.

§  The challenge of Lord Birkenhead to Indian politicians to produce an agreed constitution was accepted by various political sections. 

  • v  Nehru Report

§  As an answer to Lord Birkenhead’s challenge, an all parties conference met in February 1928.

§  Appointed a sub-committee under the chairmanship of Motilal Nehru to draft a constitution.

§  First major attempt by the Indians to draft a constitutional framework for the country.

§  The committee included: - Tej Bahadur Singh, Ali Imam, Shuaib Qureshi, and G. R. Pradhan.

§  The report was finalised by August 1928.

§  The report only referred to British India, and imagined a link up with the princely states on a federal basis.

§  The main recommendations  of the report were: -

                         i.         Dominion status on lines of self-governing dominions as the form of government described by Indians.

                       ii.         Rejection of separate electorates instead a demand for joint electorates with reservation of seats for Muslims at the center and in provinces.

                      iii.         Linguistic provinces.

                      iv.         Nineteen fundamental rights including equal rights for women, right to form unions, and universal adult suffrage.

                        v.         Responsible government at the center and in provinces.

                      vi.         At the center, the Indian parliament was to have a universally elected House of representative (5 years tenure) and a senate elected by the provincial councils (7 yrs. tenure).

                     vii.         Central government to be headed by a governor general, appointed by the British by paid out by India and would act on the advice of the central executive council, which would be responsible to the parliament.

                    viii.         Full protection to cultural and religious interests of Muslims.

                      ix.         Complete dissociation of state from religion.

  • Ø  The Muslim and Hindu Communal Responses

§  In December 1927, a large number of Muslim leaders met at Delhi at the Muslim league session and evolved four proposals for their demands to be incorporated in the draft constitution, these demands were accepted by the Madras session of the congress (December 1927).

o   These four demands were –

                                  i.         Joint electorates instead of separate electorates with reserved seats for Muslims.

                                ii.         One-third representation to Muslims in central legislative assembly.

                               iii.         Representation to Muslims in Punjab and Bengal in proportion to their population.

                               iv.         Formation of three new Muslims majority provinces – Sindh, Baluchistan, and North-West Frontier Provinces (NWFP).

§  The Hindu Mahasabha opposed to the proposals for creating new Muslim majority provinces and reservation of seats for Muslims majorities in Punjab and Bengal, and also demanded a strictly unitary structure.

Compromises

The compromises made in the Nehru report to Hindu Communalists included the following: -

§  Joint electorates proposed everywhere but reservation for Muslims only where in majority.

§  Sindh to be detached from Bombay only after dominion status was granted.

§  Political structure proposed broadly unitary, as residual power rested with the centre.

  • Ø  Amendments proposed by Jinnah

§  At the all parties conference held at Calcutta in December 1928 to consider the Nehru report, Jinnah proposed three amendments to the report –

                         i.         One-third representation to Muslims in the central legislature.

                       ii.         Reservation to Muslims in Bengal and Punjab till adult suffrage was established.

                      iii.         Residual powers were to be lies with provinces.

                 However; these demands were not accommodated.

Jinnah’s Fourteen points

Jinnah in March 1929, gave 14 points which were to become the basis of all future propaganda of the Muslim league. The 14 points were as follows: -

1.      Federal constitution with residual powers to provinces.

2.     Provincial autonomy.

3.     No constitutional amendment by the centre without the concurrence of the seats constituting the Indian federation.

4.     All legislatures and elected bodies to have adequate representation of Muslims in every provinces without reducing a majority of Muslims in a province to a minority or equality.

5.     Adequate representation to Muslims in the services and in self-governing bodies.

6.     One-third Muslim representation in the Central legislature.

7.     In any cabinet at the centre or in the provinces, one-third to be Muslims.

8.     Separate electorates.

9.     No bill or resolution in any legislature to be passed if three-fourth of a minority community consider such a bill or resolution to be against their interests.

10.   Any territorial, redistribution not to affect the Muslim majority in Punjab, Bengal, and NWFP.

11.    Separation of Sindh from Bombay.

12.   Constitutional reforms in the NWFP and Baluchistan.

13.   Full religious freedom to all communities.

14.   Protection of Muslim rights in religion, cultural, education, and Language.

  • Ø  Nehru Report Found Unsatisfactory

§  The Muslim league, the Hindu Mahasabha, and the Sikh communalists and the Younger section of the congress were unhappy about the Nehru report.

§  The Younger section regarded the idea of dominion status in  the report as a step backward.

Nehru and Subhas Bose rejected the congress modified goal and jointly set up the independence for India league.

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