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“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers…

An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.
09/06/2023 1:45 PM

“The Knowledge Library”

Knowledge for All, without Barriers……….
An Initiative by: Kausik Chakraborty.

The Knowledge Library



The 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 the inexperienced labor party. Thus the Indian statutory commission popularly known as the Simon Commission was appointed in 1927.

However, as no Indian was on the committee it was met with a boycott unanimously throughout India by all parties. The Muslim league was split on this but Jinnah carried the majority with him in favor of the boycott.

Protests against the Commission

Wherever the committee went it was greeted with black flags and hartals. The police response 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.

Jawaharlal 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’s]. The youth drew into the national struggle also were introduced to socialist ideas.

Nehru Report

The secretary of state had complained that the Indians couldn’t create a report on constitutional reforms that would be supported by political opinion. In response to this, congress produced the Nehru report authored by Motilal Nehru. It demanded dominion status for India. 

Other demands were reservations for Muslims in Muslim minority areas, not Muslim majority areas; separation of state and religion; freedom to form unions; equal rights for women; universal adult suffrage, no separate electorates.

The Muslim League was opposed to the provision of no reservations in Muslim majority areas this led Jinnah to come up with his fourteen-point plan.

Nationalists led by Jawaharlal Nehru and Bose had objections to 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 civil disobedience to achieve it.

Recommendations of the Simon Commission

Simon Commission [1927]: The recommendations were a continuation of communal representation, abolition of diarchy, an extension of responsible government in provinces, creation of the Indian Federation of British India, and princely states.

The 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 the dominion status of India. Following this declaration a conference of all major leaders met and issued the Delhi manifesto, it made clear that the purpose of the round table wouldn’t be to 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 Swaraj

At 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.

On 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 gave an ultimatum to Viceroy Irwin saying 11 points demanded have been ignored and so no other option is with the congress except civil disobedience.

In an 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.

Impact of Appointment of Simon Commission

    • 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 country.
    • 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 basis.
      • 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, 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.
      • Linguistic provinces.
      • Nineteen fundamental rights including equal rights for women, the right to form unions, and universal adult suffrage. Responsible government at the center and in provinces
      • The Indian Parliament at the center consists 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 the Parliament.
      • Provincial councils’ to have a 5-year tenure, headed by a- governor acting on the advice of the provincial executive council.
      • Full protection of cultural and religious interests of Muslims. Complete dissociation of state from religion.
    • Earlier, in December 1927, a large number of Muslim leaders had met in Delhi at the Muslim League session and evolved four proposals for Muslim demands to be incorporated into 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 the representation of Muslims in Punjab and Bengal in proportion to their population and; the 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 was also angered.
    • . Nehru and Subhash Bose rejected the Congress’ modified goal and jointly set up the Independence for India League. They demanded that Congress adopt purna swaraj or complete independence as its goal.

Delhi Manifesto

    • On November 2, 1929, a conference of prominent national leaders issued a “Delhi Manifesto” which demanded
      • 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 conference
      • 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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