Recommendations of the Simon Commission

The major recommendations of the Simon Commission were as under:

  1. ‘Dyarchy’ be abolished and the ministers be entrusted with full control of provincial administration. The ministers be made responsible to the legislatures. The Governors should select the ministers from amongst those who commanded a majority in the Legislatures. Provisions for the relaxation of the central control and against the Government’s unnecessary interference in the legislative and administrative spheres of the provinces were also recommended.
  2. The franchise be lowered and extended. At least 10 to 15 per cent people should be enfranchised, but the communal electorates be kept as before, and as the basis of representation. It would be interesting to note that in 1926 only 2.8 percent of the population of India had the right to vote in the Provincial Legislatures.
  3. The Commission recommended that the establishment of an All India Federation in the near future was impossible. However, for the present, a Council of Greater India representing both British India and the States be set up to discuss all matters of common interests, a list of which should be prepared and scheduled.
  4. Burma be separated from India and Sind from Bombay.
  5. The Commission admitted the need of Indiaisation of Army but also recommended that so long as India was not fully equipped, the maintenance of the British Forces was necessary.

Although the Simon’s Report of 1930 was seriously denounced by the Indians and was ultimately side-tracked by the British Government, yet “it will always stand out as one of the greatest in Indian State papers.” The London Spectator described the report as the ‘Book of Difficulties’. The Congress had already denounced the Commission by boycotting it.

It was during the boycott of the Commission, leaders like Gobind Ballabh Pant and Lala Lajpat Rai were injured through lathi-charges. Lal Lajpat Rai had suffered the fatal blows and had died.

All-Parties Conference and Nehru Report

The Simon Commission, though universally condemned, had one good effect on Indian politics. It induced the Indian leaders to think seriously about formulating a scheme of Indian Constitution acceptable to all parties. This feeling was quickened by the open challenge of Birkenhead (the Secretary of State of India) to the Swarajist Party to ‘produce a constitution which carries behind it a fair measure of general agreement among the great people of India.’ Hence an all-Parties conference met at Delhi in February, 1928. After profound deliberations, the Conference appointed a Committee under Motilal Nehru to draft a suitable constitution for India and make a full report of the minorities issue. This report was subsequently known as Nehru Report.

The major features of the Constitution framed by the Nehru Committee were as under :

  1. It provided for a responsible form of government in which the executive was to be responsible to a popularly elected legislature possessing full and plenary powers.
  2. The sovereign Parliament was to consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives. The former was to consist of 200 members elected by Provincial Councils by the method of proportional representation, and the latter, of 500 members elected on the basis of adult franchise. The powers of the Parliament were to be analogous to those of the Dominions.
  3. The communal representation in the legislatures was to be regulated on the following basis: (a) There were to be joint mixed electorates throughout India for the House of Representatives and the Provincial Legislatures; (b) There were to be no reservation of seats for the House of Representatives except for Muslims in provinces where they were in a minority and non-Muslims in the N.W.F. Province.
  4. There was to be no reservation of seats for any community in Punjab and Bengal.
  5. In other Provinces, there was to be reservation of seats for the minorities on the basis of population with right to contest additional seats.

The Nehru report came up for discussion at the Calcutta convention in which Jinnah put forth a couple of suggestions in the form of amendments to the Nehru report.

These included: 

(a) The Muslims should have one-third representation in the Central Legislature;

(b) Punjab and Bengal Legislatures should have Muslim representation on the population basis for ten years;

(c) Residuary powers should be vested in the Provinces and not in the Centre.

As the amendments were rejected by the sub-committee, Jinnah left the convention and joined the reactionary and conservative sections of the Muslim League led by Agha Khan and Muhammad Shafi. In the hurriedly called Delhi meeting of the Muslim League, Jinnah put forth his fourteen-points. The fate of the Nehru report eventually was sealed. The Sikhs, the non-Brahmans, the Backward and the depressed sections also disapproved the Nehru report. Even in the Congress, the section led by Motilal Nehru wanted the Congress to accept the report in complete while the younger group led by Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose wanted its complete acceptance only if the complete independence was assured by the British government.

Post-Nehru Report Events:

Revolutionary Activities, Irwin’s Declaration and Delhi Manifesto Gandhi was unhappy at the rift between the older and the younger wings of the Congress on the issue of India’s position on the Dominion Status vis-à-vis her complete independence. His compromise formula which accepted the Nehru report in entirety asked the British government in England to accept the Nehru report as India’s constitution before the end of 1929 , failing which Gandhi would launch a mass civil disobedience campaign.

In the wake of such developments, there appeared certain revolutionary activities. Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt, at the behest of revolutionaries like Chandra Shekar Azad threw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly. In Lahore, a senior British police officer was killed. In Bengal, arsons and assassinations increased. Workers’ strikers with one lakh workers became frequent in Bombay, followed by another million workers in Bengal. So did the employees and workers of the South Indian Railways. Hunger strikes among political prisoners raised the tension; the death of Jatindra Nath Das in prison after 61 days without food added fuel to the flames. The Government of India at this juncture reacted by rounding up the people and instituting a series of conspiracy cases, the best known of which were the Meerut and Lahore Conspiracy cases. It also arrested 32 prominent trade unionists. This official repression further worsened the situation, following which there spread a great excitement and unrest in the country.

During the atmosphere marked with unrest and tensions in India, Irwin’s declaration of 1929 was a welcome step. He said: “I am authorized on behalf of His Majesty’s Government to state clearly that in their judgement it is implicit in the declaration of 1917 that the natural goal of India’s constitutional progress, as then contemplated, is the attainment of Dominion status”. He also proposed a Conference between the British Government and the representatives of all shades of political opinions to consider the recommendations of the Simon Commission before their submission to the Parliament.

The Congress, while appreciating the Irwin’s declaration, came up with what is known as the Delhi Manifesto. The manifesto’s major conditions for attending the suggested conference were:

(a) All discussions at the proposed Round Table Conference in London should be o the basis of Dominion Status for India;
(b) There should be a predominant representation of Congressman at the Conference;
(c) A general amnesty be granted to all political prisoners;
(d) The Government of India should thenceforth be carried on the lines of Dominion government.

As Irwin failed to give any assurance of Dominion Status together with an invitation to attend the conference at London to Gandhi and his colleagues when they met the viceroy in the December, 1929, the Congress moved towards its Lahore session where the “Purna Swaraj” resolution was passed.

1929-Lahore Session of Congress:

Purna Swaraj Resolution Soon after Gandhi-Irwin meeting of 1929, the annual session of the Congress was held at Lahore. A new enthusiasm stirred the people with the thought that independence would now be declared as the goal, for, it was thought, the time for action had come. The choice of Jawaharlal Nehru as the President of the year lent a majestic glamour to the vast crowd assembled at the Congress pandal. The main resolution of this Congress was that it concerned itself with the independence and declared that word ‘Swaraj’ in the first article of the Congress Constitution meant complete independence. In other words, at the Lahore session the aim of the Congress changed from Swaraj to Purna Swaraj.

The complete independence of India, in his presidential address at Lahore, Jawaharlal Nehru had said: “We long for peace and the hand of fellowship will always be stretched but to all who may care to grasp it, but behind the hand will be a body which will not bend to injustice and a mind that will not surrender on any vital point. Any great movement for liberation today must necessarily be a mass movement and mass movement must essentially be peaceful except in times of organized revolt. We cannot command success. But success often comes to those who dare and act; it seldom goes to the timid who are ever afraid of the consequences. We play for high stakes, and if we seek to achieve great things, it can only be through great dangers.

Whether we succed soon or late, none but ourselves can stop us from high endeavour and from writing a noble page in our country’s long and splendid history.” To achieve the goal of complete independence, the resolution of 1929 called upon all Congressmen to resign their seats from the legislatures and not to participate in the coming elections. It also authorised the ‘All -India Congress Committee’, whenever it deemed fit, to launch a programme of Civil Disobedience including non-payment of taxes. To start the campaign and to wipe out the temper of the people, January 26th  was fixed as Independence Day, when a pledge of independence was to be taken all over the country.

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