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Spectrum Summary: Simon Commission & the Nehru Report Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC

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Appointment of the Indian Statutory Commission

  • The Government of India Act, 1919 had a provision that a commission would be appointed ten years from the date to study the progress of the government scheme and suggest new steps.Spectrum Summary: Simon Commission & the Nehru Report Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC
  • An all-white, seven-member Indian Statutory Commission, popularly known as the Simon Commission (after the name of its chairman, Sir John Simon ), was set up by the British government under Stanley Baldwin’s prime ministership on November 8, 1927.
  • The Lee Commission went into Raj’s failure to recruit enough British officers; the Muddiman Commission looked into the deadlock within the Diarchy dispensation, and the Linlithgow Commission inquired into the crisis of Indian agriculture.
  • So the British government thought it necessary to go more fully into the working of the 1919 Act. The Conservative Secretary of State for India, Lord Birkenhead, who had constantly talked of the inability of Indians to formulate a concrete scheme of constitutional reforms which had the support of wide sections of Indian political opinion, was responsible for the appointment of the Simon Commission.

Indian Response

  • The Indian response to the Simon Commission was immediate and nearly unanimous.
  • Congress Response: 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”.
  • Other Groups: Those who decided to support the Congress call of a boycott of the Simon Commission included the liberals of the Hindu Mahasabha and the majority faction of the Muslim League under Jinnah. The Muslim league had two sessions in 1927 - one under Jinnah at Calcutta where it was decided to oppose the Simon Commission, and another at Lahore under Muhammad Shafi, who supported the government.
  • Public Response: The commission landed in Bombay on February 3, 1928. Wherever the commission went, there were black flag demonstrations, hartals, and slogans of "Simon Go Back’.
  • Police Repression: The police came down heavily on demonstrators; there were Lathi charges not sparing even the senior leaders. Lala Lajpat Rai received severe blows on his chest in October 1928 which proved fatal and he died on November 17, 1928.

Impact of Appointment of Simon Commission on the National Movement 

  • It gave a stimulus to radical forces demanding not just complete independence but major socio-economic reforms on socialist lines. When the Simon Commission was announced, the Congress, which did not have any active program in hand, got an issue on which it could once again forge mass action.
  • The challenge of Lord Birkenhead to Indian politicians to produce an agreed constitution was accepted by various political sections, and thus prospects for Indian unity seemed bright at that point in time.

The Simon Commission Recommendations

  • The Simon Commission published a two-volume report in May 1930. It proposed the abolition of dyarchy and the establishment of representative government in the provinces which should be given autonomy
  • The report rejected parliamentary responsibility at the center. It suggested that a Consultative Council of Greater India should be established which should include representatives of both the British provinces as well as princely states.
  • It suggested that the North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan should get local legislatures. It recommended that Sindh should be separated from Bombay, and Burma should be separated from India.

Nehru ReportSpectrum Summary: Simon Commission & the Nehru Report Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC

  • As an answer to Lord Birkenhead’s challenge, 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.
  • The report was finalized by August 1928. The recommendations of the Nehru Committee were unanimous except in one respect—while the majority favored the ' dominion status' as the basis of the Constitution, a section of it wanted "complete independence" as the basis

Main Recommendations

  • Dominion status on lines of self-governing dominions as the form of government desired by Indians
  • 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 in proportion to the Muslim population there with the 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 Centre and in provinces
    (i) 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 the Parliament.
    (ii) 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.

The Muslim and Hindu Communal Responses

  • Delhi Proposals of Muslim League-proposals, which were accepted by the Madras session of the Congress (December 1927), came to be known as the 'Delhi Proposals’.
    These were:
    (i)  joint electorates in place of separate electorates with reserved seats for Muslims;
    (ii) one-third representation to Muslims in the Central Legislative Assembly;
    (iii) representation to Muslims in Punjab and Bengal in proportion to their population;
    (iv) Formation of three new Muslim majority provinces— Sindh, Baluchistan, and North-West Frontier Province.
  • Hindu Mahasabha Demands: The Hindu Mahasabha was vehemently opposed to the proposals for creating new Muslim-majority provinces and reservation of seats for Muslim majorities in Punjab and Bengal
  • Compromises: The concessions made in the Nehru Report to Hindu communalists included the following:
    (i) Joint electorates proposed everywhere but reservation for Muslims only wherein minority;
    (ii) Sindh to be detached from Bombay only after dominion status was granted and subject to the weightage given to the Hindu minority in Sindh;
    (iii) Political structure proposed broadly unitary, as residual powers rested with the center.

Amendments Proposed by Jinnah

  • At the All Parties Conference held at Calcutta in December 1928 to consider the Nehru Report, Jinnah, on behalf of the Muslim League, proposed three amendments to the report:
    (i) One-third representation to Muslims in the central legislature;
    (ii) Reservation to Muslims in Bengal and Punjab legislatures proportionate to their population, till adult suffrage was established; and residual powers to provinces.

Jinnah’s Fourteen PointsSpectrum Summary: Simon Commission & the Nehru Report Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC

  • Federal Constitution with residual powers to provinces.
  • Provincial autonomy. No constitutional amendment by the center without the concurrence of the states constituting the Indian federation.
  • All legislatures and elected bodies to have adequate representation of Muslims in every province without reducing a majority of Muslims in a province to a minority or equality.
  • Adequate representation to Muslims in the services and in self-governing bodies.
  • One-third of Muslim representation in the central legislature.
  • In any cabinet at the center or in the provinces, one-third to be Muslims.
  • Separate electorates.
  • No bill or resolution in any legislature to be passed if three-fourths of a minority community consider such a bill or resolution to be against their interests.
  • Any territorial redistribution not to affect the Muslim majority in Punjab, Bengal, and NWFP.
  • Separation of Sindh from Bombay.
  • Constitutional reforms in the NWFP and Baluchistan.
  • Full religious freedom to all communities.
  • Protection of Muslim rights in religion, culture, education, and language.

Nehru Report Found Unsatisfactory

  • 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.
  • The younger section regarded the idea of dominion status in the report as a step backward, and the developments at the All Parties Conference strengthened their criticism of the dominion status idea. Nehru and Subhash Bose rejected the Congress’ modified goal and jointly set up the Independence for India League.
The document Spectrum Summary: Simon Commission & the Nehru Report Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course History for UPSC CSE.
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