Anti Simon Commission Upsurge, Nehru Report & Demand for Purna Swaraj
Lord Irwin (1926-31)
- Appointment of Simon commission in 1928
- Passing of the resolution for complete independence (purna swaraj) in 1929
- Launch of the civil Disobedience movement
- First Around Table Conference (1930)
- Gandhi-Irwin Pact in 1931
Anti Simon Commission Upsurge
There was a chorus of protest by all Indians against the appointment of an all-white, seven-member Indian Statutory Commission, popularly known as the Simon Commission (after the name of its chairman Sir John Simon), on November 8, 1927. 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.
- The commission was to recommend to the Government whether India was ready for further constitutional reforms and on what lines
- What angered the Indians most was the exclusion of Indians from the commission
- The basic notion behind the exclusion was that foreigners would discuss and decide upon India’s fitness for self-government
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”. Meanwhile Nehru succeeded in getting a snap resolution passed at the session, declaring complete independence as the goal of the Congress.
- The commission landed in Bombay on February 3, 1928.
- On that day, a countrywide hartal was organised and mass rallies held.
- Wherever the commission went, there were black flag demonstrations, hartals and slogans of ‘Simon Go Back’.
The police came down heavily on demonstrators; there were lathicharges 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.
- Report of the Simon Commission was published in May 1930
- It stated that the constitutional experiment with Diarchy was unsuccessful
- In its place the report recommended the establishment of autonomous government
- This report also became the basis for enacting the Government of India Act of 1935
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 Indians to draft a constitutional framework for the country.
- The report was finalised by August 1928.
- The recommendations of the Nehru Committee were unanimous except in one respect—while the majority favoured the “dominion status” as the basis of the Constitution, a section of it wanted “complete independence” as the basis, with the majority section giving the latter section, liberty of action.
Major Recommendations of Nehru Report
- Dominion status on lines of self-governing dominions as the form of government desired by Indians
- Much to the chagrin of younger, militant section, who wanted complete independence
- 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 in proportion to the Muslim population there with right to contest additional seats
- Not in those areas where Muslims were in majority, such as Punjab and Bengal
- Linguistic provinces
- Nineteen fundamental rights including equal rights for women, right to form unions, and universal adult suffrage.
- Full responsible government at the center along with Autonomy to the provinces
- A bicameral legislature at the center, with Clear cut division of power between the center and provinces
- Full protection to cultural and religious interests of Muslims & Complete dissociation of state from religion
Muslim demands in draft constitution – Delhi Proposals
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 were –
- joint electorates in place of separate electorates with reserved seats for Muslims
- one-third representation to Muslims in Central Legislative Assembly
- 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).The concessions made in the Nehru Report to Hindu communalists included the following:
- Joint electorates proposed everywhere but reservation for Muslims only where in minority;
- Sindh to be detached from Bombay only after dominion status was granted and subject to weightage to Hindu minority in Sindh;
- Political structure proposed was broadly unitary, as residual powers rested with the centre.
Amendments Proposed by Jinnah
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. 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:
- One-third representation to Muslims in the Central Legislature
- Reservation to Muslims in Bengal and Punjab legislatures proportionate to their population, till adult suffrage was established
- Residual powers to provinces.
On these demands not being accommodated, Jinnah went back to the Shafi faction of the Muslim League and in March 1929 gave fourteen points which were to become the basis of all future propaganda of the Muslim League.
Conclusion of Nehru Report
- 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.
- They expressed their dissatisfaction with the dominion status as the goal of Congress.
- Instead, they demanded that the Congress adopt purna swaraj or complete independence as its goal.
- On November 2, 1929, a conference of prominent national leaders issued a “Delhi Manifesto” which demanded:
- that the purpose of the Round Table Conferences (RTC), promised by Lord Irwin, should be to formulate a scheme for implementation of the dominion status;
- that the Congress should have majority representation at the conference;
- amnesty and a general policy of conciliation;
- Viceroy Irwin rejected these demands on December 23, 1929, which led to the demand of Purna swaraj in Lahore session of INC.
Lahore Congress Session and Purna Swaraj
Jawaharlal Nehru, who had done more than anyone else to popularise the concept of Purna swaraj, was nominated the president for the Lahore session of the Congress (December 1929). The following major decisions were taken at the Lahore session-
- the Round Table Conferences to be boycotted;
- Complete independence declared as the aim of the Congress;
- CWC authorised to launch a programme of civil disobedience including non-payment of taxes and all members of legislatures asked to resign their seats;
- January 26, 1930 fixed as the first Independence Day, to be celebrated everywhere.
Points of Prominence
- December 31, 1929, at midnight on the banks of River Ravi, the newly adopted tricolour flag of freedom was hoisted amidst slogans of Inquilab Zindabad.
- On January 26, 1930, the declaration of purna swaraj was publicly issued
- Nehru made an appeal to volunteers across the country to join the civil disobedience movement in which his 12 year old daughter, Indira was the first to volunteer
Jawahar Lal Nehru
- He was the first Prime Minister of Independent India and is known as the architect of Modern India.
- He was born in Allahabad on Nov 14, 1889.
- In 1928, he became the General Secretary of the INC and in 1929 its President.
- At the Lahore session, under his President ship was passed the Independence resolution.
- He was the Prime Minister of India from 1947 to 1964.
- He was the author of the Doctrine of Panchsheel, and believed in the policy of non – alignment.
- His works include The Discovery of India; Glimpses of World History; A Bunch of Old Letters; The Unity of India, Independence and After; India and the World.