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Nehru’s Report – Gulf Between Congress and Muslim League

Last Updated : 02 Aug, 2023
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The Nehru Report proceeded with the primary aim of assigning Dominion status to India, situated under the British Commonwealth. The major components of the Nehru Report would include:

  1. Bills of Rights
  2. Assignment of Equal Rights to men and women as citizens
  3. Formation of a federal form of government with the help of residuary powers within the hands of center
  4. Proposal for the development of a Supreme Court.

In order to broaden and review the British Raj and the Government of India Act, of 1919 a seven-member Statutory Commission was set up by the British government to examine the issue of further constitutional reform. The two mainstream parties, Congress and the Muslim League, countered the commission in their own way and received full public support when the commission landed in Bombay, through rallies, boycotts, and hartals. The Indians were challenged to draft a constitution that was acceptable to all Indians, all parties, and all provinces. The challenge was taken seriously and the All-Party Conference took place, with all parties, including Congress and the Muslim League, working enthusiastically and collectively to finalize the recommendations of the report popularly known as the Nehru Report.

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The Nehru Report

Political Scenario and Background

The following acted as the background-

Appointment of Simon Commission

India was Britain’s most priced colony, to win the election against Labour Party in Britain, the Conservative Government, also in power, under prime minister Stanley Baldwin appointed an each-white seven Indian Statutory Commission on November 8, 1927, to review the Government of India Act 1919 and to go into the question of further indigenous reform. The Commission was popularly known as Simon Commission as it was headed or chaired by Sir John Simon. At that, time the British government was not in the mood of accepting the demand of Swaraj. The Commission’s rejection of indigenous peoples enraged the Indians and the introductory idea behind this rejection was that non-natives would argue and infer India’s suitability for self-determination, which is viewed as a deliberate insult to Indians‘ self-respect.

Response of the Congress

After the appointment of the Simon Commission, Congress at its Madras session in December 1927, under the administration of Dr. M.A. Ansari figured out to boycott the Commission “at every stage and in every form”. Jawahar Lal Nehru came out to pass a quick resolution at that session publicizing full independence as a matter of Congress.

Response of the Muslim League 

The Muslim League decided to support Congress’s call for the boycott of the Commission. The Muslim League attained two sessions in 1927, one under Muhammad Ali Jinnah at Calcutta and another at Lahore under Muhammad Shafi. Where Jinnah who enjoyed the majority faction of the League decided to support the congress and opposed the Simon Commission, on the other hand, Muhammad Shafi decided to support the British government‘s decision of appointing the Simon Commission for the future of India.

Police Repression

The appointment of the Commission sparked off a surge of kicking all over the country. Congress and the  Muslim League had decided to boycott the Commission, to support their leaders the entire country adhered to hartals when the Commission appeared in India on 3 February 1928. The commission faced massive kicks and hartals wherever they advanced, by demonstrators. All over the country the hoots of” Simon go back” were voiced. The police resorted to cathartic measures, thousands of people were beaten up, and there was firing and Lathi charges at numerous places, not sparing even the senior leaders, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Govind Ballabh Pant was beaten up in Lucknow. The lathi beating paralyzed Govind Ballabh Pant for life. In October 1928, Lala Lajpat Rai, Sher-e-Punjab admitted beatings to the chest and died on November 17, 1928. 

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

                                                                                                                                   -Lala Lajpat Rai

Challenge Given And Accepted

In response to the boycott, India’s Foreign Minister Lord Birkenhead, who had always believed that the Indians were unable to come up with a solid plan for constitutional reform and were responsible for appointing the Simon Commission, urged Indian politicians to have an accepted constitution elaborate from different political sections. In reaction to Lord Birkenhead’s challenge, all parties, inclusive of Congress and the Muslim League, met at the All-Party Conference on 19th May 1928 and appointed a committee headed by Motilal Nehru, to draft a constitution, the Indian’s first most important attempt.

Delhi Proposals of Muslim League

In December 1927 in Delhi, the Muslim League, at its meeting of the Muslim League, developed four proposals for inclusion in the draft constitution, proposals that were adopted by the Madras Congress session, known as the Delhi Proposals:

  • Common electorate rather than separate electorate with seats for Muslims;
  • Representation of a third of Muslims in the Central Legislative Assembly;
  • Representation of Muslims in Punjab and Bengal about their population;
  • Suggested Sindh, Balochistan, and North-West North-West province new Muslim majority provinces;

The Nehru’s Report

A seven-member committee comprised Motilal Nehru (Head), Tej Bahadur Sapru, Subhas Bose, M. S Aney, Mangal Singh, Ali Imam, Shuaib Qureshi, and G. R Pradhan, which was completed in August 1928 and known as the Nehru Report, named after its chief architect Motilal Nehru. The All-Party Convention in Calcutta in December 1928 did not approve the report due to objections from some communalist leaders of the Muslim League and others. The recommendations of the Nehru Committee were unanimous, except for “complete independence” as the basis of the constitution, which was limited to British India with dominant status and recommended the following:

  1. India should receive dominant status with the parliamentary form of government;
  2. Joint electorates instead of separate electorates with reservation of seats for Muslims wherever they were in a minority;
  3. Demanded the language-based provinces;
  4. The Counselled central government is headed by Governor-general and would act on the recommendation of the council accountable to the parliament;
  5. The proper right to vote for all adult voters and equal rights for men and ladies;
  6. Full protection to culture and spiritual interest of Muslims;

As can be seen, the Delhi proposals adopted by Congress were not included in the report, prompting the Muslim League to honor its request to reserve seats for Muslims, particularly in Muslim-majority provinces and the central legislature. Jinnah proposed the changes to review the report.

Amendments Proposed By Jinnah

Earlier in December 1927, the Muslim League session met in Delhi and put four proposals to be incorporated into the draft constitution. One out of four was incorporated i.e. common electorates rather than separate electorates with seats reserved for Muslims and others were rejected. To consider the Nehru Report Jinnah proposed three amendments to the report at the All Parties Conference in December 1928

  • 1/3 representation to Muslims in the central legislature;
  • reservation to Muslims in Bengal and Punjab legislatures depending on their population;
  • residual powers should be given to provinces.

All three demands were ignored, which led Jinnah back to the Shafi faction, which meant that he changed his ideal from Gandhi to Shafi and gave his famous 14 points in March 1929, which became the basis of the Muslim League advocacy.

Jinnah’s Fourteen Points

  1. The fourteen points of Jinnah include the following:
  2. Provision of provincial autonomy.
  3. Presence of a federal constitution with residual powers within the provinces
  4. Without the agreement of the states, no constitutional amendment.
  5. Adequate Muslim representation in all legislatures and elected bodies without reducing the Muslim majority in a province to a minority or equal.
  6. 1/3rd part of the representation of Muslims is in Central Legislature.
  7. 1/3rd Muslim members are to be present in both central as well as state cabinets.
  8.  Presence of separate electorates.
  9.  Bills should not be passed in any legislature if 3/4th of a minority community considers it to be against their wishes.
  10. Any form of reorganization of the territories should not affect the Muslim majority in Punjab, NWFP, and Bengal.
  11. There should be a separation of Sindh from the Punjab Presidency.
  12.  There should be constitutional reforms for both NWFP and Baluchistan.
  13. Presence and acceptance of full religious freedom of all communities.
  14. There should be the protection of the religion, culture, education as well as the language of the Muslim community.

Cemented The Gulf/ Conclusion

The new era of the national freedom struggle was begun after the appointment of the Simon Commission. Congress decided to boycott the Commission “at every stage and in every form”, soon after the Muslim League decided to support the congress. Congress and the Muslim League tried to meet the Simon Commission’s challenge by meeting and trying to come up with an alternative approach to constitutional reform. As a gesture of unity with the nationalists, the Muslim league even accepted the joint electorates, provided seats were reserved for the Muslims. The inclusion of common electorates in the Report showed the cooperation between Congress and the Muslim League. As can be seen, not all demands of the Muslim League were met due to national interests rather than common interests, but instead, the report temporarily united the Muslim League and Congress, which previously accepted each other as a separate party. The Muslim League demanded residual powers for provinces but in the Report residual powers rested with the center, showing that the nation was given priority. Ultimately, the All-Party Convention failed to pass the Report because of communal interests but we can say that somehow Nehru Report was an attempt to cement the gulf between Congress and the Muslim League.

Related Links

  1. Indian Constitution
  2. Constituent Assembly of India
  3. All India Muslim League and Contribution to Indian National Movement
  4. Simon Commission

Frequently Asked Questions

Q 1. Who wrote Nehru Report?

Answer-

The Nehru Report was written and devised by the committee of the All Parties Conference and the chairperson of the committee was Motilal Nehru and his son Jawaharlal Nehru was the secretary.

Q 2. What was the major point of the Nehru Report?

Answer-

The major point of the Nehru Report was that India would be given the position of Dominion status and independence within the British Commonwealth. India would be a federation that would have a form of bicameral legislature at the center and the Ministry will be responsible for the legislature.

Q 3. What were the demands of the Nehru Report?

Answer-

The demands which were associated with the Nehru Report included the demand for Fundamental Rights for people who couldn’t be subjected to any form of forfeiture and laid a foundation of Fundamental Rights provision in the Constitution of India.



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