Nehru’s Report – Gulf Between Congress and Muslim League
In order to broaden and review the British Raj and the Government of India Act, 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.
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 the 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 a 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 Simon Commission for the future of India.
The appointment of the Commission sparked off a surge of kick each 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, there was firing and Lathi charges at numerous places, not sparing even the senior leaders, Jawaharlal Nehru and Govind Ballabh Pant were beaten up in Lucknow. The lathi beating paralyzed Govind Ballabh Pant for life. In October 1928, Lala Lajpat Rai, Sher-i-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, Baluchistan, 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, Subhash 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:
- India should receive dominant status with the parliamentary form of government;
- Joint electorates instead of separate electorates with reservation of seats for Muslims wherever they were in a minority;
- Demanded the language-based provinces;
- The Counselled central government headed by Governor-general and would act on the recommendation of council accountable to the parliament;
- The proper right to vote to all adult voters and equal rights for men and ladies;
- 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 at Delhi and put four proposals to be incorporated in 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.
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 to 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.