- The Government of India Act, 1919, which introduced dyarchy system, had a provision that a commission would be appointed ten years from date to study the progress of the governance scheme and suggest new steps.
- Thus, 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 commission arrived in British India in 1928
- The commission was to recommend to the British government whether India was ready for further constitutional reforms and along what lines.
WHY WAS IT BOYCOTTED?
- The members of the Commission all belonged to the British ruling classes, and the exclusion of Indian members understandable prompted outrage in India, with both Congress and the Muslim League boycotting the Commission.
BOYCOTTING SIMON COMMISSION
1) Indian Response
- The exclusion of Indians from the commission and the basic notion behind the exclusion that foreigners would discuss and decide upon India’s fitness for self-government angered the Indians most.
- The Indian response to the Simon Commission was immediate and nearly unanimous.
2) 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”.
3) Muslim league
- 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.
- The Unionists in Punjab and the Justice Party in the south, decided not to boycott the commission
4) Police Repression
- The police came down heavily on demonstrators.
- Lathi charges not sparing even the senior leaders, Jawaharlal Nehru and G.B. Pant were beaten up in Lucknow. 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:
The impact was two-fold:
(i) It gave a stimulus to radical forces demanding not just complete independence but major socio-economic reforms on socialist lines.
(ii) The challenge of Lord Birkenhead to Indian politicians to produce an agreed constitution was accepted at various political sections, and thus prospects for Indian unity seemed bright at that point of time.
SIMON COMMISSION RECOMMENDATIONS:
- It proposed the abolition of dyarchy and the establishment of representative government in the provinces which should be given autonomy.
- The governor should have discretionary power in relation to internal security and administrative powers to protect the different communities.
- The number of members of provincial legislative council should be increased.
- The report rejected parliamentary responsibility at the centre.
- The governor-general was to have complete power to appoint the members of the cabinet. And the Government of India would have complete control over the high court.
- It also recommended that separate communal electorates be retained (and extended such electorates to other communities)
- There was to be no universal franchise.
- It accepted the idea of federalism but not in the near future.
- It also suggested that the Indian army should be Indianized though British forces must be retained. India got fully equipped.
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