Simon Commission,1927

 

Introduction

  • Simon Commission was the Indian Statutory Commission, which was a group of seven Members of Parliament under the chairmanship of Sir John Simon.
  • The commission arrived in British India in 1928 to study constitutional reform in Britain’s largest and most important possession
  • The Government of India Act of 1919 provided for the appointment of a commission to study the progress of the governance scheme and suggest new steps after ten years
  • Since the British administration had failed to include even a single Indian in the Commission, it was strongly opposed by national leaders and freedom

 

Why Was Simon Commission Sent to India?

  • To expand the participation of Indians in government affairs, the Parliament of the United Kingdom had passed an act called ‘The Government of India Act 1919.’
    • The act introduced the system of diarchy in British India, which was opposed by Indian nationalist leaders, who demanded the administration to review the system
  • The act envisaged a system of review of reforms after ten years to study and analyse the constitutional progress and to bring in more reforms.
    • Though the review was due in the year 1929, the Conservative government, which was in power back then, decided to form the Commission that would study the constitutional progress of India in the late 1920s
    • The reason behind forming the Commission earlier was the Conservative government’s fear of losing to the ‘Labour Party’ in the upcoming elections
  • Other recommendations include:
    • The special power for the safeguarding of province and the protection of minorities comes under the Governor powers
    • The representation of provinces and other areas constituted on the basis of population at the Federal Assembly ( at the Centre)
    • Recommended Dominion Status for Burma and should be provided its own Constitution
    • Recommended the representation of Council of State could not be chosen on the basis of Direct Election but by Indirect Election through Provincial Council which is more or less just like Modern day election procedure as Proportional Representation.
  • Since the Conservative government did not want the ‘Labour Party’ to take over British India, it constituted a commission consisting of seven British MPs to study the constitutional progress in British India as promised earlier.

 

Why Was Simon Commission Boycotted?

  • People in India were infuriated and felt insulted, for the Commission, which had been constituted to analyse and recommend constitutional reforms for India, did not have a single Indian member.
    • The Simon Commission was strongly opposed by the Congress and other nationalist leaders and common people
  • Many protests were carried out individually as well as in groups, urging the British administration to review the constitution of the Commission.
    • In December 1927, the Indian National Congress in its meeting in Madras resolved to boycott the Commission
    • Led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, some of the members of the ‘Muslim League’ too, had made up their minds to boycott the Commission.

 

Protests and death of Lala Lajpat Rai

  • The Commission, headed by Sir John Allsebrook Simon, reached India on February 3, 1928.
    • As soon as the Commission’s arrived in Bombay, it was greeted by thousands of protestors, who demanded the Commission to go back. Many were seen holding placards and other sign boards that had the words ‘Go Back Simon’ written on them.
    • There were nation-wide strikes and people greeted the Commission with black flags. Wherever the commission went, it received the same response.
  • On 30 October 1928, the Commission arrived in Lahore where it was met by protesters waving black flags
    • The protest was led by the Indian nationalist Lala Lajpat Rai, who had moved a resolution against the Commission in the Legislative Assembly of Punjab
  • The protesters blocked the road in order to prevent the commission members from leaving the railway station.
    • In order to make way for the Commission, the local police led by Superintendent James Scott began beating protestors.
    • Lala Lajpat Rai was critically injured, and never recovered later and died of cardiac arrest on 17 November 1928

 

Aftermath of the Commission

  • In its May 1930 report, the Commission proposed the eradication of diarchy system and suggested the establishment of representative government in various provinces.
  • Much before the Simon Commission’s report, Motilal Nehru submitted his ‘Nehru Report’ in September 1928 to counter the Commission’s charges, which suggested that Indians still lacked constitutional consensus.
    • The ‘Nehru Report’ pushed for dominion status for India with complete internal self-government.
  • While the report was still to be published, the British government tried to calm down people by saying that the opinion of Indians will be taken into account in any such future exercise and that the natural outcome of constitutional reforms will be dominion status for India
    • The Government of India Act 1935 was a result of the recommendations of the Simon Commission.