Reforms Enquiry committee Report
| ||India's History : Modern India : Reforms Enquiry committee Report : 1925|| |
The Muddiman Committee Report officially known as the Report of the Reforms Enqury Committee, 1924 was the product of the Government of India Act, 1919. After the committee was put into operation, resolutions were pressed in the Imperial legislature, especially led by the Swarajists for the revision of the constitution to secure for India full self-governing Dominion status. Plagued by such Indian demands, the Government of India set up a Committee under the Chairmanship of Sir Alexander Muddiman. The nine member Committee's terms of reference were: to enquire into the difficulties arising from, or defects inherent in, the working of the Government of India Act and the Rules thereunder in regard to Central Government and the governments of Governors' provinces; to investigate the feasibility and desirability of securing remedies for such difficulties or defects, consistent with the structure, policy and purpose of the Act, or by such amendments of the Act as appear necessary to rectify any administrative imperfections. The Committee rather expeditiously completed its work between August and December 1924. The Committee submitted its report in September 1925. Its appendices contained a list of public leaders and individuals who had tendered evidences to the Committee; memorandum of the legal and constitutional possibilities of advance within the Government of India Act; and a lengthy note by a member Bijoy Chand Mahtab.
The Muddiman Committee did not submit a unanimous report. The majority view was that the existing constitution was working in most provinces and was affording valuable political experience. Detailed recommendations were made for improving machinery of government. The minority view was that diarchy had absolutely failed and could not succeed at all in the future. According to them, it was only a fundamental change in the constitution, which could bring about the improvement.
The Simon Commission
| ||India's History : Modern India : Simon Commission Appointed : 1927|| |
The Government of India Act of 1919 was essentially transitional in character. Under Section 84 of the said Act, a statutory commission was to be appointed at the end of ten years, to determine the next stage in the realization of self-rule in India.
The British government appointed a commission under Sir John Simon in November 1927. The commission, which had no Indian members, was being sent to investigate India's constitutional problems and make recommendations to the government on the future constitution of India. The Congress decided to boycott the Simon Commission and challenged Lord Birkenhead, Secretary of State for India, to produce a constitution acceptable to the various elements in India.
There was a clear split in the Muslim League. Sir Muhammad Shafi, who wanted to cooperate with the commission, decided to convene a Muslim League session in Lahore in December 1927.
The other faction led by Jinnah stood for the boycott of the commission. This faction held a Muslim League session at Calcutta, and decided to form a subcommittee to confer with the working committee of the Indian National Congress and other organizations, with a view to draft a constitution for India.
Simon Commission Boycott
| ||India's History : Modern India : Simon Commission comes to India: Boycott by all parties; All Parties Conference : 1928|| |
Simon Commission Boycott
In 1927, however, the Conservative Government of Britain, faced with the prospect of electoral defeat at the hands of the Labour Party, suddenly decided that it could not leave an issue which concerned the future of the British Empire in the irresponsible hands of an inexperienced Labour Government; and it was thus that the Indian Statutory Commission, popularly known as the Simon Commission after its Chairman, was appointed.
The response in India was immediate arid unanimous. That no Indian should be thought fit to serve on a body that claimed the right to decide the political future of India was an insult that no Indian of even the most moderate political opinion was willing to swallow. The call for a boycott of the Commission was endorsed by the Liberal Federation led by Tej Bahadur Sapru, by the Indian Industrial and Commercial Congress, and by the Hindu Mahasabha; the Muslim League even split on the issue, Mohammed Ali Jinnah carrying the majority with him in favour of boycott.
It was the Indian National Congress, however, that turned the boycott into a popular movement. The Congress had resolved on the boycott at its annual session in December 1927 at Madras, and in the prevailing excitable atmosphere, Jawaharlal Nehru had even succeeded in getting passed a snap resolution declaring complete independence as the goal of the Congress. The action began as soon as Simon and his friends landed at Bombay on 3 February 1928. That day, all the major cities and towns observed a complete hartal, and people were out on the streets participating in mass rallies, processions and black-flag demonstration. Everywhere that Simon went - Calcutta, Lahore, Lucknow, Vijayawada, Poona - he was greeted by a sea of black-flags carried by thousands of people. And ever new ways of defiance were being constantly invented.
But the worst incident happened in Lahore where Lala Lajpat Rai, the hero of the extremist days and the most revered leader of Punjab, was hit on the chest by lathis on 30 October and succumbed to the injuries on 17 November 1928. It was his death that Bhagat Singh and his comrades avenged by killing Saunders, in December 1928. The Simon boycott movement provided the first taste of political action to a new generation of youth. Subhash Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru merged as the leaders of this new wave of youth and students, and they traveled from one province to another addressing and presiding over innumerable youth conferences.
Lord Irwin promises Dominion Status
| ||India's History : Modern India : Lord Irwin promises Dominion Status for India; Trade Union split; Jawaharlal Nehru hoists the National Flag at Lahore : 1929|| |
On the 1st of April 1926 Lord Irwin succeeded Lord Reading as Viceroy. Lord Irwin had hereditary connections with India. Lord Irwin's grandfather, the first Viscount Halifax had served in India and had been secretary of State for India. Lord Irwin was also a very religious man. It may have been felt by those who appointed him that he was ideal to deal with the religious Mahatma. However, for nineteen months Lord Irwin chose to ignore Gandhi.
During this period Lord Birkenhead was the secretary of State for India. He believed that Indians would not be fit for self-government even in a hundred years. A general election was imminent in Britain and Birkenhead was apprehensive that his Conservative Party might lose the elections to the Labor party, as indeed it did.
The Labor Party was known to be more sensitive to Indian Aspirations. Under the Government of India Act of 1919 a Commission was due to review the constitution of India within about two years. Birkenhead feared that a future Labor government might concede too much power to Indians. He pre-empted any such move by deciding to appoint the Commission prematurely. Sir John Simon was appointed to lead the Commission.
The appointment of the Simon Commission caused widespread resentment. All political parties and factions were unanimous in their opposition to the Simon Commission and they decided to boycott it.
Gandhi emerging from his year of silence and rest was seeking a propitious time to launch another civil disobedience campaign. The resentment caused by the appointment of the Simon Commission provided him the necessary conditions. He decided to act. He revived the plan to conduct civil disobedience in Bardoli, which he suspended earlier in 1922 due to the violence in Chauri Chaura.
The campaign at Bardoli was inspired and orchestrated by Gandhi, from his Ashram. He asked Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to actually move into Bardoli and organize and lead the campaign. Patel was Mayor of Ahmedabad at the time and had to resign his post in order to do so.
Patel a brilliant lawyer proved to be an excellent organizer. He instructed the peasants not to pay a twenty-two percent increase in taxes levied by the British Government.
The British Government confiscated movable property in retaliation. Pots, pans, livestock, carts and horses were taken away from the peasants. The peasants remained non-violent.
Patel asked the peasants to dismantle the carts in order to increase the difficulty of government officials. Accordingly, wheels were removed and the shafts were hidden. The officials were not impeded in any other way.
All of India keenly observed the events taking place in Bardoli. Contribution of funds poured in to help maintain the struggle. Some wanted Gandhi to expand the movement to other provinces. Gandhi resisted any such move. The civil resistors in Bardoli were well organized by Patel and were well disciplined. The population of Bardoli, which was under one hundred thousand, was also manageable. Gandhi did not want to risk degeneration into violence by expanding the struggle to other places with larger populations who were less organized and disciplined.
The British government of India came under pressure from London to crush the movement. In an effort to do so the Government stated that they had auctioned some seized lands and threatened to sell the remainder if taxes were not paid. However it had no effect. The peasants would not submit.
Finally, in a desperate move the Government arrested Patel. Gandhi replaced him as the leader and moved into Bardoli. A few days later the Government capitulated.
In an agreement with Patel the Government promised to cancel the increase in taxes and return all the confiscated property. Patel on behalf of the peasants agreed to pay taxes at the old rates.
In Bardoli Gandhi demonstrated to the British Government and to the Indian people that the method of non-violent civil disobedience was effective. He proved that the British Government could be successfully defied. The British Government would have realized that from henceforth it would be difficult to govern India without the consent of the people. They could no longer act with impunity.
The success at Bardoli quickened the temper of the Congress Party. At the annual Congress session, which met in Calcutta in December 1928, the younger leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose demanded immediate independence. Gandhi suggested that the British be given two years' notice but compromised on one year. It was then agreed that if India had not achieved freedom under Dominion Status by 31 December 1929, there would be a struggle for independence.
In May 1929 the Labor Party won the most number of seats at the General Elections in Britain. They did not have an overall majority but formed a minority Government. Ramsay Macdonald became Prime Minister and Wedgewood Benn the Secretary of State for India.
Lord Irwin visited London to consult the new Government. It was known that the Labor Party was more sympathetic to Indian aspirations.
Soon after his return, the Viceroy Lord Irwin with the consent of the Secretary of State for India, Wedgewood Benn made a momentous announcement. He stated that a Round Table Conference would be held in which the British Government would sit with delegates from British India, and the native states to discuss India's constitutional progress. He envisaged that the natural issue of the conference to be Dominion Status for India.
Gandhi and the elder statesman of the Congress Party welcomed the statement.
However, Lord Irwin was soon to retract the statement. His promise of Dominion Status raised a howl of protest in London. Led by his predecessor Lord Reading, the Conservatives and Liberals combined to condemn the Viceroy. Although Wedgewood Benn defended the Viceroy the minority Government had to defer to the majority pressure exerted by the Conservatives and Liberals in combination.
As a consequence the Viceroy Lord Irwin was non-committal when Gandhi met him to seek clarification. Lord Irwin merely said that he could not prejudge the final outcome of the Round Table Conference. In other words there was not going to be any Dominion Status for India.
The change in the attitude of the British Government did not leave the Congress Party with much choice. At the annual party convention held in December 1929 under the presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru it was decided to launch a campaign of civil disobedience in the pursuit of complete independence.
Trade Union Split
From the mid-twenties of the present century onwards the communists launched a major offensive to capture the AITUC. A part of their strategy was to start rival unions in opposition to those dominated by the nationalists. By 1928 they had become powerful enough to sponsor their own candidate for election to the office of the President of the AITUC in opposition to the nationalist candidate Nehru. Nehru managed to win the election by a narrow margin. In the 1929 session of the AITUC chaired by Nehru the communists mustered enough support to carry a resolution affiliating the federation to international communist forum. This resolution sparked the first split in the labor movement. The moderates, who were deeply opposed to the affiliation of the AITUC with the League against Imperialism and the Pan - Pacific Secretariat, walked out of the federation and eventually formed the National Trade Union Federation (NTUF). Within two years of this event the movement suffered a further split. On finding themselves a minority in the AITUC, the communists walked out of it in 1931 to form the Red Trade Union Congress. The dissociation of the communists from the AITUC was, however, short-lived. They returned to the AITUC the moment the British banned the Red Trade Union Congress. The British were the most favorably disposed toward the moderate NTUF. N.M. Joshi, the moderate leader, was appointed a member of the Royal Commission.
Salt Satyagraha & First Round Table Conference
| ||India's History : Modern India : Civil Disobedience movement continues; Salt Satyagraha: Gandhiji's Dandi March; First Round Table Conference : 1930|| |
The 1930 Salt March
Gandhi began a new campaign in 1930, the Salt Satyagraha. Gandhi and his followers set off on a 200-mile journey from Ashram Ahmedabad to the Arabian Ocean where Gandhi wanted to pick up a few grains of salt. This action formed the symbolic focal point of a campaign of civil disobedience in which the state monopoly on salt was the first target. Prior to the beginning of the action, Gandhi sent a letter to the Lord Lieutenant "Dear Friend. Whilst, therefore, I hold the British rule to be a curse, I do not intend harm to a single Englishman or to any legitimate interest he may have in India. My ambition is nothing less than to bring round the English people through non-violence to recognize the injustice they have done to India. I do not intend to be offensive to your people. Indeed, I would like to serve your people as I would my own."
Yet the Lord Lieutenant didn't even reply personally to his letter. Gandhi held his last prayer meeting on the evening of the 11th of March 1930. "There can be no turning back for us hereafter. We will keep on our fight till swaraj is established in India. Those of them that are married should take leave of their wives. We are as good as parting from the Ashram and from our homes. --- Let nobody assume that after I am arrested there will be no one left to guide them. It is not I but Pandit Jawaharlal who is your guide. He has the capacity to lead."
It was hoped that this action would spread across India. Wherever possible, civil disobedience was to be used to counter the salt laws. It was illegal to manufacture salt, regardless of the location. The possession and trading of smuggled salt (natural salt or salt earth) was also illegal. Anyone caught selling smuggled salt was liable to prosecution. To collect salt from the natural deposits at the coast was also illegal.
Gandhi had a large group of well-trained Satyagrahi available to him; as well trained in observation as they were in spreading propaganda among the masses. They were bound by a joint pledge and by the principles of the "Ashram in Exodus", which encompassed three points: prayer, spinning and keeping a diary. They wore uniform clothing (a sort of Khaki uniform) and wore the headwear of prisoners.
After a 24-hour long march to the Indian Ocean, Gandhi picked up a few pieces of salt - a signal to the rest of the sub-continent to do the same. This raw material was carried inland before being processed on the roofs of houses in pans and then sold. Over 50,000 Indians were imprisoned for breaking the salt laws. The entire protest was carried out almost without violence. Indeed, it was this that annoyed the police.
A report from the English journalist, Webb Miller, who witnessed one of the clashes, has become a classic description of the way in which Satyagraha was carried out at the forefront of the battle lines. 2,500 volunteers advanced on the salt works of Dhrasana:
"Gandhi's men advanced in complete silence before stopping about one-hundred meters before the cordon. A selected team broke away from the main group, waded through the ditch and neared the barbed-wire fence. Receiving the signal, a large group of local police officers suddenly moved towards the advancing protestors and subjected them to a hail of blows to the head delivered from steel-covered Lathis (truncheons). None of the protesters raised so much as an arm to protect themselves against the barrage of blows. They fell to the ground like pins in a bowling alley. From where I was standing I could hear the nauseating sound of truncheons impacting against unprotected skulls. The waiting main group moaned and drew breath sharply at each blow. Those being subjected to the onslaught fell to the ground quickly writhing unconsciously or with broken shoulders. The main group, which had been spared until now, began to march in a quiet and determined way forwards and were met with the same fate. They advanced in a uniform manner with heads raised - without encouragement through music or battle cries and without being given the opportunity to avoid serious injury or even death. The police attacked repeatedly and the second group was also beaten to the ground. There was no fight, no violence; the marchers simply advanced until they themselves were knocked down."
Following their action, the men in uniform, who obviously felt unprotected with all their superior equipment of violence, could think of nothing better to do than that which seems to overcome uniformed men in similar situations as a sort of "natural" impulse: If they were unable to break the skulls of all the protesters, they now set about kicking and aiming their blows at the genitals of the helpless on the ground. "For hour upon hour endless numbers of motionless, bloody bodies were carried away on stretchers", according to Webb Miller.
What did the Satyagrahi achieve? Neither was the salt works taken, nor was the Salt Act in its entirety formally lifted. But the world began to realize that this was not the point. The Salt Satyagraha had demonstrated to the world the almost flawless use of a new instrument of peaceful militancy.
First Round Table Conference
The Indian political community received the Simon Commission Report issued in June 1930 with great resentment. Different political parties gave vent to their feelings in different ways.
The Congress started a Civil Disobedience Movement under Gandhi's command. The Muslims reserved their opinion on the Simon Report declaring that the report was not final and the matters should decided after consultations with the leaders representing all communities in India.
The Indian political situation seemed deadlocked. The British government refused to contemplate any form of self-government for the people of India. This caused frustration amongst the masses, who often expressed their anger in violent clashes.
The Labor Government returned to power in Britain in 1931, and a glimmer of hope ran through Indian hearts. Labor leaders had always been sympathetic to the Indian cause. The government decided to hold a Round Table Conference in London to consider new constitutional reforms. All Indian politicians; Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians were summoned to London for the conference.
Gandhi immediately insisted at the conference that he alone spoke for all Indians, and that the Congress was the party of the people of India. He argued that the other parties only represented sectarian viewpoints, with little or no significant following.
The first session of the conference opened in London on November 12, 1930. All parties were present except for the Congress, whose leaders were in jail due to the Civil Disobedience Movement. Congress leaders stated that they would have nothing to do with further constitutional discussion unless the Nehru Report was enforced in its entirety as the constitution of India.
Almost 89 members attended the conference, out of which 58 were chosen from various communities and interests in British India, and the rest from princely states and other political parties. The prominent among the Muslim delegates invited by the British government were Sir Aga Khan, Quaid-i-Azam, Maulana Muhammad Ali Jouhar, Sir Muhammad Shafi and Maulvi Fazl-i-Haq. Sir Taj Bahadur Sapru, Mr. Jaikar and Dr. Moonje were outstanding amongst the Hindu leaders.
The Muslim-Hindu differences overcastted the conference as the Hindus were pushing for a powerful central government while the Muslims stood for a loose federation of completely autonomous provinces. The Muslims demanded maintenance of weightage and separate electorates, the Hindus their abolition. The Muslims claimed statutory majority in Punjab and Bengal, while Hindus resisted their imposition. In Punjab, the situation was complicated by inflated Sikh claims.
Eight subcommittees were set up to deal with the details. These committees dealt with the federal structure, provincial constitution, franchise, Sindh, the North West Frontier Province, defense services and minorities.
The conference broke up on January 19, 1931, and what emerged from it was a general agreement to write safeguards for minorities into the constitution and a vague desire to devise a federal system for the country
Gandhi Irwin Pact, Second Round Table Conference
|Attached: Reforms Enquiry committee Report|