Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The British Raj

The turning point of Indian History(Simon Commission - The Government of India Act 1935)
Simon Commission
The Indian Statutory Commission was a group of seven British Members of Parliament that had been dispatched to India in 1927 to study constitutional reform in that colony. It was commonly referred to as the Simon Commission after its chairman, Sir John Simon. Ironically, one of its members was Clement Attlee, who subsequently became the British Prime Minister who would oversee the granting of independence to India and Pakistan in 1947.

The Commission published its 17-volume report in 1930. It proposed the abolition of dyarchy and the establishment of representative government in the provinces. It also recommended that separate communal electorates be retained, but only until tensions between Hindus and Muslims had died down. Noting that educated Indians opposed the Commission and also that communal tensions had increased instead of decreased, the British government opted for another method of dealing with the constitutional issues of India. Before the publication of the report, the British government stated that Indian opinion would henceforth be taken into account, and that the natural outcome of the constitutional process would be dominion status for India. The outcome of the Simon Commission was the Government of India Act 1935, which established representative government at the provincial level in India and is the basis of many parts of the Indian Constitution. In 1937 the first elections were held in the Provinces, resulting in Congress Governments being returned in almost all Provinces. In September 1928, Mr. Motilal Nehru presented his Nehru Report to counter British charges that Indians could not find a constitutional consensus among themselves, it advocated that India be given dominion status of complete internal self-government.
Nehru Report
The "Nehru Report" (1928) was a memorandum outlining a proposed new Dominion (see dominion status) constitution for India. It was prepared by a committee of the All Parties Conference chaired by Motilal Nehru with his son Jawaharlal acting as secretary. There were nine other members in this committee including two Muslims.
The Fourteen Points of Jinnah were proposed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah as a constitutional reform plan to safeguard the political rights of Muslims in a self-governing India. The report was given in a meeting of the council of the All India Muslim League on March 28, 1929.

The Fourteen Points
1 . The form of the future constitution should be federal with the residuary powers vested in the provinces.
2 . A uniform measure of
autonomy shall be granted to all provinces.
3 . All
legislatures in the country and other elected bodies shall be constituted on the definite principle of adequate and effective representation of minorities in every province without reducing the majority in any province to a minority or even equality.
4. In the Central Legislature, Muslim representation shall not be less than one third.
5. Representation of communal groups shall continue to be by means of separate
electorate as at present, provided it shall be open to any community at any time to abandon its separate electorate in favor of a joint electorate.
6. Any territorial distribution that might at any time be necessary shall not in any way affect the Muslim majority in the
Punjab, Bengal and the North West Frontier Province.
7 . Full religious liberty, i.e. liberty of belief, worship and observance,
propaganda, association and education, shall be guaranteed to all communities.
8 . No bill or any resolution or any part thereof shall be passed in any legislature or any other elected body if three-fourth of the members of any community in that particular body oppose such a bill resolution or part thereof on the ground that it would be injurious to the interests of that community or in the alternative, such other method is devised as may be found feasible and practicable to deal with such cases.
Sindh should be separated from the Bombay Presidency.
10. Reforms should be introduced in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and
Baluchistan on the same footing as in the other provinces.
11 . Provision should be made in the constitution giving Muslims an adequate share, along with the other Indians, in all the services of the state and in local self-governing bodies having due regard to the requirements of efficiency.
12 .The constitution should embody adequate safeguards for the protection of Muslim culture and for the protection and promotion of Muslim education, language, religion, personal laws and Muslim charitable institution and for their due share in the grants-in-aid given by the state and by local self-governing bodies.
13. No
cabinet, either central or provincial, should be formed without there being a proportion of at least one-third Muslim ministers.
14. No change shall be made in the constitution by the Central Legislature except with the concurrence of the State's contribution of the
Indian Federation.
Round Table Conferences (India)
The three Round Table Conferences of 1930–32 were organised by the British government following the Simon Commission meeting so much resistance they did not even complete their report. Demands for swaraj, or self-rule, in India had been growing increasingly strong. By the 1930s, many British politicians believed that India needed to move towards dominion status. However, there were significant disagreements between the Indian and the British political parties that the Conferences would not resolve.
First Round Table Conference (November 1930 – January 1931)
The Round Table Conference was opened officially by King George V on Thursday, November 13, 1930 and chaired by the British Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald. The Indian National Congress, along with Indian business leaders, kept away from the conference. Many of them were in jail for their participation in civil disobedience.
However, the Conference was attended by Muslim leaders including Muhammad Ali, Muhammad Shafi, the
Aga Khan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Muhammad Zafrulla Khan; Hindu Mahasabha leaders including B. S. Moonje and Jaylar; Liberals including Tej Bahadur Sapru, C. Y. Chintamani and Srinivas Shashtri; and a large contingent of rulers of princely states.
The idea of an All-India Federation was moved to the centre of discussion. All the groups attending the conference supported this concept. The responsibility of the Executive to Legislature was discussed, and
B. R. Ambedkar demanded a separate electorate for the Untouchables.

Second Round Table Conference (September – December 1931)
During the Conference, Gandhi could not reach agreement with the Muslims on Muslim representation and safeguards. At the end of the conference Ramsay MacDonald undertook to produce a Communal Award for minority representation, with the provision that any free agreement between the parties could be substituted for his award.
Gandhi took particular exception to the treatment of untouchables as a minority separate from the rest of the Hindu community. He clashed with the Untouchable leader,
B. R. Ambedkar, over this issue: the two eventually resolved the situation with the Poona Pact of 1932.
Third Round Table Conference (November – December 1932)
From September 1931 until March 1933, under the supervision of Samuel Hoare, the proposed reforms took the form reflected in the Government of India Act 1935.
Most of the main political figures of India were not present for this conference.
In this conference,
Chaudhary Rahmat Ali, a college student, coined the name PAKISTAN. Pakistan means the land of pure. He took the P from Punjab, the A from the Afghan, the KI from Kashmir, the S from Sindh and the TAN from Balochistan. In this Conference M.A.Jinnah was not present.
The Government of India Act 1935
The Government of India Act 1935 was the last pre-independence constitution of the British Raj. The significant aspects of the act were:
It granted Indian provinces autonomy and ended the
dyarchy introduced by the Government of India Act 1919.
It provided for establishment of an All India Federation.
Direct elections are introduced for the first time. The right to vote was increased from seven million to thirty-five million.
Sind is separated from Bombay. Orissa is separated from Bihar. Burma is separated from India.
Provincial assemblies were to include more elected Indian representatives, who in turn could lead majorities and form governments. But Governors retained discretionary powers regarding summoning of legislatures, giving assent to bills and administering certain special regions (mostly tribal).
The federal part of the Act was never introduced due to strong opposition from the
princely state rulers. In 1937 the first set of elections under this act were held.