Simon Commission, 1927

Simon Commission:

Up to 1927 hustle and bustle of the first popular movement had become the thing of the past. The honey-moon between the Congress and the Muslim league was over and there was a resurgence of communal conflicts. The communal gulf between the Hindus and the Muslims had widened, the Swaraj Party had collapsed and Gandhi had retired from active politics.

Amid this situation, the British announced the appointment of an Indian statutory commission comprising seven members to enquire into the constitutional reforms to be undertaken in near future.

The conservatives in Britain became apprehensive of a Labour Party victory in the elections of 1929 and hurriedly announced the appointment of an all-white commission popularly known as the Simon Commission.

The Commission did not care to include a single Indian member though its purpose was to prepare a future constitution for India. The exclusion of Indians from the Commission evoked sharp protests from all Indians.

The British action was looked upon by the congress, the league, and the Hindu Mahasabha as a violation of the principle of self-determination and a deliberate insult to the self-respect of the Indians.

The National Congress at its Madras Session decided to boycott the commission.

On February 3, 1928, the commission arrived in Bombay. The public disapproval of the commission found manifestation in the spontaneous hartals and demonstrations which took place all over India.

Wherever the Commission went, it was greeted with mass strike and black-flags demonstration. In Lucknow, Khaliq-uz-Zaman coined the term ‘Simon Go Back‘. He also flew black kites near the venue where Simon was holding his meeting.

Lala Lajpat Rai floated the proposal in the Central Legislative Assembly on February 16, to boycott the Commission. His proposal was widely accepted and the members expressed their approval of the proposal by shouting Bandemataram.

The government repression of the anti-Simon demonstration knew no bounds. There occurred frequent clashes between the demonstrators and the police in all the major cities.

A major police-public clash took place at Lahore on October 30, 1928, in which Lala Lajpat Rai was hit on the chest by lathis. Later, he died on November 17, 1928. Bhagat Singh and his colleague, to take revenge, killed Saunders– the policeman responsible for the death of Lajpat Rai.

Both Jawaharlal Nehru and Govinda Ballav Panth were beaten up by the police. Despite countrywide agitation, the members of the Simon Commission continued their work.

The report of the Simon Commission was published in May 1930. It suggested the replacement of dyarchy with full responsible government in the provinces with the provision of some emergency powers in the hands of the government. It recommended autonomy for the provinces as far as practicable and visualized a federation at the center, comprising both British India and the Indian states. It didn’t suggest any change in the central government. There is no doubt that the Simon Commission’s Report became the basis for enacting the Government of India Act of 1935.

The movement against the Simon Commission did not immediately lead to a sustained political struggle because Gandhi, the undisputed leader of the Indian National Movement, did not offer his green signal to it.

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