When the Morley-Minto reforms (The Government of India Act of 1909) came into effect, different political organizations reacted in different ways. The political and constitutional advance was much less than the Indian political parties had in mind, they had demanding for and hoped to achieve. For instance the Act of 1909 did not meet many of the demands raised by the Punjabi Muslims. For one thing, separate electorates were not made a part of the new reforms in the Punjab; for an other, even though the elective system was introduced, its proportion was lower than other major Indian provinces. The Muslims complained; in the Muslim League’s session (in 1910) they expressed their anger, dissatisfaction and disappointment. The elections held under the new reforms further proved that their fears were well-founded. The Muslims fared very badly in the elections of 1912; it was noticed that even some of their best candidates had also been defeated. The Government nominated some Muslims, but they were hardly adequate to represent the Muslim case; the Muslim Press, and their political parties, therefore, criticized the system of joint electorates and continued to press their demands of adequate representation at all levels.
The Indian National Congress was also critical; Pandit Malaviya presided over the Lahore session of the Congress in December 1909 and bitterly criticized some provisions of the Act of 1909, especially the Muslim right to separate electorates (although partially introduced) as an injustice to his community (the Hindus). Congress also disapproved of all special measures introduced by the Government to benefit the Muslims. In 1910 when the Congress held its session at Allahabad the criticism was little milder. The Congress President, Wedderburn, was trying to bring about a rapprochement between the Hindus and the Muslims, in other words between the Congress and the Muslim League; but these efforts failed. In 1911, the Congress session was held at Calcutta; even though the criticism against the introduction of communal electorates continued, the Congress thanked the Government for the annulment of the partition of Bengal. [the_ad id=”17141″]
In the meantime, the Muslims had been deeply annoyed with the Government due to many reasons. Very briefly, the frustration in the Punjab and some other factors at all-India level convinced the Muslims that Sir Syed’s argument to keep the Muslim away from the Congress was no longer valid. Firstly, the partition of Bengal (as mentioned in an earlier chapter) was revoked after a vigorous Hindu agitation; its annulment had shocked the Muslims at large and their policy of unconditional loyalty to the British also received a severe below. In 1911-12, the Government further alienated the Muslims by helping the Chiristian states against Turkey during the Balkan wars. Moreover, the Government was also refusing to accept some genuine Muslim demands such as to establish a Muslim University, In these circumstances, the Muslims realised that some sort of understanding with the Congress was essential. The radical group of Muslims, with the support of progressive group in the Punjab favoured a Congress-League accord. The result was that both the organizations drew closer as the time went by. In 1913, the League changed its creed, demanding the introduction of self-government in India; the Congress had warmly welcomed and appreciated this newest change of policy. It was calculated by the Congress that it was the right time when both the Congress and the League could agree on a common action on questions affecting national interests.
The main hurdle was the settlement of some basic issues of communal nature. In 1913, the Congress agreed in principle to have an amicable settlement of communal disputes in order to chalk out a programme for further political and constitutional advance. In 1915, the Bombay session of the Congress was a step forward in this direction. Mrs Annie Besant also played her part; she had hitherto been devoting her abilities towards religious matters, but now deciding to enter the field of politics, hoping to do her best for the betterment of her countrymen. Mrs Besant laid the foundation of the Home Rule League; she also pressed B.G.D. Tilak to rejoin the Congress Party. The death of Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Ferozshah Mehta (in 1915) facilitated Tilak’s re-entry into the Congress ranks. Mrs Besant also put pressure on the extremist Hindu leaders that it was essential to settle at least some communal issues in order to put pressure on the governement for constituional advance. The good omen was that the League had come under the liberal and dynamic influence of M.A.Jinnah and Moulana Mohammad Ali who wished to get in touch with the Congress in order to formulate a scheme of reforms. [the_ad id=”17142″]
In October 1916, nineteen (out of twenty seven) elected members of the Imperial Legislative council drafted a “declaration of rights”, commonly known as “the memorandum of the nineteen”. It was perhaps the first Indian attempt at constitution-makingboth Hindus and Muslims appended their signatures – a significant event towards Hindu-Mulim Unity.It was presented to the Viceroy (Lord Chelmsford). The proposals in the memorandum could be summarized as follows: 50% members of the Imperial and provincial Executive Councils should be elected; that all Legislative Councils should have substantial elected majorities; that all Legislative councils should have control over the Budget and the right of voting supplies; that the council of the secretary of State should be abolished; that all Provinces should have full autonomy; that India should be given a position of a self-governing Dominion; and that all Indians should have the right to carry arms, to enlist in territorial units and to win commissions in the Army on conditions similar to those prescribed for Europeans.
The Scheme of the Nineteen received considerable importance in Indian political circles; it was looked at in great details and was amended after discussions at subsequent meetings of the Muslim League and the Congress. The foundations of a League-Congress entente were laid at the end of 1915, when both organizations held their annual sessions at the same place and at the same time (Lucknow); and this practice continued until 1921. Eventually, therefore, a pact was reached on the subject of further reforms in India. The celebrated Lucknow Pact (as it came to be called) was the result of a policy of give and take, concessions by both sides. It was a matter of great satisfaction that the Congress accepted separate electorates for Muslims not only where they existed but also their extension into the Punjab and the C.P.; Muslim minorities in the U.P., Bihar, Bombay and Madras received wieghtage whereas in the Punjab and Bengal, the Muslims had to forgo a certain number of seats (being allocated 50% and 40% seats respectively – although the Punjab and Bengal were predominantly Muslim Majority provinces). At the Centre, one-third seats were alloted to the Muslims. Another important feature of the Lucknow Pact was that no bill or resolution affecting a community was to be proceeded with in any council if three-fourths of the representative of that community did not approve of it.
The Lucknow Pact was widely supported by various interests in India; the Shafi group in the Punjab however opposed the accord on the plea that the Punjab Muslims were not given 56% representation on the Legislative council. But the Muslims at large were happy that at the cost of their majorities in the Punjab and Bengal they had gained certain advantages in their minority provinces. The Muslims, therefore, supported administrative and financial autonomy for provinces; that 80% members of Legislative councils should be elected; that the role of the Secretary of State for India should not be more than the Secretary of State for colonies with the Governments of the Dominions; and the Dominion status was demanded for India, at par with other Dominions.
For the first time in the History of British India, the Indian leaders had been able to sort out their communal differences; the Lucknow Pact was the first and last accord between the two great communities of India, the Hindus and the Muslims. And for the first and last time so much pressure was put on the Government to introduce more reforms in India due to Hindu-Muslim Unity. The Government had no choice but to satisfy the Indian aspirations by granting a measure of constitutioal advance with hopes to convert India into a status of self-governing nation with its connections with the British commonwealth. Lord Chelmsford who succeeded Lord Hardinge in April 1916 was also planning in terms of a scheme of post-war reforms; he addressed this question by inviting political leaders for suggestions to be incorporated in his proposed scheme of Reforms. On 20 August 1917, E.S. Montagu (the Secretary of State for India) made an announcement in the House of commons; Montagu had replaced Austen Chamberlain on 20 July 1917. Montagu wished to have an increasing association of Indians leading to self-government and decided to go to India to discuss the issues involved. He landed in Bombay in November 1917; he was the first Secretary of State to visit India for purely political purposes. He met M.A.Jinnah, Sir Shafi, Gandhi, Malaviya, Tilak and Mrs Besant. [the_ad id=”17150″]
Montagu also visisted all provinces and had a great deal of discussions with officials at various levels (almost from top to bottom). It was noticed that the Secretary of State was hostile towards communal electorates. However, one thing was clear in his mind: a step by step approach towards full responsible Government as stated by the August Delcaration. The final outcome was the Report signed in April 1918 and issued in July 1918. A complex scheme of a divided Governement called dyarchy was to be introduced; provincial administration was divided into reserved and transferred subjects. The reserved departments would be administered by the Governor (through members appointed by him); the transferred subjects would be admisnistered by ministers. The Report retained separate electorates but disapproved of the system of communal representation; separate representation was also extended to the Sikhs, but was refused to other minorities. The Governor and his Executive Council were given special powers; the Governor was given the power to enact any bill, bypassing the Legislative by “certificate” that it was essential. The Central Legislature would be bicameral: the lower house (the Legislative Assembly) and the upper house (The Council of State); and of 100 members of the Assembly two-third would be elected and one-third nominated by the Viceroy. Provincial legislatures were also enlarged with at least 70% elected element; franchise was also extended. The Viceroy’s council was to continue to be responsible to the Secretary of State. The salary of the Secretary of State should be transferred to the British Exchequer. A council of princes was to be established. It was also decided that at the end of ten years a commission would be appointed to examine the working of the system and to advise on further constitutional reforms.
As expected, the Report was criticized; the extremist leaders reacted and condemned the proposed reforms. The Congress (1918) termed the proposals as disappointing and unsatisfactory. The Muslims were also disappointed but they did not reject the Report. Later on, two committees were established; one was presided over by Lord Southborough and the other by Richard Feetham. These committees toured India. Another committee was established under Lord Crewe. These committees made recommendations and the Government of India also gave its proposals.
In the meantime, the Government had been investigating revolutionary activities in India; an investigating committee of Jurists (the Indian Sedition Committee) under the Chairmanship of a British Judge (Sir Sidney Rowlatt) presented a Report on 15 August 1917, based on a survey of revolutionary crimes. In 1919, the Rowlatt Act was passed; people could be tried by courts with special powers given by the Act and the judgments were final and conclusive. Inevitably, disturbances and protests were noticed all over India against Kangroo Courts; troops had to be called to restore law and order situation. The Lt. Governor of the Punjab (Sir Michael O’Dwyer) banned the entry into the Punjab of every political leader and suppressed the most popular newspapers. The trouble, therefore, broke out in the Punjab on 9 April in Amritsar when a magistrate ordered firing upon a crowd of protesters. On 13 April (1919) General Dyer ordered the shooting of an unarmed crowd in Jallianwala Bagh. Dyer had issued a proclamation banning meetings but it was not given enough publicity; even the organizers of the Jallianwala Bagh meeting were not informed properly. The meeting took place, therefore, as planned; Dyer (a crack-brained British General) ordered to fire straight at the crowd; in 10 minutes 1650 bullets were fired killing 397 and seriously wounding 1650. The Indians were outraged; hartals were observed and the Martial Law authorities retaliated by taking strong actions. Demands were made by Indians for the recall of O’Dwyer and Chelmsford and an action was suggested against General Dyer. An enquiry committee was announced by the government with Hunter as Chairman on 14 October 1919. The Hunter committee was boycotted by the Congress. The Congress had appointed its own committee of Enquiry; it charged O’Dwyer; the Government of India and the British Government also came to the conclusion that Dyer’s action was indefensible. Dyer was therefore retired from office on March 23, 1920.
The Working of the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms and Communal Antagonism
In June 1919, Montagu introduced the Government of India Bill in the Parliament; it was referred to a Joint Select Committee of both the Houses of the Parliament. M.A.Jinnah and Yakub Hassan presented their views before the Committee demanding full responsible Government.
The Joint Select Committee presented its Report to the Parliament. Eventually the Bill (after some amendments) became an Act on 23 December 1919. The moderate opinion appreciated the Act of 1919 as a step towards the introduction of responsible Government, appealing to all walks of life to extend their co-operation for the successful working of the Reforms. The Congress. However, declared that the Act was not what they had hoped for demands were made for an early establishment of full Responsible Government. However, the Reforms were introduced; the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms (or the Act of 1919) brought some major changes in the administration of British India; beginning of a responsible government was therefore made in the eight provinces of British India namely Bombay, Madras, Bengal, the United Provinces, the Punjab, Central Provinces, Bihar and Orrisa and Assam. The elections were held (under the new Act) in December 1920 and ministers were appointed after the elections. The ministers under the new system became powerful in their respective departments; they were empowered to make independent policies. and also with the approval of Governor, make appointments in the transferred subjects. The responsibility of elected ministers for the transferred subjects of local self-government and education offered scope for political patronage which was often preferably dispensed to members of the minister’s own religious community or caste. Moreover, while choosing ministers the British governors always tried to take into account the communal proportions in their provinces. It so happened that where Muslims were incharge of their departments, they tried to remove various anomalies in order to give a due share to their community. Mian Fazl-i-Husain in the Punjab and A.K.Fazl-ul-Haq in Bengal used the power and influence to benefit the Muslims in official employment, local government and education. But the Hindus (and sometimes Hindus and other communities like the Sikhs) viewed such policies as an assault on their long-held superior position. The net result was that the Hindu members set aside their class and caste differences and in a highly organized fashion started a movement against all Muslim ministers who were trying to improve the conditions of their backward community. Fazl-i-Husain and Fazl-ul-Haq, according to the Hindus were showing them as to how the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms could be turned to the advantage of their own community. [the_ad id=”17144″]
The Punjab and Bengal situation affected the all-India politics, with the result that a severe communal competition for power started. It were the Hindus who had opened once again one of the saddest chapters of the Hindu-Muslim relations. The official record on this issue reveals the fact that the Hindu community was not prepared to see Muslims progressing even in their majority provinces such as the Punjab and Bengal. The Hindu minorities in these Provinces favoured the return of a bureaucratic rule to replace Mulsim ministers, and to prevent Muslims from securing a share of power commensurate with their numerical strength. Communal antagonism was not confined to Legislative councils, Press and ministries, it was also seen in the streets. Serious communal riots occured at Multan (1922), Paniput (1923), Rewari (1926), Lahore (1927) also at Agra, Saharanpur and Shahjehanpur, Allahahbad, Lucknow, Aligarh, Bareilly and Cawnpore. Communal rivalries were intensified due to the movements like Shuddhi (purification) and Sangathan (consolidation); the latter were founded to reclaim Muslims to the Hindu fold and to harden the Hindu for militant action by drill and physical culture.
The Muslims retaliated by establishing the tabligh and tanzim movement in 1924; these movements were generally patronized by the Ulama but eminent Khilafatists like Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew also gave them assistance. Swami Shraddhanand (the founder of the Shuddhi Movement) was also active in reconverting the Malkana Rajputs to Hinduism; thirty thousands were said to have been reclaimed. It may be mentioned that the Arya Samaj Movement was also doing all it could against Islam and Muslims. Rajpal published a pamphlet (Rangila Rasool) attacking the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It may also be noted that the Punjab Muslims had often attacked the High Court in Lahore for it was biased against the Muslims; the Hindus dominated the Bench – its Chief Justice Shadi Lal is also remembered for his anti-Muslim feelings. Rajpal was convicted by a magistrate and was sentenced to ten months rigorous impironment and a fine of 1000 rupees. The conviction was maintained by a session judge. But Rajpal challenged the decision in the High Court In 1927, and the high court acquitted him. Not only the Muslims but even the Government thought that Rajpal should not have been declared free from blame. The Muslims took the matter to the streets by taking out large processions. The Viceroy (Lord Irwin) and the Governor (Sir Malcolm Hailey) were greatly embarrssed by the judicial decision. The communal tension worsened when Rajpal was murdered by a Muslim (Ilm-ud-Did); the latter was sentenced by the court and executed. The two communities were so hostile that the Punjab Hindus ignored the death of a great Muslim leader, Moulana Mohammad Ali, and the Muslims in return took no notice of the death of a great Hindu leader, Motilal Nehru. It may be noted that Moulana Mohammad Ali had been a great supporter of the Congress. At one time the Moulana went so far that he called the Simla Deputation “a command performance”. But later on Moulana Muhammad Ali was disillusioned with the Congress and the Hindus; he criticised the Hindus for not allowing the Muslims to have their due share in administration and in other spheres. In 1924, Moulana Mohammad Ali expressed his apprehensions that Pandit M.M.Malaviya and his other extrmeist friends had been trying to turn Congress into a purely Hindu political party. Later on, the Moulana was more furious when he publically stated that a fallen Muslim was better than Gandhi. Moulana Muhammad Ali was driven away from the Congress; it was an inevitable result of the Congress policly for the promotion of Hindu interests and relegating the Muslims to the background. Now Mohammad Ali who was a staunch supporter of Gnadhi’s non-co-operation movement became the vehement champion of Muslim rights.[the_ad id=”17151″]
Efforts for Constituional advance after the Act of 1919
During the first three years of the working of the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, there emerged a situation of no compromose between the Muslims the Hindus and the Sikhs. Each community. disregarding the other, pushed its claims regarding its representation in the Legislative councils, in the local bodies and in the services, With the passage of time relations (as mentioned above) between the communities went from bad to worse. Each community wanted to have the upper hand in the administration; in some cases the Hindus and Sikhs (and others) pooled their resources against the Muslims.
Meanwhile, at all-India level the Nationalists had been demanding more reforms. The government had introduced the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms with a view to satisfying the legitimate aspiration of the Indians for reforms’. As far as the moderate and the reasonable’ opinion was concerned, the reforms were welcomed. But the extremist section of the Indian opinion had rejected these reforms as inadequate. Ever since, there had been constant demands, raised by the advanced section of Indian politicians for further constitutional advance in India. As early as September 1921, Mozumdar Bahadur moved a resolution in the Central Legislature asking for the establishment of autonomy in the provinces and the introduction of responsible government at the Centre. The resolution was later amended by the Assembly, asking the government to appoint a committee for the purpose stated in the original resolution The Secretary of State, however, did not agree with the demand, on the plea that further progress was possible under the existing Act.
His despatch (of November 1922) did not satisfy Indian opinion and in the following year demands were again made for the grant of constitutional advance. By 1924, the situation had become worse from the government’s point of view; the Swarajist element had won a great victory in the recent elections, and their entry into the Councils had accelerated the demand for further reforms in India. On 5th February 1924, Diwan Rangachariar moved a resolution recommending an early revision of the 1919 Act, with the object of granting full self-government dominion status to India, together with provincial autonomy in the provinces. Moti Lal Nehru tabled an amendment suggesting the summoning of a Round Table Conference to recommend a draft constitution for India. The debates took place on the 8, 13 & 18 February 1924, and the amended resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority of the Assembly.
This notable success of the Swarajist Party was due to the fact that Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League and the Independent Party (consisting of 17 members) had fully supported the move. He stood for a full inquiry into the Act of 1919, and was opposed to the government’s desire to avoid the issue by conducting some sort of departmental inquiry. The Quaid was in agreement with Nehru, the leader of the Swaraj Party, as the demand developed in the Assembly. It was only due to the combined pressure of Hindus and Muslims that the government agreed to institute an inquiry into the working of the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms, introduced only three years earlier. The Home Member, Sir Malcolm Hailey, expressed government’s readiness to make a serious attempt to investigate justifiable complaints against the working of the scheme in practice; to assess the causes and to examine the remedies, in necessary’. The government also expressed its willingness to make recommendations to the British Parliament should the inquiry suggest any advance within the boundaries of the existing Act. This commitment first led to the appointment of an official committee with the object of examining the Act of 1919 and the possibilities of amendments, leading to the better working of the administration. It was followed by the appointment of the Reforms Enquiry Committee presided over by Sir Alexander Mudiman; the other members were Sir Mohammad Shafi (then Law member of the Viceroy’s Council), the Raja of Burdwan, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Sir Sivaswami Aiyer, Sir Arthur Froom, Sir Henry Smith, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Dr.Parajnpye.[the_ad id=”17141″]
Incidentally, Jinnah was in need of support which the Punjab and more specifically Fazl-i-Husain could provide; his Unionist Party had been successfully working the Reforms and he was opposed to the non-coopeation movement, sticking to constitutional means and getting most out of it. Jinnah also wished to be within the constitutional means. In the 15th session of the League (1923) the Quaid had failed to secure a decision in this direction. Thus with the object of giving support to Fazl-i-Husain who was in trouble (due to the Hindu-Sikh campaign) and at the same time enhancing the League’s prestige, the Quaid arranged to resume the League’s discontinued session of the previous year in Lahore. The Quaid during his address referred to the non-cooperation movement by calling it a mistake and a failure. He then referred to the communal friction arising from the communal claims of each community. He proposed a revision of the Lucknow Pact, which would give Muslims more seats in the Punjab and Bengal Legislative councils; he also linked the freedom of India with Hindu-Muslim unity by saying that Swaraj (self-rule) is an inter-changable term with Hindu-Muslim unity. It was resolved that India must be recognized as a federation with full provincial autonomy giving majority rights to the Muslims of Bengal, the Punjab and N.W.F.P., with separate electorates retained and the powers of the Centre to be kept to a minimum.
Meanwhile, the Government of India (due to the pressure of “Nationalists” leaders) directed its provincial governments to elicit opinion on the subject of further reforms. On the whole satisfaction was expressed on the working of the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms. With official information in hand, the Mudiman Committee assembled in Simla on 4 August 1924 and started its business. Various organizations presented their views in writing and their leaders personally appearing before the committee. The Mudiman Committee published its report in December 1924, diving itself into two groups. The official group held the view that the Act of 1919 was working in most provinces and that it had not failed as claimed by certain “advanced politicians”; the Report, however, deplored the existing communal friction. It rejected the proposal to lower the franchise qualifications; separate electorates was allowed to continue. Political parties were not satisfied; in 1925 the League urged the British Government to appoint a Royal Commission with the object of establishing self-government in India; it was decided to established a committee to frame a scheme for constitutional advance.
On the other hand (as mentioned earlier) India (in early 1920) was found in the grip of a severe kind of communal crisis. After the murder of Shradhanad, a most serious communal clash occured in March 1927 at Kulkathi in the Barisal district of Bengal. A crowd of 1,000 armed Muslims came out to fight a Hindu procession passing before the mosque playing music. The armed forces opened fire to disperse the crowd and as a result 14 rioters were killed and seven injured. The affected mostly were the Bengali Muslims. The Bengal Muslim Conference raised its voice against the behaviour of the Bengal Government. An inquiry after this incident revealed that the existence of communal electorates for Muslims was generally described by the Hindus as a major cause of communal clashes in India. Needless to say, these electorates were highly desirable from the Muslim point of view, but were never considered to be an ideal form of rpresentaion. Even the leading Punjabi Muslims, such as Sir Fazl-i-Husain, Sir Abdul Qadir and Sir Muhammad Shafi considered this form of representaion a temporary measure. The Montagu-Chelmsford reforms had introduced this system only as a necessary evil”. The Government through the publication of the Mudiman Committee Report in 1924 also made it clear that a solution of this problem was highly desirable, if further constituional advances were to be achieved. Above all, these electorates were only considered to be means to an end; and the end in view, as far as the Muslims were concerned, was only to safegurd their legitimate interests. [the_ad id=”17142″]
Thus, before the much-awaited appointment of Royal Statutory Commission (The Simon Commission), it was thought to be highly desirable to find a way to remove this barrier. The Hindu members of the Congress Party in the Assembly met on 17 March 1927; on the same day Muslim leaders met at Dr. Ansari’s house, where a modification of the existing system was discussed, but no progress was made. On 20 March, an influential group of Muslim members of the various legislatures met under the leadership of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah; they discussed the possibilites of introducing common (Joint) electorates; and at the end, a set of proposals, commonly called the Delhi Proposals, was evolved. The Muslims made a provisional offer to give up their right to separate electorates under certain conditions; the separation of Sind from Bombay; introduction of reforms in the Frontier Province and Baluchistan; one third representation for Muslims in the Central Assembly; and that Muslim representation in the their majority provinces should be on the basis of their population. The League leader had planned that once he had received a clear answer from the Hindu leaders, he would discuss the matter with the central committee of the League, Khilafat Conference, Jamiat Ulema, the Muslim members of the Council of State and the Assembly, and then might form a small committee to discuss matters with the various Hindu organizatons. Even after these arrangements, the final settlement would be subject to ratification by the various Hindu-Muslim organizations of the country. It was a very long process of consultation which could not have materialized.
The Delhi Proposals were published on 20 March 1927. Sir Shafi representing the Punjab Muslims had fully agreed with the initiative in the Delhi meeting. But on his return to the Punjab, Sir Shafi changed his mind. Shortly afterwards the Punjab Muslims rejected the Proposals, without even considering it at any appropriate level. The Governor. Sir Malcolm Hailey, met the Viceroy to apprise him of the latest situation: “The Punjab Muslims are greatly upset by Jinnah’s statement about joint electorates…” The Viceroy in turn wrote to the Secretary of State that “Jinnah’s statements did not carry any weight”. The other two communities of the Punjab also rejected the Proposals. The Punjab Hindu Mahasabha met on 23 March, and passed a resolution challegning the right of the Congress to represent the Punjab Hindus in its negotiations with the Muslims. The Sikh leader, Mangal Singh, appreciated the offer of the Muslims to give up the seprate electorates, but criticized the principle of reservation of seats for them; he also opposed the idea of giving majority rights to Punjab Muslim. The Mahasabha leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai and Pandit Malaviya, who were in close touch with Raja Narendra Nath in the Punajab, had also rejected the Proposals by remarking that it meant ‘heads I win: tails you lose’. Narendra Nath and Lajpat Rai argued the case of the Punjab Hindus in the Mahasabha session in April 1927; this gathering was prepared to accept neither majority rights for the Muslim nor the principle of the separation of Sind.
The attitude of Mahasabha gave a genuine excuse to Sir Shafi to oppose the Proposals on the behalf of the Punjab Muslims. Now Sir Shafi was able to put the ball into the Hindu court. Addressing a session of the Punjab League in May 1927, he said: “Until the mentality of the Hindu Mahasabha undergoes the necessary change and that body come to realize that without Hindu-Muslim Unity the attainment of Swaraj for our common motherland is an absolute impossiblity … Until an efecttive guarantee of the protection of its vital interests is forhtcoming, the Muslim community will continue to insist on the retention of separate electorates as an integral part of the Indian constitution”. Similar views were expressed by other leading Muslims such as Sir Abdul Qadir and Allama Iqbal. Allama Iqal reiterated that in the existing political conditions, separate electorates provided the only means of making the central and provincial councils truly representiative of the Indian peoples; he strongly pleaded for the continuation of this system in the future Indian constitutions. Sir Abdul Qadir also argued in favour of retention of communal electorates, which had been in existence since the Montagu-Chelmsford reform came into effect. A few days later the Viceroy commented: “Shafi’s speech made it clear that Muslim opinion has not wavered in the very least way on the subject of electorates which the Muslims still regard as their greatest safeguard” This point of view was given a good deal of support by the Governor of the Punjab and the Viceroy. The Governor wrote to the Viceroy and the Viceroy told the Secretary of State that the Muslims would not accept the joint electorates; the Punjab group led by Sir Shafi was described as ‘very influential and truly representative of not only the Punjab Muslims but also the whole of the Indian Muslim opinion. [the_ad id=”17150”]
The opposition of the Punjabi Muslims to the Delhi Proposals gained strength with the passage of time. Following the unequivocal rejection of Muslim Punjab, the Quaid visited Lahore to assess the situation for himself. Here he tried hard to prevent the provincial Muslim League from taking an independent line on the question of electorates and to win the Unionist support for his Proposals. But he failed to enlist any support whatsoever, and left the province emptyhanded. Now the Unionists were on the way to making their case even stronger; F.K. Noon came to lead the movement from another angle. By the end of July 1927, he was able to secure a declaration in favour of the maintenance of separate electorates, signed by the Muslims members of the Punjab Council. It declared that the Muslims favoured the continuation of communal electorates until they could be abandoned by common consent of Hindus and Muslims. This document was a seal of rejection on the attempts to give up the communal electorate. In addition to this, the Unionists sent Sir Zafrullah Khan (a member of the Punjab Council and joint secretary of the Punjab League) and Sir Shafaat Ahmad Khan, on a 6-week tour to England to ‘state their views on questions which will come under review when the Statutory Commission is appointed’. Both Sir Zafrullah and Sir Shafaat met some influential politicians and gave press statements against the proposed introduction of joint electorates. They argued that the continuation of separate electorates was justified under the provisions of the Lucknow Pact; and that the Muslims felt very strongly that any change in the existing form of representation would seriously affect their welfare. They also criticized the vigorous Hindu propaganda against the communal electorates.
This propaganda by the Punjab Muslims, led by the Unionists, clearly indicated that under no circumstances were they prepared to negotiate the communal form of representation. While their representatives were busy abroad, at home they were also opposing the moves by the section of the Muslim League which followed the Quaid. The League leadership wanted to hold its forthcoming session at Madras, in order to enlist support of some U.P. members. Realizing that at Madras they would be swamped by the element which was in favour of joint electorates’, the Punjab leadership prevented this move. The governor was very pleased. The governor sent this news to Fazl-i-Husain who was in London at the time: “Feroz Khan bestirred himself a good deal about this and it was quite clear that the advocates of the joint electorates were outnumbered. I fancy as a result that we shall certainly have a meeting at Lahore”.
This decision was vital from the government’s point of view particularly because of the forthcoming Statutory Commission. The Montagu-Chelmsford reforms had provided for the appointment of such a Commission after 10 years, in order to examine India’s constitutional problems and make recommendations to the government on the future Indian constitution. However, the date of the inquiry was advanced by the British government, under pressure from the Indian leaders. The commission was appointed in November 1927. Unfortunately it contained no Indian members Although the Congress and the Muslim League under Quaid-i-Azam decided to boycott, Sir Shafi’s group of the League and the HinduSikh opinion in the Punjab decided to co-operate. The study of some confidential files reveals some reasons for the Punjab’s co-operation with the Simon Commission. The Hindus were pinning their hopes on the forthcoming Statutory Commission. They had many grievances against the Muslims. For example they complained against the reservation of seats for Muslims in various colleges in the Punjab; they were also against fixing of Communal proportions in the services; but the most important complaints was against the existence of separate electorates which the Muslims regarded their Magna carta.[the_ad id=”17144″]
In February 1928, Sir John Simon suggested that the Council of State, the Legislative Assembly and the Provincial Legislatures should elect representatives to co-operate with the Royal Commission. The Simon Commission had completed its preliminary inquiry by March 1928. However, when the Simon Commission was making its preliminary enquiries in the Punjab, and the Punjab was electing its committee to co-operate with the Commission, the all India leaders who stood for boycott were making efforts to draft by themselves a constitution for India. The Congress invited all India political parties to co-operate in preparing a ‘Swaraj’ constitution. The Muslim League under the Quaid accepted the offer; “the Shafi group” did not. Later, when Congress deviated from its stand on the Delhi Proposals, the League also withdrew its support. The All Parties Conference’ met in March 1928, but failed to reach an agreement on communal issues such as the reservation of seats for Muslims and the separation of Sind from Bombay. The Sikhs, in particular, were very strongly opposed to the claims of the Muslims of the Punjab and Bengal. The conference reassembled in May, but by that time the communal organizations had drifted further apart. This attempt also failed to resolve the long-standing communal disputes. However, a committee was formed under Motilal Nehru’s chairmanship to draft a constitution for India, keeping in view the communal problem as a whole.
The Nehre Committee met in June and July 1928; on 7 July it succeeded in adopting a compromise formula whereby the demands for reservation of seats for Muslims in the Punjab and Bengal were conceded for 10 years, or earlier, by agreement. But unfortunately the very next day the original agreement was altered; only the reservation of seats for minorities was permitted. The Punjab Hindus were not opposed due to any high national consideration, but due to the fear that they might lose their privileged position if the Muslim majority in the provincial legislature was guaranteed. The Nehru Committee published its recommendation in August 1928. Some Muslim claims were accepted, but all their main demands were completely rejected. Its recommendations on matters such as communal electorates and reservation of seats for the Muslims of the Punjab and Bengal were particularly harmful to the Muslim interests of these provinces. The Muslim right of representation through communal electorates, on which the Punjab felt very strongly, and which was retained by the Mudiman Committee, was opposed by the Nehru Committee. It said: “It is admitted that sepatate electorates are thoroughly bad and must be done away with … (they) are bad for the growth of a National spirit … (they) must therefore be discarded completely … we can only have joint or mixed electorates”. The Committee also faced a serious problem in accepting the principle of reservation of seats for the Muslims in the Punjab and Bengal. The Hindu Mahasabha and the Sikh League strongly opposed the grant of such a right to the Muslims. The Sikh representative, Mangal Singh, opposed the creation of a Muslim majority by reserving seats for them. In case the Committee decided to grant such a right to Muslims, Mangal Singh demanded adequate and effective’ representation for the Sikh community in the Punjab. When the Nehru Report, was published, some Muslim leaders of the Punjab, without giving it much thought, gave their approval to it. The vice-president of the Punjab League supported the recommendations; Sardar Habibullah, deputy president of the Punjab Council, himself a big land-owner, also approved of the report. Similarly, Dr. Alam, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, Dr. Kitchlew, Maulana Abdul Qadir Qasuri commended the Nehru Report and made statements in its favour. The Hindu-dominated press gave a good deal of publicity to these statements to show that the report had been accepted by the Punjab Muslims. Muslim members of the Congress such as Azad and M.A. Ansari were also ready to accept giving the impression of a Muslim ‘yes’ to the Nehru Report.
Although the Punjab Muslims, like the other parties, had presented their case before the Simon Commission, they had not been able to enlist the support of the elected members of the Central and local Legislatures, as Fazl-i-Husain had desired. Nevertheless, the Nehru Report had completely failed to get Muslim support. Men like the Ali brothers who appeared as the erstwhile lieutenants of Gandhi during the Khilafat Movement and as staunch supporters of the Congress, now turned into restless critics’. Similarly, the League leader, the Quaid-i-Azam, who had recently returned from a trip to ‘Europe, in spite of the efforts of the Congress leaders, refused to give his approval to the Nehru Report. Instead he took the matter to the League. By the time the League held its session, in December 1928, it was required to form its opinion on the Nehru Report, its representative character was also under threat. The Punjab group which had revolted in the previous year on the question of Simon Commission, was able to organise itself into ‘First All India Muslim Conference’; the party consisted of the elected Muslim members of the Central and provincial Legislatures. It was also holding its session to present the Muslim demands against the background of the Nehru Report. Three months before the session, the Muslim Conference had invited the Quaid as well as the Muslim League to send representatives to the proposed session. The League leader was personally opposed to the existence of such an organization, claiming that only the League represented Muslim opinion. This issue came up for discussion in the League’s session. A heated debate took place; M.C. Chagla and Raja Mehmudabad particularly expressed their feelings against accepting the invitation, implying that the Muslim Conference was intended to place the League in the background and that acceptance of its request would be to sign the League’s death-warrant. In the end the offer was rejected by an overwhelming majority; ‘the Shafi group’was also criticized. [the_ad id=”17151″]
The League was also asked to send its representatives to the All Parties Convention, called at the same time, to give final approval to the recommendations of the Nehru Report. A 23 members committee was appointed to present the Muslim point of view over the issue of Nehru Report. This committee paricipated in the convention and proposed a few amendments to the Nehru Report. The Quaid made a conciliatory speech; he argued ably and eloquently for acceptance of his amedments. But the Hindu Mahasabha and the Sikh representatives were vehemently opposed to any “changes to appease Muslim opinion”. The Mahasabha had the strong support fo the Punjab Hindus who were against any compromise with Muslims; its delegates distributed pamphlets and extracts from Lala Lajpat’s speech against any revision of the Report. The Sikh representative, Mehtab Singh criticized the principle of reservation of seats; it seats were reserved for Muslims. the Sikhs demanded that 30% should also be reserved for them. In the light of this intense criticism, the convention rejected the proposed amendments one by one. Later on Jinnah presented his “Fourteen Points”. The failure of the Congress to accept Jinnah’s “fourteen points” and his amendments to the Nehru Report were significant turning point along the way to the partition of India. It was “the parting of the ways”.
The rejection of the Quaid’s amendments greatly affected the credibility of the Muslim League in the Indian politics. On the other hand the uncompromising attitude of the convention enhanced the prestige of the “Shafi group” and its newly organized Muslim Conference.
Under the circumstances many hitherto influential supporters of the League transferred their loyalties to the “Punjabi Muslim group”. As a result Sir Shafi proudly addressed the Muslim Conference session (Delhi, 31 December 1928 – 1 January 1929) and criticized the All Parties Convention, the Quaid and the League for ‘neglecting’ Muslim rights. He moved a resolution laying down Muslim demands, such as the continuation fo separate electorates, a due share in the Central Legislature, reforms in Baluchistan and the Frontier Province, and separation of Sind from Bombay. The pro Unionist dailies such as The Civil and Military Gazette and Ingilab gave a good deal of publicity to the Conference’s proceedings, and to Sir Shafi’s statements, implying that the Muslim Conference was a true representative of Muslim opinion in India. Sir Shafi’s resolution became the basis of the demands made by the Conference to counter the effects of the Nehru Report. Shortly afterwards (March 1929) the Muslim League also came out openly against the Nehru Report; the Quaid presented his proposals for Hindu-Muslim settlement, commonly known as “Jinnah’s 14 points”. These points also amounted to a complete rejection of the Nehru Report and were similar to the Muslim Conference’s demands; but for the League and Jinnah there was no chance of regaining lost support and prestige. Shortly afterwards, the Punjab Governor arranged a temporary appointment for Fazl-i-Husain in the Viceroy’s Council, which was later renewed for a full period (1930-35) by Lord Irwin. This particular arrangement put the League in the background, and at the same time gave a leading role to the Punjab Muslims in the Indian constitutional advance.
On 31 October 1929, Lord Irwin made an important announcement which in essence recongnized the ultimate goal of Indian political aspirations and the attainment of dominion status. It was decided that after the Simon Commission’s Report had been published, a Round Table Conference would be held to determine the future constitutional advance for ndia. Before this announcement was made, manoeuvering began at official level in favour of giving a dominating role to the representatives of the Muslim Conference. Sir Malcolm Hailey was a great supporter of this idea. Soon, Fazl-iHusain took charge as one of the members of the Viceroy’s Council. The Unionists were very enthusiastic; Fazl-i-Husain had earlier promised to safeguard their interests in the forthcoming negotiations in London. As soon as Fazi-i-Husain became a member of the Viceroy’s Council, his authority started to increase; the Punjab Governor sent a note to the Viceroy, authorising Fazl-i-Husian to nominate Punjabi Muslims to the Round Table Conference. The Viceroy authorised Hailey and Fazl-i-Husain to decide the question of Muslim representation on the Round Table Conference. Fazl-iHusain wanted to secure the domination of the Punjabi Muslims point of view; he recommended Zafrullah Khan and Shafaat Ahmad Khan, (son-in-law of Sir Shafi). With Sir Shafi already on the government’s list, these two were “essential to counter the view of the Jinnah group in the conference”. Before the completion of arrangements for the Round Table Conference, the long-awaited report of the Simon Commission was published in May 1930. This report did not support Muslim opinion on separate electorates. It expressed the opinion that communal tensions could only be reduced by making both communities dependent on the support of the joint electorate. The Simon Commission suggested several alternative methods in this direction. [the_ad id=”17141″]
The Commission rejected the unitary system for India insisting on a Federal system, proposed to scrap the Dyarchy so that the ministers should be responsible to the elected Legislatures; every Province should have full responsible government. The Report also proposed that franchise should be extended and Legislative assemblies be enlarged; that the N.W.F.P. should be given a Legislature but not responsible government; that the separation of Sind should be further examined; that Federal Assembly should be elected by the provincial councils; that a Council of Greater India would be established to discuss common matters relating to India: and that the new constitution should be tramed in such a way that it could develop by itself.
These recommendations feel short of Muslim demands on various issues regarding the future constituional advance for India; for the Report rendered the position fo Muslims much weaker than it had been under the Act of 1919. There emerged a feeling of resentment and disappointment; Chowdary Afzal Haq resigned his seat in the Legislative Council; Allama Iqbal and Sir Shahnawaz also criticised. The Muslims, therefore, stuck to their demands raised from various quarters (Muslim Conference, the Muslim League, the Unionist Party’s group etc). The Congress reacted to the Report in a different way; it had authorised its high-powered working Committee to start a “civil disobedience” movement as and when it deemed fit. Demonstrations, protests and violence was seen in the streets. The result was that the Government declared the Working Committee as an unlawful body and Gandhi and Nehru were arrested.
By this time the Labour Governement was agian in office in Britain; it decided to shelve the Simon Report and hold consultations with Indian leaders at a Round Table Confernece in London, where matters would be finally decided. Moreover, the Government of India also asked its local government in the provinces to send their views on the Simon Report. This move was extremly important because these opinions were to be sent to London for the forthcoming Round Table Conference. Provincial Governments, therefore, sent memoranda in two parts; one consisting fo the opinion of the nonofficial members of the Government. The latter part gave an opportunity to all the communities to air their grievances against the Simon Report. The Government of India also sent a memorandum on the subject of Reforms, after receivinng suggestions from the provinces; the memo paid its tributes to those local Governments which had been working the complex dyarchical system and recommended that it be replaced by the introduction of provincial autonomy; that the Legislatures should be wholy elected; that communal electorates should be retained for the Muslims unless the two-thirds decide otherwise, and that the Governors should be given overriding powers.
The Round Table Conference
The first session of the Round Table Conference was held from 12 November 1930 to 19 January 1931; it was inaugurated by King George. The Congress was not represented at this session in protest against the British refusal to accept the goal of immediate dominion status for India; it was conducting a non-co-operation campaign in India. The plenary session (which followed from 17 November to 21 November) discussed the question whether the future constitution of India should be on a federal or unitary basis. (Sir) T.B.Sapru enunciated the idea of an Indian Federation and requested the princes to accept his idea. The Maharaja of Bikanir approved of the Idea and the Nawab of Bhopal also endorsed the plea for the transfer of responsibility. M.A.Jinnah also insisted that there should be a sense of security among the minorities otherwise the constitution would not work. The plenary session was followed by the meetings of the committee constituted to discuss various aspects such as: Federal structure, Provincial constitution, Franchise, Sind, The N.W.F.P., Defence services and Minorities. The committees on Provincial constitution and Franchise committee were able to make some progress. However, the Minorities committee, which was chaired by the Prime Minister himself, proved to be a major hurdle against an agreable solution between the various communities; at least eight of the twenty nine members were deeply interested in the Punjab problems – it was more difficult than that of Bengal. Each community presented its stereotyped claims and none was prepared to budge from its original claims. The first session, therefore, failed to achieve any progress except that the British Prime Minister (Ramsay MacDonald) declared that the Government had accepted the proposals for “full responsible government in the provinces”. [the_ad id=”17142″]
The Gandhi-Irwin Pact
The British Government, as well as the Government of India, had realized that there could be no settlement unless the Congress had also been taken into confidence. Wedgwood Benn (the Secretary of State) suggested to the Viceroy (Lord Irwin) to get intouch with Gandhi. Erwin persuaded the new Labour Government to allow him to release Congress leaders; the Congress working committee held its meeting at Allahabad. In February 1931, Sapru, Jayakar and others also returned to India and held discussions with Gandhi and other members of the Congress. Gandhi agreed to meet the Viceroy: the talks continued for some time ( In February and early March). On 5 March an agreement was signed commonly known as the GandhiIrwin Pact. it was agreed that the Congress would be invited to participate in the Round Table Conferece; that Civil disobedience movement would be discontinued; that Federation was to be created; that Ordinances promulgated in connection with the civil disobedience movement would be withddrawn; that pending prosecutions would be withdrawn (except in case of violence); that prisoners would be released; and that fines would be remitted. The Congress held its meeting and approved the Gnadhi-Irwin settlement, committing the Congress to participate in the RTC; Gandhi was appointed the sole representative of the Congress. In summary, concessions were made to the Congress Party which enhanced its prestige. The Muslims were depressed and expressed their fears, for the Government had gone a long way to appease the Congress.
The Second Session (RTC)
In April 1931, Lord Willingdon replaced Lord Irwin as Viceroy, and Sir Samuel Hoare became the Secretary of State in August 1931. The All India Muslim Conference (February 1931) rejected the Federal structure, calling upon the Muslims to be ready and prepared to resort to any action for asserting their just demands. A special session of the Conference was held on 5 April at Delhi; Moulana Shoukat Ali declared that the Muslims supported Jinnah’s “fourteen points”. The Muslim League also endorsed the line taken by the Muslim Conference. However, the second session of the Round Table Conference started on 7 September 1931; thirty one additional delegates were appointed. The main problem before the Conference (according to the British Prime Minister) was the solution of the communal issues. The Minority committee was once again the focus of attention; it was to decide such controversial matters as the form of electorate and weightage for each community in various Legislatures. The Muslim delegates made demands similar to those of Jinnah’s “Fouteen Points” and refused to commit themeselves to the principle of responsible government at the Centre, unless their demands for guaranteed majority representation in the Muslim Majority provinces were accepted. But agreement between the Muslim and Congress’s representative, Gandhi, proved impossible. For one thing, Gandhi claimed that Congress was a truely representative body so far as Indian problems were concerned – describing other delegates as unrepresentative.
For another, Gandhi presented a carbon copy of the Nehru Report in the Conference which had been rejected by the Muslims in 1928. Moreover, the Mahasabha leader, M.M.Malaviya, had the upper hand of Gandhi in the Conference; there were little chances of acceptance Muslim demands on the part of this doughty upholder in its intergrity of the ancient traditions of the caste Hinduism. In one of his speeches, Gandhi declared that the task of making the Hindu consent to Muslim claims was like climbing the mount Everest. Gandhi also raised hurdles by saying that “Untouchables” were Hindus and therefore they could not be separated from the main body of Hinduism The Muslims stood aloof and did not participate in any discussion which would not esnure the satisfactory settlement of their demands. The communal disputes were, therefore, postponed for future discussions. But the British went ahead with their own plans for an Indian Federation, which would balance Congress against the Muslims and the Princes against elected Indians in the Legislature of British India. Ramsay MacDonald made it clear that the Government would settle the issues by itself; the Prime Minister asked the Chairman of the Franchise Committee to go ahead with the task of preparing a detailed scheme for the composition of the various Legislatures. This committee formed provincial Franchise Committees.
The Communal Award
The position was that the two marathoon sessions of the R.T.C. and the Indian leaders themselves had failed to resolve the communal issues. In the light of (above mentioned) Prime Minister’s declaration, the British Government attempted to remove this great obstacle from the path of constitiutional advance. On 4 August 1932, Ramsay MacDonald announnced the governmant’s decision, commonly known as the Communal Award, with a promise to recommend to the British Parliament the substitution for the Government’s decision of any agreed solution reached by the Indian leaders themselves. The Award retained separate electorates for the Muslims as well as for the other communities. It failed to give Muslims an overall majority of seats in the Legislatures of Punjab and Bengal. In the Punjab, the Muslims were given 47.6% as against a population proportion of 56.5% in Bengal where the Muslims formed 56% of the total population, they received about 48% of the total provincial seats. The Award, as anticipated, failed to satisfy all the three main communities. On his return to India, Gandhi had started his civil disobedience movement; his “fast unto death” began in order to get the communal Award amended so far as it had effected an electoral separation between the Hindus and the “Untouchables”. When it went unheaded, the Congress officially declared itself neutral towards the Award. However, other community organizations such as the Mahasabha and the Sikh Political Parties started a campaign to get the Award canceled by the British government. The Muslims were not pleased but felt satisfied under the circumstances that they themselves had suggested a British Award with promises to abide by the decision. This gesture led to a closer co-operation between the Muslim League and the Congress parties in the Central Legislature from 1934 to 1936.[the_ad id=”17150″]
The Third Session (R.T.C.)
In September 1932, less than three weeks after the publication of the Communal Award, the Viceroy announced the summoning of a third session of the Round Table Conference. The last session (November 17 to December 24) was held in order to prepare an outline for the new Indian Constitution.Jinnah was not invited to attend the third and the condluding session of the Conference; he later commented that the Hindu attitude (during the two sessions of the R.T.C.) led him to believe that there was no hope for unity in Indian politics, and that the Muslims were like the dwellers in no man’s land. The Sikh representiatives, Ujjal Singh and Sampuram Singh, also did not attend; they had resigned due to their protests against the communal Award. However, Tara Singh and the Mahasabha had accepted the invitations to attend the R.T.C., despite protesting against the Award, in effect confining their struggle within constitutional channels. The Congress was also not present. This last session was, therefore, short and unimportant; the Hindu-Sikh delgates, however, criticised the Award pleading against the Muslims and in favour of a strong Central Government; reports of various committees were looked at. The Hindu-Sikh demands to turn down the Award were rejected by the British Government, and the last session came to a close on Christmas (on 24 December). Following the last session of the R.T.C. a white paper was published in March 1933, giving a complete outline of the proposed constitution; it included a sheme of the Federal Government of India at the Centre which would come into effect after a number of Indian States had acceded to the Federation. The White Paper was appreciated by the three parliamentry parties in the Parliament. Attlee went one step ahead and asked the Government to fulfill its promises of full self-Government and self-determination and Dominion status for India. In March 1933, Sir Sam. Hoare proposed (in the Commons) the appointment of a Joint select Committee; the motion was carried with an overwhelming majority; and the House of Lords also adopted it. The Joint Select Committee was appointed in April with Lord Linlithgow as its Chairman. The Indian representative (21+7) appeared before the Committee for presenting thier suggestions, criticism etc. The Hindu-Sikh delegates pooled their resoureces and severely criticised the Communal Award and the Muslims. However, a Bill was prepared and introduced in 1934; the two Houses of the British Parliament (the House of Commons and the House of Lords) approved it; and the Royal assent was given on 4 August 1935, and therefore, the communal Award became a part of the new Indian constitution.
The Government of India Act, 1935
The Act of 1935 was a remarkable accomplishment so far as constitutional and political progress in India is concerned. The process of framing the new Act took about eight years had work; it was initiated with the appointment of Simon Commission under the conservative Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, and Lord Birkenhead as the Secretary of State and continued under the Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald and the Secretary of State, Wedgwood Benn. Sir Samuel Hoare (later Viscount Templewood) R.A.Butler (later Lord Butler of Saffron Walden) Linlithgow (later Viceroy 193643) and Sir Maurice Gwyer (later Chief Justice of India) would always be remembered with the Act due to their strenous efforts for drawing this new Indian Constitution. The most important feature of the Act was the introduction of Provincial autonomy (taste and practice of parliamentary self-government) in each of eleven Indian provinces. Power was transferred entirely from British to Indian hands. It may be mentioned that this Act (with a few amendments) served as the working constitution for Pakistan for nine years and of India for three years. However, it may also be noted that this Act had been designed to sfeguard British rule in India, not to weaken it. Even though the intentions of the framers of the Act were that the provinces should be genuinely self-governing within their allotted sphere, and that under federation there should be a genuine dyarchy or sharing of power, the Viceroy and Governors were given discreationary powers. Indians had no say over defence and external affairs; the Centre was equipped with all the powers to stamp its authority and to keep centrifugal tendencies in check. Section 102 of the Act gave the Viceroy power to direct the federal legislature to make laws for the provinces during an “emergency”. Under section 93, if at any time the Governor of a province was stisfied that a situation had arisen in which the Government of the province could not be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Act, he might by proclamation declare that his functions to any specified extent should be excercised by him in his descreation, and assume to himself all or any of the powers vested in or exercisable by any provincial body or authority except High Courts. The Governors used these special powers to take over the administration in all provinces except Sind.
Some other broad features of the Act of 1935 were:[the_ad id=”17144″]
- Some notable decisions were embodied in the Act. Burma and Aden were seprated from India with which they had previously been governed under one Governor-General; Sind (previously part of Bomaby) was given the status of a separate province and Orissa (previously joined to Bihar) also became a separate province. The N.W.F.P. was, for the first time, invested with full provincial power. The authority of the Crown in respect of the Indian States was removed from the Government of India. It passed to the Crown Representative who exercised his functions in relation to the Indian States through the agency of the Political Department, local Residents and Political Agents.
- The franchise was very wide; at one stroke, the lowering of the franchise qualifications (from 2.8% to 11.5% of the population (256 millions) by lowering the property qualification) increased the electorate to over thirty million and separate electorates remained. The normal life of the Assembly was five years. The upper chamber was a permanent body, a proportion of whose members would retire and be replaced every third year.
- The Act of 1935 contemplated a Federation of British – Indian Province and Indian States; but the federation was never created – the bones of the federal system including a detailed separation of powers, were formed and exercised; under the Act, including the fall-back provisions for the Centre pending the Federation, an interim Government of a wholly popular-political kind eventually came into office. The provinces consisted of Madras, Bombay, Bengal the, U.P., the Punjab, Bihar, The C.P.and Berar, Assam, the N.W.F.P, Orissa and Sind. In a Federation so established were to be included the Chief Commissioner’s provinces of Delhi, Ajmar-Merwara, Coorg, British Baluchistan, The Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Panth Piploda. The provinces would automatically accede to the Federation, but in case of States it was voluntary. The ruler of a State would accede to the Federation by executing an Instrument of Accession which would have to be accepted by the Government and the Federation and the Royal Proclamation would be issued. But it could not happen unless one-half of the states by weight agreed to federate, and this never happened.
- The Federal legislature was to be bicameral; the upper chamber was to consist of 260 representatives of whom 104 or 2/3 to be chosen by the rulers of the States; 140 seats were allotted to the Provinces (75 general electorate, 6 scheduled castes, 4 Sikhs, 49 for Muslims and 6 for Women, I Anglo-Indian, Europeans 7. Indian Christian 2, 6 to be nominated by the Viceroy. The lower house (the Federal Assembly) was to consist of 375 (125 from the States: 250 seats were alloted to the provinces (Hindus 105, Muslims 82, minorities 26, Industry and Commerce 11. Labour 10, Landholders 7, Women 9). The executive authority was vested in the Governor-General; he will take advice from a council of ministers not more than ten, to be appointed by the Governor-General. In the U.P the number of seats in the Assembly was increased to 228, of which 140 were general (20 for scheduled castes and 66 Muslims); In Bihar there there were 86 general to 40 Muslims, out a total of 152 seats. In Bombay, where the Muslims were less than 10% they had 30 seats (75 general includig 15 for scheduled castes) In the Punjab and Bengal the Muslims were denied majority; In the Punjab, the Muslims (with about 57% population) were given 86 seats out of 175 and in Bengal of 250 seats only 119 were given to Muslims.
- As regards Certre-Province relations. A federal court was constituted for the purpose of resolving the disputes; the Federal Court of India consisted of a Chief Justice and two judges.
- Three lists of subjects were drawn up; the Central government administered the federal subjects where as the provincial government had full authority in provincial matters. There was are a third list of Subjects called the “Concurrent list” on which the Central and provincial legislatures were both competent to legislate, but the administration of which was left to the provincial governments (subjects included were: Civil and criminal Law, factories, labour welfare, ect.)
- The Council of the Secretary of states was abolished and replaced by a team of Advisers (not less than three and not (exceeding six) to the Secretary of State; but their advice was not binding on him; and the finances would be provided by the British exchequers.
Despite its good points, the Act of 1935 was criticized; its federal provisions were condenned by almost all the parties. Jinnah declared that the scheme of the federation was totally rotten, unacceptable and unworkable. The Muslims League denounced the safeguards in the Act of 1935 but decided to utilize the provincial part of the Act for what was worth. The Congress was also opposed to the Act; it demanded complete independence. On the other hand, the Muslim League wanted to have an autonomous Muslim State or states to serve as a counterpoint against remaining Hindu India. By this time the Congress had been divided into no-changers and pro-changers or Swarajists; Gandhi had withdrawn from the political arena to carry on his social uplift program and economic organization. Later on the Swarajists were also divided into two groups with the result that their communal party, the Hindu Mahasabha gained strength and was able to attract a number of Congress leaders by accelerating its anti-Muslim movement.