The Simon Commission (1927)

The British Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, announced in the House of Commons in November 1927 that a commission would be sent to India to look into the political situation of India and suggest reforms. This commission would ‘inquire into the working of the Indian constitution and consider the desirability of establishing, extending, modifying or restricting the degree of responsible government’. The Simon commission was to be headed by Sir John Simon and would have six other members which included Clement Atlee who was to preside over Indian independence as Prime Minister in 1947.
Simon Commission had no Indian members

When the composition of the commission was announced, it was found that it included only British members and no Indian. This was greeted with strong protest from all parts of India and all assurances that the government would consider the Indian viewpoint in all matters was rejected. Complete equality with the British members of the commission was demanded and no one was satisfied with the status of just being petitioners.

Jinnah and many Hindu and Muslim leaders signed a manifesto which declared that unless Indian members were included in the commission, it was not possible for them to conscientiously share in its work or take any part in it. Jinnah felt that by not allowing Indians to participate in the commission, the British have tried to show that Indians are not capable of making any decisions regarding the constitution of India.

Jinnah protested against this commission along with the Congress and other leaders of the subcontinent. He tried to unite the Muslims to see how this commission would not be beneficial for them, but at this point the Muslim League split into two; Jinnah who opposed the Simon Commission headed one faction known as the ‘Jinnah Group’ while Sir Mohammed Shafi who was in favor of cooperating with the Simon Commission headed the other known as the ‘Shafi Group’.

Jinnah strongly criticized the commission calling it a ‘butchery of our souls’. As president of the Muslim League he said:

‘a constitutional war has been declared on Great Britain. Negotiations for a settlement are not to come from our side…We are denied equal partnership. We will resist the new doctrine to the best of our powers…I welcome Pandit Malaviya, and I welcome the hand of fellowship extended to us by Hindu leaders from the platform of the Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha….this offer is more valuable than any concession which the British Government can make.’

The Quaid moved a resolution that was accepted by the Jinnah group. The resolution was as follows:

“This public meeting of the citizens of Bombay empathetically declare that the statutory commission which has been announced is unacceptable to the people of India as it most flagrantly denies the right of the people of India to participate on equal terms in framing the future constitution of the country. This meeting further resolves that under the circumstances Indians throughout the country should have nothing to do with the commission at any state or in any form.”

Jinnah was distressed at this point. He had worked so hard for Hindu-Muslim unity and than had to face the problem of the Muslims being divided amongst themselves.

After reading the statements of Sir John Simon and the Viceroy, Jinnah issued a statement in which he said that no equality of status was given to the Indian Committee. Indians were not allowed to vote at the proceedings of the Commission. This made the Jinnah that the Indians were left to play a subordinate role.

Lala Lajput Rai passed a resolution in the Legislative Assembly on the 16th of February 1928, which was strongly supported by Jinnah. This resolution declared that the Indians had no confidence in the Simon Commission. The Simon Commission arrived in Bombay on the 3rd of February and was greeted by black flags and loud slogans saying ‘Simon go back’. Wherever the Commission went it was meeted out hostile treatment. The Simon Commission left India on the 31st of March.

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