NEHRU REPORT AND 14 POINTS OF JINNAH: FIRST CONFLICTED ATTEMPT FOR CONSTITUTIONAL FORMATION IN INDIA [1928-1930]
BACKGROUND: Contextually, from Swadeshi and Boycott Movement 1905 to Gandhian Non-Cooperation Movement 1920-1922, the methodology for accomplishing “SWARAJ” or “DOMINION STATUS” for India had transitioned through various phases- from Extremist strategy to Revolutionary Phase-1, from Militant Nationalism to Home-Rule Movement, and from Home-Rule Movement to Gandhian Non-Cooperation Movement and thereafter in the 1920s, it became bi-directional- 1. Swarajist adopted the policy of obstructing Legislative Councils and 2. Revolutionaries of Second Phase adopted violent methodology and political assassination for terrorizing imperialists and thereby asserting for “SWARAJ” but what had been achieved by Indians? Possibly, the simplest answer could be “NOTHING… NOTHING AT ALL.”
In 1927, the Simon Commission arrived in India for reviewing and suggesting constitutional reformation in India but it was strongly boycotted by the larger amplitude of Indian population because no Indian member had been involved in it. Agitated by mass-demonstrations, Secretary of State for India Lord Birkenhead challenged Indians for framing a solid constitution for India on mutual consensus because he believed that Indians in no way can be able to perform such a burdensome task and eventually, the educated political leaders accepted this challenge.
In response to Birkenhead’s challenge, the educated Indians structured a committee called All Parties Conference, under the chairmanship of Motilal Nehru in February 1928 for discussing the drafting procedure of Constitution and later, it produced a report in August 1928 that is popularly called NEHRU REPORT. Later on, this report was rejected by Muslim League under Jinnah who provided 14 other points that were called 14 POINTS OF JINNAH.
The prime objective of this article is to answer the questions: What is the Nehru Report? Who were the members involved in the formation of the Nehru Report? Who supported it and who didn’t? What are the reasons that the Muslim League, Sikhs and Depressed Sections rejected it? What were 14 points of Jinnah? What are the impacts of this report on a broader scale?
In February 1928, the All-Parties Conference appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Motilal Nehru that was empowered to draft the constitution of India. Its Secretary was Jawaharlal Nehru and other members that were involved in it were Ali Imam, Tej Bahadur Sapru, M.S. Aney, Mangal Singh, Shuaib Qureshi, Subhash Chandra Bose and G.R. Pradhan. In Lucknow Session on 28 August 1928, this committee provided its report that is popularly called Nehru Report and its fundamental recommendations are enumerated below:
- DOMINION STATUS FOR INDIA WITHIN BRITISH FRAMEWORK
- NINETEEN FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS ENSURING GENDER-EQUALITY, RIGHT TO VOTE AND RIGHT TO FORM UNIONS
- INSTEAD OF SEPARATE ELECTORATES FOR MINORITIES, IT DEMANDED JOINT ELECTORATES WITH SEATS RESERVED FOR MINORITIES AT CENTRE AND AT PROVINCES WHERE THEIR PROPORTION IS MINOR.
- CREATION OF PROVINCES ALONG LINGUISTIC LINES
- DEMANDED A RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT AT PROVINCES AND CENTRE AND SUGGESTED FOLLOWING STEPS:
- Indian Parliament at Centre should consist of 500-membered House of Representatives and 200-membered Senate where the former one has tenure of 5 years who were elected on basis of adult suffrage and the latter one has tenure of 7 years who were elected by Provincial Councils.
- Central Government should be headed by Governor-General who will be paid from Indian Revenue and will act on advice of Central Executive Council but will be responsible to Parliament.
- Provincial Executive Councils will have 5 years tenure, headed by Governor who will act on advice of Provincial Executive Council.
- DEMANDED PROTECTION SOCIO-RELIGIO-CULTURAL INTERESTS OF MUSLIMS.
- COMPLETE DISSOCIATION OF STATE FROM RELIGION.
Amongst these recommendations, the point of “Dominion Status” was the bone of contention between INC leaders and the point of ” Separate/Joint Electorates” had agitated Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha and Depressed Sections of India.
The radical INC leaders like Subhash Chandra Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru believed that now it will be retardation to demand “DOMINION STATUS” for India and rather than further demanding it, they stressed for “POORNA SWARAJ” or “FULL-INDEPENDENCE” for India but further, they had to jointly lay the first stone of “Independence for India League” when they were ignored. On Gandhian persuasion, these leaders mutually accepted the demand for “Dominion-Status” but they claimed that the government would be given only one grace year for approving to this demand and if it was rejected, Congress would surely demand “COMPLETE INDEPENDANCE.”
Muslim League, in its annual session in December 1928, had framed four proposals that they intended to consolidate in future Constitution for India called Delhi Proposals which were accepted by INC in Madras Session, December 1928 but from these four proposals, only one was approved in Nehru Report that caused severe distress amongst Muslims led by Aga Khan and Jinnah. The four proposals were:
- JOINT ELECTORATES IN PLACE OF SEPARATE ELECTORATES WITH RESERVED SEATS FOR MUSLIMS.
- 1/3RD REPRESENTATION TO MUSLIMS IN CENTRAL LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
- REPRESENTATION TO MUSLIMS IN PUNJAB AND BENGAL BASED ON THEIR PROPORTION IN POPULATION
- FORMATION OF THREE MUSLIM-MAJORITY PROVINCES- SINDH, BALUCHISTAN AND NORTH-WEST FRONTIER PROVINCE
Hindu Mahasabha resisted Delhi Proposals and Nehru Report because it might incorporate the Muslim reservation in Punjab and Bengal which will thereby ensure Muslim control over the legislature in both these provinces.
Sikhs protested against “Rejection of Separate Electorates” for them.
Nehru Committee suffered the scathing criticism from Dalits because it asserted- “The problem of untouchability was a social or religious problem and not a political problem.” Reacting to this blatantly hollow statement, Ambedkar wrote in his editorial- “Bahaskrit Bharat”-
If the problems of untouchables is a social problem, is not that of Muslims a social problem? The Muslims too suffered from the consequences of distorted vision of upper caste, in the same way as untouchables… It’s our firm conviction that the Nehru Committee’s Brahminical strategy aims at perpetuating the Hindu social hierarchy in their struggle for political power. [Taken from K.N. Kadam’s “Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and the Significance of His Movement” page no.-26]
14 POINTS OF JINNAH:
At All Parties Conference in Calcutta, December 1928, Muslim League re-presented their demands with certain amendments but these were also re-rejected, these demands were:
- 1/3RD REPRESENTATION TO MUSLIMS IN CENTRAL LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY
- REPRESENTATION TO MUSLIMS IN PUNJAB AND BENGAL BASED ON THEIR PROPORTION IN POPULATION UNTIL UNIVERSAL ADULT FRANCHISE IS ACHIEVED
- RESIDUARY POWERS TO BE RESTED IN THE HANDS OF PROVINCES
When these demands weren’t approved, Jinnah under Shafi faction in March 1929 incorporated the future goals of Muslim League in following fourteen points, that we’re popularly referred to as 14 Points of Jinnah, these are:
- FEDERAL CONSTITUTION WITH RESIDUARY POWERS TO PROVINCES
- PROVINCIAL AUTONOMY
- NO CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT BY CENTRE WITHOUT CONCURRENCE OF STATES IN FEDERATION
- ADEQUATE MUSLIM REPRESENTATION IN LEGISLATURE AT PROVINCES AND IN ELECTED BODIES WITHOUT REDUCING THEIR MAJORITY TO MINORITY OR EQUALITY.
- ADEQUATE MUSLIM REPRESENTATION IN SERVICES AND SELF-GOVERNING BODIES
- 1/3RD MUSLIM REPRESENTATION IN CENTRAL LEGISLATURE
- 1/3RD MUSLIM REPRESENTATION IN CENTRAL AND PROVINCIAL CABINET
- SEPARATE ELECTORATES
- NO BILL COULD BE PASSED IF 3/4TH OF MINORITY OPPOSES IT.
- ANY TERRITORIAL REORGANIZATION SHOULDN’T AFFECT MUSLIM MAJORITY IN BENGAL, PUNJAB AND NWFP.
- DIVISION OF SINDH FROM BOMBAY
- CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS IN NWFP AND BALUCHISTAN
- FULL FREEDOM TO RELIGION TO ALL COMMUNITIES
- PROTECTION OF MUSLIM RIGHTS IN RELIGION, EDUCATION AND LANGUAGE
Whether reformatory or not, Nehru Report suffered a wide range of criticism from minorities and the radical INC leaders but it later proved to be a historical document whose crucial features could also be observed in the present-day constitution because it was also considered as a base-material by Constituent Assembly, some are enlisted below:
- Nehru Committee recommended a Federal Form of Government with a strong centre and residuary powers vested in the hands of centre and thereby, it ensured national integrity under Article 75 and Article 164.
- Separation of judicial and executive organs
- Nehru Report intended to propose social-equality by politically equating countrymen of India and therefore, it wanted to empower its citizens with Universal-Adult Franchise that would ultimately eradicate the socio-political and economic discrimination of Indians. It is guaranteed by Constituent Assembly to every citizen of India under Article 326.
- It recommended Joint electorates with Reserved Seats for Minorities rather than Separate electorates for hindering the separation of weaker sections from Indian fold and shield social harmony.
- Nehru Report provided every citizen with certain fundamental rights that help in their individual growth and the Constituent Assembly also provided these constitutional fundamental rights to its citizens for achieving social equality.
- Parliamentary Form of Governance is a common feature in the Nehru Report and Constitution drafted Post-Independence.
- Nehru Report provided cultural and religious protection to Muslims but further, these safeguards were extended to all religions by Constituent Assembly under Article 25-30 as fundamental rights.