“SIMON COMMISSION GO BACK”- A STRONG ANTI-IMPERIALISTIC VOICE OF MASS AGITATION AND RESISTANCE IN INDIA IN 1928

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“SIMON GO BACK”- AN ANTI-IMPERIALISTIC VOICE OF MASS AGITATION AND RESISTANCE  AGAINST SIMON COMMISSION IN INDIA IN 1928

Simon Commission in India
Simon Commission in India

Failure of Revolt of 1857, Failure of Congress Constitutional Policy of Political Mendicancy, Failure of Swadeshi and Boycott Movement 1905, Failure of Militant Nationalism and Revolutionary Activities {1907-1914}, Failure of Home Rule Movement [1916], Failure of Non-Cooperation Movement [1920-1922], failure, failure and failure after failure, but the nationalist struggle for INDEPENDENCE, for SWARAJ, for POLITICAL EMANCIPATION, continued…The timeline of 1922-1930 witnessed the upsurge of wide range nationalist activities on Indian land for accomplishing the goal of “SWARAJ” aftermath the fallout of the famous Gandhian Non-Cooperation Movement, the three important national trends that were observed, are noted below-

  • The Genesis of Swaraj Party by C.R. Das and Motilal Nehru for demanding the “self-rule” from the colonial government by entering into the Provincial and Central Legislative Councils and obstructing into government decisions.
  • The emergence of Socialist, Communist and Marxist ideologies as a result of the Soviet Revolution in Russia
  • The resurgence of Second Phase of Revolutionary Activities in India which was different from the First Phase of Revolutionary Terrorism [1907-1914] because it involved the concept of “SOCIAL JUSTICE” in its foundational goals in addition to Nationalism and Anti-Imperialism that was missing in the first phase.

Amidst such sociopolitical conditions, the colonial government realized the urgency to curb the nationalist activities in India and therefore, the Statutory Commission that was expected to be drafted 10 years after Government of India Act, 1919 was constituted 2 years before, in 1927, for reviewing administrative functioning and suggest constitutional reformation in India but it was openly boycotted by Indians with one of the most historic slogans of Indian history- “SIMON GO BACK.”

The prime objective of this article is to answer the questions: What is the Simon Commission? Why was it formed? Who supported the Simon Commission and who boycotted it? What was a colonial reaction to those who boycotted? How it impacted the future course of freedom struggle for independence? What recommendations it suggested and were they adopted?

FORMATION OF SIMON COMMISSION:

According to the provision of Government of India Act 1919, a 7-membered Indian Statutory Committee called Simon Commission was constituted on 8 November 1927 under the chairmanship of Sir John Simon and prime-ministership of Stanley Baldwin that intended to look into the constitutional functioning of British India and suggest reformatory steps.

Out of 7 members in Commission, 4 were conservatives [Harry Levy-Lawson, Edward Cadogan, George Lane-Fox and Donald Howard], 2 were Labourites [Clement Attlee and Clement Attlee] and remaining 1 was a liberal member [Sir John Simon] of British Parliament and shockingly, no Indian member had been involved in the process of constitutional reformation for India, most probably on grounds of racial inferiority and eventually, it caused much distress in Indian hearts who expressed themselves in solidarity and raised the slogan-” SIMON GO BACK.”

SIMON COMMISSION: WHO BOYCOTTED AND WHO SUPPORTED?:

Congress decision to boycott Simon Commission
Congress decided to boycott the Simon Commission in Madras Session 1927 Presided by M.A. Ansari

The smouldering dissatisfaction that grew from the exclusion of Indians from Simon Commission was manifested in Indian’s collective mass boycott of the commission at its arrival in Bombay on 3 February 1928. Indian National Congress, Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha which chiefly represents the majority of India strongly boycotted the commission, organized hartals, mass rallies and raised the slogan-“ SIMON GO BACKto demonstrate their resistance against such excruciating colonial strategies.

Why Ambedkar supported Simon Commission?
Why Ambedkar supported Simon Commission?

But, Simon Commission was also supported by certain minor sections of Indian society, likeBahiskrit Hitkarni Sabha and Justice Party in Madras under the leadership of Dr B.R. Ambedkar and Periyar E.V. Ramaswamy advocated this commission since it provided certain crucial safeguards to depressed classes of India. It granted reserved seats to depressed sections on the condition that candidate would take part in the election on prior competence of Provincial Governor. Conscious of socially downtrodden, economically poor and educationally backward conditions of depressed classes in India, this section intended to seek constitutional rights from the colonial government since Brahmins will certainly deny them such safeguards after independence. 

COLONIZER’S REACTION TO MASS BOYCOTT OF SIMON COMMISSION:

B612 20201207 192939 116 SIMON COMMISSION

Colonial officials brutally lathi-charged on the INC leaders who were involved in the educational mass boycott of Simon Commission: Jawaharlal Nehru and G.B. Pant were violently beaten in Lucknow and the lathi-charge on Lala Lajpat Rai was too terrific that it ultimately led to his death on 17 November 1928.

IMPACTS OF SIMON COMMISSION ON MODERN INDIAN HISTORY:

The impacts of a strong mass boycott of the Simon Commission on the future course of freedom struggle for independence were significant in two ways:

  • Emerging Radical and Socialist Ideologies of Punjab Naujawan Bharat Sabha and Hindustani Sewa Dal gained attention during this period due to boycott of Simon Commission which not only demandedCOMPLETE-INDEPENDENCEbut also the socio-economic and cultural reforms in India.
  • Another significant impact of agitation against Simon Commission was that it provided Indians with an opportunity for framing a constitution themselves on mutual consensus in form of Lord Birkenhead’s challenge [ Birkenhead was the Secretary of State for India who was internally too determined that Indians are incapable to create a solid constitution for them that he challenged them and eventually, it was accepted by educated Indian political leaders].

RECOMMENDATIONS OF SIMON COMMISSION:

In May 1930, the Simon Commission published a two-volume report that proposed the following recommendations: 1. Abolition of Dyarchy, 2. Continuation of Communal Representation until the conflicts between Hindus and Muslims aren’t be resolved, 3. Separation of Sindh from Bombay and Burma from India as it believed that they are not parts of the Indian subcontinent, 4. Interestingly, it adopted the concept of FEDERALISM but it will not be implemented in near future; and 5. Indianisation of army keeping British forces retained.  However, these recommendations proved irrelevant at the time when they were released.

To conclude the above analysis, Simon Commission was the Statuary Commission drafted under Stanley Baldwin’s Prime-Ministership, for suggesting constitutional reforms but it received harsh criticism and reception in India because no Indian had been involved in it and therefore people agitated and resisted with full strength and raised their solid voice against this commission, in form of “SIMON GO BACK.” It also impacted the future course of the freedom struggle against independence. 

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Gaurav Rathi

An enthusiastic Delhiite, Gaurav Rathi is pursuing B.A. English Hons. in Delhi University. Rather than reading history, he likes re-inventing and re-approaching history and while not researching and writing blogs, he is reading novels or celebrating life with family and friends.

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