What is Simon Commission?
Simon Commission was sent to India in 1928 by the British Crown under the leadership of Sir John Simon. This was a seven-member commission that was put together to help understand the shortcomings of the Indian administrative system.
The 7-member party did not have a single person of Indian origin, which is why it was heavily criticized and boycotted. One of the members was the upcoming leader of the Labour Party, Clement Atlee, who eventually advocated for self-government in India.
Simon Commission - Historical Background
The Government of India Act 1919 laid the foundation for the need for the committee to look into India's administrative reforms. It states that a commission, 10 years from the act coming out, shall be set up to gauge the working of the reforms brought by the GOI act 1919. However, to understand the policy of the Simon Commission and the reaction it got from the Indian masses, it is important to know its history.
- The Government of India Act 1919 introduced ‘diarchy’ to the Indian masses. This act made provisions for a commission that should check its function and administrational progress after 10 years of being active.
- The Indian masses and their leaders wanted the diarchy to be repealed. The corruption in the system was making life very difficult for the population.
- The UK's political scenario hastened this commission's appointment process. The parliament was being led by the Conservative Party, who feared losing their place to the Labour Party in the coming elections, which is why instead of 1929, the commission was formed in 1928 itself.
- The problem with this commission was that it had only British members. For a commission that wanted to understand the administration and how it affected the Indian masses, it lacked Indian representation, which is why the commission was severely criticized.
- Lorden Birkenhead, who was serving as the Secretary of State then, had already openly berated his perceived lack of capability of Indians to formulate reforms on their own. It was he who was responsible for the appointment of the members of the Simon Commission.
- Clement Atlee, one of this commission's members, became Britain's Prime Minister. He harbored pro-Self-government sentiments for India. And it was under his tenure that India got its freedom in 1947.
Why was Simon Commission Boycotted in India?
The Simon Commission was set up to examine the effect of reforms on the Indian masses. Quite insensitive to the needs of the masses, the British government appointed only British MPs as its members. This enraged the country's population, and the commission was met with sloganeering and severe criticism.
- The Congress Party boycotted the Commission in their 1927 Madras session.
- The Muslim League, under Muhammad Ali Jinnah's leadership, also boycotted and criticized it.
- However, the Justice Party in the south sided with the government over this.
- The Commission was met with slogans of Simon, go back as soon as they landed in the Indian territory. These protests and sloganeering were matched with hartals and black flag demonstrations everywhere in the country.
- Lathi's charge was issued to suppress this movement. Senior leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai and Pt. Jawahar Nehru came under clashes as well.
- Lala Lajpat Rai, a big name in the state of Punjab and a senior leader, was lathi-charged brutally. He succumbed to his injuries and passed away on 17th November 1928.
- Dr. B.R. Ambedkar submitted a report on behalf of the Bahishkrita Hitakarini Sabha that explained the cause of educating the depressed classes in the Bombay Presidency.
Impact of the Simon Commission Report
The Simon Commission was met with great backlash, but they still completed their report and submitted it in 1930. The main highlights of the Simon Commission Report have been discussed below:
- Before the report, the British government promised the Indian masses that their opinion would be of note, and the outcome of this report would be India achieving dominion status under the British crown.
- The report suggested abolishing the diarchy system and setting up provincial units of governance that worked with relevant representatives,
- It suggested the setting up of communal electorates to resolve communal tensions between different sects of society- primarily the Hindu-Muslim issue.
- The Simon Commission report led to the Government of India Act of 1935. This act was of prime importance as it served as the blueprint for the current Indian Constitution.
- 1937 saw the first provincial election in India, in which the Congress party won by a landslide majority in most provinces.
- This gave rise to Congress’ impetus into the Indian political scene and gave the Indian Independence movement a lot of formidable leaders.
Simon Commission in India UPSC
An important segment of Modern Indian History, the Simon Commission is an important topic to prepare for the UPSC Exam perspective. It can be enquired about in the UPSC prelims and UPSC mains alike. Candidates can refer to appropriate history books for UPSC preparation to learn about this topic. They can also read relevant information by downloading Simon Commission UPSC Notes PDF.
Simon Commission Questions
Simon Commission is an important part of Modern Indian History and the Indian Struggle for Independence, making it an important topic for the UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains. Practice some sample questions to brush up on your basics.
Question - Which party did not participate in the criticism of the Simon Commission?
- Congress Party
- Jinnah’s Muslim League
- Justice Party
- Labour Party
Answer - C
Question - Which acts made provisions for the Simon Commission?
- The GOI Act of 1928
- The GOI Act of 1919
- The GOI Act of 1858
- The GOI Act of 1935
Answer - B
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