CIVIL DISOBIDIENCE MOVEMENT PART-1

NEHRU REPORT ON CONSTITUTIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE COUNTRY (AUGUST, 1928)

  • The Nehru Report in August 1928 was a memorandum outlining a proposed new dominion status constitution for India.
  • The rejection by Indian leaders of the all-white Simon Commission led Lord Birkenhead, the Secretary of State for India to make a speech in the House of Lords in which he challenged the Indians to draft a Constitution implying that they could not produce one that would be widely acceptable among the leaders of the various Indian communities.
  • As an answer to Lord Birkenhead’s challenge, an All Parties Conference met in February 1928 and appointed a subcommittee under the chairmanship of Motilal Nehru, with his son Jawaharlal acting as secretary, to draft a constitution.
    • There were nine other members in this committee, including two Muslims. 
    • However, the final report was signed by only eight persons: Motilal Nehru, Ali Imam, Tej Bahadur Sapru, M.-S. Aney, Mangal Singh, Shuaib Qureshi, Subhas Chandra Bose, and G. R. Pradhan. Shuaaib Qureshi disagreeing with some of the recommendations.
  • This was the first major attempt by the Indians to draft a constitutional framework for the country.
  • The recommendations of the Nehru Committee were unanimous except in one respect—while the majority favoured the “dominion status” as the basis of the Constitution, a section of it wanted “complete independence” as the basis, with the majority section giving the latter section liberty of action.

A) Main Recommendations:

The Nehru Report confined itself to British India, as it envisaged the future link-up of British India with the princely states on a federal basis. For the dominion it recommended:

  • Dominion status on lines of self-governing dominions as the form of government desired by Indians (much to the chagrin of younger, militant section—Jawaharlal Nehru being prominent among them).
  • Rejection of separate electorates which had been the basis of constitutional reforms so far; instead, a demand for joint electorates with reservation of seats for Muslims at the centre and in provinces where they were in minority (and not in those where Muslims were in majority, such as Punjab and Bengal) in proportion to the Muslim population there with right to contest additional seats.
  • There should be federal form of government with residuary powers vested in the center.
  • It included a description of the machinery of government including a proposal for the creation of a Supreme Court and a suggestion that the provinces should be linguistically determined.
  • Nineteen fundamental rights including equal rights for women, right to form unions, and universal adult suffrage.
  • Responsible government at the centre and in provinces.
  • Full protection to cultural and religious interests of Muslims.
  • Complete dissociation of state from religion.
  • The language of the Commonwealth shall be Indian, which may be written either in Devanagari, Hindi,Telugu, Kannada, Marathi,Gujarati,Bengali, Tamil or in Urdu character. The use of the English language shall be permitted.

The Nehru Report, along with that of the Simon Commission was available to participants in the three Indian Round Table Conferences (1930–1932). However, the Government of India Act 1935 owes much to the Simon Commission report and little, if anything to the Nehru Report.

B) The Muslim and Hindu Communal Responses:

  • Though the process of drafting a constitutional framework was begun enthusiastically and unitedly by political leaders, communal differences crept in and the Nehru Report got involved in controversies over the issue of communal representation.
  • Earlier, in December 1927, a large number of Muslim leaders had met at Delhi at the Muslim League session and evolved four proposals for Muslim demands to be incorporated in the draft constitution.
  • These proposals, which were accepted by the Madras session of the Congress (December 1927), came to be known as the ‘Delhi Proposals’. These were:
    • Joint electorates in place of separate electorates with reserved seats for Muslims;
    • One-third representation to Muslims in Central Legislative Assembly;
    • Representation to Muslims in Punjab and Bengal in proportion to their population;
    • Formation of three new Muslim majority provinces— Sindh, Baluchistan and North-West Frontier Province.
  • However, the Hindu Mahasabha was vehemently opposed to the proposals for creating new Muslim-majority provinces and reservation of seats for Muslims majorities in Punjab and Bengal (which would ensure Muslim control over legislatures in both). It also demanded a strictly unitary structure.
  • This attitude of the Hindu Mahasabha complicated matters. In the course of the deliberations of the All Parties Conference, the Muslim League dissociated itself and stuck to its demand for reservation of seats for Muslims, especially in the Central Legislature and in Muslim majority provinces.
  • Thus, Motilal Nehru and other leaders drafting the report found themselves in a dilemma: if the demands of the Muslim communal opinion were accepted, the Hindu communalists would withdraw their support, if the latter were satisfied, the Muslim leaders would get estranged.

The concessions made in the Nehru Report to Hindu communalists included the following:

  • Joint electorates proposed everywhere but reservation for Muslims only where in minority;
  • Sindh to be detached from Bombay only after dominion status was granted and subject to weightage to Hindu minority in Sindh;
  • Political structure proposed was broadly unitary, as residual powers rested with the centre.

C) Amendments Proposed by Jinnah:

  • At the All Parties Conference held at Calcutta in December 1928 to consider the Nehru Report, Jinnah, on behalf of the Muslim League, proposed three amendments to the report:
    • One-third representation to Muslims in the Central Legislature
    • Reservation to Muslims in Bengal and Punjab legislatures proportionate to their population, till adult suffrage was established
    • Residual powers to provinces.
  • These demands not being accommodated, Jinnah went back to the Shafi faction of the Muslim League and in March 1929′ gave fourteen points which were to become the basis of all future propaganda of the Muslim League.

JINNAH’S FOURTEEN DEMANDS(1929):

  1. Federal Constitution with residual powers to provinces.
  2. Provincial autonomy.
  3. No constitutional amendment by the centre without the concurrence of the states constituting the Indian federation.
  4. All legislatures and elected bodies to have adequate representation of Muslims in every province without reducing a majority of Muslims in a province to a minority or equality.
  5. Adequate representation to Muslims in the services and in self-governing bodies.
  6. One-third Muslim representation in the Central Legislature.
  7. In any cabinet at the centre or in the provinces, one- third to be Muslims.
  8. Separate electorates.
  9. No bill or resolution in any legislature to be passed if three-fourths of a minority community considers such a bill or resolution to be against their interests.
  10. Any territorial redistribution not to affect the Muslim majority in Punjab, Bengal and NWFP.
  11. Separation of Sindh from Bombay.
  12. Constitutional reforms in the NWFP and Baluchistan.
  13. Full religious freedom to all communities.
  14. Protection of Muslim rights in religion, culture, education and language.

A) Response of Younger Section of the Congress:

  • Not only were the Muslim League, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Sikh communalists unhappy about the Nehru Report, but the younger section of the Congress led by Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Bose was also angered.
  • The younger section regarded the idea of dominion status in the report as a step backward, and the developments at the All Parties Conference strengthened their criticism of the dominion status idea. Nehru and Subhash Bose rejected the Congress’ modified goal and jointly set up the Independence for India League.

THE CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE MOVEMENT : PURNA SWARAJ

  • Before 1930, few Indian Political parties had openly embraced the goal of political independence from the United Kingdom. 
    • The All India Home Rule League had been advocating Home Rule for India: dominion status within the British Empire, as granted to Australia, Canada, the Irish Free State, Newfoundland, New Zealand, and South Africa.
    • The All India Muslim League favoured dominion status as well, and opposed calls for outright Indian independence. 
    • The Indian Liberal Party, by far the most pro-British, explicitly opposed India’s independence and even dominion status if it weakened India’s links with the British Empire.
  • A Congress leader and famous poet Hasrat Mohani was the first activist to demand complete independence (Poorna Swaraj) from the British in 1921 from an All-India Congress Forum.
  • Veteran Congress leaders such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Aurobindo and Bipin Chandra Pal had also advocated explicit Indian independence from the Empire.
  • For youth Jawaharlal Nehru promoted Hindustan Sewa Dal and for radical congressman, asking for independence, in Dec 1927 he founded the Republican Party within Congress.
  • In August 1928, the “Independence of India League” was formed with Jawahar Lal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose as Secretaries and S. Srinivasa Iyengar as President
  • The Nehru Report(1928) demanded that India be granted self-government under the dominion status within the Empire. 
    • Younger nationalist leaders like Subhas Chandra Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru (Motilal Nehru’s son) demanded that the Congress resolve to make a complete and explicit break from all ties with the British.
  • In December 1928, Congress held in Calcutta, Mohandas Gandhi proposed a resolution that called for the British to grant dominion status to India within two years.
    • If the British failed to meet the deadline, the Congress would call upon all Indians to fight for complete independence. Bose and Nehru objected to the time given to the British – they pressed Gandhi to demand immediate actions from the British.
    • Gandhi brokered a further compromise by reducing the time given from two years to one. Jawaharlal Nehru voted for the new resolution, while Subhash Bose told his supporters that he would not oppose the resolution, and abstained from voting himself.
  • On 31 October 1929, the Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin announced that the government would meet with Indian representatives in London for a Round Table Conference. 
    • To facilitate Indian participation, Irwin met with Mohandas Gandhi, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and out-going Congress President Motilal Nehru to discuss the meeting.
    • Gandhi asked Irwin if the conference would proceed on the basis of dominion status and Irwin said he could not assure that, resulting in the end of the meeting.
  • Lahore Session of Congress (Dec. 1929): 
    • It which was presided by Jawahar Lal Nehru. and veteran leaders like C. Rajagopalachari and Vallabhbhai Patel returned to the Congress Working Committee. 
    • The most land mark resolution was that the Nehru Committee Report had now lapsed and Dominion status will not be acceptable.
    • A Poorna Swarajya Resolution was passed and it was Swarajya means complete Independence.
    • In pursuance with this resolution, the Central and Provincial Legislatures had to be boycotted completely and all the future elections were also to be boycotted. A Programme of the Civil Disobedience was to be launched.
  • On the midnight of December 31, 1929 and January 1, 1930, the deadline of the Nehru Committee report expired and Jawahar Lal Nehru unfurled the tricolour flag of India’s independence on the bank of River Ravi in Lahore.
  • The Congress working committee met on January 2, 1930 and on that day it was decided that the January 26, 1930 should be observed as Poorna SwarajyaDay.The Indian National Congress publicly issued the Declaration of Independence, or Purna Swaraj, on 26 January 1930.
  • The Congress regularly observed 26 January as the Independence Day of India – commemorating those who campaigned for Indian independence. In 1947, the British agreed to transfer power and political independence to India, and 15 August became the official Independence Day. 
    • However, the new Constitution of India, as drafted and approved by the Constituent Assembly of India, was mandated to take effect on 26 January 1950, to commemorate the 1930 declaration.

WHY SALT?

  • The Congress Working Committee gave Gandhi the responsibility for organising the first act of civil disobedience, Gandhi’s plan was to begin civil disobedience with a satyagraha aimed at the British salt tax.
    • The 1882 Salt Act gave the British a monopoly on the collection and manufacture of salt, limiting its handling to government salt depots and levying a salt tax.Violation of the Salt Act was a criminal offence. 
    • Even though salt was freely available to those living on the coast (by evaporation of sea water), Indians were forced to purchase it from the colonial government.
  • Initially, Gandhi’s choice of the salt tax was met with incredulity by the Working Committee of the Congress,Jawaharlal Nehru and Dibyalochan Sahoo were ambivalent; Sardar Patel suggested a land revenue boycott instead.
  • The British establishment too was not disturbed by these plans of resistance against the salt tax. The Viceroy himself, Lord Irwin, did not take the threat of a salt protest seriously, writing to London, “At present the prospect of a salt campaign does not keep me awake at night.”
  • Gandhi had sound reasons for his decision. The salt tax was a deeply symbolic choice, since salt was used by nearly everyone in India. An item of daily use could resonate more with all classes of citizens than an abstract demand for greater political rights.
  • The salt tax represented 8.2% of the British Raj tax revenue, and hurt the poorest Indians the most significantly.
  • Explaining his choice, Gandhi said, “Next to air and water, salt is perhaps the greatest necessity of life.”
  • Gandhi felt that this protest would dramatise Purna Swaraj in a way that was meaningful to the lowliest Indians. He also reasoned that it would build unity between Hindus and Muslims by fighting a wrong that touched them equally.

DANDI MARCH (SALT SATYAGRAHA) (MARCH 12 – APRIL 6, 1930)

  • On March 2, 1930, Gandhi informed the viceroy of his plan of action. According to this plan (few realised its significance when it was first announced), Gandhi, along with a band of seventy-eight members of Sabarmati Ashram, was to march from his headquarters in Ahmedabad through the villages of Gujarat for 240 miles.
  • On reaching the coast at Dandi, the salt law was to be violated by collecting salt from the beach.
  • Even before the proposed march began, thousands thronged to the ashram. Gandhi gave the following directions for future action:
    • Wherever possible civil disobedience of the salt law should be started.
    • Foreign liquor and cloth shops can be picketed.
    • We can refuse to pay taxes if we have the requisite strength.
    • Lawyers can give up practice.
    • Public can boycott law courts by refraining from litigation.
    • Government servants can resign from their posts.
    • All these should be subject to one condition—truth and non-violence as means to attain swaraj should be faithfully adhered to.
    • Local leaders should be obeyed after Gandhi’s arrest.
  • The historic march, marking the launch of the Civil Disobedience Movement, began on March 12, and Gandhi broke the salt law by picking up a handful of salt at Dandi on April 6.
  • The violation of the law was seen as a symbol of the Indian people’s resolve not to live under British-made laws and therefore under British rule. The march, its progress and its impact on the people was well covered by newspapers. In Gujarat, 300 village officials resigned in answer to Gandhi’s appeal.
  • Gandhi created a temporary ashram near Dandi. From there, he urged women followers in Bombay (now Mumbai) to picket liquor shops and foreign cloth. He said that “a bonfire should be made of foreign cloth. Schools and colleges should become empty.”

A) Spread of Salt Disobedience:

  • Once the way was cleared by Gandhi’s ritual at Dandi, defiance of the salt laws started all over the country.
  • In Tamil Nadu, C. Rajagopalachari led a march from Tiruchirapally to Vedaranniyam.
  • In Malabar, K. Kelappan led a march from Calicut to Poyannur.
  • In Assam, satyagrahis walked from Sylhet to Noakhali (Bengal) to make salt.
  • In Andhra, a number of sibirams (camps) came up in different districts as headquarters of salt Satyagraha.
  • Nehru’s arrest in April 1930 for defiance of the salt law evoked huge demonstrations in Madras, Calcutta and Karachi. Gandhi’s arrest came on May 4, 1930 when he had announced that he would lead a raid on Dharsana Salt Works on the west coast. Gandhi’s arrest was followed by massive protests in Bombay, Delhi, and Calcutta and in Sholapur, where the response was the fiercest.

B) After Gandhi’s arrest, the CWC sanctioned:

  1. Non-payment of revenue in Ryotwari areas;
  2. No-chowkidara-tax campaign in zamindari areas; and
  3. Violation of forest laws in the Central Provinces.
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