Swaraj Party and Simon Commission (1927)

Motilal Nehru The suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement led to a split within Congress in the Gaya session of the Congress in December 1922. Leaders like Motilal Nehru and Chittranjan Das formed a separate group within the Congress known as the Swaraj Party on 1 January 1923.

The Swarajists wanted to contest the council elections and wreck the government from within. Elections to Legislative Councils were held in November 1923. In this, the Swaraj Party gained impressive successes. In the Central Legislative Council Motilal Nehru became the leader of the party whereas in Bengal the party was headed by C.R. Das.

The Swaraj Party did several significant things in the Legislative Council. It demanded the setting up of responsible government in India with the necessary changes in the Government of India Act of 1919. The party could pass important resolutions against the repressive laws of the government.

When a Committee chaired by the Home Member, Alexander Muddiman considered the system of Dyarchy as proper, a resolution was passed against it in the Central Legislative Council. After the passing away of C.R. Das in June 1925, the Swarj Party started weakening.

The Act of 1919 included a provision for its review after a lapse of ten years. However, the review commission was appointed by the British Government two years earlier of its schedule in 1927. It came to be known as Simon Commission after the name of its chairman, Sir John Simon.

All its seven members were Englishmen. As there was no Indian member in it, the Commission faced a lot of criticism even before its landing in India. Almost all the political parties including the Congress decided to oppose the Commission.

On the fateful day of 3 February 1928 when the Commission reached Bombay, a general hartal was observed all over the country. Everywhere it was greeted with black flags and the cries of ‘Simon go back’. At Lahore, the students took out a large anti-Simon Commission demonstration on 30 October 1928 under the leadership of Lala Lajpat Rai.

In this demonstration, Lala Lajpat Rai was seriously injured in the police lathi charge and he passed away after one month. The report of the Simon Commission was published in May 1930. It was stated that the constitutional experiment with Dyarchy was unsuccessful and in its place the report recommended the establishment of autonomous government.

There is no doubt that the Simon Commission’s Report became the basis for enacting the Government of India Act of 1935.

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