Anti-Simon Commission Upsurge

Appointment of Simon Commission

  • The Government of India Act, 1919 had a provision that a commission would be appointed after 10 years to investigate the progress of the governance scheme and suggest new steps for further reforms.
  • An announcement was made on 8 November 1927 to set up an all-White, seven member Indian Statutory Commission to recommend whether India was ready for further constitutional progress and on which lines.
  • The commission popularly came to be known as “Simon Commission” (after the name of its chairman, Sir John Simon)

Why the commission was appointed before schedule

  • Indian nationalists had for many years declared the constitutional reforms of 1919 as inadequate and had been clamouring for an early reconsideration of the constitutional question,
  • But the Government had been adamant that the declared period of ten years must lapse before fresh proposals were considered.
  • In 1927, however, the Conservative Government of Britain under Stanley Baldwin’s prime ministership feared with the prospect of electoral defeat at the hands of the Labour Party.
  • It decided that it could not leave an issue which concerned the future of the British Empire in the irresponsible hands of an inexperienced Labour Government
  • It was thus that the Indian Statutory Commission, popularly known as the Simon Commission was appointed, two years before the schedule.

Indian Reaction’s to Simon Commission

  • Indian response to Simon Commission was immediate and unanimous.
  • All shades of political opinion in India unanimously condemned the Commission as not a single Indian was included in it.
  • That no Indian should be thought fit to serve on a body that claimed the right to decide the political future of India was an insult to the self-respect of Indian.
  • They were also angered as the commission violated the principle of self-determination.
  • The Indian response to the Commission was a unanimous resolution by leaders of every shade of opinion to boycott it

Response of Congress

  • It was the Indian National Congress that turned the boycott into a popular movement.
  • The Congress had resolved on the boycott at its
  • At its annual session in December 1927 at Madras Congress decided to boycott the commission ―at every stage and in every form.
  • In the prevailing excitable atmosphere, Jawaharlal Nehru had even succeeded in getting passed a snap resolution declaring complete independence as the goal of the Congress.

Response of other political factions

  • The call for a boycott of the Commission was endorsed by the Liberal Federation led by Tej Bahadur Sapru,
  • It was also endorsed by the Indian Industrial and Commercial Congress,
  • The Hindu Mahasabha and majority faction of the Muslim League under Mohammed Ali Jinnah also went in favour of boycott.
  • Gandhiji did not himself participate in this movement, although he gave it his blessings.
  • Some others such as Unionist in Punjab and Justice Party in the south decided not to boycott the commission.

Anti-Simon Commission Upsurge

  • The action began as soon as Simon and his friends landed at Bombay on 3 February 1928.
  • All the important cities and towns observed a hartal on the day that the members of the Commission landed in India
  • People were out on the streets participating in mass rallies, processions and black-flag demonstrations.
  • ‘Go Back Simon’ was imprinted on banners, placards and even kites.
  • Everywhere that commission went — Calcutta, Lahore, Lucknow, Vijayawada, Poona — it was greeted by a sea of black-flags carried by thousands of people.

Police Repressions

  • Police repression was harsh and merciless and processions were attacked
  • There was popular anger at the manner in which the police dealt with the protesters.
  • In Madras, a major clash with the police resulted in firing and the death of one person.
  • Lathi charges were becoming all too frequent, and even respected and senior leaders were not spared the blows.
  • In Lucknow, Jawaharlal and Govind Ballabh Pant were beaten up by the police.
  • But the worst incident happened in Lahore where Lala Lajpat Rai, the hero of the Extremist days and the most revered leader of Punjab, was hit on the chest by lathis on 30 October
  • This, now elderly succumbed to this attack a few days later, on 17 November 1928.
  • The death of Lajpat Rai created tremendous resentment against the British rule all over.
  • It was his death that Bhagat Singh and his comrades were seeking to avenge when they killed the white police official, Saunders, in December 1928.

Impact of Simon Commission on Indian National Movement

  • The Simon boycott movement provided the first taste of political action to a new generation of youth.
  • It gave a fillip to the formation of youth leagues and associations all over the country.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Bose emerged as the leaders of this new wave of youth and students
  • The upsurge among the youth also proved a fruitful ground for the germination and spread of the new radical ideas of socialism that had begun to reach Indian shores.
  • These new radical ideas also led to emergence of groups such as Naujawan Bharat Sabha in Punjab, and the Workers’ and Peasants’ Parties etc.
  • Lord Birkenhead’s challenge to Indian leaders to produce an agreed constitutional scheme was accepted by various political factions, this brought them together on a common platform.

Major recommendations of Simon Commission

  • The Simon Commission published its 2-volume report in May 1930.
  • It proposed the abolition of dyarchy and the establishment of representative government in the provinces
  • The report rejected parliamentary responsibility at the centre
  • It recommended full autonomy to the provinces
  • The number of members of provincial legislative council should be increased.
  • The governor should have discretionary power in relation to internal security and administrative powers to protect the different communities.
  • The governor general was to have complete power to appoint the members of the cabinet
  • The government of India would have complete control over the high courts
  • It also recommended that separate communal electorates be retained (and extended to other communities), but only until tensions between Hindus and Muslims had died down.
  • It rejected the idea of “Universal franchise”
  • It accepted the idea of federalism but not in the near future
  • It also suggested that the Indian army should be indianised though British forces must be retained.


  • Before the publication of the report, the British government stated that Indian opinion would henceforth be taken into account, and that the natural outcome of the constitutional process would be dominion status for India.
  • To consider the proposals of the commission, the British government convened three round table conferences of the representatives of the British government, British Indian and Indian princely states.
  • On the basis of these discussions, a ‘White Paper on Constitutional Reforms’ was prepared and submitted for the consideration of Joint Select Committee of the British Parliament.
  • The recommendations of this committee were incorporated (with certain changes) in the next Government of India Act of 1935.

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