To hide the atrocities done to the Indians, the British empire sold the world a well-crafted lie. A lie that Indians are not capable of self-governance. That India was a land of illiterate savages. That the work done by the empire is for the betterment of the country. The Simon Commission was nothing but a part of this lie.
In the year 1919, the British government introduced Montagu-Chelmsford reforms to better the governing of India. It was decided that ten years later, a commission would report the workings of this reform. They would also suggest additional reforms if necessary. So in the year 1929, a group of seven members of parliament was sent to India. They were under the chairmanship of Sir John Simon. Hence it was named the Simon Commission. The commission was of great value as India was Britain’s most prized possession. This commission would make sure they keep a firm hold on India.
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The Indians clearly opposed the idea of such a commission. To make reforms in India without someone representing India was unacceptable. Every political group wanted to have their representatives in the commission. Indian National Congress wanted Mahatma Gandhi or Nehru to be a part of it. All India Muslim league wanted Muslim representatives. The different unions wanted their representation while the women wanted Sarojini Naidu to represent Indian women. The common agenda against the British had brought all these parties together.
The commission was met with huge protests all around the nation. Protestors shouted the slogans “Go Back Simon” and wore black items of clothing as a sign of protest. The group of members first arrived in Mumbai. Here they were met with both protestors and supporters. Dr B.R Ambedkar and Periyar were among those few rare leaders who supported Simon Commission. They looked at it as the first step to self-governance.
When the group reached Lahore, protestors flocked the gates of the Railway station. The agenda was to make their return. The police had to use force to make a way out of the station. They targeted the leader of the protest, Lala Lajpat Rai. They hit him with iron-coated stick ends till he fell unconscious. A week later, Lal Lajpat Rai succumbed to his injuries.
After failing to stop the commission from venturing into India, Indian National Congress came up with an alternate plan. They presented a counter-report of reforms. This report was created by Motilal Nehru, with Jawaharlal Nehru as his assistant. The report was aptly named the Nehru Report. The most important point in the report was to give India dominion status. Dominion status meant India would officially remain under the British Monarch but will be governed by the people of India.
After considering both the Simon commission and Nehru Report, the British government made the decision. As the riots and protests in India were on the rise, the dominion status was approved. According to the Simon report, provinces were given governing representatives. Also, the separate communal election was continued, which gave minorities the right to choose their leader separately.
For the British, the Simon Commission was the final desperate attempt at keeping control. For India, it was their first ray of hope for self-governance. India had not only managed to unite people against a common threat. But they also partially succeeded in neutralizing it. And finally the biggest positive of the debacle was the semi-acceptance of the Nehru Report. The Nehru Report represented the voice of India in the British Parliament. And for the first time, that voice was both heard and respected.