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  • SURGE TOWARDS FREEDOM – 03

SURGE TOWARDS FREEDOM - 03

Mahatma Gandhi was released from jail in February 1924. In view of some disquieting factors, he wanted to retire from active politics, though his own faith in the non-cooperation Movement was still strong. Presiding at the thirty-ninth session of the Congress, held at Belgaum on December 20, 1924, he observed, “We are face to face with a situation that compels us to cry halt”. Thus, the Non-cooperation Movement was suspended.

In 1923-24 commenced a critical period in the history of Indian nationalism due to progressive deterioration in Hindu-Muslim relations and rise in communal tension leading to riots at some places.

Communal frenzy deeply pained Mahatma Gandhi, who took to fasting for twenty-one days as a ‘a penance for unity.’ Efforts were made to settle the communal problem by the so-called ‘Unity Conferences’. The most notable of these were the one convened in September 1924, by Muhammad Ali, then president of the congress and the other which met at Calcutta in October 1927. Some resolutions calling for Hindu-Muslim unity were passed at these conferences but they could not cure the deep-rooted malady.

The Conservative Government of Stanley Baldwin in England, of which the late Lord Birkenhead was the Secretary of State for India, announced in November 1927 the appointment of a Commission of seven members. This was done earlier than provided in the Act of 1919. This Commission under the Chairmanship of Sir John Simon, was to report on the working of the constitutional reforms in India. The total exclusion of Indians form the membership of this as ‘a negation of the fundamental right of self determination which is inherent in every nation.’ It was boycotted with the cry of “Go back” by the Congressmen, the Liberals and important sections of the Muslim community when it reached Bombay on February 3, 1928 and later visited different parts of India.

Besides boycotting the Simon Commission, the Indians sought to frame a constitution for the country. An all-parties conference appointed a committee for this purpose with pandit Motilal Nehru as its Chairman. The report of the Nehru Committee (published in August 1928) recommended ‘Dominion Status’ for India. It did not advocate separate electorates, but was in favour of joint or mixed electorates with only one communal safeguard, that is, reservation of seats for the Muslims only where they were in a minority. The All-Parties Conference, meeting at Lucknow in August 1928, accepted the recommendations of the Nehru Report with some amendments. it was rejected by the Muslim League.

An all-parties Muslims conference, held at Delhi on January 1, 1929, issued a manifesto of Muslim claims, which formed the basis of the fourteen demands formulated by M.A. Jinnah in the month of March that year.

The Congress at its Madras session held in December 1927, had declared complete independence to be its national goal. A section in it, represented by S. Srinivas Iyengar, Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose, favoured ‘complete independence’ as against the ‘Dominion Status’ of the Nehru Report. This section formed the Independence of India League in November 1928, to further its cause. There was however, no split in the Congress. Meeting at Calcutta in December 1928, it passed a resolution which while adhering to the resolution relating to complete independence passed at the Madras Congress (1927), approved of the constitution drawn up by the Nehru Report it independence was granted on or before December 31, 1929. In the event of its non-acceptance by that date or its earlier rejection, the Congress was to organize non-violent non-cooperation by advising the country to refuse payment of taxes and in such other manner as may be decided upon.

Indian was influenced during these years by new socio-economic forces, which caused labour disputes and strikes in the industrial centers.

A new revolutionary party called the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army, had become active in different parts of the country. Two of its prominent members, Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt, threw two bombs from the visitors gallery on the floor of the Central Assembly on April 8, 1929 ‘to make a noise and create a stir, and not to injure’ as the accused stated later.

The Government adopted severe measures of repression against the revolutionaries, but the Congress demands led them to make a cautious approach. The Viceroy, Lord Irwin was sagacious enough to realize that these were ‘critical days’ when ‘matters by which men are duly touched’ were at issue. So, after consultation with the Labour Cabinet of Ramsay Macdonald by a personal visit to England, the Viceroy of India’s constitutional progress’ implicit in the declaration of 1917, was ‘the attainment of Dominion Status’. He also mentioned in the announcement that, after the reports of the Simon Commission and the Indian Central Committee had been published a Round Table Conference of British statesmen and representatives of the different parties in India as also of the India states would be held in London to determine the constitution of India. The All-Parties Conference, which met at Delhi on November 11, 1929, issued a manifesto expression its hope ‘to be able to tender co-operation to His Majesty’s Government in their effort to evolve a Dominion Constitution suitable for India’s needs’ on the fulfilment of certain conditions by the Government.

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