The Nehru Report, Delhi Proposal and Jinnah’s Fourteen Demands
Nehru report on constitutional framework for the country(August,1928):
- While the Simon Commission was carrying on its work in isolation from Indian public opinion, the leading Indian political parties were trying to forge a common political programme.
- 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, presided over by Dr. M.A. Ansari, 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.
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 and even “new provinces on linguistic basic were to be created with a view to the planning of Muslim majority provinces
- 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 Report suggested the the Indian Parliament should consist of:
- The Senate:
- elected for 7 years,
- containing 200 members
- elected by the Provincial Councils.
- The House of Representatives:
- 500 members
- elected for five years through adult franchise.
- The Senate:
- The Governor General (to be appointed by the British Government but paid out of Indian revenues) was to act on the advice of the Executive Council which was to be collectively responsible to the Parliament.
- The Provincial Councils were to be elected, on the basis of adult franchise, for five years and the Governor (to be appointed by the British Government) was to act on the advice of the Provincial Executive Council.
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.
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.
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 amendments to the report of which following were rejected:
- 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.
- Note: One demand of Jinnah was accepted:
- The constitution should not be amended unless both Houses of Parliament separately passed it by a four fifths majority, and a joint session of both the Houses approved it unanimously, was accepted.
- These three 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):
- Federal Constitution with residual powers to provinces.
- Provincial autonomy.
- No constitutional amendment by the centre without the concurrence of the states constituting the Indian federation.
- 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.
- Adequate representation to Muslims in the services and in self-governing bodies.
- One-third Muslim representation in the Central Legislature.
- In any cabinet at the centre or in the provinces, one- third to be Muslims.
- Separate electorates.
- 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.
- Any territorial redistribution not to affect the Muslim majority in Punjab, Bengal and NWFP.
- Separation of Sindh from Bombay.
- Constitutional reforms in the NWFP and Baluchistan.
- Full religious freedom to all communities.
- Protection of Muslim rights in religion, culture, education and language.
Response of Congress and Muslim League:
- On December 31, 1928, the Congress at its annual session adopted a resolution welcoming the All Parties Conference Report and affirming that if this constitution was in its entirety approved by the British Parliament within a year, that is by December 31, 1929, the Congress would accept it but if it was rejected or not accepted by then, then it would organise a campaign of non violent non cooperation, non payment of taxes, etc.
- Three months later, the Subjects Committee of the Muslim League approved of the Nehru Report subject to a number of stipulated safeguards (which Mr. Jinnah had put forward at the Calcutta Convention).
- But the open session of the Muslim League meeting at Delhi on March 31, 1929, rejected the Nehru Report and affirmed Mr. Jinnah’s celebrated “fourteen points” being the minimum condition acceptable to the Muslims for any political settlement.
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.