Simon Commission, 1927
The Simon Commission, designated after the name of its chairman, Sir John Simon (1873-1954), was constituted in 1927 as a royal parliamentary commission.
As proposed by the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, all of its seven members were British. However, only the chairman of the Commission was at the time of his appointment a statesman of the first rank who was well-known in India.
Its members and staff came ashore at Bombay for a short preliminary tour of India on 3 February 1928, leaving for London again on 31 March. A second and more thorough tour of India lasted from 11 October 1928 to 13 April 1929. The next year, after its deliberations were completed at home in England, in May the Commission’s findings were put into a formal report to Parliament. Then on 10 to 24 June 1930 they were published in London in two separate volumes, the first a survey of the situation in India.
The Simon Commission became the focus of public discussion in India as soon as the Viceroy announced its formation. Whether to boycott it or to co-operate with it became the most pressing political question. The main objection to co-operation was that India was not represented on the Commission; also that it had been empowered to proceed independently rather than charged to work in close consultation with Indian political leaders. On 12 November 1927, the Working Committee of the Indian National Congress resolved that all parties should abstain from co-operating with the Commission, and virtually all Indian leaders and organizations initially adopted this policy. When the Commission arrived in India it was faced by an all-India hartāl, black apparel and flags, and signs reading “Simon go back.”
Boycott demonstrations remained a dramatic presence throughout both tours by the Commission leading to police action at several places that injured many protesters. But unanimity of support for the boycott strategy was broken, just a few days following the Congress resolution, by the Punjab Muslim League. It resolved to co-operate with the Commission. So did the Punjab Provincial Hindu Sabhā.
Throughout the period from 1927 to 1930, there was a broad range of opinion about what strategy to adopt in response to the Simon Commission, and it varied with changes in the political situation. People in the Congress were obliged to boycott. But many others accepted the boycott in order to participate in the All-Parties Conference, which began its proceedings in February 1928 as a Congress alternative to the Commission.
The Butler Committee was headed by Harcourt Butler. It was appointed by the Viceroy of India, Irwin. It reviewed the question of Paramountcy. The Princes of India wanted to review the issue of Paramountcy while bargaining for their participation in Round Table Conference where the British government wanted them to be. Butler concluded, “Paramoutcy must remain paramount.”
The main fear of the Princes was that if the Dominion Status was imparted to India, then there could a central government dominated by the Congress members.
However, later, as the talks progressed, the idea of a federal government at the Centre was favored and the issue of the Dominion Status was just made silent. The features which were suggested under the Federal Structure in India were such that the Princes did not have to fear the Congress majority control at centre level.