14 Mar

Background :

The Nehru Report was an answer to the challenge thrown to Indians by Lord Birkenhead that the composition of the Simon Commission had to be purely British because Indians were incapable of arriving at an agreed solution as regards the constitutional problem of India. The main objective was to constitute proposals for the Indian Constitution. The Congress called All Parties Conference that appointed a 10-member committee in May 1928 under the Chairmanship of Motilal Nehru and Secretary ship of Jawaharlal Nehru. It included spokesmen of the various communal points of view like those of the Muslims, the Hind Mahasabha, non- Brahmins, Sikhs and also those representing the Liberal viewpoint and the interests of labor.

The Report referred to what it considered the illogical fear of Muslims of being dominated by the Hindu majority. But what was significant was the way Muslims were thinking of tackling this problem. They had made a novel suggestion that ‘they should at least dominate in some parts of India. Hindus on the other hand, in spite of enjoying all-India majority, were fearful of Muslim majorities in Bengal, Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and North-West Frontier Province. But the Report ended on an optimistic note saying that once alien authority and intervention were withdrawn from India, people would start thinking in terms of the larger economic and political problems. In such a climate, political parties based mainly on economic grounds were a natural outcome.

Features :

The summary of the contents of the Nehru Report is as follows:

  • India should be given the status of a Dominion on unity basis with a parliamentary form of Government.
  • Residuary powers should be vested in the centre.
  • There should be no separate electorates or weightage for minorities. It should be substituted by adult and universal franchise.
  • The reservation of seats for Punjab and Bengal as suggested by Quaid-e-Azam under Delhi proposals was ruled out. However, reservation of Muslim seats could be possible in the provinces where Muslim population was at least ten percent, but it was to be in strict proportion to the size of the community. The report contained: “A minority must remain minority whether any seats are reserved for it or not.
  • Muslims could enjoy one-fourth representation in the Central Legislature.
  • It agreed to the Muslim demands for the separation of Sindh from Bombay and the raising of the North-West Frontier Province to the status of other provinces.
  • It suggested the creation of a new Canarese-speaking Province in South India.
  • It tried to show by detailed examination of the distribution of the Muslim population in the various districts of Punjab and Bengal that Muslims without reservation of seats could certainly expect to have elected majorities at least in proportion to their numbers in their provinces.
  • Hindi should be the official language of India.
  • The Central Government would comprise a Prime Minister along with other six Ministers appointed by the Governor General.

The Nehru Report, published in August 1928, made the Hindu-Muslim rift final and irrevocable. It recommended a fully responsible system of Government in which the majority would be sovereign. Muslim electorates were to be immediately abolished.

As the Report was totally against the Muslim interests, it became the charter of the Hindu intelligentsia and was supported by Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhas Chandra Bose and all other Hindu leaders. Gandhi took it as a great achievement accomplished by the All-Parties Committee and warmly congratulated Motilal Nehru.

A Convention of all parties known as the All Parties National Convention met in Calcutta in the last week of December 1928, to consider the Nehru Report. Jinnah proposed three amendments to the Nehru Report and put forward before the open session of the Convention on 28 December 1928. Those amendments were:

  1. One-third of the elected representatives of both the houses of the Central Legislature should be Muslims.
  2. That the residuary powers should be vested in the provinces and not in the Centre.
  3. That Muslims in Punjab and Bengal should be represented on the basis of population for ten years subject to subsequent revision of this principle.

All these amendments, proposed by the Quaid-e-Azam when put to vote, were rejected by the Hindu majority. The result was that the refusal to accept any amendments to the Nehru Report on the part of the Congress and Hindu leaders at the All Parties National Convention united the different factions of Muslims in the All-India Muslim Conference held in Delhi under the Chairmanship of Sir Aga Khan on 1 January 1929. Some of the noteworthy features of the Resolution passed in this Conference were:

  1. The only form of Government suitable to Indian conditions was a federal system with complete autonomy and residuary powers vested in the provinces.
  2. Muslims should not be deprived of the right to elect their representatives through separate electorate without their consent.
  3. Muslims should continue to have weightage in the Hindu majority Provinces and they were willing to accord the same privilege to non-Muslim minorities in Sindh, the N.W.F.P. and the Baluchistan.
  4. Muslims should have their due share in the Central and Provincial cabinets.
  5. One-third seats should be given to the Muslims in the Central Legislature.
  6. There must be safeguards for the protection and promotion of Muslim education, language, religion, personal laws and Muslim charitable institutions.


The Quaid-e-Azam declared:

“The Nehru Committee has adopted a narrow-minded policy to ruin the political future of the Muslims. I regret to declare that the report is extremely ambiguous and does not deserve to be implemented.”

Muslims were shocked into unity. Members of the Central and Provincial Assemblies found it impossible to agree with the report. The Aga Khan doubted if any serious minded person could imagine the Muslims accepting such degrading proposals. The united provinces, all Parties Muslim Conference repudiated the Muslim members of the committee. In March 1929 the two groups into which the Muslim League had been split came together in opposition to the Report. When on March 12, 1929 the Report was debated in the Indian Legislative Assembly all the Muslim members, including Jinnah, who had sided with the Congress in boycotting the Simon Commission, rejected it.

On the other side the Congress made the rift irrevocable by not only adopting the Report in the entirely and congratulating the committee on “their patriotism and their far-sightedness” but also by giving notice that if the British Government did not accept it by December 1929, the Congress would launch a non-cooperation movement.

There is a little doubt that the Nehru Report conferred the real power upon the Hindu majority and envisaged a Hindu Raj. At least that was the impression if conveyed to the Muslim mind. The Lucknow Pact had been forgotten. The good old days of the Khilafat were fled, never to return. The unity of the Congress-League Scheme was buried deep under the debris of communal riots. Gandhi’s emphasis on Hindu-Muslim unity sounded unreal in juxtaposition to his ultimatum to Britain that the non-implementation of the report would lead to chaos. The fundamental Muslim demand for separate representation conceded in 1909 by the British and in 1916 by the Hindus was rejected by the Report and by the Congress in unqualified terms. The Muslims were completely disillusioned and from 1928 onwards the Congress became fall but in name a Hindu body. The Muslims would hence forth look upon it as the arch-enemy of their claims and interests.

Prof. Dr. Shafique Ali Khan writes in his famous book ‘Two Nation Theory’:

“Thus the Nehru Report, instead of bridging the gulf further widened it, which rather increased with the passage of time. The obvious reasons of the failure of Report lie in the uncompromising attitude of the Congress and the threats of the Maha sabha leaders.”

In retrospect it is now apparent that the Nehru Report was a blessing in disguise to Muslim nationalism. It united the Muslims as nothing else could have done at that time. All political differences and personal rivalries were hushed from this moment onwards there was nothing that could be called “Indian Nationalism” a separate Muslim National feeling had by now grown almost to maturity, though it was not given a name for another ten years.

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