Last Updated on 1st March 2023
Ata-ul-Haye Nasir, Al Hakam
The late 1920s witnessed huge political turmoil and uncertainty in British India, and when the Simon Commission published its two-volume report in 1930, the British government called a series of conferences to discuss the future of India. The Viceroy of India had stated that the solution for India’s political problems would heavily rely on the Simon Commission’s report.
When the First Round Table Conference was announced to be held from November 1930 to January 1931, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra wrote an article on 23 June 1930, just a night before the publication of the second volume of the Simon Commission Report. In this article, Huzoorra gave valuable guidance to the British government and Indian Muslims. Huzoorra then wrote another article to be sent to England for the conference, in which he gave detailed analysis on the Simon Commission Report, and presented his view of what step the British government should take going forward.
Before going into the details of these two articles, it is important to give a short background of the Simon Commission.
Under the Montagu-Chelmsford Reform Scheme of 1918, the British government had decided that after ten years, a commission would be sent to India to examine the effects and operations of the constitutional reforms and to suggest more reforms for India. Towards the end of 1927, a commission was announced to be sent whose president was Sir John Allsebrook Simon. This is known as “The Indian Statutory Commission” or “Simon Commission”.
As the commission had no Indian member, Congress and other political parties boycotted it. Even some prominent Muslim leaders like Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Muhammad Ali Jauhar held the same opinion.
On this, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra wrote a booklet on 8 December 1927, titled Musalmanan-e-Hind Ke Imtehan Ka Waqt (A Time of Trial for the Indian Muslims), wherein he advised Muslims that the boycott would be more detrimental for Muslims, compared to the Hindus.
Huzoorra said that since the Reform Scheme had been approved, Hindu leaders knew that India’s future was linked to the British; thus, they often visited England to meet with prominent Englishmen and speak about Hindu interests. Huzoorra said that they had won the British over and convinced them of their views. But the Muslims had not paid any attention towards this matter.
Huzoorra added that if the commission was boycotted, then its report would be based on the previous information provided to them by the Hindus – which would not be entirely accurate. For this reason it was essential that Muslims had an input and not boycott the commission. (Musalmanan-e-Hind ke Imtehan ka Waqt, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 10, pp. 37-55)
The Englishman reported:
“Ahmadiya Leader Condemns Proposal
“The following are excerpts from an article by Hazrat Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Mahmood Ahmed, the head of the Ahmadiyya community, published in The Sunrise:
“‘I am strongly opposed to the views held by Mr Jinnah and his party on the subject of the Statutory Commission, and would urge them to reconsider the matter. It would be a step fraught with grave danger to the Muslims for them to decide to boycott the commission; such a step would only be to the advantage of the Hindus or that section of the bureaucracy which is opposed to any extension of the Reform.
“‘I really fail to understand the reason underlying the advice that the Commission should be boycotted. After all, what purpose will the boycott serve? Is it imagined that, as a result of the boycott the Commission will not be able to complete its inquiry and to make its report? Nothing could be more absurd.
“‘If we look at the matter from the purely moral point of view we must admit that the exclusion of Indians from the Statutory Commission is not one of those matters which in themselves constitute disgrace or Insult, it is the intention behind the act which may or may not have such an implication. lf the British Government had said or implied that Indians were excluded from the Commission for the purpose of illustrating the might of Britain and humiliating India that would be an insult to India, but we find the British Government has emphatically disclaimed any such intention.’” (The Englishman, 5 January 1928, p. 18)
In March 1928, an Ahmadiyya deputation met with the members of the Simon Commission. The Civil and Military Gazette reported:
“SIR JOHN SIMON RETURNS
“A Busy Day in Lahore.
“Sir John Simon and other members of the Statutory Commission who have been on a tour of the district returned to Lahore on Wednesday.
They spent nearly the whole of the day receiving deputations from the martial classes, the Ahmediya Community, the Punjab Chief’s Association, the Ram Garhia Central Board, the European Association, the Punjab Trade Association, the Democratic National League, and the depressed classes. (The Civil and Military Gazette, 23 March 1928, p. 6)
The Muslim members of the Simon Commission’s Punjab Committee had agreed on the suggestion that the Punjab Council should have 83 Muslim members out of the total 165, though Muslims deserved a 55% share. Huzoorra wrote an article in which he expressed his concerns over this agreement. This article was published in Al Fazl, 30 August 1929.
In May 1930, the Simon Commission had published the first volume of its report, and the second volume was expected to be published towards the end of June 1930. While there were several speculations going on, Huzoorra wrote an article titled Gol Maiz Conference Aur Musalmanon Ki Numaindgi on 23 June 1930, in which he said:
“I am writing this article on the night between Monday [23 June] and Tuesday [24 June]. By this time, the newspapers would have received the second volume of the Simon Commission Report. […] There is only one night in between, but this is such a delicate matter that I do not consider it right to wait for even one night. By the time my article will reach the people, the report would have been published, and possibly an uproar would have erupted within the country.
“But I say that even if the [second volume of the] Simon Commission Report is against us [Muslims], we must understand that the reason behind the demand for the round table conference was that in view of the people of India, the report of this commission was not acceptable as per the country’s perspective. So if the [second volume of the] report is against our expectations, then it will only endorse the viewpoint of the people of India […].” (Gol Maiz Conference Aur Musalmanon Ki Numaindgi, Al Fazl, 28 June 1930, p. 3)
Huzoorra said that in case the second volume of the report was against the expectations, it would actually increase the importance of the Round Table Conference.
Huzoorra added that in such a situation, the need for the correct representation of Muslims increased more than ever before, because if our viewpoint was not presented correctly and the decision were against us, then nothing would remain in the hand of Muslims. Huzoorra also advised the Muslims to be united in the ongoing situation.
Huzoorra advised the government that the people of India should be given the right of selecting their representatives for this conference, instead of the government choosing. He then suggested a formula as to how the representatives should be selected from India.
Further, Huzoorra stated that this was the time for “All Muslim Parties Conference” to play its role.
After this article, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra wrote another article titled Hindustan Ke Maujuda Siyasi Masla Ka Hal (The Solution to the Political Problems of India) and sent it to England for the First Round Table Conference. In this article, a detailed analysis of the Simon Commission’s report was presented, and the validity of the Muslims’ demands and rights was addressed.
In its preface, Huzoorra wrote:
“As a religious person, I do not have that much relation with the country’s politics as compared to those who are indulged in these works day and night, but I have an equal responsibility to establish reconciliation and peace.” (Hindustan Ke Maujuda Siyasi Masla Ka Hal, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 11, p. 246)
While addressing the British government’s officers, Huzoorra said that they had a huge responsibility, and God Almighty had given them an amanat – duty – which they needed to fulfil in the best manner.
“Materialistic advancement has weakened faith in God Almighty, and even those who believe in Him, also consider Him merely as ‘an unrelated observer Who does not have any interest in this world’s happenings’. But this is not correct. […] The God Who created this world, cannot remain neglectful about its betterment.
“You [the English officials] may laugh or consider me unwise for mentioning this [aspect] in this political matter, but the truth is that one day everyone will be answerable to Him. […] If you carry out the work with justice, and even some of your countrymen abuse you and call you traitors, a day will come when not only your own progeny but also the people of the whole world will call your names with respect.” (Hindustan Ke Maujuda Siyasi Masla Ka Hal, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 11, pp. 246-247)
While advising the people of India, Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra stated:
“Similarly, I advise my countrymen to remove the grudge and prejudice from their hearts […] The [current] happenings are indicating that the time has come for India’s independence.” (Ibid, p. 247)
Huzoorra said that undoubtedly during the Round Table Conference, the Simon Commission’s report would get the most importance, and the same report would influence the views of the representatives.
Huzoorra said that this report was not that bad as depicted in the print media, and after reading it closely, one finds that there were many good aspects and bad ones too.
Huzoorra addressed a point in the Simon Commission’s report which said that a Western-style constitution or the concept of responsible government couldn’t be implemented in India. Huzoorra stated that it was true that India couldn’t completely copy the English constitution, but it could form a new system in light of that constitution as per its needs.
Huzoorra spoke about the speech of Edwin Samuel Montagu, Secretary of State for India, delivered on 20 August 1917, in the House of Commons, in which he said:
“The policy of His Majesty’s Government […] is that of […] gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realisation of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire.” (House of Commons Debates, Vol. 97, cc. 1695-97 [20 August 1917])
Huzoorra said that these words were also added in the foreword of the Government of India Act 1919.
Huzoorra said that it showed the British government wanted to bring a governmental system in which different parts of India would be granted the right of self-governance, and India as a whole would get the Responsible Government. It was a promise from which England could not backtrack morally.
While commenting on a question over whether India politically deserved independence, Huzoorra said two core reasons proved India deserved complete independence: Past service to British India and capability. Huzoorra said Indians provided soldiers and served the British Empire in fighting for them during World War I. With regard to its capability, Huzoorra said it was wrong to consider the Indians undeserving just because they were not as educated, compared to Europeans, at the time. Indians might have been unable to govern other countries, but they were certainly capable of governing their own country.
Further, Huzoorra mentioned the discrimination and oppression faced by the Muslims from the Hindus. He stated:
“The [level of] discrimination by the Hindus has reached to such an extent that now they do not even rent a house to the Muslims. […] This segregation is not only limited to the houses, but also in the matters of properties as well, and organised efforts are being made to snatch the properties from the Muslims and bring them under the occupation of Hindus […] Their main purpose of [illegally] occupying the properties is not to attain financial benefit, instead it is to weaken the Muslims.
“Segregation is continuing in governmental jobs as well. Full efforts are exerted so that the Muslims cannot get their valid rights. All departments are full of Hindus. It is said that the Muslims are not available, but in reality, they are neglected by declaring them incompetent. When the Muslims apply [for a job], their application is ripped, and they are told that there is no vacancy.” (Hindustan Ke Maujuda Siyasi Masla Ka Hal, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 11, pp. 287-289)
Huzoorra added that in some Hindu-majority states, the preaching of Islam was prohibited in such a way that a law was passed that for a Hindu to change their religion, they needed to go to the court, but there was no such condition for a Muslim to accept Hinduism. If a Hindu wanted to accept Islam, he would be interrogated and asked to tell the names of those Muslims who preached to them.
Huzoorra said that the rights demanded by the minorities of India were not against the constitutional rights which had been accepted in different “civilised” countries. Thus, such demands could not be neglected, instead needed to be included in the future constitution of India.
After this, Huzoorra elaborated on the future constitution of India. He said that the protection of the rights of minorities and provinces must be kept in mind while drafting the future constitution. The Simon Commission had suggested a federal system of government in India, and considering the circumstances of India, this was the most suitable suggestion.
“India is not a country, but a merger of ‘countries’ in which the feeling of nationalism is gradually developing amongst its citizens. But this feeling is not yet strong enough to bear the foundations of unitary government. Secondly, its language is not the same. The provinces have different languages, even so that different languages are spoken in different parts of the same province.” (Hindustan Ke Maujuda Siyasi Masla Ka Hal, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 11, p. 343)
Huzoorra added that a question arised as to what extent the Simon Commission wished to give Indians a federal style government. In this regard, Huzoorra said, its proposals were very ambiguous.
Huzoorra then commented on the point of separate electorates. He stated that this question had become the most important one during the ongoing politics of India.
Hazrat Musleh-e-Maudra said the Simon Commission had not considered the reality that both separate electorates and joint electorates had varying affects in different circumstances. Under the current circumstances, the right of separate electorates should have been given, but for a limited time period of around 25 years.
The Simon Commission had stated in its report that in India, one of the reasons behind the number of women being less than men was the purdah (veil) which impacted women’s health and eventually they died. After presenting some facts, Huzoorra said:
“It should be remembered that the [concept of] purdah had continued from the inception of Islam. Despite this, Muslim women had been partaking in all types of governmental works. Muslim women had been the rulers, worked in armies as well, had been appointed at the office of qadha and served as professors. And those purdah-abiding women were able to carry out these types of difficult and intellectually taxing works at a time when the non-purdah-abiding women of other nations were unable to compete with them in health and knowledge. Thus, we come to know that there are some other reasons behind the weakness and ignorance of the current era’s Muslim women. […]
“In short, purdah is an Islamic commandment. It is a separate matter if some Muslims deny or stop acting on this [commandment] under European influence, but there is no doubt of it [purdah] being an Islamic commandment. […]
“I also wish to make it clear that I am not amongst those who oppose the advancement of women, instead, religiously, I consider them equally deserving of spiritual, intellectual and moral advancement, just like men.” (Hindustan Ke Maujuda Siyasi Masla Ka Hal, Anwar-ul-Ulum, Vol. 11, pp. 417-419)
Huzoorra also commented on proposed judiciary system, and outlined valuable guidance for matters such as the appointment of judges.
At the end, while addressing the representatives of the Round Table Conference, members of parliament and other dignitaries, Huzoorra stated that they should fulfil their responsibility without any kind of prejudice or discrimination, so that the future generations would remember them in good words.
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- May India and Pakistan live amicably: The Partition of India, 1947 and Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad’s heartfelt wish