(Last Updated on : 01/03/2012)
The British cited the disharmony among the various groups in the country to justify the exclusion of Indians from the statutory commission. In 1925 and 1927, lord Birkenhead had challenged Indian leaders to draft a constitution to which all parties would agree. At that time he was the secretary of state. The time had come for India to take up the challenge. Representative of the congress, the league, the liberals, the Hindu mahasabha, the central Sikh league, and a number of smaller groups representing labour, business and other interests, met in an all-parties` conference between February and May 1928. A select committee was appointed for the actual drafting of the constitutional scheme. Pandit Motilal Nehru was appointed chairman of this committee; its members included Tej Bahadur Sapru, sir Ali Imam, Sardar Mangal Singh and Subhas Chandra Bose. The Nehru committee`s report was submitted on 10 august 1928. It was considered by the all-parties conference at Lucknow later the same month, and passed with only one dissenting vote.
The Nehru report stated that the `next immediate step for India must be dominion status. This meant independence within the British Commonwealth. India would be a federation, a sovereign two-chamber parliament to which the ministry would be responsible will be having at the centre. The governor general would be the constitutional representative of the crown, with no more actual power than the English king. India in short would enjoy the same status as Canada, Australia, and other independent former colonies of Britain.
The Nehru committee also attempted a settlement of the thorny communal question. It rejected the troublesome device of separate electorates, but provided for the protection of minorities through a system of reservations. The vote would be given to all adult men and women.
The Nehru report was approved by the congress at Calcutta in December 1928. The acceptance of dominion status meant taking a step back from the goal of complete independence adopted the year forward. Gandhiji had not been present when the complete independence resolution was moved at the madras congress, and he considered it to have been `hastily conceived and thoughtlessly passed`. At Calcutta he worked hard to effect a compromise between the younger men, led by Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose. They wanted to stand by the madras resolution, and those who wished to proceed more slowly, taking dominion status as a step along the way.
Gandhiji sponsored a resolution agreeing to dominion status so long as the British accepted the Nehru constitution in its entirety. This happened within one year. If they did not, congress would `organize a campaign of non-violent non-co-operation` which would include refusal to pay taxes. Gandhiji`s resolution was passed though more than a third of the congress voted of the amended version of Nehru and Bose.