Lucknow Pact of 1916

The Lucknow Session 1916 {presided by Ambica Charan Majumdar) was special in many respects. Firstly, this session brought the moderates and extremists in Congress on common platform again after nearly a decade, particularly due to efforts of Annie Besant.  The Congress President in his address said that “if the congress was buried at Surat, it is reborn in Lucknow in the garden of Wajid Ali Shah“. Secondly, Congress and All India Muslim League signed the historic Lucknow Pact.

The aims and objectives of Muslim League were hitherto unclear and confusing, except that it was started in 1906 by Muslim aristocrats and landlords to preserve Muslim interests and to support British. Till the singing of Lucknow Pact, it seemed to be a fringe organization though it had rapidly brought many Muslims into its fold in a decade.

Meanwhile, Viceroy Lord Chelmsford had invited suggestions from the Indians for Post WW-I reforms in lieu of the Indian support in the war. At this juncture, the Muslim League sought for a sort of joint platform with the congress to put constitutional pressure on the British Government towards making reforms. The idea was that such joint demand would give an impression of Hindu-Muslim unity. Towards this, Congress and Muslim League negotiated an agreement whose main clauses are as follows:

  1. There shall be self-government in India.
  2. Muslims should be given one-third representation in the central government.
  3. There should be separate electorates for all the communities until a community demanded joint electorates.
  4. A system of weightage to minority political representation(giving minorities more representation in the government then is proportional to their share of the population) should be adopted.
  5. The number of the members of Central Legislative Council should be increased to 150.
  6. At the provincial level, four-fifth of the members of the Legislative Councils should be elected and one-fifth should be nominated.
  7. The size of provincial legislatures should not be less than 125 in the major provinces and from 50 to 75 in the minor provinces.
  8. All members, except those nominated, should be elected directly on the basis of adult franchise.
  9. No bill concerning a community should be passed if the bill is opposed by three-fourth of the members of that community in the Legislative Council.
  10. The term of the Legislative Council should be five years.
  11. Members of Legislative Council should themselves elect their president.
  12. Half of the members of Imperial Legislative Council should be Indians.
  13. The salaries of the Secretary of State for Indian Affairs should be paid by the British government and not from Indian funds.
  14. Of the two Under Secretaries, one should be Indian.
  15. The Executive should be separated from the Judiciary.

Further, resolution condemning the Arms Act and Press Act were passed which had virtually reduced the people and the press to a condition of absolute helplessness.

The Lucknow Session appeared to have given a perception of Hindu-Muslim unity; but it was signed without regard for its consequences.  Firstly, a blunder was committed by approving one third representations of the Muslims on the basis of their being a minority was biggest blunder; not because Muslims deserved it; but because it sowed the seeds of communal politics. Secondly, this pact made it open and clear that India has different communities and each one of them has its own interests. Thirdly, the Muslim member’s strength in the legislature was laid down province-by-province. This was one of the most dangerous pacifist policies of congress. It not only recognized communal representation but also recognized communal privileges. Fourthly, in the imperial legislative council, Muslim representation was slated to be 1/3rd, although their population was not 1/3rd. And lastly, any legislature could not work if on any more 3/4th member of any religion opposed it; its consequence was introduction of communal veto in legislature. INC leaders thought that they are sacrificing their seat in the legislature yet, they failed to understand its logical implications and partition in the offing.

Nevertheless, the Lucknow pact at that time it was called a symbol of Hindu Muslim unity. Sarojini Nayudu hailed Jinnah as an “Ambassador of Hindu-Muslim Unity”. The unity lasted only a few years.

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