Extra(4A)  Motilal Nehru Committee 1928

Documents included:
  • Nehru Committee on the communal problem, 10 August 1928, Constitutional History of India 1757-1947, Ed. Desika Char,  OUP, 1983 (excerpts).

(1) Nehru Committee on the communal problem, 10 August 1928 (excerpts).

A newcomer to India, looking...at the strength of the Muslim community, would probably imagine that it was strong enough to look after itself and required no special protection or spoon feeding. If communal protection was necessary for any group in India it was not for the two major communities-the Hindus and the Muslims. It might have been necessary for the small communities which together form 10% of the total.

But logic or sense have little to do with communal feeling, and today the whole problem resolves itself into the removal from the minds of each a baseless fear of the other and in giving a feeling of security to all communities. In looking for this security each party wants to make for itself or to retain, a dominating position. We note with regret that the spirit animating some of the communal spokesmen is not one of live and let live. The only methods of giving a feeling of security are safeguards and guarantees and the grant, as far as possible, of cultural autonomy.  The clumsy and objectionable methods of separate electorates and reservation of seats do not give this security. They only keep an armed truce.

The Muslims being in a minority in India as a whole fear that the majority may harass them, and to meet this difficulty they have made a novel suggestion-that they should at least dominate in some parts of India... The Hindus on the other hand although in a great majority all over India are in a minority in Bengal and the Punjab and in Sind, Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier Province. In spite of their all India majority they are afraid of the Muslims in these provinces.

We cannot have one community domineering over another. We may not be able to prevent this entirely but the object we should aim at is not to give dominion to one over another but to prevent the harassment and exploitation of any individual or group by another.  If the fullest religious liberty is given, and cultural autonomy provided for, the communal problem is in effect solved, although people may not realise it.

The communal problem, so far as its political aspect is concerned, resolves itself now into the question of electorates, the reservation of seats, the separation of Sind, and the form of government in the North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan.

It is admitted by most people now that separate electorates are thoroughly bad and must be done away with. We find however that there has been a tendency amongst the Muslims to consider them as a 'valued privilege', although a considerable section are prepared to given them up in consideration for some other things. Everybody knows that separate electorates are bad for the growth of a national spirit, but everybody perhaps does not realise equally well that separate electorates are still worse for a minority community. They make the majority wholly independent of the minority and its votes and usually hostile to it. Under separate electorates therefore the chances are that the minority will always have to face a hostile majority, which can always by sheer force of numbers, override the wishes of the minority. This effect of having separate electorates has already becomes obvious, although the presence of the third party confuses the issue.  Separate electorates thus benefit the majority community. Extreme communalists flourish thereunder and the majority community, far from suffering, actually benefits by them. Separate electorates must therefore be discarded completely as a condition precedent to any rational system of representation. We can only have joint or mixed electorates.

Regarding the form of government in the North-West Frontier Province and in Baluchistan, we are of opinion that the status of these areas must be made the same as that of other provinces. We cannot in justice or in logic deny the right of any part of India to participate in responsible government...
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We agree that the Muslim demand for the separation of Sind was not put forward in the happiest way. It was based on communalism and it was tacked on irrelevantly to certain other matters with which it had no concern whatever. We can understand the Hindu reaction to this. But the manner of putting it forward does not necessarily weaken the merits of a proposal.... Sind happens to contain a large majority of Muslims. Whether a new province is created or not Sind must remain a predominantly Muslim area. And if the wishes of this large majority are not acceded to, it would not only be doing violence to the principle of self-determination, but would necessarily result in antagonising that majority population....

We suspect that the real opposition to separation is not due to any high national considerations but to grosser economic considerations; to the fear of the Hindus that their economic position might suffer if Muslims had the charge of affairs in a separate area. We are sure that this fear is baseless.
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I. There shall be joint mixed electorates throughout India for the House of Representatives and the provincial legislatures.
II. There shall be no reservation of seats for the House of Representatives except for Muslims in provinces where they are in a minority and non-Muslims in the North-West Frontier Province. Such reservation will be in strict proportion to the Muslim population in every province where they are in a minority and in proportion to the non-Muslim population in the North-West Frontier Province. The Muslims or non-Muslims where reservation is allowed to them shall have the right to contest additional seats.
III. In the provinces
a) there shall be no reservation of seats for any community in the Punjab and Bengal;
b) in provinces other than the Punjab and Bengal there will be reservation of seats for Muslim minorities on population basis with the right to contest additional seats;
c) in the North-West Frontier Province there shall be similar reservation of seats for non-Muslims with the right to contest seats.
IV. Reservation of seats where allowed shall be for a fixed period of ten years.

(2) Nehru Committee  on the formation of linguistic provinces, 10 August 1928 (excerpts)

...The draft Constitution, as already noted, is a very important milestone in the evolution of the language policy of the Indian National Congress as well.


The Motilal Nehru Committee appointed by the All-Parties' Conference to consider and determine the principles of the Constitution for India and to frame a Constitution providing for the establishment of a Full Responsible Government, considered also the aspects of fundamental rights and language use in India.

The Committee considered the opposition of Hindus against separating Sind from Bombay and making it a separate province. While language was the primary factor in enabling the Indian National Congress in creating a separate Congress province of Sind in 1920 in course of time, Hindus came to oppose the ultimate creation of the province on communal grounds (the Hindus were in a minority in the Sindh Province). The Committee, however, noted that for the last eight years, since the National Congress made Sind into a separate Congress province, no voice was raised in protest. It is said:

It is stated on behalf of the Hindus in Sind and elsewhere that they are strongly opposed to the creation of 'communal' provinces. We agree that the Muslim demand for the separation of Sindh was not put forward in the happiest way. It was based on communalism and it was tacked on irrelevantly to certain other matters with which it had no concern whatsoever. We can understand the Hindu reaction to this. But the manner of putting it forward does not necessarily weaken the merits of a proposal. There is no question of creating a 'communal' province. We have merely to recognize facts as they are. A long succession of events in history is responsible for the distribution of the population of India as it is today. Sind happens to contain a large majority of Muslims. Whether a new province is created or not, Sind must remain a predominantly Muslim area. And, if the wishes of the large majority are not acceded to, it would not be doing violence to the principle of self-determination, but would necessarily result in antagonizing that majority population. No Indian desiring a free India, progressing peacefully and harmoniously, can view this result with equanimity. To say from the larger viewpoint of nationalism that no 'communal' provinces should be created is, in a way, equivalent to saying from the still wider international viewpoint that there should be no separate nations. Both these statements have a measure of truth in them. But the staunchest internationalist recognizes that without the fullest national autonomy it is extraordinarily difficult to create the international state. So also without the fullest cultural autonomy, and communalism in its better aspect is culture, it will be difficult to create a harmonious nation. … If, however, there is still some ground for fear, that is a matter for safeguards, not of opposing a just demand (pp. 21-33).

Note that the Indian National Congress applied straight forward the principle of delimitation of provinces on a linguistic basis, even though it would lead to, as in Sind, the creation of a province inhabited predominantly by the Muslims. While, thus, the Indian National Congress took a principled stand, there were people in both the communities, Hindu and Muslim, who looked at the matter not from the point of view of linguistic homogeneity, but only from the dominant ideology of the heterogeneity of religions.

Whereas in the South and throughout the non-Hindustani states, linguistic homogeneity could act effectively to unite peoples of different faiths, in the Hindustani belt, even such well-knit linguistically homogeneous Sindhi speaking community would look at the problem only from the point of view of religious diversity.


The Motilal Nehru Committee noted that everyone knew that the distribution of provinces in India had no rational basis. Raising the question, what principles should govern the redistribution of provinces, it suggested the following factors:

Partly geographical and partly economic and financial, but the main considerations must necessarily be the wishes of the people and the linguistic unity of the area concerned. It is well recognized that rapid progress in education as well as in general culture and in most departments of life depends on language. If a foreign language is the medium of instruction, business and affairs and the life of the country must necessarily be stunted. No democracy can exist where a foreign language is used for these purposes. A democracy must be well informed and must be able to understand and follow public affairs in order to take an effective part in them. It is inconceivable that a democracy can do this if a foreign language is largely used. It becomes essential therefore to conduct the business and politics of a country in a language, which is understood by the masses. So far as the provinces are concerned, this must be the provincial language. We are certainly not against the use of English. [Note the difference in approach to English between Gandhi and Motilal Nehru Committee - Thirumalai.] Indeed from the necessities of the situation we feel that English must, as at present, continue for some time to come to be the most convenient medium for debate in the central legislature. We also believe that a foreign language, and this is likely to be English, is essential for us to develop contacts with the thought and science and life of other countries. We are, however, strongly of the opinion that every effort should be made to make Hindustani the common language of the whole of India, as it is today of half of it. But, granting all this, provincial languages will have to be encouraged and, if we wish the province to make rapid progress, we shall have to get it to do its work in its own language.
If a province has to educate itself and do its daily work through the medium of its own language, it must necessarily be a linguistic area. If it happens to be a polyglot area difficulties will continually arise and the media of instruction and work will be two or even more languages. Hence, it becomes most desirable for provinces to be regrouped on a linguistic basis. Language, as a rule corresponds with a variety of culture, of traditions, and literature. In a linguistic area all these factors will help in the general progress of the province.
The National Congress recognized this linguistic principle 8 years ago and since then, so far as the Congress machinery is concerned, India has been divided into linguistic provinces.
Another principle, which must govern a redistribution of provinces, is the wishes of the people concerned. We, who talk of self-determination on a larger scale cannot, in reason, deny it to a smaller area, provided of course this does not conflict with any other important principle or vital question. The mere fact that the people living in a particular area feel that they are a unit and desire to develop their culture is an important consideration even though there may be no sufficient or cultural justification for their demand. Sentiment in such matters is often more important than fact.
Thus, we see that the two most important considerations in re-arranging provinces are the linguistic principle and the wishes of the majority of the people. A third consideration, though not of the same importance, is administrative convenience, which would include the geographical position, the economic resources and the financial stability of the area concerned. But administrative convenience is often a matter of arrangement and must as a rule bow to the wishes of the people.
Contrary to the list of fundamental rights earlier resolved by the Indian National Congress, which contained a clause on the right to preserve, maintain, and develop one's own language, script, and culture, apart from religion, the Motilal Nehru report talked only of fundamental rights regarding religion, apart from several others. In other words, the scope and function of culture and language use were removed from the list of fundamental rights and were expected to be safeguarded once the provinces were redistributed based on a linguistic principle. The recognition of the possibility and certainty of a linguistic minority, apart from the religious minority, even in a linguistically reorganized province, did not find a place in the report. Language, culture, and script were thus separated from religion, which, in fact, came to be the basis for the final draft of the present Constitution of India.


The draft Constitution presented in the Motilal Nehru Committee Report did not include in it the language provisions, which, quoted above, were presented only in the recommendations of the Committee. However, the Supplementary Report of the Motilal Nehru Committee included the amendments, among others, relating to language. These were as follows:

4. (A) (i) The language of the Commonwealth shall be Hindustani, which may be written either in Nagari or in Urdu character. The use of the English language shall be permitted.
(ii) In provinces the principal language of a province shall be the official language of that province. The use of Hindustani and English shall be permitted.

This clause was inserted in the original Report immediately under Clause 4, which dealt with fundamental rights. Another amendment added as regards languages was with regard to the medium of instruction.


The Motilal Nehru Committee Draft Constitution included under clause 4(v) dealing with Fundamental rights had the following: "All citizens in the Commonwealth of India have the right to free elementary education without any distinction of caste or creed in the matter of admission into any educational institutions, maintained or aided by the state, and such right shall be enforceable as soon as due arrangements shall have been made by competent authority," To this, it was added, "Provided that adequate provision shall be made by the State for imparting public instruction in primary schools to the children of members of minorities of considerable strength in the population through the medium of their own language and in script as is in vogue among them."

An explanation was also added to this clause: "Explanation: This provision will not prevent the State from making the teaching of the language of the Commonwealth obligatory in the said schools."


Note that the explanation added gives powers to State to teach the language of the Commonwealth (that is, Hindustani in Nagari or Urdu script), as an obligatory language, but no power to teach the principal language (official language) of the province as an obligatory language.

In the language scheme of the Indian National Congress, emphasis had always been on the furtherance of the scope of the language used at the Centre, although the place and importance of the mother tongue and the provincial language had been readily accepted by it.

The draft constitution also provided for the appointment of a Commission consisting of one representative from each province and ….. representatives of the government of the Commonwealth to institute an enquiry into financial aspects as well as linguistic redistribution of the provinces.

The said Commission shall, in conformity with the principles of this Constitution and with the assistance of such Committee or Committees, as it may consider desirable to appoint:
  1. Take all necessary steps to constitute Karnataka and Andhra into separate provinces;
  2. Take steps to amalgamate the Oriya speaking tracts in the different provinces and constitute this amalgamated area into a separate province if the people of that area are able or are prepared to bear the financial burden, which is incidental to separation;
  3. Report on the cases of Kerala and other linguistic areas, which may desire to be constituted into separate provinces;
  4. Resettle the boundaries of Assam and Bengal, Behar and Orissa and C.P., Kerala and Karnataka in accordance with the principles recommended by the Committee.

The draft constitution also recommended (in amendments) that the re-distribution of provinces should take place on a linguistic basis on the demand of the majority of the population of the area concerned, subject to financial and administrative considerations.

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Page 2

Secondary sources on Page 3

CMP(1) - From Ayesha Jalal's 'The Sole Spokesman'<

CMP(2) - The Congress League positions on 12 May 11946

CMP(3) - The Cabinet Mission Plan 16 May 1946<

CMP(4) - Jinnah's and Muslim League's responses too the Cabinet Mission Plan 22 May  and June 6 1946

CMP(5) - Jinnah's meeting with Mission Delegation on 4 April 1946

CMP(6) -  Jinnah's meeting with Mission Deleggation on 16 April 1946

CMP(7A) -  Maulana Azad's meeting with Missionn Delegation on 17 April 1946

CMP(7) - The Congress unease with parity- it's excchanges with the Mission  8-9 May 1946

CMP(7B) Jinnah and Azad's responses to the Cabinet Mission's preliminary proposals 8-9 May 1946

CMP(8A) Simla Conference meetings on 5 May 1946 on the powers of the Union

CMP(8) - More exchanges on parity during Simla Connference meeting  11 May 1946

CMP(9)- Jinnah's Conversations with Major Wyatt(1) on Pakistan and the Cabinet Mission Plan , 8 January and 25 May 1946

CMP(10) - Jinnah's Conversations with Major Wyatt(22) on the interim government, 11 June 1946

CMP(12)- Congress Working Committe resolutions, May-June 1946

CMP(12A) Congress and the Cabinet Mission's arguments over inclusion of a Congress Muslim in the Interim Government June 12 and June 23 1946

CMP(13)- Jawaharlal Nehru's press conference on the Plan, 10 July 1946

CMP(14) - League withdrew from Plan, called Direct Action, Viceroy Wavell talked to Nehru, July-August 1946

CMP(15) - The Viceroy tried to strong-arm Nehru andd Gandhi on compulsory grouping, Pethick Lawrence to Attlee, August-September 1946

CMP(16)- Intelligence assessment on Jinnah's options and threat of civil war, September 1946

CMP(17)- The League's boycott of the Constituent Assembly, Jinnah and Wavell, Mission insisting on compulsory grouping, etc October 1946-January 1947
CMP(17A) Congress "climbdown" on grouping and Jinnah's rejection, January 1947

CMP (A1) - Additional material - Some Plain speaking from Sir Khizr Hayat, Abell on the Breakdown plan, Viceroy to Jinnah

CMP(A2) North West Frontier Province, October-November 1946 and February-March 1947

CMP(A3) Bengal and Bihar, August - November 1946

CMP(A4) Punjab, February - March 1947

CMP (18) - My take

CMP (19) - What did parity and communal veto mean in numbers?

CMP(20) Another summary /take on the Cabinet Mission Plan-with links to the above reference material

CMP(21) Mountbatten discusses the Cabinet Mission Plan with Sardar Patel and M. A. Jinnah, 24-26 April 1947

CMP(22) A reply on the Cabinet Mission Plan

Extra(1) - Speech by Jinnah in March 1941 outlining the case for an independent sovereign Pakistan 

Extra(1A) Jinnah's Speeches and Statements from 1941-1942

Extra(1B) Jinnah's Speeches and Statements from 1938-1940

Extra(1C) Jinnah's speeches and Statements from 1943-45

Extra(2) -  Jinnah's letter to Gandhi during Gaandhi-Jinnah talks in 1944 on defining Pakistan

Extra(3)- B.R. Ambedkar quoted from his book 'Pakistan or the Partition of India'  

Extra(4) Congress and Muslim parties' positions on the Communal question 1927-1931

Extra(4A) Excerpts of Motilal Nehru Committee Report 1928

Extra(4B) Nehru, Bose, Jinnah Correspondence 1937-38

Extra(6) Gandhiji's scheme of offering the Prime Ministership to Jinnah in 1947

Extra(6A) Jinnah on Congress's offers of Prime Ministership 1940-43 and Gandhi's 1943 letter to Jinnah from jail

Extra (6B) April-July 1947  Negotiations on Pakistan between Mountbatten and Jinnah

Extra(7) M.A.Jinnah and Maulana Azad on two nation theory

Extra(8) Comments on Separate electorates, Joint electorates and Reserved constituencies

Extra(9) Links to a selection of cartoons on Indian constitutional parleys published in the Daily Mail, UK, in 1942 and 1946-1947, by L.G. Illingworth, from National Library of Wales' online Illingworth exhibition