Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms


(Government of India Act of 1919), a law on the administration of India adopted by the British Parliament in 1919, when the Indian national liberation movement was growing stronger. The reforms developed out of a report published in 1918 by E. Montagu, secretary of state for India, and Lord Chelmsford, viceroy of India, after whom it was named.

The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms provided for the establishment of a bicameral legislature subordinate to the governor-general and consisting of the Council of State and the Legislative Assembly. Some of the members of these legislative bodies were to be appointed. The governor-general retained the right to veto bills.

In the largest provinces the new law introduced dyarchy, or dual power, a complicated and confusing system of dividing power among different departments. Some of the ministers (department heads) were responsible to the legislative bodies, but others were responsible to the provincial governors. Essentially, dyarchy made it impossible for the new bodies to act with any degree of effectiveness.

The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms retained the principle of separate religious communal constituencies, which had been introduced in 1909. Only about 1 percent of the Indian population was granted the right to vote for representatives to the national legislative bodies, and about 3 percent received the right to vote in elections to the provincial bodies. The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms did not change the essential character of colonial rule and provoked protests by various strata of Indian society. The Indian National Congress boycotted the 1921 elections. Nevertheless, the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms remained in force until 1935.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Earlier, the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms were also introduced by the people of law including Edwin Samuel Montagu, then Secretary of State for India and Lord Chelmsford, Viceroy of India between 1916 and 1921 and other members of the reforms commission belonged to the field of law.
Allama Mohammad Iqbal proposed partition of India on the basis of two nation theory in his presidential address at Allahabad in 1930, when the First Round Table Conference was going on in London to revisit the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms 1919 and to put forth recommendations for new parliamentary and constitutional reforms.1AllamaIqbal categorically suggested that there should be a separate homeland for Indian Muslims and also pointed out the Muslim majority provinces where it could become a reality particularly in the Northwestern part of India including Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan and NWFP (now KP).
Congress and the League had committed a blunder when they had rejected the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms in 1919 but they decided not to repeat that mistake and chose to utilize whatever positive traits were included in the 1935 Act particularly regarding provincial autonomy.
The greatest success of the Lucknow Pact was that the reforms of 191 9 (The Montagu-Chelmsford reforms) were shaped keeping in view the historic understanding between the two principal political parties of India, the Congress and the Muslim League, Fazl-i-Husain was appointed a minister in-charge of the Punjab and continued to hold this portfolio for five years.
The first session failed due to the reason that all the three major political and communal claims that they had been advancing from time to time after the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms came into effect in the 1921.