Syed Amjad Ali was interviewed at his Lahore residence "Shadab" by Omar Khan on January 15th, 1990.

Q: We were talking about the Unionist Party and the politicians and the differences between them in connection to Sir Fazli Hussain [a leading Punjabi politician in the 1920s].

Let me go back to the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms [of 1919]. Those reforms, introduced by the British in India resulted in what they called dyarchy, a system which meant that certain subjects were controlled in the provinces by the British and certain were given over to Indians who were introduced in the body politics of the provincial governments. I will mainly concentrate on the Punjab Province because that's my province and I know it better than any other part of India, although I have lived in other parts of India during my many years before us [Pakistan] became separate from India.

Now in the dyarchy which was introduced due to the Montagu Chelmsford Reforms, the Education Minister was an Indian, the Revenue Minister was an Indian, and I believe the local self-government interest Minister was an Indian. Law and Order was not transferred to the Indians, that was the responsibility of the British Governor of the Province. The British Government sent the Constitutional Commission which was to draw up a Constitution for India led by Lord Simon, the Simon Commission which came in 1928 if I remember correctly.

I happened to hear the debates, which took place in the Indian Legislative Assembly for 3 days where the opposition, which was led by the Congress Party and other patriots like Mr. Jinnah or Quaid-e-Azam [Father of he Nation, as he is known in Pakistan], who was leader of the Indian party. The Resolution was introduced that this House should non-cooperate with the Simon Commission. It was introduced curiously enough by a Punjabi Hindu who was the headmaster of a school at that time and became a very prominent Congress leader by the name of Lala Rajpat Rai. He introduced the Resolution, which was supported by the Congress Party. I attended the debate and never heard such a galaxy of Indian leaders as then. Pandit Malaviya was there, who spoke, then Pandit Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru's father was there, Diwan Chaman Lal from Punjab, Mr. T.C. Goswami from Bengal and Mr. Srivastava from Madras and many others, [including] Mr. Jinnah from Bombay and Mr. Jayakar who was also a Hindu leader, a very fine speaker, and also from Bombay. The Amendment was introduced by another Punjabi whose name was Zulfikar Ali Khan and who originally came from Maleer Kotla [a feudal state in East Punjab]. The amendment was that this House non-cooperates with the Simon Commission.

The upshot of all this that I remember very vividly is that Chaman Lal and T.C. Goswami who were then very young were very vociferous in their speeches and extremely bright. Later on, Diwan Chaman Lal became my colleague in the Punjab Legislative Assembly when it started in 1937. The result was that the Opposition won, the resolution was carried that they should not cooperate with the Simon Commission. The general consensus was that the two best speeches for three days were from Bombay, one by Mr. Jinnah and the other by Mr. Jayakar. The Simon Commission then went back and reported to the British Government. The British later prepared for the Round Table conferences which met in 1930, then again in 1931 at the Second Round Table. Then, at the end of 1932 a much smaller body than the first or the second [met for the Third Round Table Conference]. From these the Joint Select Committee [was formed] of both Houses of Parliament in which Indians were of course included and where the British Government gave the Communal Award because the Indians could not amongst themselves agree on what should be the proportion of the various [religious] communities [in elections], to the Prime Minister, Mr. Ramsay McDonald. The Communal Award was made in 1932 if I remember correctly. All this culminated in the Government of India Act [of 1935].

I had some part to play with the Round Tables, because when the second Round Table met in 1931 I happened to be in London. The leader of the Muslim delegation to the Round Table was His Highness the Aga Khan, who also was the leader of Indian delegation. The Muslim delegation wanted someone to work honourarily, and I became Joint Secretary of the Muslim delegation to the Round Table in 1931 and attended the sessions in St. James Palace. Mr. Gandhi also attended the Second Round Table Conference. He was a member of the minority committee which tried to settle the differences and come up with an agreed formula of how the representation of the different [religious] communities of India should be apportioned in the new set-up that the British were envisaging. I also attended the Third Round Table Conference, which as I said was much smaller. [Sir Mohammed] Iqbal the great poet was a member. He was a member of this and Second Round Table because I used to meet him in London as well. We traveled together from Lahore to London and on the way we stopped for three or four days in Paris. Then I became the Secretary of the of Muslim Delegation, and at the Joint Select Committee, I was Joint Secretary of the Indian delegation. I attended all the meetings of the Joint Select Committee, and then came the Government of India Act 1935 under which the elections took place for the Provincial Assembly at the end of 1936. I was also Member of Indian Legislature.


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