GANDHI AND THE SECOND ROUND TABLE CONFERENCE OF 1931

April 12, 2011 at 12:53 am | Posted in Asia, Financial, History, India, United Kingdom | Leave a comment

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Gandhi and the Second Roundtable Conference 1931

(September – December 1931)

Round Table Conferences (India)

The three Round Table Conferences of 1930–32 were a series of conferences organised by the British government to discuss constitutional reforms in India.

They were conducted as per the recommendation by the report submitted by the Simon Commission in May 1930. Demands for swaraj, or self-rule, in India had been growing increasingly strong. By the 1930s, many British politicians believed that India needed to move towards dominion status. However, there were significant disagreements between the Indian and the British political parties that the Conferences would not resolve.

First Round Table Conference

(November 1930 – January 1931)

The Round Table Conference was opened officially by King George V on November 12, 1930 and chaired by the British Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald. The three British political parties were represented by sixteen delegates. There were fifty-seven political leaders from British India and sixteen delegates from the princely states. However, the Indian National Congress, along with Indian business leaders, kept away from the conference. Many of them were in jail for their participation in civil disobedience.

Participants

The idea of an All-India Federation was moved to the centre of discussion. All the groups attending the conference supported this concept. The responsibility of the Executive to Legislature was discussed, and B. R. Ambedkar demanded a separate electorate for the so-called Untouchables.

Second Round Table Conference

(September – December 1931)

The second session opened on September 7, 1931. There were three major differences between the first and second Round Table Conferences. By the second:

  • Congress Representation — The Gandhi-Irwin Pact opened the way for Congress participation in this conference. Mahatma Gandhi was invited from India and attended as the sole official Congress representative accompanied by Sarojini Naidu and also Madan Mohan Malaviya, Ghanshyam Das Birla, Muhammad Iqbal, Sir Mirza Ismail Diwan of Mysore, S K Dutta and Sir Syed Ali Imam. Gandhi claimed that the Congress alone represented political India; that the Untouchables were Hindus and should not be treated as a “minority”; and that there should be no separate electorates or special safeguards for Muslims or other minorities. These claims were rejected by the other Indian participants. According to this pact, Gandhi was asked to call off the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) and if he did so the prisoners of the British government would be freed excepting the criminal prisoners, i.e those who had killed British officials. He returned to India, disappointed with the results and empty-handed.
  • Financial Crisis – During the conference, Britain went off the Gold Standard further distracting the National Government.
    During the Conference, Gandhi could not reach agreement with the Muslims on Muslim representation and safeguards. At the end of the conference Ramsay MacDonald undertook to produce a Communal Award for minority representation, with the provision that any free agreement between the parties could be substituted for his award.

Gandhi took particular exception to the treatment of untouchables as a minority separate from the rest of the Hindu community. He clashed with the Untouchable leader, B. R. Ambedkar, over this issue: the two eventually resolved the situation with the Poona Pact of 1932.

Third Round Table Conference

(November – December 1932)

The third and last session assembled on November 17, 1932. Only forty-six delegates attended since most of the main political figures of India were not present. The Labour Party from Brtain and the Indian National Congress refused to attend.

In this conference, Chaudhary Rahmat Ali, a college student, coined the name “Pakistan” (which means “land of pureness”) as the name for the Muslim part of partitioned India. He took the “P” from Punjab, the “A” from the Afghanistan, the “K” from Kashmir, the “S” from Sindh and the “TAN” from Balochistan. Jinnah did not attend it.

From September 1931 until March 1933, under the supervision of Samuel Hoare, the proposed reforms took the form reflected in the Government of India Act 1935.

References

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