First Round Table Conference (RTC)
- During the First Round Table Conference (RTC), several key developments took place. Here’s a breakdown of the conference and its outcomes:
- The British government, under the Labour Party, expressed its intention to make constitutional changes in India after seeking the views of various stakeholders.
- Congress was deeply involved in the Civil Disobedience Movement at that time, and the government recognized the need to engage with Congress for meaningful negotiations.
- Congress Conditions:
- The Congress laid down certain conditions for attending the RTC, including the recognition of India’s right to secede and the establishment of fully responsible governments at the central and provincial levels. However, these conditions were not acceptable to the government, and they proceeded with the conference without Congress.
- The First RTC, held in November 1930, had 89 participants, including representatives from British political parties, various Indian political parties, and individuals representing the interests of the Princely States.
- Some notable participants were MR Jayakar representing the Hindu Mahasabha, TB Sapru representing the Liberals, Agha Khan, Shafi, Fazlul Haq, and Jinnah representing the Muslim community, Ambedkar representing the Depressed Classes, KT Paul representing Christians, and members representing the interests of Princely States.
- Despite the challenges and the absence of the Congress, the First RTC made two important recommendations:
- Formation of an All-India Federation of British Indian Provinces and Indian States.
- Proposal to establish a responsible government at the centre with certain safeguards for the transitional period. However, the duration of the transition period was not clearly specified, which disappointed nationalist leaders.
- The First Round Table Conference laid the foundation for discussions on the future constitutional setup in India, although it fell short of meeting nationalist expectations. It brought together a diverse range of political voices, setting the stage for further deliberations and negotiations in subsequent conferences.
The first phase of the Civil Disobedience Movement achieved significant accomplishments that shaped the anti-imperialist struggle in India. Here are the key achievements:
- Recognition of Strength: The British government’s decision to sign a pact with Gandhi and treat the movement as an equal demonstrated the recognition of the strength and power of the Indian people. It was seen as a victory over the government and boosted the morale of the masses.
- Increased Participation and Imprisonment: The number of people who participated in the movement and went to jail surpassed the figures of the Non-Cooperation Movement of 1920-22. Over 90,000 individuals were estimated to have been imprisoned during this phase, indicating the widespread involvement of the population.
- Economic Impact: The movement had a significant economic impact. Imports of cloth from Britain and other items like cigarettes were reduced by half. The government’s revenue from liquor excise and land revenue was affected. The boycott of legislative assembly elections also had a substantial impact.
- Politicization of Social Groups: The movement successfully politicized a wide variety of social groups, aligning them with the cause of Indian nationalism. People from diverse backgrounds actively participated in the movement, further strengthening the anti-imperialist struggle.
- Muslim Participation: While the participation of Muslims in the Civil Disobedience Movement was not as high as during the Non-Cooperation Movement, it was still significant, particularly in the North-West Frontier Province. Despite appeals from communal leaders to stay away, Muslims contributed to the movement’s efforts.
- Support from the Poor and Illiterate: The movement received remarkable support from the poor and illiterate sections of society, both in urban and rural areas. Their involvement showcased the widespread impact and resonance of the movement among the marginalized segments of society.
- Women’s Liberation: The movement provided a transformative and liberating experience for Indian women. It marked their entry into the public space and played a crucial role in advancing women’s rights and their active participation in the freedom struggle.
- These achievements demonstrate the wide-ranging impact and success of the first phase of the Civil Disobedience Movement in mobilizing and uniting diverse sections of Indian society in the fight against imperialism.
The Karachi Congress of 1931
- The Karachi Congress of 1931, held shortly after the execution of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev, marked an important moment in the history of the Indian National Congress. Here are the main resolutions passed at the Karachi Session:
- Bhagat Singh’s Death: Congress drafted a resolution, initiated by Gandhi, expressing disapproval of political violence but admiring the bravery and sacrifice of the three martyrs.
- Delhi Pact (Gandhi-Irwin Pact): The Congress endorsed the Delhi Pact, also known as the Gandhi-Irwin Pact, and reiterated its commitment to the goal of Poorna Swaraj (complete independence).
- Fundamental Rights: The Congress, for the first time, defined what Swaraj would mean for the masses by guaranteeing fundamental rights and outlining its economic policies. The resolutions included:
- Basic civil rights: Free speech, free press, free assembly, freedom of association, and equality before the law regardless of caste, creed, or sex.
- Neutrality of the state in relation to all religions.
- Elections based on universal adult franchise.
- Free and compulsory primary education.
- Economic measures: Substantial reduction in rent and revenue, relief from agricultural indebtedness, control of usury, and better conditions for workers, including a living wage, limited working hours, and protection for women workers.
- State ownership and control of key industries, mines, and means of transport.
- Protection of the culture, language, and script of minorities and different linguistic areas.
- The Karachi Resolution became the basic political and economic program of the Congress in the subsequent years. While the resolution included some democratic demands and promises to labour, it was seen as a relatively moderate and cautious approach. It did not encompass radical socialist ideas or address issues such as rural indebtedness, landlordism, or land redistribution.
- The resolution has been interpreted as a concession to placate the Left, but it primarily reflected a combination of democratic demands, Gandhi’s principles, and modest promises for labour and agrarian reforms. It set the foundation for the Congress’s political and economic agenda in the years to come.
The Second Round Table Conference
- The Second Round Table Conference, held in London, had low expectations from the Indian nationalist perspective. The political situation had changed, with the resignation of MacDonald’s Labour Cabinet and the formation of a new coalition government dominated by the Conservatives.
- The majority of Indian delegates at the conference were hand-picked by the British government and consisted of loyalists, communalists, careerists, and representatives of big landlords and the princely states. They were used to undermine the Congress’s representation and claim that it did not represent the interests of all Indians.
- The conference, which took place from August 1931 to December 1931, made recommendations on various matters related to the Indian Federation, the federal judiciary, the accession of states to the federation, and the distribution of financial resources. However, the proceedings were overshadowed by communal issues, hindering substantial progress.
- The British government refused to concede the basic demands put forth by the Indian delegation. The Delhi Pact had raised the political prestige of the Congress and the morale of the people while undermining British prestige. The new Viceroy believed that the government had made a mistake by negotiating and signing the pact, and they were determined to reverse the concessions granted to Congress.
- Overall, the Second Round Table Conference failed to achieve the desired outcomes for the Indian nationalists, and the political situation had become more challenging for the Congress upon Gandhi’s return in December 1931.
After the Second Round Table Conference, British policy regarding India was shaped by three major considerations:
- Preventing Mass Movement: The British government was determined not to allow Gandhi to mobilize a massive mass movement, similar to what had occurred in 1920-1921 and 1930 during the Non-Cooperation Movement and the Civil Disobedience Movement, respectively. They sought to curb Gandhi’s influence and prevent the escalation of nationalist activities.
- Maintaining Support: The government was concerned about the morale of its functionaries, including village officials, police personnel, and higher bureaucrats, as well as loyalists who supported British rule in India. They did not want these individuals to become disheartened or perceive Gandhi as a rival authority to the British government. The government aimed to maintain their support and the perception that it still had the will and ability to govern.
- Preventing Rural Consolidation: The British authorities were determined to prevent the nationalist movement from gaining strength and consolidating itself in rural areas. They recognized the potential power of the rural population and sought to impede the growth of nationalist sentiments and activities among rural communities.
- Overall, the British policy aimed to control and suppress the nationalist movement, particularly by curbing Gandhi’s influence, maintaining the loyalty of functionaries and loyalists, and preventing the consolidation of the movement in rural areas.
Gandhi came back & crushing of movement
- Upon Gandhi’s return to India, the British government implemented a policy of harsh repression to crush the non-violent movement and suppress the Indian nationalist movement. Here are some key points regarding the government’s actions:
- Arrests of Leaders: Prominent leaders of the Congress and allied organizations, such as Jawaharlal Nehru in Uttar Pradesh and Abdul Gaffar Khan in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), were arrested. Draconian ordinances were imposed in Bengal, where the government ruled through oppressive measures.
- Repression and Illegalization: The Congress and its affiliated organizations were declared illegal, and their offices and funds were seized. Police occupied many Gandhi Ashrams (residential communities) across the country. Peaceful picketers and Satyagrahis (protestors practicing non-violent resistance) were subjected to violent lathi charges, beatings, and imprisonment. Heavy fines were imposed, often leading to the sale of their lands and property at significantly reduced prices.
- Confiscation of Property: The government treated no-tax campaigns in rural areas with severity, freely confiscating lands, houses, cattle, agricultural implements, and other property.
- Harsh Treatment of Women: Women were particularly targeted by the government’s wrath. Harsh conditions were imposed in jails, aiming to discourage women from participating in Satyagraha and the nationalist movement.
- Restrictions on Press Freedom: The freedom of the press to report, comment, or even print pictures of national leaders and Satyagrahis was curtailed. Numerous journalists faced action, and nationalist literature, including poems, stories, and novels, was banned on a large scale.
- These repressive measures were aimed at suppressing the non-violent movement and stifling the Indian nationalist movement. The government employed brutal tactics, including arrests, violence, confiscation of property, and curtailment of press freedom, to quell the resistance and discourage the participation of individuals in the movement.
Third Round Table Conference (Nov 17- Dec 24, 1932)
- The third Round Table Conference, held from November 17 to December 24, 1932, did not see the participation of Congress leaders. The absence of Congress leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi, was a significant factor in the failure to reach a conclusive outcome during the conference.
- The main reason for Congress’s absence was the ongoing Civil Disobedience Movement and the salt Satyagraha. Many Congress leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi, were imprisoned for their involvement in the movement, which aimed to challenge British colonial rule and demand independence for India. The absence of key Congress leaders undermined the effectiveness and legitimacy of the conference, as their participation and input were crucial for reaching any meaningful agreements.
- As a result, the third Round Table Conference did not lead to substantial progress in resolving the political deadlock between the British government and Indian leaders. The conference did, however, contribute to the formulation of the Government of India Act, of 1935, which was ultimately enacted. This Act, similar in structure to the Government of India Act, of 1919, introduced some reforms but fell short of meeting the demands of Indian nationalists for greater self-governance and independence.
- Overall, the absence of Congress leaders and the continuation of the Civil Disobedience Movement significantly impacted the outcome of the third Round Table Conference, highlighting the deep divide between the British government and Indian leaders in finding a mutually acceptable solution for India’s political future.
The third Round Table Conference held in London on November 17, 1932, had a complex background. Here are some key points:
- Congress’ refusal to attend: The Indian National Congress, led by Mahatma Gandhi, decided to boycott the conference as they were dissatisfied with the Communal Award that granted separate electorates for different religious communities. Congress believed that it undermined the principle of a united India and Hindu-Muslim unity.
- Absence of the Labour Party: The Labour Party in the United Kingdom, which had been sympathetic to Indian nationalist aspirations, also refused to participate in the conference due to its disagreement with the British government’s handling of the Indian political situation.
- Limited participation: As a result of the Congress boycott and the absence of the Labour Party, the conference had limited participation. Only 46 individuals attended, primarily representing minority groups and princely states.
- The White Paper: The British government issued a White Paper during the conference, which outlined their proposed constitutional reforms for India. This document became a key outcome of the conference and formed the basis for drafting the Government of India Act, of 1935.
- Introduction of the Pakistan idea: During the conference, Chaudhary Rahmat Ali, a college student, proposed the name “Pakistan” for a separate homeland for Muslims in India. This idea gained traction among some Muslim leaders, including Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who later became a prominent advocate for the creation of Pakistan.
- While the third Round Table Conference did not achieve its intended purpose of resolving the political deadlock between British authorities and Indian leaders, it played a role in shaping the subsequent Government of India Act, of 1935. Additionally, the conference marked a significant point in the discussions surrounding the demand for a separate Muslim state, which eventually materialized in the creation of Pakistan in 1947.
Third Round Table Conference – Participants
- The Third Round Table Conference had only 46 delegates in total.
- The INC and the Labour Party decided not to attend.
- Indian princely states were represented by princes and divans.
- The depressed class was there.
- Women, Europeans, Anglo-Indians, and labour groups.
- The Aga Khan (Muslims), represented British Indians.
- Dr B. R. Ambedkar (Depressed Classes)
- Henry Gidney (Anglo-Indians)
- N. M. Joshi (Labour)
- Begum Jahanara Shahnawaz (Women)
- Tej Bahadur Sapru (Liberals)
Third Round Table Conference – Issues Discussed
- During the Third Round Table Conference, the discussions primarily revolved around the reports presented by the Sub-Committees established during the Second Round Table Conference. These reports served as the foundation for the deliberations. The conference aimed to further refine the details of the proposed new constitution.
- The Indian delegates made efforts to introduce certain progressive provisions into the constitution, but unfortunately, these proposals were swiftly retracted. Similarly, the consideration of incorporating a Bill of Rights for citizens was postponed, citing weak or unsubstantial justifications.
The outcome of the Third Round Table Conference
- The outcome of the Third Round Table Conference was regarded as a setback since significant matters were not adequately addressed due to the absence of political leaders and Maharajas. However, the proposals formulated during this conference were documented and published in a White paper in 1933. Subsequently, these proposals underwent deliberation in the British parliament, where they were thoroughly examined.
- Taking into account the discussions and recommendations of the round table conference, the Government of India Act of 1935 was eventually enacted.
- In conclusion, the Round Table Conferences hold immense importance in the history of India and have shaped the nation as we know it today. These conferences played a crucial role during the period of British rule by providing a platform for Indian leaders to engage in meaningful dialogue with the British authorities as equals. This allowed them to voice their concerns, express their needs, and advocate for the aspirations of the Indian people.
- Although the earlier conferences paved the way for communication and understanding, it was the Third Round Table Conference that marked a significant milestone. It was during this conference that Indian leaders finally achieved the long-awaited freedom they had ardently fought for. The discussions and deliberations of the Third Round Table Conference laid the groundwork for the subsequent enactment of the Government of India Act of 1935, which shaped the course of Indian history and set the stage for future developments.
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