Round Table Conference – Essay 1
Round Table Conference, (1930–32) is a series of three-session meetings called by the British Government to consider India’s future constitution. The Conference came from a review of the 1919 Government of India Act, undertaken by the Simon Commission in 1927, whose report was published in 1930. It took place in London.
The labor government formed in 1929 under Ramsay MacDonald found the Simon report insufficient. In response to Simon’s report, this led to a decision to have round table conferences in London.
Due to Gandhi’s Civil Disobedience campaign, a number of the Indian National Congress members did not take part in this meeting. The results obtained from the 1st round table meeting, however, were modest.
The first session (Nov. 12, 1930–Jan. 19, 1931) had 73 delegates from all Indian states and all parties except the National Indian Congress, which carried out a local campaign of defiance against the Government. The key achievement was an emphasis on parliamentarians and acknowledgment of the federal concept by all, even the princess and on the status of sovereignty as the aim of constitutional creation.
Mahatma Gandhi attended the second session (September – December 1931) as the representative of the Congress. It failed to reach an agreement, either constitutionally or on the representation of communities.
The third session was shorter and less critical (Nov. 17–Dec. 24, 1932), with neither the Congress nor the British Labor Party attending the session. The result of these deliberations was the Government of India Act of 1935, which established provincial autonomy, and a federal system that was never implemented.
Background for the first round table conference
- In a particular segment of British politics, there were growing demands for India to be given dominion status.
- In India, the freedom movement was in full swing with the charismatic Gandhi spearheading his appeal for swaraj or self-rule.
- The conferences were based on Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s suggestion to Lord Irwin, Viceroy of India, and James Ramsay MacDonald, British Prime Minister, and the report from the Simon Commission.
- The Indians and the British met for the first time as ‘equals.’ The first Conference commenced on 12 November 1930.
Participants in the first round table conference
- 58 British India policy-makers.
- 16 Delegates of the princely Native States.
- 16 Delegates from the three British political parties.
- The National Indian Congress had agreed not to attend the meeting. Many of the INC members have been jailed because they participated in the civil disobedience campaign.
- The following delegates attended the Conference among the British-Indians: Muslim League, Muslims, Justice Party, Sikhs, Liberals, Parsis, Christians, Anglo-Indians, Germans, landlords, workers, women, colleges, Sindh, Burma, other provinces, and Indian government members.
Effects of the first round table conference
- The First Round Table Conference lasted until 19 January 1931.
- Although several reform measures have been agreed upon, not much has been enacted, and the Congress Party has carried out its civil disobedience. The Conference was considered a disaster.
- The British Government recognized the significance and need of the Congress Party, making some decisions on the political future of India.
Background for second round table conference
The Second Round Table Conference was held in London, with the participation of Gandhi and the Indian National Congress, from 7 September 1931 to 1 December 1931.
Participants in the second round table conference
- British delegates from various political parties including the British Prime Minister
- James Ramsay Macdonald, minister.
- The princely Indian states embodied by Maharajas, kings, and divans.
- British Indians, with:
- National Indian Congress (INC)-Gandhi Mahatma, Iyengar Rangaswami, Madan
- Mohammed Malaviya
- Muslims — Md. Ali Jinnah, Muhammad Iqbal, Aga Khan III etc.
- Hindus – M R Jayakar, and so on.
- Depressed – Dr. B R Ambedkar
- Women – Naidu Sarojini, etc.
- Sikhs, Hindu Muslims, Parsis, Arabs, Anglo-Indians, Conservatives, Justice Party
- Industry, workers, peasants, the provinces of Burma, Sindh, and others.
- The session began on 7 September 1931. The biggest difference between the first Conference and the second one was that the INC participated in the second one. It was one of the Gandhi-Irwin Treaty results.
- Another distinction was that the British PM Macdonald led not a Labor government, but a national government, unlike the previous one. In Britain, the Labor Party had been toppled two weeks earlier.
- The British agreed to award a community award for serving minorities in India by providing for the minority groups with separate electorates. Gandhi opposed this.
- Gandhi and Ambedkar distinguished for the untouchables in this Conference on the question of separate electorates. Gandhi rejected viewing the untouchables as being different from the Hindu community. This issue was resolved to utilize the 1932 Poona Agreement.
- Due to the numerous disagreements among the participants, the second round table conference was a failure. While the INC claimed to speak for the whole country, this claim was contested by other participants and leaders from other parties.
Background for third round table conference
The Third Round Table Conference was held between 17 November 1932 and 24 December 1932,
Participants in the third round table conference
- Only 46 delegates in total attended that Conference.
- The INC and the Labor Party agreed they would not attend. (Not invited to INC).
- Princes and divans had embodied Indian princely states.
- The Aga Khan (Muslims) represented British Indians;
- Classes deprived
- Women, Europeans, Anglo-Indians, and the working classes.
Not much has been achieved in this Conference. This Conference’s recommendations were published in a 1933 White Paper and discussed later in the British Parliament. The recommendations were analyzed, and based on them, the 1935 Government of India Act was passed.
The three Round Table Conferences of 1930–32 were a series of conferences to draft India’s constitution in the light of the Indian Leaders’ suggestions. In the 1919 India Act, new laws were implemented in the 1929 Indian Act.
Round Table Conference – Essay 2
According to Arthurian legend, Round Table was the meeting place of King Arthur’s legendary knights. This is where the term originates. Later, Round table came to known as a form of discussion and debate.
In such a form of discussion, members usually discuss on a pre- decided topic and every person’s opinion matters equally. The term round itself denotes equality in terms of participation and opinion.
This method of discussion was brought to India by the British during 1930 to 1932. During that time, tensions were high. India wanted independence and was keen to achieve it. British government was anxious about the nationalists that stuck to their principles.
It was during this time that the British decided to conduct the Round Table Conference. They wanted to call the representatives of all the princely states, factions and parties to discuss and reach a mutual understanding regarding the constitutional reforms in India. Three Round Table Conferences were held in India during this period. But, these conferences were not very successful.
The first Round Table Conference was officially inaugurated by His Majesty George V. It was held on November 12, 1930. It was not held in India, but in London. It was presided over by the Prime Minister of Britain, Ramsay MacDonald.
Ramsay MacDonald was a good friend of Lord Irwin, the Viceroy of British India. In fact, the Round Table Conference was decided to be conducted on the basis of the recommendations of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the leader of the Muslim League and the report of the Simon Commission.
In the First Round Table Conference, there were delegates representing many different factions that had a keen interest over the issue. Britain was represented by three political parties. This was the Labour Party, the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party.
Each party had its own delegates. There were 16 British delegates in total. Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald was from the Labour Party. Indian delegates were divided in two. There were 16 representatives from the Princely states. British India was represented by 58 delegated in total.
From India, there were delegates from Princely States such as Hyderabad, Baroda, Bhopal, Bikaner, etc., from Indian political parties such as Muslim League, Justice Party, Depressed Classes, etc. and from different communities such as Hindus, Anglo- Indians, Europeans, Indian Christians, etc.
There were also representatives from various provinces such as Sindh, Burma, etc. Women were also represented by Begum Jahanara Shahnawaz and Radha Bai Subbarayan.
However, India’s largest political party, that is, the Indian National Congress did not participate. Most of its leaders were in jail after they participated in the famous Civil Disobedience Movement which had earlier caused a lot of anxiety and troubles for the functioning of the British Government in India. Others were following the decision of the Indian National Congress which had decided to boycott the first Round Table Conference.
Much advancement was made. All parties attending the meeting mutually accepted the idea of an All- India Federation. Even the Princely States agreed to it as long as their own independence and sovereignty was guaranteed. An agreement was also reached that representative system of governance should be introduced at provincial level.
In this Conference, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, representative of the Depressed Classes also put forward the demand for separate electorates for the Untouchable castes. Despite these advancements, since the largest party did not participate, the first Round Table Conference can be considered as not successful.
After the First Round Table Conference, it was realised that the Conference would not be successful without a representation from India’s largest and most influential political party, the Indian National Congress. Thus, then the Viceroy Lord Irwin called Mahatma Gandhi for a talk.
This talk resulted in an agreement between Mahatma Gandhi and Lord Irwin, which is famously known as the Gandhi- Irwin Pact. Many prisoners belonging to the National Movement were freed and the Civil Disobedience Movement was called off. Due to this pact, Mahatma Gandhi attended the Second Round Table Conference as the only representative of the Indian National Congress.
The Second Round Table Conference was held on September 7th, 1931. It was a less auspicious event than the first Round Table Conference. Many Indian delegates were present, including Mahatma Gandhi. During this Conference, many differences also occurred. Indian National Congress was a huge party with its presence all over the country.
According to Mahatma Gandhi, Indian National Congress represented all of India, but other delegates present at the Conference did not agree to such a claim. Gandhi also opposed separate electorates for the Untouchables, or for any other faction. He did not agree that the so called Untouchables should be treated as minority.
Giving separate electorate to certain groups of the society would ultimately lead to adverse effects. It will support the claim that a certain faction can only be understood, represented and served by the member of that faction only. This will ultimately lead to inequality and differences amongst the various communities.
This resulted in disagreement between Mahatma Gandhi and the other delegates who supported separate electorates for the minorities. Amongst the supporters of separate electorate, the main supported was the eminent scholar Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar at that time was the leader and representative of the Depressed Classes. Mahatma Gandhi did not want Untouchables to be separated from the Hindu majority. He had the foresight to know that would lead to adverse effects on both communities and India as a whole in the long run.
This difference of opinion resulted in a clash between Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. Thus, the Second Round Table Conference was an absolute failure. It created a rift between the Indian National Congress and the minorities who felt that the Indian National Congress, once in power, would not hesitate to supress them.
But, Gandhiji was resolute. He began to fast. Consequently, to resolve this matter, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi signed a pact in the Yerwada Central Jail in Poona on September 24th, 1932.
This pact was famously called the Poona Pact of 1932. Gandhiji, satisfied with the compromise, stopped his fast. This paved way for the Third Round Table Conference.
The third Round Table Conference was held on the 17th of November, 1932. Like the previous two Conferences, it was held in London. But, it was just a Conference in name. Indian National Congress, after experiences of the previous Conference and other circumstances, refused to participate in the Third Round Table Conference.
One of the major parties of England, the Labour Party had also boycotted this Conference. Hence, only 46 delegates actually participated in the Third Round Table Conference. But, it was in this Conference that demand of a separate nation with the name of ‘Pakistan’ was first raised.
The Conference was attended by the representatives of the Muslim League who wanted a separate nation for Muslims. The Muslim League was headed by the eminent lawyer, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
On the basis of the discussions held during the Third Round Table Conference, the famous ‘White Paper’ was released. This White Paper contained the proposed provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935. The provisions contained in this paper were ideal. They ensured a representative government.
But, the action provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935 that was later passed by the British Parliament was very different from what it was proposed in the White Paper. While the Government of India Act, 1935 later became a major source for our Constitution, it was never implemented in its entirety.
These three Round Table Conferences did not yield much result. Two of these conferences were boycotted by the Indian National Congress. These Conferences actually resulted in communal differences between people of various groups.
But, the Round Table Conferences made the Indian leaders realise that no compromise could be reached. Purna Swaraj became their ultimate goal, and they did not accept a dominion status for India. Thus, Round Table Conferences are important in the history of the struggle for independence of India.