The Karachi Congress 1931 :
- On 23 March 1931, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdeva were executed despite Gandhiji’s efforts to save them. Hence, the Karachi Congress met on March 29 under the great shadow of national mourning. The congress, while condemning violent acts, adopted a resolution appreciating the courage and self-sacrifice of the three young men. This Congress under the presidentship of Vallabhbhai Patel accepted the Gandhi-Irwin Pact but it repeated its commitment to the complete independence ideal. Gandhiji was chosen as the sole representative on behalf of the Congress at the coming Second Round Table Conference. This Congress is also important because it accepted a resolution moved by Gandhi on the fundamental rights of equality, freedom of speech, press, association and conscience. Total non-discrimination, the right to privacy of dwelling apartment and the right to bear arms, in accordance with law, were to be guaranteed. These fundamental rights contain also important economic categories, like, living wage for workers, freedom from serfdom, protection of women workers and children and the right to form unions. Furthermore, the state was to control key industries, reduce both military and civil expenditure and to impose a graduated inheritance tax and progressive tax on agricultural income.
- As no agreement was forthcoming, (at the Second Round Table conference), r. Ramsay MacDonald issued on 16t August, 1932, what is famously knwn as the communal Award.
- It may be noted that it was wrong to call it an Award. An award implies a judgement of an arbitration between Partis, who have willingly agreed to an arbitration. In this case, the parties affected, at least, the congress, never asked for it. It was nothing more than “an order” of British Govenment imposing a scheme of representation.
- The Award was confined to the seats to be allotted to the various communities in the Provincial Legislatures.
- Sepaate electorates were introduced for Muslims, Sikhs, Indian, Christians, Anglo-Indians and women.
- Labour, Commerce, Industry, Landlords and Universities were given separate constituencies and fixed seats. Seven seats were reserved for Marathas in Bombay.
- Member of the Depressed Classes qualified to vote were given right to vote in the general constituencies. Apart from this, a specific number of seats was assigned to them, to be filled by election from special constituencies in which only members of the Depressed Classes, electorally qualified, were entitled to vote.
- The Award was unfair to the Hindus, it conceded to Muslims almost all their demands and was extremely generous to the Europeans.
- The Award gave separate representation to the Depressed Classes, which aimed at the disruption of the Hindu Community, whose part and parcel they had always been.
- Minorities were said to be given weightage, but no weightage was given to the Hindus in Bengal and Punjab. The weightage given to the Muslims was more than the weightage givens to the Hindus in the N.W.F. Province and Sind.
- The Award was an attempt to perpetuate divisions based on castes and creeds in India.
- The retention and extension of the separate electorates prevented the growth of a single nationality.
- The Working Committee of the Congress took upon a strange attitude. Although it considered the Award harmful to the growth of nationalism in India and regarded it unjust and unfair to certain communities, the working committee declared that it would neither accept nor reject the award”.
- The Congress was opposed to a separate electorate for Muslims, Sikhs and Christians as it encouraged the communal notion that they formed separate groups or communities having interests different from the general body of Indians. The inevitable result was to divide the Indian people and prevent the growth of a common national consciousness. But the idea of a separate electorate for Muslims had been accepted by the Congress as far back as 1916 as a part of the compromise with the Muslim League. Hence, the Congress took the position that though it was opposed to separate electorates, it was not in favour of changing the Award without the consent of the minorities. Consequently, though strongly disagreeing with the Communal Award, it decided neither to accept it nor to reject it.
- But the effort to separate the Depressed Classes from the rest of Hindus by treating them as separate political entities was vehemently opposed by all the nationalists. Gandhiji, in Yeravada jail at the time, in particular, reacted very strongly. He saw the Award as an attack on Indian unity and nationalism, harmful to both Hinduism and the Depressed Classes, for it provided no answers to theocially degraded position of the latter. Once the Depressed Classes were treated as a separate community, the question of abolishing untouchability would not arise, and the work of Hindu social reform in this respect would come to a halt.
- Gandhiji argued that whatever harm separate electorates might do to Muslims or Sikhs, it did not affect the fact that they would remain Muslims or Sikhs. But while reformers like himself were working for the total eradication of untouchability, separate electorates would ensure that ‘untouchables remain untouchables in perpetuity’. What was needed was not the protection of the so-called interests of the Depressed Classes in terms of seats in the legislatures or jobs but the ‘root and branch’ eradication of untouchability.
- Gandhiji demanded that the representatives of the Depressed Classes should be elected by the general electorate under a wide, if possible universal, common franchise. At the same time he did not object to the demand for a large number of the reserved seats for the Depressed Classes. He went on a fast unto death on 20 September 1932 to enforce his demand. Political leaders of different political persuasions, including Madan Mohan Malaviya, M.C. Rajah and B.R. Ambedkar, now became active. In the end they succeeded in hammering out an agreement, known as the Poona Pact, according to which the idea of separate electorates for the Depressed Classes was abandoned but the seats reserved for them in the provincial legislatures were increased from seventy-one in the Award to 147 and in the Central Legislature to eighteen per cent of the total.
- Joint electorates for the scheduled castes alongwith the Hindus, 148 seats were reserved for the Harijans in the Provincial Legislature as against 71 seats givens to them by the Communal Award.
- All the members of the Depressed classes registered in the General Electroal Roll in a constituency were to form an electoral college, which was to elect a panel of four candidates belonging to the Depressed Classes for each of such reserved seats, by the method of single transferable vote.
- The four persons getting the highest number of votes in such primary elections were to be candidates for the election by the general electorate.
- The system of primary election for a panel of candidates, as above described, was to be terminated after 10 years.
Civil Disobedience Movement (1932-34)
- On December 28, 1931, Gandhiji reached Bombay on his way back from the London Round Table Confernce. In a letter to the Viceroy, Lod Willingdon, he protested against re reign of oppression in N. W. Frontier Province,Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. In a letter to him on December 31, the Private Secretary to the Viceroy justified the measures. In the context of the veiled threat of the resumption of civil disobedience, the Viceroy refused to meet Gandhiji.
On January 10, 1932, the Congress Working Committee prepared the following 12-Point programme for civil disobedience:
- Picketing of Foreign liquor shops and foreign cloth shops by women.
- Use of hand-spun Khaddar by all Congressmen.
- Boycott of foreign cloth.
- Preparation of Salt without obtaining any licence.
- Boycott of British goods and British Companies.
- Civil disobedience of immoral and anti-people laws.
- Civil disobedience of all unjust orders passed under the Ordinances.
- The workers were to maintain the strictest Ahimsa in thought, word and deed even in critical situations.
- Harmful social boycott of Government officers and policemen to be avoided.
- Only those persons were to take part in processions and demonstrations who were ready to suffer lathis and bullets without moving from their positions.
- Civil disobedience was to be started only at those places where the people understood the norm of Ahimsa and were ready to follow it fully even at the cost of their life and property.
- Maintenance allowance was to be paid in cases of great hardship to dependents of the volunteers who had gone to prison or had been killed.
- On April 17, 1931, Lord Willingdon who had earlier been the Governor of Bombay and Madras had been chosen the successor of Lord Irwin who left India on April 18. With the failure of the Second Round Table Conference, a tougher policy was being pursued by the Government. In the United Provinces, leaders who were persuading the peasants for non-payment of taxes were arrested. Jawaharlal and Tasadduk Sherwani were arrested while on way to meeting Gandhiji at Bombay on his return from London. Even Gandhiji himself was not spared and on January 4, 1932 he and Vallabhbhai Patel were arrested. Soon oppression was let loose on the political prisoners lodged in different of the country. The Government took the offensive in 1932. In the 1930 Salt Satyagraha it was, generally, on the defensive.
Forms of CDM
- Dandi March was organised to manufacture illegal salt. Breach of law by boiling sea water to manufacture salt by Gandhi on 6 April, 1930.
- Bengal: Defence of law by:
(i) Reading seditious literature in public.
(ii) Picketing of shops selling foreign cloth.
(iii) Picketing of shops selling liquor.
- C.P: Defiance of forest laws by cutting timber.
- Gujarat: Defiance of law by non-payment of Land Revenue.
- North West Frontier Province: Defiance of Govt. laws by non-payment of taxes.
- Congressmen resign from Legislatures.
- Tempo of C.D.M. slackened in 1933. In July 1933 C.D.M. on ‘mass’ scale was suspended, individual C.D.M. permitted by Congress. In May 1934 Civil Disobedience Movement was totally withdrawn.
What Civil Disobedience Movement could not achieve:
(i) Purna Swaraj not achieved.
(ii) Government of India Act 1935 did not transfer real power to Indians.
(iii) Britain still arbiter of India’s destiny.
What it achieved
- Congress successfully defied Government laws and could do it again and again.
- British Government felt compelled to consult Congress in constitutional discussions.
- Willingdon’s boast to end Congress in six weeks exposed.
- Congress became really a mass movement:
(a) Women participated in freedom struggle.
(b) Youth and students offered satyagraha.
(c) Peasants and zamindars alike joined the struggle.
(d) Workers and Mill-owners plunged into the movement.
(e) Children and old persons also joined.
- Gandhi emerged as India’s Man of Destiny.
- India Freedom became a question of time.