THE ROUND TABLE CONFERENCES
First Round Table Conference
- The First Round Table Conference which met from 12.11.1930 to 19.1.1993 could not achieve any solid success because the Congress was not represented in it.
- Maulana Muhammad Ali and Jinnah had attended it. Some of the non-Congress participants debated the question of representation to the minorities.
Second Round Table Conference
- Gandhi attended the Second Round Table Conference along with Madan Mohan Malaviya, Sarojini Naidu and B.R. Ambedkar, but no agreed solution could be reached on the communal and national problems.
- In spite of Gandhi’s insistence, Dr. Ansari was not nominated to the Second Round Table Conference.
- Ramsay MacDonald, the British Prime Minister wanted that all members should agree to accept his verdict on the question of minorities.
- But Gandhi was of the firm view that the glow of the sun of independence alone would serve to melt the iceberg of communalism.
- The declaration of MacDonald at the Plenary session of the Conference was immensely dissatisfying because it contained no reference to the grant of Dominion Status to India.
- There was no assurance for the establishment of responsible government in the provinces and at the centre.
- Moreover, there was no assurance regarding fundamental rights. The proposed constitutional reforms, as outlined by the British Prime Minister, in December 1931 totally reserved defence and military affairs for control by the British Parliament and the Viceroy. Gandhiji could not agree to such proposals specially in the context of the Independence Resolution of 1929.
- He, all along, was concerned with the basic question of freedom and was disinclined to discuss the details of monetary and financial schemes.
Third Round Table Conference
- The Third Round Table Conference was held from November 17 to December 24, 1932 but it could not make any progress towards Swaraj.
- However, the deliberations at the three Round Table Conferences formed the basis on which the draft of the Government of India Act of 1935 was prepared.
- As no agreement was forthcoming (at the Second Round Table conference), Mr. Ramsay MacDonald issued on 16th August, 1932, what is famously known as the Communal Award.
- The Award was confined to the seats to be allotted to the various communities in the Provincial Legislatures.
- Separate electorates were introduced for Muslims, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-lndians 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.
- 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.
- 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.
THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA ACT 1935
Important features of the Act were:
- Proposal for All India Federation of (a) British Indian Provinces and (b) willing Indian States.
- Provincial Autonomy replaced Dyarchy.
- Statutory division of powers between the Centre and Provinces. Three lists of subjects for legislation i.e. Central, Provincial and Concurrent.
- Power of Amendments of Constitution reserved for British Parliament.
- Elaborate ‘safeguards’ and ‘reservations’ provided to protect British interests in India.
- System of Communal and Class electorates further extended.
- Provision for a Federal Court, Federal Bank, Federal Public Service Commission and Federal Railway Authority.
Second World War, August Offer and Individual Satyagraha
- To placate Indian opinion, the Viceroy Linlithgow announced on 17 Oct., 1939 that:
- Dominion Status was the goal of British policy in India.
- Indian Constitution to be reviewed after the end of war.
- Minorities interests to be properly safeguarded.
- Viceroy to set up a Consultative Committee of Indians to advise him on war effort.
- In protest against Government’s policies, the Congress ministries resigned in 8 provinces during Oct.-Nov. 1939.
- Muslim League celebrated resignation of Congress government as ‘Day of Deliverance and Thanks-giving’.
- August Offer
- In order to placate Indian political opinion, which was angry at the involvement of India in the War without India’s consent, in August 1940, the Viceroy made a constitutional offer a reformist type.
- The main points of the August Offer were:
- Dominiion Status, the objective for India.
- Expansion of Viceroy’s Executive Council.
- Setting up of an Advisory War Council.
- Minorities assured of full weightage in any revision of Indian Constitution.
- After the war a Constituent Assembly of Indians to be called to frame a constitution for India.
- Peace and defence to continue to be British responsibility.
- The causes to send Cripps Misdon can be summed up as:
- The reverses that British forces suffered in the Far East_the fall of Singapore (15 Feb.), Malaya and Rangoon (17 Feb.) frightened the imperial rulers to a conciliatory mood.
- When Japanese invasion of India became a near reality, the rulers felt the need to win Indian support in the defence effort.
- British Government’s attempt to get Congress support through liberal constitutional proposals.
- President Roosevelt of the U.S.A. urged Churchill to settle matters with India and obtain India’s military participation against Japan.
Main Points in Cripps Proposals
- The following proposals were published:
- Proposal to create a new Indian Union with the full status of Dominion.
- After end of the war to set up an elected body of provinces and Indian states to frame a new constitution.
- The British Government would accept the new constitution subject to two conditions:
- Any province(s) not willing to accept the new constitution could form a separate union and a separate constitution;
- The new constitution-making body and the British Government would negotiate a treaty to sort out matters arising out of transfer to power to Indian hands.
- In the meantime the British Government would be responsible for the defence of India.
- Congress Objections to Cripps Proposals
- Cripps made only long-term proposals to be operative after end of the war.
- The right of provinces to secede from the Indian Union would work against Congress demand for a united India.
- During the interim period Defence was to remain in British hands.
- Viceroy’s veto power was to remain intact.
Muslim League’s Objections
- It opposed the idea of a single government for the whole of India.
- It demanded the right of self-determination tor Muslims.
- It did not concede the Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan.
- The Indian demand for a Constituent Assembly conceded.
- Indian representatives alone would frame the new constitution/constitutions.
- Free India could withdraw from the British Commonwealth.
- Indians allowed a large share in administration in the interim period.
- Cripps’ stand not to accept any modifications in proposals showed a rigid attitude.
- It opened the possibility of partition of India.
- It was a propaganda device for American and Chinese consumption.
- The sudden withdrawal of the offer on the basis of ‘take it or leave it’ made British intentions suspect.
THE QUIT INDIA MOVEMENT
- The Quit India Movement and Revolt of 1942 should not be viewed as sudden developments but as culmination of all that had gone before.
- The World War acted as catalytic agent. Various factors can be summed up as:
- Congress decision not. to support Britain’s war effort without introduction of responsible government in India.
- Churchill’s announcement that Atlantic Charter was not applicable to India disappointed the people.
- Failure of Cripps Mission caused frustration bordering on revolt.
- Display of Racialism in evacuation of refugees from Burma to India. Two roads were provided:
Black Road—Open for Indian refugees.
White Road_exclusively reserved for European refugees.
- War time excess of the Government of India:
- The Government of India Amending Act gave extensive powers to the Central Executive.
- Defence of India Act suspended civil liberties in India.
- Anglo-lndian bureaucracy hoped to take advantage of war emergency to crush the Congress—its Enemy No. 1.
- Economic hardships caused by War:
- Scarcities, inflation, profiteering, hoarding.
- Forcible collection of War Funds.
- Large-scale stationing of AngloAmerican troops in 1942 caused scarcities and famine.
- Danger of Japanese invasion of India: Indians not allowed to organise volunteer corps for defence.
- Fear of Britain following scorched-earth policy in Assam, Bengal and Orissa against possible Japanese advance.
- Quit India Resolution, was passed by Congress Working Committee on 14 July, 1942.
- This resolution was endorsed by All India Congress Working Committee on Aug 8. It demanded:
- Immediate end of British rule in India.
- Free India will defend herself against all types of Fascism, Imperialism.
- Provisional Government of Free India to be formed after British withdrawal.
- Mass Civil Disobedience Movement against British rule sanctioned.
- Gandhi named as the leader of the struggle.
Effects of the Revolutionary Movement of 1942-43
- It is true that the Quit India movement failed to oust the British from India immediately and certainly, there was, agonizing mental depression in 1943 and 1944 in the country.
- But the moral and political lessons of the ‘Do or Die’ programme were profound.
- The Revolution revealed that India’s youth had grown defiant and would not tolerate the slavery of the British.
- Although the Communists, the Muslim League, the Akalis and the Ambedkar group were opposed to the 1942 Revolution, it did have, unmistakably, a wide territorial and popular base.
- The Revolution, generally, was fiercest in the areas where the great patriotic revolt of 1857 had taken place.