First Round Table Conference, 1930

 

Introduction

  • The Round Table Conferences (RTC) of 1930–1932 were a series of peace conferences organized by the British Government and Indian political personalities to discuss constitutional reforms in India.
  • The conference resulted from a review of the Government of India Act of 1919, undertaken in 1927 by the Simon Commission, whose report was published in 1930

 

Background

  • There were increasing demands of granting dominion status to India among a certain section of the British polity.
  • In India, the freedom movement was in full swing with its demand for Swaraj or self-rule spearheaded by Gandhi.
  • The conferences were based on the recommendation of Muhammad Ali Jinnah to Lord Irwin, the then Viceroy of India and James Ramsay MacDonald, the then British Prime Minister, and the Simon Commission report.
  • It was for the first time that the Indians and the British were meeting as ‘equals’. The first conference started on November 12th, 1930

 

First Round Table Conference Features

  • The First Round Table Conference officially inaugurated by King George V on November 12, 1930 in Royal Gallery House of Lords at London and chaired by the Prime Minister
  • Ramsay MacDonald presided over the first Round Table Conference
  • This was the first conference arranged between the British and the Indians as equals
  • The Congress and some prominent business leaders refused to attend, but many other groups of Indians were represented at the conference
  • Participants
    • The first session (Nov. 12, 1930–Jan. 19, 1931) had 73 representatives, from all Indian states and all parties except the Indian National Congress, which was waging a civil disobedience campaign against the government
    • 58 political leaders from British India.
    • 16 delegates from the native princely states.
    • 16 delegates from the three British political parties.
    • The Indian National Congress decided not to participate in the conference. Many of the INC leaders were imprisoned due to their involvement in the civil disobedience movement.
    • Among the British-Indians, the following representatives attended the conference: Muslim League, Hindus, Justice Party, Sikhs, liberals, Parsis, Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans, landlords, labour, women, universities, Sindh, Burma, other provinces, and the representatives from the Government of India
RepresentationMembers
Indian princely statesMaharaja of Alwar, Maharaja of Baroda, Nawab of Bhopal,

Maharaja of Bikaner, Rana of Dholpur, Maharaja of Jammu

and Kashmir, Maharaja of Nawanagar, Maharaja of Patiala

(Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes), Maharaja of Rewa,

Chief Sahib of Sangli, Sir Prabhashankar Pattani (Bhavnagar),

Manubhai Mehta (Baroda), Sardar Sahibzada Sultan Ahmed

Khan (Gwalior), Akbar Hydari (Hyderabad), Mirza Ismail

(Mysore), Col. Kailas Narain Haksar (Jammu and Kashmir)

Muslim LeagueAga Khan III (leader of BritishIndian delegation), Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar, Muhammad Shafi, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Muhammad Zafarullah Khan,

A.K. Fazlul Huq, Hafiz Ghulam Hussain Hidayat Ullah,

Dr.Shafa’at Ahmad Khan, Raja Sher Muhammad Khan of

Domeli and A.H. Ghuznavi

Hindu Mahasabha and its

sympathisers

 B.S. Moonje, M.R. Jayakar

and Diwan Bahadur Raja Narendra Nath

SikhsSardar Ujjal Singh and Sardar Sampuran Singh
ParsisPhiroze Sethna, Cowasji Jehangir and Homi

Mody

WomenBegum Jahanara Shahnawaz and Radhabai

Subbarayan

LiberalsJ.N. Basu, Tej Bahadur Sapru, C.Y. Chintamani,

V.S. Srinivasa Sastri and Chimanlal Harilal Setalvad

Justice PartyArcot

Ramasamy Mudaliar, Bhaskarrao Vithojirao Jadhav and Sir

A.P. Patro

Anglo-IndiansHenry Gidney
Indian ChristiansB.Shiva Rao and K.T. Paul
EuropeansSir Hubert Carr, Sir Oscar

de Glanville (Burma), T.F. Gavin Jones, C.E. Wood (Madras)

Government of IndiaNarendra

Nath Law, Bhupendra Nath Mitra, C.P. Ramaswami Iyer and

M. Ramachandra Rao.

 

Issues discussed in the First Round Table Conference

  • Dr B R Ambedkar demanded separate electorates for the ‘untouchables’.
  • Federal structure
  • Provincial constitution
  • Provinces of Sindh and NWFP
  • Minorities
  • Defence services
  • Franchise
  • Executive responsibility to the legislature
  • Tej Bahadur Sapru moved the idea of an All-India Federation. This was supported by the Muslim League. The princely states also supported this on the condition that their internal sovereignty is maintained.

 

Outcome

  • Nothing much was achieved at the conference.
  • It was generally agreed that India was to develop into a federation, there were to be safeguards regarding defence and finance, while other departments were to be transferred
    • But, little was done to implement these recommendations and civil disobedience continued in India
    • As a result, the First Round Table Conference was deemed a failure
  • Its principal achievement was an insistence on parliamentarianism—an acceptance by all, including the princes, of the federal principle—and on dominion status as the goal of constitutional development
  • Eventually, the British government realised that the participation of the Indian National Congress was necessary in any discussion on the future of constitutional government in India

 

Conclusion

  • Observing the impasse created over the RTC because of the non-cooperation of the Congress, the Government released the Congress leaders and withdrew the notification declaring the Congress to be an unlawful association.
  • After this gesture by the Government the working Committee authorized Gandhi to seek an interview with Lord Irwin.
    • On various days between February 17 and March 5 Gandhi had private interviews with the viceroy; the ultimate result being the well-known Gandhi-Irwin pact.
    • After the pact , Gandhi went to London to take part in the second RTC towards the end of 1931