- The Karachi Congress Session in 1931, was held following the Gandhi–Irwin Pact and in the immediate aftermath of Bhagat Singh’s execution
- As a result, throughout Gandhi’s route to Karachi, he was greeted with black flag demonstrations by the Punjab Naujawan Bharat Sabha, in protest against his failure to secure commutation of the death sentence for Bhagat and his comrades.
- The session is significant, as the Karachi resolution of 1931 was to remain in essence the basic political and economic programme of the Indian National Congress in later years
- The Gandhi-Irwin accord, by which Congress was to call off “civil disobedience” in return for the release of all satyagrahi prisoners, had been reached only a few days earlier following a fortnight of intense discussions between Gandhi and the Viceroy, Lord Irwin.
- Satyagrahis were to be released from jail, salt was to be freed for collection in coastal areas, and forfeited lands were to be returned.
- And at the upcoming Round Table Conference in London, Gandhi was to speak for the Congress’s goal of Swaraj.
- Also, Bhagat Singh’s became the most important ideational presence at the Karachi Congress, virtually dictating its agenda and defining the draft resolution which Nehru put together; after being executed by the British
Congress Resolutions at Karachi
- While disapproving of and dissociating itself from political violence, the Congress admired the ‘bravery’ and ‘sacrifice’ of the three martyrs.
- The Delhi Pact or Gandhi-Irwin Pact was endorsed
- The goal of Purna swaraj was reiterated.
Two resolutions were adopted, one on Fundamental Rights and the other on National Economic Programme, which made the session particularly memorable.
- The Resolution on Fundamental Rights guaranteed:
- free speech and free press
- right to form associations
- right to assemble
- universal adult franchise
- equal legal rights irrespective of caste, creed and sex
- neutrality of state in religious matters
- free and compulsory primary education
- protection to culture, language, script of minorities and linguistic groups
- The Resolution on National Economic Programme included:
- substantial reduction in rent and revenue in the case of landholders and peasants
- exemption from rent for uneconomic holdings
- relief from agricultural indebtedness
- control of usury
- better conditions of work including a living wage, limited hours of work and protection of women workers in the industrial sector
- right to workers and peasants to form unions
- state ownership and control of key industries, mines and means of transport
- This was the first time the Congress spelt out what swaraj would mean for the masses, ”in order to end exploitation of masses, political freedom must include economic freedom of starving millions.”
Significance of Karachi Session
- The socio-economic provision in the Karachi Resolution went on to influence the Constituent Assembly in drawing up Part IV of the Indian Constitution – the Directive Principles of State Policy
- The Karachi Congress met at a time when Gandhi called a ‘truce’ with the British government to negotiate a pact with the Viceroy, Lord Irwin, in February 1931.
- The primary agenda for the Karachi Congress was to ratify the Gandhi-Irwin Pact, which was greatly criticised by nationalists for its compromising nature
- The enlightened vision of the session, guided the Congress in later years. When ministries were formed in 1937 by Congress in various provinces, they tried to execute some of them like legalising trade union, land reforms (partial though), press freedom etc.
- The influence of this resolution can also be found in the formation and recommendation of National Planning committee headed by Subhash Chandra Bose (1938)