Second Round Table Conference, 1931

 

Background

  • The second Round Table Conference was held in London from 7 September 1931 to 1 December 1931 with the participation of Gandhi and the Indian National Congress
  • Two weeks before the Conference convened, the Labour government had been replaced by the Conservatives
  • As a part of Gandhi-Irwin pact, Gandhi agrees to suspend the Civil Disobedience movement and participate in next Round Table Conference(RTC)

 

Participants in Second RTC

RepresentativesMembers
Indian StatesMaharaja of Alwar, Maharaja of Baroda, Maharaja Of Darbhanga , Nawab of Bhopal, Maharaja of Bikaner, Maharao of Kutch, Rana of Dholpur, Maharaja of Indore, Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja of Kapurthala, Maharaja of Nawanagar, Maharaja of Patiala, Maharaja of Rewa, Chief Sahib of Sangli, Raja of Korea, Raja of Sarila, Sir Prabhashankar Pattani (Bhavnagar), Manubhai Mehta (Baroda), Sardar Sahibzada Sultan Ahmed Khan (Gwalior), Sir Muhammad Akbar Hydari (Hyderabad), Mirza Ismail (Mysore), Col. K.N. Haksar (Jammu and Kashmir), T. Raghavaiah (Travancore), Liaqat Hayat Khan (Patiala)
Government of India C. P. Ramaswami Iyer, Narendra Nath Law, M. Ramachandra Rao
Indian National Congress Mahatma Gandhi (He was the sole representative of the Congress).
Muslims Aga Khan III, Maulana Shaukat Ali, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, A. K. Fazlul Huq, Sir Muhammad Iqbal, Muhammad Shafi, Muhammad Zafarullah Khan, Sir Syed Ali Imam, Maulvi Muhammad Shafi Daudi, Raja Sher Muhammad Khan of Domeli, A. H. Ghuznavi, Hafiz Hidayat Hussain, Sayed Muhammad Padshah Saheb Bahadur, Dr. Shafa’at Ahmad Khan, Jamal Muhammad Rowther, Khwaja Mian Rowther, Nawab Sahibzada Sayed Muhammad Mehr Shah
Hindus M. R. Jayakar, B. S. Moonje, Diwan Bahadur Raja Narendra Nath
Depressed Classes B. R. Ambedkar, Rettamalai Srinivasan
Indian ChristiansSurendra Kumar Datta, A. T. Pannirselvam
WomenSarojini Naidu, Begum Jahanara Shahnawaz, Radhabai Subbarayan

 

Proceedings

  • There were three major differences between the first and second Round Table Conferences
    • Congress Representation
      • The Gandhi–Irwin Pact opened the way for Congress participation in this conference.
      • Gandhi was invited from India and attended as the sole official Congress representative accompanied by Sarojini Naidu and also Madan Mohan Malaviya, Ghanshyam Das Birla, Muhammad Iqbal, Sir Mirza Ismail (Diwan of Mysore), S.K. Dutta and Sir Syed Ali Imam.
      • Gandhi claimed that the Congress alone represented political India; that the Untouchables were Hindus and should not be treated as a “minority”; and that there should be no separate electorates or special safeguards for Muslims or other minorities. These claims were rejected by the other Indian participants.
      • According to this pact, Gandhi was asked to call off the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) and if he did so the prisoners of the British government would be freed except the criminal prisoners, i.e. those who had killed British officials. He returned to India, disappointed with the results and empty-handed
    • National Government
      • Two weeks earlier the Labour government in London had fallen.
      • Ramsay MacDonald now headed a National Government dominated by the Conservative Party
    • Financial Crisis
      • During the conference, Britain went off the Gold Standard, further distracting the National Government
    • At the end of the conference Ramsay MacDonald undertook to produce a Communal Award for minority representation
    • Other important discussions were the responsibility of the executive to the legislature and a separate electorate for the Untouchables as demanded by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.
    • Gandhi announced that henceforth he would work only on behalf of the Harijans: he reached a compromise with the leader of depressed classes, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, over this issue; the two eventually resolved the situation with the Poona Pact of 1932

 

Why nothing much was expected from Second RTC?

  • Lord Irwin had been replaced by Lord Willingdon as viceroy in India. Just before the conference

began, the Labour government in England had been replaced by a National Government

  • The British were also angered by the increased revolutionary activities which had claimed many European lives in India.
  • The Right Wing or Conservatives in Britain led by Churchill strongly objected to the British government negotiating with the Congress on an equal basis. They, instead, demanded a strong government in India
  • At the conference, Gandhi (and therefore the Congress) claimed to represent all people of India against imperialism.
    • The other delegates, however, did not share this view.
    • Historians point out that many of the delegates were conservative, government loyalists, and communalists, and these groups were used by the colonial government to neutralise the efforts of Gandhi

 

Outcome of Second RTC

  • The lack of agreement among the many delegate groups meant that no substantial results regarding India’s constitutional future would come out of the conference
  • The session ended with MacDonald’s announcement of:
    • two Muslim majority provinces—North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Sindh;
    • the setting up of an Indian Consultative Committee;
    • setting up of three expert committees—finance, franchise and states; and
    • the prospect of a unilateral British Communal Award if Indians failed to agree
  • Further, the government refused to concede the basic Indian demand of freedom