Gandhi-Irwin Pact - [March 5, 1931] This Day in History

05 March 1931

Gandhi-Irwin Pact

What happened?

Mahatma Gandhi and Lord Irwin

The historic Gandhi-Irwin Pact was concluded between Mahatma Gandhi and the then viceroy of India, Lord Irwin on 5th March 1931. It was significant because it was the first time Gandhi and the viceroy met as ‘equals’.

This is an important topic in the modern history segment of the UPSC syllabus.

Gandhi-Irwin Pact

  • The Second Round Table Conference was to be conducted in London in 1931. The Indian National Congress under the leadership of Gandhi started the Salt Satyagraha in 1930.
  • Gandhi had written a letter to Lord Irwin declaring his intention of defying the unjust salt law.
  • Accordingly, the Salt Satyagraha started with the famous Dandi march on March 12, 1930. Many including Gandhi were imprisoned and the Satyagraha became very popular with a lot of Indians. This event drew widespread publicity all over the world and brought all eyes on India and Gandhi. Gandhi and the non-violent fight of Indians against unjust British imperialism brought sympathy for Indians and showed the British in a bad light.
  • Irwin wanted this and the Satyagraha to come to an end. So, he ordered the unconditional release of Gandhi who then agreed to meet the viceroy.
  • So, Irwin held a series of talks with Gandhi. A total of 8 meetings were held between the two, who were labelled “the two Mahatmas” by Sarojini Naidu.
  • The agreement they concluded was called the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. Many in Britain and officials from India were livid at the idea of the representative of the British king meeting with Gandhi, a man who was an active leader of a party that was aimed at the ending of British rule over India.
  • But Gandhi was said to be impressed with the sincerity of Lord Irwin.
  • The Congress, as per the pact, agreed to end the civil disobedience movement and participate in the Second Round Table Conference. The government, in return, agreed to release all political prisoners to save all those involved in violence. It also agreed to withdraw all ordinances that curbed the INC from its activities, and allow the peaceful picketing of liquor and foreign clothes shops. The government also consented to lift the ban on the INC and return the confiscated properties of all the Satyagrahis. Finally, the government would allow the collection and production of salt by Indians at the coasts, that is, revoke the salt tax. The government also agreed to treat those government servants who had resigned in the wake of the civil disobedience call leniently.
  • But there were a few demands of Gandhi that were not agreed to. They were: a public inquiry into police excesses and commuting of the death sentences of Bhagat Singh and his accomplices to life imprisonment.
  • The British were willing to give these concessions even though some conservative elements in the government and the civil service wanted stern measures taken against the Indians.
  • The British government led by their Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald knew that the presence of Gandhi and the Congress was required for the Second Round Table Conference to have any significance.
Also on this day

1851: The Geological Survey of India (GSI) was established in Calcutta. 1911: Birth of Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee, the first Chief of the Air Staff of the Indian Air Force.

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

Gandhi-Irwin Pact – [March 5, 1931] – Indian Polity:- Download PDF Here

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