7 September 1931
The Second Round Table Conference started in London.
On 7th September 1931, the first session of the Second Round Table Conference began in London. This was the second in a series of three conferences held by Britain with the Indian leaders to discuss constitutional reforms.
- The Labour Party which had come to power in Britain in 1929 with Ramsay MacDonald as the Prime Minister decided to hold a series of round table conferences (RTCs) to discuss constitutional reforms in India.
- The first RTC was held from November 1930 to January 1931. But in this conference, the Indian National Congress (INC) did not take part since many of their leaders were imprisoned because of the on-going civil disobedience movement. The first RTC was considered a failure because although many principles were agreed upon, not much was done by way of implementation, and the INC continued its civil disobedience movement.
- During the second RTC, Lord Wellingdon was India’s Viceroy and the PM was Ramsay MacDonald although he was now heading a coalition government.
- There was an outrage in India against Winston Churchill’s statement calling Mahatma Gandhi a ‘Naked Seditious Fakir’.
- Also, this was a period during which there were a number of revolutionary activities in the country in which many Englishmen were killed.
- The conference lasted till December 1931.
Who were the attendees?
- Ramsay MacDonald
- Other British delegates from different political parties in the UK.
- Indian Maharajas, princes and Diwans.
- INC – Mahatma Gandhi, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Rangaswami Iyengar
- Muslims – Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Muhammad Iqbal, Aga Khan III, etc.
- Hindus – M R Jayakar, etc.
- Depressed classes – Dr B R Ambedkar
- Women – Sarojini Naidu, etc.
- Sikhs, Indian Christians, Parsis, Europeans, Anglo-Indians, Justice Party, Liberals, labour, industry, landlords, Burma, Sindh and other provinces.
The proceedings and result
- In this conference, the British decided to award a separate communal electorate for minorities. The INC and Gandhi were strongly against this. This award was known as the Communal Award or the MacDonald Award.
- There was a disagreement between Gandhi and Ambedkar on the issue of treating the Depressed Classes as a separate minority. Gandhi was against treating the Depressed Classes as a separate entity outside Hinduism. This was resolved through the Poona Pact of 1932.
- The INC claimed to speak for the whole of India but this was contested by the other delegates. There seemed to be no consensus on many issues among Indians.
- The INC was against giving separate electorates to different sections of society but almost all minorities wanted separate electorates.
- Hence, even the Second RTC was deemed a failure as nothing substantial came out of it.
Also on this day
1822: Brazil declared independence from 322 years of Portuguese colonial rule. 1933: Birth of Ela Bhatt, founder of Self-Employed Women's Association of India (SEWA) in Ahmedabad. 1974: The Lusaka Accord was signed between Portugal and the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique which ultimately led to the independence of Mozambique in 1975. This day is celebrated as ‘Victory Day’ in Mozambique.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.