The three Round Table Conferences of 1930–1932 were a series of peace conferences organized by the British Government and Indian political personalities to discuss constitutional reforms in India. These started in November 1930 and ended in December 1932. These were prominent part of India Freedom Struggle where the issues were discussed directly with the British gvernment. There are part of UPSC mains GS paper 1.
- First Round Table Conference
- Second Round Table Conference
- Third Round Table Conference
FIRST ROUND TABLE CONFERENCE
The Round Table Conferences were a series of three conferences conducted by the Labour Party-led British government to deliberate upon and bring about constitutional reforms in British India during 1930 – 32. There were three such conferences. The First Round Table Conference was held between November 1930 and January 1931 at London.
- 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 the charismatic 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.
- 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.
- Federal structure
- Provincial constitution
- Provinces of Sindh and NWFP
- Defence services
- Executive responsibility to the legislature
- Dr B R Ambedkar demanded separate electorates for the ‘untouchables’.
- 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.
- The First Round Table Conference lasted till 19th January 1931.
- Although many principles on reforms were agreed upon, not much was implemented and the Congress Party carried on its civil disobedience. The Conference was regarded as a failure.
- The British government understood the importance and the need for the Congress Party to make any decision on India’s political future.
SECOND ROUND TABLE CONFERENCE
- After the failure of first Round table conference, British government realised that they need to involve INC for any kind of discussion related to constitution reforms, to succeed.
- So, After British Government signed an agreement with Gandhiji. This agreement is called Gandhi-Irwin Pact. Based on this agreement, INC stopped Civil Disobedience Movement and was ready to send their representative to Second Round Table Conference.
- So, for these discussions, British government held 3 round table conferences at London during 1930 – 1932.
- British delegates belonging to various political parties including the British Prime
Minister, James Ramsay Macdonald.
- Indian princely states represented by Maharajas, princes and divans.
- British Indians represented by:
Indian National Congress (INC) – Mahatma Gandhi, Rangaswami Iyengar, Madan
- Muslims – Md. Ali Jinnah, Aga Khan III, Muhammad Iqbal, etc.
- Hindus – M R Jayakar, etc.
- Depressed classes – Dr B R Ambedkar
- Women – Sarojini Naidu, etc.
- Liberals, Justice Party, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Parsis, Europeans, Anglo-Indians,
industry, labour, landlords, Burma, Sindh and other provinces.
- The session started on 7 September 1931. The major difference between the first and the second conference was that the INC was participating in the second one. This was one of the results of the Gandhi-Irwin Pact.
- Another difference was that unlike the previous time, British PM Macdonald was heading not a Labour government, but a National government. The Labour Party had been toppled two weeks before in Britain.
- The British decided to grant a communal award for representing minorities in India by providing for separate electorates for minority communities. Gandhi was against this.
- In this conference, Gandhi and Ambedkar differed on the issue of separate electorates for the untouchables. Gandhi was against treating untouchables as separate from the Hindu community. This issue was resolved through the Poona Pact 1932.
- The second round table conference was deemed a failure because of the many disagreements among the participants. While the INC claimed to speak for the whole of the country, other participants and leaders of other parties contested this claim.
- With the advent of the coalition Government in England, the whole atmosphere of the Second Round Table conference got changed and the sole outcome of this session was the widening of the gap between the Congress and the minorities. Except Sikhs, all of the minorities (including Dalits) wanted to get their own separate electorates.
- So, on the one side, Minorities were in opposition, who wanted to reach at an agreement among them. On the other side, it was the antagonistic British Government, which was for anything opposite to the Indian aspirations. Result? Gandhi came back, disappointed, without any achievement.
- The main topic raised during second round table was separate electorate. Muslims, Depressed Class, Christians, Anglo-Indians and depressed class i.e. everybody was demanding separate electorate for themselves.
- Even-though everybody was demanding separate electorate but no body had any idea how the division of seats will happen.
THIRD ROUND TABLE CONFERENCE
The third Round Table Conference was held on the 17th of November, 1932. Like the previous two Conferences, it was held in London. But, it was just a Conference in name. Indian National Congress, after experiences of the previous Conference and other circumstances, refused to participate in the Third Round Table Conference.
- Only 46 delegates in total took part in this conference.
The INC and the Labour Party decided not to attend it. (The INC wasn’t invited).
- Indian princely states were represented by princes and divans.
British Indians were represented by the Aga Khan (Muslims), depressed classes(Ambedkar), women, Europeans, Anglo-Indians and labour groups.
- Not much was achieved in this conference also.
- The Conference was attended by the representatives of the Muslim League who wanted a separate nation for Muslims. The Muslim League was headed by the eminent lawyer, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.
- On the basis of the discussions held during the Third Round Table Conference, the famous ‘White Paper’ was released. This White Paper contained the proposed provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935. The provisions contained in this paper were ideal. They ensured a representative government.
Reasons of failure
- Lord Irwin was replaced by Lord Wellington who was not ready to listen to the people and wanted everyone to follow whatever he says.
- Before the conference Ramsay McDonald announced the Communal Award which was surely a huge mistake in its own.
- It declared Muslim majority in Hindu majority areas while Muslim minority in Muslim majority areas.
- The Congress clearly was outraged and boycotted it. the Muslims however were weak and at least it was giving them something so they accepted.
These three Round Table Conferences did not yield much result. Two of these conferences were boycotted by the Indian National Congress. These Conferences actually resulted in communal differences between people of various groups. The Round Table Conferences made the Indian leaders realise that no compromise could be reached. Purna Swaraj became their ultimate goal, and they did not accept a dominion status for India. Thus, Round Table Conferences are important in the history of the struggle for independence of India. To read more articles on Modern India History click here