Gandhi-Irwin Pact, 1931
It was signed on March 5, 1931 before the second Round Table Conference in London. This was a political agreement.
In October, 1929 Lord Irwin made an unclear offer of a ‘dominion status’ for India. It marked the end of a period of civil disobedience in India against British rule. Gandhiji and his followers had initiated the Salt March between March and April 1930. Gandhiji’s arrest and imprisonment at the end of the march, for making salt, sparked off one of his more effective civil disobedience movements.
By the end of 1930, thousands of Indians, including Jawaharlal Nehru, were in jail. The movement had generated worldwide publicity, and Irwin was looking for a way to end it. Gandhiji was released from custody in January 1931, and the two men began negotiating the terms of the pact.
Gandhiji was authorised by the then President of the Congress, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, to negotiate with Lord Irwin. The outcome of these talks was the Gandhi Irwin pact. They had eight meetings which lasted for a total of 24 hours.
Gandhiji was impressed with Irwin’s sincerity and on behalf of the Indian National Congress agreed to discontinue the Civil Disobedience movement. The Congress agreed to join the second Round Table Conference to chalk out constitutional reforms. Some of the other conditions were that the British would withdraw all orders imposing curbs on the activities of the Indian National Congress. They also agreed to withdraw trials relating to several offences except those involving violence and release of prisoners arrested for participating in the civil disobedience movement. It was also agreed that the British would remove the tax on salt, which allowed Indians to produce, trade, and sell salt legally and for their own use.
Second Round Table Conference, 1932
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 Two weeks before the Conference convened, the Labour government had been replaced by the Conservatives.
At the conference, Gandhi claimed to represent all people of India. This view, however, was not shared by other delegates. In fact, the division between the many attending groups was one of the reasons why the outcomes of the second Round Table Conference were again no substantial results regarding India’s constitutional future.
Meanwhile, civil unrest had spread throughout India again, and upon return to India Gandhi was arrested along with other Congress leaders. A separate province of Sind was created and the interests of minorities were safeguarded by MacDonald’s Communal Award.
The Communal Award, 1932
The Communal Award was announced by the British Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, in August 1932. This was yet another expression of British policy of divide and rule.
The Muslims, Sikhs and Christians had already been recognised as minorities. The Communal Award declared the depressed classes also to be minorities and entitled them to separate electorates.
The Poona Pact, 1932
Signed by B.R. Ambedkar on behalf of the depressed classes in September 1932, the Pact abandoned separate electorates for the depressed classes. But the seats reserved for the depressed classes were increased from 71 to 147 in provincial legislatures and 18 per cent of the total in the central legislature. The Poona Pact was accepted by the Government as an amendment to the Communal Award.
- Seat reservation for the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in provincial legislature
- The STs and SCs would form an electoral college which would elect four candidates for the general electorate
- The representation of these classes was based on the standards of joint electorates and reserved seats
- About 19 per cent of seats were to be reserved for these classes in legislature
- The system of election to the panel of candidates in both, Central and Provincial Legislature should come to end in 10 years, unless it ends on mutual terms
- The representation of the classes through reservation should continue as per clauses 1 and 4 until determined, else by mutual agreement between the communities
- The franchise for the Central and Provincial Legislatures of these classes should be indicated in the Lothian Committee report
- There should be a fair representation of these classes
- In every province, the SCs and STs should be provided with sufficient educational facilities.