Round Table Conferences

Round Table Conferences
Round Table Conferences

The Round Table Conferences were a series of three conferences held in London from 1930 to 1932 between British and Indian leaders to form a new constitution for India, which was formalized in the 1935 Government of India Act.

The Indian National Congress and Mohandas K. Gandhi wanted immediate and complete self-rule for India, while the British wanted to grant India dominion status eventually and keep India as part of the British Empire.

The conference was held in London from November 12, 1930, to January 19, 1931. Gandhi and the congress boycotted the conference. Moderate Indian leaders, Muslims, and representatives of the princely states attended the conference.

Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald represented Great Britain. By the end of the conference, the idea of a federation was under consideration as the form of government suitable for India. Because the congress had boycotted this conference, Great Britain was anxious to get it involved in the next round.

In order to get the congress to participate in the next conference, Lord Irwin, the viceroy of India, met with Gandhi and concluded the Delhi Pact on March 5, 1931. Gandhi agreed to end the ongoing civil disobedience, and Irwin agreed to release most of the political prisoners. Most importantly, Gandhi agreed that the congress would participate in the second Round Table Conference.

The second Round Table Conference began on September 7, 1931. Gandhi attended the conference as the only representative of the congress. The congress and Gandhi believed that they represented all of India and that only they should deal with the British. The British, on the other hand, wanted other Indians to be represented in part perhaps in order to influence and control the events.

Little was accomplished during the conference, and when no plan could be agreed upon on how different groups would be represented, the British government issued its own Communal Award on August 16, 1932, that outlined how minority groups, especially the Muslims and the untouchables, would be represented. The award did have the provision that it could be overruled if the congress and the minority groups could come to an agreement on their own.

A separate agreement, the Poona Pact, was eventually reached between the untouchables and the congress about the representation of the untouchables. However, no agreement was reached with the All-India Muslim League. The final conference, held from November 17, 1932, to December 25, 1932, also achieved little.

The British parliament passed the Government of India Act in August 1935. The act set up an India Federation, which was to be given control of parts of the Indian government while other parts remained under the control of the British.