Round Table Conferences (1930-33)

Lord Irwin took over as Viceroy in the beginning of April 1926. His efforts towards the prosperity of India were sincere. It was his integrity and earnestness because of which the Quaid soon developed a strong bond of friendship and respect with him. Lord Irwin made a monumental declaration on the 31st of October 1929, after returning from England from a four-month visit. His declaration made two major points. Firstly, that it was implicit in the declaration of 1917 that the natural issue of India’s constitutional progress, as there contemplated, was the attainment of Dominion Status.





And secondly in response to the Indians outrage over the Simon Commission, he said that the representatives of different parties would discuss any further reforms that would be introduced in the subcontinent in the Round Table conferences.

The Quaid was satisfied by the declaration made by Lord Irwin but Jawaharlal Nehru in his presidential address on the 31st of October 1929 was not as convinced. He said that he appreciated the Viceroy’s good intention but did not trust the British, as they were wary of them. Gandhi passed a resolution stating that he did not expect anything constructive to be achieved by the Round Table conferences; the Congress would therefore boycott them. The All-India Congress Committee also decided to launch a civil-disobedience movement under the leadership of Gandhi.

The King inaugurated the first Round Table conference in the Royal Gallery of the House of Lords on the 12th of November 1930. The total number of members attending this conference was eighty-nine, which included sixteen representatives of the three political parties of Britain and sixteen from the Princely States of India. The remaining fifty-seven were from the political parties of India. The conference was attended by prominent Muslim leaders like Jinnah, Shafi, Aga Khan and Muhammad Ali along with Hindu liberals such as Sastri, Sapru and Jayakar.The Sikhs, the depressed classes, the Anglo-Indians and the Christians were all represented. All except the Congress were present, but the absence of the Congress representatives created a major obstacle in the way of any substantial progress that could have been made by the conference, as it was the largest and most active party operating in the sub-continent.

The Quaid persuaded Lord Irwin to attend the conference but he was unable to do so due to his hectic schedule in India. It was confirmed in the conference that the system of government in the Center would be federal. However, the demand of the Indians to give India Dominion status as soon as possible got a somewhat luke-warm response from the British.


Ramsay MacDonald, the Prime Minister of Britain in his concluding statement said:

‘It is the duty of the communities to come to an agreement’

And also,

‘Those engaged at present in civil disobedience’ should also try and cooperate with the government. Jinnah complained about the delay being made in giving India self-rule to which the British responded saying that all the parties in India must be consulted, implying the Congress, which was not present. Jinnah was exasperated by this and said that as far as this issue was concerned the Congress was in agreement with all the other parties of India. He said:

‘Seventy million of Muslims-all, barring a few individuals here and there- have kept aloof from the non-cooperation movement. Thirty-five or forty millions of depressed classes have set their face against the non-cooperation movement. Sikhs and Christians have not joined it. Do you want every one of the parties who have still maintained that their proper place is to go to this Conference, and across the table to negotiate and come to a settlement which will satisfy the aspirations of India, to go back and join the rest?’

Before the second Round Table conference, Lord Irwin released Gandhi unconditionally from prison. Gandhi had been arrested in connection with his non-cooperation movement. Gandhi and Irwin held talks and reached the Gandhi-Irwin Agreement on the 5th of March 1931.In, which it was, decided that the civil disobedience movement would be ended, and the Congress would attend the second round Table Conference. Gandhi was chosen to represent the Congress in the Conference. The Quaid maintained that without resolving the Hindu-Muslim issue, there was nothing to be achieved by the second Round Table Conference. Lord Willingdon meanwhile succeeded Lord Irwin as the Viceroy. Gandhi claimed at the Conference that the Congress was the only party really representing the whole of India and power over India should be handed over to it. He said that the Congress would solve the minority issue after sovereignty was handed over to it. The Second Round Table Conference was productive for the Muslims for two reasons. Firstly because it was decided that Sind would be separated from Bombay if it could sustain itself financially and secondly, the NWFP was made a Governor’s Province.




The third Round Table Conference had no substantial results. The Quaid and Allama Iqbal were not invited to it. The Congress and most of the Princely States did not participate in it either. Only forty-six delegates attended this Conference.


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