India Topic 3: Consultation and Confrontation, 1930-42.


The Round Table Conferences, 1930-32.

The First Round Table Conference convened from 12 November 1930 to 19 January 1931. Before Conference, M. K. Gandhi had initiated the Civil Disobedience Movement on behalf of the Indian National Congress. Consequently, since many of the Congress' leaders were in jail, Congress did not participate in the first conference, but representatives from all other Indian parties and a number of Princes did. The outcomes of this conference were minimal: India was to develop into a federation.

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. At the conference, Gandhi claimed to represent all people of India. This view, however, was not shared by other delegates. 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.

The third Round Table Conference (17 November 1932 - 24 December 1932) was not attended by the Indian National Congress and Gandhi. Many other Indian leaders were also absent. Like the two first conferences, little was achieved.

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The Communal Award and Gandhi's Response, 1932.

The main proposals of this were that:

  • The existing seats of the provincial legislatures were to be doubled.
  • The system of separate electorates for the minorities was to be retained.
  • The Muslims, wherever they were in minority, were to be granted a weightage.
  • Except NWFP, 3 % seats for women were to be reserved in all provinces.
  • The depressed, dalits or the untouchables were to be declared as minorities.
  • Allocation was to be made to labor, landlords, traders and industrialists.

This meant that there would be separate electorates which Gandhi didn’t like.

It was declared by Gandhi for more than once that the separate electorates for the depressed class was an attempt to divide and detach the depressed classes from the main body of Hindus. 

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The Yeravda Pact, 1932.

It was an agreement between Hindu leaders in India granting new rights to untouchables.

The pact, signed at Poona on 24th September 1932, resulted from the communal award made by the British government on the failure of the India parties to agree, which allotted seats in the various legislatures of India to the different communities.

Mahatma Gandhi objected to the provision of separate electorates for the Scheduled (formerly “untouchable”) Castes, which in his view separated them from the whole Hindu community. Though in prison, Gandhi announced a fast unto death, which he began on September 18.


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Partial Implementation of the GoI Act, 1935.

Partial implementation means that the act was never fully put into place, or that not all aspects of it were followed through. The contents of the act were all simply drafted and it lacked any great involvement with Indians.

Any major changes still seemed to radical for Britain at the time, so little was done, or even offered.

No particular group of Indians supported or was even pleased with the Act since they believed that nothing major was offered. Nationalists in particular found it to be limiting in the amount of progress that it offered for their movement, with most political power over the country still in the hands of the British.

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The Outcome of the 1937 Elections.

Congress won 715 seats, out of a total of 1585, which was a great victory as 938 seats were reserved for minority groups. They took power in 8 states, but only after a statement that there would be no government interference. When the first parliament met in 1937, Gandhi was replaced as leader of Congress by Jawaharlal Nehru.

Jinnah had expected cooperation after the election, but Congress refused because the Muslim League had only won 5% of the total Muslim votes and only 22% of the reserved seats for Muslims.

Congress then claimed that it represented all Indians because it gained more Muslim votes than the Muslim League did. This was the first real split between Congress and the Muslim League: it led Jinnah to become furious and determined to strengthen the League.

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Rejuvenation of the Muslim League, 1937-39.

In 1937, the League began to campaign for a separate Muslim state, with support growing rapidly for them over the next 2 years.

Congress’ stubborn attitude to reaching compromise helped to grow the League’s support even more, with many viewing their opposition as childish.

They regarded themselves as representing all Indians which many disagreed with. They also saw the reason to help the Muslim League gain any advantage over them as they wanted to see their main goal come true - to have power over their own unified country.

However, the League only grew from their until Pakistan was founded.

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Divisions within Congress, 1938.

There were divisions within the leadership of Congress: in 1938, Bose was elected as the new President but Gandhi refused to work with him.

This may because Bose was a very radical leader who believed in violence, whereas Gandhi didn’t agree with this approach for progress.

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Attitudes towards the British Raj, 1938.

Many Indians felt a great dislike towards the British Raj because they believed that they were keeping them from having any significant power over their own country.

This could be seen in the Government of India Act 1937 because it was simply a dafted idea of some progressive propositions for the Indian people.

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The Lahore Resolution, 1940.

The Lahore Resolution was a political resolution, or statement drafted between 22nd to 24th March 1940, by the 25-member Working Committee of the All-India Muslim League, and then formally adopted by the Muslim League membership at its general session on 23 March 1940, held at Lahore.

This resolution asked for greater Muslim autonomy within British India. However, later on most people thought of this as a call for a separate Muslim state, Pakistan. In fact, from the declaration made in this resolution in 1940 onwards, the goals of the Muslim League became increasingly fixed upon achieving an independent nation-state.

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The August Offer, 1940.

The August Offer was a proposal made by the British government in 1940 promising the expansion of the Executive Council of the Viceroy of India to include more Indians, the establishment of an advisory war council, giving full weight to minority opinion, and the recognition of Indians' right to frame their own constitution (after the end of the war).

In return, it was hoped that all parties and communities in India would cooperate in Britain's efforts in World War II. The Congress did not trust the good intentions of the British government. 

The Congress Working Committee meeting at Wardha on 21st August 1940 eventually rejected the offer, and asserted its demand for complete freedom from the imperial power. Gandhi viewed it as having widened the gulf between Nationalist India and the British ruler. It was also rejected by Muslim League.

The Muslim League asserted that it would not be satisfied by anything short of partition of India.

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Bose and the Axis Powers.

Bose now turned to Germany and Japan for help with liberating India by force. With Japanese support, he organised the Indian National Army, composed largely of Indian soldiers of the British Indian army who had been captured at Singapore by the Japanese, including many Sikhs as well as Hindus and Muslims.

Japan’s secret service had promoted unrest in South east Asia to destabilise the British War effort, and came to support a number of puppet and provisional governments in the captured regions, including those in Burma, the Philippines and Vietnam, the Provisional Government of Free India, presided by Bose.

His effort, however, was short lived; after the reverses of 1944, the reinforced British Indian Army in 1945 first halted and then reversed the Japanese offensive, beginning the successful part of the Burma Campaign. Bose's Indian National Army surrendered with the recapture of Singapore; Bose died in a plane crash soon thereafter.

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