Gandhi-Irwin Pact

The British Indian government unconditionally released Gandhi and all other members of the working committee of Indian National Congress on 25th January 1931. The Congress working committee authorised Mahatma Gandhi to initiate the discussion with Lord Irwin. After the completion of this discussion, an agreement was signed between the Viceroy Lord Irwin representing the British Indian government and Gandhi, representing Indian National Congress and Indian people in Delhi on 14th February 1931. The Gandhi-Irwin Pact or Delhi pact placed Indian National Congress on equal footing with the British Indian government.

Facts about Gandhi Irwin Pact

  1. The Mahatma Gandhi Irwin pact singed by Mahatma Gandhi and the British Indian Viceroy of India, Lord Irwin on 5 March 1931.
  2. The pact was signed before the start of second round table conference in london.
  3. Before Mahatma Gandhi Irwin pact singed; the viceroy in 1929 had given a vague offer about the Dominion status.
  4. The British officials and leaders were angry at the idea of a pact with Congress as the declared goal of INC was the end of British Raj from India.
  5. Winston expressed his anger in the following words- "the nauseating and humiliating spectacle of this one-time Inner Temple lawyer, now seditious fakir, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceroy's palace, there to negotiate and parley on equal terms with the representative of the King-Emperor."
  6. Ramsay MacDonald, however, wanted peace with INC and Gandhi to make the second round table conference a success.

Viceroy Irwin accepted the following demands of Gandhi after the signing of Gandhi-Irwin Pact :

  • Releasing of all the political Prisoners who were not involved in violence.
  • The remission of all the fines which were not yet collected.
  • The return of all the lands which were not yet sold to the third parties.
  • Right to make salt for personal use in the coastal areas.
  • Lenient treatment to the government servants who had resigned on the call of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • The right to peaceful, non-violent and non aggressive picketing.
  • The withdrawal of the emergency ordinances by the British Indian government.

The Viceroy Lord Irwin did not accept the following demands of Mahatma Gandhi:

  • The commutation of death sentence of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev to life sentence.
  • The demand for a public enquiry of excesses committed by police during the civil disobedience movement.

On behalf of Indian National Congress, Mahatma Gandhi agreed to suspend the civil disobedience movement after the signing of Gandhi-Irwin Pact. He also agreed to participate in the next round table conference on the question of constitutional reforms based on the three pillars of Federation, Indian responsibility and the safeguards which were necessary for India's interests covering the areas of Defence, External Affairs, the position of minorities, financial credit of India etc.

Mahatma Gandhi Irwin Pact Controversy

There was a controversy over the signing of Gandhi Irwin pact and the issue of commutation of death sentence of Bhagat Singh to life imprisonment. Mahatma Gandhi was criticized for not making commutation of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev as a condition for signing the pact. However, Mahatma Gandhi had tried his best to save the lives of the three national heroes. He bowed down to the sacrifice of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, and Sukhdev. But he did not support the ideologies followed by them as a path to get independence. He was shown black flag demonstrations by the Punjab naujawan Bharat Sabha as a protest for his failure to secure commutation for Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev.

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