Second RTC and Second Civil Disobedience Movement

The Second Round Table Conference was held in London in December 1931. The Congress had agreed to attend the second round table conference under the Delhi pact and hence Mahatma Gandhi attended the second round table conference in London. The Second Round table conference was held in a less conductive environment due to various reasons. These reasons were:

  • The labour government of Britain was now replaced by a national coalition government headed by Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald who headed a conservative-dominated cabinet. The secretary of state Samuel Hoare was weak and reactionary. Viceroy Lord Irwin was now replaced by Lord Willingdon.
  • The right wing led by Churchill in Britain was strongly against negotiating with Congress on equal basis. The right wing demanded a strong government in India instead of negotiation with Congress on equal basis. There was a strong reaction against his statement of calling Gandhi a naked seditious Fakir .
  • The period between 1928 to 1931 saw a large number of revolutionary activities in which several Europeans were killed.
  • The majority of delegates in the second round table conference were conservative, loyalist, reactionary and communal men who were pro British. They were used by the British government to show that the Congress did not represent all the Indians which was aimed to neutralize the efforts of Gandhi.
  • The representatives of princely states also not enthusiastic about and all India Federation after the possibility of formation of Congress government receded after the suspension of first civil disobedience movement.

 

Second_round_table conference

Representatives in the Second Round Table Conference in London

  • Indian National Congress- Mahatma Gandhi, Rangaswamy Iyengar, Madan Mohan Malviya.
  • Muslims- Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Aga Khan , Mohammed Iqbal etc
  • Hindus - MR Jayakar etc
  • Depressed classes- Dr BR Ambedkar
  • Indian women- Sarojini Naidu
  • Indian princely states - Maharajas, Princess and the Diwans.
  • British delegates belonging to different political parties of Britain and the Prime Minister, James Ramsay MacDonald.
  • The liberals justice party, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo Indians, representatives of Burma, Sindh, industry, labour, Parsis, landlords were represented in the Second Round Table Conference.

Mahatma Gandhi put forward the following demands

  • Immediate formation of a responsible government with full powers both at the centre and provinces.
  • Mahatma Gandhi iterated the need of partnership between India and Britain as two equal nations.
  • Mahatma Gandhi claimed that Indian National Congress alone represented the political India.
  • The untouchables and depressed classes where Hindus and should not be treated as a minority. There should be no provision of separate electorates for Muslims.
  • The Second Round Table Conference got into a deadlock on the question of separate electorates demanded by Muslims, depressed classes, Christians and Anglo Indians. All these were demanded under minorities pact which was strongly opposed by Gandhi and he made all the constitutional progress conditional on the solving of the issue of separate electorates.

Outcome of Second Round Table Conference in London

  • The Second Round Table Conference in London ended on 11th December 1931 and Gandhi returned to India on December 28 1931 without any achievement.
  • The coming of coalition government in Britain had changed the atmosphere of the second round table conference in London. The Second Round Table Conference had increased the gap between Indian National Congress and other minorities. All other minorities (including depressed classes ) except the sikhs demanded separate electorates.
  • Prime Minister MacDonald announced two Muslim majority provinces North West frontier province and Sindh.
  • Announcement of Indian consultative committee, and 3 expert committee on finance, franchise and States.
  • The possibility of unilateral Communal award by the British, if Indians failed to agree on the issue.

Second Civil Disobedience Movement

The British government failed to concede the basic demand of Congress of granting freedom. Therefore on 29th December 1931, the Congress working committee decided to restart the civil disobedience movement. Thus, second civil disobedience movement was started.

During the period between March 1931 to December 1931 there has been some activity of struggle in various parts of the country. In the United provinces the INC led a movement for rent reduction and against the summary evictions. In the North West Frontier Province, the government unleashed severe repression against the Khudai khidmatgars and the peasants who were agitating against the harsh methods of tax collection by the British Indian government. In Bengal, the British Indian government used draconian ordinances and mass detentions in the name of curbing terrorism. There was also an incident of firing on political prisoners in Hijli jail in September 1931.

Change in the attitude of Government and British officials

The officials of British Indian government had drawn lessons from the Gandhi Irwin pact which had raised the prestige of Indian National Congress and undermined the prestige of the government. They wanted to reverse the trend and hence followed the three main considerations in their policy.

  • Do not allow Mahatma Gandhi to build a tempo for any mass movement.
  • There was no need for the goodwill of Indian National Congress, but the support of government functionaries, loyalist etc was very important.
  • The National Movement should not be allowed to consolidate in the rural areas.

Actions of government

The British Indian government used a series of draconian audiences which led to a virtual Martial Law under the civilian control. The government banned the Congress organisations at all levels. The government arrested Congress leaders, activists, sympathizers and confiscated their properties. The Government occupied the Gandhi Ashrams and banned the Nationalist literature and freedom of the press.

Response of the people

The popular response was massive and full of anger. Around 80,000 Satyagrahis, who were mostly urban and rural poor were imprisoned by the government in the first 4 months. The protests during this period included picketing of shops selling liquor and foreign clothes, illegal gatherings, peaceful demonstrations and protests, symbolic hoisting of national flag and the celebration of national days. The struggle also included Salt Satyagraha, defiance of forest laws, refusal to pay chawkidara tax, and a secret radio transmitter was installed near Bombay. The second civil disobedience movement coincided with upsurges in Kashmir and Alwar. However the second civil disobedience movement could not be sustained for longer periods due to following reasons

  • Mahatma Gandhi and other Congress leaders had no time to build the tempo for the civil disobedience movement.
  • People were not prepared for the struggle against the British.

Mahatma Gandhi withdrew the second civil disobedience movement in April 1934. The movement was withdrawn but the people had not lost their political faith on Indian National Congress and Mahatma Gandhi.

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