The Communal Award was made by the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald on 16 August 1932 granting separate electorates in India for the Forward Caste, Lower Caste, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans and Untouchables (now known as the Dalits) etc. The principle of weightage was also applied.
The reason behind introduction of this 'Award' was that Ramsay MacDonald considered himself as 'a friend of the Indians' and thus wanted to resolve the issues in India. The 'Communal Award' was announced after the failure of the Second of the Three Round Table Conferences (India).
The 'award' attracted severe criticism from Mahatma Gandhi
As a result of the Third Round Table Conference, in November 1932, the then Prime Minister of Britain Ramsay Macdonald gave his 'award', known as the Communal Award. It provided separate representation for the Forward Caste, Lower Caste, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans and Dalits. The Untouchables were assigned a number of seats to be filled by election from special constituencies in which Untouchables could vote.
The Award was highly controversial and opposed by Gandhi, who was in Yerwada jail, and fasted in protest against it. Gandhi feared that it would disintegrate Hindu society. However, the Communal Award was supported by many among the minority communities, most notably the leader of the Dalits, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. According to Ambedkar, Gandhi was ready to award separate electorates to Muslims and Sikhs. But Gandhi was reluctant to give separate electorates to Lower Castes. He was afraid of division inside Congress and Hindu society due to separate lower caste representations. But Ambedkar insisted for separate electorate for lower caste. After lengthy negotiations, Gandhi reached an agreement with Ambedkar to have a single Hindu electorate, with Untouchables having seats reserved within it. This is called the Poona Pact. Electorates for other religions like Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans remained separate.
Akali Dal, the representative body of the Sikhs, was also highly critical of the Award since only 19% was reserved to the Sikhs in Punjab, as opposed to the 51% reservation for the Muslims and 30% for the Hindus.
- Helen M. Nugent, "The communal award: The process of decision‐making." South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 2#1-2 (1979): 112-129.
- Asgharali Engineer (2006). They too fought for India's freedom: the role of minorities. Hope India Publications. p. 177. ISBN 978-81-7871-091-4.
- Bipan Chandra Engineer (1989). India's Struggle for Independence. Penguin India. p. 290. ISBN 978-0-140-10781-4.
- Nugent, Helen M. "The communal award: The process of decision‐making." South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies 2#1-2 (1979): 112-129.
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