Round Table Conferences (India)

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This article is about Anglo-Indian round table conferences. For Dutch-Indonesian round table conference, see Dutch-Indonesian Round Table Conference. For other uses, see Round Table (disambiguation).

The three Round Table Conferences of 1930–32 were a series of conferences organized by the British Government to discuss constitutional reforms in India. They were conducted as per the recommendation by the report submitted by the Simon Commission in May 1930. Demands for swaraj, or self-rule, in India had been growing increasingly strong. By the 1930s, many British politicians believed that India needed to move towards dominion status. However, there were significant disagreements between the Indian and the British political parties that the Conferences would not resolve.

First Round Table Conference (November 1930 – January 1931)[edit]

The Round Table Conference was opened officially by Lord Irwin on November 12, 1930 at London and chaired by the British Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald.

The three British political parties were represented by sixteen delegates. There were fifty-seven political leaders from British India and sixteen delegates from the princely states. In total 89 delegates from India attended the Conference. However, the Indian National Congress, along with Indian business leaders, kept away from the conference. Many of them were in jail for their participation in Civil Disobedience Movement.[1]



The conference started with 6 plenary meetings where delegates put forward their issues. These were followed by discussions on the reports of the sub-committees on Federal Structure, Provincial Constitution, Minorities, Burma, North West Frontier Province, Franchise, Defence, Services and Sindh. These were followed by 2 more plenary meetings and a final concluding session.[1] It was difficult for progress to be made in the absence of the Indian National Congress but some advances were made.

The idea of an All-India Federation was moved to the centre of discussion by Tej Bahadur Sapru.[2] All the groups attending the conference supported this concept. The princely states agreed to the proposed federation provided that their internal sovereignty was guaranteed. The Muslim League also supported the federation as it had always been opposed to a strong Centre. The British agreed that representative government should be introduced on provincial level.

Other important discussions were the responsibility of the executive to the legislature and a separate electorate for the so-called Untouchables as demanded by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

Second Round Table Conference (September – December 1931)[edit]

The Congress had boycotted the first conference was requested to come to a settlement by Sapru, M. R. Jayakar and V. S. Srinivasa Sastri. A settlement between Mahatma Gandhi and Viceroy Lord Irwin known as the Gandhi–Irwin Pact was reached and Gandhi was appointed as the sole representative of the Congress to the second Round Table Conference. By this time, there was a coalition Government in Britain with a Conservative majority.




The second session opened on September 7, 1931. There were three major differences between the first and second Round Table Conferences. By the second:

The Second Round Table Conference (September 7, 1931)
  • Congress Representation — The Gandhi-Irwin Pact opened the way for Congress participation in this conference. Mahatma Gandhi was invited from India and attended as the sole official Congress representative accompanied by Sarojini Naidu and also Madan Mohan Malaviya, Ghanshyam Das Birla, Muhammad Iqbal, Sir Mirza Ismail (Diwan of Mysore), S.K. Dutta and Sir Syed Ali Imam. Gandhi claimed that the Congress alone represented political India; that the Untouchables were Hindus and should not be treated as a “minority”; and that there should be no separate electorates or special safeguards for Muslims or other minorities. These claims were rejected by the other Indian participants. According to this pact, Gandhi was asked to call off the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) and if he did so the prisoners of the British government would be freed excepting the criminal prisoners, i.e. those who had killed British officials. He returned to India, disappointed with the results and empty-handed.
  • National Government — two weeks earlier the Labour government in London had fallen. Ramsay MacDonald now headed a National Government dominated by the Conservative Party.
  • Financial Crisis – During the conference, Britain went off the Gold Standard further distracting the National Government.

During the Conference, Gandhi could not reach agreement with the Muslims on Muslim representation and safeguards. At the end of the conference Ramsay MacDonald undertook to produce a Communal Award for minority representation, with the provision that any free agreement between the parties could be substituted for his award.

Gandhi took particular exception to the treatment of untouchables as a minority separate from the rest of the Hindu community. He clashed with the leader of depressed classes, Dr.B. R. Ambedkar, over this issue: the two eventually resolved the situation with the Poona Pact of 1932.

Third Round Table Conference (November – December 1932)[edit]

The third and last session assembled on November 17, 1932. Only forty-six delegates attended since most of the main political figures of India were not present. The Labour Party from Britain and the Indian National Congress refused to attend.

From September 1931 until March 1933, under the supervision of the Secretary of State for India, Sir Samuel Hoare, the proposed reforms took the form reflected in the Government of India Act 1935.




  1. ^ a b Indian Round Table Conference Proceedings. Government of India. 1931. 
  2. ^ Menon, V.P. (1957). Transfer of Power in India. Orient Longman Limited. p. 44. Retrieved 29 May 2015. 
  3. ^ Indian Round Table Conference (Second Session) Proceedings of the Plenary Sessions (PDF). 1932. 
  4. ^