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Photograph of the Federal Structure Committee at the Second Session of the Round-Table Conference at St. James Palace, London (September 1931)

Round Table Conference: the Second Session
(7th September 1931 – 1st December 1931)

Timeline of events at the Second Session and after

September 1931

    • 7th: the second session of the conference opened, with the Federal Structure Committee meeting that afternoon (formally, its 20th meeting).
    • 28th:  the Minorities Committee met (formally, its seventh meeting) and adjourned to allow informal discussions.

October 1931

    • 1st: the Minorities Committee met but further adjourned to 8th October.
    •  5th: with no consensus on federation emerging, Sankey privately suggested (with Hoare’s support) advance in two stages, with provincial autonomy coming first and central responsibility coming later.
    • 8th: Gandhi reported to the Minorities Committee the failure of informal negotiation, with special representation for the depressed classes being resisted by Congress. The Committee further adjourned until 13th November to consider proposed solutions to the situation in the Punjab and the country more broadly.
    • 16th: Gandhi and Muslim delegates met in private, pushing for a compromise deal.
    • 27th: a British general election was held, resulting in a landslide for the National Government, which won 555 seats (474 Conservative, 68 Liberal, 13 National Labour) against the opposition’s 56 (52 Labour, 4 Independent Liberal). MacDonald and Sankey retained chairmanship of the Minorities and Federal Structure committees.

November 1931

    • 4th: the Federal Structure Committee submitted its report on federal finance.
    • 13th: the Minorities Committee met for the third time. Muslim, depressed classes, Anglo-Indian, European commercial and some Indian Christian representatives proposed separate electorates for communal representatives, which was rejected by Hindu and Sikh delegates. Sapru wrote to MacDonald insisting upon provincial autonomy and federation in one bill and against letting provinces decide whether to enter a federation.
    • 18th: MacDonald submitted the final report of the Minorities Committee, noting with regret that no conclusions had been reached.
    • 27th: the Federal Structure Committee presented its fourth report to the conference addressing defence, external relations, financial safeguards and commercial, noting that Muslim members and those representing other minorities had withheld their views until the Minorities Committee had reached conclusions on certain matters.

December 1931

    • 1st: MacDonald closed the conference, announcing progress on federation and  decisions on the provincial status of the North West Frontier Province and Sind. It was announced that committees would be established to continue work on franchise, federal finance and the Princely States, and that they would tour to India over the summer of 1932. If necessary the British government would unilaterally make a decision on the communal question, informed by the RTC debates.
    • 2nd – 3rd: MacDonald presented the results of the conference to the Commons. Winston Churchill attempted to foster criticism of the conference method and results by proposing amendments to the government’s statement in the House of Commons but lost, badly (by 369 to 43 votes).

January 1932

    • 4th: after arriving in Bombay Gandhi was arrested and imprisoned.
    • 28th: the first meeting of the RTC Consultative Committee was held in New Delhi.

March 1932

  • at a meeting with leading Princes in Delhi Viceroy Willingdon aggressively pushed for a resolution of their differences. On 11th March the Maharajas of Patiala and Bikaner reached a pact, proposing conditions through which they could both support plans for federation.

April 1932

  • 8th: Hoare wrote to Willingdon that he didn’t want another cumbersome conference.

May 1932

  • 6th: the Franchise Committee published its report.

June 1932 

  • 2nd: the Federal Finance Committee published its report.
  • 15th: Hoare secured the backing of MacDonald, Sankey and Lothian for jettisoning the conference method.
  • 27th: Hoare announced to the Commons that there would be no third session  of the RTC.
  • June-July:  Sapru led resistance by Indian Liberals, and others, against the ditching of the conference method.

July 1932

      • 6th: Sapru and Jayakar resigned from the RTC consultative committee in protest at the dropping of the conference method. Other members followed suit.
      • 27th: Viceroy Willingdon wrote to Hoare regarding his extreme concern regarding the effect in India, especially regarding the support of the Princely States and Liberals, of the abandonment of the conference method, and pleaded for a third conference session in London.
      • 28th: the Indian States Finance Committee published its report.

August 1932

  • 9th: Sapru, Jayakar, Joshi and others issued a memorandum against Hoare’s proposals for completing the RTC process via London committee.
  • 16th: MacDonald’s government issued the Communal Award. It retained separate electorates for Muslims, Sikhs and Europeans and extended the special constituencies for other groups. In the Punjab and Bengal Muslim majorities could only be formed should seats also be won in some of these special constituencies (eg. Universities, commerce or labour).  Separate electorates were announced for untouchables, contradicting Gandhi’s policy at the second RTC session.
  • 18th: Gandhi informed Hoare that he would begin a fast to the death against ‘untouchable’ separate electorates on 20th September.
  • 24th: the “Poona Pact” was signed between Gandhi and Ambedkar, instating reserved seats but not separate electorates for ‘untouchables’.

September 1932

  • 5th: In the face of campaigning from officials and non-officials in India, Hoare relented and a third conference session was announced.

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