The Second Session opened on September 7, 1931. It was attended by Mahatma Gandhi, B. R. Ambedkar, and other Indian & British representatives.

The Congress, who 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 made Congress attend the Second Round Table Conference, which opened on 7 September. 

MacDonald was still Prime Minister of Britain. He was heading a coalition government (the “National Government”) with a Conservative majority, including Sir Samuel Hoare as a new Secretary of State for India. 

On 7 November 1931 Gandhi secretly met with Malcolm MacDonald in his rooms at Balliol College, Oxford. He took the opportunity to gain publicity from a tour of the East End and visit Lancashire cotton mill. But he was unsuccessful on convince the government to grant self-rule: of more urgency was the gathering Agrarian Crisis and Congress’s newest campaign for a fair rent.

The discussion led to the passing of the Government of India Act 1935, yet the Governor of United Provinces was happy to be rid of Gandhi’s campaigns “playing havoc with six or seven million tenants in the UP.” When Nehru criticized that the famine relief program was poor, he was already asking for a Kisan Rent strike, and Patel called for a satyagraha. 

When quizzed in London about his plans for the conference, Gandhi averred he could do nothing about agrarian problems from England. Little was obtained other than the Government realized they had to tackle absentee landlordism in India to avert disaster.

Participants

British Representatives:

  • Labour: Ramsay MacDonald, Wedgwood Benn, Arthur Henderson, William Jowitt, Hastings Lees-Smith, F. W.hick-Lawrence, Lord Sankey, Lord Snell, J. H. Thomas
  • Conservative: Viscount Hailsham, Samuel Hoare, Earl Peel, Oliver Stanley, Marquess of Zetland
  • Scottish Unionist: Walter Elliot
  • Liberal: Isaac Foot, Henry Graham White, Robert Hamilton, Marquess of Lothian, Marquess of Reading,

Indian States’ Representatives: 

Maharaja of Alwar, Maharaja of Baroda, Nawab of Bhopal, Maharaja of Bikaner, Maharao of Kutch, Rana of Dholpur, Maharaja of Indore, Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Maharaja of Kapurthala, Maharaja of Nawanagar, Maharaja of Patiala, Maharaja of Rewa, Chief Sahib of Sangli, Raja of Korea, Raja of Sarila, Sir Prabhashankar Pattani (Bhavnagar), Manubhai Mehta (Baroda), Sardar Sahibzada Sultan Ahmed Khan (Gwalior), Sir Muhammad Akbar Hydari (Hyderabad), Mirza Ismail (Mysore), Col. K.N. Haksar (Jammu and Kashmir), T. Raghavaiah (Travancore), Liaqat Hayat Khan (Patiala)

Muslim Representatives: 

Allama Iqbal joined in with other Muslim leaders

British-Indian Representatives:

Indian States Delegation Staff

V. T. Krishnamachari (Baroda), Richard Chenevix-Trench (Hyderabad), Nawab Mahdi Yar Jung (Hyderabad), S. M. Bapna (Indore), Amar Nath Atal (Jaipur), J. W. Young (Jodhpur), Ram Chandra Kak (Jammu and Kashmir), Sahibzada Abdus Samad Khan (Rampur), K. C. Neogy (Orissa states), L. F. Rushbrook Williams, Jarmani Dass, Muhammad Saleh Akbar HydariK. M. PanikkarN. Madhava Rao

British Delegation Staff: 

H. G. Haig, V. Dawson, K. S. Fitze, J. G. Laithwaite, W. H. Lewis, P. J. Patrick, John Coatman, G. T. Garratt, R. J. Stopford

British Indian Delegation Staff: 

Geoffrey Corbett, A. Latifi, Girija Shankar BajpaiBenegal Rama RauSyed Amjad AliPrince Aly Khan, A. M. Chaudhury, Mahadev DesaiGovind MalaviyaK. T. Shah, P. Sinha

Secretariat-General:

R. H. A. Carter, K. Anderson, C. D. Deshmukh, J. M. Sladen, Hugh MacGregor, G. F. Steward, A. H. Joyce, Syed Amjad Ali, Ram Babu Saksena

Proceedings

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

Congress Representation

The Gandhi-Irwin Pact opened the way for Congress participation in this conference. Gandhi was invited from India and attended as the sole official Congress representative accompanied by Sarojini Naidu and 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

  • the Untouchables were Hindus and should not be treated as a “minority”
  • that there should be no separate electorates or special safeguards for Muslims or other minorities

Other Indian participants rejected these claims. This pact was asked to call off the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) and if he did so the prisoners of the British government would be freed except 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.

At the end of the conference, Ramsay MacDonald began 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. 

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

Gandhi announced that he would work only on behalf of the Harijans: he reached a compromise with the leader of depressed classes, Dr. B. R. Ambedka. The two finally resolved the situation with the Poona Pact of 1932. But not before the conference of All-India Depressed Classes had specifically ‘denounced the claim made by Gandhi.’

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