Round Table Conference


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Gandhi at the Round Table Conference in London

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David Low on the Round Table Conference, 1931

On August 29, 1931, Gandhi sailed for England in the SS Rajputana to attend the Second Round Table Conference, He went as the sole representative of the Indian National Congress. All the delegates were nominees of the British Government; they had a sprinkling of able individuals, but most of them were drawn from the princely order, the landlords, the titled gentry and the leaders of communal groups and vested interests.

What with its composition and what with its procedure, which the British Government controlled, the conference side-tracked its energies into secondary issues and particularly the communal problem. Gandhi was prepared to give a "blank cheque" to Muslims and other minorities to remove their legitimate fears, provided they were willing to press the national demand for freedom. Most of the Hindu delegates were not ready for this gesture, and the Muslim nationalists were not represented at the conference.

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Gandhi in Lancashire, September 1931

Gandhi pleaded for an honourable and equal partnership between Britain and India, held not by force but "by the silken cord of love" He found the odds against him. There was a financial crisis and a change of government in Britain; in the new Ministry, the Conservatives were heavily represented. The British public was preoccupied with domestic issues; for it, the financial crisis was a more urgent issue than the niceties of an Indian Constitution. Inevitably, even if imperceptibly, there was a change in emphasis. Sir Samuel Hoare, the new Secretary of State, told Gandhi that he sincerely believed that Indians were unfit for complete self-government.