Proposed Indian Round Table Conference 1922

Proposed Indian Round Table Conference 1922

Descriptions of what happened vary greatly (listed from the most to least probable)

1. Malaviya Proposed Round Table, The Viceroy Lord Reading Agreed, Mahatma Gandhi Sabotages the Idea [ Read p 194-5] (references not given)

:"The Prince of Wales was due in Calcutta on 24 December, and any more violent disorder there had to be prevented at all costs..... During the next two months over 30,000 people were arrested in India as a whole, and of the top leadership of the Non-Cooperation Movement, only Gandhi remained free…. There was a very real danger for the government that its new wave of repression would drive the Liberals and Moderates back into the Congress camp, which would have been disastrous. Malaviya had been urging the viceroy for some time to call a round-table conference with Gandhi and the Moderates.] In mid-December, Reading agreed, promising at the same time to release the political prisoners, end the repressive measures, and even grant 'full provincial autonomy' if Gandhi would call off the non-co-operation movement…. [footnote 1] At first, Gandhi agreed. But he quickly changed his mind, wiring Malaviya: ‘Non-co-operation can cease only after satisfactory result conference. In no case have I authority to decide for Congress.’ His ‘private notes’ made at the time give a more complex, perhaps more revealing, reason for his decision: ‘I am sorry,' he wrote, 'that I suspect Lord Reading of complicity in the plot to unman India for eternity.’ [footnote 2]

:"There is little doubt that if Gandhi had agreed to attend the conference, the Moderates would have joined forces with him to achieve substantial constitutional concessions. Reading was prepared to give full responsible government to the provinces, despite the doubts of London and most of the senior governors. He told Montagu: ‘I ... was prepared to act on my own responsibility if the proper assurances had been forthcoming.’ This would have been not merely a step but a giant leap towards self-government, advancing the eventual transfer of power by a full 15 years. But it was not to be…. at a stormy annual session of Congress in Ahmedabad, Gandhi came under attack both from those who wanted to seek an accommodation with the government and those who wanted more militant action immediately. But in the end, as always, Gandhi carried the day, His rejection of Reading's offer was confirmed, and he was given dictatorial powers over non-co-operation. [footnote 5] He announced that the postponed campaign of 'offensive civil disobedience' in Bardoli would go ahead.

:"Although they had been upset by Gandhi's intransigence, some of the Moderates were still hoping to find some way of bringing Gandhi and Reading together, to achieve the positive constitutional advances they knew were possible. Jinnah and Malaviya called an all-parties conference in Bombay …. Gandhi attended 'informally', after Congress had agreed to postpone the start of civil disobedience until the end of the month. The motions calling for a round-table conference were passed unanimously, [footnote 3] But then Gandhi threw another spanner in the, refusing to take part. Obsessed with putting full-scale satyagraha to the test, he decided that a conference 'for devising a scheme of full swaraj [is] premature. India has not yet incontestably proved her strength'." [footnote 4]

2. Reading Proposed Round Table – Cabinet Vetoes [ Bridge p. 11] (Based on D. A. Low, “The Government of India and the first Non-cooperation Movement, 1920-22”, Journal of Asian Studies, XXV (1966), pp. 241-59)

:"Lord Reading, the Liberal Viceroy (1921-6), had reached the end of his tether…. faced with massive demonstrations looming against the Prince of Wales in Calcutta, he wavered add asked for permission to convene a round table, conference and offer concessions-possibly full provincial autonomy. An emergency meeting of the Cabinet India Committee refused him outright and told him to arrest Gandhi, who was still at large, forthwith. Still smarting over the Irish Treaty of the previous week, they were not prepared to retreat again at the bidding of a nervous Viceroy whose character some of them doubted. Gandhi was arrested in March 1922 and jailed for six years (though he was out in two). Civil disobedience collapsed."

3. Reading Opposes the Proposed Round Table [ Reading 1945 p. 195]

:"The situation was in fact critical. The influence of the Government had so gravely declined that in various quarters both in India and in England it was suggested that the only course was for the Viceroy to call a Round Table Conference in an attempt to reach an agreed settlement of India's political problems. But Lord Reading set his face against all such hints and proposals, and not only declared his intention of refusing to take the initiative in summoning such a conference but also of rejecting the proposal if made by anybody else. For he realized that there could be no compromise with the out-and-out extremists, who at this time were in full control of the non-co-operation movement; as he himself wrote: 'The truth is, the more I consider the question of a Round Table Conference, the more I lean to the conclusion that unless the non-co-operationists make very material changes in their programme, it will not be possible to conciliate them.'"

=See also=
*British Empire
*British Raj
*Secretary of State for India
*India Office
*Governor-General of India
*Indian Civil Service
*Government of India Act
*Nehru Report
*History of Bangladesh
*History of India
*History of Pakistan

* [ Bibliography]

[Footnote 1] On December 16th, 1921, Malaviya send the following telegram to Gandhi:"“Am arranging deputation of about seven to Viceroy on 21st to press upon him necessity of Round Table Conference. Hence going to Calcutta, Jamnadas and Kunzru reach Sabarmati tomorrow to explain situation. Desire to have your authority to say that if conference is accepted and Government stays hands and releases leaders, you will withdraw opposition to Prince’s welcome and suspend civil disobedience till termination conference. Calcutta address till 21 No. 31 Burtillo Street.”"

Gandhi drafted the following reply, but as per his secretary, Krishnadas, it was never sent.


On December 19th, Gandhi sent the following telegram to Malaviya:


On December 20th, Malaviya sent the following telegram to Gandhi:

”implore you wire immediately to following effect: If points mentioned in Das’s telegram to you accepted and composition and date conference agreed upon, you will call off hartal and see that pending conclusion of proposed conference non-co-operation activities other than those relating to national education, swadeshi and prohibition of intoxicants without picketing in any case will be suspended and that a real truce will be observed on your side. Such assurance essential in best interests of cause we all hold dear.”

In reply to this Gandhi sent the following:


{The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol 25, pages 277, 298, 304}

[Footnote 2] The "private note" was published in "Young India", December 22, 1921. In the preceding section, Gandhi wrote about the suppression of public meetings in various parts of India. The section began:


Belgaum furnishes a forcible illustration of the unsexing process being tried at present in India. A friend has prepared for me thefollowing summary of a report from Belgaum:

"The district authorities of Belgaum have devised an original method of suppressing non-co-operation. Mr. Hayter, the Superintendent of Police, issued a circular calling upon all Sub-Inspectors to use their power to stop the spread of non-co-operation. The Sub-Inspectors on their part circularized the village police that”all non-co-operation speakers should be forcibly suppressed. They should not be allowed to enter villages and should be expelled from villages. And speakers should be prevented from speaking. The Deputy Superintendent of Police hopes that it is enough if police patels are given to understand this. Superior officers will render proper assistance in the matter."......"

After describing events in Belgaum and Allahabad, where at a Provincial Congress Committee meeting D.S.P. named Mr. Fergusson arrived with some six motor vans for carrying prisoners, entered the premises of the Committee and blocked all passages. They searched the office till 9. When, the meeting having terminated, the members informed the D.S.P. of their intention to leave, the D.S.P. went over to the meeting and demanded the proceedings to be shown to him and finding a resolution thereinrecommending all district and tehsil Congress Committees to organize Volunteer Corps, declared that an offence had been committed under the Criminal Law Amendment Act. He then asked all present one by one whether they were members of the committee and had supported the resolution. All the members having replied in the affirmative, he arrested fifty-five of them including all the prominent workers of the province.During the search B. Shitalasahai editor of the Swaraj was kicked, boxed and otherwise assaulted by Mr. Fergusson so much so that blood came out of his skin. But he bore all that patiently. Several others also were badly treated and pushed and assaulted by the same officer. Everybody kept his temper. There was no search or arrest warrant produced, nor did the officers have their bodies searched before beginning the search. All papers, records and seals of the Provincial Congress Committee have been seized by the police and put under sealed locks.

Gandhi then continued:

"It is evident to me that this utter disregard of law and decency is not an individual act but is part of a deliberate plan to suppress allhealthy public life, to provoke popular violence and then issue a much enlarged edition of Jallianwala. With the best intention to put acharitable construction on the series of acts described above, I have been unable to come to any other conclusion,


I am sorry that I suspect Lord Reading of complicity in the plot to unman India for eternity. A friend has suggested an alternative. Hesays that whilst Lord Reading must be held responsible for the threats used by him in his recent utterances, he might be quite unaware of thelawlessness of the subordinate officials or that he must have become helpless, the subordinate officials having simply disregarded hiswishes to be strictly within the law. I must reject both the interpretations. Lord Reading, if he is trying legitimately to suppress popular lawlessness, must study and regulate the development of his campaign which he will not even allow to be called repression. If hissubordinates being interested parties have gone out of hand, he must forthwith resign, at least publicly disown and condemn such illegalitiesand assaults and not attempt to excuse them on the flimsy plea of”trying times”. I have myself suggested a possible explanation. HisExcellency sympathizes with our aspirations, and knowing his own countrymen, realizes that we have got to be severely tried before theythink of coming to terms; he is, therefore, trying and directing repression to see how far we are capable of bearing it and, therefore,sincere in our desire for freedom, and then having made out a case for us his clients, desires to compel a settlement. I am afraid, however, thatI have to state the case only to be rejected. Human nature does not work quite that way. Lord Reading is not so entirely selfless, and if heis, he cannot possibly remain in charge of a Government which under its present constitution can give no relief to the people. It is, therefore,with the greatest reluctance that I am forced to conclude that Lord Reading is trying to emasculate India by forcibly making free speechand popular organization impossible. I am prepared to believe that in all this he thinks that he is doing good to us and that we are not yet fit to be called men and women. He will soon have his eyes opened. We must not quarrel with his belief. Nor need we feel anxious about it. Let us acquit ourselves like men and women and we shall find that everything and everybody become favourable to us."

{The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol 25, pages 309-312}

[Footnote 3] The Malaviya-Jinnah conference was held Jan 14-15, 1922. On Jan 17, the Congress Working Committee resolved "that the offensive civil disobedience contemplated by the Ahmedabad Congress be not started till the 31st day of January 1922 or pending result of the negotiations undertaken by the Committee of the Malaviya Conference for a round table conference, whichever may be the first date."

On January 31, Gandhi circulated a letter he was going to send to the Viceroy. He wrote this letter in response to a letter dated January 30, 1922 from Jayakar and Natarajan, Secretaries of the Leaders’ Conference which had met at Bombay on January 14 and 15. In this letter they had enclosed copies of their correspondence with the Viceroy who had turned down their proposals as a basis for a round table conference, and had asked Gandhiji to postpone his programme in Bardoli pending further communication in about three days’ time.

{The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vols 25 pages 429-431, 446-450, and Vol 26, page 58}

[Footnote 4] The quote is from "Young India", January 19, 1922, where Gandhi also wrote about the Malaviya-Jinnah conference:

"It was a failure in that, though certain resolutions have been adopted, the Conference did not leave on my mind the impression that those whoassembled together as a whole realized the gravity of the real issue. The mind of the Conference seemed to be centred more on a round table conference than upon asserting the popular right of free speech, free association and free Press which are more than a round tableconference. I had expected on the part of the Independents to declare their firm attitude that no matter how much they might differregarding the method of non-co-operation, the freedom of the people was a common heritage and that the assertion of that right was three-fourths of swaraj; that, therefore, they would defend that right even with civil disobedience, if need be.

However, as the attention of the Conference could not be riveted on that point but on a round table conference, the discussion turned upon the essentials of such a conference."

{The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol 25 pages 466-471}

[Footnote 5] The Congress resolution actually said (emphasis added)

"In view of the impending arrests of a large number of Congress workers, this Congress, whilst requiring the ordinary machinery to remain intact and to be utilized in the ordinary manner whenever feasible, hereby appoints until further instructions Mahatma Gandhi as the sole executive authority of the Congress and invests him with the full powers of the All-India Congress Committee including the power to convene aspecial session of the Congress or of the All-India Congress Committee or the Working Committee, such powers to be exercised between any two sessions of the All-India Congress Committee and also with the power to appoint a successor in emergency.

This Congress hereby confers upon the said successor and all subsequent successors appointed in turn by theirpredecessors all his aforesaid powers.

Provided that nothing in this resolution shall be deemed to authorize Mahatma Gandhi or any of the aforesaid successors to conclude any terms of peace with the Government of India or the British Government without the previous sanction of the All-India Congress Committee, to be finally ratified by the Congress specially convened for the purpose, and provided also that the present Creed of the Congress shall in no case be altered by Mahatma Gandhi or his successors, except with the leave of the Congress first obtained.

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