The three Round Table Conferences of 1930–1932 were a series of peace conferences organized by the British Government and Indian political personalities to discuss constitutional reforms in India.[1] These started in November 1930 and ended in December 1932. They were conducted as per the recommendation of Muhammad Ali Jinnah to Viceroy Lord Irwin and Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald,[2][3] and by the report submitted by the Simon Commission in May 1930. Demands for Swaraj or self-rule in India had been growing increasingly strong. B. R. Ambedkar, Jinnah, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, V. S. Srinivasa Sastri, Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khan, K. T. Paul and Mirabehn were key participants from India. 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. The key topic was about constitution and India which was mainly discussed in that conference. There were three Round Table Conferences from 1930 to 1932.

First Round Table Conference (November 1930 – January 1931)

The Round Table Conference officially inaugurated by His Majesty George V on November 12, 1930 in Royal Gallery House of Lords at London[2] and chaired by the Prime Minister. Ramsay MacDonald was also chairman of a subcommittee on minority representation, while for the duration his son, Malcolm MacDonald, performed liaison tasks with Lord Sankey's constitutional committee.[4] One of the foremost advisers was Sir Malcolm Hailey, an Indian civil servant with thirty years experience. The leading Liberal on the committee, Lord Reading was "well aware of the troubles which might arise if and when India became independent."[5] Clement Attlee, who served on the Simon Commission, wanted an early resolution but was baulked by the Conservatives in government until 1945. Sir Samuel Hoare wrote the cabinet a memo recommending a federal formula for the Government of India to "make it possible to give a semblance of responsible government and yet retain the realities and verities of British control."[6] The idea was proposed by the princely states and other Liberal Indian leaders including Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru would welcome it. The minority Labour government hoped to win the support of Liberal and Conservative colleagues in parliament for a "responsive" Indian government at central and provincial levels and a conservative legislature.

The eight British political parties were represented by sixteen delegates. There were fifty-eight political leaders from British India and sixteen delegates from the princely states. In total 74 delegates from India attended the Conference. However, the Indian National Congress, along with Indian business leaders, kept away from the conference. Many of them, including Gandhi, were in jail for their participation in Civil Disobedience Movement.[7] Their boycott doomed the conference to failure. Lord Irwin made a controversial statement declaring that India should be eventually granted Dominionship. The Conservatives were disgusted: "the whole conference was manipulated and manoeuvred by the Socialist Party, said Sir Winston Churchill, "to achieve the result they had set before themselves from the beginning, namely the conferring of responsible government at the centre upon Indians."[8]



The conference started with six plenary meetings where delegates put forward their issues nine sub-committees were formed to deal with several different matters including federal structure, provincial constitution, province of Sindh and NWFP, defense services and minorities e.t.c.[9] These were followed by discussions on the reports of the sub-committees on Federal Structure, Provincial Constitution, Minorities, Burma, North West Frontier Province, Franchise, Defense services and Sindh. These were followed by 2 more plenary meetings and a final concluding session.[7] It was difficult for progress to be made in the absence of the Indian National Congress but some advances were made. The Prime Minister wrote his diary "India has not considered. It was communalism and proportions of reserved seats" that exposed the worst side of Indian politics.[10]

The idea of an All-India Federation was moved to the centre of discussion by Tej Bahadur Sapru.[11] 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.

Second Round Table Conference (September 1931 – December 1931)

After the failure of the First Round Table Conference, the British recognized they needed the participation of the Indian National Congress. On January 26, 1931, Gandhi and other Congress leaders were freed from prison. The resulting discussions culminated in the Gandhi–Irwin Pact (1931), under which the Congress agreed to participate in a Second Round Table Conference. Although MacDonald was still Prime Minister of Britain, he was by this time heading a coalition Government (the "National Government") with a Conservative majority, including Sir Samuel Hoare as a new Secretary of State for India.



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)

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 suggeston 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.[12] Gandhi announced that henceforth he would work only on behalf of the Harijans: he reached a compromise 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.[13] But not before the conference of All-India Depressed Classes had specifically 'denounced the claim made by Gandhi.'[14]

Third Round Table Conference (November – December 1932)

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.


Round table conference


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Attended all three conferences


  1. ^ Legg, Stephen (2020). "Imperial Internationalism: The Round Table Conference and the Making of India in London, 1930–1932". Humanity. 11 (1): 32–53. doi:10.1353/hum.2020.0006. ISSN 2151-4372.
  2. ^ a b Wolpert, Stanley (2013). Jinnah of Pakistan (15 ed.). Karachi, Pakistan: University Press. p. 107. ISBN 978-0-19-577389-7.
  3. ^ Wolpert, Stanley (2012). Shameful Flight (1st ed.). Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press. p. 5. ISBN 978-0-19-906606-3.
  4. ^ Ramsay Macdonald, The Awakening of India (1909) advocated progress towards Indian self-government.
  5. ^ MacDonald Papers file 112/1/67, C Sanger, Malcolm MacDonald: End of Empire (1995), p.79.
  6. ^ 12 December 1930, Carl Bridge, Holding India to the Empire: the British Conservative Party and the 1935 Constitution (new Delhi: Sterling, 1988). Hoare was in direct correspondence with Viceroy Lord Irwin and Sir Malcolm Hailey, Governor of United Provinces, where Gandhi lived.
  7. ^ a b Indian Round Table Conference Proceedings. Government of India. 1931.
  8. ^ Speech March 1931, Constitutional Club, W S Churchill
  9. ^ a b Prof M. Ikram, Rabbani. Pakistan studies (2nd ed.). Lahore, Pakistan: Caravan Book house. pp. 100–101.
  10. ^ 15 December 1930, Macdonald Diary; David Marquand, Ramsay MacDonald (London: Jonathan Cape, 1977)
  11. ^ Menon, V.P. (1957). Transfer of Power in India. Orient Longman Ltd. p. 44. ISBN 9788125008842. Retrieved 2015-05-29.
  12. ^ "mr Gandhi demanded that as one of the conditions for his accepting their fourteen points, they should oppose the claims of the Depressed Classes, and the smaller minorities." Dr. Ambedkar letter to The Times of India, 12 October 1931.
  13. ^ Collected Writings of Mahatma Gandhi, 51.; Robin J. Moore, The Crisis of Indian Unity 1917–1940, p.289.
  14. ^ C.Keer, Dr Ambedkar: Life and Mission, (1971) p.178–9.

Further reading