What led to the Poona Pact of 1932?

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poona pact provisions

The British policy of ‘Divide and Rule’ attacked the unity of the Indians and sowed the seeds of communal hatred, which we also happen to see in our current political scenario. One such attempt was the announcement of the Communal Award on August 16, 1932, by the then British Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald. Masked with the concern of supporting the ‘Depressed Classes’, the true motive of the award was to weaken the uprising national movement on communal grounds. The Poona Pact was signed when the two prominent leaders with different ideologies (Mahatma Gandhi with social ideology and BR Ambedkar having political ideology) agreed upon some common points for the political representation of the depressed classes and discarded separate electorates. Keep reading to know more about the historical Poona Pact 1932.

The Articles will update you with

  • Some Facts About the Poona Pact 1932
  • Details of The Pact
  • Different Ideologies for a common concern
  • Understanding the Provisions of the Poona Pact 1932

Some Facts About Poona Pact 1932

  • Poona Pact was a solution to the Communal Award announced on August 16, 1932, by the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald.
  • Mahatma Gandhi announced that he would fast unto death if the clause of separate electorates was not removed from the Communal Award.
  • The Pact was signed between Mahatma Gandhi and Bhim Rao Ambedkar on September 24, 1932, while Gandhi was in Yerwada Central Jail, Pune thereby ending Gandhi’s fast.
  • Madan Mohan Malviya had signed the pact on behalf of Mahatma Gandhi.

Let Us Dive into Details

  • It was Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar who demanded a separate electorate for the ‘depressed classes’ in the First Round Table Conference in 1930. His motive was to free the neglected class from the shackles of ignorance by making them an important constituent of Indian Politics.
  • Taking Ambedkar’s demand as an opportunity to break down the uprising national movement, the British Authorities announced the Communal Awards in 1932.
  • The Communal Awards were simply an extension of the pre-existing clause of separate electorates that the British Government had provided in its Morley-Minto Reforms (1909) and Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms (1919) to the minority communities.
  • The awards extended to the depressed classes (now known as the Scheduled Class) which allowed only members of the minority communities, to vote to elect a representative to legislative assemblies. The Hindus were out of the electing scenario of these elections.
  • Gandhi and other leaders of the Congress realised that this would drift the depressed classes further from the Hindu Society increasing communal tensions. “What I am against is their statutory separation even in a limited form, from the Hindu fold”, he quoted.
  • He was against Ambedkar’s political ideology and saw it as an attempt to weaken the Indian society by the British Government on communal grounds.
  • He announced a fast unto death, while in Yerwada jail, Pune on sedition charges, to protest against the MacDonald Awards. “ I have to resist your decision with my life”, Gandhi wrote to PM Ramsay MacDonald.
  • Initially, Dr Ambedkar refused to settle in. He said he would not “sacrifice a rightful demand” to come to terms with Mahatma Gandhi.
  • Following Gandhi’s fast unto death announcement, public pressure created over Dr Ambekar and he had to come to terms with Gandhi, thereby ending the clash in opinions of the two prominent leaders.
  • The clause of separate electorates for the Depressed Classes was thus retracted from the Communal Awards on September 24, 1932, when Mahatma Gandhi and Bhim Rao Ambedkar signed the Poona Pact.

Different Ideologies for a common concern

Both Gandhi and Ambedkar aimed at eliminating the ills of the caste system. They both were concerned about the most neglected group of the society- The Depressed Classes. But both had different approaches while solving the issue.

Ambedkar’s Political Ideology

  • Dr Ambedkar who himself suffered from the ills of the caste system was strictly in favour of its abolishment in every form.
  • He believed that giving political identity to the Depressed Classes in the Indian electoral system, would strengthen the group as a whole.
  • He seeked for political democracy by making Dalits an important part of the Indian political system.

Gandhi’s Social Ideology

  • Gandhi wanted to bring about a behavioural change in the mindset of the people so that every group of the society were treated as equals.
  • Gandhi who addressed the depressed classes as ‘Harijans’, wanted to sensitize the upper classes of the society to reform the prevalent caste system and rid it from the ills.

Understanding the Provisions of the Poona Pact 1932

  • The Provincial Councils had seats reserved for the ‘Depressed Classes’ as per the Pact.
  • The percentage of the reserved seats for the Dalits was proportional to the strength of the Provinces.
  • The Central Legislature had 19% reserved seats for the Depressed Classes.
  • In place of the eighty seats given by the British Government through Communal Awards, the Pact won the Depressed Classes a total of 147 seats.
  • As per the Pact, the members of the Depressed Classes were to form an electoral college who would elect four candidates from their community on the basis of a single vote. The elected candidates would stand against the general candidates in elections. 
  • This provision gave the depressed classes the advantage of ‘double vote’.
  • Same provision was to be followed for the Central Assembly elections.
  • The provisions were to be followed for ten years and could be terminated on mutual consent.
  • The Pact thus aimed at the elimination of caste differential at least from the political scenario. 

Briefing Up

The Poona Pact which was then signed in 1932, has affected the political representation of the depressed classes now addressed as the scheduled class in the current political system. India has a percentage of reserved seats for SCs in proportion to their population making their role a significant one in Indian Politics.

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