Chapter 26: COMMUNAL AWARD
award was given by British PM Ramsey McDonald. Under this
the Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and even depressed classes
would get separate electorates. Although the congress was
against separate electorates as they divided the community
it decided to remain neutral on the question of separate
electorates for Christians, Sikh, and Muslims.
all nationalists were completely opposed to separate
electorates for depressed classes. The award was seen by
Gandhiji as against Indian unity and nationalism. It
would be harmful to both Hinduism and depressed classes
and would halt the work of Hindu social reform. Gandhiji
was for giving them reservations in seats.
on a fast for this question. Finally BR Ambedkar and other
leaders worked on a solution were separate electorates
were abandoned and reservations were given instead.
Post Civil Disobedience
civil disobedience movement was withdrawn a new question
emerged as to the activity during the future course. Gandhiji
advocated constructive activity whereas other line of
thought wanted revival of constitutional method of
struggle and participation. The argument was that
constitutional participation would extend the influence of
the congress and prepare it for the next phase of the
struggle. However it shall not amount to having faith in
the constitutional politics. A new line of thought emerged
due to the strong left trend in the country. The leftists
wanted another mass struggle instead of constitutional
work and constructive programs.
their thoughts. He believed that the withdrawal of the
civil disobedience and return to constructive programs
has become like a retreat. His alienation with Gandhiji
too was highest at this point. He wanted to focus on
class struggle of workers and peasants. He believed in
organizing them into unions and affiliating these into the
congress would integrate them with the freedom struggle.
He also was opposed to gandhian plan of Struggle
-Truce-Struggle and wanted Struggle-Victory i.e.
fights till victory was won.
conflict between Nehru and leftists on one side and
proponents of council entry on the other that a split was
foreseen. Gandhiji emerged as the peace maker here and
decided to allow the congressmen to fight elections. He
laid a condition that they would not get sucked into
constitutionalism or become self serving. He told the
leftists that withdrawal of the movement didn’t come due
to pressure from the bourgeois but reality of the
political situation. He further appeased the left wing by
supporting Nehru as president of congress.
legislative assembly elections the congress won a majority
thus a victory for Gandhiji.
Government of India Act, 1935
knew that the civil disobedience was crushed but this
situation couldn’t be kept for a long time. So with a view
to integrate the congress with administrative structures
and to internally divide it. Another phase of
constitutional reforms was planned.
parliament approved the government of India act, 1935.
Under this an all India federation would be created of
provinces and princely states. The representatives of
princely states would come from nomination by the princes
and direct elections from the provinces. However franchise
was limited and defense and foreign affairs were kept
outside of it. The Viceroy and the governors were given
special executive powers.
strategy was to back the constitutionalists and moderates
of the congress by lure of constitutional powers. The
British hoped that this would dissuade them from the
politics of sacrifice. On the other hand the repressive
measures against those who opted for extra legal means
would further discourage the protestors. This would then
lead to a split in the congress.
of this complex strategy was measures to promote
division between left and right wings. And also
constitutionalists and gandhians. The government wanted
to lure the rightwing and the constitutionalists with
the promise of reforms. The British hoped that the
leftist would see this as a betrayal and would split
from the congress or be removed.
was a part of this strategy. It would create big
provincial leaders that would undermine the all India
leadership of the congress.
however was unanimously rejected by all leaders of the
immediately put into practice the provincial features of
the act and declared elections to the provincial
legislative assembly. The matter of elections again
created a split in the opinion. There was full
agreement that the congress should fight the elections.
But whether or not to form a government was the
question. Here the leftwing led by Nehru, Bose,
congress socialists and communists were totally opposed.
Office acceptance would mean that congress would become
part of the repressive apparatus. They wanted the
swarajist alternative i.e. to join government to obstruct
it at every step.
right wing Rajendra Prasad explained that none believed
that constitutional work would get freedom or was anyone
going to be lured by the power of the office but it was
necessary in the interest of people. They believed that
administrative offices shouldn’t be left to pro-government
parties. They wanted provincial ministries to be used for
against office acceptance believed that another mass
movement couldn't be launched due to the short span of
time available. So he decided that a chance could be
given to the congress. Also the mood in the congress was
a massive mandate in the elections.
"We are provided with a car, all brakes and no engine - Jawaharlal Nehru's opinion of the Government of India Act, 1935.
Nationalists' Response to The 1935 Act
The 1935 Act was condemned by nearly all sections and unanimously
rejected by the Congress. The Congress demanded, instead, convening of a
Constituent Assembly elected on the basis of adult franchise to frame a
Constitution for independent India.
Everyone agreed that the 1935 Act was to be opposed root and branch but
it was not clear how it was to be done in a period when a mass movement
was not yet possible.
There was full agreement that the Congress should
fight these elections on the basis of a detailed political and economic
programme, thus deepening, the anti-imperialist consciousness of the
people. But what to do after the elections was not yet clear.
J Nehru, Subhash Bose, Congress socialists and communists were opposed to
office acceptance and thereby in the working of the 1935 Act because
they argued that it would negate the rejection of the Act by the
nationalists. It would be like assuming responsibility without power.
Also, it would take away the revolutionary character of the movement as
constitutional work would sidetrack the main issues of freedom, economic
and social justice, and removal of poverty.
As a counter-strategy, the leftists proposed entry into the councils With an aim to create deadlocks, thus making the working of
the Act impossible (older Swarajist strategy). And, as a long-term
strategy, they advocated an increased reliance on workers and peasants,
integration of their class organisations into the Congress, thus imparting a socialist direction to the Congress and preparing for the
resumption of a mass movement.
The proponents of office acceptance argued that they were equally
committed to combating the 1935 Act, but work in legislatures was to be
only a short-term tactic since option of a mass movement was not
available at the time, and mass struggle alone was capable of winning
Capture or rejection of office was not a matter of
socialism but of strategy. They agreed that there was a danger of being
sucked in by wrong tendencies, but the answer was to fight these
tendencies and not to abandon offices. The administrative field should
not be left open to pro-government reactionary forces. Despite limited
powers, provincial ministries could be used to promote constructive
Gandhi's opposed office acceptance in the CWC meetings but by the beginning
of 1936, he was willing to give a trial to the formation of Congress
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