(Second Session) 7th September, 1931-1st December, 1931
PROCEEDINGS Of Federal Structure Committee And Minorities Committee (Volume III)
Mr. Gandhi; Prime Minister, after consultation with His Highness The Aga Khan and other Muslim friends last night, we came to the conclusion that the purpose for which we meet here would be better served if a week's adjournment was asked for. I have not had the opportunity of consulting my other colleagues) but I have no doubt that they will also agree in the proposal I am making. I have been having with my Muslim friends anxious conversations, and I had the pleasure or meeting some other friends also last after-noon belonging to the different group or classes. We were not able to make much headway, hut they too felt that the time at our disposal was too short even for exchanging views. I may say of myself that beyond this week's adjournment, I would not press for any further adjournment, but I would report to this Committee what has been the result of the endeavour I shall be making during the week.
Mr. Gandhi: Prime Minister and friends, I see that there is some kind of misunderstanding with reference to the scope of the work that some of us have set before ourselves. I fear that Dr. Ambedkar, Colonel Gidney and other friends are unnecessarily nervous about what is going to happen. Who am I to deny political status to any single interest or class or even individual in India? As a representative of the Congress I should be unworthy of the trust that has been reposed in me by the Congress if I were guilty of sacrificing a single national interest. I have undoubtedly given expression to my own views on these points. I must confess that I hold to those views also. But there are ways and ways of guaranteeing protection to every single interest. It will be for those of us who will be putting our heads together to try to evolve a scheme. Nobody would be hampered in pressing his own views on the members of this very informal conference or meeting. We need not call it a committee. I have no authority to convene any committee or to bring into being a committee. I can only act as a humble messenger of peace, try to get together representatives of different interests and groups, and see whether, by being closeted in one room and by heart-to-heart conversation, we may not be able to remove cobwebs of misunderstanding and see our way clean to the goal that lies so hazily before us to-day.
I do not think, therefore, that anybody need be afraid as to being able to express his opinion or carrying his opinion also. Mine will be there equal to that of every one of us; no greater weight; I have no authority behind me to carry my opinion against the opinion of anybody. I have simply given expression to my views in the national interest, and I shall give expression to these views whenever they are opportune. It will be for you, it is for you to reject or accept those opinions. Therefore please disabuse your mind, every one of us, of the idea that there is going to be any steam-rolling in the Conference and the informal meetings that I have adumbrated. But if you think that this is one way of coming closer together than by sitting stiffly at this table, you will not only carry this adjournment motion, but give your wholehearted co-operation to the proposal that I have made in connection with these informal meetings.
PROCEEDINGS OF THE NINTH MEETING OF THE MINORITIES COMMITTEE HELD ON THURSDAY, 8th OCTOBER, 1931, AT 11 A.M.
Chairman: When we met last Thursday, by common consent we adjourned for a week in order to enable informal and unofficial consultations to take place, with a view of ('on1ing- to an agreement. Perhaps our first business is to receive conducted the negotiations. May ask Mr. Gandhi to speak first?
Mr Gandhi: Prime Minister and friends, it is with deep sorrow and deeper humiliation that I have to announce utter failure on my part to secure an agreed solution of the communal question through informal conversations among and with the representatives of different groups. I apologise to you, Mr. Prime Minister, and the other colleagues for the waste of a precious week. My only consolation lies in the fact that when 1 accepted the burden of carrying on these talks I knew thai there was not much hope of success, and still more in the fact that I am not aware of having spared any effort to reach a solution.
SECOND REPORT OF MINORITIES COMMITTEE
THE Report of sub-Committee No.III (Minorities) approved JY the Committee of the whole Conference 011 19th January, 1931, recorded that opinion was unanimous “that in order to secure the co-operation or all communities which is essential of the successful working of responsible government in India, It was necessary that the new constitution should contain provisions designed to assure the communities that their interests would not be prejudiced, and that it was particularly desirable that some agreement should be come to between the major communities In order to facilitate the consideration or the whole question.” In these circumstances, it recommended that the Conference should register an opinion that it was desirable that an agreement upon the claims made to it should be reached and that the negotiations should be continued between the representatives concerned, with the request that the result or their efforts should be reported to those engaged in the next stage of these negotiations.
2. The Committee resumed its deliberations on 28th September, and met subsequently on 1st October, 8th October and 13th November. It had the assistance in its discussions of the representative of the Congress Party.
3. At the first meeting of the resumed Committee on 28th September It was reported dint informal negotiations were proceeding between certain of the communities concerned, and after discussion it was unanimously accepted that, in order to give these negotiations an opportunity to reach n conclusion, the Committee should adjourn until 1st October. On its meeting on that day a further motion of adjournment until Thursday, 8th October, to enable the continuance or the negotiations was moved by Mr. Gandhi and unanimously accepted, It was agreed that the problem of the Depressed Classes and other smaller minorities would form part of the communal problem, which was to be the subject matter of the conversations.
4. At the third meeting Committee on Thursday, 3th October, Mr. Gandhi reported that the negotiations which had taken had unfortunately proved entirely abortive, despite the almost anxiety on the part of all consumed to reach a satisfactory outcome. After considerable discussion it was agreed that the Committee should be adjourned for further period to enable fresh effort to be made to reach agreement between the various interests affected. It was decided in this connection that two schemes designed to overcome the communal difficulties in connection with the position in the Punjab which had been prepared by Sardar Ujjal Singh and Sir Geoffrey Corbett should be circulated for the consideration of the Delegate. These schemes are printed as Appendices XVII and XVI to our report. A scheme for the solution of the communal problem prepared by the Indian National Congress, to which reference was made by Mr. Gandhi at the meeting of the Committee on 8th October, and which was subsequently circulated at his request, is printed as Appendix I.
5. No further meeting took place until 13th November. The intervening period was devoted to private negotiation. At the meeting on 13th November it appeared, however, that despite every effort on the part of the negotiators, it had unfortunately proved impossible to devise any scheme of such a character as to satisfy all parties. The representatives of the Muslims, Depressed Classes, Anglo-Indians, a section of the Indian Christians* and the European commercial community intimated that they had reached an agreement inter se, which they formally presented for the consideration of the Committee, and which is printed Appendix III to this Report. But the course of the discussion on 13th November made it clear that the agreement in question was not regarded as acceptable by the Hindu or Sikh representatives, and that there seemed no prospect of a solution of the communal question as the result of negotiation between the parties concerned.
6. The Committee has, in these circumstances, to record with deep regret that it has been unable to reach any agreed conclusion on the difficult and controversial question which has been the subject of its deliberations.
7. It was agreed at the meeting of 13th November that statements or proposals which had been submitted by the representatives of various interests with the object of finding a satisfactory solution of the problem before the Committee or of inviting attention to aspects of that problem of special importance to the community they represented, should be appended to the Report of the Committee. The documents in the documents in question are according printed as Appendices.
8.During the various discussions suggestions were made that the British Government should settle the dispute authority. These suggestion, however, were accompanied by such Important reservations that they afforded little prospect of any such decision securing the necessary harmony in working. But the Prime Minister, as Chairman of the Committee, offered to act, and give a decision of temporary validity, if he were requested to do so by every member of the Committee signing an agreement to pledge himself to support his decision so as to be put into operation, further efforts for an all-Indian settlement being pursued in the meantime.
Signed on behalf of the Committee,
J. RAMSAY MACDONALD
St. James's Palace, London.
18th November, 1931.