The Communal Award [1932]

Members of the All-India Muslim League Working committee; Muslims were not happy with the Communal Award

When the Indian leadership failed to settle down the communal issue of the country through a Constitutional solution, British Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald announced his own formula of solving the communal problem of India. He said that he was not only a Prime Minister of Britain but was also a fried of the Indian and thus wanted to solve the problems of his friends. After the failure of the Second Round Table conference, Mr. MacDonald announced ‘Communal Award’ on August 16, 1932. According to the Award, right of Separate Electorate was not only given to the Muslims of India but was also given to all the minority communities in the country. The Award also declared untouchables as a minority and thus the Hindu Depressed Classes were given a number of special seats to be filled from special Depressed Class electorates in the area where the voters were concentrated. Under the Communal Awards principle of weightage was also maintained with some modifications in the Muslim-minority Provinces. Principle of Weightage was also applied for Europeans in Bengal and Assam, Sikhs in the Punjab and North Western Frontier Province, and Hindus in Sind and North Western Frontier Province. Though the Muslims constituted almost 56% of the total population of the Punjab but they were given only 86 out of 175 seats in the Punjab Assembly. Likewise, the Muslim majority of 54.8% in the Punjab was also reduced to the minority. This formula favored the Sikhs of the Punjab and Europeans of the Bengal the most.

The Award was not popular with any Indian party. Muslims were not happy with the Communal Award as it has reduced their majority in Punjab and Bengal to minority. Yet they were prepared to accept it. All India Muslim League in its Annual Session in November 1933 passed a resolution that reads, ‘Thought the decision falls far short of the Muslim demands, the Muslims have accepted it in the best interest of the country reserving to themselves the right to press for the acceptance of all their demands’. On the other hand Hindus refused to accept the awards and decided to launch a campaign against it. For them it was not possible to accept Untouchables as a minority. They organized Allahbad Unity Conference in which, they demanded for the replacement of Separate Electorates by the Joint Electorates. Many Nationalist Muslims and Sikhs also participated in the conference. The Congress also rejected the Award in Toto. Gandhi protested against the declaration of Untouchables as a minority and undertook a fast unto death. He also hold meetings with the Untouchable leadership for the first time and try to convince them that they were very much part of the main stream Hindu society. He also managed to sign Poona pact with Dr. B. R. Ambedker, the leader of Untouchables and in the pact many demands of the Untouchables were met by Gandhi.