Round Table Conferences – Gandhi
Meanwhile, the Indian Freedom Movement had gained momentum under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. In 1930, a Round Table Conference was held by the British Government in London to decide the future of India. Babasaheb represented the ‘untouchables’. He said there: -The Depressed Classes of India also join in the demand for replacing the British Government by a Government of the people and by the people… Our wrongs have remained as open sores and have not been righted although 150 years of British rule have rolled away. Of what good is such a Government to anybody?”
Soon a second conference was held, which Mahatma Gandhi attended representing the Congress Party. Babasaheb met Gandhi in Bombay before they went to London. Gandhi told him that he had read what Babasaheb said at the first conference. Gandhi told Babasaheb he knew him to be a real Indian patriot.
At the Second Conference, Babasaheb asked for a separate electorate for the Depressed Classes. -Hinduism”, he said, -has given us only insults, misery, and humiliation.” A separate electorate would mean that the ‘untouchables’ would vote for their own candidates and be allotted their votes separate from the Hindu majority.
Babasaheb was made a hero by thousands of his followers on his return from Bombay – even though he always said that people should not idolise him. News came that separate electorates had been granted. Gandhi felt that separate electorates would separate the Harijans from the Hindus. The thought that the Hindus would be divided pained him grievously. He started a fast, saying that he would fast unto death.
Only Babasaheb could save Gandhi’s life – by withdrawing the demand for separate electorates. At first he refused, saying it was his duty to do the best he could for his people – no matter what. Later he visited Gandhi, who was at that time in Yeravda jail. Gandhi persuaded Babasaheb that Hinduism would change and leave its bad practices behind. Finally Babasaheb agreed to sign the Poona Pact with Gandhi in 1932. Instead of separate electorates, more representation was to be given to the Depressed Classes. However, it later became obvious that this did not amount to anything concrete.