In 1931, Mahatma Gandhi and Congress representatives attended the Second Round Table conference in London, to deliberate on Britain’s future India policy. At the conference, Gandhi claimed to represent all the people of India. This view, however, was not shared by other delegates. The conference itself failed. King George V held a reception for the delegates at Buckingham Palace, and he was not in favor of inviting Gandhi. The then colonials at India’s offices told the king that Gandhi could not be excluded; his exclusion would have triggered the Civil Disobedience Movement to an uncompromising state.
Interestingly, it was not just his physical presence they needed. The British could not decide on constitutional reforms for India without incorporating Gandhi’s vision and principles.
From 1930 to 1932, there were a series of conferences organised by the British Government to discuss constitutional reforms in India. Demands for swaraj, or self-rule in India, had been growing increasingly strong. By the 1930s, many British politicians believed that India needed to move towards dominion status. However, there were significant disagreements between the Indian and the British political parties. Prior to the First Round Table Conference, Gandhi had initiated the Civil Disobedience Movement. He, and Congress representatives, had refused to participate in the First Round Table Conference because most of the Congress’ leaders were in jail during the Civil Disobedience Movement. Lord Irwin, the Viceroy, met with Gandhi, along with Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, to reach a compromise which led to the Gandhi-Irwin Pact. The way the British agreed to Gandhi’s conditions in the pact shows how significant his presence was in deciding India’s future.
Even after 70 years of Independence, Mahatma Gandhi and his principles cannot be neglected. Current socio-economic indicators are still relevant to the conditions prevailing in the 1940s. Also, India’s current approach to religious intolerance, farmer suicides, substance abuse, gender inequality, women’s safety (or lack thereof), rural self-sustainability, unemployment, basic education, rural sanitation, health and hygiene shows that governments and institutions should seriously consider ormulating a national agenda on the lines of Mahatma Gandhi’s vision for India.
Table 1: India and its Global Indices Ranking
Sources: UNDP HDI Ranking & IMF Global Economic Output Report, 2017.
This table shows how underdeveloped India is in comparison to other nations across the globe. But, considering the population growth rate, India has performed way beyond several other developed nations. Instead of pointing out the failures of several governments, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s vision and his Constructive Programme – a part of his Satyagraha, 25,000 students from 1,600 colleges and 525 districts have come forward with a hope to unite citizens, irrespective of their political affiliations, through National Agenda Forum (NAF) to pave way for a constructive future for India. No national agenda should be formulated without people’s participation for a constructive future. In fact, we should believe in what Mahatma Gandhi firmly believed in – “Unity in Diversity”.
Gandhi, in his own words, concluded his book, “Constructive Programme–Its Meaning And Place”, saying, “Many people do many things, big and small, without connecting them with non-violence or Independence. They have then their limited value as expected. The same man appearing as a civilian may be of no consequence, but appearing in his capacity as General he is a big personage, holding the lives of millions at his mercy.”
So, it is now or never for every politician, bureaucrat, celebrity, young professional, and eminent influencer to pay tribute to Mahatma Gandhi by taking part in the movement to define India’s priorities. Not a single democratic process should take place without people’s participation. Various governments across the nation have planned for a grand celebration of Gandhi’s 150th Birth Anniversary year. Will it only be a ‘momentous show’, or a time to pay tribute to the ‘Father of our Nation’ by adopting his principles with commitment to truth and non-violence? Will this hope be truly accorded by the fellow citizens to make a constructive India?