Communal Award August 1932
On August 16, 1932, the British Prime Minister McDonald announced the Communal Award. Thus it is also known as McDonald Award. The Communal Award was basically a proposal on minority representation.
Major proposals were as follows:
- The existing seats of the provincial legislatures were to be doubled.
- The system of separate electorates for the minorities was to be retained.
- The Muslims, wherever they were in minority, were to be granted a weightage.
- Except NWFP, 3 % seats for women were to be reserved in all provinces.
- The depressed , dalits or the untouchables were to be declared as minorities.
- Allocation was to be made to labor, landlords, traders and industrialists.
Thus, this award accorded separate electorates for Muslims, Europeans, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo Indians, Depressed Classes, and even Marathas. (Some seats in Bombay were given to Marathas)
- The depressed classes were given seats which had to be filled by election from the special constituencies in which only they could vote.
- However, they were eligible to vote in the general constituencies as well.
- The labor, Commerce and Industry, Mining and Planting, Landholders were also given special electorates.
- Sikhs were 13.2% of the population in Punjab. Here they were given 32 seats out of the total 175 seats.
Reaction of Gandhi on Communal Award
It was declared by Gandhi for more than once that the separate electorates for the depressed class was an attempt to divide and detach the depressed classes from the main body of Hindus. It seemed to him the these Firangies are going to break the country on the basis of the communities and so, he wrote a letter to the Prime Minister that if the award, so far it was related to the Depressed class, is not changed, he would sit on a fast unto death. On 20 September 1932, Gandhiji sat on the fast unto death in the Yarawada Jail, in which he was lodged at that time. The Hindu leaders woke up and went directly to Dr. Ambedkar, to negotiate on this matter. The outcome of these negotiations was Poona Pact of 1932.
McDonald as another manifestation of British policy of divide and rule
The McDonald Award was based on the British theory that India was not a nation, but is a conglomeration of racial, religious and cultural groups, castes and interests. The British knew the strengths and weaknesses of the Indian Society and knew that Indian society had a tendency to gravitate towards localism and regionalism and the reason was obvious: India was a self-sufficient country based on self-sufficient units and there was very little interaction between the two. The British were very much aware that a sense of nationalism is always an antidote to imperialism. We can also say that the British had a single point agenda to strike down the nationalism and to create parochial loyalties among the smaller communities. This was one of the reasons that British came up with the concept of separate electorate, as Elections are a powerful means for the allocation of power and therefore, Thus, McDonald award was to debilitate national unity by creating different spheres of interests. It was dangerous and Gandhi knew it. The new challenge was to combat with the feeling of separatism. This award started a policy of appeasement and quota, which is still killing India, slowly.