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The Communal Award of 1932 and its Implications in Bengal

  • Bidyut Chakrabarty (a1)


The debate over the separate and joint electorates as rival modes of election to the various representative institutions by the British began with the Simla deputation of 1906 and remained controversial until 1947. Not only was the issue controversial in pre-Independent India, but it also raises debates among contemporary historians and political scientists. For John Gallagher, the Communal Award was nothing but ‘a sign of [the] determination [of the British Government] to warp the Indian question towards electoral politics’. While looking into the operational aspect of the Award, Anil Seal, too, has affirmed that ‘by extending the electorate, the imperial croupier had summoned more players to his table’. Looking at the Award from the British point of view, both of them thus arrived at the same conclusions: (a) the Award introduced the native politicians to the sophisticated world of parliamentary politics; and (b) as a result of the new arrangement, as stipulated in the 1935 Act, politics now percolated down to the localities. The available evidence, however, does reveal that the Award and the constitutional rights guaranteed to Indians under the Act were the price the British paid for the continuity of the Indian Empire. What thus appears to be a calculated generous gesture was very much a political expedient. The surrender of power into Indian hands, though at the regional levels, was not welcomed by some senior officers who saw an eclipse of British authority in this endeavour.



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1 Gallagher, J., ‘Congress in Decline, Bengal, 1900–39, Modern Asian Studies (hereafter MAS), 7, 3 (1973), p. 615.

2 Anil Seal, ‘Imperialism and Nationalism in India’, ibid., p. 343.

3 West Bengal State Archives (hereafter WBSA), Home-Pol, 689 (1–3)/1933, Note on the report of Commissioners' conference, 1933, by the Commissioner of Chittagong, no date.

4 National Archives of India (hereafter NAI), Home-Poll 41/1/1932, Note to Commissioners and Collectors by the Government of India, no date.

5 IOR, L/Po/46(ii), The Prime Minister, Ramsay Macdonald, was quoted in the memorandum submitted by the Secretary of State to the Cabinet Policy Committee, 11/3/1932.

6 IOR, L/PO/78(i), PM's statement for release on the afternoon of Tuesday, 16 August, in time for publication in the morning newspapers in India and UK of Wednesday 17 August 1932.

7 Ibid.

8 IOR, L/PO/49(ii), Lothian to the Viceroy, 8/8/1932.

9 IOR, CMD 2360, vol. XVI, Memorandum by Ghuznavi, A. K., p. 188.

10 IOR, L/PO/48(ii), Muslim demands including 14 points of Jinnah were placed at the open meeting of the All India Muslim League at Delhi in March 1929.

11 Ibid., memorandum to Samuel Hoare, Secretary of State by Aga Khan, enclosed with the letter of 2/3/1932.

12 Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (hereafter NMML) AICC, 2/1928, Subhas to Motilal, 12/7/1928.

13 Ibid.

14 Azizul, Haque, A Plea for Separate Electorate in Bengal (Calcutta, 1931).

15 Ibid., pp. 10–14.

16 The entire discussion is based on Azizul Haque, ibid., pp. 6–11.

17 All Parties Conference, 1928, p. 48.

18 Azizul, Haque, A plea, p. 11.

19 Star of India, 19/12/33.

20 NMML, Hindu Mahasabha Papers (hereafter HMP), Madan, Mohan Malaviya to Amar Nath Majumdar, 18/2/1934.

21 Subhas, Bose, The Indian Struggle (London, 1935) (hereafter IS), pp. 290–1.

22 IOR, L/PO/78(i), Tgm from the Secretary of State to the Viceroy, 8/9/1923. It is believed that the secret letter of B. R. Ambedkar to Aga Khan of 17/4/1932 influenced the PM's decision to a large extent. Ambedkar wrote: ‘the depressed classes have in your Highness their best friend and staunchest supporters of their claims and I have no doubt that your Highness will exercise all [his] influence with Sir Samuel Hoare and the Prime Minister in favour of decision which will do justice to them’. See IOR, L/PO/48(i), Ambedkar to Aga Khan, 17/4/1932.

23 Ibid., Gandhi to Macdonald, 9/9/1932.

24 Ibid., Prime Minister to Gandhi, 8/9/1932.

25 IOR, L/PO/78(ii), Poona Pact, 1932.

26 IOR, L/PO/48, Secret Cabinet minute, C. I. 32(2), 11/3/1932.

27 IOR, L/PO/49(iii), Bengal Governor to Viceroy, 5/5/1932.

28 IOR, L/PO/49(ii), Tgm, Bengal Governor to Samuel Hoare, 7/6/1932.

29 David, Page, Prelude to Partition (OUP, Delhi, 1982), p. 256.

30 IOR, L/PO/49(ii), Tgm, Viceroy (Willingdon) to Samuel Hoare, 14/6/1932.

31 IOR, Templewood Collection, Eur 240/5, Willingdon to Hoare, 10/7/1932.

32 IOR, L/PO/49(i), Tgm, Governor to Viceroy, 20/7/1932.

33 Ibid.

34 IOR, L/PO/49(i), Tgm, Bengal Governor to Viceroy, 29/7/1932.

35 Ibid.

36 IOR, L/PO/49(ii), PM to S. Hoare, 21/7/1932.

37 Benthall Papers, CSASC, suggested solution to the communal question in Bengal by Benthall, 21/1/1931.

38 Ibid.

39 IOR, L/PO/48(i), memorandum presented by Samuel Hoare to the Cabinet Committee, India Round Table Conference, (printed), 9/11/1931.

40 IOR, L/PO49(i) Tgm, Governor to Viceroy, 26/7/1932.

41 Benthall Papers, Diary Notes, 28/8/1932.

42 IOR, L/PO/49(iii), A brief analysis of the Indian Franchise Committee Report with a few criticisms by the Hon'ble Alhedy Sir Abdul Karim Ghuznavi, member, Bengal Government.

43 Ibid.

44 NAI, Home-Poll 41/4/1932, Tgm, Bengal Governor to Viceroy, 25/8/1932.

45 Ibid.

46 Haq's, A. K. Fazlul speech in the special session of the All India Muslim League, Calcutta, 1938,Sharifuddin, Syed Pirzada (ed.), Foundations of Pakistan, All India Muslim League Documents, 1906–47, vol. II (Karachi, 1970), p. 286.

47 Mansur, Ahmad Abul, Amar Dekha Rajnitir Panchas Bachhar (Dhaka, Nowroze Kitabistan, 1970), p. 83.

48 NAI, Home-Poll 41/4/1932, Garbett, C. C. to Viceroy, 24/9/1932.

49 IOR, L/PJ/7/305, Ahmad, R. to Secretary of State, 9/4/1932.

50 Pirzada, Foundations of Pakistan, p. 203.

51 Indian Annual Register (hereafter IAR), vol. I, 1935, Presidential Address, p. 326.

52 Ibid., resolution no. 1.

53 IOR, L/PO/49(ii) A further note by Mitter, P. C. on the Indian Franchise Committee report, 8/6/1932.

54 Ibid.

55 NAI, Home-Poll, 41/4/1932, resolutions of the meeting at Town Hall, 4/9/1932.

56 Ibid., Gilchrist to Viceroy, 16/6/1932.

57 NMML, M. S. Aney Papers, draft report of the Committee of Unity Conference, Allahabad, 3–17 November, 1932.

58 Ibid., note by Malaviya, 4/11/1932.

59 Azad, editorial, 19/11/1932.

60 Cited in appendix Chakravarti, A. D. and Bhattacharyya, C. (eds), Congress Policy on Communal Award, Congress Nationalist Party, Bengal, 08, 1939, p. 125 (emphasis added).

61 Aney Papers, Gandhi to Aney, 12/7/1934.

62 See appendix A in Chakravarti and Bhattacharyya, Congress policy, p. 127.

63 AICC, G24/19341936, Resolutions adopted in the Anti-Communal Award Conference, Bombay, 25/10/1934.

64 Ibid.

65 AICC, G24/19341936, Tgms from, Barisal, Chittagong, 7/9/1934, Mymensingh, Birbhum, Hili and Khulna 8/9/1934; see also, G23–24/34–36, Tgms from Noakhali, Dacca 24/8/1934 and Pabna 27/8/1934.

66 AICC, G24/19341936, Satish Mishra to the Working Committee, 26/8/1934.

67 Ibid., Nisith Nath Kundu, Vice President, Dinajpur DCC to Patel, 4/9/1934.

68 NMML, B. C. Roy Papers, Roy, B. C. to Gandhi 22/8/1934 and Gandhi's reply 30/8/1934.

69 IOR, L/PO/78(ii), extract from a private letter from Willingdon to Samuel Hoare, 15/1/1933.

70 IAR, vol. I, 1934, Manifesto issued by representative Hindus of Bengal, Calcutta, 7/1/34, p. 303.

71 NMML, B. C. Roy Papers, Roy to Patel, 7/9/1934.

72 NAI, RPP, I/35, AICC report, Allahabad, February 28, 1935, The Congress and the Communal Award.

73 IAR, vol. II, 1934, p. 319.

74 AICC, G65/37, Diary notes, Prasad, 28/2/1935.

75 Ibid.,

notes of conversation held between Jinnah, M. A. and Babu Rajendra Prasad on 28 January, 1935 at Asoka Road, New Delhi, between 2.30 and 4.30.

76 Ibid., notes of conversation held on 31 January, 1935.

77 Ibid.

78 Ibid., notes of the conversation between Malaviya on the one side and Patel, Bhulabhai Desai and Prasad on the other, 31/1/35.

79 Ibid., notes of conversation between Jinnah and Prasad, 13, 14/2/1935.

80 RPP, III/35, Tgm, Narayan, Sen Indra to Prasad, 15/2/1935.

81 Ibid., Reddy to Prasad, 17/2/1935.

82 RRP, IV/1935, daily notes, Prasad, 20/2/1935.

83 IAR, vol. I, 1935, p. 314(a).

84 Ibid., p. 325.

85 IAR, vol. I, 1935, p. 328.

86 Ibid.

87 RPP, IV/35, Joint Statement of Prasad and Jinnah, 1/3/1935.

88 IOR, L/PO/49(ii), The communal settlement report by Lothian, 18/7/1932.

89 Nehru, J., An Autobiography (London, 1941), p. 576.

90 Gandhi, was quoted in The Modern Review, vol. LXVII, no. 3 (03 1940), p. 362.

91 Liberty, 18/8/1932.

92 Advance, 18/2/1932.

93 Amrita Bazar Patrika (hereafter ABP), 23/9/1933.

94 RPP, IV/36, Roy, K. S. to Nehru, 6/8/1936.

95 NMML, Ghosh, S. M., oral transcript, p. 305.

96 Bose to the Secretary, BPCC, 29/7/1935, in Chakravarty and Bhattacharyya, Congress Policy, p. 26.

97 HMP, C/8, Das, N. N. to Indra Narayan Sen, General Secretary, Congress Nationlist Party, Bengal, 24/8/1935.

98 ABP, 16/11/1936.

99 HMP, C/8, copy of the memorial signed by 126 individuals including retired District Magistrate, Editors of the newspapers, representative Hindu leaders, chairman of the municipalities, member of the Bengal Legislative Council.

100 Ibid.

101 Ibid.

102 Ibid., circular to the districts, signed by R. K. Mukherjee and T. C. Goswami, 5/6/1936.

103 Ibid., reply from the districts, 11/6, 13/6, 14/6/1935.

104 Ibid., anonymous letter to R. K. Mukherjee, 14/6/1936.

105 Ibid.

106 NMML, AICC, G24/19341936, Satis, Dasgupta to Nehru, 7/6/1936.

107 Azad, 18/6/1936.

108 IOR, L/PO/40, Ghuznavi to Mahatab, B. C., 17/12/1936.

109 Ibid.

110 Ibid.

111 IOR, L/PO/40, Mahatab to Ghuznavi, 18/12/1936.

112 NMML, B. C. Roy Papers, Mahatab to Roy, 18/12/1936.

113 Ibid., Roy to Mahatab, 22/12/1936.

114 IOR, L/PO/40, Zetland to Mahatab, 22/6/1936.

115 Ibid., Ghuznavi to Mahatab, 17/12/1936.

116 IOR, R/3/2/2 Bengal Governor to Linlithgow, 17/12/1936.

117 Ibid.

118 ibid.

119 Pirzada, (ed.), Foundations of Pakistan, vol. II, p. 194.

120 IOR, R/3/2/2, Bengal Governor to Viceroy, 3/12/1936.

121 Bose was reluctant to call it an ‘award’ to him it was ‘a lesser evil than the partition of Bengal’. Sharma, M. V., The Right Man in the Right Place, Subhas Bose (Lahore, 1938), p. 25.

122 Subhas, Bose, IS, p. 288.

123 Ibid., p. 289.

124 RPP, IV/36, Bose to Secretary, BPCC, 29/7/1935.

125 IAR, vol. I, 1935,Ansari's press statement, 21/5/1934, p. 296.

126 Chakravarti and Bhattacharyya, Congress Policy, p. 38.

127 RPP, IV/1935, Bose to the Secretary, BPCC, 29/7/1935.

128 Subhas, Bose, IS, p. 288.

129 Chakravarti and Bhattacharyya, Congress policy, p. 29.

130 AICC, 24/1936, Congress Election Manifesto.

131 Ibid.

132 Ibid.,

Roy, B. C. issued the Bengal Congress Manifesto, 1/10/1936.

133 Ibid., copy of the resolution adopted on 2/9/1936.

134 AICC, P6/Part I/1936, Nehru to BPCC Secretary, Chandra, Majumdar Suresh, 6/8/1936.

135 AICC, 24/1936, Nehru to Sarat Bose, 26/9/1936.

136 Ibid., Nehru to Jagat Narayan Lal, 30/9/1936.

137 Ibid., Sarat to Nehru, 19/9/1936.

138 AICC, G24/1936, Patel to Roy, B. C., 9/10/1936. The content of the letter was quoted in Charkravarti and Bhattacharyya, Congress policy, p. 15.

139 B. C.Roy Papers, resolution of the Parlimentary Committee, 8/11/1936.

140 AICC, P6/Part II/1936, Sarat to Nehru, 7/8/1936.

141 Ibid., Nehru to Sarat, 14 /8/1936.

142 Ibid., K. S. Roy to Nehru, 6/8/1936.

143 AICC, 24/1936, Nehru to Sarat 4/10/1936.

144 B. C. Roy Papers, File no. 39, Nationalist Party circular, ‘Nationalist Party's attitude, BPCC and the Award: basis for collaboration’, 22/11/1936.

145 Chakravarti and Bhattacharyya, Congress policy, p. 15.

146 AICC, E7/1/Part I/1937, excerpts from the Kaiser-i-Hind, Bombay, 6/6/1937.

147 IOR, R/3/2/2, Bengal Governor to Linlithgow, 6/3/1937.

148 Ibid., Bengal Governor to Linlithgow, 3/12/1936.

149 Ibid.

150 Ibid.

151 Ibid.

152 NAI, F120/33, Qualification of electors: (a) payment of not less than 6 annas chaukidari tax or 8 annas Municipal tax or fee; (b) having passed the matriculation or the school leaving certificate or an examination accepted by local government as equivalent; (c) being a wife of a person possessing the property qualification at present but will be on the roll during widowhood or until remarriage when she will cease to be qualified in respect of her late husband; (d) assessment of income tax; (e) being a retired, pensioned or discharged officer, non-commercial officer or soldier of His Majesty's regular forces.

153 IOR, CMD 5589, vol. XXI, 1937, election results, p. 212.

The Communal Award of 1932 and its Implications in Bengal

  • Bidyut Chakrabarty (a1)


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