The ‘Gandhi-Irwin Pact’ was a political agreement signed by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Lord Irwin, the then Viceroy of India, on 5 March 1931 before the second Round Table Conference in London.
Before this, Lord Irwin, the Viceroy, had announced in October 1929 a vague offer of ‘dominion status’ for British-occupied India in an unspecified future and a Round Table Conference to discuss a future constitution. The second Round Table Conference was held from September to December 1931 in London.
“The Two Leaders”—as Sarojini Naidu described Gandhi and Lord Irwin—had eight meetings that totalled 24 hours. Gandhi was impressed by Irwin’s sincerity. The terms of the “Gandhi-Irwin Pact” fell manifestly short of those Gandhi prescribed as the minimum for a truce.
Below are the proposed conditions:-
- Discontinuation of Salt March by the Indian National Congress
- Participation by the Indian National Congress in the Second Round Table Conference
- Withdrawal of all ordinances issued by the Government of India imposing curbs on the activities of the Indian National Congress
- Withdrawal of all prosecutions relating to several types of offenses except those involving violence
- Release of prisoners arrested for participating in the Salt March.
- Removal of the tax on salt, which allowed the Indians to produce, trade, and sell salt legally and for their own private use
Many British officials in India, and in Great Britain, were outraged by the idea of a pact with a party whose avowed purpose was the destruction of the British Raj.
Winston Churchill publicly expressed his disgust “…at the nauseating and humiliating spectacle of this one-time Inner Temple lawyer, now seditious fakir, striding half-naked up the steps of the Viceroy’s palace, there to negotiate and parley on equal terms with the representative of the King Emperor.”
In reply, His Majesty’s Government agreed to:-
- Withdraw all ordinances and end prosecutions
- Release all political prisoners, except those guilty of violence
- Permit peaceful picketing of liquor and foreign cloth shops
- Restore confiscated properties of the satyagrahis
- Permit free collection or manufacture of salt by persons near the sea-coast
- Lift the ban over the Congress.