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Mains Test Series

GoI act, 1935, Poona Pact, Forward Block, communists and socialists, Politics before World war II.

Q. In the context of communal award, discuss the impact of the Poona pact on Indian society. (250 words)

Solution

Introduction: On 16 August 1932, McDonald announced the proposal for minority representation, known as the Communal Award, which recommended a communal electorate. It is also known as the ‘McDonald Award ‘. It was based on the findings of the Lothian committee.

Provisions of the Communal Award:

This award accorded separate electorates for Muslims, Europeans, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo Indians, depressed classes and even the Marathas for some seats in Bombay.

Congress’ reaction:

  1. Criticism of the Award:
    • The award was perceived by the national leaders led by the Congress as another manifestation of the British policy of divide and rule.
    • A policy of appeasement and quota regulation steadily killing India was launched with this award.
  2. Attempted to make a deal with Muslims: Gandhi attempted to strike a deal with Muslims, promising to support their demands as long as they voted against separate electorates for the depressed class.
  3. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar accepted Gandhi’s position and signed the Poona pact. Poona pact,1932 :

In this pact, there was an agreement between Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi at Yerwada Central Jail in Pune. The government thus amended the Communal award to give effect to this agreement. 

Provisions of the Poona pact :

  • The Poona pact rejected the idea of separate electorates for the depressed classes.
  • The seats reserved for the depressed classes were raised from 71 to 147 in provincial legislatures and 18% of the total in the central legislature.
  • But these seats were to be filled by the general electorate.

Impact of the Poona Pact:

Positives:

  • Prevented another division in the Indian society: The Communal electorates were already successful in creating divisions in the Indian society.
  • Uplift the morale of the depressed community: It boosted the morale of the depressed community in India who had been suffering for ages.
  • Awareness about the rights: Dalit people learned about their political rights.
  • Increased social awareness: It increased social awareness about the situations and rights of the Dalits.
  • Challenged the divide-and-rule policy: It tried to undo the divisive intentions of the government’s divide-and-rule policy.
  • Formed the basis of the present-day system of reservation in India: Even today, we have reserved seats in India elected through a general electorate.

Criticism from the Dalit Circles:

  • Though the pact had a significant role in the Dalit upliftment, the gain was only emotional, momentary and shortlived in the absence of economic and educational upliftment.
  • This pact made the depressed classes political tools that could be used by the majoritarian caste Hindu organisations.
  • The Dalits were forced to accept the status quo in ideological, political, and cultural fields, and they could not develop independent and genuine leadership to oppose the Brahmanical order.
  • It made Dalits leaderless as their genuine representatives could not win against the stooges the caste Hindu organisations supported.
  • It subordinated Dalits to being part of the Hindu society by rejecting their distinct existence.

Conclusion: The Poona Pact was a watershed moment in India’s constitutional and political history. It brought to light tensions between the Dalits and Caste Hindus, haunting the independence struggle and negotiations between Indians and the British for the rest of their lives. 

It was an anti-thesis to the idea that the Dalits had an existence separate from the Hindu Society, thereby preventing another division in the society and forming a basis of present-day reservation.

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