Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

Ambedkar and the Poona Pact


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Poona Pact, Communal Award

Mains level : Read the attached story

Yesterday was the birth anniversary of Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of our constitution. On that occasion, author of the news (originally published in TH) highlights the significance of Poona Pact in the formation of our Constitution.

The Poona Pact of 1932 is a landmark event in India’s struggle for independence. It marked the start of social justice movement in the country under the leadership of Dr. Ambedkar.

What is Poona Pact?

  • In late September 1932, B.R. Ambedkar negotiated the Poona Pact with Mahatma Gandhi.
  • The background to the Poona Pact was the Communal Award of August 1932, which, among other things, reserved 71 seats in the central legislature for the depressed classes.
  • The Award was made by then British PM Ramsay MacDonald on 16 August 1932 to extended separate electorate.
  • It aimed to grant separate electorates in British India for the Forward Caste, Lower Caste, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans and then Untouchables.
  • Gandhi, who was opposed to the Communal Award, saw it as a British attempt to split Hindus, and began a fast unto death to have it repealed.

How Poona Pact defeated the Communal Award?

  • Reserved seats: In a settlement negotiated with Gandhi, Ambedkar agreed for depressed class candidates to be elected by a joint electorate.
  • More representation: On his insistence, slightly over twice as many seats (147) were reserved for the depressed classes in the legislature than what had been allotted under the Communal Award.
  • Doors opened for Public Services: In addition, the Poona Pact assured a fair representation of the depressed classes in the public services while earmarking a portion of the educational grant for their uplift.
  • Social acceptance: The Poona Pact was an emphatic acceptance by upper-class Hindus that the depressed classes constituted the most discriminated sections of Hindu society.
  • Increased political say: It was also conceded that something concrete had to be done to give them a political voice as well as a leg-up to lift them from backwardness they could not otherwise overcome.

Significance of the pact

  • The concessions agreed to in the Poona Pact were precursors to the world’s largest affirmative programme launched much later in independent India.
  • It would also not have been lost on him that Muhammad Ali Jinnah, with the separatist tendencies strongly backing him, was watching and waiting to take advantage of the evolving situation.
  • A slew of measures was initiated later to uplift Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Major outcomes

  • The Poona Pact emphatically sealed Ambedkar’s leadership of the depressed classes across India.
  • He made the entire country, and not just the Congress Party, morally responsible for the uplift of the depressed classes.
  • Most of all he succeeded in making the depressed classes a formidable political force for the first time in history.

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