Civil Disobedience Movement

The Civil Disobedience Movement started with the Dandi March by Gandhi. He began the march from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi, a small village located on the sea coast of Gujarat. He made salt in violation of the Salt Law and began the Civil Disobedience Movement. He chose salt as the Salt Tax was affecting every section of Indian society, especially the poor. The breaking of the Salt Law at Dandi marked the beginning of the Civil Disobedience Movement. The programs of the movement were

  • To defy the Salt Law by making salt
  • Boycott of liquor
  • Boycott of foreign cloth and other foreign goods

Non-payment of taxes and revenues The Civil Disobedience Movement was different from the Non-Cooperation Movement as the formerly included non-payment of taxes and land revenues and violation of different laws.

Progress of Civil Disobedience Movement

People participated in the movement in large numbers. Salt Laws were violated all over the country. The people in Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Central Provinces refused to obey the Forest Laws. People in eastern India refused to pay the chaukidari tax. People boycotted foreign goods, held demonstrations, picketed liquor shops, and carried on campaigns against British rule. The Pathans in northwestern India under the leadership of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (also known as the Frontier Gandhi) led a non-violent struggle. They organized a society of ‘Khudai Khidmatgars’ and were also known as ‘Red Shirts’. The movement also became popular in the eastern parts of the country where people from Manipur and Nagaland joined the struggle against the British.

Repression of the Movement

The government repressed the movement brutally. Over 90,000 Satyagrahis along with several Congress leaders were imprisoned. Congress was declared illegal and restrictions were imposed on the nationalist press. When there were demonstrations by the Pathans against the arrest of Ghaffar Khan, the police refused to open fire on the protesting mob. Many police officers were severely punished for refusing to open fire on the mob. Protestors at Delhi and Kolkata were fired at.

First Round Table Conference

The First Round Table Conference was held in London from 12 November 1930 to 19 January 1931. Congress boycotted the Conference (as it opposed the Simon Commission), but other political parties and interest groups participated in the Conference.

Gandhi Irwin Pact

The government started negotiations with Gandhi (who was in jail) to bring an end to the Civil Disobedience Movement. This resulted in the signing of a pact between Lord Irwin, the Viceroy of India, and Gandhi which came to be known as the ‘Gandhi Irwin Pact’.

The government agreed to the following terms:

  • To withdraw all ordinances and end prosecutions
  • To release all political prisoners except those who were guilty of violence
  • To allow peaceful picketing of shops selling liquor and foreign clothes
  • To restore confiscated properties of the Satyagrahis
  • To allow people living near the coast to make and manufacture salt

Congress agreed to the following terms:

  • To suspend the Civil Disobedience Movement
  • To participate in the Second Round Table Conference
  • Not to press for investigations into police excesses

Second Round Table Conference

It took place between 7 September and December 1931. It was attended by Gandhi. The British government refused to grant Dominion Status to India. The Conference saw the demand for separate electorates was raised not only by Muslims but also by people of depressed classes, Anglo Indians, Indian Christians, and Europeans.

Continuation of Civil Disobedience Movement

As the Second Round Table Conference was disappointed and failed, Gandhi returned to India. Further, the Great Depression of 1929–30 also hit the Indian farmers hard. Gandhi demanded talks with Viceroy Willingdon which was refused. Congress passed a resolution in January 1932 for the renewal of the Civil Disobedience Movement. Gandhi was arrested, Congress was declared illegal and ordinances were passed giving the government special powers. The government brutally suppressed the movement. Gradually, the movement died down.

Impact of the Civil Disobedience Movement

Though the movement did not bring freedom to the country, it played an important role in deepening the freedom struggle of the people. The movement instilled patriotism among the people in the country which did not die down till the country became independent. The movement widened the base of the freedom struggle as people from different classes including workers, merchants, tribals, and women participated in it. The movement popularized new methods of propaganda. For example, the ‘Prabhat Pheris’ (groups of men and women who roamed in the village and town singing patriotic songs) became popular.

Many social reforms were initiated as part of the movement. Depressed classes were now given entry into temples and access to wells. Women participated in the movement in large numbers, and they became equal partners in the freedom struggle. The Government realized the need for passing the constitutional reforms and thus passed the Government of India Act, 1935, which introduced the principles of the federation and provincial autonomy. The Congress achieved good results in elections to Legislative Assemblies in the following year and to Provincial Legislative Assemblies in 1937. In short, the Civil Disobedience Movement ignited national feelings among the people and trained them for launching new movements against British rule.

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