Civil Disobedience Movement (1930)

The Civil Disobedience Movement launched by Congress under the leadership of Gandhi on 12th March 1930 was a response reaction to the political-admin, and socio-economic conditions prevailing in India. This movement was not awakening among the masses on the one hand & discontent produced by suffering produced by British Rule on other hand. This was started by initiating Salt March (also known as Dandi Satyagrah or Dandi yatra or Namak Satyagrah) led by Mahatama Gandhi.

Mahatama Gandhi started Dandi Yatra on his feet with his 78 followers from his Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi. This protest was against the Salt taxation policy of the British that created a British monopoly on salt production. One can also conclude that the Salt tax policy of British had provided a very strong platform for Indian nationalists to protest and initiated the Civil Disobedience Movement against them. This Salt March has provided a very strong inauguratory ground to the Civil disobedience Movement. This Salt March spanned over 385 km from Sabarmati to Dandi. All this march was carried on the feet and very obviously created heavy pressure on the British Government.

Why Civil Disobedience Movement was required to create pressure on the British Government?

The colonial characteristics of British Rule were the most fundamental factor for the launching of the Civil Disobedience Movement. Nationalist insult hunted by the all-white composition of the Simon Commission was another important factor behind launching the Civil Disobedience Movement. All the members of European & not a single Indian cadre were fit to contribute to deciding India’s political future.

On 31st December 1929, Indian National Congress raised the tricolor flag of India on the banks of River Ravi at Lahore, British India (now in Pakistan). On 26th January 1930, Jawaharlal Nehru declared Poorna Swaraj and declared self-rule and sovereignty for Indians. Through this Nehru raised the voice for the inalienable right of Indians to be a part of the Government. The Congress Working Committee had given the responsibility to Mahatama Gandhi to raise the voice of Indians against the British and their oppressing policy.

Mahatam Gandhi and Sarojini Naidu
Mahatam Gandhi and Sarojini Naidu

The Congress was also anticipating the arrest of Mahatama Gandhi, this is why they were ready to lead after the probable arrest of Gandhi by the British. The Mahatama Gandhi and Congress Working Committee devised the Civil Disobedience Movement being started with Salt Satyagrah to agitate against the 1882 Salt Act that gave the monopoly to the British on the collection and manufacturing of salt.

The refusal of the British government to accept Nehru’s report left the Indian Nation with no other alternative but to launch a Mass Movement. Secretary of state of India lord Birkenhead had promised to accept & implement the constitutional draft prepared by the main Indian parties. Except for Muslim League, all other parties agree in favor of the Nehru Report league was politically insignia at that time & it was a puppet in the bard of British Rule.

Every Indian Nationalist knew that the league had rejected Nehru Report because the British Government wanted to. It has been almost 10 years, since the withdrawal of the Non-Cooperation Movement; hardly Mass Movement was organized by Congress for the last 8 years. The level of discontent among people was very high & to provide an opportunity for this anti-British discontent to come out Congress launched the Civil Disobedience Movement in March 1980 under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.

Why Salt March was selected as the precursor of Civil Disobedience by Congress Working Committee?

Congress Working Committee was looking for a precursor that must be connected to every Indian. The idea of involving every Indian was placed to make Civil Disobedience Movement more effective. Only after the involvement of almost every Indian the implementation of the idea of Poorna Swaraj and self-rule would be more effective. Mahatama Gandhi suggested the monopoly of the British over the collection and manufacturing of salt through the 1882 Salt Act. This idea has been met with incredulity by the members of the Working Committee. Even the newspapers of that time tried to mock the idea of protesting against the Salt Act.

When British Administration came to know about the protest against Salt Act 1882, they took it lightly, and the Viceroy Lord Irvin sent a message to London. He said that the salt campaign is something that doesn’t force him to have sleepless nights. Jawaharlal Nehru and Dibyalochan Sahoo had mixed feeling over the salt Campaign. Saradar Vallabhhai Patel had suggested the protest against the Land revenue boycott instead.

But Mahatama Gandhi was more focussed on Salt Agitation. He asserted that Salt is an item that is of daily use and is affecting the poor Indian most. He said that after air and water, salt is something that is quite common and essential for everyone. At that time, British India was collecting over 8% of revenue through Salt Tax. Mahatama Gandhi was able to convince Congress about the Salt agitation as the precursor. However, it was also decided that everyone will participate in a different manner to make the civil disobedience movement more effective.

On 5th February 1930, a newspaper announced that Mahatama Gandhi would break the Salt act to start Civil Disobedience Movement on 12th March 1930. It was decided that Salt March would progress through 4 districts and 48 villages. On 2nd March, Mahatama Gandhi wrote to Viceroy Lord Irvin offering him to stop Salt Agitation.

The Salt March to Dandi on 12th March 1930

On 12th March 1930, Mahatama Gandhi took his 78 followers from his Sabarmati Ashram towards Dandi. The 78 Followers belonged to every caste, religion, region and belief. All his followers were endorsing white Khadi dress. The Salt March spanned over 385 km covering 4 districts and 48 villages. A huge crowd welcomed Mahatama Gandhi and his followers. Thousands of Leaders and Satyagrahi had joined them towards Dandi. As they entered each village, crowds greeted the marchers, beating drums and cymbals.

Gandhi gave speeches attacking the salt tax as inhuman, and the salt satyagraha as a “poor man’s struggle”. Each night they slept in the open. The only thing that was asked of the villagers was food and water to wash with. Gandhi felt that this would bring the poor into the struggle for sovereignty and self-rule, necessary for eventual victory.

Salt March
Salt March

Mahatama Gandhi started Dandi Yatra on his feet with his 78 followers from his Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi. This protest was against the Salt taxation policy of the British that created a British monopoly on salt production. One can also conclude that the Salt tax policy of British had provided a very strong platform for Indian nationalists to protest and initiated the Civil Disobedience Movement against them. This Salt March has provided a very strong inauguratory ground to the Civil disobedience Movement. This Salt March spanned over 385 km from Sabarmati to Dandi. All this march was carried on the feet and very obviously created heavy pressure on the British Government.

The Civil Disobedience Movement spanned over British India

North-Western India: In northwest Frontier Province, the movement was laid by Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan also known as “Frontier Gandhi”. His red shirt movement was leading the agitate movement and attracted immense mass support. The level of its popularity could be gauged from the fact that at Peshawar, soldiers of the Gorkha regiment refused to open fire of peaceful agitate.

North Western Province (UP): Here movement was launched with the slogan “No rent, No revenue”. No rent campaign was in Jamindari areas, because Jamindars used to pay revenue to the government. No revenue campaign was in Mahalwari & Ryotwari areas where peasants used to pay revenue to the government directly. Magic lantern (lamp), Prabhat Ferries (Early morning walks) & Patrika’s (local illegal news ship) were used to mobilize the masses.

Eastern India: Along with the “No rent, No revenue” campaign, mass agitate was also launched against Chaukidari tax & union board tax. Chaukidari tax was collected from villagers to pay the village guard. He was a link between police & villagers. Even though Chaukidar was paid out of the money raised by villagers. He used to spy against villagers. Union Board tax was a municipal tax.

Central India (Maharashtra & Karnataka): The movement was launched against forest law, Forest Act 1927 imposed several restrictions on the rights of forest dwellers they weren’t allowed to use forest products freely as was the case earlier.

North–East: Rani Gaidinliu laid mass agitate in Nagaland. She was a young tribal girl of about 20 years of age. She was deeply influenced by Gandhian ideas. She laid a struggle from the front. She was arrested by police for leading national activities & released after Independence. She was conferred the title “Rani” by Jawaharlal Nehru.

Other Agitation supporting Civil Disobedience Movement

The Civil Disobidience movement was supported massively by Indians. Everyone has contributed in their way leading to the success of the organized peaceful protest against the British Administration.

Dharsana Salt Satyagrah led By Abbas Tyabji

The most intense anti-salt taxes agitation was organized at Dharasana in Gujarat. This agitates was initially laid by Gandhiji. After his arrest, the responsibility was assured by Abbas Tyabji. When he was arrested, Sarojini Naidu jumped to the front to lead agitates.

American journalist Webb Miller eye-witnessed this agitation. He wrote that in his 18 years of international career, he has never seen such peaceful determined agitate. With the scorching heat of the day, agitators used to move towards the Dharasana salt factor in line after line. Policemen used to beat them mercilessly till the time they didn’t fall unconscious. After one falls unconscious second line moved toward to meet the same fate. This scenario continued throughout the day.

While leading agitations at Dharasana, Sarojini Naidu extorted agitators by commenting that “Gandhiji’s Body is in jail, but his soul is with you. India’s prestige in your hand you must not use any violence under any circumstances. You will be beaten but you must not resist, you must not raise a hand to ward off these blows.” The determination of Indian Nationalists at Dharasana was of a higher order. It set a precedent for the anti-British struggle. Anti-Salt tax agitate was also organized at Wadala (Mumbai). Sainiktala salt factory (Karnataka) & Madras.

Flag Agitation

National Flag was unfurled by Indian Nationalists as a mark of defining British Rule. At Chirala Perala (coastal Andhra Pradesh)/Baindur Flag agitation was organized by Thota Narasaiah Naidu. He was beaten by Police mercilessly but didn’t leave the flag even after falling unconscious.

At Calicut, P. Krishna Pillai unfurled the National Flag –Here also agitators were brutally lathi-charged. At Surat, kids uniquely organized flag. When policemen snatched away their flag repeatedly they put on the flag as clothes & run on the street.

Student Agitation

Students participated in a large number in the Civil Disobedience Movement throughout India. The most intense student agitates witnessed in Assam against Cunningham Circular. This was issued by the government to prohibit the participation of students in National activities. Guarantees were sought by parents that their wards will not part in many national activities.

Working Class Agitation

The laborers participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement in a large number of strikes & lockouts observed throughout India. Most intense working-class agitation organized in Sholapur in Maharashtra from 7th May to 16th May 1930, complete government ink remain paralyzed & laborer runs the parallel government.

Business Class Agitation

For the first time in the history of the Indian Struggle against British Rule, the Indian business class extended open support to national activities. The textile mill owners refused to use foreign yam. They stopped manufacturing Khadi because it was manufactured by agitators.

Pedestrian Marches during the Civil Disobedience movement

Indian Nationalists organized pedestrian marches to reach the seacoast for manufacturing salt. Rajagopalacharya laid March from Tiruchirapalli to Vedaranyam in Tamil Nadu. Keltappan laid March from Calicut Payannur in Malabar Coast. Group of Satyagrahi’s laid march Guwahati to Noakhali (Bengal) to reach sea coast.

Repsone towards the Civil Disobedience Movement

Congress launched the Civil Disobedience Movement under the leadership of Gandhiji, almost all leaders of Congress supported the Civil Disobedience movement wholeheartedly except a small group of few leaders composing C. Kelkar, Satyamurthi & M.A. Ansari. These Leaders refused to resign from the legislative council through they supported the Civil Disobedience movement. They were known as the new Swarajist.

Socialists supported the Civil Disobedience movement wholeheartedly because the group of the Civil Disobedience movement was by their ideas. Communists also supported the Civil Disobedience movement wholeheartedly. Muslim League remained away from nationalist activities.

Business-class supported the Civil Disobedience movement & it was for the first time that business class was participating in notional activity openly. By this time leaders of the Indian Business Class (Capitalist) had realized that it would no longer be possible to remain away from national activities.

They could sense that the government would not take these seriously without the support of Congress. This realization persuaded the business class to declare its open support for the Civil Disobedience Movement.

Changing role of Business Pressure

The Indian business class had announced his support for the Civil Disobedience Movement with the hope that the movement would be short-lived. The national activity involving agitation demonstration strikes & lockout was against the interest of the business class because production used to get obstructed & markets also used get seriously affected.

Business-class had made up its mind to bear the short-term losses for long-term gain but when the movement continued for more than six months leaders of the Business Class started becoming restive. Business Class leaders such as Purshottam D. Thakur started building pressure on Gandhiji & other national leaders to get the national struggle suspended so that their business could be revived.

Salt Rights granted by Britain
Salt Rights granted by Britain

Critics of the Gandhi-Irvin pact emphasize that this Business Class pressure had an important role in signing the Gandhi Irvin pact that suspended the Civil Disobedience Movement. These critics also emphasized that the Karachi session of Congress rectified Gandhi Irvin’s pact certain basic weaknesses of the Civil Disobedience Movement.

At the Karachi session, the wish of the Business Class & Landlords in form of rectification of the Gandhi Irvin pact because the suspension of the Civil Disobedience movement benefitted these classes.

Karachi Congress Session

Karachi session was held during 26-28 March 1931 after the suspension of the Civil Disobedience movement through the Gandhi-Irvin pact. This pact was ratified in Karachi.

Critics of the Gandhi-Irwin pact emphasized that the movement was at its peak when it was suddenly suspended by Gandhi & this suspension was carried out under the pressure of the Business Class & Landlords because of growing radicalization in the Civil Disobedience movement was expected to destroy the existing socio-economic structure. In which these classes enjoy a dominant position.

A closer examination of circumstances leading to the suspension of the District Magistrate revealed that the decision of Gandhi to sign a pact with Gandhi-Lord Irvin was in nature consonance with fundamental characteristics of the Gandhian Movement.

The movement was going on for almost a year common masses were getting exhausted. At a time when no signature gain was coming from the British side, Gandhi suspended the Mass Movement so that the masses could take rest & regain the energy. The suspension of the Civil Disobedience movement was a reflection of Gandhi’s strategy Struggle Truce Struggle & Pressure Compromise Pressure.

Gandhi Irwin pact
Gandhi Irwin Pact

The resolution adopted by Congress at the Karachi session clearly confirmed that the influence of the poor & working had increased enormously in Congress.

Resolution adopted on Fine Resolutions & National economic program defined the meaning of Swaraj for common masses for the first time because of this instead of being an indication of the inherent weakness of the Civil Disobedience Movement. Karachi Congress in reality reflected the great strength of this movement.

Swaraj as defined in Karachi Session

Karachi’s session has presided over Patel Fine Resolutions & National economic program adopted in Karachi and drafted by Jawaharlal Nehru. Every citizen of India must enjoy basic civil rights of freedom of speech, association & assembly. Freedom of the press must be guaranteed. Equality before law. Elections shall be based on universal adult suffrage.

Primary education should be free & compulsory. The burden of land revenue & other taxes should be substantially reduced. Minorities, women, and peasants must enjoy protection. Women will enjoy living wages and the number of working hours should be limited. Key industry, mining & exportation should be under government control.

This resolution adopted in Karachi reflected the dominance of the socialist outlook & it was proclaimed that Independent India shall be a welfare state where the interest of every section of people will be taken care of.

Gandhi-Irvin Pact after Civil Disobedience

Gandhi-Irwin Pact, the agreement signed on March 5, 1931, between Mohandas K. Gandhi, leader of the Indian nationalist movement, and Lord Irwin (later Lord Halifax), British viceroy (1926–31) of India. It marked the end of a period of civil disobedience (Satyagraha) in India against British rule that Gandhi and his followers had initiated with the Salt March (March–April 1930). Gandhi’s arrest and imprisonment at the end of the march, for illegally making salt, sparked one of his more effective civil disobedience movements.

By the end of 1930, tens of thousands of Indians were in jail (including future Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru), the movement had generated worldwide publicity, and Irwin was looking for a way to end it. Gandhi was released from custody in January 1931, and the two men began negotiating the terms of the pact.

In the end, Gandhi pledged to give up the Satyagraha campaign, and Irwin agreed to release those who had been imprisoned during it and to allow Indians to make salt for domestic use. Later that year Gandhi attended the second session (September–December) of the Round Table Conference in London.

Significance of the Civil Disobedience Movement

The national movement was greatly radicalized by the launching of the Civil Disobedience Movement. The social base of the Anti-British Struggle widens greatly because the Poor and working-class participated in this struggle large number participation of students was also remarkable for the first time Business Class had supported the National Movement.

New methods of struggle were used by Indian Nationalists to fight against British rule during the Civil Disobedience Movement. The efficacy of the Gandhian Movement was proved once again because the class of Indians had participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement.

The fight against British Rule was carried to a part of the number return because the movement was launched with the demand of Poorna Swaraj. It eliminated the possibility of any conciliation with British Rule. The refusal of the Gorkha regiment to open fire on peaceful agitators indicated that the spirit of the nation had started inflecting men in uniforms. The steel pillars on which British rule was resting in India had started getting rust. It was just a matter of time before these pillars were to start crumbling.

The influence of Socialism Idea was increased greatly by the Civil Disobedience Movement. This inflection got reflected, in the resolution adopted by Congress in Karachi where the meaning of Swaraj was defined for 1st time in the context of the masses.

Practice Questions for UPSC Prelims

Ques 1: Which Indian mass movement began with the famous ‘Dandi March’ of Mahatma Gandhi?

  1. Khilafat movement
  2. Non-Co-operation movement
  3. Civil Disobedience movement
  4. Quit India movement

Answer: Option 3

Explanation: The Salt March or Dandi March was started on 12th March 1930 from Sabarmati Ashram and reached Dandi on 6th April 1930. They covered 240 miles in 24 days. Gandhiji violated the salt law by making salt from seawater. It is also known as the Salt Satyagraha or Civil Disobedience Movement. Lord Irwin was viceroy during the launch of the Civil Disobedience Movement. Sarojini Naidu was among the leaders who accompanied Mahatma Gandhi during the Dandi March. 

Ques 2: The Gandhi — Irwin Pact was associated with which of the following movements of India? 

  1. Rowlatt Act
  2. Civil Disobedience 
  3. Non-co-operation
  4. Quit India

Answer: Option 2

Explanation: The Gandhi-Irwin Pact was associated with the civil disobedience movement of India.

    • The agreement was signed by Mahatma Gandhi and Lord Irwin.
    • The pact was signed on 5th March 1931.
    • Arranged before the second round table conference in London.
    • As per Gandhi-Irwin Pact, Gandhiji discontinued the Civil Disobedience movement and agreed to attend the second round table conference.
  • Proposed conditions of the Gandhi-Irwin Pact are:
    1. Participation by the Indian National Congress in the Second Round Table Conference.
    2. Removal of the tax on salt.
    3. Withdrawal of all ordinances imposing curbs on the activities of the Indian National Congress issued by the Government of India.
    4. Discontinuation of Salt March.
  • Non-Co-operation movement was the first mass political movement led by Gandhiji.
    • Started in 1920.
    • Main goal: The attainment of Swaraj.
  • Rowlatt Act was passed on 6th February 1919.
    • Gandhiji called this act as ‘The Black Act’.
    • Lord Chelmsford was the British viceroy during the Rowlatt Act.
  • Quit India resolution was passed on 8th August 1942.
    • The failure of the Crips mission was the immediate cause of the Quit India movement.
    • Quit India” was the famous slogan raised during this movement.

Quick Questions on Civil Disobedience Movement for UPSC Preparation

The Civil Disobedience Movement was started on 12th March 1930, when Mahatama Gandhi started Salt Satyagrah against the discrimnatory Salt Act 1882 of British. The Salt Act 1882 has provided monopoly to British to collect and manufacture the Salt.

Dandi March also called as Salt Satyagrah was related to Civil Disobedience Movement started by Mahatama Gandhi in the year 1930 against the British Government. Civil Disobedience Movement was announced after the Poorna Swaraj Declaration by Jawaharlal Nehru on 26 January 1930.

The Salt Act 1882 was the reform that provided the monopolisitc right to British Government to collect and manufacture the Salt barring all other Indian to do the same. If any other Indian is willing to collect and manufacture the salt, then they have to pay the Salt Tax to the governement.

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