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, socio-economic condition prevailing in India. This movement was not awakening among masses on one hand & discontent produced by suffering produced by British Rule on other hand.

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 fit to contribute to deciding Indian’s political future.

Simon Commission
Simon Commission

The refusal of the British government to accept as Nehru 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 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 so. 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 the Congress launched the Civil Disobedience Movement in March 1980 under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.

The Civil Disobedience Movement in 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 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 were 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.

Salt Agitation

Salt March
Salt March

Most intense anti-salt taxes agitate was organized at Dharasana at 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 was eye-witnessed this agitation. He wrote that in his 18 years International career, he never saw 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 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 brutally lathi-charged. At Surat, kids uniquely organized flag. When policemen snatched away from 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 & lockout were 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 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 manufacturing 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.

The attitude of Parties towards the Civil Disobedience Movement

The 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 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 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 to 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 business class because production used to get obstructed & markets also used to get seriously affected.

Business-class had made up his mind to bear the short-term losses for long-term gain but when movement continued for more than six months leaders of 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 Gandhi Irvin pact that suspended the Civil Disobedience Movement. These critics also emphasized that the Karachi session of Congress that rectified Gandhi Irvin pact certain basic weakness of the Civil Disobedience Movement.

At Karachi session, wish of Business Class & Landlords in form of rectification of 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 suspension of the Civil Disobedience movement through Gandhi-Irvin pact. This pact was ratified at 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 enjoying a dominant position.

Closer examination to circumstances leading to the suspension of District Magistrate revealed that the decision of Gandhi to sign a pact with Gandhi-Lord Irvin was in nature consonance with fundamentals characters of 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 masses could take rest & regain the energy. Suspension of 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 poor & working had increased enormously in Congress.

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.

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 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 at Karachi and was 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 guarantee. 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, peasants must enjoy protection. Women will enjoy living wages and the number of working hours should be limited. Key industry, mining & exportation should be 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.

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 refused of the Gorkha regiment to open fire on peaceful agitators indicated that the spirit of the nation had started inflecting man 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 at Karachi where the meaning of Swaraj was defined for 1st time in the context of masses.