Civil Disobedience Movement

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  • The Civil Disobedience Movement launched by Congress under leadership of Gandhi on 12th March 1930 was 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 most fundamental factor for launching of Civil Disobedience Movement.
  • Nationalist insult hunted by all white composition of Simon Commission was another important factor behind launching Civil Disobedience Movement. All the members of European & not a single Indian cadre fit to contribute of deciding Indian’s political future.
  • The refusal of British government to accept as Nehru report left Indian Nation with no other alternative but to launch Mass Movement.
  • Secretary of state of India lord Birkenhead had promised to accept & implement constitutional draft prepared by main Indian parties.

Except Muslim League all other parties agree in favor of Nehru Report league was politically insigne at that time & it was puppet in bard of British Rule.

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


Manifestation of Civil Disobedience Movement

North Western India

  • In North West 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 fact that at Peshawar, soldiers of Gorkha regiment refused to opening fire of peaceful agitate.


North Western Province –UP

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


Eastern India

  • Along with “No rent, No revenue” campaign, mass agitate were also launched against Chaukidari tax & union board tax.
  • Chaukidari tax was collected from villagers to pay village guard. He was link between police & villagers. In spite the fact that Chaukidar was paid out of the money raised from villagers. He used to spy against villagers.
  • Union Board tax was municipal tax.


Central India–Maharashtra & Karnataka

  • Movement was launched against forest law, Forest Act 1927 imposed number of restriction on the rights of forest dwellers they weren’t allowed to use forest products freely as was case earlier.


North – East

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


Salt Agitation

  • Most intense anti-salt taxes agitate was organized at Dharasana at Gujarat. This agitate was initially laid by Gandhiji. After his arrest, the responsibility was assured by Abbas Tyabji. When he was arrested, Sarojini Naidu jumped to front to lead agitates.
  • American journalist Webb Miller was eye witnessed this agitate. He wrote that in his 18 years International career, he never saw such peaceful determined agitate.

Scorching heat of day, agitators used to move towards Dharasana salt factor in line after line. Policemen used to beat them as mercilessly till the time they didn’t fall unconscious. After one falls unconscious second line moved toward to meet same fate. This scenario continued throughout 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 hand to ward off these blows.”
  • Determinate of Indian Nationalists at Dharasana was of higher order. It set a precedent for anti-British struggle.
  • Anti-Salt tax agitate were 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 NarasaiahNaidu. He was beaten by Police mercilessly but didn’t leave flag even after falling unconscious.
  • At Calicut, P. Krishna Pillai unfurled the National Flag –Here also agitators brutally lathi charged.
  • At Surat, kids organized flag in unique way. When policemen snatched away their flag repeatedly they put on the flag as cloths & run on street.

Student Agitation

  • Student participated in large number in Civil Disobedience Movement throughout India. The most intense student agitates witnessed in Assam against Cunningham Circular. This was issued by government to prohibit participation of student in National activities. Guarantees were sought by parent that their wards will not part many national activity.
Cunningham Circular- When the whole country was preparing for the start of the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930, students in Assam also played a key role.  To discourage and stop students to participate in the Civil Disobedience Movement, J.R. Cunningham, the then powerful Director of Public Information of Assam, issued the Cunningham circular in 1930 imposing a blanket ban on any anti-British and pro- activity by students. It forced parents, guardians and students to furnish assurances of good behavior and also asked them to sign an undertaking that they would have to quit their schools and colleges if they participated in anti-government demonstrations or movements.

The circular was aimed to forbid students from participating in political activities and so, it raised a very strong response. Thousands of students, throughout Assam, left their educational institutions.












Working Class Agitation

  • The labors participated in Civil Disobedience Movement in large number strikes & lock out 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 run parallel government.


Business Class Agitation

  • For the first time in 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 Civil Disobedience movement

  • Indian Nationalist organized pedestrian marches to reach sea coast 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.


Attitude of Parties towards Civil Disobedience Movement

  • The Congress launched Civil Disobedience Movement under the leadership of Gandhiji, almost all leaders of Congress supported Civil Disobedience movement whole heartedly except a small group of few leaders composing C. Kelkar, Satyamurthi & M.A. Ansari. These Leaders refused to resign from legislative council through they supported Civil Disobedience movement. They were known as new Swarajist.
  • Socialist supported Civil Disobedience movement whole heartedly because group of Civil Disobedience movement were in accordance with their ideas.
  • Communist also supported Civil Disobedience movement whole heartedly.
  • Muslim League remained away from nationalist activities.
  • Business class supported Civil Disobedience movement & it was for first time that business class was participating in notional activity openly. By this time leaders of Indian Business Class (Capitalist) had realized that it would no longer possible to remain away from national activities.
  • They could sense that government would not take these seriously without support of Congress.
  • This realization persuaded business class to declare its open support to Civil Disobedience movement.


Changing role of Business Pressure

  • The Indian business class had announced his support to Civil Disobedience movement with hope that movement would be short lived.
  • The national activity involving agitation demonstration strikes & lockout were against interest of business class because production used to get obstructed & markets also used 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 national struggle suspended, so that their business could be revived.
  • Critics of Gandhi-Irvin pact emphasize that this Business Class pressure had important role in signing Gandhi Irvin pact that suspended Civil Disobedience movement.
  • These critics also emphasized that Karachi session of Congress that rectified Gandhi Irvin pact certain basic weakness of Civil Disobedience movement.
  • At Karachi session, wish of Business Class & Landlords in form of rectification of Gandhi Irvin pact because suspension of Civil Disobedience movement benefitted these classes.



Was Karachi Congress an Identification of Inherent Weaknesses of Civil Disobedience Movement?

  • Karachi session held during 26-28 March 1931 after suspension of Civil Disobedience movement through Gandhi-Irvin pact.
  • This pact was ratified at Karachi.
  • Critics of Gandhi-Irwin pact emphasized that movement was at its peak when it was suddenly suspended by Gandhi & this suspension was carried out under pressure of Business Class & Landlords because growing radicalization in Civil Disobedience movement was expected destroy existing socio economic structure. In which these classes enjoying a dominant position.
  • Closer examination to circumstances leading to suspension of District Megistrate revealed that decision of Gandhi to sign pact with Gandhi-Lord Irvin was in nature consonance with fundamentals characters of Gandhian Movement.
  • Movement was going on since almost a year common masses were getting exhausted. At a time when no signature gain was coming from 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 strategy Struggle Truce Struggle & Pressure Compromise Pressure.
  • Resolution adopted by Congress at Karachi session clearly confirmed that influence of poor & working had increased enormously in Congress.
Gandhi-Irwin Pact, 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 first time because of this instead of being indication inherent weakness of Civil Disobedience movement. Karachi Congress in reality reflected great strength of this movement.


Swaraj as defined in Karachi Session

  • Karachi session was presided over Patel Fine Resolutions & National economic program adopted at Karachi were drafted by Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • Every citizen of India must enjoy basic civil rights of freedom of speech, association & assembly.
  • Freedom of press must be guarantee.
  • Equality before law.
  • Elections shall be based on universal adult suffrage.
  • Primary education should be free & compulsory.
  • Burden of land revenue & other taxes should be substantially reduced.
  • Minorities, women, peasant must enjoy protection.
  • Women will enjoy living wage and number of working hours should be limited.
  • Key industry, mining & exportation should be a government control.
  • This resolution adopted in Karachi reflected dominance of socialist outlook & it was proclaimed that Independent India shall be welfare state where interest of every section of people will be taken care of.


Significance of Civil Disobedience Movement

  • National movement greatly radicalized by launching of Civil Disobedience Movement.
  • Social base of Anti British Struggle widen greatly because Poor and working class participated in this struggle large number participation of student was also remarkable for first time Business Class had supported National Movement.
  • New methods of struggle were used by Indian Nationalist to fight against British Rule during Civil Disobedience Movement.
  • The efficacy of Gandhian Movement was proved once again because lass of Indians were participated in Civil Disobedience Movement.
  • The fight against British Rule was carried to part of number return because movement was launched with demand of Poorna Swaraj. It eliminated possibility of any conciliation with British Rule.
  • Refused of Gorkha regiment to open fire on peaceful agitator indicated that spirit of 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 matter of time before these pillars were to start crumbling.
  • Influence of Socialism Idea was increased greatly by Civil Disobedience Movement. This inflection got reflected, in resolution adopted by Congress at Karachi where meaning of Swaraj was defined in 1st time in context of masses.
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