Chapter 25: CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE
Background of Civil disobedience movement
Jawaharlal Nehru, who had done more than anyone else to popularise the
concept of purna swaraj, was nominated the president for the Lahore
session of the Congress (December 1929) mainly due to Gandhi's backing,
(15 out of 18 Provincial Congress Committees had opposed Nehru).
The following major decisions were taken at the Lahore session
Round Table Conference to be boycotted
complete independence declared as the aim of the Congress
CWC authorised to launch a programme of civil disobedience including
non-payment of taxes and all members of legislatures asked to resign
January 26, 1930 fixed as the first Independence Day, to be
December 31, 1929 At midnight on the banks of River Ravi, the newly
adopted tricolour flag of freedom was hoisted amidst slogans of Inquilab
To carry forward the mandate given by the Lahore Congress, Gandhi
presented eleven demands to the Government and gave an ultimatum of
January 31, 1930 to accept or reject these demands. The demands were as
Reduce expenditure on Army and civil services by 50 per cent. Introduce total prohibition. Carry out reforms in Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
Change Arms Act allowing popular control of issue of firearms
licences. Release political prisoners. Accept Postal Reservation Bill.
Specific Bourgeois Demands. Reduce rupee-sterling exchange ratio. Introduce textile
Reserve coastal shipping for Indians
Reduce land revenue by 50 per cent.
Abolish salt tax and government's salt monopoly
With no positive response forthcoming from the Government on these
demands, the Congress Working Committee invested Gandhi with full powers
to launch the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) at a time and place of
his choice. By February-end, Gandhi had decided to make, salt, the
central formula for the CDM.
Why Salt was Chosen as the Central Formula?
As Gandhi said, "There is no other article like salt, outside water,
by taxing which the Government can reach the starving millions, the
sick, the maimed and the utterly helpless. It is the most inhuman poll
tax the ingenuity of man can devise."
Salt in a flash linked the ideal of swaraj with a most concrete and
universal grievance of the rural poor (and with no socially divisive
implications like a no-rent campaign).
Salt afforded a paltry but psychologically important income, like
khadi, for the poor through self-help.
Like khadi, again, it offered to the urban adherents the opportunity
of a symbolic identification with mass suffering.
Spread of Salt Disobedience
In Tamil Nadu, C.
Rajagopalachari led a march from Tiruchirapally to Vedaranniyam.
Malabar, K. Kelappan led a march from Calicut to Poyannur.
In Assam, A powerful agitation was organised against the infamous
'Cunningham circular' which forced parents, guardians and students to
furnish assurances of good behaviour.
started the program by marching with his followers from
Ahmadabad to Dandi to break the salt tax. Gandhiji even
asked women to participate in the movement by picketing in
front of liquor shops.
on foreign cloth was strictly followed even by mill
owners. In north where scope of salt Satyagraha was less
people defied government authority by not paying
chowkidari tax. No rent no revenue campaigns too were
started in some states.
Round table conference
Simon commission submitted the report but no mention was
made in it of dominion status. This infuriated the
moderates. The round table conferences that were held to
discuss with the parties but congress did not participate
in this exercise which rendered it useless.
British prime minister announced that the congress would
be participating in the round table conference. Viceroy
released Gandhiji and all the leaders of the congress so
that they could respond to the PM's message. The congress
working committee then authorized Gandhiji to hold
discussions with viceroy. In these talks Gandhi Irwin
pact was signed which was a provisional settlement.
this pact all political prisoners not arrested for
violence were released. The confiscated lands not yet sold
were returned, government employees who had resigned were
given leniency, the making of salt was allowed on coastal
villages and non violent picketing was allowed. Congress
also agreed to withdraw the civil disobedience. They
would also participate in the second round table
decision of not returning land of those who had lost it to
third party and no decision on commutation of death
penalty of Bhagat Singh and others was criticized. The
congress met in Karachi after the pact was signed to
endorse it and let Gandhiji participate in the second
round table conference. However six days earlier Bhagat
Singh and others were hanged even though Gandhiji tried
his best to save them he couldn’t. All along Gandhiji’s
route to Karachi he was greeted with black flags.
Results of the civil
- 90000 were
imprisoned [thrice that of non cooperation movement]
- import of
foreign cloth, liquor fell
revenue from cigarettes and rent was affected.
- Elections to
legislative assembly were boycotted.
Drawbacks of the movement:
participation of Muslims was less due to the advice of
the communal leaders and the government’s efforts to
push communalism as response to nationalism.
workers didn’t participate in large number except in
civil disobedience movement was the most popular and
organized mass movement of the freedom struggle.
Karachi Session of the
Karachi session in 1931 was known for the drafting of the
fundamental rights and the national economic program. This
was for the first time that congress decided what Swaraj
meant for the masses.
rights of free speech, free press, free assembly, and
freedom of association;
the law irrespective of caste, creed or sex;
neutrality of the
state in regard to all religions;
elections on the
basis of universal adult franchise; and
compulsory primary education.
agricultural indebtedness and control of usury;
Better conditions for
workers including a living wage, limited hours of work and
protection of women workers;
to organize and form unions to workers and peasants; and
state ownership or control of key industries, mines and
means of transport.
and script of the minorities and of the different
linguistic areas shall be protected.
. Two resolutions were
adopted — one on Fundamental Rights and the other on National Economic
Programme — which made the session particularly memorable.
The resolution on National Economic Programme included—
substantial reduction in rent and revenue
exemption from rent for uneconomic holdings
relief from agricultural indebtedness
control of usury
better conditions of work including a living wage, limited hours of
work and protection of women workers
right to workers and peasants to form unions
state ownership and control of key industries, mines and means of
The Karachi Resolution was to remain, in essence, the basic political
and economic programme of the Congress in ten years.
Result of Round table
to attend the second round table conference in London. The
British political opinion was against giving any
concessions to India. The government had handpicked
communalists, careerist, landlord, bureaucrats for the
round table conference. It wanted to show that congress
didn’t represent majority. At the conference the British
refused to concede the demand for freedom. Hence Gandhiji
returned empty handed.
policy meanwhile had changed and their stance hardened.
The new policy discarded all truce provisions and declared
Gandhiji couldn’t be treated as equal with the government.
Also it had prepared for a showdown with the nationalists
to prevent any revival of the movement. The government had
armed itself with draconian ordinances and martial law. It
had unleashed brutality on peaceful picketers. Thousands
were arrested and put in jails.
Second Phase of Civil
landed back the congress working committee had called
for a meeting to discuss the revival of civil
disobedience. But government arrested all top leaders of
the congress. The draconian ordinances passed were to
establish martial law. Non violent protestors were
brutally oppressed. No tax and no rent campaigns to were
treated with harshness.
people fought back the leaders couldn’t build a tempo and
the movement was crushed. In all the second phase of the
civil disobedience movement lingered till 1934 and then
was withdrawn by Gandhiji.
like SC Bose and Vithalbhai Patel criticized Gandhiji’s
decision. They wanted the congress to be reorganized with
new leader. But the decision was due to the fact that
people needed to rest and regroup for the next fight. They
had not lost their faith in congress yet.
Compared to Non-Cooperation Movement
The stated objective this time was complete independence and not just
remedying two specific wrongs and a vaguely-worded swaraj.
The methods involved violation of law from the very beginning and not
just non-cooperation with foreign rule.
There was a decline in forms of protests involving the
intelligentsia, such as lawyers giving up practice, students giving up
government schools to join national schools and colleges.
Muslim participation was nowhere near the NonCooperation Movement
No major labour upsurge coincided with the movement.
But massive participation of peasants and business groups compensated
for decline of other features.
The number of those imprisoned was about three times more this time.
The Congress was organisationally stronger.
There was a two-stage debate on the future strategy of the nationalists—
firstly, what course the national movement should take in the immediate
future, i.e., during the phase of non mass struggle (1934-35), and
secondly, in 1937, over the question of office acceptance in the context
of provincial elections held under the autonomy provisions of the
Government of India Act, 1935.
At this stage two perspectives were put forward.
There should be constructive work on Gandhian lines. There should be
constitutional struggle and participation in elections to the Central
Legislature (due in 1934).
A strong leftist trend within the Congress represented by Nehru
was critical of both constructive work and council entry in place
of the suspended civil disobedience movement as that would
sidetrack political mass action and divert attention from the main
issue of struggle against colonialism. Instead, this section
favoured resumption and continuation of non-constitutionalist mass
struggle, because the situation was still revolutionary owing to
continued economic crisis and the readiness of the masses to
Q.Who of the following organized a march on the Tanjore coast to break the Salt Law in April 1930? (UPSC CSAT 2015)
V.O Chidambaram Pillai
Ans . B
He was arrested in April 1930 for leading a salt march from Trichinopoly to Vedaranniyam on the Tanjore coast.
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