Civil Disobedience Movement

In accordance with the decision taken at the Lahore session�of the Congress (1929), the unilateral Independence Day�was celebrated throughout the country with pledge-taking�ceremony on January 26,1930 . The Congress kept celebrating�’independence’ day till India won freedom on August 15, 1947.�Gandhi had stated that if the British Government did not�grant the substance of independence through his already�announced Eleven Points, he would launch the civil disobedience.�Before he launched the movement, Gandhi wrote a letter to�the Viceroy, but the reply that was sent back by the Viceroy was�not only evasive, but was disappointing as well. Gandhi was�left with no alternative but to launch the Civil Disobedience�Movement.

The Dandi March

On March 12, 1930, Gandhi, accompanied by his 78 followers,�set out on his march from his Sabarmati Ashram for a small�village, Dandi, on the seashore which was at a distance of�241 miles, so to violate the salt law. This march is known as�the Dandi March and this movement, the Salt Satyagraha�or the Civil Disobedience Movement. All along the route,�he preached his movement and also the message of nonviolence. With him, marched the patriotic flavor. On the�24th��day, Gandhi reached the seashore. Early next morning, soon�after the morning prayers, he and his followers broke the Salt�Law by picking up salt from the seashore. It was a signal for�the army of the non-violent soldiers to charge the citadel of�British imperialism. The ‘General’ had made his first attack.�Gandhi’s action was followed by a country-wide breaking of�the Salt Law, and, for example, the breaking of the salt law by C.�Rajagopalachari at the Tanjore sea-coast. At places where Salt�Law could not be violated, other laws were violated. At Calcutta,�the Sedition Law was broken by publicly burning the seditious�literature. In the Central Provinces, forest laws were violated. As�a part of the campaign, boycott of foreign goods and picketing�of liquor shops also began on extensive scale. Besides, ladies�joined in hundreds and suffered imprisonment. Thus, the Civil�Disobedience Movement which started with the Dandi March�soon developed into a very strong movement. According to�Subhash Chandra Bose, “The Dandi March of Mahatma Gandhi�was very significant. It may be compared to Napoleon’s march�on Paris on his return from Elba and to Mussolini’s march on�Rome with a view to the seizure of political power. Never was�the wave of patriotism so powerful in the hearts of mankind as it�was on this occasion which is bound to go down in the chapters�of history of India’s national freedom as a great beginning of a�great movement”.

The Government at first did not take the movement very�seriously. They did not expect the Dandi March to be a serious�development. The Anglo-Indian papers ridiculed the idea of Salt�Satyagraha. The Statesman wrote that Gandhi ‘could go on boiling�sea-water till Dominion Status was attained.’ Mr. Brailsford, an�English journalist in India, described the Dandi March as the�”Kindergarten stage of revolution”. He smiled at the notion that�the King Emperor could be unseated by boiling sea-water in a�kettle. But as the movement gained strength and popularity,�the Government was placed in a trying position. People would�not obey; they would not fight. Such obduracy was indeed�maddening. In conventional rebellions, the rebels use weapons�and come to an armed clash if they do not choose to obey. But�Gandhi and his followers were unconventional rebels. They were�fighting on a moral plane with weapons never used before by�any rebel.

In such a situation of helplessness, the Government�employed various forms of repression to put down the�movement. The Congress was declared illegal and its offices�were occupied by the police. All leading Congressmen including�Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were put behind the prison bars.�Lathi charges, arrests and heavy fines became the order of the�day. The oppression by the authorities in Gujarat was so great�that 80,000 people had to take refuge in the nearby villages.

Despite repressive measures and uncommon atrocities, the�movement continued with unabated fervour and nearly�1,00,000�people went in prison. The most spectacular demonstration of�non-violence was seen at Peshwar where a number of Pathans�held their peace and faced unflinchingly the bullets and bayonets�of the military. So impressive was the forbearance and patience�of the Pathans that on one occasion two platoons of British-led�Hindu troops refused to fire on them when ordered to do so.�With every lathi blow, with every skull broken down went the�moral justification of the Empire and the British prestige in the�eyes of the world.

XII(II). The Round-Table Conferences and�Gandhi-Irwin Pact

Though the Nehru report was not accepted by the British�Government, it did realize the urgency of fast-changing�situations that some changes in the Indian administration could�no longer be delayed. The Viceroy, Irwin, made the beginning by�inviting the Indians to meet the British authorities at a roundtable conference at London. While welcoming the invitation,�the Congress sought assurance that such a conference be held on�the basis of dominion status. The Congress, in the absence of such�an assurance, did not attend the first Round-Table Conference�which began on November 12, 1930 in London, and continued�till January 19, 1931.

The first Roundtable Conference of 1930-1931, was�attended by 89 members- 16 from the British political parties,�16 from the Indian States and 57 from the British India.�Nothing positive came out of the Conference : the debate�on the nature of the responsible government to be instituted�in India was unresolved; and issue of communal representation�kept hanging. The Conference was adjourned in the hope�that the Congress would abandon civil disobedience movement,�and would hopefully attend the Second Round Table�Conference. To create a conducive atmosphere, Gandhi�and the other Congress leaders were released. In the meantime,�certain liberal non-Congress leaders, after their return from�England, met and impressed upon Gandhi to attend the Second�Round Table Conference. A meeting between Gandhi and the�Viceroy Irwin resulted in an agreement, called the GandhiIrwin Pact.

XII(III).The Gandhi-Irwin or The Delhi Pact:�1931

The Gandhi-Irwin Pact, also called the Delhi Pact (1931), had�the following major provisions:

(a) The Government agreed to (i) withdraw its special�ordinances (ii) release political prisoners but not those�convicted of violent acts or the soliders who refused�to fire in Peshawar; (iii) remit certain fines imposed�on recalcitrant villages, (iv) allow certain villages to�manufacture salt for their own use.

(b) Picketing was to be allowed but only within the limits�permitted by the ordinary law, and discrimination�against British goods was to cease.

(c) In return for these concessions, the Congress agreed to�stop civil disobedience and participate in the next Round�Table Conference.

Mahatma Gandhi, however, made most significant�concessions on the basic constitutional issue : he agreed “that�in the future scheme of Indian Government …….. Federation�is an essential part; so also are Indian responsibilities and�reservations or safeguards in the interests of India, for such�matter as, for instance, defence; external affairs; the position�of minorities; the financial credit of India; the discharge of�obligation” (clause 2).

Though the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was hailed by the�Government, it was not favourably welcomed by the Indians,�particularly the Congress itself. Subhash Chandra Bose assailed�Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru was shocked on clause 2,�especially with regard to the concessions given on ‘reservations’�and safeguards.

Written by princy

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