Civil Disobedience Movement
In accordance with the decision taken at the Lahore sessionï¿½of the Congress (1929), the unilateral Independence Dayï¿½was celebrated throughout the country with pledge-takingï¿½ceremony on January 26,1930 . The Congress kept celebratingï¿½’independence’ day till India won freedom on August 15, 1947.ï¿½Gandhi had stated that if the British Government did notï¿½grant the substance of independence through his alreadyï¿½announced Eleven Points, he would launch the civil disobedience.ï¿½Before he launched the movement, Gandhi wrote a letter toï¿½the Viceroy, but the reply that was sent back by the Viceroy wasï¿½not only evasive, but was disappointing as well. Gandhi wasï¿½left with no alternative but to launch the Civil Disobedienceï¿½Movement.
The Dandi March
On March 12, 1930, Gandhi, accompanied by his 78 followers,ï¿½set out on his march from his Sabarmati Ashram for a smallï¿½village, Dandi, on the seashore which was at a distance ofï¿½241 miles, so to violate the salt law. This march is known asï¿½the Dandi March and this movement, the Salt Satyagrahaï¿½or the Civil Disobedience Movement. All along the route,ï¿½he preached his movement and also the message of nonviolence. With him, marched the patriotic flavor. On theï¿½24thï¿½ï¿½day, Gandhi reached the seashore. Early next morning, soonï¿½after the morning prayers, he and his followers broke the Saltï¿½Law by picking up salt from the seashore. It was a signal forï¿½the army of the non-violent soldiers to charge the citadel ofï¿½British imperialism. The ‘General’ had made his first attack.ï¿½Gandhi’s action was followed by a country-wide breaking ofï¿½the Salt Law, and, for example, the breaking of the salt law by C.ï¿½Rajagopalachari at the Tanjore sea-coast. At places where Saltï¿½Law could not be violated, other laws were violated. At Calcutta,ï¿½the Sedition Law was broken by publicly burning the seditiousï¿½literature. In the Central Provinces, forest laws were violated. Asï¿½a part of the campaign, boycott of foreign goods and picketingï¿½of liquor shops also began on extensive scale. Besides, ladiesï¿½joined in hundreds and suffered imprisonment. Thus, the Civilï¿½Disobedience Movement which started with the Dandi Marchï¿½soon developed into a very strong movement. According toï¿½Subhash Chandra Bose, “The Dandi March of Mahatma Gandhiï¿½was very significant. It may be compared to Napoleon’s marchï¿½on Paris on his return from Elba and to Mussolini’s march onï¿½Rome with a view to the seizure of political power. Never wasï¿½the wave of patriotism so powerful in the hearts of mankind as itï¿½was on this occasion which is bound to go down in the chaptersï¿½of history of India’s national freedom as a great beginning of aï¿½great movement”.
The Government at first did not take the movement veryï¿½seriously. They did not expect the Dandi March to be a seriousï¿½development. The Anglo-Indian papers ridiculed the idea of Saltï¿½Satyagraha. The Statesman wrote that Gandhi ‘could go on boilingï¿½sea-water till Dominion Status was attained.’ Mr. Brailsford, anï¿½English journalist in India, described the Dandi March as theï¿½”Kindergarten stage of revolution”. He smiled at the notion thatï¿½the King Emperor could be unseated by boiling sea-water in aï¿½kettle. But as the movement gained strength and popularity,ï¿½the Government was placed in a trying position. People wouldï¿½not obey; they would not fight. Such obduracy was indeedï¿½maddening. In conventional rebellions, the rebels use weaponsï¿½and come to an armed clash if they do not choose to obey. Butï¿½Gandhi and his followers were unconventional rebels. They wereï¿½fighting on a moral plane with weapons never used before byï¿½any rebel.
In such a situation of helplessness, the Governmentï¿½employed various forms of repression to put down theï¿½movement. The Congress was declared illegal and its officesï¿½were occupied by the police. All leading Congressmen includingï¿½Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru were put behind the prison bars.ï¿½Lathi charges, arrests and heavy fines became the order of theï¿½day. The oppression by the authorities in Gujarat was so greatï¿½that 80,000 people had to take refuge in the nearby villages.
Despite repressive measures and uncommon atrocities, theï¿½movement continued with unabated fervour and nearlyï¿½1,00,000ï¿½people went in prison. The most spectacular demonstration ofï¿½non-violence was seen at Peshwar where a number of Pathansï¿½held their peace and faced unflinchingly the bullets and bayonetsï¿½of the military. So impressive was the forbearance and patienceï¿½of the Pathans that on one occasion two platoons of British-ledï¿½Hindu troops refused to fire on them when ordered to do so.ï¿½With every lathi blow, with every skull broken down went theï¿½moral justification of the Empire and the British prestige in theï¿½eyes of the world.
XII(II). The Round-Table Conferences andï¿½Gandhi-Irwin Pact
Though the Nehru report was not accepted by the Britishï¿½Government, it did realize the urgency of fast-changingï¿½situations that some changes in the Indian administration couldï¿½no longer be delayed. The Viceroy, Irwin, made the beginning byï¿½inviting the Indians to meet the British authorities at a roundtable conference at London. While welcoming the invitation,ï¿½the Congress sought assurance that such a conference be held onï¿½the basis of dominion status. The Congress, in the absence of suchï¿½an assurance, did not attend the first Round-Table Conferenceï¿½which began on November 12, 1930 in London, and continuedï¿½till January 19, 1931.
The first Roundtable Conference of 1930-1931, wasï¿½attended by 89 members- 16 from the British political parties,ï¿½16 from the Indian States and 57 from the British India.ï¿½Nothing positive came out of the Conference : the debateï¿½on the nature of the responsible government to be institutedï¿½in India was unresolved; and issue of communal representationï¿½kept hanging. The Conference was adjourned in the hopeï¿½that the Congress would abandon civil disobedience movement,ï¿½and would hopefully attend the Second Round Tableï¿½Conference. To create a conducive atmosphere, Gandhiï¿½and the other Congress leaders were released. In the meantime,ï¿½certain liberal non-Congress leaders, after their return fromï¿½England, met and impressed upon Gandhi to attend the Secondï¿½Round Table Conference. A meeting between Gandhi and theï¿½Viceroy Irwin resulted in an agreement, called the GandhiIrwin Pact.
XII(III).The Gandhi-Irwin or The Delhi Pact:ï¿½1931
The Gandhi-Irwin Pact, also called the Delhi Pact (1931), hadï¿½the following major provisions:
(a) The Government agreed to (i) withdraw its specialï¿½ordinances (ii) release political prisoners but not thoseï¿½convicted of violent acts or the soliders who refusedï¿½to fire in Peshawar; (iii) remit certain fines imposedï¿½on recalcitrant villages, (iv) allow certain villages toï¿½manufacture salt for their own use.
(b) Picketing was to be allowed but only within the limitsï¿½permitted by the ordinary law, and discriminationï¿½against British goods was to cease.
(c) In return for these concessions, the Congress agreed toï¿½stop civil disobedience and participate in the next Roundï¿½Table Conference.
Mahatma Gandhi, however, made most significantï¿½concessions on the basic constitutional issue : he agreed “thatï¿½in the future scheme of Indian Government …….. Federationï¿½is an essential part; so also are Indian responsibilities andï¿½reservations or safeguards in the interests of India, for suchï¿½matter as, for instance, defence; external affairs; the positionï¿½of minorities; the financial credit of India; the discharge ofï¿½obligation” (clause 2).
Though the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was hailed by theï¿½Government, it was not favourably welcomed by the Indians,ï¿½particularly the Congress itself. Subhash Chandra Bose assailedï¿½Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru was shocked on clause 2,ï¿½especially with regard to the concessions given on ‘reservations’ï¿½and safeguards.
Written by princy