During the First World War Mahatma Gandhi had become quite active in the politics of India and after the end of this war and the death of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the leadership of the National Movement passed into the hands of Mahatma Gandhi. He launched some Movements based on Truth, Love and Nonviolence.
After the incident of Chauri Chaura and the suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement he started Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930 A.D. According to this movement he adopted the policy of disobedience of the orders of the British Government with mild protest and attitude so that the path to the freedom of India could be opened up.
Background of Civil Disobedience Movement:
The following reasons contributed to the launching of Civil Disobedience Movement by Gandhi in 1930 A.D.
1. The English Government appointed Simon Commission in 1927 A.D. to deal with the problems of India. Lord Irvin declared that after the submission of the report by Simon commission, the English Government could summon a conference of the representatives of the country in order to consider the problems of India Gandhi felt very much disappointed with this declaration of the viceroy and decided to begin a movement for the good of the people of India.
2. In the election of 1929 A.D. in England the Liberal party got the majority and assured India the membership of the common wealth of countries immediately but Churchill, the leader of the opposition commented that this declaration was a crime. Hence, the Government had to take this declaration back. Gandhi took it very seriously and decided to launch a movement against the English Government.
3. The people of India did not accept the report of the Simon Commission and put before the Government a scheme after the organization of the Nehru Committee. On the occasion of Calcutta session in 1928 A.D. The English Government was given an ultimatum of one year for the recognition of the scheme. It was clearly said in this ultimatum that incase the English Government did not accept the Nehru Report as it was by 31st December, 1929 A.D., the congress would launch a Nonviolent Movement against the Government.
4. Before the expiry of the ultimatum period Gandhi had a talk with the viceroy along with the leaders like Motilal Nehru, Sardar Patel etc., on 23rd December 1929 A.D. but he did not give any assurance to the leaders what so ever by which the movement could be averted
5. After the expiry of the period of ultimatum the Lahore Session of the Congress proved to be very significant in the History of the Congress and a proposal of complete Swaraj was passed. It was also declared on this occasion, “Freedom is our birth right” In case any Government snatches it, we will destroy it forcibly.
We declare it by oath that we shall follow all the commands which are given to us by the Congress. Thus, all the members of the Congress Committee took a firm decision to oppose the English Government whole heartedly. Mahatma Gandhi was authorized to launch the Civil Disobedience Movement in Lahore session of the Congress.
Before the beginning of this movement, Gandhi once again wrote a letter to the Viceroy but having failed to receive an appropriate response, he resorted to the Civil Disobedience Movement.
Growth and Development of the Movement:
The workers of this Movement were required to follow the following conditions:
1. The volunteers of this movement would adopt the Swaraj of the Congress through peaceful means.
2. They would always remain prepared either to go to jail or to bear any other punishment during the course of Civil Disobedience Movement.
3. They were not required to demand any economic assistance from the Congress during the period of their imprisonment.
4. Every worker would follow the command of his leaders who were authorised to hold the leadership of this Movement.
The emergence of this movement began with the Dandi March of Gandhi who marched from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi seashore a distance of 200 miles and completed this journey within 24 days. He violated the salt Act on April 6th, 1930 and after making the salt there, distributed the same among the people.
Programme of Civil Disobedience Movement:
The Programme of this Civil Disobedience Movement was like that of Non-Cooperation Movement Bovcutt of foreign articles, courts; an educational institution was included in it. Two new conditions were also added in this Movement.
(i) The people would not pay any tax to the Government.
(ii) They would not accept any act which they considered as going against their conscience.
On the call of Mahatma Gandhi the people of the entire country participated in this Movement. The foreign clothes were burnt publicly and the anti India laws were opposed and condemned every where.
The women of India also participated in this Movement with full enthusiasm and courage and faced innumerable difficulties with pleasure more than 1700 women were arrested in Delhi on the charge of Dharana on the wine shops.
Oppressive Policy of the Government:
In the beginning the English Government paid no head to this Movement. The English considered that if Mahatma Gandhi continued to boil the sea water in order to make the salt it was not going to affect the government in any way.
But later on the English Government was very much perturbed by the increasing popularity and strength of the Movement A great number of the satrygrahis were sent behind the bars and lathi charges took place at several places in order to suppress the Satyagrahis but the spirit of the revolutionaries could hot be subdued.
Pattabih Sitaramayya has written in this context that the land was covered with the bodies of the people who were moaning under the strokes of the sticks.
The clothes of the people were stained with blood and even at much a critical juncture the discipline of the volunteers of this movement was worth seeing. They were full of the spirit of non-violence sand it seemed as if they had swallowed the non-violence of Gandhi whole.
Significant Events of the Movement:
Inspite of the oppressive policy of the English Government the following events took place during the period of the Civil Disobedience Movement.
1. On the recommendations of Lord Irwin, the English Government summoned the Round Table Conference in London in order to thrash out the problems of India.
People from all classes were invited to participate in this conference but the Congress boy cutted it. Coupland, a prominent scholar has written the although the Round fable Conference was a very significant event as the representatives of thirty crore people had never been invited before.
But it had no representative of the biggest organization of India the Congress. This Conference lasted for about nine weeks but its decisions were not according to the wishes of the Congress, hence it was decided by the Congress that the Movement should continue.
2. As a result of the prolonged correspondence and the attempts of some leaders of the country, a pact was concluded between Lord Irwin and Mahatma Gandhi in March 1913 A.D. which came to be known as Gandhi- Irwin pact.
According to the terms of this pact it was decided that the English Government would withdrew all oppressive Acts and release all the political prisoners except the violent culprits. In response to this pact the Congress assured the English Government that they would suspend the Civil Disobedience Movement and take part in the Second Round Table Conference.
3. On 23rd March 1931 A.D. the great revolutionary and patriot, Bhagat Singh and Raj Guru were hanged to death; consequently people condemned Gandhi in the entire country. Communal riots broke out in Kanpur in which Ganesh Shankar Vidyarathi, the president of the provincial Congress Committee was killed. Under such circumstances in the last week of March 1931 a session of the Congress was summoned in Karachi in which all the leaders of the Congress condemned the policies of Gandhi.
The angry and excited leaders declared that if there had been some other leader in place of Gandhi we would have thrown him into the sea by now. But inspite of this severe opposition and condemnation of Gandhi, at last him name was proposed for taking part in the Second Round Table Conference to be held in London. It highlights the Significance of Gandhi in the field of Indian politics.
4. The Second Round Table Conference began in London on 7th September, 1931 A.D. in which Gandhi took part as a representative of the All India National Congress and Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and Shrimati Sarojini Naidu took part individually.
Gandhi declared at the beginning of this Conference that he was not taking part in this Conference as a slave of the British government but on the basis of equality he had come to participate in it.
As there had been change in the party in England before the beginning of this Conference and National Government was established in place of the Labour Party government, the decisions taken in this Conference went against the wishes and aspirations of Gandhi. Consequently, this Conference failed in to due to the differences between different leaders and ultimately it was adjourned on December 1, 1931 A.D.
The British government violating the conditions of the Gandhi Irwin Pact started suppression of the people in the country. They arrested some important leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan etc., before the return of Gandhi from London.
The contemporary Viceroy, Lord Willington paid no attention to the solution of this problem. The working committee of the Congress again decided to carry on the Movement and Gandhi was once more authorised to lead it.
He asked the people of the country to prepare themselves for the final test on 3rd January 1932, A.D. but the Government got the communal riots break out in the country and thus forced Gandhi to post pone the idea of restarting the Movement.
Once again, Mahatma Gandhi was condemned and criticised by the leaders for this decision.
On this occasion Mr. Macdonald, the British Prime Minister announced the so-called communal award on August 16, 1932 in order to provide separate electoral seats to the depressed classes in India. Gandhi undertook fast unto death to revoke it. Ultimately, Poona Pact was accepted in place of communal Award.
However, the Congress did not take part in the Third Round Table Conference, held in London from 17th December to 24th December, 1932 A.D. gradually, being disappointed with the course of this movement, Gandhi suggested the suspension of Civil Disobedience Movement in June 1933 A.D. but it was finally discontinued by the Congress in April 1934 A.D.
Political Importance of Civil Disobedience Movement:
Among the. Movements of the Gandhi an Era, the Civil Disobedience Movement proved very beneficial in bringing about a change in the attitude of the British Government towards the people of India. If affected the political scene of India in the following ways.
1. Through this Movement, Gandhi showed a new path of struggle to the people of taxes, prohibition and Civil Disobedience were some such measures as did not seem to be very effective theoretically but actually, the government was very much perturbed by the increasing popularity of this movement.
2. As a result of this Movement various significant alterations to took place in the politics of India. First, the Round Table Conference was not summoned on the report of the Simon Commission but being perturbed by the power of Civil Disobedience Movement, it was organized in the interest of the British Government.
Lord Irwin remarked about it. “The Movement which is started by Gandhi among the Hindus is a source of worries among the observers. We failed to suppress this movement. In case the British Government did not summon a Round Table Conference on my request, I would resign.”
3. The Congress boycotted the First Round Table Conference. Even after a prolonged discussion, this conference failed to attain any significant success. Hence, it was proved that the All India National Congress was the only India wide organization without whose help no reforms could be implemented in the country effectively. Thus, for the first time the British government realized the power of the Congress.
4. After being impressed by the Civil Disobedience Movement, the British Government became ready to enter into talks with the representatives of the Congress on the basis of equality. Although Churchill, the leader of the opposition party strongly opposed this step of the British Government and called Gandhi, the naked Fakir, the Gandhi- Irwin Pact was the tremendous outcome of this Movement.
Thatcher remarked in this connection that the agreeing of the Viceroy to the discussion on this issue was a symbol of the fact that the British Government regarded the Congress as a representative organization. It was a tremendous success of Gandhi.
Although this Movement was suspended in the long run like the Non-Cooperation Movement, it is certain that the British Government was forced to have talks on the constitutional problems of India as a result of this Movement.
The Act of 193 5 A.D. and provincial local self Government under it was the great success of this Movement. So we can say that the Civil Disobedience Movement organized by Mahatma Gandhi was a significant step in the direction of the achievement of Independence.