Sunday January 20, 2019
What made Mahatma Gandhi call for Civil Disobedience Movement? - Tollybeats

What made Mahatma Gandhi call for Civil Disobedience Movement?

Updated | August 21, 2017 08:35 IST

When the British Government had failed to meet the expectations of the nationalist leaders, Gandhiji wrote a letter to the Viceroy on 6th March, 1930, informing him of the situation in the country and putting before him an ‘Eleven Point’ program to ease the situation, and indicated that otherwise he would have to break British laws in a manner which would be comprehensible to the peasantry. 

Some of the demands of that program were total prohibition of liquor, the reduction of land revenue, the abolition of salt tax and the protective tariff on foreign cloth. On receiving an unsatisfactory response, Mahatma Gandhiji decided to launch the movement. It was a movement to disobey the laws made by the British Government. 

As a symbol of defiance of laws, Gandhiji advised people to manufacture salt in violation of the Salt Laws. The other items of the program included picketing of liquor shops, burning of foreign cloth and British goods of all kinds, the boycott of Government schools and colleges, the use of the Charkha on a large scale and fighting against untouchability. The movement also involved non-payment of taxes and land revenue and violation of laws of different kinds.

Program and Impact of the Movement:  As part of the movement, Mahatma Gandhi led Dandi March against Salt Laws had got an unforgettable place in the history of World, which also defamed the British government.

The Dandi March movement was launched by Mahatma Gandhi from Sabarmati Ashramam with 79 Satyagrahis on 12th March 1930. Dandi is a wayside village at a distance of 390km from Sabarmati on the west coast of Gujarat. As he walked, leaning on his stick, frail and peasant-like figure, villagers flocked to see him on his way to break a law. The Dandi March took 24 days to reach the coast.

He gave speeches at the villages en route. In one village Wasna, Gandhiji told the upper castes that “if you are out for Swaraj you must serve untouchables. You won’t get Swaraj merely by the repeal of the salt taxes or other taxes. For Swaraj, you must make amends for the wrongs which you did to the untouchables. For Swaraj, Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, and Sikhs will have to unite. These are the steps towards Swaraj.” Gandhiji’s meetings were very well attended, by villagers of all castes, and by women as well as men. National consciousness, in general, was electrified.

Gandhiji reached his destination on 6th April and broke the salt laws by picking up salt at the seashore. It was a symbol of defiance of the laws made by the Government. This was also a signal for a nation-wide mass movement. The movement spread from town to town and village to village. Thousands of men and women braved lathi blows and courted arrest. For the first time in the history of the country, women were mobilized for the national struggle and marched shoulder to shoulder with the men-folk. In Delhi alone, 1,600 women were imprisoned for political activity. In Bombay middle-class women in large numbers joined the national struggle.

At many places, the administration was put out of gear. Peasants in the United Provinces refused to pay revenue. Midnapore(Midanpur) in Bengal went out of the control of the Government. In the North-West Frontier Province, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan organized thousands of volunteers called Khudai Khidmatgars to follow the program of the Civil Disobedience Movement by non-violent means. Because of his commitment to Gandhian principles, he came to be known as the ‘Frontier Gandhi’. The Khudai Khidmatgars also came to be known as the ‘Red Shirts’ because of the color of their uniforms.

At Peshawar, the 18th Royal Garhwal Rifles refused to open fire on a crowd. Peshawar remained in the lands of the people for more than a week. It was recaptured by the Government with the help of the British Army and air force. Gandhiji was arrested on 5th May 1930 along with Jawaharlal Nehru and other prominent leaders. The arrests led to hartals and mass demonstrations all over the country. Sholapur in Maharashtra became almost independent.

The British Government resorted to repression and terror. The Congress was declared an illegal organization. More than 60,000 persons were put behind bars for various terms of imprisonment. The firing took place at 29 places killing 103 persons and injuring another 426. 

Jails were packed to capacity. But the repression failed to suppress the spirit of the people. Lord Irwin frankly admitted the magnitude of the movement and said in one of his speeches,” However emphatically we may condemn the Civil Disobedience Movement, we would, I am satisfied, make a profound mistake if we underestimate the genuine and powerful meaning of nationalism which is, today, animating much Indian thought and for this no complete or permanent cure has ever been or ever will be found in strong action by the Government.”

The impact caused by Civil Disobedience Movement:

The non-violent methods and the willingness of the Satyagrahis for self-sacrifice created huge embarrassment for British authorities both at National and International levels.  

The important feature of the movement was social reform involving the integration of the depressed classes or Dalits with the rest of the Hindu society through movements of opening schools and temples to them and giving them access to wells in upper caste settlements.

Another important feature was the participation of women in large numbers in the movement. The movement put the British Government under pressure compelling it to open negotiations with their Congress leaders. The Civil Disobedience Movement once again showed to the government the influence of the Congress on public opinion as it involved huge mass participation in its programs. So much so that the government stopped taking action against people who broke the salt tax law.


Keywords: Mahatma Gandhi, Civil Disobedience Movement, Dandi March, Reasons for Civil Disobedience Movement