The Salt March and Civil Disobedience Movement

Towards the Salt March

  • On 31 January 1930, Gandhi sent a letter to Viceroy Lord Irwin pointing out 11 demands. The most important of them was the abolishing of salt tax.
  • The tax on salt allowed the government to have monopoly over salt production.
  • The letter was actually an ultimatum sent by Gandhi. If the demands were not fulfilled by 11 March, the Congress would launch a civil disobedience movement.
  • As a result, Gandhi launched his Salt March from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi, a Gujarat Coastal town accompanied by 78 volunteers.
  • The distance was about 240 miles and they marched for 24 days and reaching Dandi on 6 April, where he violated the Salt law and manufactured salt by boiling sea water.
  • Thus began the Civil Disobedience Movement.
(Gandhi manufacturing salt in Dandi during Salt March)
(Gandhi manufacturing salt in Dandi during Salt March)

What Happened in Civil Disobedience Movements?

  • Thousands all over India broke Colonial law along with non-cooperation, like boycotting of foreign clothes and liquor shops. In return, Government arrested several Congress leaders and violence took place.
  • In May 1930, Gandhi was arrested and workers in Sholapur attacked police posts, municipal buildings, lawcourts and railway stations.
  • The government resorted to brutal repression when satyagrahis were arrested and even women and children were beaten.
  • Due to violence, Gandhi called off the movement and came into a pact with Irwin on 5 March in 1931.
  • Under Gandhi-Irwin Pact Gandhi agreed to join Round Table Conference and British Government agreed to release political prisoners.
  • But negotiation failed in the conference and Gandhi returned empty handed. Nehru was still in prison and protests were brutally suppressed.
  • The Disobedience movement lost its momentum by 1934.
( 2nd Round Table Conference where Gandhi attended. source: mkgandhi.org)
( 2nd Round Table Conference where Gandhi attended. source: mkgandhi.org)

Who Participated in the Movement?

  • The rich peasants like Patidars of Gujarat and Jats of Uttar Pradesh joined the movement as they were hit by the falling prices commercial agricultural products and refusal of government to reduce the revenue.
  • For them the fight for swaraj meant struggle against high revenue. Most of them were disappointed however after 1931 when movement was called off.
  • The small peasants participated in the movement since they found it difficult to pay their rents to landlords from whom they took lands for lease. They wanted unpaid rent to the landlord to be remitted.
  • Some of them even joined radical organizations of Communists and Socialists and therefore, Congress was not supporting ‘no rent’ campaigns in many places.
  • In case of business class, they were against import of foreign goods. They organized Indian Industrial and Commercial Congress in 1920 and Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries(FICCI) in 1927.
  • Colonial policies restricted business activities in India. Led by G. D. Birla and Purshottamdas Thakur, they attacked colonial control over Indian Economy.
  • But after 1931, they lost interest. The industrial working class didn’t join the Disobedience movement in large number, except in Nagpur region.
  • In case of women, they accompanied Gandhi in salt march. Thousands of them participated in Disobedience movement, picketed liquor shops and foreign clothes.
  • Many went to jail. Participation was for them a sacred duty of women, as indicated by Gandhi.

Limits of Civil Disobedience:

  • The Disobedience Movement was not participated by some social groups. The untouchables, who were also called Dalits or Harijans by Gandhi had limited participations.
  • The Congress also put limited efforts for it could hurt sentiments of high caste Hindus. But Gandhi continuously said that emancipation of Dalits is essential for Swaraj.
  • However, the Dalits associated more with Ambedkar who talked of reservation of seats and separate electorates for them. So, movement saw limited participation.
  • Also, Muslim population of India also reluctant to join the movement since they considered the campaign to be largely dominated by Hindu interests.
  • The relation between Hindu and Muslim declined since Congress was also linked with religious groups like Hindu Mahasabha.
  • Therefore, the conflicts between communities in Indian Society was a major hurdle in making the Civil Disobedience Movement a success.
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