In the early 1930’s, Gandhi’s movement for India’s independence took a new form when he introduced the civil disobedience movement. During the 1920’s when Gandhi had first introduced a sense of nationalism among his fellow Indians, he did so with great passion yet there was still much to be done to gain respect from the British. His campaign for Swaraj took a new form when his demands were ignored, and he introduced the Civil Disobedience movement in the early 1930’s.
Gandhi had sent a letter to the viceroy on March 2nd, 1930 addressing him about his displeasure with British rule, so as a form of retaliation, he decided he was going to lead a salt march that would take place later that month. He informed the viceroy that on March 11th, just nine days later that he would lead his fellow Satyagrahis 240 miles to Dandi where they would pick up a handful of salt. One might wonder why salt was chosen, but the reason is because the British had put a tax on salt which meant the British would receive more money and no Indian could make their own salt.
Gandhi preached about this new movement to his followers and thought this was the only way to attain swaraj. There were other methods Gandhi preached about as well, he wanted to refuse to pay taxes, for lawyers to give up their practice, government servants to resign their posts. Gandhi had basically wanted to inflict as much damage as possible without ever committing an act of violence. This way, the British would be confused and perplexed because they would not know how to respond to such a movement. Gandhi encourage people to make their own salt even though it was against the law.
On April 6th 1930, upon reaching Dandi, Gandhi picked up up a handful of salt and officially inaugurated the civil disobedience movement. By the time Gandhi reached Dandi, Gandhi had the support of the whole nation. He inspired other salt marches across India such as C. Rajagopalachari, K. Kelappan. The British did not know to respond to because if they were to retaliate, it would make them look brutal because it was a movement of non-violence, and if they were to not retaliate in some form, they would be viewed as weak.
The British faced this dilemma so in order for them to shut down this movement, the viceroy ordered for Gandhi’s arrest. Before being arrested, Gandhi planned his next act of defiance by planning a raid on the Dharasana Salt Works. Through out the major provinces of India were protests of Gandhi’s arrest, with many strikes being the main form of protesting. Textile and railway workers spilled into the streets of Bombay but the biggest response was in Sholapur where textile workers went on strike for six days. In addition, residents in Sholapur attacked all government buildings such as law courts, police stations, railway stations, etc.
On May 21st, Gandhi’s Satyagraha took true form during the raid of Dharasana Salt Works. As 2000 Satyagrahi’s marched toward the police blockade that sealed of Dharasana, police rushed toward the oncoming crowd and started beating the non-resisting crowd with their steep-tipped lathis. The injured Satyagrahi’s would be taken away by their comrades and another column would begin to march toward the police blockade. More and more people kept marching and instead of walking directly up to the policemen, they would sit down in front of them and wait to get beaten without ever raising a hand in defense.
This went on for a while but truly shows Gandhi’s influence on these people because it takes a lot of courage to take a beating without retaliating. By 11 a. m. , 320 people had been injured and 2 people had been killed but this form of non-violent resistance proved to be very effective and influential for the rest of the country. In Bombay of June that same year, a crowd of 15,000 raided the salt works and 10,000 had done the same in Karnataka. This movement of civil disobedience was unique in that women played a leading role. Along with the salt Satyagraha, Gandhi had called for the boycott of foreign cloth and liquor shops.
Women who had never had any type of political power before were now being asked to contribute to his movement. Women would stand outside of foreign cloth and liquor shops convincing customers and owners to reconsider what they were doing and to support all local businesses. Through these boycotts, the British government saw its revenues were decreasing dramatically. Once Gandhi had been arrested in the early part of 1930, the government had banned several disobedience organizations. On July 9th, the Viceroy had planned the Round Table Conference which would explore peace between the Congress and the Government.
During this time, the Nehrus met with Gandhi at Yeravada jail to discuss some sort of settlement, however nothing was made clear except for some members of India’s political leaders would attend the Conference as well. For the first time ever, Indians and the British were seen as equals during the conference. During which, Gandhi and all other members of the Congress Working Committee were released from jail. Upon being released, Gandhi began discussions with the viceroy and on March 5 1931, after two weeks of debating, Gandhi and Lord Irwin agreed upon the “Gandhi-Irwin Pact. This pact gave many rights to Congress and proved that Gandi’s methods worked. The agreements were as followed: Congress would be seen as an equal to the Government, all prisoners who were non convicted of acts of violence would be released from jail, the return of confiscated lands, the rights to make salt for consumption, the right to peaceful non-aggressive picketing, and that the Congress would participate at the next Round Table Conference. Although this pact may been seen as a betrayal to Indian peasants, the result was undoubtedly remarkable.
The mere fact that for once, Indians were seen as equals to the British fascinated the masses. Although the Civil Disobedience movement lasted only a year, it had great benefits for the people of India. What might have been seen as an unrealistic attempt to gain respect from the British, Gandhi had the charisma and enthusiasm to get people to buy into his beliefs. Not only did the people of India not have to fight a war during the movement, the political consequences were monumental. Gandhi catered to the needs of his people while also showing respect for the British which ultimately created a mutual understanding between the two sides.