Saturday, 23 January 2016


Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi was a lawyer, trained in Britain. He went to South Africa in 1893 and resided there for twenty one years. The treatment of the Indians in South Africa by the British provoked his conscience. He decided to fight against the policy of racial discrimination of the South African Government. During the course of his struggle against the government he evolved the technique of Satyagraha (non-violent insistence for truth and
justice). Gandhi succeeded in this struggle in South Africa.

He returned to India in 1915. In 1916, he founded the Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmedabad to practice the ideas of truth and non-violence. Gopal Krishna Gokhale advised him to tour the country mainly in the villages to understand the people and their problems. His first experiment in Satyagraha began at Champaran in Bihar in 1917 when he inspired the peasants to struggle against the oppressive plantation system. He also organised a satyagraha to support the peasants of the Kheda districts of Gujarat. These peasants were not able to pay their revenue because of crop failure and epidemics. In Ahmedabad, he
organized a movement amongst cotton mill workers.

The Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-22)

Gandhiji by this time, was convinced that no useful purpose would be served by supporting the government. He was also emboldened by his earlier success in Bihar In the light of the past events and the actions of British government, he decided to launch a nationwide satyagraha against the proposed Rowlatt Act in 1919. He threatened to start the non-cooperation movement in case the government failed to accept his demands. Why do you think Gandhiji protested against the Act? It was because the Act gave the government enormous powers to repress political activities 
and allowed detention of political prisoners without any trial for two years. Gandhiji wanted non violent civil disobedience against such unjust laws. The government paid no heed to it. Gandhiji, therefore, started his non-cooperation movement in August 1920, in which he appealed to the people not to cooperate with the British government. At this time, the Khilafat movement started by the Muslims and the Noncooperation movement led by Gandhi merged into one common confrontation against the British Government.

For this Gandhi laid down an elaborate programme-
 (1) Surrender of titles and honorary offices as well as resignation from nominated seats in local bodies;
(2) refusal to attend official and non-official functions; 
(3) gradual withdrawal of children from officially controlled schools and colleges; 
(4) gradual boycott of British courts by lawyers and litigants; 
(5) refusal on the part of the military, clerical and labouring classes to offer themselves as recruits for service in Mesopotamia;
(6) boycott of elections to the legislative council by candidates and voters; 
(7) boycott of foreign goods and National schools and colleges.

 Later, it was supplemented with a constructive programme which had three principal features: 
(1) promotion of ‘Swadeshi’, particularly hand-spinning and weaving; 
(2) Removal of untouchability among Hindus; 
(3) promotion of Hindu-Muslim unity. 

Due to this appeal of Gandhiji, an unusual frenzy overtook the country. A large number of people, dropping their differences, took part in this movement. Over two-thirds of the voters abstained from taking part in the elections to the Council, held in November, 1920. Thousands of students and teachers left their schools and colleges and new Indian educational centers were started by them. Lawyers like Moti Lal Nehru, C. R. Das, C. Rajagopalachari and Asif Ali boycotted the courts. Legislative Assemblies were also boycotted. Foreign goods were boycotted and the clothes were put on bonfire.

But, during this movement some incidents took place that did not match with the views of Gandhiji. The non-violent Non-Cooperation Movement, which started auspiciously, was marked by violence in August, 1921. The government started taking serious action. Prominent leaders were arrested. In two months, nearly 30,000 people were imprisoned. The outbreak of violence cautioned Gandhi. Mob violence took place on February 9, 1922, at Chauri Chaura village, in Gorakhpur district of UP. This was followed by more violence at Bareilly. Gandhi suspended his noncooperation on February 14, 1922. He was arrested at Ahmadabad on March 18, 1922, and sentenced to six years simple imprisonment. The non-cooperation movement failed to achieve success, yet it succeeded to prepare a platform for the future movements. After taking back the Non-Cooperation movement, Gandhiji and
his followers were busy in creative activities in village areas. By this he gave the message to the people to remove the cast based animosity.

C. R. Das, Motilal Nehru and other like minded persons hatched out a novel plan of non-cooperation from within the reformed councils. They formed the Swaraj Party on January 01, 1923. C. R. Das was the president of the party and Motilal Nehru the Secretary. The party was described as ‘a party within the Congress’ and not a rival organization. But, they could neither end nor amend the Act of 1919. In 1927, British government appointed a commission under the chairmanship of Sir John Simon. The Commission was appointed to study the reforms of 1919 and suggest further measures for Constitutional reforms. The Commission had no Indian member in it. The Indians boycotted this all-White commission. Therefore, when this Commission arrived in India, it faced protests all over the country. Black flags were shown, demonstrations and Hartals took place all over the country and the cry of ‘Simon go back’ was heard. These demonstrators were lathi charged at a number
of places by the British Police. Lala Lajpat Rai was severely assaulted by the police 
and he succumbed to his injuries. This agitation against the Simon Commission gave a new strength to the National Movement of India.

Meanwhile, Indian political leaders were busy in drafting a Constitution. This is known as Nehru Report which formed the outline of the Constitution. Among its important
recommendations were a declaration of rights, a parliamentary system of government,
adult franchise and an independent judiciary with a supreme court at its head. Most of its recommendations formed the basis of the Constitution of independent India which was adopted more than twenty years later.

 At the historic annual session of Congress in Lahore in 1929, the Congress committed itself to a demand for PurnaSwaraj or complete independence and issued a call to the country to celebrate 26th January as Purna-Swaraj Day. On January 26, 1930, the Congress celebrated ‘Independence Day’. On the same day in 1950 the Constitution of Independent India was adopted, making India a sovereign, democratic socialist republic. Since then January 26th is celebrated as Republic Day.

Dandi March

Around the same time, the government made a new law. They imposed taxes on the use of salt. This was opposed by the people, as salt was the basic need of the people. But, no attention was paid to demands of the people. During March-April,1930, Gandhi marched from his Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi on the Gujarat coast for the purpose of raiding the Government Salt. The violation of salt law was his first challenge to the government. It was a peaceful march. Gandhi committed a technical breach of the Salt Law on 6
thApril, 1930, when he picked up the scattered sea salt from the coast to break this Law. In this movement farmers, traders and 
women took part in large numbers. 

The government arrested him in May 1930 and put him in Yervada jail at Poona. The campaign had a significant effect on British attitude toward Indian independence. Gandhi-Irwin Pact in 1931 was one of its examples. Gandhiji also went to London in 1931 and participated in the second round table conference as the sole representative of the Congress but no settlement could be arrived at. Although, Gandhi’s arrest removed him from the active leadership of the movement, this civil disobedience continued. Special stress was laid on boycott of foreign goods particularly clothes.

The Civil Disobedience Movement, though a failure, was a vital phase in the struggle
for the freedom. It promoted unity among Indians of different regions under the Congress banner. It provided an opportunity to recruit younger people and educate them for positions of trust and responsibility in the organization as also in provincial administration, which was captured in the 1937 elections. It gave wide publicity to political ideas and methods throughout the country and generated political awareness even in remote villages.

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