Mahatma Gandhi and the idea of Satyagraha:
Mahatma Gandhi returned to India in 1915 from South Africa. Gandhiji’s novel method of mass agitation is know as ‘Satyagraha’. Satyagraha emphasized truth. Gandhiji believed that if the cause is true, if the struggle is against injustice, then physical force was not necessary to fight the oppressor. A satyagrahi can win the battle through non-violence. People, including oppressors, had to be persuaded to see the truth. Truth was bound to ultimately triumph.
In India the first was at Champaran in 1916 to inspire plantation workers to struggle against oppressive plantation system. In 1917 Satyagraha at Kheda to support peasants.
In 1918 Satyagraha at Ahmadabad:
Among the cotton mill workers.
The famous book written by Mahatma Gandhi, which emphasized non-cooperation to British rule in India.
New economic situation created in India by the First World War:
- Manchester imports into India declined as the British mills were busy with war production to meet the needs of the army paving the way for the Indian mills to supply for the huge home market
- As the war prolonged, Indian factories were called upon to supply war needs. As a result new factories were set up, new workers were employed and everyone was made to work longer hrs.
- Cotton production collapsed and exports of cotton cloth from Britain fell dramatically after the war, as it was unable to modernize and compete with US, Germany, Japan. Hence within colonies like India, local industrialists gradually consolidated their position capturing the home market.
The Rowlatt Act of 1919:
It gave the British government enormous power to repress political activities and allowed detention of political prisoners without trial for two years.
Jallianwala Bagh incident:
On 13th April 1919, a crowd of villagers who had come to attend a Baisakhi fair, gathered in the enclosed ground of Jallianwala Bagh. Being from outside the city, many were not aware of the martial law that had been imposed as a repressive measure. General Dyer with his British troops entered the park and closed the only exit point without giving any warning to the assembled people and ordered the troops to fire at the crowds, killing hundreds. This brutal act of General Dyer provoked unparalleled indignation. As the news of Jallianwala Bagh spread, crowds took to the streets in many North Indian towns. There were hartals, clashes and attacks on government buildings.
Non-cooperation programme was adopted at Nagpur in Dec. 1920.
Effects of the Non-cooperation Movement on the economy of India:
Foreign goods were boycotted, liquor shops were picketed and foreign cloth was burnt. The import of foreign cloth halved between 1921-1922. Its value dropped from Rs 102 crore to Rs 57 crore. Many merchants and traders refused to trade in foreign goods or finance foreign trade. People began discarding imported clothes and wearing Indian ones. The production of Indian textile mills and hand looms went up. Use of khadi was popularized.
Non-cooperation Movement in the countryside:
- In Awadh, the peasants’ movement led by Baba Ramchandra was against talukdars and landlords who demanded extremely high rents and a variety of other ceases from the peasants. Peasants were forced to work in landlords’ farms without any payment (beggar). Peasants had no security of tenure, thus being regularly evicted so that they could acquire no right over the leased land. The demands of the peasants were— reduction of revenue, abolition of beggar and social boycott of oppressive landlords.
- In the Gudem Hills of Andhra Pradesh a militant guerrilla movement spread in the early 1920s against the closure of forest areas by the colonial government, preventing people from entering the forests to graze their cattle, or to collect fuel wood and fruits. They felt that their traditional rights were being denied.
- For plantation workers in Assam, freedom meant the right to move freely in and out of the confined space in which they were enclosed. It meant retaining a link with the village from which they had come. Under the Inland Emigration Act of 1859, plantation workers were not permitted to leave tea gardens without permission. In fact the permission was hardly granted. When they heard of the Non-Cooperation Movement, thousands of workers defied the authorities and left for their homes.
Slowing down of Non-cooperation Movement in cities:
- Khadi cloth was more expensive than mill cloth and poor people could not afford to buy it. As a result they could not boycott mill cloth for too long.
- Alternative Indian institutions were not there which could be used in place of the British ones.
These were slow to come up.
- So students and teachers began trickling back to government schools and lawyers joined back work in government courts.
Khilafat movement was started by Mahatma Gandhi and the Ali Brothers, Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali in response to the harsh treatment given to the Caliph of Ottoman empire and the dismemberment of the Ottoman empire by the British.
Chauri Chaura incident:
In February 1922, Gandhiji decided to launch a no tax movement. The police opened fire at the people who were taking part in a demonstration, without any provocation. The people turned violent in their anger and attacked the police station and set fire to it. The incident took place at Chauri Chaura in Uttar Pradesh.
When the news reached Gandhiji, he decided to call off the Non-cooperation movement as he felt that it was turning violent and that the satyagrahis were not properly trained for mass struggle.
Swaraj Party was founded by C.R. Das and Moti Lai Nehru for return to council Politics. Simon Commission 1928 and boycott. Lahore Congress session and demand for Puma Swaraj in 1929. Dandi march and the beginning of civil Disobedience movement.
Features of Civil Disobedience Movement:
- People were now asked not only to refuse cooperation with the British but also to break colonial laws.
- Foreign cloth was boycotted and people were asked to picket liquor shops.
- Peasants were asked not to pay revenue and chaukidari taxes.
- Students, lawyers and village officials were asked not to attend English medium schools, colleges, courts and offices.
On 31st January, 1930 Mahatma Gandhi sent a letter to Viceroy Irwin stating eleven demands, one of which was the demand to abolish Salt Tax. Salt was one of the most essential food items consumed by the rich and poor alike and a tax on it was considered an oppression on the people by the British Government. Mahatma Gandhi’s letter was an ultimatum and if his demands were not fulfilled by March 11, he had threatened to launch a civil disobedience campaign. So, Mahatma Gandhi started his famous Salt March accompanied by 78 of his trusted volunteers. The march was over 240 miles, from Gandhiji’s ashram in Sabarmati to the Gujarati coastal town of Dandi. The volunteers walked for 24 days, about 10 miles a day. Thousands came to hear Mahatma Gandhi wherever he stopped, and he told them what he meant by Swaraj and urged them to peace-fully defy the British. On 6th April, he reached Dandi, and ceremonially violated the law, manufacturing salt by boiling sea water. This marked the beginning of the Civil Disobedience Movement.
Who participated in the movement?
Civil Disobedience Movement came into force in various parts of the country. Gandhiji led the salt march from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi with his followers starting the Civil Disobedience Movement. In the countryside, the rich Patidars of Gujarat and Jats of Uttar Pradesh were active in the movement. As rich communities were very hard hit by the trade depression and falling prices, they became enthusiastic supporters of the Civil Disobedience Movement. Merchants and industrialists supported the movement by giving financial assistance and also by refusing to buy and sell the imported goods. The industrial working class of Nagpur region also participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement. Railway workers, dock workers, mineral of Chhota Nagpur, etc. participated in protest rallies and boycott campaigns.
Limits of the movement
less participation by untouchables—Ambedker for separate electorate and Poona pact of 1932, Luke warm response by some Muslim Political Organization.
Provisions of Poona pact of 1932:
Signed between Dr. Ambedkar and Gandhiji. It gave depressed classes reserved seats in central provincial councils but they were to be voted by the general electorate.
The sense of collective belonging:
Though nationalism spread through the experience of united struggle but a variety of cultural processes captured the imagination of Indians and promoted a sense of collective belonging:
- Use of figures or images: The identity of India came to be visually associated with the image of Bharat Mata. Devotion to the mother figure came to be seen as an evidence of one’s nationalism
- Indian folklore: Nationalists started recording and using folklore’s and tales, which they believed, gave a true picture of traditional culture that had been corrupted and damaged by outside forces. So preservation of these became a way to discover one’s national identity and restore a sense of price in one’s past.
- Use of icons and symbols in the form of flags: Carrying the tricolor flag and holding it aloft during marches became a symbol of defiance and promoted a sense of collective belonging.
- Reinterpretation of history: Indians began looking into the past to rediscover the glorious developments in ancient times in the field of art, science, mathematics, religion and culture, etc. This glorious time was followed by a history of decline when India got colonized, as Indian history was miserably written by the colonizers.