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Civil Disobedience Movement, 1930-1931, British India
Civil Disobedience Movement in India was launched to express the disapproval against the Simon Commission. Civil Disobedience Movement took place under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.

Mahatma GandhiCivil Disobedience Movement, launched under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, in the year 1930 was one of the most significant phases of freedom struggle of the country. The Simon Commission, which was formed in November 1927 by the British Government to chart and conclude a Constitution for India, included members of the British Parliament only. As a result the Commission was boycotted by every section of the Indian social and political platforms as an `All-White Commission`. The opposition to the Simon Commission in Bengal was noteworthy. In disapproval against the Commission, a `hartal` or strike was observed on 3rd of February, 1928 in various parts of the region. Widespread demonstrations were held in Kolkata on 19th of February, 1928, the day of Simon`s arrival to the city. Further, on 1st of March, 1928, meetings were held simultaneously in all 32 wards of the city, spurring people to restore the movement for boycott of British goods.

Mahatma Gandhi was arrested on 5th of May, 1930, just days before his projected raid on the Dharasana Salt Works. The Dandi March and the resultant Dharasana Satyagraha drew worldwide attention to the Civil Disobedience Movement through widespread newspaper and newsreel coverage. In fact, Satyagraha was such a step towards the disobedience movement that it came to synonymous with Indian freedom struggle and non-violence. It continued for almost a year, ending with the release of Mahatma Gandhi from jail and after the discussions at the Second Round Table Conference with Viceroy Lord Irwin. As a result of the Salt Satyagraha over 80,000 Indians were jailed. The crusade had a significant effect on changing British attitudes toward Indian independence and caused huge numbers of Indians to aggressively join the fight for the first time. Sadly though, the movement failed to win major concessions from the British. The Salt Satyagraha campaign was based upon Gandhi`s principles of non-violent protest called Satyagraha, which he loosely translated as `truth-force`. The Salt March to Dandi and the flogging of hundreds of non-violent protesters in Dharasana, marked the efficient use of civil disobedience as a method for fighting social and political injustice.

On 8th of April 1929, members of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association exploded two bombs and fired revolvers in the assembly chamber of the Imperial Legislative Council in Delhi. In response, Lord Irwin published a Public Safety Bill which addressed the menace of the Communist Party by deporting the Englishmen involved and taking legal action against the Indian membership. Moreover, on 31st of October, Lord Irwin announced on behalf of the British Government that the natural constitutional progress of India was the attainment of Dominion Status. The Viceroy did not name a specific time for the award. The Congress Party indicated its willingness to cooperate in formulating a Dominion constitution as a test of the government`s honesty which in the end proved minimal. In November debates in both the Houses, the measure was tacitly accepted, but in such away that Congress rejected the declaration.

On 23rd of December 1929, Indian nationalists failed in an attempt to blow up Irwin`s train. On 23rd of December, Lord Irwin met with Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Tel Bahadur Sapru in New Delhi. Erwin however, could not arrive at an agreement for framing a constitution under `Dominion Status`. Indian National Congress also refused to attend the London Round Table Conference due to communal division and the lack of British support for Indian freedom. At the ensuing 1930 annual meeting of the Congress Party held at Lahore, the Congress declared itself for independence rather than Dominion Status and authorised a campaign of civil disobedience. On 12th of March 1930, the Government of India allowed Gandhi`s Civil Disobedience Movement to continue. It came out as a march to Dandi on the sea, in objection to the tax on salt. Gandhi reached Dandi on April 6th, and explicitly violated the salt law. In response, Jawaharlal Nehru was arrested on April 14.

On 18th of April, amidst all the disorders around one hundred Indians attacked police and railway armouries at Chittagong. They obtained a substantial cache of arms and bombs. During the attack eight defenders were killed. Mahatma Gandhi condemned the raid which had made a deep impression throughout India. That connection of the night later came to be known as the legendary Chittagong Armoury Raid Case. On 5th of May, following assessment of the attacks and violence at Chittagong and Peshawar, the Government of India had Gandhi arrested and lodged at Yervada Jail near Pune. His retention was justified under Regulation XXV of 1827, calling for the detention of those engaged in unlawful activities. Following the arrest of Mahatma Gandhi, the British faced the full programme of civil disobedience as composed of Indian raids on salt depots, refusal to pay taxes in chosen areas, spirits and avoidance of business with all British firms, disobedience of forest laws and boycott of foreign cloth.

On 30th of June, the Government of India outlawed the All-India Congress Committee and the Congress Working Committee. Congress President Motilal Nehru was arrested with many other leaders of Congress party. Further, on 23rd of July, Lord Irwin facilitated visits to Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru by two Indian Liberals, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru and Mukund Ramrao Jayakar, for the purpose of finding ways to end civil disobedience movement and to elicit Congress Party participation at a Round Table Conference in London. On 25th of January 1931, Lord Irwin authorised Gandhi`s release from prison and withdrew prohibition of illegality against the Congress Working Committee. He hoped that through a personal request to Gandhi that progress could be made.

Between the period of 16th of February to 4th of March 1931, Lord Irwin and Gandhi met in a series of talks seeking settlement of the issues originating from the civil disobedience movement. In the agreement reached on 5th of March, Gandhi agreed to discontinue civil disobedience as it embraced defiance of the law, non-payment of land revenue, publication of news-sheets, termination of its boycott of British goods and the restraint of aggressive picketing. The Government of India agreed to cancel ordinances opposing the movement and its associations, to release Indian prisoners not guilty of violent acts, return fines and property as possible and to reappoint Indians who had resigned their government posts if not subsequently filled. However, no material changes were made in the Salt Acts.

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(Last Updated on : 16/07/2010)
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