- Individual Satyagraha emerged as a direct response to the August Offer, which the British presented in 1940 during a crucial phase of the war. Despite being a part of the Civil Disobedience Movement, the August Offer faced rejection from both Congress and the Muslim League. Subsequently, M.K. Gandhi shifted his focus towards Individual Satyagraha, a movement aimed at attaining not only independence but also the right to freedom of expression. The Satyagrahis demanded the use of this freedom to voice their opposition to the war by issuing an anti-war declaration.
Background of Individual Satyagraha:
- The government insisted that no constitutional progress would occur until Congress reached an agreement with Muslim leaders.
- To suppress dissent and opposition, the government passed multiple ordinances restricting fundamental rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and the right to form associations.
- Towards the end of 1940, Congress approached Gandhi and asked him to take charge once again.
- Gandhi adopted a broad strategic perspective and began planning for a mass struggle.
- He decided to launch Individual Satyagraha, wherein only a few selected individuals from each locality would participate in a nonviolent resistance campaign.
Features of Individual Satyagraha:
- Divergence within Congress: Following the August Offer, Congress faced internal disagreements. While the radicals and leftists advocated for a large-scale civil disobedience movement, Gandhi insisted on pursuing Individual Satyagraha as the preferred approach.
- Affirming the Right to Free Expression: The primary objective of Individual Satyagraha was not to achieve immediate independence but to assert the right to freedom of expression. This nonviolent resistance aimed to secure the fundamental right to voice dissent.
- Preventing Violence: Gandhi believed that launching a mass movement during that time might escalate into violence. He was adamant about avoiding any situation where the United Kingdom could be embarrassed by the outbreak of violence.
- Building a Nonviolent India: Gandhi had a different vision for India’s future. He did not want to achieve freedom by completely destroying the British Empire. Instead, he aimed to build an independent India on the principles of nonviolence.
- Equal Application of Principles: Gandhi emphasized that the principles of freedom and basic rights, which Britain was fighting for against Nazi Germany and Fascism, should also be applied to Indians. He wanted the British not to take India for granted.
- Refuting British Propaganda: By launching Individual Satyagraha, Gandhi sought to counter British propaganda that India was wholeheartedly supporting the war effort. He wanted to make it clear that Indians did not see this war as being fought in their best interests.
- Meeting with Lord Linlithgow: On September 27, 1940, Gandhi met with Lord Linlithgow, the Viceroy of India, to discuss his opposition to the war and his desire to ask the Indian people to resist it. However, the Viceroy declined his request, prompting Gandhi to proceed with his campaign independently.
Aims of Individual Satyagraha:
- Asserting Strength in Nationalist Patience: The movement aimed to showcase that the patience displayed by nationalists was not a sign of weakness. Instead, it was a powerful assertion of their convictions and commitment to nonviolent resistance.
- Expressing Disinterest in the War: Individual Satyagraha served as a platform for people to express their disinterest in the ongoing war and to distinguish between the oppressive governance in India and the brutalities of Nazism.
- Peaceful Resolution of Demands: One of the primary aims was to offer the government another opportunity to address the demands of Congress through peaceful means. It presented a chance for dialogue and resolution without resorting to violence.
- Opposing War through Freedom of Speech: Satyagrahis demanded the use of freedom of speech to voice their opposition to the war by issuing anti-war declarations. It was a nonviolent way of registering their protest against India’s involvement in the war.
- Escalation in Absence of Arrest: If the government refrained from arresting the Satyagrahis, they would intensify their actions by repeating them in villages and eventually marching towards Delhi. This was known as the “Delhi Chalo Movement,” and it aimed to increase pressure on the authorities to consider their demands seriously.
Involvement in Individual Satyagraha:
- Vinoba Bhave’s Participation: Vinoba Bhave was selected as the first participant in the Individual Satyagraha. He commenced his campaign on October 17, 1940, in Paunar, situated just five miles away from Wardha.
- Reasons for Opposition to War: In his speeches during the campaign, Vinoba Bhave urged people not to participate in the Government’s war efforts for three specific reasons: (a) The Government’s refusal to establish a Provisional National Government, (b) India being dragged into the war without her consent or consultation, and (c) Suppression of freedom to preach against the war.
- Anti-War Speeches: Vinoba Bhave continued delivering anti-war speeches in different places like Surgaon, Saloo, and Deoli for three consecutive days from October 18 to October 20, 1940.
- Arrest and Sentencing: On October 21, 1940, Vinoba Bhave was arrested and subsequently sentenced to three months in prison. In court, he pleaded guilty, stating that he had a clear purpose in mind when engaging in the Satyagraha.
- Government’s Response: In response to the Individual Satyagraha and Congress’s propaganda, the government issued orders on October 25, 1940, prohibiting all anti-war propaganda.
- Jawaharlal Nehru’s Involvement: Gandhiji, viewing the government’s actions as a challenge, selected Jawaharlal Nehru as the second participant in the Individual Satyagraha after Vinoba Bhave.
- Nehru’s Arrest: Before Nehru could initiate his campaign, the government arrested him on October 31, 1940, at the Cheoki railway station near Allahabad, charging him with violating the Defence of India Rules. He was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for his alleged seditious speeches.
- Third Satyagrahi – Brahma Dutt: Brahma Dutt, an ashram inmate, was chosen as the third participant to offer an individual satyagraha.
- In conclusion, Gandhiji decided to temporarily suspend the individual civil disobedience campaign for the Christmas holiday. However, before the suspension, the campaign had already made a significant impact and faced widespread participation. Numerous prominent figures, including ex-ministers, members of the Working Committee and All-India Congress Committee, and approximately 400 members of the Central and Provincial Assemblies, had been arrested. Maulana Azad and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel were among the notable leaders arrested during this period.
- The movement gained rapid traction, with an overwhelming response from the people. By the end of January, the number of voluntary arrests had exceeded 2,250, reflecting the deep commitment and enthusiasm of the volunteers. The readiness of individuals to offer themselves up for arrest was truly remarkable and demonstrated their unwavering dedication to the cause.
- The impact of Individual Satyagraha was profound, leading to more than 20,000 convictions within a few months. Despite the arrests and convictions, the campaign stood as a symbol of India’s struggle for freedom and the unwavering spirit of its people. It showcased the power of nonviolent resistance and the determination of Indians to assert their right to free expression and oppose actions they deemed unjust. The movement’s influence and the sacrifices made by its participants would continue to shape the course of India’s fight for independence.
1. When did Vinoba Bhave start the Individual Satyagraha?
- Vinoba Bhave started the Individual Satyagraha in 1940.
2. When did the Individual Satyagraha start in India?
- The Individual Satyagraha movement in India started in 1940.
3. What is the significance of Vinoba Bhave’s role in the Individual Satyagraha?
- Vinoba Bhave was a prominent leader who played a crucial role in the Individual Satyagraha, advocating nonviolent protest and civil disobedience against the British colonial rule.
4. How is the Individual Satyagraha of 1940 relevant to UPSC exams?
- The Individual Satyagraha of 1940 is a significant event in India’s struggle for independence, and it may be a topic covered in UPSC exams as part of modern Indian history.
5. What were the key events and outcomes of the Individual Satyagraha in 1940?
- The Individual Satyagraha in 1940 marked a shift towards individual nonviolent protest against British rule. Key leaders like Vinoba Bhave participated, and it laid the foundation for later mass movements.
6. Is there any information about the Individual Satyagraha in NCERT textbooks?
- Yes, the Individual Satyagraha is often covered in NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) textbooks as an important chapter in Indian history.
7. Where did the Individual Satyagraha start from in India?
- The Individual Satyagraha movement started from different parts of India, with various leaders taking up the cause in their respective regions. It was a decentralized movement, and Vinoba Bhave was one of the prominent leaders who initiated it.
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