- Mahatma Gandhi had been planning a mass movement similar to the Civil Disobedience Movement for a while.
- He sought a symbol that could unify the entire movement and decided that salt, being a basic necessity like air and water, was the most oppressive form of tax.
- Breaking salt laws would serve as the most suitable way to initiate the Civil Disobedience Movement.
- On March 12, 1930, the Dandi March commenced from Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat, heading towards the coastal village of Dandi, covering a distance of approximately 390 kilometres. Gandhi led a group of 78 followers on foot.
- They completed the journey from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi in 25 days, reaching the Dandi coast on April 6, 1930. There, Gandhi symbolically broke the salt laws by picking up a handful of salt, marking the launch of the mass Civil Disobedience Movement.
- Sarojini Naidu was among the leaders who accompanied Mahatma Gandhi during the Dandi March.
- The Dandi March, also known as the Salt March, commenced on 12th March 1930, with Mahatma Gandhi and 78 selected followers leaving Sabarmati Ashram and marching to Dandi. It is noteworthy that there were no women among the participants. The march involved the violation of the salt law by producing salt, symbolizing the Indian people’s refusal to accept British rule.
- The significance of the Dandi March was recognized by the Bombay Chronicle, which described it as the most glorious and important event in the history of the national movement.
- Regarding Gandhi’s approach, it is interesting to note that he openly informed the Viceroy about his plans for the Salt Satyagraha, stating that they could arrest him if they deemed it necessary. This stands in contrast to the Communist movement led by Lenin, which operated with utmost secrecy. Gandhi did not believe in secrecy and even equated it with violence, emphasizing the value of transparency and nonviolence in his approach to the independence struggle.
Spread of the Civil Disobedience Movement
- Gandhi’s symbolic act at Dandi inspired people across the country to defy the salt laws.
- Nehru’s arrest in April 1930 for violating the salt law triggered massive protests in Madras, Calcutta, and Karachi.
- On May 4, 1930, Gandhi was arrested after announcing his intention to lead a raid on the Dharasana Salt Works on the west coast of India.
- Following Gandhi’s arrest, major protests erupted in Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta, and Sholapur, with the most intense response occurring in Sholapur.
- The Civil Disobedience Movement received widespread participation from students, women, tribals, merchants, petty traders, workers, and peasants from various backgrounds.
- In different provinces, salt laws were defied with varying degrees of success.
- Prominent leaders led specific salt satyagrahas, such as C. Rajagopalachari in Tamil Nadu, K. Kelappan in Malabar, and Sarojini Naidu and Manilal Gandhi in Dharasana Salt Works (Gujarat).
- The defiance of salt laws at the Dharasana salt works was notable for its scale, with approximately 2,000 volunteers engaging in nonviolent resistance against a large police force armed with steel-tipped lathis. The police attacked the non-resisting Satyagrahis until they fell down.
- The Civil Disobedience Movement came to an end with the signing of the Gandhi-Irwin agreement on March 5, 1931. The agreement was reached between Mahatma Gandhi and Lord Irwin, the Viceroy of India at the time, effectively concluding the movement.
Satyagraha at Different Places
- Satyagraha, meaning “firmly holding to truth” or “truth force,” is a form of nonviolent resistance or civil resistance. It was coined and developed by Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948) and utilized in the Indian independence movement, as well as earlier struggles for Indian rights in South Africa. In 1930, under the leadership of Gandhi, the Civil Disobedience Movement was launched. It commenced with the Dandi March, also known as the Salt Satyagraha, which began on March 12, 1930. The movement quickly spread throughout the country, with salt laws being challenged in various regions. Salt became a symbolic representation of people’s defiance of the British Government.
Satyagraha in Tamil Nadu
- In Tamil Nadu, C. Rajagopalachari played a significant role in the Satyagraha and civil disobedience movement.
- In April 1930, Rajagopalachari organized a march from Trichinopoly to Vedaranniyam on the Tanjore coast to defy the salt law.
- This event was followed by widespread picketing of foreign clothing stores, and the anti-liquor campaign gained momentum in interior regions such as Coimbatore, Madurai, Virudhunagar, and other cities.
- Despite Rajagopalachari’s efforts to maintain nonviolence, there were instances of violent outbursts by the masses, and the police responded with force. For instance, police intervention was used to suppress the Choolai Mills strike.
- Unemployed weavers in Gudiyattam attacked liquor stores and police pickets, while peasants in Bodinayakanur, Madurai, engaged in rioting due to declining prices.
- K. Kelappan, a Nair Congress leader known for the Vaikom Satyagraha, organized salt marches in Malabar.
- Salt marches took place in the districts of East and West Godavari, Krishna, and Guntur.
- Sibirams (military-style camps) were established as headquarters for the Salt Satyagraha.
- Merchants contributed to Congress funds, and the dominant castes, Kamma and Raju cultivators, defied repressive measures. However, mass support was not as extensive as during the non-cooperation movement.
- Gopabandhu Chaudhary led the Civil Disobedience movement, which received a tremendous response in Orissa, especially in coastal districts like Balasore, Cuttack, and Puri.
- Divisive issues, such as conflicts between Assamese and Bengalis, Hindus and Muslims, and tensions due to the influx of Muslim peasants from East Bengal, hindered the success of civil disobedience.
- In May 1930, there was a successful student strike against the Cunningham Circular, which restricted student involvement in politics.
- In December 1930, Chandraprabha Saikiani encouraged Kachari villages to violate forest laws, despite the denial of support by the Assam Congress leadership.
- Some individuals, such as Tarunram Phookan and N.C. Bordoloi were vocal opponents of the movement in Assam.
In the Dharsana Salt Satyagraha
- The Satyagraha proceeded as planned at the Dharasana Salt Works, with Abbas Tyabji, a retired judge of 76 years, leading the march alongside Gandhi’s wife, Kasturba.
- However, both Tyabji and Kasturba were arrested before reaching Dharsana and were sentenced to three months in prison.
- Sarojini Naidu, Imam Sahib, and Manilal Gandhi (Gandhi’s son) took up the task of leading the raid on the Dharasana Salt Works on May 21, 1930.
- They emphasized that the Satyagrahis must adhere to nonviolent means under all circumstances.
- Despite being unarmed and peaceful, the crowd faced a brutal lathi charge, resulting in the death of two individuals and injuries to 320 others.
- People in various regions, including Wadala (Bombay), Karnataka (Sanikatta Salt Works), Andhra Pradesh, Midnapore, Balasore, Puri, and Cuttack, enthusiastically embraced this new form of salt satyagraha.
In Bengal, the Salt Satyagraha was launched with great enthusiasm and patriotism, and a significant number of volunteers joined the movement. Key events and developments in the region during the Satyagraha were as follows:
National Week and Public Meeting
- On April 6, 1930, a well-attended public meeting took place at Shraddhanand Park in Calcutta during “National Week.”
- Lalit Mohan Das, the President of the meeting, delivered an inspiring speech, urging people to join the national movement and make it a resounding success.
Media Coverage and Excitement
- The Amrita Bazar Patrika, a prominent newspaper, extensively covered the details of the Salt Satyagraha with headlines such as “Bengal Astir, Grim and Fearless Determination” and “Salt Preparation of Mahisbathan on a Large Scale.”
- This media coverage created excitement and garnered support for the movement throughout the country.
Political Context and Factionalism
- The Bengal Congress was divided into two factions led by Subhas Chandra Bose and J.M. Sengupta.
- The division, along with the Calcutta Corporation election, caused a disconnect between the urban bhadralok leaders and the rural masses.
- Communal riots took place in Dacca (now Dhaka) and Kishoreganj, with limited Muslim participation in the movements.
Strong Movements and Violence
- Bengal witnessed a high number of arrests and incidents of violence during the Satyagraha.
- Areas like Midnapur and Arambagh experienced significant movements centred around the salt satyagraha and the chaukidari tax.
- The Chittagong revolt group, led by Surya Sen, carried out a raid on two armouries simultaneously and proclaimed the establishment of a provisional government.
Violence and Arrests in Calcutta
- On April 15th, Calcutta saw significant violence and turmoil.
- Jawaharlal Nehru and J.M. Sengupta’s arrests triggered unrest.
- In South Calcutta, angered by police violence, two tramcars were set on fire and another was damaged.
- Fire department members were attacked while trying to extinguish the flames, resulting in serious injuries.
- In retaliation, a European sergeant fired shots, injuring two Sikhs and arresting thirteen others.
In Bihar, the Satyagraha took the form of the “No Chowkidari Tax Campaign,” with significant developments and events as follows:
- Early Initiatives:
- The districts of Champaran and Saran were the first to launch the salt satyagraha in Bihar.
- Rajendra Prasad played a crucial role in laying the foundation for a widespread Civil Disobedience Movement in the state.
- Enrolment and Salt Production:
- Around 5,000 volunteers were enrolled in the initial week of April, and their numbers continued to grow steadily.
- Given Bihar’s landlocked nature, large-scale salt production was impractical, and in most places, the production of salt was more symbolic than substantial.
Shift to No Chowkidari Tax Agitation
- Ambika Kant Sinha selected Nakhas Pond in Patna as the site for salt production and violation of the salt law. However, this was quickly replaced by a potent no-chowkidar tax agitation due to constraints in salt production.
- The no-chowkidar tax campaign gained momentum, and by November 1930, it resulted in a decline in the sale of foreign cloth and liquor, as well as administrative breakdown in certain regions like Barhee in Munger.
Lower-Class Militancy and Socio-Religious Movements
- Lower-class militancy was observed in the tribal belt of Chhotanagpur (now in Jharkhand).
- In Hazaribagh, leaders like Bonga Majhi and Somra Majhi promoted a movement that combined socio-religious reforms along ‘Sanskritising’ lines, advocating for khadi and abstention from meat and liquor.
- However, reports suggested that the Santhal community engaged in large-scale illegal liquor distillation, despite the banner of Gandhi.
- While most large zamindars remained loyal to the government, small landlords and wealthier tenants joined the movement, although their enthusiasm was dampened by increased lower-class militancy on occasion.
No Chowkidari Tax Campaign and Government Response
- Chowkidars (watchmen) were despised as they served as government spies and also acted as retainers for local landlords.
- The No Chowkidari Tax Campaign aimed to force chowkidars to resign, gaining momentum in May.
- The government responded with severe measures, including the seizure of property worth significant sums in exchange for small tax amounts, beatings, and torture.
Mass Protests and Rajendra Prasad’s Injury
- Daily protests outside the ashram became a common occurrence during the civil disobedience movement.
- A visit by Rajendra Prasad and Abdul Ban from Patna led to a massive mass rally, which was disrupted by a lathi charge resulting in Rajendra Prasad’s injury.
- This movement marked a significant turning point in the evolution of India’s civil disobedience movement, leaving a lasting impact.
Satyagraha in Peshawar
- Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, also known as Badshah Khan and Frontier Gandhi, led the demonstrations and satyagraha in Peshawar.
- After Mahatma Gandhi completed the salt law defiance ritual, similar marches and acts of salt law defiance took place across the country.
- Gaffar Khan established the Khudai Khidmatgars, also known as the Red Shirts.
- The arrest of Congress leaders in the NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) on April 23, 1930, sparked mass demonstrations in Peshawar. For over a week, the city was virtually under the control of the crowds until order was restored on May 4.
- Subsequently, martial law was imposed, leading to a reign of terror in the region.
- Notably, a section of Garhwal Rifles soldiers refused to fire on an unarmed crowd, even at the risk of facing court-martial and lengthy prison terms.
- The British government grew concerned about the increasing nationalist sentiment in a province with a majority Muslim population, highlighting how nationalism had permeated the Indian Army, which was a key instrument of British rule.
Satyagraha in Sholapur
- Sholapur, an industrial town in southern Maharashtra, witnessed vehement opposition to Gandhi’s arrest.
- Textile workers initiated a strike on May 7 and, along with other residents, resorted to acts of violence such as setting fire to liquor stores, railway stations, police stations, municipal buildings, and law courts.
- The activists established a virtual parallel government, which could only be disbanded by the imposition of martial law after May 16.
Satyagraha in Gujarat
- The impact of Satyagraha was felt in various areas of Gujarat, including Anand, Borsad, and Nadiad in the Kheda district, Bardoli in the Surat district, and Jambusar in the Bharuch district.
- A determined anti-tax movement was organized, with villagers refusing to pay land revenue.
- To avoid police repression, villagers and their families crossed the border into neighbouring princely states such as Baroda and camped in the open for months.
- In response, the police destroyed their property and confiscated their land.
Satyagraha in Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Central Province
- In these regions, there were acts of civil disobedience related to forest laws, such as disregarding grazing and timber restrictions and participating in the public sale of illegally obtained forest produce.
- Tribals actively participated in the Satyagraha movements in Central Province, Maharashtra, and Karnataka, advocating for their rights and protesting against oppressive forest regulations.
Satyagraha in the United Province (now Uttar Pradesh)
- In the United Province, two campaigns were organized: the no-revenue campaign and the no-rent campaign.
- Under the no-revenue campaign, Zamindars were instructed to withhold payment of land revenue to the government.
- Under the no-rent campaign, tenants were encouraged to refrain from paying rent to the Zamindars.
- Since most of the Zamindars were loyalists to the British government, the campaign essentially transformed into a No Rent Campaign.
- The activities gained momentum, particularly in Agra and Rai Bareilly, starting in October 1930.
Satyagraha in Manipur and Nagaland
- Rani Gaidinliu, a Naga spiritual leader, took up the cause of revolt against foreign rule at the age of 13, following her cousin Haipou Jadonang.
- She urged the people not to pay taxes or work for the British, aligning herself with the freedom struggle in the rest of India.
- The religious movement gradually became more political, leading to the apprehension and execution of Haipou Jadonang by British authorities in 1931 on charges of treason.
- Rani Gaidinliu evaded capture by the British until October 1932 when she was finally apprehended. She was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment.
- Rani Gaidinliu was eventually released from Tura jail upon the orders of the Interim Government of India, established in 1946.
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