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Nationalism in India 1920-1947
Focusing on the practice of civil resistance between 1920 and 1931.
- 1930 Salt March
- 1930 Chittagong Armoury Raid - violent resistance - Chandrasekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh
- 1931 Gandhi-Irwin Pact
Gandhi demanded “the attainment of Swarajya (total independence) by the people of India by all legitimate and peaceful means” in a year.
Main features of the new Constitution were:
“its decisions have to be largely unanimous”
“it can be dismissed by the All-Indian Congress Committee”
“Love of the people brought the problem of untouchability early into my life. My mother said, ‘You must not touch this boy, he is an untouchable.’ ‘Why not?’ I questioned back, and from that day my revolt began’
“Swaraj is a meaningless term, if we desire to keep a fifth of India under perpetual subjection…Inhuman ourselves, we may not plead before the Throne for deliverance from the inhumanity of others” (Young India, 1921)- the movement all encompassing
* Uttar Pradesh. January- March 1921, peasants attacked zamindars in Awadh. Protesting against high prices. Clashes with police and Kisan Sabhas were formed which Gandhi condemned because he argued that the peasants should fight the government, not fellow-Indians. Jawharalal Nehru began his political work in this movement. Eventually this led to the Awadh Rent Act of 1921 which gave greater security to peasants (useful to have lawyers on board, can articulate and argue well)
* Bihar. This was a very strong movement. It also became violent at times such as when peasant’s were claiming to be Gandhi’s disciples but it did force merchants to lower prices. (problems of peasant belief in Gandhi as miracle man, didn’t fully comprehend his Satygraha. Power of personality and charisma, brilliant- quote from official, but also a problem.)
* Punjab. Many Sikh peasants were involved (not religiously exclusive) in this protest. They demanded that control over their temples (gurudwaras) be taken out of the hands of corrupt priests who were backed by the British, and should instead be replaced by popular control (the Akali Movement)
* Bengal. Big strike in Calcutta jute mills in 1921, due to cut-backs for workers. Strong Hindu-Muslim unity in this strike (quite unique). In Midnapor District, peasants refused to pay their tax to the district board after it tried to increased taxes. It was mainly the richer peasants who were involved (point made by R. Kumar about mill strikers in Bombay, the great textile strike of 1919). In late 1921 this escalated into a no-rent campaign by tenants against zamindars. Some Santals looted markets and zamindar-owned forests, and in February 1922, Santals attacked police wearing Gandhi caps, which they claimed made them immune to bullets (miracle man again and lack of understanding of Gandhian doctrine)
* Assam. Strong protests. Workers in the tea gardens, demanding higher wages. Rumours of a ‘Gandhi Raj’ in which labourers would be given land
* Gujarat (one of the areas most politically active throughout, gave second highest donations to the Tilak Swaraj Fund). Strong movement in areas in which Gandhi had worked in 1918, and also in rural south. Patidar peasants to the fore. Bardoli Taluka particularly strong- he was selected in late 1921 to inaugurate official Congress no-tax campaign (Gandhi delegated) Congress cadres were sent to prepare the area (funding) This was a ryotwaru areas, with no landholding intermediaries between the peasants and the British.
* Southern Rajputana. Bhil movement led by Motilal Tejawat. Anti-landlord.
* Madras Presidency. Andhra coastal region sees richer peasants refusing to pay taxes (note how rarely poorest peasants are involved), under belief that ‘Gandhi Swaraj is coming and we shall not have to pay any taxes’. In interior of Andhra, tribal peasants break forest laws > was believed that Gandhi would abolish forest regulations.
* Kerala. Mapilla peasants were inspired by Khilafat to rise. Belief that a new Islamic state is about to be inaugurated in which there would be no expensive litigation and the present system of police would be abolished. Turned violent in August 1921 when a police raid on a mosque led to a wide scale violent rising against Hindu landlords (not good for movement cohesiveness). British lost complete control over two sub-districts for two months and Khilafat Republics were established. Approx. 600 Hindus were killed and 2500 forcibly converted. Revolt suppressed harshly, with 2337 rebels being killed and 1652 wounded. 45,000 people taken prisoner.
So not good- Gandhi not happy (although as in 1915-18, did show that was considerable discontent that with the right organisation, leadership and control could potentially be harnessed.)
“the Mahatma opens a campaign in a brilliant fashion…moves from success to success till he reaches the zenith of his campaign- but after that he loses his nerve…shortcomings inherent in the movement from the very beginning (what are these?) and which were to reveal themselves more and more with the lapse of time…too much power and responsibility was handed over to one man…the promise of ‘Swaraj’ within one year as not only unwise but childish…no leader worth the name should impose impossible conditions”
“My greatest anxiety about non-co-operation is not the slow response of the leaders…But the greatest obstacle is that we have not yet emerged from the mobocratic stage” (not ready for the challenge)
“Not one of the marchers even raised an arm to fend off the blows. They went down like ten-pins. From where I stood I heard the sickening whacks of the clubs on unprotected skulls. The waiting crowd of watchers groaned and sucked in their breaths in sympathetic pain at every blow.Those struck down fell sprawling, unconscious or writhing in pain with fractured skulls or broken shoulders. In two or three minutes the ground was quilted with bodies. Great patches of blood widened on their white clothes. The survivors without breaking ranks silently and doggedly marched on until struck down. When every one of the first column was knocked down stretcher bearers rushed up unmolested by the police and carried off the injured to a thatched hut which had been arranged as a temporary hospital.”
“All hope of reconciling India with the British Empire is lost forever. I can understand any government's taking people into custody and punishing them for breaches of the law, but I cannot understand how any government that calls itself civilized could deal as savagely and brutally with non-violent, unresisting men as the British have this morning."
“The police for a long time tried to refrain from action. After a time this became impossible, and they had to resort to sterner methods. A good many people suffered minor injuries in consequence”
- discontinuation of the civil disobedience movement by Congress in return for…
- participation by the Indian National Congress in the Round Table Conference
- Withdrawal of all ordinances issued by the British Government imposing curbs on the activities of the Indian National Congress
- Release of prisoners arrested for participating in the civil disobedience movement
- the removal of tax on salt, which therefore allowed the Indians to produce, trade and sell salt legally and for their own private use
“…peaceful means can succeed only when these imply the ugly alternative of more troublesome and fearful methods, recourse to which the failure of peaceful attempts must inevitably lead to”
“If you work with the Congress for all it is worth you will say goodbye to terrorism…without that liberty there are thousands toward who are sworn not to give themselves to peace or to give the country peace” (Round Table Conference, 1931- perhaps not a successful argument then?)