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Nationalism in India 1920-1947. Focusing on the practice of civil resistance between 1920 and 1931. Topics. Development of the Indian National Congress 1920-22 Noncooperation Movement 1920-22 Gandhi’s calling off the movement in 1922 The Bardoli Satyagraha 1928

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Nationalism in India 1920-1947

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nationalism in india 1920 1947

Nationalism in India 1920-1947

Focusing on the practice of civil resistance between 1920 and 1931.

  • Development of the Indian National Congress 1920-22
  • Noncooperation Movement 1920-22
  • Gandhi’s calling off the movement in 1922
  • The Bardoli Satyagraha 1928
  • 1930-31 Civil Disobedience Movement

- 1930 Salt March

- 1930 Chittagong Armoury Raid - violent resistance - Chandrasekhar Azad and Bhagat Singh

- 1931 Gandhi-Irwin Pact

  • Conclusion
development of the indian national congress
Development of the Indian National Congress
  • Established in the late nineteenth century as an organisation for the new educated professional and commercial class. Lots of British-loving.
  • By 1918 Indian political aspirations had advanced- wanted a share in the Government of India. The 1919 Montagu-Chelmsford reforms (dyarchy- in provinces ministries formed with Indians controlling the less important departments e.g. education, local government and exercise.) fell far short of these aspirations and were rejected by Congress as “disappointing and unsatisfactory”.
  • 1918-1923 = transformation of Congress in its political and organizational character. (Gandhi huge role played in this)
  • Nagpur Constitution of 1920 made big difference. As did Gandhi’s leadership of it and the consequent aims and objectives it took on.- he had confidence from recent successes such as the Rowlatt Satyagraha- his first Indian mass movement

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:

  • Attainment of Swaraj by all legitimate and peaceful means
  • 4-anna membership
  • Provincial Congress committees reorganised on linguistic basis, with a hierarchy of provincial – district- sub-district/town – village committees
  • Delegates to Congress sessions to be in proportion to population of a province (roughly one delegate to every 50,000 of a population). Therefore less crowded and more effective
  • All India Congress Committee formed to meet about four time a year
  • Congress Working Committee with about 15 members formed as executive head of the Congress. Permanent body that met about once a month.
so what actually changed
So what actually changed?
  • All-India Congress Committee
  • Most important body. Acted as the ‘Parliament’ > its decisions were binding on all subordinate units
  • Met 4 times per annum
  • Elected by Provincial Congress Committees, and numbers increased from 181 in 1918 to 350 in 1921. Implications of this were a higher number of elected delegates and greater representation and influence
  • Creation of the Working Committee
  • Congress acquired for the first time an executive body active throughout the year.
  • Met once per month (kept on top of current events and changes- meant could adapt)
  • Gave day-to-day direction to the organisation (organised)
  • Gandhi was its inventor and said of it;

“its decisions have to be largely unanimous”

“it can be dismissed by the All-Indian Congress Committee”

  • According to Gopal Krishna its creation was one of the most innovative and important aspects to Congress’s development during this period (and therefore to the movement due to Congress’s central role) because of the way that through it, Gandhi attempted to meet the need for a compact and disciplined executive to direct a loosely-knit mass movement which had to maintain a broad coalition of divergent elements- everyone involved and working together
  • Local Organisation and impact
  • Provincial Congress committees reorganised on a linguistic basis, with a hierarchy of provincial district- sub-district/town- village committees
  • Increased the number of Provincial Congress Committees between 1918 and 1920 by changing the principles upon which they were formed and divided- no longer on administrative divisions with no single principle, but instead the1920 constitution laid down that the Provincial Congress Committees should be organised on a linguistic basis > allowing for greater cohesiveness and make it increasingly possible for mass of people to be drawn into Congress work. Accordingly the provincial units were reorganised into 21 linguistically homogenous provinces
  • Each village with 5 plus Congress members would have a Congress unit whose task it was to carry out the Congress program in the village.
  • 1918-19 Congress had some type of organisation in nearly half the districts > 1921-22 it had 213 District Congress Committees in 15 Congress Provinces AND in addition by 1921 there were thousands of local units working under the District Committees
  • To bring the Congress closer to the masses, in 1920 it was proposed to conduct Congress sessions as much as poss in Hindustani (Central Provinces)
Abolition of the British Committee of the Congress
  • Formed in London 1889
  • Established to inform the British public on Indian affairs and to popularise the views of Congress in Great Britain
  • Despite prominent British and Indian members it was extremely feeble and made little impact on British opinion. Therefore a drain on the financial resources of Congress. Abolished 1920 so the lost funds could be put to good use in the campaign. > becoming far more fiscally astute, progress when handling a national movement of this scale
  • Delegates at Congress
  • Pre-1920 there was no limit to the number of delegates who could attend the annual and ad hoc special sessions. Therefore often dominated by those from the local districts and provinces. Rival factions could pack the sessions with supporters. > Unfair and unrepresentative. (safeguard- usually majority voting but still an issue)
  • Post- 1920 changed system of delegates. One per 50,000. > made sessions far more representative. Provinces allocated a quota of delegates according to population.
  • 1923 number of delegates attending had declined dramatically.
  • 1921 Ahmedabad = 4728
  • 1922 Gaya = 3848
  • 1923 Cocanada = 1661!
  • many Congressmen in prison and demoralisation followed the 1922 collapse of the movement
  • Membership
  • Nagpur Constitution 1920 introduced paid membership (voluntary).
  • Annual subscription of 4 annas.
  • Hope to provide a significant part of the financial resources needed for Congress works.
  • Although figures incomplete, were areas where membership strong e.g. Gujarat, Hindustani, Bengal.
  • 1922-23 membership declined, only 106, 046 for 16/20 provinces.
  • BUT Jawaharlal Nehru said extent of people following not in people’s desire to join but in Congress’s capacity to reach remote villages (funds)
  • “Gandhi was something of a genius when collecting money” (G. Krishnar). Took charge and financial system changed
  • Provincial Congress Committees had been very poor and often failed to meet their commitments to AICC
  • Collected from women, peasants, wealthy friends and businessmen e.g. Seth Jamnalal Bajaj
  • Tilak Memorial Swaraj Fund set up – highly successful
  • 1921 in three months (April-June) collected Rs. 10,000
  • 1921-23 total funds exceeded Rs. 13, 000
  • Spent as went along (bad experience in S. Africa)
  • Spent on Congress activity- propaganda, volunteering etc, as well as national education, aid to depressed classes, famine and flood relief and subsidies to Congress organisations
  • How inclusive/representative was it?
  • increasing number of peasant delegates
  • 1918 = 688
  • 1919 = 1095 and steadily rose until 1922
  • Minorities:
  • Congress sought their participation, especially Muslims.
  • Muslim involvement had been limited (sought Muslim-orientated goals) but World War One and threat to the Khalifa helped.
  • Muslim League, Central Khilafat Committee (1921 10.9%) Post 1923 their support and involvement decreased, although retained support of the religious leaders of Indian Islam.
  • Once Gandhi had gained control over Congress, he gained support of Congress for the Khilafat - in June 1920 he had demanded that Congress support the demands of the Khilafat Movement. Some- Khalilf of the Ottoman Empire was their spiritual head (not all believed this) After WW1, defeat of Germany and Turkey in 1918 a harsh settlement was imposed, with Turkey losing much of her empire. Ali brothers launched strong protect of non-cooperation against British – Gandhi thought could work together > strength in unity and numbers
  • Gandhi’s work with untouchables sign of will for inclusivity and unity. Attempts to branch out- lots of time, money and effort exerted on this. (movement as a whole still marked by fissions of Indian society but Congress was progressing)

“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

  • Faith in general
  • Tried to have religious representation according to population percentages.
  • Hindu 68% of pop, 1918 76% of AICC (All-Indian Congress Committee) to 1923, 72.5%
  • Muslims 21% of pop, 1918 20.2% to 1923 24.5.% Also referred to Muslims as his brothers
  • Sikhs 1% of pop, 1918 around 0.x% (there were 2 delegates) to 1923 around ½%
  • Women were drawn in
  • First female delegate in 1920.
  • 1918 = 0.55%
  • 1923 = 3.61%. (still remained a significant minority)
  • Urban/rural representation
  • Tried to balance out the number of delegates from urban and rural areas. Did reduce those from towns until in 1921 rural delegates significantly dominated, thereby more true representation of Indian interests as a whole
  • Leaders
  • Mostly educated, middle or upper class.
  • Monopoly of lawyers.
  • Successfully mixed up the occupational status of its leaders. More representative
  • Pre-1920 social position secured a leading role in the Movement.
  • Post-1920 it was the renunciation of social position and the demonstration of willingness to accept sacrifices that was demanded of those who desired to lead. Gandhi told lawyers that they had to make choice, keep their Congress position and lose their legal practice, or leave.- therefore got people who were totally committed.
  • So…
  • Indian National Congress represented a broad national front not a tightly organised party.
  • Gandhi “it is not a party organisation” but it developed a structure of authority paralleling that of the British- like a state within a state. Own uniform (khadi) and operated in Hindu as much as English.
  • Provided a platform for all parties – like a coalition consisting of elements which agreed on general aims and methods but not always on specific items of policy or program. Forum for debate
  • Very loose structure, democratic (limits) – useful as general aim at this point was the same (in 1920-21 that is. Later were factions)
  • Delegates were not bound by Congress decisions (e.g. on sectional aspects such as industrial strikes)
  • Acquired a very strong executive arm which gave effect to its official policy
  • Idea became an instrument of its benefactors wholly unfounded (Krishnar)
  • Alliance was often a fragile one
noncooperation movement 1920 22
Noncooperation Movement 1920-22
  • So developing Congress took up most of 1920 and with good reason. It resulted in the advantages discussed (representation, organisation, funding to act and empower, democratic procedures etc).
  • Congress had also through these developments developed a structure of authority paralleling that of the British- like a state within a state. It had its own uniform (khadi) and operated in Hindi as much as in English. Delegates were not bound by Congress decisions (e.g. lack of action in sectional disputes such as strikes) Gandhi had made a loose coalition of interests, classes and different religious groups and constantly worked towards this aim. > strength through uniting and numbers and the exchange of ideas. Gandhi’s personal charisma often held it together (when he was in jail, Nehru and Patel initially unsure what to do). Alliance was a fragile one.
  • So 1920 taken up by creating the right situation to allow for action to be taken.
  • 1921 year of mass action.
  • Early 1921, NCO launched by students leaving schools and colleges. Two big student strikes in Calcutta and Lahore. Alternative ‘national schools’ founded and two uni’s in Aligarh and Ahmedabad.
  • Lawyers gave up practice (choice for those in Congress, Congress or practice = the committed) e.g Motilal Nehru and C.R. Das
  • Popular arbitration courts established
  • July 1921 boycott of foreign cloth launched (Gandhi had launched this campaign in 1919, made a simple cheap spinning wheel that all could carry around but in 1921 that the boycott really took off nationally)
Public bonfires of foreign cloth, even Bhagat Singh involved.
  • Picketing of shops selling foreign cloth
  • Import of foreign clothes halved during NCO - power of mass movement
  • Nationalists expected to wear khadi (handspun and handwoven cloth- Indian) > employment and self-sufficiency in rural areas. Emphasised dignity of manual labour –Congress supporters were supposed to spin regularly (in film Gandhi always spinning). Showed Indian unity, and capability.
  • Gandhi saw it as a uniform- white so always had to washed = clean = pure.
  • Quickly became a symbol of anti-British feeling and nationalist commitment. For many, was their first contact with national movement. Sense of empowerment and involvement. Pride. Those who wore it became a target of police attention. Pupils at government schools were not allowed to wear it.
  • Movement escalated in second-half of 1921
  • Main areas of strength:

* 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.)

  • November, Prince of Wales (future Edward VIII) visited India. Congress boycotted him and there were large demonstrations. Also some fights between middle and upper class Indians who wished to warmly welcome the Prince and the demonstrators who did not. This was in Bombay and through the clashes, 20 died.
  • Gandhi was much disheartened by this (as well as the accumulation of all of the above, and of course, the Amritsar Massacre of 1919 was still fresh in everyone’s minds- violence by British. Clearly there was a great propensity for violence on both sides at this time). Gandhi postponed taking the movement on to its next level of tax-refusal in Bardoli. And, furthermore, by the end of 1921, Gandhi was having reservations about what he had set in motion, a sense of responsibility due to the continuing violence. Final nail in the coffin was Chauri-Chaura, Feb. 1922
chauri chaura 1922
Chauri-Chaura 1922
  • Town near Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.
  • February 4, 1922.
  • Around 2000 protestors gathered for picketing of the liquor shop at the local market in Chauri-Chaura (Gandhi advocated temperance- lots of trees cut down in this cause).
  • Sensing trouble (or looking for it depending on your take) armed policemen were sent to keep order.
  • Crowd march towards market shouting anti-government slogans.
  • Some dispute over what happened next, some say police fired into air as warning and then attacked the demonstration. Others say no warning.
  • Crowd responded with stone throwing and situation got out of control. Police started firing on the crowd. Three demonstrators killed (two Hindu, one Muslim)
  • Crowd chased the police to the police station and set it on fire with the policemen inside it.
  • 22 policemen died.
  • British furiouss and imposed martial law in Chauri-Chaura and surrounding areas
  • Later, 172 were sentenced to death for this, and 19 were actually hung.
  • Gandhi mortified. Decided to call off the movement.
  • So what does this case show? – propensity for violence on both sides. Violence met out with violence. Congress and Gandhi not yet get total control and message of satyagraha not yet been internalised
  • Criticisms
  • Historiography- Gandhi saw it as a bigger problem than it was
  • Gandhi was and continues to be criticised for his suspension of the movement. Was deeply resented by almost all prominent Congress leaders and by younger activists. Did lose a lot of support after this point (many resorted to violent measures in the interim between 1922and 1928/30 e.g. Bhagat Singh. Look at decreased Congress membership and donations) but Gandhi had repeatedly warned that he was prepared to lead only a strictly non-violent campaign, and that its aim was not class struggle or social revolution.
  • Thought was not an isolated incident, but a shocking episode in a rising trend of violence which could have degenerated into total mob violence, which would justify martial law and police suppression of even more civil liberties
  • Needed time to rethink and regroup
gandhi s calling off the movement 1922
Gandhi’s calling off the movement 1922
  • Subhas Chandra Bose (Gandhi’s biggest rival for leadership of Congress in 1930) said of Gandhi’s decision;

“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”

  • “This is the third time I have received a rude shock when I have been on the eve of embarking upon mass civil disobedience. The first was in April 1919 (Amritsar Massacre, 1516 casualties with 1650 bullets- official figures. General Dyer. ), the second in November last (Bombay, Prince of Wales visit), and now I am violently agitated by the events in the Gorakhpur District (Chauri-Chaura)…The civil disobedience of Bardoli can make no impression upon the country when disobedience of a criminal character goes on in other parts of the country, both for the same ends. The whole conception of civil disobedience is based upon the assumption that it works in and through its completely non-violent character. I may be a bad judge of human nature to believe that such an atmosphere can ever be brought into a vast country such as India, but that would be an argument for condemning my capacity for sound judgement, not for continuing a movement which is in that case bound to be unsuccessful. I personally can never be party to a movement hald violent and half non-violent, even though it may result in the attainment of so-called swaraj, for it will not be real swaraj as I have conceived it” (Gandhi in a letter to members of Congress Working Committee, Bardoli, 8 February 1922)
  • Chaura Chauri 1922 – final straw
  • Means and ends- ends do not justify the means. Satyagraha way of life, a faith, spiritual, not to be picked up and dropped whenever you want
  • Got to win the opponent over, talk, they are not our enemies and can be persuaded. Terrorism will only justify their repression – moral and spiritual high ground essential – great optimism in others
  • Will only achieve their goals if can prove that India is capable of self-government, and resorting to violence proves the opposite
  • “ Truth is God”
  • Had to be whole nations effort and “half of India is too weak to offer a violent resistance” (Gandhi to Viceroy, 1 August 1920) – unity
  • ‘Democracy “Versus” Mobocracy

“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)

  • Total non-violence not easy and difficult to hold all the movements together.
  • Felt sense of responsibility- fasted for five days to absolve himself as what he perceived as his role in the attacks> felt he had been too hasty in encouraging a revolt against the British Raj, whilst not emphasizing enough the importance of ahimsa (nonviolence) and not training the resisters enough. He had warned repeatedly that he was prepared to lead only a strictly non-violent campaign, and that its aim was not class struggle or social revolution. Once Gandhi called the movement off, it collapsed, showing how indispensable he had become.
  • The British had dared not touch Gandhi while the movement continued. Once it collapsed they arrested him (in March), tried him in Ahmedabad, sentencing him for sedition for 6 years (served two). Gandhi invited the highest penalty for his ‘deliberate crime’ (said they disagreed over what constituted a crime but could see that in their (British) view what he had done was a crime. No protests when he went to jail.
1928 bardoli satyagraha
1928 Bardoli Satyagraha
  • the Patidars of Bardoli continued to give fervent support to the Congress.
  • In the mid-1920s, British ordered 22% increase in land-tax.
  • The peasants decided to fight this.  (had been ready to launch in 1921 but then movement ended. Still remained supportive of Gandhi though and he very impressed by them- area of low crime, loyalty to him etc)
  • Approached Gandhi, and he deputed Vallabhbhai Patel to organise the protest (Gandhi did delegate)
  • In 1928, Patel took the movement in Bardoli in hand. 
  • Patel organised the Bardoli campaign brilliantly.
  • The resolution to refuse the land tax was taken in February 1928. 
  • Patel established an army of Congress workers there, who ensured that there be strong solidarity. 
  • Those who paid their taxes suffered social boycott.
  • He depicted this as a religious battle of moral righteousness against an evil government.  
  • British took coercive measures, confiscating property and land, which they threatened to sell.  This had no effect, due to the solidarity.
  • The movement was given strong publicity, bringing many leading nationalist figures to Bardoli to provide moral support.  Pressures were brought to bear on the government in Delhi and the Viceroy, Lord Irwin. 
  • Bombay authorities did not want to compromise, but Irwin was at that time trying to win the Congress leaders around to a new plan for further devolution of power, and he put pressure on the Bombay authorities.  They agreed to set up a commission to investigate the tax increase.  The protest was then called off. 
  • The commission found that the increase was excessive and that irregular methods had been used to make the calculations, and it recommended in May 1929 that the increase be much less.   Because of his superb leadership, Patel became known as a great ‘peasant leader.’  Significantly, Gandhi stayed largely away from Bardoli, as he did not want to compromise Patel’s leadership.  This allowed Patel to use methods, such as caste boycott and intimidation of supporters of the British that Gandhi himself would not have sanctioned. 
  • In 1929, Patel announced that he would support struggles by peasants anywhere in western India against high tax rates.  He held talks with local leaders in Maharastra to see if such struggles could be launched there.   He set up a body called the Bombay Presidency Land League to fight for lower taxes.  The Bombay Government became very frightened, and in July 1929 announced that it was suspending all proposed tax increases, and that there would be no further increases or revisions until the forthcoming constitutional reforms had gone through.   This represented a major victory by the nationalists in the interests of the peasantry.  By 1930, it appeared that such ‘peasant power’ could be used on a massive scale to win independence.  It was in this atmosphere that the Civil Disobedience movement was launched in that year.
  • Gandhi
  • Returned to the fore in 1928, 1927 Simon commission to judge progress of the 1919 Govt of India Act but the Simon Commission did not include any Indian so vehicle for judging Indian political progress to be decided solely by the British. Spurred Gandhi into getting back on the scene, had been spending time sorting out issues in Congress and expanding initiatives about untouchability (strove to end this), alcoholism, ignorance and poverty. Congress boycotted the Commission.
  • Squabbling within Congress that had caused lack of action in interim period between 1922 and Bardoli, Gandhi went and sorted it out by using his enormous influence and mediating between divided factions- we want full independence
  • Bardoli = renewed confidence in the potential of satyagraha. It demonstrated what non-violent resistance could achieve when carried out by organized, disciplined and united people, and it showed that the British could be made to bend. Gandhi now set on organisation of the nation
1930 31 civil disobedience movement
1930-31 Civil Disobedience Movement
  • 1930 Salt Satyagraha
  • British hadn’t responded to their boycott of the Simon Commission, nor of Congress’s demands for the British at the least, to grant India dominion status (Gandhi had moderated views of younger men like Subhas Chnadra Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru). He reduced his call for this to a year. No response.
  • Gandhi as ever informed his ‘Dear Friend’ Lord Irwin (Viceroy) of his plans for the Salt March.
  • It was a march against British monopoly of the salt trade, “India’s pulse”. High tax on the salt. Illegal to make it or sell it without a government license. Gandhi said that every Indian man had the right to make his own salt, it was from the Indian ocean which was his, not the British “let everyman claim it as his own”
  • 248miles from Ahmedabad to Dandi, took from 12 March – 5 April. At Dandi, symbolic act by Gandhi of making salt himself. See photo. Over 12,000 congregated in Dandi
  • Thousands joined him on route. (few Muslims so fissures of Indian society seen) 30,000 greeted them in Surat ad at railhead for Dandhi, 50,000 gathered! Wave of resignations of local officials followed. Gave interviews along the way. Gandhi commended the government for not interfering with the march
  • This symbolic campaign was one of his most successful at upsetting the British hold on India (back with a bang). Start of deliberate, systematic civil disobedience
  • Something which people everywhere could mimick – sense of empowerment and pride and unity. People everywhere outright breaking the law > selling own made salt in the street etc. Police imprisoned more and more. Gandhi warned that could do so but more would follow until they couldn’t imprison anymore
  • The Salt March launched a nationwide protest against the British salt tax. On May 4, 1930, Gandhi wrote to Lord Irwin, Viceroy of India, explaining his intention to raid the Dharasana Salt Works. He was immediately arrested.
  • The British government, represented by Lord Edward Irwin decided to negotiate with Gandhi (Irwin and Gandhi apparently got on quite well, or at the very least respected each other. Irwin always insisted that police should not arrest Gandhi- fear of protest and backlash “To arrest Gandhi is to set fire to the whole of India” (nationalist n newspaper) and they regularly met and drank tea together and in 1928 sent a note of condolence over death of his nephew)
  • Over the course of three weeks of meetings between Irwin and Gandhi, the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed
  • Dharasana salt works 1930
  • Protest following the Salt March to protest against rule of the British Raj
  • Hundreds of satyagrahis were beaten by Indian soldiers under British command at Dharasana. The ensuing publicity attracted world attention to the Indian independence movement, and brought into question the legitimacy of British rule in India
  • The Congress, led by Gandhi and Jawaharlal Gandhi publicly issued the Declaration of Independence, or Swaraj, on January 28, 1930.
  • The Congress decided to continue with the proposed plan of action (despite Gandhi’s arrest). Many of the Congress leaders were arrested before the planned day, including Nehru and Vallabhbhaj Patel
  • Several times, Naidu and the satyagrahis approached the salt works, before being turned back by police. At one point they sat down and waited for twenty-eight hours. Hundreds more were arrested
  • leadership of Sarojini Naidu (female poet and member of the Working Committee) and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Some Congress leaders disagreed with Gandhi's promotion of a woman to lead march
  • Several times, Naidu and the satyagrahis approached the salt works, before being turned back by police. At one point they sat down and waited for twenty-eight hours. Hundreds arrested
American journalist Web Miller an eye-witness to the beating of satyagrahis with steel tipped lathis. His report attracted international attention:

“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.”

  • Miller's first attempts at telegraphing the story to his publisher in England were censored by the British telegraph operators in India. Only after threatening to expose British censorship was his story allowed to pass. The story appeared in 1,350 newspapers throughout the world and was read into the official record of the United States Senate by Senator John J. Blaine
  • Patel watched the massacre and remarked:

“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."

  • In response to the beatings and the press coverage, Lord Irwin, Viceroy of India, wrote to King George:

“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”

  • Gandhi felt the focus for the campaign’s next phase should remain salt. Should include boycotts of foreign cloth and liquor. Should discourage not paying taxes or breaking forest regulations because these not inherently unjust like the salt
  • May 14 and 22, Congress volunteers attempted march on Hazratganj (Lucknow) - Congress claimed some killed. Lucknow did not win right to march through the street that signified British power, but it forced Raj to abandom the fiction that imperial rule anything but government at gunpoint
  • Bombay city salt satyagraha and cloth picketing were everywhere. Volunteers took over the streets- large, well organised marches
  • Congress had identified an issue that had personal meaning to the people and was a symbol for the general injustice of the British
  • Chittagong, Bengal, terrorists barged their way into and sacked a campaign begun in the spirit of ahimsa (and armoury raid)
  • Northwest Frontier, Muslim Pathans, Abdul Ghaffar Khan- picketed liquor stores. Soldiers opened fire, killed 65.
  • Local officials stepped into the fore when Congress leaders arrested
  • Large scale concentrations of protestors eg Dharasana and Lucknow made people vulnerable to attack so Congress emphasised small-scale dispersed actions eg boycotts
  • Underground journals etc when government confiscated printing presses
  • Withholding payments occurred, over land revenue- Patidars. Moved possessions across border (so crack-down British couldn’t get them). Resistance to land revenue also took hold in U.P – sharp agricultural prices decline second half of 1930
  • Was breaking of forest legislation eg by Gond and Korku tribe people
  • Rural civil disobedience more difficult for Congress to control- always behnd the curve and struggled to direct and check violence
  • Bombay climax, 12 Dec. Picketers laid in strret to block truicks carrying foreign goods, young volunteer killed.
  • Madras City, Calcutta, Congress employed similar techniques
  • Boycotts huge impact
  • Huge strain on police> after Amritsar British reluctant to use soldiers
  • Sporadic involvement though – couldn’t not be, without Muslim involvement eg Punjab and the Sind little trouble for British (Muslim majority) > only 1152/29,000 prisoners in jail for civil disobedience offences in November were Muslims (were smaller percentage of population though- see Congress slides)
  • Class divisions too starkly apparent > mostly middle, few very poor peasants
  • Second half of 1930 Congress debilitated. Arrest forced leadership to hand initiative to provincial committees, which repression disrupted, and breakdown of central and provincial control eroded non-violent discipline. The more that civil disobedience sprang from local grievances rather than from strategic intent, the more it was likely to stray from the non-violent standard
gandhi irwin pact the delhi pact signed 1931
Gandhi-Irwin Pact, the “Delhi Pact” signed 1931
  • By signing Gandhi and Irwin were committing themselves to the following;

- 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

  • Many Indian citizens, and indeed members of Congress felt this fell a long way too short of the movement’s overarching aims and were angry and disappointed in Gandhi’s signing of it.
  • No inquiry into police abuses, farmers could not recovered seized land that had been sold, picketing of foreign cloth and liquor shops could continue but not as a political sanction. Salt laws would stay in place – but govt would not interfere with small-scale manufacture for domestic use. Jawaharlal Nehru bitterly disappointed. Gandhi gave a lot, Irwin gave little. Irwin “I do regard it as a very astonishing thing that Gandhi should have been so far persuaded to come into line”
  • Some British thought was too lenient (will always have critics)
  • Gandhi thought would lead to further concessions – keep picking away, patience.
  • Gandhi himself was disappointed. Round Table talks in London shortly after achieved nothing. Only way forwards is with more civil disobedience BUT within months of his signing the pact, Irwin was succeeded by the far more hard line Lord Willington. Ready and waiting.
  • Willington embarked on a new campaign of crushing the movement by repression and violent techniques. Unlike Irwin he was not so willing to drink tea and talk. He was not sympathetic to the cause nor Gandhi whom he promptly had arrested. Movement did continue without him though, and without many of the key Congress leaders such as J. Nehru and Patel- even Nehru’s mother arrested.
  • Although this round of civil disobedience did not strictly speaking finish until 1934, after the first six months it failed to seriously challenge the raj
  • HOWEVER despite lack of constitutional change or material benefits, showed power of mass movement. Did succeed in weakening raj in some areas. Shredded the legitimacy of British rule. Loss of authority of raj- change in meaning of going to jail (eg Singh proud)
  • Gandhi embodiment of national purpose. Inside Congress his stature gave him enormous leverage, could suppress factional quarrelling and spur it to turn itself into a mass political organisation- but not necessarily a projection of Ganhi’s ideals just because the movement flowed from him
  • Others were clearly not so convinced. Wanted vengeance for Amritsar, general conditions under British rule an violent repression.
  • Bande Mataram (a Congress Extremist) stated;

“…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”

  • Gandhi claimed to “admire and adore” terrorists patriotism and giving of their lives to the cause for it had “much sacrifice to its credit” but he felt that their methods were wrong and were more a hindrance than an advantage
  • There were violent acts being carried out during this period of mass non-violent resistance too – perhaps Gandhi felt if signed the pact would give a bit of hope and pull people back to non-violence (by this stage had accepted that some chose to follow his satyagraha not for a way of life but for political expedience)
  • So what violence was there?
  • Numerous sporadic small cases. Also the Chittagong Armoury Raid of 1930 as well as various revenge killings
  • Chittagong Armoury Raid
  • Attempt on April 18, 1930 to raid the armoury of police and auxiliary forces from Chittagong by revolutionary freedom fighters led by Surya Sen
  • Believed in armed uprisings for Indian independence
  • Armoury was captured as planned, couldn’t locate the ammunition but succeeded in dislocating telephone and telegraph communications and disrupting trains
  • Total of 65 revolutionaries took part (not much when compared to Gandhi and Congress Movement of this year)
  • Military salute, raised National Flag
  • Police traced some of the revolutionaries hiding in Jalalabad hills on outskirts of Chittagong (April 22)
  • Over 80 British and 12 revolutionaries killed in ensuing gunfire
  • Sen arrested February 1933. Tried and hung, January 1934
  • General Violence
  • During 1930-32 22 officials and 220 non-officials were killed in separate incidents by such pro-violent groups, organisations, and individuals
  • This time, Gandhi had vowed not to call off the campaign due to violence
  • Violence always present, even in 1940s such as in 1942
  • Key figures of Chandrashekar Azad (left) and Bhagat Singh (right)
chandrashekar azad
Chandrashekar Azad
  • Real name = Chandrashekhar Sitaram Tiwari
  • Azad means freedom (after first arrests for involvement in non-violent campaign in 1921)
  • After suspension of Non-Cooperation Movement attracted by more aggressive and violent revolutionary ideas (although long held fascination with guns)
  • Independence by any means led to his forming the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association and was mentor for others such as Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev etc
  • HSRA wanted full Indian independence and to build new India on socialist principles
  • Kakori Train Robbery (1926) which was an attempt to blow up the Viceroy’s train, and the shooting of John Poyantz Saunderes (1928) to avenge the killing of Lala Lajpat Rai (a widely revered Congressman- beating sustained during anti-Simon Commission demonstration)
  • Vowed that he would never be arrested by British police and would die a free man.
  • February 27, 1931 met two comrades at Slfred Park, Allahabad. Tip off, police surrounded park and ordered Azad surrender. Fought alone, killed 3 policemen. Shot in thigh, used ammunition saw no means of escape and shot himself
  • Photo shows how police laid out Azad’s dead body for the public to see in order to display what would happen if you behaved like Azad. – a deterrent
bhagat singh
Bhagat Singh
  • Family history of involvement in revolutionary activities against the British Raj
  • Quickly rose through ranks of the Hindu Republican Association.
  • Gained support (but not of Gandhi- Singh bitter about this, self-sacrifice and suffering etc) when underwent a 63 day fast in jail demanding equal rights for Indian and British political prisoners. Won campaign.
  • Hung for shooting police officer in response to killing of Lala Lajpat Rai. Hung 1931
  • His shooting of police officer was only discovered after he was arrested after bombing the Legislative Assembly of Central Government with Batikeshwera K. Dutt. One person injured – claims position of bomb etc meant didn’t want to actually kill anyone but ignored at trial. On leaflet he threw in with the bombs “It is easy to kill individuals but you cannot kill the ideas”
  • Violent resistance displayed graver risks and less reward. Needed media support from outside, people less sympathetic to violence and Gandhi said not proving that were able to self-govern
  • Few numbers compared to non-violent campaign, but cannot be ignored because did affect the movement significantly – prompted others to act as such and for the movement to be called off, and numerous fasts by Gandhi (fact that his fasting worked in bringing back peace is interesting point though)
  • Difference in age range (Congress 31-50, violence often much younger, see case of Singh and Azad- was the Congress campaign directly engaging the younger population?)
  • Did hinder the movement? Tainted it but also used to advantage. Worse of two evils scenario. Gandhi even said

“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?)

aftermath of 1930 31
Aftermath of 1930-31
  • Mid-1930s civil disobedience suspended and raj still in place = Indian nationalists new course
  • Gandhi continued as unifying symbol, when demanded, stepped briefly onto political stage but mainly focused on constructive work such as liberating the untouchables, and women, promiting village industries, reforming education and sanitation etc
  • Congress kept aiming for Indian independence, but after reforms of 1935 which expanded the electorate and enhanced the role of elected provincial legislatures (so was some lee-way as Gandhi had anticipated with the Delhi Pact) so its leaders turned to working within the system rather than as a separate entity outside of it. Parlayed its popular influence into votes.
  • World War II ended this participation. Oct 1939 Congress ordered the resignation of its provincial ministers, and moved once more into outright opposition (war without consulting any Indian representatives and refused to meet nationalist demands as a reward for loyalty)
  • 1942 “Quit India” resolution triggered a mostly spontaneous and violent popular rebellion, almost 100,000 arrested and over 1000 killed. Outside India, Subhas Chandra Bose raised the INA (Indian National Army) and fought the British alongside the Japanese
  • For the British, during the war the police had slipped badly in discipline and loyalty and reliability of Indian soldiers also in doubt. INA hailed as heroes.
  • British post-war economy probs couldn’t cope with any new repression exerted in India
  • Labour Party 1945, time ripe for change
  • Any political statement by now had to win consent of not just Congress, but also the Muslim League- now question not of communal relationships in independent India but rather possible creation of separatist state (Gandhi didn’t want this)
  • Sikhs threatened by this, homeland of the Punjab seemed likely to be partitioned between two states. 1946-7 violence. Gandhi fasts. Students march- 5000 Muslims alongside 5000 Hindus- not tension everywhere
  • India seemingly crumbling, Britain want to opt out
  • The opposition that had schooled Indian leaders in the political skills crucial in operating a viable democracy. Free and democratic (despite split and loss of Gandhi’s dream of unity- ultimately had to decide whether wanted unity or independence)
  • Media.
  • Very charismatic and influential man but flaws to such leadership – too much responsibility, miracle stuff so ppl don’t understand
  • Congress worked well but even this had its own problems- nothing runs smoothly
  • Imposs to have no violence
  • Did achieve some goals but success not as quickly as Gandhi and the population had hoped
  • Many improvements made though, even if not obvious eg changes to Congress played big role for future of Indian politics
  • Good group of committed Congressmen
  • Did pretty well to harness the nation
  • Despite flaws, everyone makes mistakes
  • Comparative advancements being made compared to violence
  • First real indication of mass movement and people power on a grand scale, and the influence one man can have
  • If you want to know where the quotations came from or anything else, just email me (see list in handbook)