Civil Disobedience Movement

Civil Disobedience Movement 1930

This entry is part 7 of 16 in the series Communication and Social Change

Civil Disobedience Movement

The second large-scale movement was the Civil Disobedience Movement (1930–1934), which the Indian National Congress organized under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership.

Gandhi’s abrupt withdrawal from the Non-Cooperation Movement after the Chauri-Chauri incident of February 1922 demoralized many Congress leaders. It led to a sharp decline in the national movement.

Civil Disobedience Movement
Mahatma Gandhi Dandi March for breaking the Salt Law (March 12, 1930)

Gandhi decided to start the Civil Disobedience Movement by breaking the salt law. He decided to set out on foot from the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad on March 12, 1930, with 78 other Ashram members for Dandi, a village on the western seacoast of Gujarat, about 385 kilometers from Ahmedabad to reach on April 6, 1930.

The Civil Disobedience Movement achieved the single largest mobilization of Indians, and over 90,000 went to jail. This mass participation shook the British. The satyagraha had an impact on world opinion too, so much so that after the event Gandhi was nominated Time magazine’s ‘Man of the Year’, and was on the cover of the first issue of 1931.

Mahatma Gandhi on Time Magazine Cover
Mahatma Gandhi on Time Magazine Cover

The Salt Satyagraha

The Salt Satyagraha was a carefully constructed event, and to understand its dynamics, it is important to examine how Gandhi visualized the event, why he chose salt, why he decided to march, and why he selected Dandi as his destination.

When the Congress set its goal of “Purna Swaraj,” or “complete freedom,” in December 1929, many people had different ideas about how civil disobedience should occur. Nehru and Bose wanted to set up a parallel government, while Patel wanted to march to Delhi or break land rules throughout the country. Gandhi disregarded these recommendations because he envisioned a long-term revolution that would require the mobilization of most people.

For Gandhi, independence meant more than just freedom from oppressive rule. So, the Civil Disobedience Movement pushed for freedom and social, economic, and moral renewal by making people more aware of their rights.

Civil Disobedience Movement

He studied his audience before deciding how to do this. His main target was Indian society, which was divided into different groups. The other important target was public opinion in Britain and worldwide, which was usually unsympathetic to Indian aspirations.

The British Raj could only be put under pressure if India’s divided groups could work together and if liberal British and world opinion would back up the Congress’s demands.

Salt, a substance everyone uses, cuts across social, religious, and caste lines. It provided a common ground for Muslims and Hindus to fight over economic issues. For the poor, it was a symbol of exploitation. For the rich, it was a symbolic gesture to show solidarity with the suffering of the masses. To the common mind, salt has become a symbol of patriotism, rebellion, and sacrifice.

Therefore, salt was chosen to represent the beginning of the civil disobedience movement. However, a mass appeal was still needed to ensure nationwide participation.

The Political Significance of March (Padyatra)

Just as salt has become a symbol, the march has also become a symbolic means of supporting any progressive cause. So, Gandhi decided to go on a march. The march was considered an opportunity to galvanize the people along the route and elsewhere.

It was planned as a lively event to generate press publicity in India and worldwide. If Gandhi Ji had taken a train to someplace on the coast and arrived there the next day, the event would have had no mass appeal.

As long as the march was conducted peacefully, no provision in the law prohibited it, like breaking the salt law. Marching needed no special skills or exceptional courage to ensure ordinary people’s participation. It was also a medium that could be replicated in other parts of the country.

Civil Disobedience Movement

Like salt, the march has always been an important part of Indian culture. Travelling on foot to sacred sites was always considered revered, and those who undertook the journey were held in high esteem. Marches are associated with determination, doing the right thing, and giving up something for a cause in Western and Indian folklore.

The Bible talks about how Moses led his people to the Promised Land, Jesus led his followers to Jerusalem, Rama left home to keep his father’s word, and Gautama gave up his home for a journey towards enlightenment. Gandhi used these associations to great effect.

Gandhi also noted that the penal sections of the law were not so severe that more people might participate in salt satyagraha without fear of harsh punishment. Manufacturing, possessing, buying, or selling salt was illegal, so there were enough opportunities to break the law, as per the convenience of the participants.

Gandhi and his followers broke the law by manufacturing salt from the sea. The program of the movement was as follows:

  • The salt law should be violated everywhere.
  • Students should leave colleges, and government servants should resign from service.
  • Foreign clothes should be burned.
  • No taxes should be paid to the government.
  • Women should stage a Dharna at liquor shops.

A variety of other populist initiatives were decided for the movement:

  • Non-payment of revenue in ryotwari areas;
  • No-chowkidar-tax campaign in Zamindari areas; and
  • Violation of forest laws in the Central Provinces.
  • Social boycott of Police and lower-level administrative officials, which led to many resignations

The revived Civil Disobedience Movement was crucial in getting more Indians to fight against British rule and increasing nationalist feelings. The movement showed that civil disobedience and nonviolent protest can work to fight against oppressive governments.

The Civil Disobedience Movement paved the way for subsequent struggles and movements that resulted in India’s independence in 1947, despite significant obstacles and eventual suppression by British authorities.

The CUET UG 2024 Mass Media and Communication syllabus contains this topic under the Communication section.

Series Navigation<< Non-Cooperation Movement 1920Quit India Movement 1942 >>

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top