[Prelims Spotlight] Mass Movements

 

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18 March 2020

Mass Movements

 

The Non-Cooperation Movement-  1920-22

Following events acted as the catalysts which finally resulted in the launch of the Non-Cooperation Movement by Gandhiji on August 1, 1920.

Backdrop

  • The Rowlatt Act (February 1919), the Jallianwala Bagh massacre (13 April 1919) and martial law in Punjab had belied all the generous wartime promises of the British.
  • The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms satisfied few.
  • The treatment meted out to Turkey after the World War-I incensed had incensed the Indian Muslim, which led to the launch of Khilafat movement.

What were the aspects of Non-Cooperation Movement?

  • The program of the non-cooperation included within its ambit-
    • Surrender of titles and honours.
    • Boycott of government-affiliated schools and colleges, law courts, foreign cloths and could be included to resignation from government service.
    • Mass civil disobedience.
    • Non-payment of taxes.
  • On the other hand, it also included-
    • Establishing national schools and colleges.
    • Establishing panchayats to settle the disputes.
    • Encouraging hand spinning and weaving.
    • Maintaining Hindu-Muslim unity.
    • Observing strict non-violence.
  • Several changes were made in Congress’ creed and organisation, which include-
    • The goal of the Congress was changed from attainment of self-government to attainment of Swaraj by peaceful and legitimate means.
    • The Congress was now to have Working Committee of fifteen members to look after its day-to-day affairs (the same proposal made by Tilak in 1916 was not accepted!).
    • The provincial Congress Committees were now to be organized on linguistic basis.
    • Congress was to use Hindi as far as possible.

How the movement unfolded?

  • Gandhiji, along with Ali Brothers (who were the foremost Khilafat leaders) undertook nationwide tour during which he addressed hundreds of meetings and met a large number of students.
  • R. Das played a major role in promoting the movement and Subhas Bose became the principal of the National College in Calcutta.
  • The spirit of unrest and defiance of authority engendered by the Non-Cooperation Movement contributed to rise of many local movements in the different parts of the country.
  • In May 1921, the British Government tried through Gandhi-Reading talks to persuade Gandhiji to ask Ali brothers to withdraw from their speeches those passages that contained suggestions of violence.
    • This was an attempt to drive the wedge between the Khilafat leaders and Gandhiji.
  • By December 1921, the Government had changed the policy and started repression of the movement.
  • Public meeting and assemblies were banned, newspapers gagged, and midnight raids on Congress and Khilafat movement became common.
  • In response, Gandhiji declared mass civil disobedience movement would begin in Bardoli taluqa of Surat district.
  • But before the launch of the mass civil disobedience, the Chauri Chaura incident on February 5, 1922, resulted in the withdrawal of the movement by Gandhiji.

 

The Civil Disobedience Movement 1930-31

On 2 March 1930 Gandhiji addressed his historic letter to the Viceroy Irwin in which he first explained at great length why he regarded British rule as a curse. He then informed the Viceroy his plan of action. When Gandhiji reached the Dandi on 6 April 1930 by picking up a handful of salt he inaugurated the Civil Disobedience Movement.

Backdrop

  • An announcement on 8 November 1927 of an all-White Simon Commission to recommend whether India was ready for further constitutional progress and on which lines.
  • The response in India was immediate. That no Indian should be thought fit to serve on a body that claimed the right to decide the political future of India was an insult no Indian of even the most moderate political opinion was willing to swallow.
  • The Congress resolved on the boycott of the commission at its annual session in Madras in December 1927.

How the movement unfolded?

  • Once the way was cleared by Gandhiji’s ritual beginning at Dandi, the defiance of salt laws started all over the country.
  • The Government’s failure to arrest Gandhiji for breaking the salt law was used by the local level leaders to impress upon the people that ‘the Government is afraid of persons like ourselves’.
  • In Tamil Nadu, C. Rajagopalachari led a salt march from Trichinopoly to Vedaranniyam on the Tanjore coast.
  • On 23 April, the arrest of Congress leaders in the North-West Frontier Province led to the mass demonstration of unprecedented magnitude in Peshawar.
  • In Peshawar, the atmosphere created by the Khudai Khidmatgars contributed to the mass upsurge in Peshawar during which the city was virtually in the hands of non-violent revolutionaries.
  • It was increasingly becoming clear that the Government’s gamble of non-interference with the movement would result in its spending itself out.
  • On May 4, the Viceroy finally ordered Gandhiji’s arrest.
  • Gandhiji’s announcement that he would now proceed to continue his defiance of the salt laws by leading a raid on the Dharasana Salt Works had forced the Government to act.
  • Coming as it did at a high point in the movement, it only acted as a further spur to activity, and caused endless trouble for the government.
  • Dharsana Satyagraha carried out in the absence of Gandhiji with Sarojini Naidu in the lead, in which Satyagrahis were beaten with the lathis till they fell down.
  • This form of Satyagraha was adopted by the people who soon made it a mass affair.
  • But the salt Satyagraha was only the catalyst and the beginning, for a rich variety of forms of defiance that it brought in its wake.
  • Eastern India became the scene of a new kind of no-tax campaign-refusal to pay the chowkidara tax levied specifically on the villagers.
  • In Gujarat, in Kheda district, in Bardoli taluqa in Surat district, and Jambusar in Broach district a determined no-tax movement was in progress.
  • P. was setting up another kind of movement- a no-revenue no-rent campaign.
  • On January 5, 1931, the Viceroy announced the unconditional release of Gandhiji and all other members of the Congress working committee.
  • On March 5, 1931 the fortnight-long discussion culminated in Gandhi-Irwin Pact which was variously described as a truce and a provisional settlement and ended the Non-Cooperation Movement.

 

The Quit India Movement

‘Quit India’, this powerful slogan launched the legendary struggle which also became famous by the name of the ‘August Revolution’.

Backdrop

  • The failure of the Cripps Mission in April 1942 made it clear that Britain was unwilling to offer an honourable settlement and real constitutional advance during the war.
  • The empty gesture of the Cripps offer convinced even those Congressmen like Nehru and Gandhiji, who did not want to do anything to hamper the anti-fascist War efforts.
  • Other factors that made a struggle both inevitable and necessary were-
    • Popular discontent product of rising prices and war-time shortages.
    • The growing feeling of an eminent British collapse.
    • The manner in which British evacuated from Malaya and Burma leaving the people there to their fate

How the movement unfolded?

  • A fortnight after Cripps’ departure Gandhiji drafted a resolution for the Congress Working Committee, calling for Britain’s withdrawal and the adoption of non-violent non-cooperation against any Japanese invasion.
  • Congress edged towards Quit India while Britain moved towards arming itself with special powers to meet the threat.
  • The historic August meeting at Gowalia Tank in Bombay marked the beginning of the movement. The meeting was unprecedented in the popular enthusiasm it generated.
  • The Government, however, was in no mood to either negotiate with the Congress or wait for the movement to be formally launched.
  • In the early hours of 9 August, in a single sweep, all the top leaders of the Congress were arrested and taken to an unknown destination.
  • The sudden attack by the government produced an instantaneous reaction among the people.
  • As soon as the news of the arrest spread lakhs of people flocked to Gowalia Tank where a mass meeting had been scheduled.
  • There were similar disturbances on 9 August in Ahmedabad and Poona.
  • On the 10th, Delhi and many towns in U.P. and Bihar, including Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, and Patna followed the suit with hartals, public demonstrations and processions in defiance of the law.
  • Meanwhile, many provincial and local level leaders who had evaded arrest returned to their homes through devious routes set about organising resistance.
  • As the news spread in the rural areas, the villagers joined the townsmen in recording their protest.
  • For the first six or seven weeks after 9 August, there was a tremendous mass upsurge all over the country.
  • The brutal and all-out repression succeeded within a period of six or seven weeks in bringing about a cessation of the mass phase of the struggle.
  • But in the meantime, underground networks were being consolidated in various parts of the country.
  • This leadership saw the role of the underground movement as being that of keeping up the popular morale by continuing to provide the line of command and a source of guidance and leadership to the activists all over the country.

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