Civil Disobedience Movement Notes

The Run-up to Civil Disobedience Movement

Calcutta Session of Congress

  • December 1928: Nehru Report was approved
  • Congress decided that if the government did not accept a constitution based on dominion status by the end of the year, the Congress would not only demand complete independence but would also launch a civil disobedience movement to attain its goal.

Irwin’s Declaration (October 31, 1929)

Lord Irwin also promised a Round Table Conference after the Simon Commission submitted its report.

Delhi Manifesto, 1929

Leaders issued a ‘Delhi Manifesto’ which put forward certain conditions for attending the Round Table Conference:

  • The purpose of the Round Table Conference should be not to determine whether or when dominion status was to be reached but to formulate a constitution for implementation of the dominion status and the basic principle of dominion status should be immediately accepted
  • The Congress should have majority representation at the conference
  • There should be a general amnesty for political prisoners and a policy of conciliation.
  • Viceroy Irwin rejected the demands put forward in the Delhi Manifesto whichled to the historic Lahore session.

Lahore Congress and Purna Swaraja

  • Jawaharlal Nehru was nominated the president for the Lahore session of the Congress (December 1929) mainly due to Gandhi’s backing (15 out of 18 Provincial Congress Committees had opposed Nehru). Major decisions were taken at the Lahore session-
  • Round Table Conference was to be boycotted.
  • Complete independence was declared as the aim of the Congress.
  • Congress Working Committee was authorised to launch a programme of civil disobedience including non-payment of taxes and all members of legislatures were asked to resign their seats.

Major decisions were taken at the Lahore session-

  • January 26, 1930 was fixed as the first Independence (Swarajya) Day, to be celebrated everywhere.
  • December 31, 1929 : At midnight on the banks of River Ravi, the newly adopted tricolour flag of freedom was hoisted by Jawaharlal Nehru amidst slogans of Inquilab Zindabad.

Civil Disobedience Movement—the Salt Satyagraha and Other Upsurges

  • Gandhi’s Eleven Demands-Gandhi gave an ultimatum of January 31, 1930 to accept or reject these demands.

Issues of General Interest

  • Reduce expenditure on Army and civil services by 50 per cent.
  • Introduce total prohibition.
  • Carry out reforms in Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
  • Change Arms Act allowing popular control of issue of fire arms licences.
  • Release political prisoners.
  • Accept Postal Reservation Bill.

Specific Bourgeois Demands

  • Reduce rupee-sterling exchange ratio to 1:4
  • Introduce textile protection.
  • Reserve coastal shipping for Indians.

Specific Peasant Demands

  • Reduce land revenue by 50 per cent.
  • Abolish salt tax and government’s salt monopoly
  • With no positive response by February-end, Gandhi decided to make salt the central formula for the movement.

Dandi March (March 12-April 6, 1930)

  • On March 2, 1930, Gandhi informed the viceroy of his plan of action.
  • According to this plan Gandhi, along with a band of seventy-eight members of Sabarmati Ashram, was to march from his headquarters in Ahmedabad through the villages of Gujarat for 240 miles.
  • The historic march, marking the launch of the Civil Disobedience Movement, began on March 12, and Gandhi broke the salt law by picking up a lump of salt at Dandi on April 6.

Spread of Salt Disobedience

  • Nehru’s arrest in April 1930 for defiance of the salt law evoked huge demonstrations in Madras, Calcutta and Karachi.
  • Gandhi’s arrest came on May 4, 1930 when he had announced that he would lead a raid on Dharasana Salt Works on the west coast.
  • After Gandhi’s arrest, the CWC sanctioned:
  1. non-payment of revenue in ryotwari areas
  2. no-chowkidara-tax campaign in zamindari areas
  3. violation of forest laws in the Central Provinces

Satyagraha at Different Places

  • Tamil Nadu- In April 1930, C. Rajagopalachari organised a march from Thiruchirapallito Vedaranniyam on the Tanjore (or Thanjavur) coast to break the salt law.
  • Malabar- K. Kelappan, a Nair Congress leader famed for the Vaikom

Satyagraha, organised salt marches.

  • Andhra Region- District salt marches were organized in east and west Godavari, Krishna and Guntur.
  • Orissa-Under Gopalbandhu Chaudhuri, a Gandhian leader, salt satyagraha proved effective in the coastal regions of Balasore, Cuttack and Puri districts.

Satyagraha at Different Places

  • Bihar- Champaran and Saran were the first two districts to start salt satyagraha. In Patna, Nakhas Pond was chosen as a site to make salt and break the salt law under Ambika Kant Sinha.
  • Peshawar-Gaffar Khan, also called Badshah Khan and Frontier Gandhi, had started the first Pushto political monthly Pukhtoon and had organised a volunteer brigade ‘Khudai Khidmatgars’, popularly known as the ‘Red-Shirts’.
  • Sholapur- Textile workers went on a strike.
  • Maharashtra, Karnataka, Central Provinces- These areas saw defiance of forest laws
  • Dharasana- On May 21, 1930, Sarojini Naidu, Imam Sahib and Manilal (Gandhi’s son) took up the unfinished task of leading a raid on the Dharasana Salt Works.
  • United Provinces- A no-revenue campaign was organised; a call was given to zamindars to refuse to pay revenue to the government.
  • Manipur and Nagaland- Rani Gaidinliu, a Naga spiritual leader, who followed her cousin Haipou Jadonang, born in what is now the state of Manipur, raised the banner of revolt against foreign rule.

Forms of Mobilisation

  • Mobilisation of masses was also carried out through prabhat pheries, vanar senas, manjari senas, secret patrikas and magic lantern shows.

Impact of Agitation

  • Imports of foreign cloth and other items fell.
  • Government suffered a loss of income from liquor, excise and land revenue.
  • Elections to Legislative Assembly were largely boycotted.

Extent of Mass Participation

  • Women, Students, Merchants and Petty Traders, Tribals, Workers and Peasants
  • Muslims- The Muslim participation was nowhere near the 1920-22 level because of appeals by Muslim leaders to stay away from the movement

Government Response

  • CWC was declared illegal in June 1930.
  • In July 1930: the viceroy, Lord Irwin, suggested a round table conference and reiterated the goal of dominion status.

Gandhi-Irwin Pact

  • A pact was signed between the viceroy, representing the British Indian Government, and Gandhi, representing the Indian people, in Delhi on February 14, 1931.
  • This Delhi Pact, also known as the Gandhi-Irwin Pact, placed the Congress on an equal footing with the government.

Irwin on behalf of the government agreed on—

  • immediate release of all political prisoners not convicted of violence
  • remission of all fines not yet collected
  • return of all lands not yet sold to third parties
  • lenient treatment to those government servants who had resigned
  • right to make salt in coastal villages for personal consumption (not for sale)
  • right to peaceful and non-aggressive picketing
  • withdrawal of emergency ordinances.

Demands that were not accepted

  • Public inquiry into police excesses
  • Commutation of Bhagat Singh and his comrades’ death sentence to life sentence. Gandhi on behalf of the Congress agreed to suspend the civil disobedience movement and to participate in the next Round Table Conference.

Karachi Congress Session—1931

  • In March 1931, a special session of the Congress was held at Karachi to endorse the Gandhi-Irwin Pact.
  • Gandhi was greeted with black flags by Punjab Naujawan Bharat Sabha.

Congress Resolutions at Karachi

  • Delhi Pact or Gandhi-Irwin Pact was endorsed.
  • Goal of purna swaraj was reiterated.
  • Two resolutions on FR and National Economic Programme were adopted which made the session particularly memorable.


First Round Table Conference

  • First Round Table Conference was held in London between November 1930 and January 1931.
  • It was opened officially by King George V on November 12, 1930 and chaired by Ramsay MacDonald.
  • First conference where Indians and Britishers met as equals.
  • Participants: Hindu Mahasabha, Muslim League, Princes


Nothing much was achieved at the conference as INC was absent.

Second Round Table Conference

  • It was held in London from September 7, 1931 to December 1, 1931.
  • The Indian National Congress nominated Gandhi as its sole representative .
  • By this time, Lord Irwin had been replaced by Lord Willingdon as viceroy in India.
  • Gandhi put forward the demand for the immediate establishment of a responsible government at the centre as well as in the provinces.
  • However, session soon got deadlocked on the question of the minorities who were demanding separate electorates.
  • Even, the princes were also not too enthusiastic about a federation.

Session ended with MacDonald’s announcement of

  • two Muslim majority provinces—North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Sindh
  • the setting up of an Indian Consultative Committee
  • setting up of three expert committees—finance, franchise and states
  • the prospect of a unilateral British Communal Award if Indians failed to agree. Gandhi returned to India and resumed the CDM.

Government Action

  • A series of repressive ordinances were issued which ushered in a virtual martial law, though under civilian control, or a ‘Civil Martial Law’.
  • In Jan 1932, Gandhi was arrested.
  • Finally in April 1934, Gandhi decided to withdraw the civil disobedience movement and the tempo of the movement was losing.

Communal Award

Communal Award was announced by the British prime minister, Ramsay MacDonald, on August 16, 1932.

Main Provisions of the Communal Award

Depressed classes to be declared/accorded the status of minority and were to get ‘double vote’, one to be used through separate electorates and the other to be used in the general electorates.


  • Congress neither rejected nor accepted the award. Gandhi’s Response
  • Gandhi went on an indefinite fast on September 20, 1932.
  • Signed by B.R. Ambedkar on behalf of the depressed classes on September 24, 1932, the Poona Pact abandoned the idea of separate electorates for the depressed classes.
  • The seats reserved for the depressed classes were increased from 71 to 147 in provincial legislatures and to 18 per cent of the total in the Central Legislature.
  • The Poona Pact was accepted by the government as an amendment to the Communal Award.


  • Gandhi gave up all his other preoccupations and launched a whirlwind campaign against untouchability—first from jail and then, after his release in August 1933, from outside jail.
  • While in jail, he set up the All India Anti-Untouchability League in September 1932 and started the weekly Harijan in January 1933.
  • Starting from Wardha, he conducted a Harijan tour of the country in the period from November 1933 to July 1934, covering 20,000 km, collecting money for his newly set up Harijan Sevak Sangh, and propagating removal of untouchability in all its forms.