Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM)

Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM)



Civil disobedience means not obeying or not following the government's rules, regulations, laws, demands, orders or commands. In the Indian context, the Civil disobedience movement was one of the very significant events in the Indian National movement. By creating awareness at the mass level, it paved the way for freedom in India

Reasons to Launch CDM  

  • There was a disagreement on the goal of the Nehru Report that was formulated in 1927-28 between the younger generation leaders such as Jawahar Lal Nehru, and Subhash Chandra Bose. The goal of the Nehru Report was to have Dominion Status but leaders like J.L Nehru, and S.C Bose wanted complete independence i.e. “Purn Swaraj”. But this demand was not accepted by the British Government which provided the ground for launching the CDM.
  • Other developments like Meerut Conspiracy Case, a bomb explosion in Central Legislative Assembly by Bhagat Singh and BK Dutt, Labour Government led by Ramsay Mac Donald came into power and provided the required impetus for launching CDM.
  • In addition, contradictions were emerging that were sharpened by the impact of the World Depression in late 1929. The British tariff policy caused the business groups very angry. There were growing conflicts in Calcutta between the Birlas and British Jute interests, and in Bombay over coastal shipping, Lancashire textile imports were going up again.
  • The recommendations of the Simon Commission created mistrust between the Congress and the British Government and subsequently Gandhi ji launched the CDM.
  • On 2 November 1929, a conference of prominent national leaders issued a “Delhi Declaration” and put their demands before Lord Irwin but these demands were not accepted.
  • Stagnation in agrarian production enhanced the rural tensions, and the British efforts to enhance land revenue in Ryotwari areas in the late 1920s-till the victory of the Bardoli Movement.

 Civil Disobedience Movement (1930 -1931)

  • In the Lahore Congress session of 1929, it was decided that Mahatma Gandhi will opt for the precise methods of non-violent struggle for Purna Swaraj to Gandhi.
  • On 26 January 1930, a Manifesto or Pledge of Independence would be taken all over India by as many people as possible.
  • Consequently, 26 January 1930 was declared as Independence Day. On this day, the Civil disobedience movement was supposed to be launched.

 Gandhi’s Efforts: Gandhi did not decide the course of action. He once again tried to compromise with the Government before launching the movement. He forwarded ‘eleven points’ consisting of administrative reform before Lord Irwin and stated that there will be no agitation if his demand was accepted.

Eleven Point Program:

  • There should be a reduction in the rupee-Sterling ratio
  • Land revenue must be decreased by half and it should be subject to legislative control
  • Salt tax must be abolished and the monopoly of the government should be ended
  • There should be a reduction in the salaries of the highest-grade services and it should be reduced by half
  • Military expenditure must be decreased by 50%
  • Protection must be given to Indian textiles and coastal shipping
  • All Political prisoners must be released

Dandi March

The Civil Disobedience Movement started with the Dandi March.  On 12 March 1930, Gandhi began his Historical March known as Dandi March from his Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi Beach with his 78 selected followers to break the law by manufacturing salt from the sea.

 Main point of this movement:

  • Salt law must be violated everywhere.
  • government servants must be resigned from government service and students must leave colleges and
  • Foreign clothes must be burnt
  • No taxes will be given to the government.
  • Women should organize a stage Dharna at liquor shops

Spread of Movement: With the denial of Gandhi to follow the Salt Law, defiance of the salt laws started all over the country. Consequently, Gandhi was arrested on May 4, 1930, when he declared that he will lead a raid on Dharasana Salt Works on the west coast. The onset of the Monsoon posed a very difficult situation in salt manufacture and Congress adopted other forms of mass struggle with similar features and careful selection of social issues and created high awareness at the mass level by broadening and radicalization through a variety of populist initiatives, such as:

  • non-payment of revenue in ryotwari areas;
  • no-chowkidar-tax campaign in Zamindari areas;
  • In the Central Provinces infringement of forest laws.
  • Social boycott of Police and lower-level administrative officials led to many resignations

 Response at Different Places

  • Tamil Nadu: C. Rajagopalachari started a march from Tiruchirappalli to Vedaranniyam on the Tanjore (or Thanjavur) coast to break the salt law in April 1930. Consequently, it led to the widespread picketing of foreign cloth shops and an anti-liquor campaign
  • Malabar: A Nair Congress leader named Kelappan who launched Vaikom Satyagraha, organized salt marches.
  • Andhra Region: In east and west Godavari, Krishna, and Guntur, district salt marches were organized. A number of sibirams (military-style camps) were established to act as the headquarters of the Salt Satyagraha.
  • Bengal: The largest number of arrests and the highest amount of violence took place in Bengal. Arambagh, Midnapur, and many rural pockets witnessed powerful movements developed around salt satyagraha and chaukidari tax. In this duration, Chittagong revolt group led by Surya Sen carried out a raid on two armouries and declared the establishment of a provisional government
  • Bihar: Saran and Champaran became the first two districts to launch salt satyagraha. But very soon, the salt satyagraha (owing to physical constraints in making salt) was replaced by a very powerful non-chaukidari tax agitation.
  • Peshawar: Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan popularly known as Frontier Gandhi took big steps to educate and social reform work among the Pathans and created high awareness. Gaffar Khan, also known as Badshah Khan started first Pushto political monthly Pukhtoon and organized a volunteer brigade ‘Khudai Khidmatgars’ also called as ‘Red-Shirts’, who took oath for freedom struggle and non-violence
  • Dharasana: Imam Sahib and Manilal (Gandhi’s son), Sarojini Naidu, again started a march after Gandhi’s arrest to break the Slat Law on the Dharasana on May 21, 1930. The order of a brutal lathi charge was given on unarmed and peaceful crowd.
  • United Provinces: A call was given to zamindars to refuse to pay revenue to the government; a no-revenue campaign was also organized. A call was given to tenants against zamindars under a no-rent campaign.

Response of different Sections

  • The urban-educated youth was attracted more to Revolutionary Terrorism in Bengal in North Indian towns due to the popularity of Bhagat Singh. One of the weakest points of Nationalism during this movement was Muslim participation which was very low.
  • Areas like the NWFP saw overwhelming participation. The participation of Middle-class Muslims was quite significant in Tripura, Gaibandha, Senhatta, Bagura, and Noakhali. Muslim leaders, lower-class people, shopkeepers and upper-class women were active in Dacca.
  • The massive peasant mobilization and considerable support from business groups Traders’ associations and commercial bodies were active in implementing the boycott, especially in Tamil Nadu and Punjab. One of the main features of this movement was the widespread participation of women.

Government Attitude

  • The British Government responded to this movement with the policy of repression to suppress this movement. Thousands of Congress workers were arrested and put in jails even before the movement was actually started.
  • The life of freedom fighters was made very hard by promulgating the Bengal ordinance on 23 August 1930.
  • Under the Press Act of 1910, the provisions of this were strictly enforced by imposing restrictions on the newspapers even up to the extent of banning many newspapers and magazines.
  • The property of Civilians property was confiscated and destroyed and innocent women and men were beaten up. Prisoners were starved to death and suffocated. As a result of police firing hundreds of men and women were killed.

Efforts for truce

  • Throughout 1930, the government’s attitude was insensitive towards the demands of Gandhi and other Congress leaders. More importantly, the government adopted a contradictory and confused approach to handle this movement. A round table conference was organized in July 1930 by the viceroy, Lord Irwin in which the goal of dominion status was reiterated. He also accepted the proposal of Tej Bahadur Sapru and M.R. Jayakar to explore the possibility of peace between the Congress and the government
  • Motilal and Jawaharlal Nehru were sent to Yeravada Jail to have a meeting with Gandhi and discuss the possibility of a settlement in the August 1930s. After consultation with Gandhi, demands were put forth such as the right of secession from Britain; a complete national government with control over defence and finance; and an independent tribunal to settle Britain’s financial claims.
  • But talks broke down at this point due to putting almost all main Congress leaders behind bars, On 14 February 1931, he started talks with Irwin that was culminated into Delhi Pact which is popularly known as Gandhi-Irwin pact.

Limitations of the CDM

  • Untouchables did not participate in this movement
  • The gap between Hindus and Muslims widened because Muslim political organizations do not participate in it.
  • The demand of Muslims for special seats resulted in disputes between Congress and Muslim League.
  • A large number of Muslims kept themselves away from this movement because of the fear of becoming a minority group in India


  • It widened the cleavage and high mistrust between national leaders and British Government
  • The leaders were not able to keep the momentum of this movement and the movement was ruthlessly crushed.

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