The Civil Disobedience movement launched in March 1930 opened a new era in India’s struggle for independence.
It began with the Dandi March, when Gandhiji along with his 78 followers started from his ashram at Sabarmati on a march to Dandi on the sea coast on foot. The civil disobedience was launched due to variety of reasons, mainly related to developments in 1920s.
To begin with, the year 1927 witnessed many portents of national recovery. There was the rise of a new leftwing within the congress under the leadership of Jawahar Lai Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose. The Left wing did not confine its attention to the struggle against imperialisms. It simultaneously raised the question of internal class oppression by the capitalists and the landlords.
Indian youth were also becoming active. All over the country, youth leagues were being formed and student conferences held. The first All Bengal Conference of students was held in August 1928 was presided over by Nehru. After this, many other student associations were started in the country and hundreds of student and youth conferences held.
Moreover, the young Indian Nationalists began gradually to turn to socialism and to advocate radical solutions for the political, economic and social ills from which the country was suffering. They also put forward and popularized the programme of complete independence.
Socialist and communist group came into existence in the 1920s. The example of Russian Revolution had aroused interest among many young nationalists. Many of them were dissatisfied with Gandhian political ideas and programmes and turned to socialist ideology for guidance.
M.N. Roy became the first Indian to be elected to the leadership of the Communist International. In 1925, the Communist Party of India was founded at Kanpur. Moreover, many workers and peasant parties were founded, in different parts of the country. These parties & groups propagated Marxist and communist ideas.
The peasants and workers were also once again stirring. In Uttar Pradesh, there was large scale agitation among tenants for the revision of tenancy laws. The tenants wanted lower rents, protection from eviction and relief from indebtedness. In Gujarat, the peasants protested against official efforts to increase land revenue.
The famous Bardoli Satyagraha occurred at this time. There was a rapid growth of trade Unionism under the leadership of All India Trade Union Congress. Many strikes were organized in 1928. There was a strike at Kharagpur railway workshop and the south Indian Railway workers also went on strike.
Another reflection of the growing activity was the rise of revolutionary terrorist movement. This movement too was beginning to take a socialist turn. After an all India Conference, the Hindustan Republican Association was founded in October 1924 to organize an armed revolution. The Government struck at it by arresting a large number of youth and trying them in the Kakori conspiracy case (1925).
The revolutionaries soon came under the influence of the Socialist ideas, and in 1928 under the leadership of j Chandra Shekhar Azad changed the name of their organization to the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). They also gradually began to move away from individual heroic action and act of violence.
But the brutal lathi-charge on an anti-Simon Commission demonstration and death of Lala Lajpat Rai led them to assassinate Saunders. In Bengal too, the revolutionary activities were revived and a well planned robbery of the government armoury at Chittagong was organized under the leadership of Surya Sen.
The catalyst to the new phase of the movement was provided when in November 1927 the British government appointed Simon Commission to go into the question of further constitutional reforms. All the members of the commission were Englishmen. This led to chorus of protest from various groups of nationalists. What angered the nationalists most was the exclusion of Indians from the commission.
The political unrest was further strengthened by Lord Birkenhead’s challenge to Indians that the Indians are divided so much to produce a consensus constitution. The All parties Conference of 1928 took up this challenge and a committee under Moti Lai Nehru was appointed to draft a constitution.
Though there was a disagreement on the final draft of the constitution mainly from communal parties the Nehru committee brought different sections of Indian polity on a single platform. Besides, on the part of the government, ‘the reprisals were on a full swing. The Government came down heavily on the anti-Simon agitators and they were brutally assaulted by the police. This was followed by lathi-charge on Lajpat Rai in which he died.
Also, thirty one labour leaders were arrested in what has came to be known as the Meerut conspiracy ease. In such circumstances, the Indian National Congress held its annual session at Lahore in 1929 and decided to launch the Civil Disobedience movement.
The Government of India Act, 19^5 could not satisfy the demands of the nationalists. The act did not concede Purna Swaraj, which was the theme of the Civil Disobedience Movement. The Act, also did not give adequate freedom to legislatures.
It came with elaborate safeguards which amounted to vital subtraction from the principle of self-government. India’s constitutional status remained that of dependency. Thus, the Act of 1935 could not meet the aims of Civil Disobedience Movement and the Congress rejected it.