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Civil Disobedience Movement

Civil Disobedience Movement


  • Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal of a citizen to obey certain laws, demands, orders or commands of a government. By some definitions, civil disobedience has to be nonviolent to be called “civil”. Hence, civil disobedience is sometimes equated with peaceful protests or nonviolent resistance.
  • The Salt Satyagraha was a mass civil disobedience movement initiated by Mahatma Gandhi against the salt tax imposed by the British government in India. He led a large group of people from Sabarmati Ashram on 12th March 1930 till Dandi, a coastal village in Gujarat, to break the salt law by producing salt from seawater.

Features of the Civil Disobedience Movement

  • Non-violence was the motto of this movement
  • This was the first nationwide movement while all others were restricted to urban areas
  • People among rural areas also had an opportunity to register their participation
  • On continuous suppression by the Britishers, this movement did not turn back
  • The participation of women was in large numbers
  • Kasturba Gandhi, Kamladevi Chattopadhyay, Avantikabai Gokhale, Lilavati Munshi, Hansaben Mehta like popular women led the satyagraha movement
  • Due to this fearlessness, the Indian people were regarded as fearless


  • The Lahore Congress of 1929 had given the mandate to launch civil disobedience movement along with the non-payment of taxes.
  • Mahatma Gandhi presented his 11 demands to the Viceroy Lord Irwin and gave him the ultimate of January 31, 1932 to acccept these demands.
  • His 11 point demands were:
    • Abolition of salt tax and Monopoly of the government to manufacture salt.
    • To reduce the expenses on the civil administration and army by 30%.
    • To reform the criminal investigation department CID.
    • Total prohibition of intoxicants and alcohol.
    • Amendments in the arms act to allow licenses of arms to citizens for self-protection.
    • To release all the political Prisoners.
    • Acception of Postal reservation bill.
    • To change the Rupee Sterling exchange ratio to 1s 4d.
    • To impose custom duty on import of foreign clothes.
    • The reservation of coastal shipping for Indians.
    • Reduction of land revenue by 50 percent.
  • The government did not give any positive response to these demands. In February 1930, the Congress working Committee gave full powers to Mahatma Gandhi to launch the Civil Disobedience Movement at a place and time of his choice.
  • By end of February 1930, Gandhiji began to talk about the salt tax and made it the main issue to launch the Civil Disobedience Movement.

Initiation of the Dandi march

  • Mahatma Gandhi along with his 78 followers was to march from Ahmadabad through the different villages of Gujarat for about 240 miles to reach the coast of Dandi.
  • But, even before the launch of Dandi March, several thousand of his followers reached his Ashram.
  • He gave following directions for the future course of action:
    • To start the breaking of salt law wherever possible.
    • The foreign cloth shops and liquor shops can be picketed.
    • He allowed for the refusal of payment of taxes if there is sufficient strength.
    • The lawyers can give up their practices and the public can boycott the law Courts and refrain from litigation.
    • Gandhiji prescribed only one condition for the above i.e. truth and nonviolence as the only means to attain Swaraj.
    • In case of his arrest by the government. He called for obeying the local leaders.

Influence of the movement

  • Government income from liquor, excise and land revenue fell.
  • Imports of foreign cloth and other items fell.
  • Elections to Legislative Assembly were largely boycotted.
  • Every section of society as Students, Women, Tribals, Merchants and Petty Traders, Workers & Peasants took active part in CDM.
  • Although Muslims participated but their participation was nowhere near the 1920-22 level because of appeals by Muslim leaders to stay away from the movement and because of, active government encouragement to communal dissension.

Participation of women

  • Civil disobedience movement saw large scale participation of women as Gandhi had asked the women to take a leading part in the movement.
  • Women participated in large numbers in picketing outside liquor shops, opium dens and around the shops selling foreign goods.
  • The civil disobedience movement was the most liberating experience for the women, which truly marked their entry in public sphere point

Consequence of the movement

  • Around 60,000 people including Gandhiji himself were arrested by the government.
  • The government tried to suppress the movement with more laws and censorship.
  • The Congress Party was declared illegal. But this did not deter the satyagrahis who continued the movement.
  • There were some incidents of violence in Calcutta and Karachi but Gandhiji did not call off the movement, unlike the previous time with the non-cooperation movement.
  • C Rajagopalachari led a similar march on the southeast coast from Trichy to Vedaranyam in Tamil Nadu. He too was arrested for making salt.
  • K Kelappan led a march in the Malabar region from Calicut to Payyanur.
  • Foreign clothes were boycotted. Liqueur shops were picketed. There were strikes all over.
  • The British government was shaken by the movement. Also, its non-violent nature made it difficult for them to suppress it violently.
  • This movement had three main effects:
    • It pushed Indian freedom struggle into the limelight in western media.
    • It brought a lot of people including women and the depressed classes directly in touch with the freedom movement.
    • It showed the power of the non-violent Satyagraha as a tool in fighting imperialism.
  • Gandhiji was released from prison in 1931 and he met with Lord Irwin who was keen to put an end to the civil disobedience movement and the media attention it had caught.
  • As per the Gandhi-Irwin Pact, the civil disobedience movement would be ended and Indians, in return, would be allowed to make salt for domestic use. Lord Irwin also agreed to release the arrested Indians. Gandhiji attended the Second Round Table Conference in London as an ‘equal’.



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