Civil Disobedience Movement – Significance, Civil Disobedience Movement UPSC Notes

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Civil Disobedience Movement was a milestone movement in the Indian Nationalist Movement. It is associated with paving the trail for freedom in India as it got circulated to urban areas and noticed the participation of women and individuals from the lower castes. The movement was initiated under the stewardship of Mahatma Gandhi. The Civil Disobedience Movement was founded in 1930, and it began with the prominent Dandi March when Mahatma Gandhi left the Sabarmati Ashram of Ahmedabad on foot.

The Salt Satyagraha led to the widespread endorsement of the disobedience movement. The Civil Disobedience Movement was established after the compliance of Independence Day in 1930. Go through the article to brush up on your facts and knowledge about the Civil Disobedience Movement, its background, importance, effects, and limitations in Indian History.

What is Civil Disobedience Movement?

The Civil Disobedience Movement began under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi March. Gandhi, in March 1930, left the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad on foot with 78 other Ashram members for Dandi, a village on India’s western seacoast in Gujarat.

Civil Disobedience Movement UPSC Notes

They reached Dandi on April 6, 1930, where Gandhi broke the Salt Law. It was forbidden to make salt in India as it was exclusively a British Government monopoly. The Salt Satyagraha led to the widespread acceptance of the Civil Disobedience Movement, and the Salt March symbolized people’s confrontation with British government policies.
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Background of Civil Disobedience Movement

After the Chauri Chaura incident of February 1922, there was an abrupt withdrawal of the Non-Cooperation Movement by Gandhi. As a result, there was a demoralizing impact on several Congress leaders, leading to a pungent downfall in the national movement.

The ‘No Changer’ group remained scattered and kept themselves aloof from the political developments. The No Changer group emphasized Gandhian Constructive Work in villages.

  • On top of this, there were widespread communal riots in the mid-1920s due to the dissolution of Hindu-Muslim unity during the Non-Cooperation Khilafat days.
  • Even though the Hindu-Muslim Unity was never regained, there were many signs of growth of the anti-imperialist movement from 1928 onwards.
  • The negotiations with Jinnah over the Nehru Report plan for an alternative constitution broke down in 1927-28 largely because of Hindu Mahasabha antagonism and Jinnah’s inflexibility in relation to it.

The Lahore Congress of 1929 authorized the Congress Working Committee (CWC) to launch a program of civil disobedience, including non-payment of taxes. And in 1930, Gandhi was invested with full powers to launch the Civil Disobedience Movement at a time and place of his choice by the CWC, at Sabarmati Ashram. These were some of the main reasons that paved the way for the Civil Disobedience Movement.

What is Dandi March?

Dandi March, or the Salt March, was an act of the nonviolent Civil Disobedience Movement led by Gandhi. It is also known by the name of Dandi Satyagraha. Gandhi started the movement on 12 March 1930 from his Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi Beach, a coastal town of Dandi on the Arabian Sea.

  • His 78 selected followers accompanied him.
  • Gandhi and his followers broke the law by manufacturing salt from the sea.
  • The historic Dandi March began the Civil Disobedience Movement in India.
  • It began on March 12, 1930, and Gandhi broke the salt law by picking up a lump of salt at Dandi on April 6, 1930.

Salt Satyagraha Movement

The Congress Session of Lahore, 1929 elected Jawaharlal Nehru as the President of Congress. A resolution announcing that full independence was India’s goal was passed at this session of Congress. India demanded full independence.

Indians were excited and were looking up to Gandhi to be the torch bearer. Gandhi launched the Salt Satyagraha Movement. The Civil Disobedience Movement began by breaking the salt law.

  • The Government had put an excise tax on salt, which brought enormous amounts of money to the treasury.
  • The government had a monopoly on manufacturing salt.
  • The India Salt Act of 1882 gave the government monopoly over the collection and manufacture of salt.
  • The salt tax would be attacked, and salt laws would be broken.

The Salt Satyagraha ended on April 5 at Dandi village, where Gandhi signaled all Indians to manufacture salt illegally. He wanted the people to break the salt law openly and to prepare themselves for non-violent resistance to police action. Through the Salt Satyagraha and Civil Disobedience Movement, the agenda of the movement was:

  • Salt law should be violated everywhere;
  • Foreign clothes should be burnt;
  • No taxes should be paid to the government;
  • Students should leave colleges, and government servants should resign from service;
  • Women should stage a Dharna at liquor shops, etc.

Significance of Civil Disobedience Movement

Before launching the Salt Satyagraha Movement, or the Civil Disobedience Movement, Gandhi tried to compromise for the last time. He placed his ‘eleven points‘ of administrative reform and stated that if Lord Irwin accepted them, there would be no need for agitation. The important demands were:

  • Reduction of the rupee-Sterling ratio;
  • The salt tax should be nullified, along with the government salt monopoly;
  • Decrease of salaries of the highest grade services by half;
  • Safeguard Indian textiles and coastal shipping;
  • Reduction of Military expenditure by 50%, to begin with;
  • Lowering Land revenue by half and making it a subject of legislative control;
  • All Political prisoners should be terminated.

Importance of Salt in Civil Disobedience Movement

The Indian National Congress would have preferred to fight against other laws like the land revenue laws, for example. But Gandhiji chose salt as a starting point for Civil Disobedience Movement. Salt was a common consumption item in every household, and taxing salt would tax every section of society.

The salt was manufactured from saline seawater; hence the imposition of heavy duty was immoral and unfair to the poor. Thus, salt was chosen to symbolize a common man’s defiance against British rule that was increasingly becoming unethical and repressive. Gandhi followed a simple truth. Turn the mirror on the people and show them how they are treated. And they will rise along with you.

Effects of Civil Disobedience Movement

After Gandhi’s symbolic breaking of the salt laws at Dandi, defiance of the laws spread throughout the country. Salt laws were also defied in various provinces under the leadership of various leaders. The effects of the Civil Disobedience Movement were as follows:

  • C Rajagopalachari led the Salt Satyagraha in Tamil Nadu. He organized a march from Thiruchirapalli to Vedaranniyam on the Tanjore (or Thanjavur) coast to break the salt law.
  • K Kelappan, famed for the Vaikom Satyagraha, organized salt marches in Malabar.
  • Midnapur, Arambagh, and several rural pockets witnessed powerful movements developed around salt satyagraha and chowkidar tax.
  • Sarojini Naidu, Imam Sahib, and Manilal (Gandhi’s son) raided the Dharasana Salt Works.
  • District salt marches were organized in East and West Godavari, Krishna and Guntur. Several Sibirams (military-style camps) were set up to serve as the headquarters of the Salt Satyagraha.
  • In Peshawar, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, also called Badshah Khan and Frontier Gandhi, had started the first Pushto political monthly Pukhtoon and had organized a volunteer brigade ‘Khudai Khidmatgars’, popularly known as the ‘Red-Shirts’, who were pledged to the freedom struggle and non-violence.

Civil Disobedience Movement: How Different Sections Responded to the Movement?

A novel and remarkable feature of the Civil Disobedience Movement was the widespread participation of women and the youth. Traders’ associations and commercial bodies were actively implementing the boycott, especially in Tamil Nadu and Punjab.

Middle-class Muslim participation was significant in Senhatta, Tripura, Gaibandha, Bagura, and Noakhali. During this point, the weakest point of Nationalism was Muslim participation, which remained low.

Features of the Civil Disobedience Movement

The most striking features of the Civil Disobedience Movement were:

  • Foreign clothes were boycotted, and there were protests against the liquor shops.
  • There was a large involvement of women and the youth during the movement. Kasturba Gandhi, Kamladevi Chattopadhyay, Avantikabai Gokhale, Lilavati Munshi, and Hansaben Mehta were some of the prominent female leaders who led the satyagraha movement.
  • Peasants said no to paying revenue and Chowkidari taxes, and village officials resigned from their posts.
  • People disapproved of cooperating and asked to break the colonial laws.
  • Forest people violated forest laws in many places; they started entering Reserved Forests to collect wood and graze cattle.

Limitations of the Civil Disobedience Movement

Though the Civil Disobedience Movement was a huge success and paved the way for future independence movements in India, it had some drawbacks. These were:

  • Dalits’ participation in the Civil Disobedience movement was limited, except in Maharashtra.
  • Muslim political organizations in India were also Lukewarm in responding to the Civil Disobedience Movement.
  • Congress was very close to Hindu Mahasabha. Hindus Mahasabha strongly opposed the compromise efforts between Congress and the Muslim League.
  • United struggle was not there. There was a contrast between the demands of industrialists and the working class and the rich and poor peasants.

Difference between Non-Cooperation Movement and Civil Disobedience Movement

Civil Disobedience Movement and Non-Cooperation Movement were two crucial movements that occurred during India’s struggle for independence. The fundamental difference between Non-Cooperation and Civil Disobedience is that Civil Disobedience Movement was established on 12th March 1930, whereas Non-Cooperation Movement was embarked on 5th September 1920.

A few differences between Non-Cooperation Movement and Civil Disobedience Movement are illustrated below.

Non-Cooperation Movement Civil Disobedience Movement
The movement was limited to specific areas of the country Several leaders across India actively participated in this movement
Its primary aim was to discontinue cooperation with the British Government Its primary aim was to offer complete dispassion toward British officials ruling India
The movement declined after it eventually became warlike during the Chauri Chaura incident The movement declined after Mahatma Gandhi signed a pact with Irwin

Civil Disobedience Movement UPSC

The Civil Disobedience Movement is an important topic for the UPSC Prelims and Mains. The syllabus, under the history part, covers this topic. To study the Civil Disobedience Movement, one must start with the basics. Read the NCERT Books to form the foundation, then proceed to the standard books. Refer to the Indian History Notes for UPSC for easy and quick revision at the last moment.

The Civil Disobedience Movement occupies a significant place in the Modern History part of the IAS Exam. A candidate should be thorough with his/her preparation for this topic. We have compiled Civil Disobedience Movement UPSC Notes PDF in the article for last-minute revision and to keep aspirants in the preparation loop. Refer to it for your upcoming competitive exams.

Civil Disobedience Movement Questions

Question: Who led a salt march from Trichinopoly to Vedaranniyam on the Tanjore coast in Tamil Nadu? (1) Surya Sen, (2) K Kelappan, (3) P Krishna Pillai, (4) C. Rajagopalachari

Answer: C. Rajagopalachari

Question: Which of the following was one of the eleven demands of MK Gandhi before the Civil Disobedience Movement? (1) Reduce expenditure on the military and civil administration by 50 percent, (2) Change Arms Act allowing popular control of the issue of firearms licences, (3) Both A & B, (4) Neither A nor B

Answer: Neither A nor B

Question: Consider the following statements: (1) Lord Irwin promised release of all political prisoners except prisoners held guilty of violence, (2) The Civil Disobedience movement was not withdrawn, (3) Lord Irwin revoked the Salt Law. Which among these are true for the Gandhi-Irwin Pact 1931. Codes: a) 1 & 2 only, b) 2 & 3 only, c) 3 only, d) 1 & 3 only

Answer: 1 & 3 only

Question: Which among the following movements received International Attention? a) Swadeshi Movement, b) Non-Cooperation movement, c) Civil Disobedience movement, d) Quit India movement.

Answer: Civil Disobedience Movement

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