Q. 204.3( 4 Votes )
The Civil Disobed
a. Rich peasants
The Civil Disobedience Movement was an active movement which was introduced to break certain laws, commands and demands of the government or of occupying international power. It is the movement that symbolizes the violation of certain laws rather than the rejection of the system as a whole. The movement saw the wide participation of many social groups including the rich peasants.
The rich peasant communities, like the Patidars of Gujarat and the Jats of Uttar Pradesh, were active participants of the movement in the countryside. The Great Depression had affected the rural peasants and farmers. Agricultural prices began to fall from 1926 and declined sharply after the 1930s. As the demand for agricultural goods fell in the domestic and international market, exports declined and there was a persistent glut of commodities. Though the agricultural prices fell sharply, the colonial government did not reduce their revenue collection. The peasants found it difficult to sell their harvests and pay their revenue.
The refusal of the government to reduce the revenue led to widespread protests and movements. The rich peasants became active supporters of the Civil Disobedience Movement for this cause. They actively organised the members of their communities, to participate in the boycott movement. For them, the fight was a struggle against high revenues and taxes.
b. Poor peasants
The Great Depression had affected the rural peasants and farmers. Agricultural prices began to fall from 1926 and declined sharply after the 1930s. As the demand for agricultural goods fell in the domestic and international market, exports declined and there was a persistent glut of commodities. Though the agricultural prices fell sharply, the colonial government did not reduce their revenue collection. The peasants found it difficult to sell their harvests and pay their revenue.
The poorer peasantry was not just only in the lowering the revenue collection by the government. Many of them were small tenants cultivating in rented lands. They had to pay their rent and a share of their produce to the landlords. As the Depression continued and their incomes reduced, the tenants found it difficult to pay their rents. They wanted the unpaid rent to the landlord to be remitted and settled. They joined a variety of movements upholding their interests. But this often led to the displeasure of the rich peasants and landlords. Thus for them, it was a struggle against high revenue and rents.
c. Business classes
During the First World War, Indian merchants and industrialists had reaped huge profits and had become powerful. While expanding their business they started reacting towards the limiting policies of the British government that restricted the business activities in India. They wanted protection from imported goods from foreign countries and tax exemption for goods produced in the domestic market. To organize the business interest, they introduced the Indian Industrial and Commercial Congress (IICC) in 1920 and the Federation of the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) in 1927.
IICC and FICCI were led by prominent industrialists like Purshottamdas Thakurdas and G. D. Birla. They criticised the colonial control over the economy and trade. They supported the Civil Disobedience Movement by providing financial assistance and refused to buy and sell imported goods.
d. Industrial working class
The movement did not witness the wide participation of the industrial working classes, except in the Nagpur region. The main reason for this was the active participation of the big industrialists. The industrialists stood against the limiting policies of the British government that restricted the business activities in India.
But, some workers participated in the movement. They selectively adopted some of the ideas of the Gandhian policy like the boycott of foreign goods. Their participation in the movement was driven by the low wages and poor working conditions. The railway workers and the dockworkers participated in struggles in 1930 and 1932 respectively. Thousands of workers in Chotanagpur tin mines wore Gandhian caps and participated in protests, rallies and boycott campaigns. Thus, they were also active participants of the movement.
The Civil Disobedience Movement witnessed the large-scale participation of women. During the salt march undertaken by Gandhiji, thousands of women participated in protest, marches, manufactured salt, and picketed foreign cloth and liquor shops. In the urban areas, women from the high-caste families participated in the movement, while in the rural areas they came from rich peasant households.
Women largely participated in the movement by the call-of-duty given by Gandhiji. They considered their service to the nation as their sacred. This led to the empowerment of women in many regions, even though their role was not largely recognised.
The Non-cooperation movement was basically the refusal to cooperate with the British government. It was inaugurated at the Calcutta session of the Congress in September 1920. It included the surrender of titles that the government awarded, the boycott of civil services, army, police, courts, legislative councils and schools. It also included the rejection and boycott of foreign goods. Various groups joined and participated actively in the movement. Thus, the movement had the contribution of different social sections with their own aspirations.
The movement revealed the active participation of the middle-class of the cities in the freedom struggle. Thousands of students left the government-owned schools and colleges, headmasters and teachers resigned and lawyers gave up their legal practices. The council elections were also boycotted in many provinces. Foreign goods and clothes were boycotted, liquor shops picketed, and foreign cloth was burnt in bonfires in cities. Merchants and traders refused to trade in foreign goods or finance foreign trade. As the boycott movement spread, people began to discard imported clothes and foreign goods.
The production and sales of domestic swadeshi goods increased. Khadi and other handlooms were extensively produced and sold through the country. Many units were established that undertook the spinning of Khadi. The Indian industries expanded their production.
The movement spread rapidly at its commencement. From the cities, the Non-Cooperation Movement spread to the countryside and villages. It was carried out mainly by the peasants and the tribal sections. But the movement in the cities gradually slowed down for a variety of reasons.
The movement encouraged the use of Khadi and other domestically spun clothes. Often, they more expensive than the mass-produced and imported foreign mill cloth. Thus, the poor people could not afford to buy it. Also, the boycott of British institutions, schools, colleges and courts posed a serious problem. No alternative substitute Indian institutions were established to replace the colonial institutions. Even though some were in their inception, these were slow to come up. So the students and teachers began going back to the government schools and lawyers joined back in government courts. This led to the slowdown of the movement in the major cities, even though it spread like a wildfire in the rural areas.
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