Evaluation of Civil Disobedience Movement

Mahatma Gandhi's decision to sign a pact with British Indian Viceroy Lord Irwin and suspend the civil disobedience movement has been accused as a sign of retreat. However, Gandhi's decision to sign the Gandhi Irwin pact was not an act of retreat. This is because of the following reasons:

  • Mass movements are short lived and it cannot be carried out for very long periods. This is because of the fact that masses have limited capacity to make sacrifices. Unlike the activists, masses cannot keep on sacrificing beyond their capability.
  • The signs of exhaustion had already started to show up especially among the shopkeepers, traders, and merchants. Though they had participated in this mass movement very enthusiastically.
  • However, the youth were disappointed by the suspension of civil disobedience movement as they had participated very enthusiastically in the movement and their ultimate aim was to attain Purna Swaraj from British Raj. Different sections of the society like the peasants of Gujarat were disappointed by Gandhi's decision because their lands were confiscated by the British government and which were not restored immediately. These lands were restored only during the rule of Congress ministry in 1937.

But a large number of people were impressed by the fact that the British Indian government had to regard their contribution in the civil disobedience movement as significant and important. The British had to treat their leader Gandhi as an equal and sign a pact with him. The masses saw it as a recognition of their contribution and strength and as their victory over the British. As a result of the pact, the political prisoners were released by the British Indian government. These people were treated as soldiers who were returning from a victorious battle.

Begining of Civil Disobedience Movement

Comparison of Civil Disobedience Movement with Non-Cooperation Movement

The Civil Disobedience Movement was more vigorous anti-imperialist movement against the British than the Non-Cooperation Movement. In this movement, around 90000 people were arrested by the British government which was thrice the number for the Non Cooperation Movement off 1920-22. The declared objective of Civil Disobedience Movement was Purna Swaraj or complete Independence and not just to remedy for two specific wrongs and the vaguely worded goal of Swaraj.

  • The methods used by Satyagrahis in the Civil Disobedience Movement was the violation of the law and not just non cooperation with the British Indian government. This time Indian National Congress was organizationally stronger than non cooperation movement.
  • However, there was a decline in forms of protests such as lawyers giving up their practice, students giving up Government schools etc.
  • The participation of Muslims was much lesser than the non cooperation movement. However, their contribution was not insignificant and places like North West Frontier Province etc saw an overwhelming participation of Muslims.
  • There was a massive participation of peasants in the civil disobedience movement in several parts of the country. The business group also significantly participated in this movement. No major labour upsurges coincided with the civil disobedience movement.
  • The Civil Disobedience Movement gathered support from the poor and the illiterate, both in urban and rural areas. The British government and its officials were in bewilderment as they were astonished by the sympathy and support the Indian National Congress got from the masses.
  • Participation of women was also very significant especially in picketing of liquor shops and foreign goods etc.

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