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Champaran, Bihar- It was a permanent settlement area with large areas under
rich zamindars. However, in the course of the nineteenth century the peasants
were forced to grow indigo by the European planters under the tinkathia system (a
system where in the indigo on three twentieth part of their land. The forced
cultivation of indigo, especially during the fluctuating market, had been a cause for
peasant discontent under the leadership of local and rich peasants, local mahajans
and traders from the 1860s as they resented competition from the planters in
money lending and trade. It. was one such, a peasant leader, Raj Kumar Shukla who
went to Lucknow in 1906 during the Congress session to invite Gandhi, Sant Raut
and Khendar Rai to interfere on behalf of the peasants. Though the success of
Gandhi (who entered only after a ban on his entry was rescinded by the local
officials when threatened with satyagraha) was limited to instituting an open
enquiry in July 1917 which led to the abolition of tinkathia system by Champaran
Agricultural Act of 1918,

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the involvement of Gandhi had far reaching reverberations. It was the first time
when a leader of some caliber and status had gone to the heart of the problem and
interacted with the masses. The Congress leaders had remained aloof from the
masses. The Champaran issues caught national attention due to Gandhi. The
psychological impact of Gandhis participation far surpassed the real concrete
results. It gave Gandhi an all-India public reputation. The peasants continued to be
oppressed in spite of the Act.
The Kheda Satyagraha (1917-18):- While the Kheda Satyagraha proved to be a
failure inasmuch as it led to neither an enquiry nor suspension of revenue
collection, a demand of Gandhi, it validated the possibility of satyagraha as a
technique of protest intended to be used by people of all classes. In the Kehda
district of Gujarat, unlike the poor peasants in Champaran, the rich Kanbi-Patidar
peasant proprietors growing food grains, tobacco and cotton for Ahemdabad
called upon Gandhi to lend support to the already ongoing campaign for remission
of revenues in face of poor harvest. In 1917-18, the poor harvest combined with rise
in prices of kerosene, ironware,

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cloth and salt and the rise in wages of the low-caste Baraiyas who worked for the
Patidars, stressed the revenue paying capacity of the Patidars. After much
hesitation Gandhi lent his support from March 22, 1918 but by this time the poorer
peasants had already paid revenues albeit with coercion, On the whole the first
Gandhian peasant Satyagraha at Kehda was more of a patchy affair which affected
only 70 out of 559 villages and was called off by June 1918. Gandhi mid-way got
involved in Ahmedabad mill workers grievances. However, the non-violent method
and touring of the villages by Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel and Mahadev Desai earned
the Gandhian movement a support base in the region through the peasants
support remained conditional like during the First World War, Gandhis efforts at
recruiting soldiers from the region were met with lukewarm enthusiasm.

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Ahmedabad Mill Workers Strike, February-March 1918: Unlike the grievances of


the peasants in the last two instances, Gandhi intervened on behalf of the urban
mill workers in their demand for substantially higher wages from their owners and
it was not directed against the Government officials. The demands were met once
Gandhi threatened to fast (March 1918) indefinitely after the failure of the first
round of talks. This was the first time that the technique of fasting was employed
in Satyagraha.
Thus, these three movements established Gandhi as a figure who could intervene
on behalf of peoples grievances irrespective of their class. His nonviolent
techniques and interacting with the people were rather novel and helped Gandhi
gain a popular mass appeal. However, Gandhi had yet to enter into formal politics.
The infamous Rawlatt Bills provided the ideal launch pad for Gandhi who felt that
the repelling of the legislation was necessary to appease national honour.

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Surrender of titles and honorary offices and resignation from nominated


seats in local bodies;
Refusal to attend official and non-official functions;
Gradual withdrawal of children from officially controlled schools and
colleges;
Gradual boycott of British courts by lawyers and litigants;
Military, clerical and labouring classes were asked to refuse to offer
themselves as recruits for service in Mesopotamia;
Boycott of election to the Legislative Councils by candidates and voters;
Boycott of foreign goods;
Establishment of national schools and colleges, and
For the settlement of private disputes private arbitration courts were to
be set up.

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On March 2O, 1920, a manifesto was published, which outlined he programme of noncooperation as under:
1.
Surrender of titles and honorary offices and resignation from nominated seats in
local bodies.
2.
Refusal to attend Government levees, durbars and other official and semi official
functions held by Government officials or in their honour;
3.
Gradual withdrawal of children from schools and colleges, owned, aided or
controlled by Government and, in place of such schools and colleges, the
establishment of national schools and colleges in the various provinces;
4.
Gradual boycott of British courts by lawyers and litigants and the establishment
of private arbitration courts by their aid for the settlement of private disputes;

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5. Refusal on the part of the military, clerical and labouring classes to offer
themselves as recruits for service in Mesopotamia;
6. Withdrawal by candidates of their candidature of election to the reformed councils
and refusal on the part of the voters to vote for any candidate who may, despite
the Congress advice, offer himself for election; and
7. Boycott of foreign goods

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It was in the background of the growing political unrest in India after the
suspension of the Non-cooperation Movement, particularly after the rise and
growth of the second phase of the revolutionary terrorism, and the great
economic recession between the two World War that in November 1927, the
British government announced the appointment Indian Statutory Commission
(known as Simon Commission to recommend future constitutional reforms in
India.)
The Simon Commission consisted of seven members headed by Sir-John
Simon, an eminent constitutional lawyer and a prominent member of the Liberal
Party in the House of Commons. The Indian reaction to the appointment of the
Simon Commission was sharp, swift and unanimous to boycott the Simon
Commission.

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The fundamental resentment against the Commission was that it was an all white
Commission. The Secretary of State, Lord Birkenhead had already been warned
that the all white and non-participation of the Indians could invite troubles but he
never paid any heed to this. He showed his inability to give representation to all
political sections in India on the Commission. For him, the issue of constitutional
reforms was too vital to include Indians in it. On the other hand, the nonassociation of Indians was considered by the national leaders as an outrageous
insult. Nearly all political formations and groups in India decided to boycott the
Commission. The Indian National Congress which met at Madras in December 1927,
decided to boycott the Commission. The Congress was determined not to meet the
Commission, not to give evidence not to serve on any select committee nor to vote
for their formulations. It was declared that Indians were entitled to determine
their own constitution and they could not be a party to an inquiry into their own
fitness for Swaraj.

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The most important reason was the affront to Indian self-respect by their deliberate
exclusion from the Commission. Simultaneously, the liberal Federation presided over by Tej
Bahadur Sapru adopted a similar resolution. The Muslim League also resolved to boycott the
Commission and appointed a committee to prepare a constitution for India in consultation
with other parties. The lead given by these parties was followed by Hindu Mahasabha, the
Khilafat Conference etc. Thus, by the end of 1927, practically all established political groups
had decided to boycott the Commission. Those who decided to welcome the Commission
were either splinter groups like a section of Muslim League led by Muhammad Shafi or
representatives of factional interests such as Europeans, Anglo-Indians, non-Brahmin
movement leaders, Depressed Classes etc.
When the Commission arrived in India in early 1928, it was boycotted not only by the
Congress but by the Liberals, the major sections of Muslim League and by individual leaders
like, Jinnah and Annie Besant. Lala Lajpat Rai moved a resolution in the legislature on 16
February 1928, stating, The assembly recommends to the Governor-General-in-Council
that he may be pleased to convey to His Majestys Government the Assemblys lack of
confidence in the Parliamentary Commission which has been appointed to recast the
constitution.

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It was in the background of the ultimatum served by the Calcutta session of the
Congress regarding the acceptance or rejection of the Nehru Report by the yearend by the British Government, historic Lahore session of the Congress was held
under the presidentship of Jawahar Lal Nehru. On 31 December 1929; the, one year
grace contemplated in the Calcutta resolution came to an end. Government had
refused to accept the conditions of dominion status, Consequently, Gandhi moved
the historic resolution which said, The Congress, therefore, in pursuance of the
resolution passed at its session at Calcutta last year declares that the word Swaraj
in Article 1 of the Congress constitution shall mean complete independence
(Poorna Swaraj). The resolution declared that the Nehru Report had lapsed and
nothing would be gained by the Congress through representation at Round Table
Conference.

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It called upon Congressmen to devote their attention to the attainment of


independence and boycott of central and provincial legislatures. It also authorized
the Working Committee to launch upon a programme of civil disobedience
including non-payment of taxes whenever considered proper. Exactly at midnight,
on the banks of Ravi, the resolution was put to vote and carried the tri-colour flag
of Indian independence was unfurled admidst cheers and jubilation. The Congress
also issued a call to the countrymen to celebrate 26 January 1930, as Poorna
Swarajya Day. A resolution drafted for adoption on that day was also issued. A
pledge was taken to be repeated year after year. It roused and inflamed the
passion of the people for independence and emotionally prepared them for the
next stage of the mass movement.

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The national movement made qualitative advance in 1930s. After the declaration of
Poorna Swarajya, the country was far more imbibed with the Congress ideology
and With Gandhian techniques than it had been in 1920s. The people were
convinced that Gandhi meant what he said regarding non-violence though he
himself seemed to have modified his position slightly. He now accepted the
possibility that some violence might break out but, so long as the movement
remained essentially non-violent on the whole, he would continue the battle.
Economic factors also favoured the mounting of a new campaign. There was acute
economic depression in the country which had a telling effect on all classes,
especially the poor. The slump in food prices had affected the farmers and
peasants while in the urban areas there was considerable working class unrest.

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The Indian National Congress had given Gandhi and the Congress Working
Committee full power to start the campaign of civil disobedience including nonpayment of taxes The Working Committee in turn gave full power to Gandhi to
start the campaign at a time and place of his choice.
On 2 March, Gandhi addressed a letter to the Viceroy announcing his decision to
start the salt satyagraha and explaining the grounds .on which the decision was
taken. The Viceroys reply was short and curt. He regretted that Gandhi was
embarking on a course of action which was violation of law and public peace.

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