Monthly Archives: June 2009


The Congress Ministry’s at Work

After the Act of 1935 was given Royal assent on August 4th 1935, the government announced that the above Act would come into force on April 1st, 1937. Though all the political parties in India including the Congress had expressed their dissatisfaction over the Act, they decided to take part in the elections to fill the provincial legislatures. In its election manifesto, the Congress rejected the constitution of the 1935 and wanted its replacement by a constitution framed by a constituent assembly elected by the people. It declared that the Congress legislators aim would be to end the acts, ordinances and regulations that oppressed the people, to establish civil liberty, to release political prisoners and to repair the wrongs done to the peasantry.

When the results were announced, the Congress won 711 seats out of 808 general seats in the provinces and secured majority in Madras, Bihar, Central Province, United Province and Orissa province. Later it was also able to form government in Bombay, N.W.F.P. and Assam. Congress leaders like C.Rajagopalachari, Govind Ballabh Pant, Dr.Khan Saheb and B.G.Kher assumed charge as Chief Ministers in Madras, United Province, N.W.F.P. and Bombay respectively.

Pro-People Measures:

The Congress ruled provinces adopted pro-people measures like releasing political prisoners and repealing many repressive laws. Ban on many books were removed and securities of many newspapers returned. In 1938 the Congress government in Bombay restored to their original owners all lands that were confiscated by the previous government as penalty for participation in the Civil Disobedience Movement.

As to agrarian reforms, laws providing greater security of tenure to the peasants, reduction of rents, debt relief and abolition of a number of abuses and vexations restrictions on tenants were passed almost in all the Congress ruled provinces. Similarly Harijans were given special educational facilities and laws were framed legalizing the opening of temples to them. Harijans were appointed as Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries in several Congress ruled provinces. Khadi was encouraged, Prohibition attempted and measures were taken to improve the condition of women.

For the first time the Anglo-Indian bureaucracy had to work under the erstwhile rebels (Congress) and the two and quarter years of office gave Congressmen a training into the work of public administration which proved invaluable in post-independence era. Moreover the sight of their national leaders occupying Ministerial chair and giving orders to I.C.S. officers created a new self confidence and a new vitality among the masses and convinced them that the dawn of Swaraj was not far away.

The Mysore Congress:

Though a separate Congress committee had been established for Karnataka way back in 1920, on a mistaken notion that it was a party of Brahmins, there was hesitation on the part of many nationalist minded non-Brahmins to join the party. But leaders like Veeranagowd Patil, Siddappa Hosamani and G.V.Hallikeri roused the youth to join the ranks of the Congress. In the Non-Brahmin Conference held at Belgaum in May 1930, Siddappa Hosamani in his presidential speech extorted non-Brahmins to join the Congress and said that in independent India the interests and rights of all communities will be attended to, far better than the British government. In princely Mysore, the Praja Samyukta Paksha, a party consisting mostly of non-Brahmins merged with the Congress and called itself Mysore Congress. Some of the important leaders of this party were K.C.Reddy, K.T.Bhashyam, T.Subramanya, H.C.Dasappa, B.N.Gupta, H.K.Veeranna Gowda, K.Hanumanthayya, M.N.Jois, K.C.Reddy, S.Nijalingappa, Sahukar Channayya, etc. The first session of the Mysore Congress was held at Shivapura near Maddur in April 1938 under the Presidentship of T.Siddalingayya. The Congress gave a call to launch Flag Sathyagraha and hundreds of people courted arrest by unfurling the tri-colour all over the state.

The Vidhurashwatha Tragedy:

When the Congress decided to hold a Flag Sathyagraha at Vidhurashwatha in Kolar district, the District Magistrate there, issued a order banning the hoisting of the Flag and prohibited holding of meeting and making speeches. In spite of the prohibitory orders a large number of people gathered on 25th of April and when asked to disperse the people refused. This resulted in police firing in which the Congress alleged 32 deaths while the official version was between ten to twelve casualties. To study the situation Congress leaders, Vallabhbhai Patel and J.B.Kripalani came to the state and after several consultations with the state Congress leaders and interviews with the Diwan, Mirza Ismail, a compromise formula was evolved by which the state government recognized the Mysore Congress and agreed to withdraw all repressive orders and grant general amnesty to political prisoners. The Mysore Congress on its part called off the Sathyagraha. The Flag dispute was settled on the lines suggested by Gandhiji by which it was decided to hoist the Congress Flag along with the State Flag on all ceremonial occasions and at purely party functions, only the tri-colour flag to be flown.

The Quit India Movement:

In September the Second World War broke out and in November 1939, the Congress ministries resigned as a protest against the British Indian government involving India in the war without the consent of its people. The Congress had earlier demanded the government to clarify its war aims and spell out its proposal for India’s future. On October 8th 1939, the Viceroy Linlithgow announced that the government would expand the Executive Council, establish War Council to advise the government and set up a body to devise the framework of a constitution immediately on the termination of the war. But the offer was unacceptable to the Congress, which launched the Individual Sathyagraha in October 1940.

The rapid advancement of Japan in the eastern front and pressure from U.S.A. and China upon Britain to work out a political settlement with the Indians led the British government to sent Sir Stafford Cripps to India in March 1942. But his mission failed to bring out a settlement and left a legacy of widespread frustration, disappointment and resentment. It convinced the Congress leaders that the British government was in no case ready to part with power. Consequently they refused to ‘rely on mere promises about the future’. They argued among themselves that if the British were not prepared to part with power even in their hour of need and peril, how could they be expected to do so after the war when their position would be much stronger. Under these circumstances Gandhiji hit upon the idea of ‘orderly and timely withdrawal of the British from India’. British withdrawal from Malaya and Burma on the wake of the Japanese advancement had destroyed his faith in British capacity to defend India. “Don’t leave India to Japan”, Gandhiji said and added ” Leave India to Indians in an orderly manner”. He also made it clear that by British withdrawal he meant “no complete withdrawal, but only the transfer of political power from the British to the Indian people.

On 8th August 1942, the All-India Congress Committee met at Bombay and passed a resolution asking the British to quit India. The action of the government was shift. On the eve hours of Sunday August 9th, Gandhiji was arrested followed by all the members of the Congress Working Committee. The banning of all Congress Committees and jailing of almost all Congressmen of importance surprised and shocked people all over India. These measures naturally provoked an immediate reaction. Demonstrations, processions, picketing and acts of disobedience and defiance followed all over the country. While the masses turned their wrath against the government by destructing public and government property, the government retaliated severely with the aid of police and the army. Mobs were dispersed with batons, by firing and occasionally with machine gun from air. People were mercilessly flogged and beaten, under trials were tortured-not allowed to sleep, kept hungry and thirsty, women were stripped, assaulted and raped. In villages numerous houses were razed to the ground and burnt. People were tied to trees and whipped and large numbers of them were sent to jail without trial. According to the statistics compiled by the Home Department, more than a thousand people were killed due to firing, more than 60,000 were arrested and a sum of Rs.90,07,382 was imposed as collective fines. The loss to the government due to the destruction of its property mainly government buildings, railway stations, post offices, police stations was estimated around Rs. 27,35,125.

Quit India Movement in Karnataka:

Soon after the launching of the Quit India movement by Gandhiji, an action committee with C.J.Ambali as president and R.R.Diwakar as secretary was appointed by the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee to carry out the agitation in Karnataka. In Belgaum and Dharwad districts, a number of village offices were burnt including revenue records. Telegraph wires were cut, railway lines removed and railway stations and government offices were damaged. European military had to be deployed in Belgaum and Dharwad districts to suppress the movement. In old Mysore, labourers at Bangalore, Bhadhravathi, K.G.F., Davangere and other places went on strike in protest against the arrest of Gandhiji and other leaders. Students too participated by boycotting their classes. Government timber depots, sub-registrar’s office, railway station, post-office and police station were set on fire at many places. At least 15,000 people were jailed in Karnataka in 1942-43 and more than 30 died due to police firing.

Martyrdom of Mylara Mahadevappa:

Mylara Mahadevappa, the patriot who had accompanied Gandhiji in his famous Dandi March organized a group of youths and commenced a sort of guerilla warfare against the government. Day and night, without rest or proper food, these patriots roamed the country, raiding government offices and burning records, capturing government mails and seizing government money in transit. Finding the local police ineffective in dealing with them, the government brought a posse of policemen from Maharashtra to Haveri taluk and announced a reward of Rs.300 to anyone who would capture or help in the capture of Mahadevappa. But on 31st March 1943, Mahadevappa lost his life in an attempt to seize a box containing government money at Hosaritti in Haveri taluk. In all Mahadevappa and his men had successfully carried out seventy-four exploits, but in no instance was harm done to a single individual.

Isur declares itself free:

The nationalist feelings of the Quit-India movement had its impact even in Isur, a remote village in Shikaripura taluk of Shimoga district. On September 25th when the revenue officials went to the village to collect land revenue, boys and girls shouting patriotic slogans mobbed them and seized their record books. The following day the village declared itself independent and established a parallel government. A ten- year old boy, Jayappa was appointed as the Amildar and Mallappa, a twelve-year old boy was appointed as the Dictator. A new law was declared by which everyone had a wear a khadi cap. On September 28th the government Amildar and his men entered the village and were surrounded by the people of the village and asked them to wear khadi caps. This enraged the police officer accompanying the Amildar and ordered the policemen to control the mob. Lathi charge was followed by firing and the mob become violent. Among the casualties were the Amildar and the police officer. Soon after the incident, the men folks of the village fled their homes fearing retaliation by the police, which turned out to be true. The Mysore police and military forces descended upon the village a let a reign of terror. Innocent were tortured, women molested and houses looted. Charges were filed against many and about five patriots, Gurappa, Mallappa, Suryanarayanachari, Halappa and Sankarappa were hanged in March 1943.






The Civil-Disobedience Movement

The rejection of the government to the demand made by the Congressmen to accord Dominion Status led Gandhiji in January 1930 to ask the Viceroy concede his eleven points which included introduction of total prohibition, reduction of military expenditure, discharge of political prisoners and abolition of salt tax. It was decided to take a pledge on January 26th, which declared thus- “We hold it to be a crime against man and god to submit any longer to a rule that has caused this fourfold disaster (economic, political, cultural and spiritual) to out country. We recognize however that the most effective way of gaining our freedom is not through violence. We will therefore prepare ourselves by withdrawing so far as we can all voluntary association from the British government and will prepare for civil disobedience including non-payment of taxes… We therefore hereby solemnly resolve to carry out the Congress instructions issued from time to time for the purpose of establishing Purna Swaraj“. Gandhiji decided to inaugurate the civil disobedience movement by breaking the salt laws so as to have a mass appeal.

The genesis of Salt laws:

Generally exports from India had been always greater than her imports from England. The exported items consisted of raw material and food products, which were voluminous. As ships from England used to be half empty, mud was used as keel ballast and the Chowringhee Road in Calcutta, which was once a canal was filled with the mud, brought in that manner. Later old newspaper, porcelain chips and salt served as keel ballast. To dispose of the imported salt, the British government levied tax on salt manufactured in India. Since salt is an indispensable ingredient of food, by breaking the salt law, Gandhiji believed he would be able to demonstrate even to the poorest Indian that the civil disobedience movement had been started with a view to help him.

The Dandi March:

On 11th March 1930, Gandhiji left for Dandi, a small village on the Gujrat seacoast along with 78 volunteers on a 241-mile trek. Mylara Mahadevappa representing Karnataka was one of the volunteer who accompanied Gandhi in his historic march. On his way Gandhiji passed through villages, where he told his audience to make salt freely and sell it from place to place. The aim was that the salt in government stocks should become superfluous. Gandhiji reached Dandi on 5th and broke the salt laws on 6th April 1930 at 8.30 a.m. by picking up a lump of salt on the seashore. A wave of enthusiasm swept the whole country. Salt laws were broken in many places and even women belonging to aristocratic families joined the movement. Gandhiji was arrested on 5th May 1930 before he could organize a raid on the government Salt Depot at Dharsana (Surat district). His place was taken by Sarojini Naidu, who along with 2000 volunteers reached Dharsana on 21st May.

An American correspondent, Webb Miller of New York Telegram, who witnessed the raid of the Salt Depot at Dharsana recorded that he was perplexed and baffled by the sight of men advancing coldly and deliberately and submitting to beating without defence. Sometimes the scenes were so painful that he had to turn away momentarily. In the Dharsana raid more than 300 volunteers were injured and two died. William Shirer of Chicago Times has borne testimony of police beatings on peaceful demonstrators in places like Bombay, Delhi, Calcutta and Lahore. Hundreds of men and women were killed as a result of police firing on demonstrators organized throughout India against Gandhiji’s arrest. The Platoons of Garhwal Rifles disobeyed the order to shoot on demonstrators and were court-martialled. Gandhiji’s arrest attracted worldwide attention. Expatriate Indians in Panama and Nairobi declared a strike. The Indian community in Sumatra wired to the Viceroy regretting Gandhiji’s arrest. French newspapers were full of reports on Gandhiji and his activities. About 102 American clergymen cabled British Prime Minister, Ramsay Macdonald and urged him to seek an amicable settlement with and Gandhiji and the Indian people.

Effects of Civil Disobedience:

Apart from violating salt laws, picketing of liquor shops, boycott of British goods and propagation of Swadeshi was carried on vigorously. The effects of civil disobedience were considerable. About a hundred thousand persons were jailed and general imports were reduced to one-third or one-fourth and cigarettes to one-sixth of the normal. Foreign goods worth thirty crore rupees were sealed in the port city of Bombay. So also about 16 British-owned clothe mills. Khadi production and sale went up and the Spinners Association employed about 1,40,000 spinners, 11,500 weavers and 1000 carders.

Salt Sathyagraha in Karnataka:

On 23rd February 1930, a meeting of the Karnataka Provincial Congress Committee presided by R.R.Diwakar was held at Bellary and a Sathyagraha Committee was formed. The Congress leaders of Karnataka undertook tours to explain to the people the objectives and methods of the Congress. These leaders submitted the report of their work to the Provincial Congress Committee, which met in Dharwad on 16th March 1930. These leaders opined that North Kanara district was the suitable place for launching the civil disobedience movement in Karnataka and the villages and the towns on the coast were suited for the Salt Sathyagraha.

Karnataka decided to start the Salt Sathyagraha on 13th April the day on which the infamous Jallianwallabagh massacre had taken place and Ankola was fixed the place of venue wherein volunteers from all parts of the state were to participate. Earlier in Belguam when Gandhiji broke the Salt laws on 6th, Gangadharrao Deshpande auctioned contraband salt and Narayanarao Joshi, Jeevanarao Yalagi and Anantha Dabade brought it. All these four were arrested the next day and hartals, protests and processions followed their arrest in many parts of Karnataka.

On 13th April, in the presence of about 40,000 people M.P.Nadakarni broke the salt law in Ankola. Revu Honnappa Naik brought the first packet of salt auctioned for 30 rupees. After the auction Swami Vidyananda addressed the gathering in which leaders like, Karnad Sadashiva Rao, Smt Umabai Kundapur, Dr Hardikar, T.S.Naik and others participated. The police promptly arrested the leaders but the Sathyagraha continued for 45 days with full tempo. Salt Sathyagraha was offered in nearly 30 centres like Mangalore,Kundapur, Udupi, Puttur, Padubidre, etc in Karnataka. Students came out in large numbers to prepare salt and sell it from house to house. When Gandhiji decided to raid the salt depot at Dharsana, a similar raid was undertaken in Karnataka at Sanikatte. A group of volunteers led by Sridhar Panduranga Balaji collected a few maunds of salt and carried it to Kumta, where the whole stock was sold in 15 minutes.

Forest Sathyagraha and agitation against the production and sale of liquors followed the Salt Sathyagraha. People broke the regulation regarding reserved forests and brought firewood or fodder and courted arrest. Picketing of liquor shops, cutting down of toddy trees and picketing the auction of toddy depots were also resorted too. It was common to see the picketers being beaten by police and also by those who were prevented from drinking. In the boycott of foreign cloth, women took a prominent part and went from house to house to gather foreign cloth and held bonfires in every village and at the same time spread the message of Charka. Four taluks in Karnataka namely Hirekerur in Dharwad district and Ankola, Sirsi and Siddapura in North Kanara district were selected for organizing the no-tax campaign. Despite repressive measures by the authorities, the campaign was a huge success. More than 1500 activists were arrested in Karnataka for participating in the Civil-Disobedience Movement during 1930-31.

The Round Table Conference:

The Simon Commission published its report on 7th June 1930. It deliberately omitted any mention of Dominion Status even as the distant goal of India’s political progress. The proposals of the Commission were unacceptable to the Congress and other political parties including the Muslim League. To discuss the report the British government decided to call an all-party conference. With all its leaders in prison the Congress decided to boycott the conference. On November 12, 1930, King George V inaugurated the first Round Table Conference attended by representatives of various Indian parties, Princely States and the British Parliament. The insistence of the Muslim delegates for the continuation of separate electorates, the demand for such provision by other communal groups and lack of consensus on various issues led to the Conference to come to an inconclusive end.

In January 1931, Gandhiji and other Congress leaders were released from prison. On 5th March, Gandhiji and Irwin signed an agreement by which Congress decided to discontinue the Civil Disobedience Movement and take part in the 2nd Round Table Conference. The government on its part agreed to release arrested Congress activists, not charged with violence from prison and return immovable property seized for non-payment of tax, if not sold to a third party. Gandhiji took part in the 2nd Round Table Conference at London, which began on September 7th 1931. At the conference Gandhiji insisted upon the immediate grant of independence and claimed that the Congress represented all India, irrespective of caste, creed, race or interest. But the conference did not make any progress and Gandhiji had to return back to Bombay on 28th December 1931, disappointed and sullen. During Gandhiji’s absence from India, the government not only violated the terms of the Gandhi-Irwin pact, but also set loose a reign of terror by enacting a number of repressive ordinances. The Congress Working Committee passed a resolution on January 1st 1932 in which it urged the government to change its policy towards the Congress failing which it would be forced to resume the Civil Disobedience Movement, including non-payment of taxes. The government replied by arresting Gandhiji and other Congress leaders.

No-Tax Campaign in Karnataka:

The arrest of Gandhiji and other Congress leaders saw the resumption of the no-tax campaign in North Kanara district of Karnataka. The people of Ankola and Siddapura not only refused to pay the land tax but also allowed their movable and immovable properties to be seized. When auctioned the goods had no bidders and even if some ‘loyalists’ did buy such goods, women volunteers launched hunger strike in front of their houses. These women volunteers had to face ridicule and abuses and hooligans along with police committing atrocities of the worst kind on them. But these women persisted in their strike and broke fast only when the buyers returned the auctioned goods to their original owners. As all grown-ups in many families had been arrested for non-payment of land revenue, their houses were locked and their children had to take refuge in Balakashramas or shelter homes for children. When released from jail many activists found their houses in a dilapidated condition either due to police excess (the police had dug up inside houses in the hope of obtaining valuables buried) or due to weather conditions. Thus the sacrifice of the people of Ankola and Siddapura in the no-tax campaign was immense. In February 1934, Gandhiji toured places like Sirsi, Siddapura, Ankola and Karwar. To the people of these taluks, who had undergone unbearable suffering and offered their as sacrifice in answer to his call of civil disobedience, the physical presence of Gandhiji was the cause of supreme joy and unbounded enthusiasm. In the meanwhile Gandhiji began to undertake the anti-untouchability campaign in a serious way and hence on 7th April 1934, he announced the final suspension of the Civil Disobedience Movement.