This new movement, known as the Civil Disobedience Movement, started with the historic Dandi March by Gandhi along with his 78 followers. He walked from his Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi, a coastal village in Gujarat and made salt in violation of the law. As making salt was prohibited by the colonial government.
Gandhi and those accompanying him were arrested. There were massive protests against his arrest all over the country. Lakhs of people came out on the streets for demonstrations and meetings.
There were strikes all over. Shops selling foreign goods were picketed, Khadi and Charkha were encouraged, hundreds of people left their jobs and thousands of students left their schools and colleges. In Bombay, Sholapur and other industrial centres, the workers went on strikes and staged massive demonstrations.
In certain areas, the peasants stopped paying taxes. Seeing the public mood, the British government invited the Congress for a Round Table Conference to talk about the important issues. Despite the opposition of many of Congress leaders and workers, Gandhi agreed to participate and suspended the agitation and signed what is known as the Gandhi-Irwin pact.
However, the Round Table Conference failed because the British government did not concede Congress’ demands. The Civil Disobedience was started again. But it was not very effective this time as the momentum had decreased.
The government heavily repressed the movement. About one lakh of Congress activists were arrested, meetings and demonstrations were banned, nationalist literature was prohibited and the nationalist press was suppressed. The Congress withdrew the movement in May 1934.
In 1935, a new legislation was introduced which widened the franchise. On this basis, elections were held in 1937. The Congress contested the elections and formed governments in many provinces. These governments tried to implement some of the promises they had made like the release of political prisoners, greater attention to education and health, some relief to the peasantry, etc. they, however, remained in office for a short time.
In 1939, when the Second World War broke out, the British government declared without consulting any of the Indian representatives that India was also a party to the War. The Congress ministries resigned in protest. From then on, it was only a matter of time and preparation when the next phase of organised struggle would be started.
It was on 8 August, 1942 that the Congress announced the ‘Quit India’ movement. Gandhi exhorted the people to ‘do or die’. The British government arrested most of the leaders before they could organise the movement. But this did not dampen the spirit of the people. New leaders emerged at local levels who led and sustained the movement.
As this movement lacked a central command and the government repression was at its highest, violence broke out everywhere. Railway stations, post offices and police stations were burnt down. Railway lines and telephone and telegraph wires were cut. In many areas, parallel governments were set up. Strikes and demonstrations were also organised and people attacked and disrupted the government transport system.
The government replied with further repression. Thousands were killed and many more arrested. Although the government was able to crush the movement, it was now apparent that people wanted freedom from the foreign rule and they were prepared to use violence to this end.
The national movement gave voice to already existing anti-imperialist and patriotic sentiments among various sections of the population. Under its influence and sometimes independently, many movements emerged which fed into the broad nationalist stream. They widened the base of the nationalist movement by influencing those sections of the population which the Congress-led movement had been unable to do.