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Dandi March: Beginning of Women’s Participation in Freedom Movement

  • Category
    History & Culture
  • Published
    11th Apr, 2019
  • 2019 is the 89th Anniversary of DandiMarch that took place from 12 march to 6th April in 1930
  • Dandi March also marks the beginning of one of the first women movements in modern India.

Issue

Context

  • 2019 is the 89th Anniversary of DandiMarch that took place from 12 march to 6th April in 1930
  • Dandi March also marks the beginning of one of the first women movements in modern India.

 About

Dandi March

Mahatma Gandhi led a march to break one of the most widely disliked laws in British India, which gave the state a monopoly in the manufacture and sale of salt.

Salt March was notable for at least three reasons:

  • It wasthe first nationalist activity in which womenparticipated in large numbers. The socialist activistKamaladeviChattopadhyay had persuaded Gandhiji notto restrict the protests to men alone. Kamaladevi washerself one of numerous women who courted arrest bybreaking the salt or liquor laws.
  • It was the Salt March which forced upon the British the realization that their Raj would not last forever, and that they would have to devolve some power to the Indians. To that end, the British government convened a series of “Round Table Conferences” in London.
  • Salt Satyagraga brought MahatmaGandhi to world attention. The march was widely coveredby the European and American press.

Gandhiji was released from jail in January 1931 and several long meetings with the Viceroy Irwin were held after that. These culminated into “Gandhi-Irwin Pact’, saying that civil disobedience would be called off, all prisoners’ released, and salt manufacture allowed along the coast. The pact was criticized by radical nationalists as Gandhi was unable to obtain a commitment to political independence for Indians.

A notable feature of theDandi March and second disobedience movement was participation from women. They came out in large numbers like never before and changed the course of modern Indian history.

Incidents that led to Dandi March

  • Anti-Simon Commission did not lead to a wider political struggle in India as Mahatma Gandhi was waiting for right opportunity to launch a nationwide struggle. However there was popular enthusiasm in the country which was reflected in Congress session of 1929.
  • Lahore session of 1929 headed by Jawaharlal Nehru gave voice to the new militant spirit of Indian people. PoornaSwaraj resolution that demanded complete independence was passed in this session and launching of second Civil disobedience movement was also announced.

 

Women Participation in Freedom Struggle

  • Apart from Rani Lakshmibai, 1857 Revolt saw many stalwart women participants in the freedom struggle that have gone down as legends in the history of Indian Independence.Rani AvantibaiLodhi of Ramgarh, Rani TaceBai, Rani Jindan Kaur, Jhalkaribai and Uda Devi. SavitriBaiPhule, the first female teacher in a first women school also opened a school for the untouchables and worked tireless for women rights. Helping her was TarabaiShinde known for her published work StriPurushTulana considered as one of the first modern Indian feminist perspectives.
  • The Swadeshi Movement with its seed in the partition ofBengal in the year 1905, the Indian National Movementtook a major leap forward. Women folk both from therural and urban population from Bengal and other partsof India became actively involved in politics. Theyjoined men in protesting the division by boycotting foreign goods and only buying swadeshi goods. Instancesare found women even joining the extremist venturesduring the Swadeshi Movement. Nanibala Devi a womenfrom Bengal was an active worker of Jugantar group anextremist organization from Bengal led byAmarendranathChattopadhaya. With the advent of Mahatma Gandhi in the political scenario the participationof Indian women achieved a new fillip.
  • 19th and 20th century saw the freedom struggle take full swing and women from across all castes and class took the baton of being equally responsible and dedicated to the national cause. Some of these women like Sarojini Naidu, Madame BhikajiCama, Kalpana Dutta, Annie Besant, VijaylakshmiPandit, MatanginiHazra

 

Analysis

  • Salt movement of 1930 led to an unprecedented movement of middleclass women out of their homes in the cause of the nation’s struggle. It was chosen as an opportunity for women to be part of the movement in avisible and prominent manner.
  • Once the salt satyagrahas began, women started pouring out on to the streets. Sarojini Naidu led the protest at the Dharasana Salt Works, but there was a another glorious group of marching women who made its way to Chowpatty Beach on the same day that Gandhi made salt at Dandi. It was led by KamalaldeviChattopadhyay. They carried makeshift stoves and chulhas, and, after a few hours of making salt, were raided by the police. More housewives joined in, armed with pots and pans. Later, the salt was sold outside the Bombay Stock Exchange and Bombay high court.
  • Although many of these women had never participated in public life before they started organizing prabhatpheris, or morning processions, on the streets of Bombay and Ahmadabad, where they sang songs about the bounty of the motherland.

Limitations

  • The act of stepping out into the streets was legitimized for middleclass women by extending the concept of the nation as “family”. Thus this construct of “extended family” was used to show that public activities could be perceived as natural extensions of household roles, thus enabling women to step out of their homes.
  • Some historians believe that these women had to follow a clear code of conduct in the public space. They were expected to maintain the non-violent, self-sacrificing, benevolent image of the domesticated wife and mother. For instance, women covered their heads while going on prabhatpheris. Married women had to return back soon to their homes and they could only join processions after they had fed their family members or only after the permission of their guardians.
  • The perception of “respectability” and class consciousness was also prominent. As the Hindu nationalist women’s organization DeshSevikaSangha in Bombay stressed the importance of recruiting women from the “upper class only”. Devadasi community in Bombay participated in the salt movement in a limited way as the stress on segregation was prevalent. Women from the families of male leaders were the first to step out.
  • Despite limitations Salt movement saw powerful women’s demonstrations. In DelhiArya Samaj leader Swami Shraddhanand’s daughter Satyavati Devi led a demonstration which included professional women, students, artists and housewives and peasant women.
  • When Congress headquarters in Bombay was raided on 13 April. It was women who formed human shields on the streets to block their path. They faced brutal lathi charges, and a record number ended up in prison for the first time in the history of the subcontinent.
  • Thus these women who had till now led sheltered lives were now an inspiration for other women to claim public space. Gandhi and other Congress leaders, along with many of the women leaders, invoked the traditional patriarchal notion of women’s role and femininity by urging them to step outside the threshold of their homes.

 Conclusion

  • In this way, Dandi Mach can be seen as a turning point in the “public” participation of Indian women for a political cause India has produced great womenthroughout her long political, social and cultural history.
  • Heroic role of women in winning freedom for their mother land as well as for themselves is an inspiration for women all over the world. They faced bullets and lathis and this speaks of their valor and spirit of nationalismand patriotism.
  • India was one of the earliest states in the world that saw female head of the state. Currently also females occupy important positions in cabinet in defense and foreign portfolio.They were allowed to vote right from the first general elections after the independence of India in 1947. Equality in all aspects including voting rights, employment, wages, education etc. has been granted. This is a major feat especially because many developed economies like USA, France and England granted it only after prolonged struggle.

Learning Aid

Practice Question:

Dandi March was a critical event in the participation of Indian women in the freedom movement.Critically Analyze.

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