This Day In History

Gandhi’s Civil Disobedience leads to imprisonment


On March 18, 1922, a British colonial court convicted Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi of sedition after a protest march led to violence. He was sentenced to six years. Mohandas K. Gandhi emerged as the leader of India’s resistance to the Raj, Britain’s colonial government, shortly after World War I.

In 1919, Britain passed the Rowlatt Acts, which allowed the Raj to intern Indians suspected of sedition without trial. In protest, Gandhi declared a “satyagraha,” meaning “devotion to truth,” against the Raj, beginning a non-violent movement of civil disobedience.

The Indian National Congress adopted Gandhi’s ideals and in 1920 launched a campaign of non-cooperation against the Raj. “During his first nationwide satyagraha, Gandhi urged the people to boycott British education institutions, law courts, and products; to resign from government employment; to refuse to pay taxes; and to forsake British titles and honors,” explains the Library of Congress’ “India: A Country Study.”

The satyagraha came to an end after a mass protest in the small market town of Chauri Chaura turned violent on Feb. 22. Protesters fought back against British police, burning down the police station and killing 22 people. Gandhi, horrified by the violence that had been committed in his cause, called for an end to non-cooperation. He wrote: “God has been abundantly kind to me. 

He had warned me that there is not yet in India that truthful and non-violent atmosphere which can justify mass disobedience which can be described as civil, which means gentle, truthful, humble, knowing, wilful yet loving, never criminal and hateful. God spoke clearly through Chauri Chaura.” Gandhi was soon arrested and convicted of sedition. He was given a six-year prison sentence, which he began serving on March 18.

After his 1922 conviction, he served two years of his six-year sentence, being released in 1924 due to ailing health. He withdrew from political life after his release, but he returned to the nationalist movement in 1930. He led the “March to the Sea,” a protest of a discriminatory British salt tax in which thousands of people symbolically made their own salt from seawater. The march launched a new grassroots effort to end colonial rule that lasted for almost two decades.

    —Finding Dulcinea