The period between 1938-39 was a turning point in the history of India’s struggle for Independence, as it had witnessed the Rajkot Satyagraha.
Mahatma Gandhi coined the term ‘Satyagraha’. Satyagraha refers to the use of non-violent methods of mass resistance to achieve political and social reforms, based on utmost belief or faith in the power of truth.
In Sanskrit, the word Satyagraha means ‘holding onto truth’.
It is important to shine a light on one of the foremost political movements modeled on the principles of Satyagraha, which had acted as a catalyst or trailblazer for numerous landmark events in its near future. The Rajkot Satyagraha was one such movement.
Reasons behind the Satyagraha:
Some of the reasons behind the populist struggle were the widespread public frustration against the princely ruler of Rajkot state, known as the ‘Thakore’, oppressive taxation regimes, curbs/restrictions on civil liberties such as freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, lack of access to education and other welfare services.
Most of the state revenue that was earned by imposing heavy taxes on its citizens, was spent on the upkeep of the luxurious lifestyles led by the princely ruler.
What aggravated it:
The situation was further aggravated by the fact that the princes had ‘British immunity’ that is they were given protection by the British from domestic and external turmoil or aggression. In exchange for this protection, the princes were expected to support fully, the imperialistic agendas of the British while ignoring the domestic struggles for freedom that were spreading, across their states.
This, in turn, made the rulers ignorant of their citizen’s needs and they started taking actions, purely on the basis of self-interest. The apathetic regime coupled with the poor living standards and constant suppression were some of the major triggers for the rebellion.
The British rulers had passed certain acts in the years before the movement, as the Government of India Act which gave some political rights to citizens but this freedom was restricted to the citizens of British Indian provinces only.
Why is Rajkot Satyagraha so important:
The Rajkot Satyagraha was an event of great significance, set against the larger backdrop of India’s struggles against the colonial regime.
Though the Rajkot Satyagraha was not the first political movement of its kind, it was definitely the first large-scale attempt in trying to achieve constitutional change, by means of mass civil disobedience.
The Satyagraha movement at Rajkot was also the first evaluation of the Indian National Congress’s will and determination to take the fight against the colonial powers to the princely domains of India as well as a test of the princely states’ willingness to be a part of the nation’s collective freedom struggle.
It was also a testimonial to the efficacy of trying Mahatma Gandhi’s methods in a decidedly different political landscape. The movement had also witnessed the durability of the British rulers’ support for the imperial princes against the backdrop of increasingly widespread nationalistic struggles.
It also allowed the self-centered tendencies of the imperialists to come to light as was evident in their selective non-interference in this struggle, giving the excuse of the princely rulers having autonomous authority.
Lastly, the movement set off a chain reaction, in that it had a mobilizing effect on many people in the country. Many had realized the importance of popular resistance and hence, a series of movements and resistances began cropping up in different parts of the country.
Written By: Srividhya Suyoj