Women at the Shaheen Bagh protest site that has seen a 24x7 protest go on since mid-December 2019 | Manisha Mondal | ThePrint
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As Shaheen Bagh protests are disbanded, there is much debate on what it achieved and whether it lost value by the abrupt end because of the coronavirus pandemic. The anti-CAA protests at Shaheen Bagh have often been likened with satyagraha, a Gandhian form of non-violent protest. Now, it’s worth pondering how M.K. Gandhi’s famous satyagraha movement outcomes weighed against their direct and indirect goals.

Worth his salt

The Dandi March in 1930 was perhaps the most celebrated movement that Gandhi led during his lifetime: 385 km march from Ahmedabad to Dandi over 26 days against unjust imposition of salt tax.

But notice the difference between the material aim and outcome.

Just four days before the march, Gandhi declared, “I want to deprive the Government of its illegitimate monopoly of salt. My aim is to get the Salt Tax abolished. That is for me one step, the first step, towards full freedom.” (The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol. 43, Page 27)

Many leaders were not sure of the propriety of building national movement around an issue like salt tax. But in a letter to then-Viceroy Lord Irwin, Gandhi declared he would proceed with fellow Ashramites “to disregard the provisions of the salt laws”, which, according to Gandhi, were “most iniquitous of all (taxes) from the poor man’s standpoint”. (CWMG, Vol. 43, Page 7)

In March 1931, almost a year after the march and just days before Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed, Viceroy Irwin considered the issue of salt (tax) “(one of) the three matters of principle on which…accommodation was impossible”. (CWMG, Vol. 45, Page 237)

Gandhi issued a long statement to the press on the day the Pact was signed, but made no mention of the salt laws or salt tax in it.

A telegram to Provincial Congress Committees was sent the same day explaining the government order (presumably drafted by Gandhi, according to the book): “No organised disobedience of salt laws and no raids but villagers residing in the areas where salt collected or made are permitted to continue to collect or make salt for domestic consumption or sale in neighbourhood but no sale or trading outside.” (CWMG Vol. 45, Page 256)

Gandhi knew he didn’t achieve what he set out to do apparently, but he considered the Salt March successful in terms of the spirit it awakened in society and activated the masses for civil disobedience and sacrifices.


Also read: Delhi Police clears Shaheen Bagh protest site amid coronavirus threat


Gaining grounds in Bardoli 

The result of the famous Bardoli satyagraha, two years before the Dandi March, was not very different either.

Led by Vallabhbhai Patel under Gandhi’s guidance, people of Bardoli taluka in south Gujarat fought against the new 22 per cent increase in land tax. Local leaders briefed Gandhi that people were willing to pay according to the old assessment.

But Gandhi’s demand was one step higher. He wanted the people to not pay any land tax at all unless and until the new tax assessment measure was cancelled by the government. He said, “Declare the enhancement cancelled and then take the old assessment which we are prepared to pay.” (The Story of Bardoli, Mahadev Desai, Navajivan Publishing House, Ahmedabad, 1929, Page 28).

Vallabhbhai Patel, who had no base at Bardoli at that time, went there and led the satyagraha. He warned the people to think twice before taking the plunge into the satyagraha: “You must bear clearly in mind that except your capacity for suffering and grim determination, you have nothing to fight Government’s brute strength with.” (The Story of Bardoli, Page 35)

The satyagraha began with a pledge, recitation from Quran, a Kabir bhajan and Ram dhun. There were many atrocities, ranging from confiscating of people’s cattle to attaching land. But people remained defiant.

In the end, Bardoli satyagraha came to an end after nearly six months without fulfilling the original demand of complete rollback of the increased land tax. The enhancements fixed for Bardoli and adjoining Choryasi talukas were reduced from Rs 1,87,492 to Rs 48,648. (The Story of Bardoli, Page 219).

On the face of it, the satyagraha did not achieve total cancellation of the enhancement as a precondition. But other important gains were made. A sleepy taluka attained nationwide fame and has been compared with Thermopylae, the famed battle in which outnumbered Greeks fought bravely against the Persian army, by famous Hindi poet Maithili Sharan Gupt. Noted Hindi writer Munshi Premchand gave a touching tribute to the sacrifices made by the people of Bardoli, in his Hindi magazine ‘Hans’. Vallabhbhai Patel made a mark as brave, inspiring leader and came to national prominence as ‘Sardar’.


Also read: Shaheen Bagh marks janata curfew by holding ‘symbolic protest’, petrol bomb hurled at it


A successful Satyagraha

Gandhian method of satyagraha focuses more on the process, purity, sacrifice and cultivation of people’s power against the government’s brazen indifference.

Shaheen Bagh has been, by and large, a successful satyagraha. Gandhi might have approved.

The author is a senior columnist and writer based in Ahmedabad. Views are personal.

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29 Comments Share Your Views

29 COMMENTS

  1. My brother’s the costitution give right to disagree from government made law and it’s effect. Shahin bagh protester demand was only that in absence of any required document any citizen should not be marked doubtful citizen irrespective of cast creed and faith not on the basis of mistakes in name of any person be taken for doubtful citizen
    The protester of Shahin bagh were peacefully agitating in the boundry of constitutional right even without result the agitation is deemed successfull like Bardoli movement and salt satyagarh.

  2. Time has come now to think how to protect against any injustice, through the path of non violence, which failed to a committed ruler regime who have a specific agenda for rescheduling the social and religious textures of the country vis a vis constitution .

  3. Stop living in your delusional world.

    Salt March and Bardoli satyagrah were backed by the majority.

    Shaheen Bagh was a failed bullying act by the leftists and Islamists. Majority never supported them.

  4. Shaheen bagh protesters are true followers of gandhi ji. Sooner are later they will succeed in their mission. Most of the indians are with them.may be some anti nationals are defaming them

  5. You can’t compare salt march and Bardoli satyagraha with saheen Bagh agitation because salt march and Bardoli satyagraha was done for masses where as saheen Bagh for particular religion. Salt satyagraha didn’t disturb the public where as saheen Bagh made the life of South Delhi in a hell. Salt march was started by only few people and people joined in this movement slowly and in the end there were hundred thousand people, where as saheen Bagh started by many people and ended with few people. In salt satyagraha there was big leader our father of nation Mahatma Gandhi but in saheen Bagh it was leaderless. In salt march there was no women participation in the beginning but saheen Bagh was started by women. I think salt march participants were more educated and they knew what they are doing and what will be future of this satyagraha,where as Shaheen Bagh protestors were less educated and don’t know about the future of this satyagraha.

  6. A beautiful write up. And in the conclusion lies its summary,. It is the purity of methods and willingness for sacrifice and unflinching courage in the face of a disproportionately huge and powerful opponent. At the same time the success or further expansion of the movement also needs some Gandhi like creativity in raising the level of protest.

  7. The struggle has nothing to do with Gandham.
    It is based on the Islamic dichotomy of believers versus kafirs.
    The tone and the nature of the speeches made there reveal that.It was jihad by other means.
    They should understand that kafirs too are humans.In islamic countries like Pakistan kafurs are brutally persecuted. The Shahenbagh people want the jihad elements from pakistan to be given the same treatment as the victims of their silence. As during the Mugal rule , the Islamists had been restricting the freedom of Indian kafirs to move around the Muslim dominated area. Yet these guys talk about constitutional morality!

  8. Is it satyagrah ? No way , it is a coercive step to encroach other civilians’ right. A badaud comparison by the editor.

  9. जेहादी मानसिकता वाला ही ये कार्य कर सकता है जिसमें देश के 100% मानवता के लिए बना जायज कानून का इस तरह विरोध किया हो।

    इस विरोध प्रदर्शन में हजारों हजार बेकसूर नागरिकों के अधिकारों पर कुठाराघात किया जा रहा है सिर्फ और सिर्फ हिन्दूओं और देश की खिलाफत के लिए। वो भी सिर्फ देश में जिन्ना वाली आज़ादी के लिए। हलाला की औलाद ही ये महिमा मंडम कर सकती है।

  10. Comparing a pre-independence struggle, which was inspired by lofty ideals and true patriotism, with a sit-in protest motivated by religious fanatics was very unfortunate. How did the author ‘presume’ that Gandhi ‘would have approved’ of this farce?

  11. Your love for Gandhi, faith in Democracy and secularism are admirable. But I pity your utter powerty and irresponsibility towards doing your home work and fairness to journalism. I wish you had bothered even to dig an inch for what the term SHAHEEN. It stands for in the Pakistani Islamic parlance for Falcon (According to Allama Iqbal the author of this word, SHAHEEN represents Islam as the BAAZ i.e. falcon which soars in the sky to swoop on Hindu India to eat it up and break it.) Moreover, SHAHEEN BAGH is illegal name for colony ABUL FAZAL PART-2 which local Jehadis wanted to name as ALLAMA IQBAL COLONY but were refused by Muninicipality because of fanatic anti-India personality of Allama Iqbal ( yes same great poet who wrote SAARE JAHAN SE ACHCHHA HINDOSTAN HAMARA and then became champion of creating Islamic Pakistan). As far as SHAHEEN movement is concerned, it has been established as the woman branch of SIMI in 2008 and its equivalent in Pakistan was established much later in 2015 as AL QUAIDA SHAHEEN WOMEN FORCE headed by the wife of Al Jawahiri. About funding of SHAHEEN BAGH MOVEMENT in India, less said the better. 160 crore Rupees were put in it’s accounts which quickly got syphoned into many NGO groups, most of them registered in Delhi’s SHAHEEN BAGH. Sad, when you equate SHAHEEN BAGH with Salt Satyagrah, you simply expose that you don’t even understand Gandhi.

  12. Shedding croc rears? Aha! The protesters achieved nothing? They were there for ‘timepass’! It was fun for them, just sitting there , feasting on biriyani, and getting paid
    for the’ dramabaazi’ by evening ! ‘Sau chuhe
    khaanewaali billiyan ‘ going for haj..!!

  13. What .. shaheen terorrist are compared to Gandhi who wants to give citizenship to the oppressor ? 40000 pakistani was deported from saudia Arabia and Muslim of shaeen baug protesting the same terrorist and oppresor to be included in CAA ..wah Bhai wah

    • They are the cause of deaths in NE Delhi due to this meaningless anti CAA protests. Yes, they engineered deaths of others sitting pretty with PFI etc organisation money and Britain. They are liable to prosecution for trampling upon the rights of other not listening even SC.

  14. Shaheen Bagh protesters were paid people who were manipulated by vested political parties to protest against act which had nothing to do with them.
    They had nothing to loose, eat biryani and caused inconvenience to thousands of local people.

  15. Comparing Shaheen Bagh protest with Gandhi’s Satyagrah is height of fanciful imagination and rather distortion of facts……. a complete fallacy. Nothing can be more untrue. It is a typical example of complete misunderstanding of the subject and conspiracy behind anti-CAA protests

  16. Satyagraha – holding onto truth; Duragraha – clinging to the bad. I am sure the people of India know. Stop camouflage.

  17. The temerity to compare Gandhi’s Salt March to these morons at Shaheen Bagh is amazing.
    Truly you fellows will do anything to fill the pages.

  18. Shaheen Bagh has been, by and large, a successful satyagraha. Gandhi might have approved.
    CAN YOU GET MORE ABSURD THAN ATTRIBUTING SOMETHING AS STUPID AS SHAHEEN BAUGH TO MAHATMA GANDHI’S APPROVAL?.
    ANYONE WITH COMMON SENSE KNOWS THAT A LAW PASSED IN BOTH THE HOUSES BY MAJORITY CAN ONLY BE DECLARED AS UNCONSTITUTIONAL BY SUPREME COURT OR CAN BE REVERSED BY THE SAME PARLIAMENTARY PROCESS AS IT WAS BROUGHT IN.
    Neither the Salt March nor Bardoli satyagraha were against our own elected government so let be more sensible and logical.

    • They are the cause of deaths in NE Delhi due to this meaningless anti CAA protests. Yes, they engineered deaths of others sitting pretty with PFI etc organisation money and Britain. They are liable to prosecution for trampling upon the rights of other not listening even SC.

  19. Height of skew. It’s like imagining the scientist in Dr Abdul Kalam appreciating North Korea for its missile technology.

  20. Is it really valid what are you saying?Please read the constitution debates in which Dr. Ambedkar mentioned that now we have our judicial system then we have to drop such means Satyagraha and all other means of protests. India is as of now suffering from Corona virus, illiterate , and like you over-literate. Columnists like you are endorsing the anti legal system movement which one day surely harm you.

  21. Shaheen Bhag sathyagraha did not achieve anything because its aim was Political on false ground. Sathyagraha was instigated by some behind the screen elements who never came Publicly to defend the Purpose of Sathyagraha. Participants who participated were absolutely have no full knowledge of CAA,NRC etc & were not able to defend their Sathyagraha before Media & looked like pure illiterates/tutored Parrots in Media,Press & TV Channels. Bills are passed by Parliament with overwhelming majority. The issue is also at SC. Once SC gives Judgement, than thing will roll as per Law of Country.

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