Ahmedabad Mill Strike (1918)

Ahmedabad Mill Strike (1918)

The textile mill workers in Ahmedabad went on strike in 1918 to demand economic justice after the mill owners stopped giving out plague bonuses.

Ahmedabad Mill Strike (1918)

The textile mill workers in Ahmedabad went on strike in 1918 to demand economic justice after the mill owners stopped giving out plague bonuses. The first hunger strike that Mahatma Gandhi organized was the Ahmedabad Mill Strike. Gandhi stepped in to mediate this conflict between mill owners and workers in Ahmedabad. He started a fast in order to coerce a compromise. He also backed the Gujarati Khaira peasants in their fight against the seizure of land revenue following the failure of their crops. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel left his lucrative legal practice at this time to support Gandhi. 

Ahmedabad Mill Strike - Background

  • The mill owners wanted to take the bonus in the dispute between the workers and owners of the Ahmedabad mill.
  • In order to deal with wartime inflation brought on by Britain's involvement in World War I, which doubled the prices of food grains, clothing, and other necessities, workers demanded a 50% wage increase.
  • The workers went on strike because the mill owners would only agree to a 20% pay raise.
  • As a result of the strikers' arbitrary dismissal and the mill owners' decision to hire Bombay weavers, the relationship between the mill owners and the workers deteriorated.
  • For support in their struggle for justice, the mill workers turned to Anusuya Sarabhai.
  • Gandhi stepped in during a dispute between Ahmedabad cotton mill owners and employees in March 1918 regarding the end of the plague bonus.

Ahmedabad Mill Strike - Features

  • Anusuya Sarabhai was asked for help in the fight for justice. She was a social worker and the sister of Ambalal Sarabhai, one of the mill owners and president of the Ahmedabad Mill Owners Association, which was established in 1891 to develop the textile industry in Ahmedabad.
  • Gandhi was respected by the mill owners and employees, so Anusuya Behn went to him and asked him to step in and help break the standoff between the employees and the employers.
  • Despite being Ambalal's friend, Gandhi championed the cause of the workers.
  • Gandhi advised workers to call a strike and ask for a 35% pay increase rather than a 50% raise.
  • Gandhi counseled the strikers to maintain a nonviolent stance. He began his first fast unto death to fortify the workers' resolve after talks with the mill owners fell through.
  • The fast did, however, exert pressure on the mill owners, who ultimately consented to refer the case to a tribunal.
  • The tribunal ultimately decided to end the strike and give the workers a 35% pay raise.

Ahmedabad Mill Satyagraha 1918 – The Context

  • A severe monsoon in 1917 ruined the season's crops and caused an epidemic (plague) that killed more than 10% of Ahmedabad's population.
  • From August 1917 to January 1918, the epidemic was in full swing.
  • Employers provided plague bonuses to textile factory workers during this time in an effort to assist the workers and prevent them from leaving for another location.
  • The mill owners did, however, announce their intention to stop the plague bonuses in January 1918 after the epidemic had passed. Due to Britain's involvement in World War I, the workers were forced to demand DAs, or dearness allowances, which represented 50% of their salaries and covered the cost of living during the war.
  • Relationships between mill owners and employees were damaged by the entire incident. Furthermore, the former abruptly fired the latter and brought in a new employee from Bombay. The workers were even more agitated by it.
  • Anusuyya Sarabhai, a well-known social worker, was consulted by the irate mill workers.
  • In order to resolve the ongoing conflict between the owners and the employees, Anusuyya Sarabhai then appealed to Mahatma Gandhi for assistance.

Ahmedabad Mill Satyagraha 1918 – The Highlights

The Ahmedabad Mill Satyagraha's high points include:

  • After the Champaran Satyagraha movement in 1917, the Ahmedabad mill strike grew to become the largest civil disobedience movement of its time. During this strike, Gandhi first used two nonviolent strategies: a hunger strike and satyagraha.
  • Ahmedabad belonged to the Bombay presidency when Britain was in power. During the British occupation, Ahmedabad's cotton industry prospered and the city became a significant commercial center.
  • The employees and owners of a cotton mill in Ahmedabad engaged in a labor dispute in 1918.
  • The mill's owners wanted to take away the employees' rightful plague bonus.
  • In contrast, the mill owners were only willing to offer a 20% pay raise, despite the workers' demands for a 50% pay increase
  • Gandhi led a nonviolent strike and went on a hunger strike to defend the rights of the working class.
  • Like other satyagrahas, the Ahmedabad mill satyagraha was successful.
  • When Gandhi agreed to take charge of the demonstrations, he sought to find a solution that would protect the dignity and interests of both the mill's owners and the workers.
  • Between the wage increase that workers wanted (50%) and the wage increase that mill owners were willing to offer (20%), he then began to demand a 35% increase for workers.
  • Gandhi planned peaceful demonstrations. It's thought that many stores would have been picketed if he hadn't served as a strike leader.
  • The completely non-violent nature of the protests, however, led to a 35% increase in workers' pay.
  • Gandhi first used the strategy of a hunger strike during the Ahmedabad mill strike, as was previously mentioned. The mill owners were stirred up by his fast, and they were forced to give in to the demands that were made.


Gandhi was introduced to the masses through these encounters, and he actively promoted their interests for the rest of his life. In actuality, he was the first nationalist leader of India to relate his life and way of life to that of the common people. He became known as the face of nationalist, rebellious, and poor India over time.