Though unwell, Gandhi went to the legislative assembly and watched the debates going on there on the proposed bill. He was convinced that the bill, which aimed at curtailing even the basic civil rights had to be fought against, at any cost.
He consulted some of his close associates and then wrote a letter to the Viceroy about the dangerous consequences of the bill if enacted. He also undertook to travel around various places of India consulting other Indian leaders about the seriousness of the situation the proposed enactment would bring about.
The Rowlatt Bill became law in March 1919, and the people heard about it in shock. Since it was not a local issue, and the struggle was to be launched on an all-India level, Gandhi sat thinking deeply about the course and shape the struggle was to take.
He knew that he had to arouse the spirit and enthusiasm of the people. But he should not allow the development into a flare up of violence.
And it occurred to him that what was called ‘hartal’ or a national observance of protest by closing of all the shops and all business establishments.
Gandhi campaigned widely about the basic principles of his satyagraha and insisted that the hartal should not violate any of the principles.