Congress supported the British government during the First World War. India contributed significantly to the War by supplying men and materials in the hope that self-government would be granted to them by the British government by the end of the War. However, after Britain won the First World War, it passed many Acts and laws (such as the Rowlatt Act) which aimed at suppressing the Indian National Movement. Congress thus decided to launch the Non Cooperation Movement.
Causes of Non Cooperation Movement
The Sultan of Turkey was regarded as the ‘Caliph’ or the religious head of the Muslims. Most of the Muslim sacred places were located within the Turkish Empire. In the First World War, Britain was fighting against Turkey. This led to a wave of indignation among the Indian Muslims. The Muslim population in India started the Khilafat Movement under the leadership of Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali.
They formulated three-point programs which included that the Ottoman Caliph should retain his empire, the Caliph should be left with adequate territories to enable him to defend the Islamic faith and the Arab lands should remain under Arabic rule. To Gandhi, the Khilafat Movement offered him an opportunity to unite the Hindus and the Muslims. He advised the Khilafat Committee to adopt a policy of non-cooperation with the government. The Khilafat Non Cooperation Movement thus started on 31 August 1920.
To suppress the rising national sentiments in the country, the government passed the Rowlatt Act which empowered it to imprison any person without trial.
The Act gave the government the following powers:
- To arrest a person without any warrant
- To try a person in seclusion o To suspend the right of Habeas Corpus
Mahatma Gandhi launched a movement against this unjust Act. Shops were closed and workers of the railway workshop went on strike. Rallies protesting against this Act were organized in various cities. Alarmed by the large participation of people in the movement, the government arrested prominent leaders from Amritsar, and Gandhi was barred from entering Delhi. On 10 April 1919, the police fired on a peaceful procession. People retaliated by attacking banks and railway stations.
Jallianwala Bagh Tragedy
On 13 April, a large crowd assembled at Jallianwala Bagh protesting against the arrest of some of their leaders who criticized the government for passing the Rowlatt Act. General Dyer blocked the exit of the bagh and fired on the pictorial representation of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre unarmed crowd. This resulted in the death of about a thousand people. The killing of innocent people at the Jallianwala Bagh shocked the entire nation. People in many north Indian towns protested against the brutal killings at Jallianwala Bagh. The government brutally suppressed these protests.
Objectives of Non Cooperation Movement
At the Kolkata Session in 1920, Congress passed the resolution of the Non Cooperation Movement. Its main objectives were
- To attain self-government within the British Empire
- To force the government to annul the Rowlatt Act
- To force the British to restore the old status of the Sultan of Turkey
Programes of Non Cooperation Movement
The Non Cooperation Movement emphasized the use of swadeshi and boycott programs. Some of these were
- To boycott government-run schools, colleges and courts
- To boycott foreign goods
- To resign from nominated seats in local bodies
- To surrender titles and honorary offices
- To popularize the use of swadeshi and khadi clothes
- To establish national schools and colleges in India as an alternative to government schools and colleges
- To unify the Hindus and the Muslims and to work for the emancipation and upliftment of women
Course of Non Cooperation Movement
People enthusiastically participated in the Non Cooperation Movement. Many eminent lawyers such as Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Motilal Nehru gave up their practice. Students left government-run schools and colleges. Congress boycotted the elections to the legislatures. People started spinning cloth by using the charkha. The Jamia Millia Islamia was established as a national university. Many eminent Indian personalities such as Rabindranath Tagore renounced their titles and awards. Shops selling foreign goods and liquor were picketed. When the Prince of Wales visited India in 1921, people boycotted his visit.
Repression of Non Cooperation Movement
The government severely suppressed the movement. All important leaders except Mahatma Gandhi were arrested and imprisoned. Processions and public meetings were banned. The Khilafat and the many volunteer organizations under Congress were declared illegal.
Suspension of Non Cooperation Movement
The Non Cooperation Movement was suspended by Gandhi because of the incident which occurred at Chauri Chaura in Uttar Pradesh. A procession of about 3000 people marched to the Chauri Chaura police station. After being fired upon, the mob turned violent and set the police station on fire killing 22 policemen. This incident shocked Gandhi as he wanted to gain freedom by following the methods of non-violence. He withdrew the movement on 12 February 1922. He asked the Congressmen to focus on constructive activities such as working for the removal of untouchability, Hindu Muslim unity, etc. Gandhi’s decision to suspend the movement was criticized by several leaders such as Motilal Nehru, Lala Lajpat Rai, and S. C. Bose.
Impact of Non Cooperation Movement
It made the national movement a mass movement as people from every profession and walk of life participated in the movement. It generated the desire for freedom among the people and inspired them to challenge colonial rule. It fostered Hindu-Muslim unity. It also promoted social reforms. The concept of Swadeshi and the boycott of foreign goods gave impetus to handicraft and local industries. The movement however failed in its main motives of attaining swaraj, obtaining an apology for the crime committed at Jallianwala Bagh, and solving the Khilafat problem.
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