06 April 1919
On 6 April 1919, Mahatma Gandhi started a non-violent Satyagraha against the unjust Rowlatt Act passed by the British government.
Rowlatt Satyagraha Background
In this edition of ‘This Day in History’, you can read about the Rowlatt Satyagraha, its reasons and its impact, for the IAS exam.
- The Rowlatt Act was the popular name for the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act of 1919 passed by the British Indian government.
- This Act was termed the ‘Black Act’ by the Indian public because of its unjust and restrictive nature.
- The Act was passed by the Imperial Legislative Council on 18th March 1919. It basically extended the emergency provisions imposed by the 1915 Defence of India Act that was passed during the First World War.
- The Act gave the government the power to imprison any person suspected of terrorist activities for a maximum period of two years without trial.
- It also provided for preventive indefinite detention and also arrest without a warrant. Other provisions were juryless trials for forbidden political acts.
- Convicted people were to deposit securities upon their release and also refrain from taking part in any political, religious or educational activities.
- The Rowlatt Act also severely curbed the freedom of the press.
- All the Indian members of the Imperial Legislative Council opposed the bill. Despite this, the bill was passed.
- This Act which gave the police huge powers was opposed by the people. The Act was described as “No Dalil, No Vakil, No Appeal”.
- All Indian leaders opposed the Act. While the government was adamant about passing the bill, Gandhi thought that constitutional measures would be in vain and so he proposed a nationwide hartal in protest.
- This was known as the Rowlatt Satyagraha and April 6th was the designated date for the hartal to begin. People would refrain from going to work and hold meetings against the repressive act.
- The government clamped down heavily on the people. There were violent clashes in many parts. While the hartal was successful in Delhi, Punjab and a few other places witnessed violence. In the wake of the violence, the hartal was suspended by Gandhi.
- The protests were very intense in Punjab. Two Congress leaders Dr. Satya Pal and Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew were arrested.
- The army was deployed in Punjab where martial law was enacted. The infamous Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place in Amritsar on 13th April 1919. The people had gathered at the enclosed garden to celebrate Baisakhi and also to condemn the arrest of the two leaders. Colonel Reginald Dyer arrived there with his troops and without warning fired upon the unarmed crowd. According to the inquiry conducted by the Indian National Congress later, about 1500 people were killed that day.
- In March 1922, the Rowlatt Act and 22 other acts were repealed by the government.
Also on this day
1930: Salt Satyagraha: Mahatma Gandhi broke the salt law by making salt from the seawaters at Dandi.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.