The Non-Cooperation Movement was launched by the Indian National Congress led by Mahatma Gandhi on 1st August 1920. It was a turning point in the history of the struggle for independence in India. The Non-cooperation Movement was an important part of the freedom struggle and hence, is important for the IAS exam.
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- The Home Rule Movement that was started by Annie Besant and Bal Gangadhar Tilak set the stage for the Non-cooperation movement. At that time, the extremist and the moderate factions of the Indian National Congress (INC) had united. Also, there was a brief period of solidarity between the INC and the Muslim League as a result of the Lucknow Pact.
- Further, there was resentment against British rule after the First World War. The people thought that in lieu of extensive support in the form of resources and manpower, they would be awarded autonomy after the war. But this was not to be and the people and politicians felt further disappointed with an unsatisfactory Government of India Act of 1919.
- Other causes include economic hardships to the common indian citizen, which the nationalists attributed to the flow of Indian wealth to Britain, the ruin of Indian artisans due to British factory-made goods replacing handmade goods, and forced recruitment and resentment with the British government over Indian soldiers dying in World War I while fighting as part of the British Army.
- Also, the passing of repressive acts such as the Rowlatt Act fuelled much anger and antipathy against the government. To make matters worse, the brutal massacre of unarmed people at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar confirmed to the people the absolute oppressive nature of the colonial rule. The people lost their faith in ‘British justice’ and resolved to take a firmer and more aggressive stance against foreign rule.
- The people also had to endure economic privations because of the war leading to bitterness against the government.
- The Khilafat Movement had been launched by the Indian Muslims to pressurise the British government not to abolish the caliphate in Turkey. Turkey had been allied with Germany in the war and was defeated. There was a proposal to dissolve the Ottoman caliphate in Turkey. The Khilafat leaders accepted the non-cooperation launched by Gandhi and lent support to it.
- The essential feature of the movement was that it was a peaceful and non-violent one keeping with the principles of Gandhi.
- The people were asked to give up their British-awarded titles and positions. They were also asked to resign their nominated seats in the local bodies.
- The people resigned from government jobs and refused to send their children to government schools and colleges.
- The people were asked to boycott legislative council elections and stop serving in the army.
- The people boycotted British goods and started using only Indian-made goods and clothes. Foreign clothes were burned in bonfires.
- It was also proposed that if the above steps did not bear fruits, they would stop paying their taxes as well.
- The Congress also demanded self-rule or Swarajya. The non-cooperation movement was an important step because it was for the first time that the Congress party used unconstitutional means in their struggle.
- Mahatma Gandhi’s call was for a nationwide protest against the Rowlatt Act. All offices and factories would be closed. Indians would be encouraged to withdraw from Raj-sponsored schools, police services, the military, and the civil service, and lawyers were asked to leave the Raj’s courts. Public transportation and English-manufactured goods, especially clothing, was boycotted. Indians returned honours and titles given by the government and resigned from various posts like teachers, lawyers, civil and military services
- Mahatma Gandhi assured the people that self-rule would be achieved in one year if the movement became truly successful.
- On 22nd February 1922, an incident occurred in Chauri Chaura, Uttar Pradesh which led to the movement being suspended by the INC. During a liquor shop picketing by the people, a police officer attacked a few volunteers. In response, the people went to the police station and set fire to it along with 22 policemen who were inside.
- Gandhi was disappointed that the non-violent nature of the movement was lost and suspended the whole movement (on 12th February 1922). He thought that the people were not ready for a non-violent movement. He went on a penance-fast for five days on account of his perceived culpability in the incident. He was also arrested for sedition and sentenced to 6 years’ imprisonment. He was released in 1924 owing to ill-health.
- His decision to suspend the movement that was going great guns led to a lot of protest and dissent within the INC. Many felt that a single isolated incident should not be the cause of the whole movement’s suspension. Leaders like C R Das and Motilal Nehru broke away from the INC and formed the Swarajya Party.
- Swaraj was not achieved in a year. Despite the movement’s failure to achieve swaraj, it was a remarkable one in that the people were united like never before. It was truly a mass movement involving a huge number of people, even in remote villages and towns.
- There was unity among Hindus and Muslims during this movement. The movement infused political consciousness among the people and they became aware of their rights. They were not afraid of the government and willingly thronged jails.
- Khadi was promoted as part of the movement, and Indian merchants saw a boom in their profits since foreign goods were boycotted.
- The movement established the INC as the most popular party and Gandhi as a leader of the masses.
- The movement shocked the British administration and uplifted the spirits of millions of Indians.
Also on this day
1672: English Laws were introduced by the East India Company and Courts of Judicature were established in India. 1916: Annie Besant started the Home Rule League. 1920: Bal Gangadhar Tilak passed away.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.
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