5 February 1922
The Chauri Chaura incident
The Chauri Chaura incident is a decisive moment in the history of the Indian freedom struggle. Therefore, it is an important part of the IAS history syllabus. Also, this incident and the reaction of M K Gandhi give a deep insight into the workings of Gandhi’s mind and his ideology. So, IAS aspirants must know about this as questions can be asked in the UPSC exam prelims or mains.
On 5 February 1922, participants of the Non-cooperation movement clashed with police resulting in the deaths of about 22 policemen and 3 civilians at Chauri Chaura in the Gorakhpur District in the United Provinces (present-day Uttar Pradesh).
- The Indian National Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi had launched the non-cooperation movement on 1st August 1920.
- This was supposed to be a peaceful and non-violent movement wherein people would relinquish their government jobs and titles, stop going to government schools and colleges, not serve in the army and also refuse to pay taxes as an extreme measure.
- The aim of the party was Swaraj or self-government.
- The people readily participated in the movement and it saw partial success at least in the participation level.
- However, an incident at Chauri Chaura changed the course of the movement. On 2 February 1922, people were protesting against high meat prices at the marketplace. They were beaten by the police and many of their leaders were arrested and detained at the Chauri Chaura police station.
- The volunteers planned another protest against the police.
- On 5 February, about 2500 people marched towards the Chauri Chaura market in order to picket a shop selling liquor.
- One of their leaders was arrested. A group of people then marched towards the police station demanding the release of the arrested leader.
- The police fired shots in the air hoping to disperse and the crowd. However, the crowd became agitated and started pelting stones at the police.
- Things were getting out of hand and the sub-inspector at the station came forward and fired at the crowd killing three people. This incensed the people who then charged at the policemen who were heavily outnumbered. The police station was set ablaze by the people and all the policemen and officials inside were charred to death.
- The British government in response, imposed martial law in the area and arrested hundreds of people.
- Gandhi went on a fast for five days after the incident for his ‘role’ in the event. He withdrew the movement on 12 February officially since he felt that the people were not ready to take up a non-violent movement. He also felt that adequate training was not provided to the people to show restraint in the face of violent attacks.
- Many Congress leaders like Motilal Nehru and Chittaranjan Das were against the calling off of the movement as they felt that success was being gained in the country.
- The government responded promptly bringing to trial about 228 people in connection with the case. 6 of them died in police custody. After the 8 month-long trial, 172 people were sentenced to death.
- The verdict was met with severe resistance across the country. In 1923, the Allahabad High Court which reviewed the sentences, confirmed 19 death sentences, 110 life imprisonments, and the remaining were sentenced to long jail terms.
- In 1923, the British government constructed a memorial to the dead policemen.
- In 1973, a Shaheed Smarak was constructed in memory of the 19 executed persons.
Also on this day
2008: Death of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, spiritual leader who developed and popularised the Transcendental Meditation technique.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.