The First World War, Khilafat and Non-Cooperation

Background:

  • With the end of 1st world war, the national movement in India witnessed some kinds of changes in its nature and method.
  • The economic expenditure was huge for India as a supplier of British empire in the war. to meet the expenditure, income taxes and custom duties were increased.
  • Forced recruitment into Army was done in villages. In 1918-1921, the crops failed in several parts of India that led to famine.
  • All these led to exploration of new mode of struggle against the British empire with the advent of Mahatma Gandhi in Indian National Movement.
Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi

Idea of Satyagraha:

  • The idea of Satyagraha had its origin in the anti-apartheid movement Gandhi led in South Africa before coming to India in 1915. It was a new form of agitation that was non-violent or peaceful.
  • According to Gandhi, when fighting against injustice, violence is not necessary if the ultimate goal is seeking truth.
  • The goal of the movement is to persuade everyone, including the oppressor, to find the truth which can only end injustice. Thus, truth must triumph, and for its triumph, one needs to be non-violent.
  • This idea of Gandhi gave India the tradition of non-violent movement. He exemplified it in Champaran movement of 1916-17, Kheda movement and movement in Ahmedabad.

Rowlatt Act:

  • In 1919, the Imperial Legislative Assembly passed Rowlatt Act which allowed Government to detain the political prisoners without trial for 2 years and thus suppress the growing political movement.
  • Mahatma Gandhi declared Hartal against the act on 6 April, a non-violent form of protest. Rallies were carried out in several parts of India.
  • The shops were closed down and workers went on strike. The Government clamped down on protesters in return.
  • On 13 April, the Jaliianwala Bagh massacre took place under General Dyer. This incident led to strikes and clashes with police in North India and several violent incident was recorded.
  • The growing violence forced Gandhi to halt the movement.

Khilafat Movement:

  • After Rowlatt Movement, Gandhi realized that to organize a broad based national movement in India, the participation of both Hindu and Muslim was important. So Gandhi decided to give support to the Khilafat issue.
  • After defeat of Ottoman Empire in 1st World War, the emperor was about to lose all the powers, who was considered spiritual head of Islamic World.
  • In support of the Khalifa, Khilafat Committee was formed in Bombay in March 1919 by Shaukat Ali and Muhammad Ali who talked with Gandhi about a mass agitation for the issue.
  • Gandhi saw it as an opportunity and declared in Calcutta session of Congress the non-cooperation movement in support for Khilafat.
(Shaukat Ali and Muhammad Ali, the pioneers of Khilafat Movement, source: Outlook India)
(Shaukat Ali and Muhammad Ali, the pioneers of Khilafat Movement, source: Outlook India)

Why Non-Cooperation? 

  • According to Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj, British took control of India with the help of Indians and survived because of their cooperation. If Indians stop cooperating, then British rule will not survive.
  • Gandhi’s Non-cooperation ranged from surrendering titles and awards given by Government to boycott of civil services, army, police, courts and legislative councils, schools, and foreign goods.
  • If Government uses force, full civil disobedience movement would be launched.
  • Although many Congress leaders were cautious about it thinking of popular violence, but in 1920 Nagpur Session, Congress adopted the program of Non-Cooperation.
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