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Non-Cooperation Movement

Map of Non Cooperation Movement

Map of Non Cooperation Movement
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*Map showing the places where the Non Cooperation movement was carried out in India

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About Non-Cooperation Movement

The most significant event that unfolded in Indian politics in 1919 was the rise of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi's emergence on the Indian political scenario inaugurated the third phase of Indian Nationalism, during which the country witnessed the launch of a number of nationalist movements under his leadership. His unique political ideologies that basically represented an extension of his spiritual doctrines revolutionized Indian politics and played a major role in awakening the political consciousness of the masses. The National Movements launched under Gandhi's aegis gave expression to his celebrated political ideologies like satyagraha and ahimsa, and saw the country unifying to fight the single cause of India's independence. The three important milestones of India's pre independence history, namely the Non-Cooperation Movement, the Civil Disobedience Movement and the Quit India Movement, were launched and gathered momentum under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. The first among these was the Non-Cooperation Movement.

Before proceeding to an analysis of Gandhi's role in the Non-Cooperation Movement, it is pertinent to delineate the circumstances that shook Gandhi's confidence in the fairness of the British Government and transformed him into a non-co-operator. When Gandhi returned to India in the year 1915, he did not directly enter the political scenario, following the advice of his political mentor Gopal Krishna Gokhle. However, in the period between 1917 and 18, he rendered leadership to some local disputes and thus rose to prominence. He supported the cause of the oppressed cultivators of Champaran district of Bihar, associated himself with the campaign of the peasants of the Kheda district in Gujarat and also backed the textile workers of Ahmedabad, who were fighting for their wages. During this phase, Gandhi was loyal to the colonial government and even volunteered for the recruitment of soldiers to fight on behalf of the English, during the First World War. However, the Gandhi's role as a co-operator of the British government did not last long. The Rowlatt Act, followed by the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre and the Khilafat issue embittered Gandhi's feelings towards the British government. Gandhi stance changed to that of a non-co-operator of the British government and he soon after launched the Non-Cooperation Movement.

When Gandhi realized that there was no prospect of getting any fair treatment at the hands of British, he planned to withdraw the nation's co-operation from the government and thereby mar the administrative set up of the country. In this initiative, he expected to garner the support of the Muslims, who were nurturing anti British sentiments, on the Turkey-issue. Gandhi's main objective was to procure justice for the Muslims, through his method of passive resistance; satyagraha. In August, 1920, a hartal was organized in the entire country. The formal launch of the Non-Cooperation Movement in the August of 1920 followed the expiry of the notice that was sent to the Viceroy by Gandhi. He returned to the Viceroy, all the medals he had received in recognition of his war services from the British government.

Gandhi urged the Congress to launch a Non-Cooperation Movement on three issues, which were; redressal of the wrongs committed in Punjab that entailed the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the atrocities related to the marital laws, the Khilafat wrong and accomplishment of swaraj. In September, 1920, a special session of the Congress, presided by Lala Lajpat Rai was convened at Calcutta that sought to approve the scheme. Several legislations were passed by the delegates, wherein the British government was criticized and condemned for its incapability of protecting innocent lives in Punjab and failing to keep its promise in the Khilafat issue. In one of the resolutions, it was declared by the Congress that the people of India had no other option but to approve and endorse the non violent, non-cooperation policy inaugurated by Gandhi, till the wrongs were rectified and swaraj established. The Non-Cooperation resolution garnered mixed responses. Pt. Motilal Nahru and Anil Ali Brothers supported the resolution, whereas Mrs Annie Besant, Pt. Malaviya and Shri C. R Das vehemently opposed. They feared that large scale mass action against the British government would lead to violence on a wide scale, as occurred during Rowlatt satyagraha.

In December 1920, at the Nagpur Congress, the resolution on Non-Cooperation was repeated again. This session garnered greater support in favor of the resolution. The Congress redefined the resolution as the procurement of Swaraj by the use of peaceful and legitimate means. According to Gandhi, swaraj meant establishment of self rule within British Empire with complete freedom to secede any time.

The program and policies of the Non-Cooperation Movement that was adopted at the special session of the Congress in Calcutta and restated at the Nagpur session included; promotion of swadeshi and boycott of foreign made articles, surrender of honorary posts and titles, rejection of official Durbars, progressive rejection by lawyers of British courts, boycott of elections appointing new Councils, refusal by clerks and soldiers to serve in Mesopotamia and boycott of Government run and state assisted schools.

Gandhi played an active role in propagating the policies and programs of the Non-Cooperation Movement throughout the country. He along with other loyalists toured around the country in a bid to gather public support and mobilize the masses in favor of the movement. Following the persuasion of Gandhi to withdraw from state institutions and join national schools, several students left their schools. This period also witnessed the coming into being of numerous national educational institutions for the benefit of the students. Noteworthy among them were Jamia Milia University, Aligarh University and National College, Lahore.

In contradiction to the approach of non violence championed by Mahatma Gandhi, the Non-Cooperation Movement sparked off an incident of mob violence in Chauri Chaura in the United Provinces. A few police constables were killed, following an attack of a police outpost on February 5th, 1922. Disillusioned by this incident, Gandhi called for the suspension of the movement in 1922. This sudden suspension of the movement was not welcomed by the radical section of the Congress, like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose. Against the background of widespread dissatisfaction that was generated by Gandhi's decision to withdraw the movement, Motilal Nehru and Chitta Ranjan Das formed the Swaraj Party. The motif of the Swaraj Party was to enter the Council and then destroying the constitution from inside. Although, Gandhi initially opposed the policy of the Swaraj Party, he later gave the Congressmen the choice to affiliate or not with the British institutions.

It can be said without any doubt that The Non Cooperation Movement and the role played by Gandhi in it took the Indian freedom movement to new heights. It ushered in a new political fervor among the people and taught the Indians fearlessness. Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, Swarajya found popular expression and a patriotic zeal gripped the entire nation. The weapon of passive resistance or satyagraha, that Gandhi gave to the nation, emerged as the greatest asset of the Indians. An important program of The Non-Cooperation Movement was the promotion of khadi. Under the guidance of Gandhi, charkha and Indian handloom products gained back their glory. Many weavers were employed. The contribution of Gandhi to this movement and eventually to Indian Nationalism was that for the very first time he coasted the entire country bound by a single ethos. The freedom struggle assumed an all India character under his impeccable leadership.

Last Updated on : February 15, 2019