Non-Cooperation Movement (1920)

Gandhi during a meeting

The Non-Cooperation Movement marked a significant phase in India's freedom struggle, characterized by mass participation, non-violence, and the expression of people's discontent with British rule.

The Non-Cooperation Movement

  • Launched on 5th September 1920 by the Indian National Congress (INC) under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • A peaceful and non-violent protest against the British government in India.
  • Aimed to achieve self-government (Swarajya) and bring about significant social and political changes.

Mahatma Gandhi and the Non-Cooperation Movement

  • Gandhi played a central role in the movement.
  • In March 1920, he issued a manifesto declaring the principles of the non-violent non-cooperation movement.
  • Gandhi urged people to adopt swadeshi principles, practice hand spinning and weaving, and work towards eradicating untouchability from society.
  • He traveled across the country in 1921, explaining the movement's principles and gaining support.

Features of the Non-Cooperation Movement

  • Indians were asked to relinquish their titles and resign from nominated seats in local bodies as a mark of protest.
  • People were urged to resign from government jobs.
  • Citizens were encouraged to withdraw their children from government-controlled or aided schools and colleges.
  • A boycott of foreign goods and promotion of Indian-made goods was emphasized.
  • Elections to the legislative councils were boycotted.
  • Serving in the British army was discouraged.
  • If the above steps didn't yield results, people were prepared to refuse paying taxes.
  • The INC demanded self-government (Swarajya) as a major objective.
  • Non-violent means were to be employed throughout the movement.

Causes of the Non-Cooperation Movement

  • Resentment at the British after World War I: Indians expected autonomy for their support during the war but were disappointed by the Government of India Act 1919 and repressive measures like the Rowlatt Act.
  • Influence of the Home Rule Movement: The Home Rule Movement, led by Annie Besant and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, united the extremists and moderates of the INC, creating a more militant atmosphere.
  • Economic hardships due to World War I: India's participation in the war led to economic difficulties, soaring prices, and dissatisfaction among peasants.
  • Rowlatt Act and Jallianwala Bagh massacre: The repressive Rowlatt Act and the brutal Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar shattered faith in British justice, leading to stronger opposition.
  • Khilafat Movement: The Khilafat Movement, launched by Muslims to preserve the Ottoman caliphate, aligned with the Non-Cooperation Movement, adding strength and joint protests against the British.

Suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement

  • The movement was called off in February 1922 following the Chauri Chaura incident.
  • In Chauri Chaura, a violent mob set fire to a police station, killing 22 policemen.
  • Gandhi believed that people were not ready for non-violent revolt and suspended the movement.
  • Some leaders, like Motilal Nehru and C.R. Das, disagreed with the suspension and wanted to continue the movement.

Significance of the Non-Cooperation Movement

Though Swarajya was not achieved in one year as Gandhi had promised, the movement had several important outcomes. It was a truly mass movement with widespread participation across the country.

  • The British government was taken aback by the scale and intensity of the protest.
  • The movement showcased communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims.
  • It increased political awareness and fearlessness among the people.
  • Many individuals willingly went to jail as a form of protest.
  • Indian merchants and mill owners benefited from the boycott of British goods, promoting the use of Khadi (handspun cloth).
  • The movement established Gandhi as a leader of the masses.

Personalities Associated with the Non-Cooperation Movement

  • Mahatma Gandhi was the main force behind the movement and issued its manifesto.
  • C.R. Das played a significant role in introducing the resolution on non-cooperation in the Congress session in Nagpur in 1920.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru encouraged the formation of Kisan Sabhas (peasants' organizations) during the movement.
  • Subhash Chandra Bose resigned from the civil service and became the Principal of the National College in Calcutta.
  • Ali Brothers (Shaukat Ali and Muhammad Ali) played a key role in the Khilafat Movement and joined forces with Gandhi during the Non-Cooperation Movement.
  • Motilal Nehru renounced his legal practice in support of the movement.
  • Lala Lajpat Rai initially had reservations but later supported the movement.
  • Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel spread the movement in Gujarat.

People's Response to the Non-Cooperation Movement

  • People from various sections of society actively participated in the movement.
  • Businessmen supported the movement as the nationalist use of Swadeshi principles proved beneficial for them.
  • Peasants and the middle class found an opportunity to express their discontent with British rule.
  • Women actively participated in the movement and protested against British policies.
  • Plantation workers supported the movement by leaving the tea gardens.
  • Many individuals surrendered titles and honors bestowed by the British government.
  • People boycotted civil services, courts, and educational institutions run by the British government.

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