WHY GANDHIAN NON-VIOLENT “NON-COOPERATION KHILAFAT MOVEMENT” [1920-22] TURNED INEFFECTIVE?

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WHY GANDHIAN NON-VOILENT “NON-COOPERATION KHILAFAT MOVEMENT” [1920-22] TURNED INEFFECTIVE?

KHILAFAT NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT (Image: Himalia IAS)
KHILAFAT NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT (Image: Himalia IAS)

Post Great First World-War [1914-1918], India was socially paralyzed, politically destabilized and economically collapsed but it was striving hard to eradicate the intrinsically ruthless and extrinsically non-cooperative colonial empire from India and to ascertain ‘SWARAJ’. Gandhi who was emerging as a crucial nationalist leader, was internally triggered by the brutal repression of peaceful demonstrators of Rowaltt Satyagraha and the excruciating Jalliawallah Bagh Massacre [1919] and therefore gave up the British-conferred title of Kaiser-e-Hind back to colonial government. Realizing the necessity for adopting a more impactful strategy, Gandhi resorted to ‘POLICY OF NON-COOPERATION’ and started a national movement that focused on insistence on truth and renunciation of support from colonial government, popularly calledNon Cooperation Movement.

The prime objective of this article is to analyze the manifesto, effectiveness, significance, merits and demerits of Non Cooperation Movement and to broadly evaluate the reasons of its failure and its impact on the later nationalist movements launched by Gandhi.

KHILAFAT ISSUE & GENESIS OF NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT [1919-22]:

Aftermath the Great First World War [1914-1918] that had climaxed into the defeat of Ottoman Turkey allied with Germany and Austria, the victorious allies imposed the strict, harsh treaty [TREATY OF VERSAILLES] on the spiritual protector of Pan-Islamic tradition called Khalifa. This atrocious disregard of Khalifa ignited the sparks of outrage and fanned the anti-imperialist sentiments amongst Muslims who therefore openly pressurized the colonial empire to approve to the demand of Muslim sovereignty over Arabia, Syria, Palestine and Iraq; the restoration of Khalifa’s sacred and political powers; and defense of Islamic faith.

With this motive, the educated Muslim leaders like Shaukat Ali, Mohammad Ali, Maulana Azad etc. founded a All-India Khilafat Committee in Bombay in March, 1919 to counter-agitate against the British apathetic attitude towards Ottoman Turkey. Gandhi, the President of All-India Khilafat Committee recognized the importance of consolidation of Hindu-Muslim integrity that had been ensured under Lucknow Pact 1916 through Khilafat issue and therefore, he primarily sought support from the all-India Hindu-representative body i.e. Indian National Congress for conjoining Khilafat and Non-Cooperation Movement and maximizing the impact of nationalist movement. Meanwhile, the TREATY OF SEVRES was signed on May, 1920 that politically defenestrated Khalifa from Turkey and provoked Muslims’ Khilafat Committee to formally launch Khilafat Non-Co-operation Movement on 1 August, 1920.

Initially, INC leaders like Tilak [died on 1 August, 1920] and Besant were not sanctioning the Gandhian political philosophy of non-violence, non-cooperation and passive-resistance and they asserted that Khilafat or any religious issue couldn’t lead to the growth of nationalist movement but later with extensive support from Muslim leaders like Ali Brothers and Abul Kalam Azad, they adopted this strategic approach in special Calcutta Session in September 1920 and underlined the following propaganda:

MANIFESTO OF GANDHIAN NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT:

Manifesto of NON-COOPERATION Movement
Manifesto of NON-COOPERATION Movement
  • Boycott of foreign goods and services
  • Boycott of colonial government based-educational institutions
  • Boycott of law courts and rejuvenation of panchayat system for settlement of disputes
  • Boycott of Central and Provincial Legislative Council
  • Surrender of honorary titles and resignation from nominated/elected government positions
  • Promotion of Swadeshi concepts, clothes like Khadi, and practices like hand-spinning

After approving to the concept of Non-Cooperation, INC modified its political mode of expression and made crucial organizational changes in its structure for accomplishing ‘Swaraj’. At the Nagpur Session in December 1920, INC stepped towards such dynamics through following initiatives:

Ø  Congress changed it goal from “ATTAIMENT OF SWARAJ THROUGH CONSTITUTIONAL MEANS” to “ATTAINMENT OF SWARAJ THROUGH PEACEFUL AND LEGITIMATE MEANS

Ø  Gandhi declared that if non-cooperation was implemented completely, Swaraj would come within a year.

PUBLIC RESPONSE TO NON-COOPERATION KHILAFAT MOVEMENT:

Public Response to NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT
Public Response to NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT

To the Gandhian famous slogan during Non-Cooperation Movement “SWARAJ WITHIN AN YEAR”, the public response was incredible and absolutely mind-blowing because the spontaneous upsurge was almost equally powerful and much more nationalistic than Revolt of 1857: 

  • Thousands of students actively participated in Non-Cooperation Movement and boycotted colonial educational institutions and admitted themselves into Kashi Vidyapeeth, Gujrat Vidyapeeth etc. Massive student strikes were observed in Calcutta and Lahore.
  • The movement spread in Assam, Andhra Pradesh, United-Provinces and various cities ranging amongst peasants, planters, businessmen and women who all provided active support to this movement.
  • Women gave up purdah and stepped out of patriarchal protective walls to participate in this movement.
  • Middle Class had taken the Gandhian call of Non-Cooperation seriously in beginning but it faded later because there were no suitable alternatives available  to them.
  • Prominent lawyers like Motilal Nehru, C.R Das, and Saifuddin Kitchew also resigned from their positions and offered their support to the movement.

By 1920, Gandhi and Ali Brothers were incredibly educating the masses about their initiative and mobilizing this movement on large scale. The first-phase of Non-Cooperation Movement proved to be successful in Bengal and Punjab under the leadership of Lala Lajpat Rai.

During Second Phase, Indian National Congress decided to collect Tilak Swaraj Fund in Vijaywada Session, 1921 for installing charkhas and popularizing khadi and in March 1921, the fund oversubscribed and proved revolutionary that time.

During third phase, when the movement was escalating on geographical scale, Ali Brothers, in July 1921, called the Muslims to resign from Army as they claimed it UNRELIGIOUS. Immediately afterwards, Britishers arrested Ali Brothers for their provocative speeches in September, 1921. Amidst such charged circumstances, Britishers like always retorted to brutal repression of masses and violent methods. On 1 February 1922, Gandhi threatened to launch “CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE” from Bardoli if political prisoners were not released and press-controls were not removed but the warning clearly went unheard.

Gandhi, angrily wanted to launch Civil Disobedience along with other nationalists but then occurred a tragic Chaura-Chauri Incident on 5 February 1922 in Uttar Pradesh where a peaceful small demonstration turned into a violent clash with police. Gandhi, the ardent believer of non-violence and truth, withdrew the movement for the reason, he quoted in Young India- “I would suffer every humiliation, torture, absolute ostracism and death itself  to prevent the movement from becoming violent.” Additionally, the deficiency of alternatives to government-based services, the expensive Khadi clothing,  and the half-hearted middle-class support were also the factors that contributed to the failure of Non-Cooperation Movement.

BYPRODUCTS OF NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT:

  • MOPPLAH REVOLT in Kerala, August 1921: Upsurged as “an extension of Khilafat Non-Cooperation Movement” in August 1921, the Mopplah Revolt by Muslim peasants of Malabar region, resisted against the British colonial rule and feudal system that asked for high rents and infinitely exploited them. It gained political support of leaders-  Variyankunnath Kunjahammed Haji, Sithi Koya Thang, Ali Musliyar. In November 1921, 67 Mopplah prisoners died of suffocation when they were being transported in a closed freight wagon from Tirur to the Central Prison in Podanur. This event is called the Wagon Tragedy. Therefore, it later ended in communal violence between Hindus and Muslims.
  • AWADH KISAN MOVEMENT in UP: In the Awadh region, a powerful peasant gained momentum when Ramachandra was arrested and the Congress leaders, particularly Jawaharlal Nehru, became involved.
  • EKA MOVEMENT OR UNITY MOVEMENT in UP: Surfaced in Hardoi, Bahraich and Sitapur during the end of 1921, the Eka Movement by peasants, rose against thekedars and British Govt. due to high land revenue demand and high rent. When leadership was passed on to Madari Pasi, he was reluctant to accept non-violence. By March 1922, due to severe repression by authorities brought the Eka Movement to an end.

IMPACTS OF KHILAFAT NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT:

Women active participation in NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT
Women active participation in NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT
  • Though Non-Cooperation Movement failed to achieve its desired targets, but fortunately the movement proved a milestone in broadening the mass-base of movement- from educated Indian intellectuals and revolutionaries to the microscopic sections, thereby involving women, students, peasants, urban laborers, mill workers and small businessmen.
  • Non-Cooperation Movement politically educated masses and trained them to use indigenous products and thereby devastated British commercial and economic interests. According to statistics, the import of foreign goods halved between the year 1921 to 1922, from Rs. 102 crore to Rs. 57 crore.
  • The Gandhian lessons of non-violence and truth that were learnt in NCM became more visible during Salt Satyagraha, during 1930-34 when people strongly adhered to principle of non-violence.

REASONS FOR FAILURE OF NON-COOPERATION MOVEMENT:

The prominent reasons for the failure of Non-Cooperation Movement are enumerated below:

  • Mooplah Incident had caused severe distress amongst Hindus and Muslims. This incident significantly impacted the Hindu-Muslim leaders involved in this movement and hindered its progress.
  • Revision of Treaty Sevres restored the temporal rights of Khalifa and thereby rectified Muslim concern. Evidently, the larger-Muslim population detached themselves from this movement and weakened it.
  • Mustafa Kamal Pasha abolished the Ottoman Sultanate in 1922 which reduced the Muslim proportional participation in movement and thereafter he nationalized education, and developed agriculture, so to start a new era of modernization.
  • CHAURA-CHAURI INCIDENT realized Gandhi the need to call off the movement before it turn more violent. 
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Gaurav Rathi

An enthusiastic Delhiite, Gaurav Rathi is pursuing B.A. English Hons. in Delhi University. Rather than reading history, he likes re-inventing and re-approaching history and while not researching and writing blogs, he is reading novels or celebrating life with family and friends.

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