Out of the several movements during India’s struggle for independence, the most famous and the most prominent one is the Non-Cooperation Movement. This movement marked several years of the Indian National Movement and was the first mass movement that was organized in India by Mahatma Gandhi. The movement was launched in the year 1920 and signified an important chapter of the struggle for freedom.
Mahatma Gandhi’s Role in Non-Cooperation Movement
Mahatma Gandhi played a very important role in the Non-Cooperation Movement, being the one to launch it and issued a manifesto in the year 1920 to encourage the people of India to:
- Adopt the principles of Swadeshi or one’s own country.
- Adopt practices like hand spinning and weaving.
- Adopt measures to eradicate untouchability from society.
The movement aimed to struggle for freedom by non-violent means and not cooperate with the British government in any manner. In the year 1921, Mahatma Gandhi traveled across the country to make the people aware of the tenet and the main motive of the movement.
Reasons That Led to the Launch of Non-Cooperation Movement
Several reasons led the political leaders in India to launch the Non-Cooperation Movement. These were:
Resentment after the First World War against the British
A major reason for the launch of the movement was the resentment against the British. During the First World War, the British got extensive support in the form of manpower and resources from India. The Indian leaders extended this support with the thought that after the war, India would get autonomy. However, this never happened and the British instead passed even stricter laws to curb the activities of the Indians. This further enraged not only the leaders but also the common man in India.
Home Rule Movement
The stage for the Non-Cooperation Movement was set by the Home Rule Movement that was started by Annie Besant and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. The unity of the moderates and the extremists as well as the solidarity between the Muslim League and the Congress was also enough to launch the movement.
The people of India were facing several economic hardships at the hands of the British. The prices of the goods began to increase and this affected the common man as well as the peasants. On the other hand, the prices of the agricultural products were not being increased and this led to resentment of the Indians who wanted to raise their voice against the British government.
Rowlatt Act and Jallianwala Bagh Tragedy
The Rowlatt Act was passed in 1919 that allowed any Indian to be imprisoned without trial. This act was not accepted by the Indians in a good spirit and was considered a means to take away their freedom and the anger of the Indians was at a great height and they wanted to protest against the British government. The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre was another tragedy that fueled the anger of the Indians. On April 13, 1919, a large crowd had gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar to protest against the Rowlatt Act. Thousands of people were killed mercilessly at the order of General Dyer. Martial Law was proclaimed in Punjab and people were subject to several atrocities. This was another blow to the Indians that raged them and the people wanted to amass and protest against the British.
The Khilafat Movement
The Khilafat Movement that was launched to protect the Caliphate received a lot of support from political leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and the leaders of the movement also provided the required support and agreed to adopt non-cooperation as a part of their agenda as well. This gave the required impetus to the Non-Cooperation Movement.
Features of the Non-Cooperation Movement
Non-Cooperation in simple terms meant not to cooperate and that is what the Indian leaders appealed to the masses to do and not to support the British government in any manner. The movement spread across the country and the people boycott the use of foreign goods, in addition to not attending schools and colleges and even not serving at posts in the British government. The following were the features of the Non-Cooperation Movement:
- The movement was essentially a non-violent means to protest against the British government in India.
- The Indians vacated their posts and relinquished their titles conferred upon by the British government as a means of protest.
- People were asked to resign from government jobs and even withdraw their children from schools and colleges that were aided by the British government.
- Foreign goods were boycotted and the use of Indian goods was encouraged.
- It was decided that no taxes would be paid to the government in any form.
- Indians were asked not to serve in the British army.
- The Indian National Congress demanded “Swarajya” during this movement.
The movement was an integral and a decisive step towards independence and it was for the first time that the Indian National Congress and its leaders were ready to forego constitutional means to achieve independence.
Suspension of Non-Cooperation Movement
The Non-Cooperation Movement, despite being a popular movement and the one that amassed a lot of support from across India was suspended when it was at its peak. This happened because of some violent incidents that took place in the country that were against the ideas of Mahatma Gandhi.
The Non-Cooperation Movement was rolled back in February 1922 in the wake of the Chauri Chaura incident. In Chauri Chaura, a violent mob attacked a police station and killed almost 22 policemen. This incident disturbed Mahatma Gandhi a lot who wanted to use only non-violent means to continue the movement and also launch the next phase of the movement. The reason Gandhiji gave was that the people of India were not ready to adopt the “path of ahimsa” or non-violent means to protest against the British and win independence.
Impact of Non-Cooperation Movement
The Non-Cooperation Movement, though suspended, did have a significant impact on the Indians, its political leaders as well as the British government. The movement shook the British government because of the extent of the movement and the mass support that the movement was able to get. The movement was able to:
- Enhance communal harmony between the Hindus and Muslims in India.
- Make the Indians aware of their political rights.
- Promoted the use of Indian weaved cloth, Khadi, because the Indians refused to work in British-run mills.
- Encourage young Indians to throng to jails willingly and fight for their rights.
- Reduce the import of sugar from Britain.
- Established the popularity of the Congress in India.
The Non-Cooperation Movement played a very important role in shaping the ideals of the Indians to fight for their independence and political rights.
- Non-Cooperation Movement was a mass movement organized by Mahatma Gandhi in 1920.
- The movement was a non-violent and peaceful means to protest against the British.
- Indians were asked to relinquish their titles conferred by the British government and also boycott foreign goods.
- People even withdrew their children from government-aided schools and colleges.
The main aim of the movement was to demand “Swaraj.”