Non-Cooperation and Khilafat Movement

Non-Cooperation and Khilafat Movement


  • Mass Movements: Two mass movements were organized by Indians in 1919-1922 to oppose the British rule in India the Khilafat movement and the Non-Cooperation movement.
    • The movements, despite having different issues, adopted a unified plan of action of non-violence and non-cooperation.
    • This time period saw the unification of Congress and the Muslim League. Many political demonstrations took place with the joint effort of both these parties.
  • Causes of the Movements: The following factors served as the background to the two movements:
    • Government Hostilities: The Rowlatt Act, the imposition of martial law in Punjab, and the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre exposed the brutal and uncivilized face of foreign rule.
      • The Hunter Commission on the Punjab atrocities proved to be an eyewash.
      • The House of Lords (of the British Parliament) endorsed General Dyer’s action.
    • Discontented Indians: The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms with their ill-conceived scheme of Dyarchy failed to satisfy the rising demand of the Indians for self-government.
    • Economic Hardships: The economic situation of the country in the post-war years had become alarming with a rise in prices of commodities, a decrease in the production of Indian industries, an increase in the burden of taxes and rents, etc.
    • Almost all sections of society suffered economic hardship due to the war and this strengthened the anti-British attitude.

Khilafat (Caliphate) Issue

  • Turkey’s Alliance against the British: Muslims all over the world, including India, regarded the sultan of Turkey as their spiritual leader, Khalifa (Caliph).
    • During the First World War, Turkey had allied with Germany and Austria against the British.
  • Discontented Indian Muslims: The Indian Muslims supported the government during the First World War with an understanding that the sacred places of the Ottoman Empire would be in the hands of Khalifa.
    • However, after the War, the Ottoman Empire was divided, Turkey was dismembered and the Khalifa was removed from power.
    • This angered the Muslims who took it as an insult to the Khalifa. The Ali brothers, Shoukat Ali and Mohammad Ali started the Khilafat Movement against the British government.
    • This movement took place between 1919 and 1924.
  • Khilafat Committee: In early 1919, the All India Khilafat Committee was formed under the leadership of the Ali brothers, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Ajmal Khan, and Hasrat Mohani, to force the British Government to change its attitude to Turkey.
    • Thus, the grounds for a country-wide agitation were prepared.
    • An All India Khilafat Conference was held in Delhi in November 1919 and the call was made to boycott the British goods.
  • Demands of Indian Muslims: In India, the Muslims demanded from the British that:
    • The Khalifa’s control over Muslim sacred places should be retained.
    • The Khalifa should be left with sufficient territories after territorial arrangements.
  • Congress’ Initial Stand: The support of the Congress was essential for the Khilafat movement to succeed.
    • Although Mahatma Gandhi was in favor of launching Satyagraha and non-cooperation against the Government on the Khilafat issue, the Congress was not united on this form of political action.
    • The Congress, later, felt inclined to provide its support as it was a golden opportunity to unite the Hindus and Muslims and to bring Muslim participation in such mass movements.
    • The Muslim League also decided to give full support to the Congress and its agitation on political questions.

The Non-Cooperation Khilafat Movement

  • Role of Mahatma Gandhi:
    • Beginning of the Gandhian Movements: The Non-Cooperation Movement was the beginning of the Gandhian Movement against the British.
    • Mahatma Gandhi returned to India in 1915 and started organizing peasant and laborers’ protests, such as those in Kheda, Champaran, and Ahmedabad, against the atrocities that were being inflicted upon them.
    • Beginning of Non-Cooperation: By the repressive measures of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and the denial of justice, Gandhi observed that “the only effective means to vindicate national honor and to prevent a repetition of the wrongs in future is the establishment of Swaraj”.
      • Consequently, the non-cooperation campaign was inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi on 1st August 1919.
      • The Movement was initiated in support of the Khilafat Movement.
  • During the Movement:
    • Spread of Non-violence Message: Millions of the countrymen stopped their work on that day as a mark of their support for Gandhi and as antipathy towards the Government.
    • Gandhi along with Ali-brothers made extensive tours to preach the message of national unity and non-cooperation with the government.
    • Boycott of British Titles and Goods: The program of non-cooperation consisted of a surrender of British titles and honors, a boycott of British Courts, Legislatures, and educational institutions as well as the boycott of foreign-made goods.
    • People lit public bonfires of foreign cloth. The imports of foreign cloth fell drastically between 1920 and 1922.
    • Promotion of Swadeshi: The boycott led to the promotion of Swadeshi goods especially hand-spun and hand-woven Khadi cloth, the removal of untouchability, the promotion of Hindu-Muslim unity, and the abstention of alcoholic beverages.
    • Charkha became a household article.
  • People’s Response to the Movement:
    • Students: Students in thousands left schools and colleges established by the Government and joined the movement in large numbers.
    • Middle-Class People: They initially led the movement but later showed a lot of reservations about Gandhi’s program.
    • Businessmen: The economic boycott received support from the Indian business group because they had benefited from the nationalists’ emphasis on the use of swadeshi.
    • Peasants: There was massive participation by the peasants. However, it further led to the confrontation between the ‘lower and upper castes’.
    • The movement gave an opportunity to the toiling masses to express their real feelings against the British as well as their Indian masters and oppressors.
    • Women: Women participated in large numbers, gave up purdah, and offered their ornaments for the Tilak Fund.
      • They took an active part in picketing before the shops selling foreign cloth and liquor.
      • The Tilak Swaraj Fund was announced by Mahatma Gandhi after one year of the beginning of the Non-Cooperation movement.
      • The Fund was a homage to Bal Gangadhar Tilak on his first death anniversary, aimed at collecting Rs 1 crore to aid India’s freedom struggle and resistance to British rule.
    • Government’s Response: The police resorted to firing which took the lives of a number of people.
      • Congress and Khilafat Volunteer Organizations were declared unlawful and illegal.
      • Public meetings were banned and most of the leaders barring Gandhi were arrested.
  • Important Personalities Involved:
    • Eminent persons like C Rajgopalachari, Vallabhbhai Patel, Gopabandhu Das, Ajmal Khan, Subhash Chandra Bose, and Jawaharlal Nehru joined the movement.
    • Motilal Nehru and Chitranjan Das also joined the movement by giving up their legal profession.
  • Withdrawal of Non-Cooperation Movement:
  • In February 1922, at Chauri Chaura, Uttar Pradesh, twenty-two policemen were brutally killed by a violent mob after the conflict between the mob and the policemen of the Thana.
    • The news shocked Gandhi too much. Not happy with the increasingly violent trend of the movement, he immediately announced the withdrawal of the movement.
    • Most of the nationalist leaders including C.R. Das, Motilal Nehru, Subhash Bose, and Jawaharlal Nehru, however, expressed their disagreement with Gandhi’s decision to withdraw the movement.
  • In March 1922, Gandhi was arrested and sentenced to six years in jail.

Causes of Failure of the Movement

  • No Negotiations by Government: The movement began showing signs of fatigue as it was not possible to sustain any movement at a high pitch for very long.
    • The Government seemed to be in no mood for negotiations.
  • Loss of Relevance of Khilafat Issue: The central theme of the agitation, the Khilafat question, dissipated soon.
    • In November 1922, the people of Turkey rose under Mustafa Kamal Pasha and deprived the Sultan of political power. Turkey was made a secular state.
    • A European style of legal system was established in Turkey and extensive rights were granted to women.
    • Education was nationalized and modern agriculture and industries developed.
    • In 1924, the Khilafat was abolished.
  • Lack of Active Response: In places like Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras, which were centers of elite politicians, the response to Gandhi’s call was very limited.
    • The response to the call for resignation from the government service, surrendering of titles, etc., was not taken seriously.
  • No Abstinence from Violence: People had not learned or fully understood the method of non-violence.
    • The Chauri-Chaura incident marred the spirit of the movement leading to the withdrawal of the Non-Cooperation movement.

Impact of Non-Cooperation Movement

  • Maximum Extent of the Movement: With the Non-Cooperation Movement, nationalist sentiments reached every nook and corner of the country and politicized every strata of the population: the artisans, peasants, students, urban poor, women, traders, etc.
  • Establishment of Swaraj and Swadeshi Institutions: National institutions like Gujarat Vidyapith, Kashi Vidyapith, Bihar Vidyapitha, the Bengal National University, Jamia Milia Islamia and the National Muslim University were established.
    • It gave birth to the strongest idea of having Swaraj, the love for the use of Khadi, and becoming a Swadeshi.
  • Instilling Unity among Indians: The country had been united by specific anti-feelings and grievances against the British projecting Gandhi as the only unchallenged leader of the century.
    • The Khilafat issue was not directly linked to Indian politics but it provided an immediate declaration to the movement and added the advantage of cementing Hindu-Muslim unity against the British.
  • Impacts on the Economic Front: Foreign goods were boycotted and the import of foreign cloth halved between 1921 and 1922.
    • In many places merchants and traders refused to trade in foreign goods or finance foreign trade.

Related Links: Swadeshi Movement