• Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi took control of the national movement in 1919. With this, the third and significant phase of Indian nationalism began and which continued till independence. Gandhian philosophy emphasized the strategy of Satyagraha and Ahimsa in fighting against the British. In his struggle against the racist authorities of South Africa, Gandhi evolved the technique of Satyagraha based on truth and non­violence.
  • Gandhi showed the people a new way of fighting injustice without violence, for what one believed to be right and he called this “Satyagraha.” The Swadeshi program of Gandhi was based on the belief that political freedom was closely liked, with social and economic changes and it meant the use of things belonging to one’s own country partic­ularly stressing the replacement of foreign machine-made goods with Indian handmade cloth. Gandhian philosophy consisted non-violent resistance and, when applied to the Indian scene, it served to bring millions of people into the National movement.

Background of Khalifat—Non-Cooperation Programme:

  • During 1919-22, the British were opposed through two mass movements—the Khilafat and Non-Cooperation. Though the two movements emerged from separate issues, they adopted a common programme of action—that of non-violent non- cooperation.
  • The Khilafat issue was not directly linked to Indian politics but it provided the immediate background to the movement and gave an added advantage of cementing Hindu-Muslim unity against the British.
  • The background to the two movements was provided by a series of events after the First World War which belied all hopes of the Government’s generosity towards the Indian subjects.

The year 1919 saw a strong feeling of discontent among all sections of Indians for various reasons:

  • The economic situation of the country in the post-War years had become alarming with a rise in prices of commodities, decrease in production of Indian industries, increase in 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.
  • The Rowlatt Act, the imposition of martial law in Punjab and the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre exposed the brutal and uncivilised face of the foreign rule.
  • The Hunter Commission on the Punjab atrocities proved to be eyewash. In fact, the House of Lords (of the British Parliament) endorsed General Dyer’s action and the British public showed solidarity with General Dyer by helping The Morning Post collect 30,000 pounds for him.
  • The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms with their ill- conceived scheme of Dyarchy failed to satisfy the rising demand of the Indians for self-government.

The post-First World War period also saw the preparation of the ground for common political action by Hindus and Muslims:

  • The Lucknow Pact (1916) had stimulated Congress- Muslim League cooperation;
  • The Rowlatt Act agitation brought Hindus and Muslims, and also other sections of the society, together;
  • Radical nationalist Muslims like Mohammad Ali, Abul Kalam Azad, Hakim Ajmal Khan and Hasan Imam had now become more influential than the conservative Aligarh school elements who had dominated the League earlier. The younger elements advocated militant nationalism and active participation in the nationalist movement. They had strong anti-imperialist sentiments.
  • In this atmosphere emerged the Khilafat issue around which developed the historic Non-Cooperation Movement.The Khilafat movement (1919–1924) was a pan-Islamic, political protest campaign launched by Muslims in British India to influence the British government and to protect the Ottoman Empire during the aftermath of World War I. It won the support of Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress.

The Khilafat Issue:

  • The Khilafat issue paved the way for the consolidation of the emergence of a radical nationalist trend among the younger generation of Muslims and the section of traditional Muslim scholars who were becoming increasingly critical of the British rule. This time, they were angered by the treatment meted out to Turkey by the British after the First World War.
  • The Muslims in India, as the Muslims all over the world, regarded the sultan of Turkey as their spiritual leader, Khalifa, so naturally their sympathies were with Turkey. During the War, Turkey had allied with Germany and Austria against the British.
  • When the War ended, the British took a stern attitude towards Turkey— Turkey(Ottoman Empire) was dismembered and the Khalifa removed from power after the Armistice of Mudros of October 1918 with the military occupation of Istanbul and Treaty of Versailles(1919). The movement gained force after the Treaty of Sèvres(August 1920) which imposed the partitioning of the Ottoman Empire and gave Greece a powerful position in Anatolia, to the distress of the Turks.This incensed Muslims all over the world.
  • In India, Ali Brothers Mohammad Ali Jauhar and Shaukat Ali )along with some other Muslim leaders such as Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari. Raees-ul-Muhajireen Barrister Jan Muhammad Junejo, Hasrat Mohani, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Dr. Hakim Ajmal Khan joined hands a created an All India Khilafat Committee, at Lucknow in 1919 with Seth Chotani as president. It had two main demands, which were never accepted:
    1. Caliph Sultan must retain sufficient territories so that he is able to defend the Islamic Faith.
    2. The places which are called Jazirat-ul-arab, including the Arabia, Syria, Iraq and Palestine must remain under Muslim suzerainty.
  • October 17, 1919 was observed as Khilafat Day. The Hindus also joined hands with the Muslims and a strike was called for.

Development of the Khalifat—Non-Cooperation Programme:

  • For some time, the Khilafat leaders limited their actions to meetings, petitions, deputations in favour of the Khilafat. Later, however, a militant trend emerged, demanding an active agitation such as stopping all cooperation with the British.
  • For Hindu Muslim unity in political action, Swami Shradhanand of Arya Samaj was asked by Muslims to preach from pulpit of Jama Masjid at Delhi while Dr. Kitchlu, a Muslim, was given the keys of the Golden Temple of Amritsar.
  • Thus, at the All India Khilafat Conference held in Delhi in November 1919, a call was made for boycott of British goods.and later a Khilafat Manifesto was published which called upon the British to protect the Caliphate. The Khilafat leaders also clearly spelt out that unless peace terms after the War were favourable to Turkey they would stop all cooperation with the Government.
  • Again March 19 1920 was observed as Khilafat Day and following that there was an all party conference in June 1920 at Allahabad. The agenda of the Non-cooperation Movement was finalized. The agenda was:
    1. Boycott of the Titles conferred by the Government
    2. Boycott of civil services, army and police and all other Government offices.
    3. Non-payment of taxes to the government.
  • In 1920, Delhi session of All India Khilafat Committee was addresed by Shankaracharya o Puri. Gandhi, who was the president of the this Committee, saw in the issue a platform from which mass and united non- cooperation could be declared against the Government.

Congress Stand on Khilafat Question:

  • It was quite clear that the support of the Congress was essential for the Khilafat movement to succeed. However, although Gandhi was in favour of launching Satyagraha and non-cooperation against the Government on the Khilafat issue, the Congress was not united on this form of political action.
  • Tilak was opposed to having an alliance with Muslim leaders over a religious issue and he was also sceptical of Satyagraha as an instrument of politics. Gandhi made a concerted bid to convince Tilak of the virtues of Satyagraha and of the expediency of an alliance with the Muslim community over the Khilafat issue.
  • There was opposition to some of the other provisions of the Gandhi’s non-cooperation programme also, such as boycott of councils.
  • Later, however, Gandhi was able to them get the approval of the Congress for his programme of political action and the Congress felt inclined to support a non-cooperation programme on the Khilafat question because—
  1. It was felt that this was a golden opportunity to cement Hindu-Muslim unity and to bring Muslim masses into the national movement; now different sections of society—Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, peasants, artisans, capitalists, tribals, women, students—could come into the national movement by fighting for their own rights and realising that the colonial rule was opposed to them;
  2. The Congress was losing faith in constitutional struggle, especially after the Punjab incidents and the blatantly partisan Hunter Commission Report;
  3. The Congress was aware that the masses were eager to give expression to their discontent.

Muslim League Support to Congress:

  • The Muslim League also decided to give full support to the Congress and its agitation on political questions.
  • In early 1920, a joint Hindu-Muslim deputation was sent to the viceroy to seek redress of grievances on the issue of Khilafat, but the mission proved abortive.

Next developments:

  • In February 1920, Gandhi announced that the issues of the Punjab wrongs and constitutional advance had been overshadowed by the Khilafat question and that he would soon lead a movement of non-cooperation if the terms of the peace treaty failed to satisfy the Indian Muslims.
  • The Treaty of Sevres with Turkey, signed in May 1920, completely dismembered Turkey.
  • An all-party conference at Allahabad in June 1920 approved a programme of boycott of schools, colleges and law courts, and asked Gandhi to lead it.
  • On August 31, 1920 the Khilafat Committee started a campaign of non-cooperation and the movement was formally launched. (Tilak had, incidentally, had just died.)
  • On September 1920, at a special session in Calcutta, the Congress approved a non-cooperation programme till the Punjab and Khilafat wrongs were removed and swaraj was established.The programme was to include:
  1. Boycott of government schools and colleges;
  2. Boycott of law courts and dispensation of justice through Panchayats instead;
  3. Boycott of Legislative Councils; (there were some differences over this as some leaders like C.R. Das were not willing to include a boycott of councils, but bowed to Congress discipline; these leaders boycotted elections held in November 1920 and the majority of the voters too stayed away);
  4. Boycott of foreign cloth and use of khadi instead; also practice of hand-spinning to be done;
  5. Renunciation of government honours and titles;
  6. The second phase could include mass civil disobedience including resignation from government service, and non-payment of taxes.
  7. Constructive Programme: During the movement, the participants were supposed to work for Hindu-Muslim unity, Prohibition of alchoholic drink, Fostering of temperance, Establishment of national education institutions, collection of fund worth one crore rupee, removal of untouchability, all the time remaining non-violent.
  • December 1920: At the Nagpur session of the Indian National Congress:
  1. The programme of non-cooperation was endorsed;
  2. An important change was made in Congress creed: now, instead of having the attainment of self-government through constitutional means as its goal, the Congress decided to have the attainment of swaraj through peaceful and legitimate means, thus committing itself to an extra- constitutional mass struggle;
  3. Some important organisational changes were made: a Congress Working Committee (CWC) of 15 members was set up to lead the Congress from now onwards; Provincial Congress Committees on linguistic basis were organised; ward committees was organised; and entry fee was reduced to four annas
  • The Non-cooperation movement was undertaken to (a)restore the status of the ruler of Turkey (b) to avenge the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and other violence in Punjab and (c) to secure Swaraj (independence) for India. Gandhi promised Swaraj in one year if his Non Cooperation Programme was fully implemented. The another reason to start the Non-cooperation movement was that Gandhi lost faith in constitutional methods and turned from cooperator of British Rule to Non-Cooperator.
  • Many groups of revolutionary terrorists, especially those from Bengal, also pledged support to the Congress programme.
  • At this stage, some leaders like Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Annie Besant, G.S. Kharpade and B.C. Pal left the Congress as they believed in a constitutional and lawful struggle while some others like Surendranath Banerjee founded the Indian National Liberal Federation and played a minor role in national politics henceforward.
  • The adoption by the Congress of the non-cooperation movement initiated earlier by the Khilafat Committee gave it a new energy, and the years 1921 and 1922 saw an unprece­dented popular upsurge.

Spread of the Movement:

  •  It was the first countrywide popular movement. Gandhi accompanied by the Ali brothers undertook a nationwide tour. About 90,000 students left government schools and colleges and joined around 800 national schools and colleges which cropped up during this time.
  • These educational institutions were organised under the leadership of Acharya Narendra Dev, C.R. Das, Lala Lajpat Rai, Zakir Hussain, Subhash Bose (who became the principal of National College at Calcutta) and included Jamia Millia at Aligarh, Kashi Vidyapeeth, Gujarat Vidyapeeth and Bihar Vidyapeeth.
  • Many lawyers gave up their practice, some of whom were Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, C.R. Das, C. Raja- gopalachari, Saifuddin Kitchlew, Vallabhbhai Patel, Asaf Ali, T. Prakasam and Rajendra Prasad.
  • Heaps of foreign cloths were burnt publicly and their imports fell by half. Picketing of shops selling foreign liquor and of toddy shops was undertaken at many places. Tilak Swaraj Fund was oversubscribed and one crore rupees collected. Congress volunteer corps emerged as the parallel police.
  • In July 1921, the Ali brothers gave a call to the Muslims to resign from the Army as that was unreligious. The Ali brothers were arrested for this in September. Gandhi echoed their call and asked local Congress committees to pass similar resolutions to that effect.
  • Now, the Congress gave a call to local Congress bodies to start civil disobedience if it was thought that the people were ready for it. Already, a no-tax movement against union board taxes in Midnapore (Bengal) and in Guntur (Andhra) was going on.
  • In Assam, strikes in tea plantations, steamer services, Assam-Bengal Railways had been organised. J.M. Sengupta was a prominent leader in these strikes.
  • In November 1921, the visit of the Prince of Wales to India invited strikes and demonstrations.
  • The spirit of defiance and unrest gave rise to many local struggles such as Awadh Kisan Movement (UP), Eka Movement (UP), Moppila Revolt (Malabar) and the Sikh agitation for the removal of mahants in Punjab.

Government Response:

  • Talks between Gandhi and Reading, the viceroy, broke down in May 1921 as the Government wanted Gandhi to urge the Ali brothers to remove those portions from speeches which suggested violence. Gandhi realised that the Government was trying to drive a wedge between him and the Khilafat leaders and refused to fall into the trap.
  • In December, the Government came down heavily on the protestors. Volunteer corps were declared illegal, public meetings were banned, the press was gagged and most of the leaders barring Gandhi were arrested.

The Last Phase of the Movement:

  • Gandhi was now under increasing pressure from the Congress rank and file to start the civil disobedience programme and the Ahmedabad session in 1921 (presided over, incidentally, by C.R. Das while still in jail; Hakim Ajmal Khan was the acting president) appointed Gandhi the sole authority on the issue.
  • On February 1, 1922 Gandhi threatened to launch civil disobedience from Bardoli (Gujarat) if (1) political prisoners were not released, and (2) press controls were not removed. The movement had hardly begun before it was brought to an abrupt end.

Chauri Chanra Incident and withdrawal of Non Cooperation Movement:

  • A small village named Chauri-Chaura (Gorakhpur district, UP) has found a place in history books due to an incident of violence on February 5, 1922 which was to prompt Gandhi to withdraw the movement.
  • The police here had beaten up the leader of a group of volunteers campaigning against liquor sales and high food prices, and then opened fire on the crowd which had come to protest before the police station.
  • The agitated crowd torched the police station. Twenty-two policemen were killed in the violence. Gandhi, not happy with the increasingly violent trend of the movement, immediately announced the withdrawal of the movement.
  • The CWC met at Bardoli in February 1922 and resolved to stop all activity that led to breaking of law and to get down to constructive work, instead, which was to include popularisation of Khadi, national schools, and campaigning for temperance, for Hindu-Muslim unity and against untouchability.
  • Most of the nationalist leaders including C.R. Das, Motilal Nehru, Subhash Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru, however, expressed their bewilderment at Gandhi’s decision to withdraw the movement.
  • Motilal Nehru and Chittaranjan Das formed the Swaraj Party, rejecting Gandhi’s leadership. Many nationalists had felt that the non-cooperation movement should not have been stopped due to isolated incidents of violence, and most nationalists, while retaining confidence in Gandhi, were discouraged.
  • In March 1922 Gandhi was arrested and sentenced to six years in jail. He made a magnificent court speech “I am here, therefore, to invite and submit cheerfully to the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me for what in law is deliberate crime, and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen.”

Why Gandhi Withdrew the Movement:

  • Gandhi felt that people had not learnt or fully understood the method of non­violence. Incidents like Chauri-Chaura could lead to excitement and fervour turning the movement generally violent. A violent movement could be easily suppressed by the colonial regime that could use the |incidents of violence as an excuse to use the armed might of the state against the protestors.
  • The movement was also showing signs of fatigue. This was natural as it is not possible to sustain any movement at a high pitch for very long. The Government seemed to be in no mood for negotiations.
  • In wake of these disturbances, the Ali brothers began distancing themselves from Gandhi and the Congress. The Ali brothers criticised Gandhi’s extreme commitment to non-violence and severed their ties with them after he suspended all non-cooperation movement.Although holding talks with the British and continuing their activities, the Khilafat struggle weakened as Muslims were divided between working for the Congress, the Khilafat cause and the Muslim League.The Khilafat leadership fragmented on different political lines. Syed Ata Ullah Shah Bukhari created Majlis-e-Ahrar-e-Islam with the support of Chaudhry Afzal Haq .Leaders such as Dr. Ansari, Maulana Azad and Hakim Ajmal Khan remained strong supporters of Gandhi and the Congress. The Ali brothers joined Muslim League.
  • 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. Thus, the Khilafat question lost its relevance. A European style of legal system was established in Turkey and extensive rights granted to women. Education was nationalised and modern agriculture and industries developed. In 1924, the caliphate was abolished.

Evaluation of Khilafat Non-Cooperation Movement:

  • The movement brought the urban Muslims into the national movement, but at the same time it communalised the national politics to an extent. Although Muslim sentiments were a manifestation of the spread of a wider anti-imperialist feeling, the national leaders failed to raise the religious political consciousness of the Muslims to a level of secular political consciousness.
  • Khilafat is regarded as a political agitation based on a pan-Islamic, fundamentalist platform and being largely indifferent to the cause of Indian independence.
  • Critics of the Khilafat see its alliance with the Congress as a marriage of convenience.Proponents of the Khilafat see it as the spark that led to the non-cooperation movement in India and a major milestone in improving Hindu-Muslim relations, while advocates of Pakistan and Muslim separatism see it as a major step towards establishing the separate Muslim state.
  • With the Non-Cooperation Movement, nationalist sentiments reached every nook and corner of the country and politicised every strata of population—the artisans, peasants, students, urban poor, women, traders etc. It was this politicisation and activisation of millions of men and women which imparted a revolutionary character to the national movement.
  • The movement was successful enough to break the back of British rule, and possibly even the catalyst for the movement that lead to independence in 1947.
  • Colonial rule was based on two myths one, that such a rule was in the interest of Indians and two, that it was invincible.
  • The first myth had been exploded by the economic critique by Moderate nationalists. The second myth had been challenged by Satyagraha through mass struggle. Now, the masses lost the hitherto all-pervasive fear of the colonial rule and its mighty repressive organs.


  1. If N.C.M had not been withdrawn and the violence upsurge were to be included, could the movement had brought independence then and there only ?

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