The start of the 1920s disillusioned many Indians due to the violent events like martial law in Punjab, the Jallianwala Bag massacre by the general dyer, and the Rowlett bills. The Indian Muslims too were affected as the British had promised fair treatment to turkey after the war but had reneged on it. Furthermore, the hunter commission to investigate General Dyer’s actions exonerated him.
The Treaty of Sevres had completed the dismemberment of turkey and so the khilafat committee was formed by Ali brothers Maulana Mohammad Ali and Shaukat Ali and got a recommendation from Gandhiji to start a Satyagraha. The khilafat movement was later merged by Gandhiji with the non-cooperation movement.
The congress too agreed to consider non-cooperation with the government as it too was disillusioned by the failed promises of reform of Montague Chelmsford committee 1919 [Govt of India act 1919].
The movement was launched on 1 august 1920 and the congress too accepted it. The main program was to:
- Surrender titles and honors.
- Boycott government schools, colleges, courts, and foreign cloth
Resignation from civil service and non-payment of taxes was not covered initially but were kept for a later stage.
Strict non-violence, Hindu Muslim unity, the opening of national schools, and panchayats were encouraged to solve disputes in the movement. Revolutionary terrorist groups too agreed to support this movement. A new constitution of congress was made by Gandhiji to attain Swaraj by peaceful means. A working committee, provincial committees, and village-level participation were introduced.
The educational boycott was very successful. CR Das and SC Bose were at the forefront of the movement in Calcutta. Boycott of courts was less successful. The most successful item was a boycott of foreign cloth. A declaration made by Muhammad Ali [khilafat committee] that no Muslim should join the army was treated with contempt by the government and he was arrested. Subsequently, all major leaders made the same declarations and the government was forced to ignore this incident.
The movement was however becoming increasingly violent as people targeted the known loyalists of the British. The congress volunteer corps was becoming parallel police. The government now felt that its policy of ignoring protestors had failed and now started repressions by banning volunteer corps and raiding congress and khilafat offices.
Congress now persuaded Gandhiji to start the next phase of the non-cooperation which was civil disobedience. Gandhiji petitioned the Viceroy saying that civil disobedience shall be launched unless the restrictions on civil liberties were removed. This was ignored. Bardoli was chosen by Gandhiji to launch a no-tax campaign.
However, before this, a procession of khilafat and congress was attacked by police in Chauri Chuara. The angered mob lit the police station and burnt 22 policemen.
On hearing this Gandhiji decided to withdraw the movement.
The fallout of the Cancellation
Few leaders blamed Gandhiji was unilaterally withdrawing from the movement because of a stray incident.
It was argued that Gandhiji had done this for the safety of the property class as they would have to bear the brunt of the civil disobedience movement. Gandhiji was a pro-capitalist.
But the reasons might be different like the government could crush the civil disobedience movement under the excuse of a single violent incident or the movement was itself ebbing as the masses had no energy left to continue the movement or that one stray incident could have easily spread havoc in other parts or Gandhiji felt that the masses yet didn’t have the readiness for another campaign at such an early stage.