What are the causes of the Non-Cooperation Movement?
The non-cooperation movement was initiated by the Indian National Congress (INC) under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership on 5 September 1920. The party initiated the Non-Cooperation Policy at the Congress meeting in Calcutta in September 1920. It signified a new chapter in the history of the struggle for Indian independence.
The movement emerged from the widespread uproar in India over the Amritsar massacre in April 1919, when several hundred Indians were killed by British-led troops. The anger was later exacerbated by outrage at the alleged failure of the government to take appropriate action against those responsible, especially Gen. Reginald Edward Harry Dyer, who commanded the troops involved in the massacre.
Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress from September 1920 to February 1922, the Non-Cooperation Movement was pitched in, marking a new awakening in the Indian Independence Movement. After a series of incidents, including the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, Gandhiji realized that the British had little hope of obtaining any fair treatment.
The campaign was to be non-violent and to consist of Indians resigning their titles; boycotting educational institutions of government, courts, government service, international products, and elections; and finally refusing to pay taxes. In September 1920, the Indian National Congress in Calcutta (now Kolkata) agreed on non-cooperation and launched it that December.
The central force behind the non-cooperation movement was Mahatma Gandhi. He issued a manifesto in March 1920 that proclaimed a non-violent non-cooperation movement ideology. Through this manifesto, Gandhi wanted people to follow the following Swadeshi principles;
i. Adopt Swadeshi patterns such as hand spinning & weaving
ii. Study well to upgrade oneself
iii. Remove untouchability from the community
In 1921, Gandhi travelled around the country outlining the tenets of the movement.
The Non-cooperation Movement in brief:
i. Essentially, the movement was a peaceful and non-violent uprising in India against the British government.
ii. As a mark of protest, Indians were asked to give up their titles and resign from nominated seats in the local bodies.
iii. People were forced to withdraw from their positions in government.
iv. It was also recommended through the movement that individuals would fail to pay their taxes if the measures above did not yield results.
v. Swarajya and self-government were also requested by the INC.
vi. Only entirely non-violent means will be used to meet the demands.
Factors which led to the Non-cooperation movement
The bitterness of the British: Indians thought that they would be compensated by autonomy at the end of the war in exchange for the substantial support of manpower and resources they had given to Britain during the First World War. However, the Government of India Act 1919 was unsatisfactory. In addition, oppressive measures such as the Rowlatt Act were also introduced by the British.
Home Rule Movement: Annie Besant and Bal Gangadhar Tilak launched the Home Rule Movement, setting the stage for the non-cooperation movement. The extremists and the INC moderates were united, and unity between the Muslim League and the Congress Party was also seen in the Lucknow Pact. The return of the radicals created a radical character for the INC.
World War I and the consequent economic hardships: India’s participation in the war caused people a lot of economic hardships. The prices of commodities have begun to increase, impacting the average man. Peasants also suffered because there was no rise in the prices of agricultural products. All of this culminated in frustration towards the government.
Jallianwala Bagh Incident: Amritsar had a profound impact on Indian leaders and people through the oppressive Rowlatt Act and the horrific massacre at Jallianwala Bagh. Their confidence in the British justice system was shattered, and the whole nation united behind its leaders who pitched for a more aggressive and strong stand against the government.
Turkey, which was one of the major forces, fought against the British during the First World War. After Turkey’s defeat, it was suggested that the Ottoman caliphate be abolished. Muslims viewed the Turkish Sultan as their caliph (religious head of the Muslims).
Mahatma Gandhi had the support to convince the British government not to dismantle the Caliphate. The leaders of this movement accepted Gandhiji’s non-cooperation movement and led a joint demonstration against the British.
The government, faced with a united Indian front for the first time, was visibly shaken in 1921, but moderate opinion was alarmed by a rebellion by the Muslim Moplahs of Kerala (Southwest India) in August 1921 and a host of violent outbreaks. Gandhi himself called off the movement after an angry mob murdered police officers in the town of Chauri Chaura (now in Uttar Pradesh state) in February 1922.
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