The Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-1922)

There was widespread political discontent in India by the end of 1919, which culminated in the Non-Cooperation Movement under Gandhi.

It was the 1st Mass based political movement under Gandhi. The circumstances which led to it were as follows:-

1. The Rowlatt Act and the Punjab horrors had belied the wartime promises.

2. The reforms of 1919 with their ill-considered scheme of dyarchy had hardly satisfied few.

3. The Khilafat wrongs

4. Even those, who were willing to treat the Punjab horrors as ‘aberrations’ were soon disillusioned when they discovered that the Hunter Committee was eyewash.

Moreover the House of Lords had voted in favour of General Dyer’s action and the British public demonstrated its support by helping the Morning Post to collect 30,000 Pounds for General Dyer.

5. Masses became skeptical of any possibility of political advance through constitutional means. They were also facing considerable economic distress (rising prices & shortages, drought and epidemics).

Thus the stage was set for the merger of the Khilafat agitation with the Congress official protest movement popularly known as Non Cooperation Movement.

Demands of Congress:

Thus Congress put three demands before the British

1. Annulment of Rowlatt Act and remedying Punjab wrong

2. Remedying the Khilafat wrong i.e. British should adopt a lenient attitude towards Turkey.

3. Satisfying the nationalist urge for Swaraj.

Programmes:

The programmes of the Non-Cooperation Movement were:

i. Surrender of titles and honorary positions.

ii. Resignation of membership from the local bodies.

iii. Boycott of elections held under the provisions of the 1919Act.

iv. Boycott of government functions.

v. Boycott of courts, government schools and colleges.

vi. Boycott of foreign goods.

vii. Establishment of national schools, colleges and private panchayat courts.

viii. Popularizing swadeshi goods and khadi.

Launching of the non co-operation movement:

When the British refused to meet any of the demands of the Congress and the Party Conference was held at Allahabad in June 1920 and a programme of boycott of Government schools, colleges and law courts was approved.

The Congress met in a special session in September 1920 at Calcutta and agreed to start the non Co-operation Movement unless the British met the demands.

This was endorsed at Nagpur Session and thus Non Co-operation Movement started vigorously in January 1921.

Different Aspects of Non-Cooperation:

The Tilak Swarajya Fund was started to finance the Non-Cooperation Movement. The main emphasis of the movement was on boycott of schools, colleges, law courts and advocacy of the use of Charkha.

There was widespread student unrest and top lawyers like C R Das and Molilal Nehru gave up their legal practice.

The movement stressed on boycott of foreign cloths and boycott of the forthcoming visit of the Prince of Wales in November, 1921;

Charkha and Khadi was popularized and campaign to court arrest i.e. Jail Bharo was initiated by Congress volunteers. Swaraj or self-rule, redressal of Punjab wrongs & Khilafat issue were demanded through Non-Cooperation Movement

Negative Aspects:

1. Surrender of Government titles and honours.

2. Congressmen not to attend Government durbars, official functions etc.

3. Triple boycott of (a) Legislatures-Central and provincial (b) Government Courts (c) Government educational institutions.

4. Boycott of foreign goods.

Constructive Aspect:

(a) Use of Swadeshi goods.

(b) Hand spinning and hand wearing.

(c) Removal of social evils like casteism and untouchability.

(d) Tolerance.

(e) Hindu-Muslim unity

(f) Collection of money for Tilak Swaraj fund.

(g) Setting up national educational institutions.

(h) The charge of Dufferin that the Congress represented the microscopic minority could never again be levied.

Progress of Non-Cooperation Movement:

1. Gandhi returned his title Kaiser-i-Hind.

2. Congressmen boycotted election.

3. Boycott of Government courts.

4. C. R. Das and Motilal left their lucrative practice.

5. Students boycotted schools and colleges, law courts.

6. Bonfire of foreign goods.

7. Congress Ashrams were opened.

8. Prince of Wales visit boycotted.

9. Picketing of shops selling foreign cloth. Value of imports of foreign cloth fell from 102 crore (1920-21) to 57 crore (1921-22). Khadi became popular.

Different phases:

1. Marked by boycott of government schools colleges and courts

2. Concentration on raising funds for Tilak Swaraj Fund, enrolling common people as members of Congress and installing charkha.

3. Concentration on the boycott of foreign goods and on organization of volunteer bands to organize a nation wise hartal on the eve of visit of Prince of Wales.

4. Some militant sections demanded complete independence.

Start and Spread/Phases of Non-cooperation Movement:

1. The movement began with Mahatma Gandhi renouncing the titles, which were given by the British.

Other leaders and influential persons also followed him by surrendering their honorary posts and titles. Students came out of the government educational institutions.

2. The campaign for non-cooperation and boycott started with great enthusiasm from early 1921.

However, we find some changes in the central emphasis of the movement from one phase two other.

3. In the first phase from January to March 1921, the main emphasis was on the boycott of schools, colleges, law courts and the use of Charkha.

There was widespread student unrest and top lawyers like C.R. Das and Motilal Nehru gave up their legal practice. This phase was followed by the second phase starting from April 1921.

4. In second phase the basic objectives were the collection of Rs. one crore for the Tilak Swaraj Fund by August 1921, enrolling one crore Congress members and installing 20 lakh Charkhas by 30 June.

5. In the third phase, starting from July, the stress was on boycott of foreign cloth, boycott of the forth coming visit of the Prince of Wales in November, 1921, popularization of Charkha and Khadi and Jail Bharo by Congress volunteers.

6. In the last phase, between November 1921, a shift towards radicalism was visible. The Congress volunteers rallied the people and the country was on the verge of a revolt.

Gandhi decided to launch a no revenue campaign at Bardoli, and also a mass civil disobedience movement for freedom of speech, press and association.

But the attack on a local police station by angry peasants at Chauri Chaura, in Gorakhpur district of U.P., on 5th February 1922, changed the whole situation.

Gandhi, shocked by this incident, withdrew the Non- Cooperation Movement on 12th February 1922.

Response to the Movement:

1. The leadership of this movement in the initial stages came from the middle class. But the middle class had a lot of reservations about Gandhi’s programme.

2. In places like Calcutta, Bombay, Madras which were centres of elite politicians, the response to Gandhi’s movement was very limited.

Their response to the call for resignation from government service, surrendering of titles, etc.-was not very encouraging.

3. The economic boycott received support from the Indian business group, because the textile industry had benefited from the nationalists emphasis on the use of Swadeshi.

Still a section of the big business remained critical of the Non-Cooperation Movement. They were particularly afraid of labour unrest in the factories following the Non-Cooperation Movement.

4. Besides the elite politicians, the comparative new comers in Indian politics found expression of their interests and aspirations in the Gandhian movement.

Leaders like Rajendra Prasad in Bihar, Sardar Vallabbhai Patel in Gujarat, provided solid support to Gandhian movement.

In fact, they found non-cooperation as a viable political alternative to terrorism in order to fight against a colonial government.

5. The response from the students and women was very effective. Thousands of students left government schools and colleges and joined national schools and colleges.

The newly started national institutions like the Kashi Vidyapeeth, the Gujarat Vidyapeeth and the Jamia Millia Islamia and others accommodated many students although several others were disappointed.

6. Students became active volunteers of the movement. Women also came forward. They gave up Purdah and offered their jewellery for the Tilak Fund.

They joined the movement in large members and took active part in picketing before the shops selling foreign cloth and liquor.

7. The most important landmark of this movement was the massive participation of the peasants and workers in it.

The long-standing grievances of the toiling masses against the British, as well as the Indian masters got an opportunity through this movement to express their real feelings. Although the Congress leadership was against class war, the masses broke this restraint.

8. In rural areas and some other places, the peasants turned against the landlords and the traders. This gave a new dimension to the movement of 1921-22.

Failures of Non-Cooperation Movement:

1. Government made no amends for Punjab wrong.

2. Khalifat Grievances not redressed.

3. Gandhi’s promise of Swaraj within a year not achieved.

Success:

1. It was the first real mass movement.

2. Terror of British administration disappeared.

3. Gandhi emerged as the undisputed leader of the masses.

4. Khadi became symbol of revolution against the Raj.

5. Mass base of Congress was expanded. Decline NCM – Incorporated into the peasant struggle in V.P., tribal struggle in Rajasthan.

These did not adhere to the programme of Non-cooperation or to the policy of Non-violence.

Significance of the Non-Cooperation Movement:

1. It was the real mass movement with the participation of different sections of Indian society such as peasants, workers, students, teachers and women.

2. It witnessed the spread of nationalism to the remote corners of India.

3. It also marked the height of Hindu-Muslim unity as a result of the merger of Khilafat movement.

4. It demonstrated the willingness and ability of the masses to endure hardships and make sacrifices.

Non-Cooperation Movement-Tamil Nadu:

1. In Tamil Nadu the Non-cooperation Movement was strong during the years 1921-22.

2. Beginning in March 1921 there were campaigns of non-cooperation against the foreign regulations.

3. In 1921 and 1922 there were campaigns against the consumption of liquor in many parts of the province.

4. Temperance campaign was particularly prominent in Madurai.

5. Non-Cooperation had been a success in Tamil Nadu. C. Rajgopalachari, S. Satyamurthi and E.V. Ramaswami Naicker were the important leaders of the Non-Cooperation Movement in Tamil Nadu.

6. At that time E. V. Ramaswami Naicker was the President of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee.

7. C. Rajgopalachari stressed that the council boycott was a central part of the Gandhian Programme.

However, this view was not shared by Kasturi Ranga Iyengar, Srinivasa Iyengar, Varadarajulu Naidu and Vijayaraghavachari.