During the time of the First World War Mahatma Gandhi entered the political arena of India as a supporter of the British Government.
At the time of the outbreak of the First World War the British Government had sought the support and cooperation of the Indians and the people of India supported them whole heartedly on the call of Mahatma Gandhi, as a result of which the English Government bestowed the title of Kaiser-I-Hindi on Gandhi. Before taking part in the politics of India, Gandhi had attained tremendous success in South Africa as a satyagrahi.
In 1915 A. D. He founded an Ashram at Sabarmati near Ahmadabad Jail and afterwards in 1920 A. D., Gandhi, the supporter became the opponent of the British Government and he started a noncooperation movement against it.
Background of Non-cooperation Movement (Causes):
Till the outbreak of the First World War, Gandhi had complete faith in the justice and honesty of the English government.
Therefore, he made an appeal to the people of India for cooperation during the First World War but just after the end of this war some such events occurred in the political sphere of India which made Mahatma Gandhi doubt the integrity of the British Government and declared a nonviolent movement against it.
Really, it was a strange event that a person like Mahatma Gandhi who was a stanch supporter of the British raised his voice against them. Actually, the following reasons were responsible for launching a movement against the British Government.
During the First World War, the British Government had passed the India Defence Act in order to crutch the revolutionary movement in India.
But as they failed to get any success through this Act, so the Rowlatt Act Committee was formed in 1917 A. D. by the British Government which submitted its report in 1918 A. D. According to this report the Rowlatta Act was passed.
Under this Act anybody could be arrested on mere suspicion for an uncertain period. The Act was severely opposed by the Indians. According to Pandit Motilal Nehru, this Act ended the system of appeal, Vakil and Dalil. However, the Government passed this Bill in 1919 A.D. Gandhi arranged an All India strike against this Act and after training success he decided to launch a movement against it.
The Massacre of Jalianwala Bagh:
The people of Punjab also opposed the Rowlatt Act vehemently. Consequently. Sir Michael Odyer arrested Dr. Satva Pal and Saifuddin Kichlu, the two leaders of Punjab without giving the reason of their arrest and sent them to some unknown place.
Seeing the opposition of the people against this action of Odyer, the defence and security of the town was handed over to General Dyer on 13th April. 1919 on the occasion of Baisakhi festival, a function and general meeting was being organized at Jalianwala Bagh but in order to show his authority General Dyer ordered the soldiers to shoot at the people who were assembled there consequently, a large number of people were killed.
The military rule was also imposed in Amritsar in order to stem the opposition of the people. However, this massacre of Jalianwala Bagh was vehemently criticised and condemned though out the country. Thomas and Garrett have written that the incident of Amritsar was macabre event in the relations between the people of India and England. It was similar to that of the revolt of 1857 A.D.
As a result of the report of Hunter Commission which declared General Dyer innocent in spite of the unprovoked massacre he had ordered, the feelings of Gandhi were extremely hurt and lie decided to withdraw his cooperation from the British. Hence his outlook changed and he began to oppose them.
During the First World War Turkey supported Germany against the English, so the Muslims of India were afraid of the English who might take a revengeful attitude towards them.
Although the English Government had assured the Muslims of India that it was not going to take one such step as could be harmful to the interests of the Muslims, in the treaty of 1920 A.D. which was concluded between Turkey and England, some restrictions were imposed Turkey.
Turkey being a Muslim country, these restrictions was opposed by the Indian Muslims. Gandhi endeavored to establish Hindu-Muslim Unity in India on the basis of the Khilafat problem. He started non-cooperation movement in order to get the support of the Muslims.
Change in the Policies of the Congress:
Gandhi, the earlier supporter of the English Government said, presenting the proposal of Non-Cooperation in the Calcutta session, "The English Government is Saitan. Cooperation is not possible with it.
He is not sad of his shortcomings, so we have to adopt a progressive nonviolent non- cooperation policy for the fulfillment of our demands." This proposal was passed by the majority and it was fully endorsed in the Nagpur session of the congress Pattabhi Sitaramaya has remarked about the Nagpur session that a new era was ushered in the History of India from Nagpur session of the Congress weak and earnests prayers were replaced by responsible and self dependent spirit.
Repressive Policies of the British Government:
The attitude of the British Government remained quite negligent towards the victims of famine and epidemics, as a result the people began to hate the British Government and they decided to overthrow it.
Programme of Non-Cooperation Movement:
This Movement was bit different from the other movements which had so far emerged in India. It had a twofold programme; first part dealt with the boycott of the foreign goods and the second part contained the solution of the problems which emanated from the boycott. It had fourteen-point programme:
1. Surrender of all titles and Government posts.
2. Boycott of all functions organized by the British Government.
3. Boycott of Government Schools.
4. Boycott of Courts of Justice.
5. Giving up of the Policy adopted in Mesopotamia in connection with the Indians soldiers.
6. Non-cooperation with the Act of 1919 A.D.
7. Boycott of all foreign articles.
8. Establishment of National Schools.
9. Formation of Nyaya Panchayats.
10. Development of Small-Scale Industry.
11. Use of Swadeshi Articles.
12. Development of Communal Amity.
13. End of Untouchability and caste system.
14. Adoption of non-violence in the whole country.
Growth of Non -Cooperation Movement:
This standard with the surrender of the title of Kaiser-I-Hind by Gandhi. The advocates, Government officers, students and the general masses also followed this policy of Gandhi.
The year 1912 A.D. proved to be headache for the government and beneficial for the people persons like C. R. Das, Motilal.
Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lajpat Rai and Rajendra Prasad gave up their legal practices and joined the movement. The Government resoled to repressive measures for the suppression of this movement and a large number of its workers and leaders were arrested but the movement could not be suppressed; rather it received an impetus and spread all the more rapidly.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru has mentioned in his autobiography that the youths of the country used to sit down in the vans of the Government and refused to get down. The Police authorities were very much confused and perturbed to see this enthusiasm among the people of India.
On till November, 1921 A.D. when the prince of wales visited India, country to the hope of the people of England, the Indians showed him black Hags and a country wide strike was organized by December 1921 A.D. after the arrest of about 60 thousand people, Mahatma Gandhi authorised to launch the Civil Disobedience Movement in Ahmadabad session of the Congress.
Episode of Chaurichaura:
An encounter took place at Chauri Chaura in Bihar on 5th February, 1922 A.D. before the beginning of the Civil Disobedience Movement, between the Satyagrahis and the police.
When the police opened fire on the mob and killed some persons, the angry mob set the police station on fire in which two constables were burnt to death. This incident was against the nonviolent movement of Gandhi.
Hence, he declared the discontinuance of the Non-Cooperation Movement on 22nd February, 1922 A.D. Critical estimate of the Non- Cooperation Movement.
The people of India did not want that the movement should be suspended at this critical stage, hence they opposed the suspension. Even Lala Lajpat Rai and Pandit Motilal Nehru who were under confinement at that time declared this step of Gandhi to be improper and Subhash Chandra Bose commented that at the time when the enthusiasam and courage of the people of India was at its zenith, it was an unfortunate step to command them to leave the ground.
After the suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement the confidence of the people of India came to an end and various shortcomings began to be visible V.P. Menon has also remarked in this connection (hat if the movement of Gandhi had not been suspended at this critical moment when it was becoming a significant subject of worry to the Government then it was certain, the Government must have taken some steps to satisfy the people of India
Undoubtedly, the Non-Cooperation Movement of Mahatma Gandhi was a turning point in the direction of getting freedom for the country, which was based on truth, love and nonviolence. During this movement for the first time a sense of courage and sacrifice was tiscernible in the people.
Consequently, the spirit of nationalism was strengthened. Therefore Subhash Chandra Bose said that no doubt Gandhi showed a new path to the congress similar slogans were given out in different parts of the country and every where similar feelings seemed to be erupting.
The Significance of the English language diminished because the congress accepted Hindi language to be their national language. To sum up, we may quote the views of coupland who explaining the importance of Non-Cooperation Movement of Gandhi said that the deeds which were performed by.
Mahatma Gandhi, were not at all performed by Bal Gangadhar Tilak. He taught the people to advance towards the goal of independence and for this he led the country towards the sacred message of nonviolence in place of legitimate pressures, discussions and pacts.