UPSC History Indian National Movement NCERT Extracts - Struggle for Swaraj - I (1919-1927)

NCERT Extracts - Struggle for Swaraj - I (1919-1927)

Category : UPSC


Struggle for Swaraj - I (1919-1927)


  • The third and the last phase of the national movement began in 1919 when the era of popular mass movements was initiated.
  • A new political situation was maturing during the war years, 1914-18.
  • Nationalism had gathered its forces and the nationalists were expecting major political gains after the war; and they were willing to fight back if their expectations were thwarted.
  • The economic situation in the post-war years had taken a turn for the worse. The First World War gave a tremendous impetus to nationalism all over Asia and Africa. A major impetus to the national movements was given by the impact of the Russian Revolution.
  • On 7 November 1917, the Bolshevik (Communist) Party, led by VI. Lenin overthrew the Czarist regime in Russia and declared the formation of the first socialist state, the Soviet Union, in the history of the world.
  • The new Soviet regime electrified the colonial world by unilaterally renouncing its imperialist rights in China and other parts of Asia,
  • The nationalists movement in India was also affected by the fact that the rest of the Afro-Asian world was also convulsed by nationalist agitations after the war.


The Montagu - Chelmsford Reforms


  • In 1918, Edwin Montagu, the Secretary of State, and Lord Chelmsford, the Viceroy, produced their scheme of constitutional reforms which led to the enactment of the Government of India Act of 1919.
  • The Provincial Legislative Councils were enlarged and the majority of their members were to be elected.
  • The provincial government were given more powers under the system of Dyarchy.
  • The Governor could, overrule the ministers on any grounds that he considered special.
  • At the centre, there were to be two houses of legislature. The lower house, the Legislative Assembly, was to have 41 nominated members in a total strength of 144.
  • The upper house, the Council of State, was to have 26 legislature had virtually no control over the Governor-General and his Executive Council.
  • Some of the veteran leaders like Surendranath Banerjee were in favour of accepting the government proposals.
  • They left the Congress at this time and founded the Indian Liberal Federation.



The Rowlatt Act


  • In March, 1919 it passed the Rowlatt Act even though every single Indian member of the Central Legislative Council opposed it.        
  • This Act authorised the Government to imprison any person without trial and conviction in a court of law.
  • Unrest spread in the country and a powerful agitation against the Act arose.
  • During this agitation, a new leader, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, took command of the nationalist movement.


Satyagraha Against the Rowlatt Act


  • Along with other nationalists, Gandhiji was also aroused by the Rowlatt Act. In February, 1919, he founded the Satyagraha Sabha whose members took a pledge to disobey the Act and thus to court arrest and imprisonment.
  • March and April, 1919 witnessed a remarkable political awakening in India. Almost the entire country came to life. There were hartals, strikes, processions and demonstrations.


Jallianwala Bagh Massacre


  • The government was determined to suppress the mass agitation. Gandhiii gave a call for a mighty hartal on 6 April, 1919. The people responded with unprecedented enthusiasm.
  • A large but unarmed crowd had gathered on 13 April, 1919 at Amritsar (in the Punjab) in the Jallianwala Bagh, to protest against the arrest of their popular leaders. Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew and Dr. Satyapal.
  • General Dyer, the military commander of Amritsar, decided to terrorise the people of Amritsar into complete submission.
  • He surrounded the Bagh (garden) with his army unit closed the exit with his troops, and then ordered his men to shoot into the trapped crowd with rifles and machineguns.
  • Thousands were killed and wounded. After this massacre, martial law was proclaimed throughout the Punjab and the people were submitted to the most uncivilised atrocities.
  • Popular shock was expressed by the great poet and humanist Rabindranath Tagore who renounced his knighthood in protest.


The Khilafat and Non-Cooperation Movement (1919-22)


  • The nationalist agitation against the Rowlatt Act had touched all the Indian people alike and brought Hindus and Muslims together in political agitation.
  • The politically conscious Muslims were critical of the treatment meted out to the Ottoman (or Turkish) Empire by Britain and its allies who had partitioned it and taken away Thrace from Turkey proper.
  • The Muslims also felt that the position of the Sultan of Turkey, who was also regarded by many as the Caliph or the religious head of the Muslims, over the religious places should not be undermined.
  • A Khilafat Committee was soon formed under the leadership of the Ali Brothers, Maulana Azad, Hakim Ajmal Khan and Hasrat Mohani, and a country-wide agitation was organised.
  • The All-India Khilafat Conference held at Delhi in November, 1919 decided to withdraw all cooperation from the government if their demands were not met.
  • On their part, the Congress leaders, including Lokamanya Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi, viewed the Khilafat agitation as a golden opportunity for cementing Hindu-Muslim unity and bringing the Muslim masses into the national movement.
  • Gandhiji looked upon the Khilafat agitation as "an opportunity of uniting Hindus and Mohammedans as would not arise in a hundred years".
  • In June, 1920, an all-party conference met at Allahabad and approved a programme of boycott of schools, colleges and law courts.
  • The Khilafat Committee launched a non-cooperation movement on 31 August, 1920.
  • The Congress met in a special session in September, 1920 at Calcutta.
  • Lokamanya Tilak had passed away on 1 August, 1920 at the age of 64.
  • The Congress supported Gandhi's plan for non-cooperation with the government till the Punjab and Khilafat wrongs were removed and swaraj established.
  • The people were asked to boycott government educational institutions, law courts and legislatures; to give up foreign cloth, to surrender officially conferred titles and honours, and to practise hand-spinning and hand-weaving for producing khadi.
  • This decision to defy in a most peaceful manner the government and its laws was endorsed at the annual session of the Congress held at Nagpur in December, 1920.
  • The Nagpur session also made changes in the constitution of the Congress.
  • Provincial Congress Committees were reorganised on the basis of linguistic areas.
  • The Congress was now to be led by a Working Committee.
  • The Congress organisation was to reach down to the villages, small towns and mohallas.
  • Its membership fee was reduced to 4 annas (25 paise of today) per year to enable the rural and urban poor to become its members.
  • Muhammad Ali Jinnah, G.S. Khaparde, Bipin Chandra Pal and Annie Besant were among the prominent leaders who left the Congress during this period.
  • It was at this time that the Jamia Millia Islamia (National Muslim University) of Aligarh, the Bihar Vidyapith, the Kashi Vidyapith and the Gujarat Vidyapith came into existence.
  • The Jamia Millia later shifted to Delhi. Acharya Narendra Dev, Dr. Zakir Husain and Lala Lajpat Rai were among the many distinguished teachers at these national colleges and universities.
  • Hundreds of lawyers, including Chittaranjan Das, popularly known as Deshbandhu, Motilal Nehru, Rajendra Prasad, Saifuddin Kitchlew, C. Rajagopalachari Sardar Patel, T. Prakasam and Asaf Ali give up their lucrative legal practice.
  • The Tilak Swarajya Fund was started to finance the Non-Cooperation movement and within six months over a crore of rupees were subscribed.
  • Boycott of foreign cloth became a mass movement.
  • Khadi soon became a symbol of freedom.
  • In July, 1921, the All India Khilafat Committee passed a resolution declaring that no Muslim should serve in the British Indian army.
  • In November, 1921 huge demonstrations greeted the Prince of Wales, heir to the British throne, during his tour of India.
  • Thousands of peasants in U.P. and Bengal had responded to the call of non-cooperation.
  • In Assam, tea-plantation labourers went to strike.
  • A powerful agitation led by Duggirala Gopalakrishnayya developed in Guntur district.
  • The whole population of Chirala, a town in that district, refused to pay municipal taxes and moved out of towns. All village officers resigned in Peddanadipadu.
  • In Malabar (northern Kerala), the Moplahs, or Muslim peasants, created a powerful anti-zammdar movement.
  • On 5 February, 1922 a Congress procession of 3000 peasants at Chauri Chaura, a village in the Gorakhpur District of U.P., was fired upon by the police.
  • The angry crowd attacked and burnt the police station causing the death of 22 policemen.
  • Gandhiji was afraid that in this moment of popular ferment and excitement, the movement might easily take a violent turn.
  • He was convinced that the nationalist workers had not yet properly understood nor learnt the practice of non-violence without which, he was convinced, civil disobedience could not be a success.
  • He therefore decided to suspend the nationalist campaign.
  • The Congress Working Committee met at Bardoli in Gujarat on 12 February and passed a resolution stopping all activities which would lead to breaking of laws,
  • It urged Congressmen to donate their time to the constmctive programme – popularization of the charkha, national schools, temperance, removal of untouchability and promotion of Hindu-Muslim unity.
  • The Bardoli resolution stunned the country and had a mixed reception among the bewildered nationalists.
  • Subhas Chandra Bose, has written in his autobiography. The Indian Struggle : 'To sound the order of retreat just when public enthusiasm was reaching the boiling-point was nothing short of a national calamity."
  • The government decided to take full advantage of the situation and to strike hard.
  • It arrested Mahatma Gandhi on 10 March, 1922 and charged him with spreading disaffection against the government.
  • Gandhiji was sentenced to six years imprisonment after a trial which was made historic by the statement that he made before the court.
  • Pleading guilty to the prosecution's charge, he invited the court to award him "the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me for what in law is a deliberate crime, and what apperars to me to be the highest duty of a citizen".
  • In conclusion, Gandhiji expressed his belief that "non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good".
  • Very soon the Khilafat question also lost relevance. The people of Turkey rose up under the leadership of Mustafa Kamal Pasha and, in November, 1922, deprived the Sultan of his political power.
  • Kamal Pasha took many measures to modernise Turkey and to make it a secular state.
  • It may be noted at this state that even though the Non-Cooperation and Civil Disobedience Movement had ended in apparent failure, the national movement had been strengthened in more than one way.
  • A major result of the Non-Cooperation Movement was that the Indian people lost their sense of fear - the brute strength of British power in India no longer frightened them.
  • This was expressed by Gandhiji when he declared that "the fight that was commenced in 1920 is a fight to the finish” whether it lasts one month or one year or many months or many years”.


The Swarajists


  • Immediately, the withdrawal of the Non-Cooperation Movement led to demoralisation in the nationalist ranks.
  • One school of thought headed by C.R. Das and Motilal Nehru advocated a new line of political activity under the changed conditions.
  • They said that nationalists should end the boycott of the Legislative Councils, enter them, obstruct their working according to official plans, expose their weaknesses, transform them into arenas of political struggle, and thus use them to arouse public enthusiasm.
  • Sardar Vallabhbahi Patel, Dr. Ansari, Babu Rajendra Prasad, and others, known as 'no- changers’, opposed Council entry.
  • In December, 1922 Das and Motilal Nehru formed the Congress-Khilafat Swarajya Party with C.R. as president and Motilal Nehru as one of the secretaries.
  • The new party was to function as a group within the Congress.
  • It accepted the Congress programme except in one respect - it would take part in Council elections.
  • Even though the Swarajists had little time for preparations, they did very well in the election of November, 1923.
  • They won 42 seats out of the 101 elected seats in the Central Legislative Assembly.
  • In March, 1925, they succeeded in electing Vithalbhai J. Patel, a leading nationalist leader, as the president (Speaker) of the Central Legislative Assembly.
  • They filled the political void at a time when the national movement was recouping its strength. They also exposed the hollowness of the Reform Act of 1919.
  • Meanwhile, the nationalist movement and the Swarajists suffered another grievous blow in the death of C.R. Das, popularly known as Deshbandhu, in June, 1925.
  • The communal elements too advantage of the situation of propagate their views and after 1923 the country was repeatedly plunged into communal riots.
  • A group known as ‘responsivists’, including Madan Mohan Malaviya, Lala Lajpat Rai and N.C. Kelkar, offered cooperation to the government so that the so-called Hindus interests might be safeguarded.
  • Gandhiji, who had repeatedly asserted that "Hindu-Muslim unity must be our creed for all time and under all circumstances” tried to intervene and improve the situation in September, 1924, he went on a 21 days fast at Delhi in Maulana Mohamed Alts house to do penance for the inhumanity revealed in the communal riots. But his efforts were of little avail. The situation in the country appeared to be dark indeed.
  • Gandhiji wrote in May, 1927 : "My only hope lies in prayer and answer to prayer”.
  • Nationalism spreads when people begin to believe that they are all part of the same nation, when they discover some unity that binds them together.
  • This sense of collective belonging came partly through the experience of united struggles.
  • History and fiction, folklore and songs, popular prints and symbols, all played a part in the making of nationalism.
  • The image was first created by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. In the 1870s he wrote 'Vande Mataram as a hymn to the motherland.
  • Moved by the Swadeshi movement, Abanindranath Tagore painted his famous image of Bharat Mata. In this painting Bharat Mata is portrayed as an ascetic figure; she is calm, composed, divine and spiritual.
  • During the Swadeshi movement in Bengal, a tricolour flag (red, green and yellow) was designed. It had eight lotuses representing eight provinces of British India, and a crescent moon, representing Hindus and Muslims.
  • By 1921, Gandhiji had designed the Swaraj flag.
  • It was again a tricolour (red, green and white) and had a spinning wheel in the centre, representing the Gandhian ideal of self-help. Carrying the flag, holding it aloft, during marches became a symbol of defiance.
  • The British saw Indians as backward and primitive, incapable of governing themselves.

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