This abnormal humiliating treatment to Gandhi was nothing unusual. For the two lakhs of Indians who lived in South Africa in 1893 were subjected to all kinds of insults and indignities, and were described in the statute books as “Semi-Barbaric Asiaties”.
When the South African Government introduced a bill to deprive the Indians of their right to elect members to the Natal Legislative Assembly, Gandhi organised a campaign against it. Though the Bill was passed a new life was infused into the Indians under the leadership of Gandhi.
A situation developed in 1896 which was a turning point in his life during his stay in India in that year Gandhi had issued a pamphlet describing the humiliation imposed upon the Indians in the South Africa, which enraged the writes in that country.
On his return to Natal in December, 1896 Gandhi was informed, even before him and his family left the steamer that his life was in danger. Subsequently, he was advised to land at dusk when the port superintendent would escort them home.
But Gandhi refused to enter the city like a thief at dusk walked on foot. But as soon as he landed a crowd gathered round him and pelted stones and rotten eggs. But at last the wife of the police superintendent secured and saved his life.
But during the Boer War Gandhi formed an Ambulance corps to aid the British. His high hope was that his voluntary service would appeal to the South Africans sense of Justice and fair play and moderate the hostile sentiments of the whites to the Block Asiaties.
But Gandhi’s faith and loyalty was shaken by a mew Act which necessitated all Indians in Transval to get themselves registered with finger prints like criminals. On 11 September, 1906 Gandhi called upon the assemble people to resists the insulting ordinance. The people took an oath to resist the law at all costs.
This was beginning of the novel movement-Satyagraha in South Africa. The scope of the Satyagraha campaign extended to fight against two other disabilities namely, entry of the Indians into Transval and declaring all Indian marriages to be illegal. Women joined Satyagraha and a large number including both Gandhi and his wife sent to prison.
The Government resorted to firing which resulted in a number of casualities. The whole Indian community rose as one man against the tyranny of the whites.
The novel method of Satyagraha which Gandhi started with success in South Africa formed dominant instrument in Indian struggle for freedom. It is a blend of philosophical, ethical and mystic elements.
Secondly, in its final form, was the result of a gradual evolution extending over more than thirty years. It is also guiding principle or moving force in political actions of masses or individuals.
The aim of Satyagraha is conversion of the opponents to one’s own view self- suffering, and not by violence. It involves self-closing suffering and humiliation for the resistrs.
It is effective, it is so by working on the conscience of those against who it is being used. Sapping their confidence in the exclusive mightiness of their case, making their physical strength impotent, and weakening their resolutions by insinuating a sense of guilt for the suffering they a part of causing.
Passive resistance is a weapon of the weak. It does not eschew violence as a matter of Principle, but only because of the lack of the means of violence or out of sheer expediency.
It would use arms if and when they are available, or when there is a reasonable chance of success. Satyagraha on the other hand is law of love, the way of love for all. Satyagraha differs from passive resistance as the North Pole from the South.
The latter has been conceived as a weapon of weak and does not exclude the use of physical force or violence for the purpose of gaining one’s end; whereas the former has been conceived as a weapon of the strongest and excludes the use of violence in any shape or form.
Non-violence, which forms the very basis of Satyagraha, is thus expounded by Gandhi when a person claims to be non-violent, he is expected not to be angry with not wish him harm; he will wish him well; he will not sear at him, he will cause him any physical hurt. Complete non-violence in complete absence of ill-will against all that lives.
It can never go hand in hand with any kind of violent activity involving injury to person or property. The idea behind it is not to destroy or harass, the opponent, but to convert him or with him over by sympathy, patience, and self suffering.
The Satyagraha has infinite trust in the human nature and in its inherent goodness. Gandhi emphasised the fact that the very high ideal of Satyagraha could be practised even by the common people for achieving their political ends.
The non-violence is the law of the species as the violence is the law of the brute. In addition to those two; the hartal, purificatory fast, picketing, non-violent raids or marches and fasting, either for a short and fixed period or unto death, are also reckoned by some to be forms of Satyagraha.
When Mahatma Gandhi arrived in India, the world war was on and India had already been declared a belligerent country. In those days, Mahatma Gandhi was a professed loyalist. He once proudly spoke of his loyalty to the British Empire.
He was a great admirer of British traditions and culture. He valued British connection with India. Hence, during the War, Gandhiji offered full co-operation without conditions.
He was not in favour of even pressing the British Government for making a declaration that they would introduce responsible Government in India after War. He was even awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind gold medal for his great help in the War.
The reception by Indians of the Reforms of 1919 was a mixed one. The Reforms caused a split in the Congress ranks. The Moderate element in the Congress had already formed the National Liberal Federation in November 1918 at Bombay under the leadership of Surendra Nath Banerji.
These Liberals, in their Annual conference held in 1919, whole heartedly accepted the Reforms and found in them the fulfilment of the pledge given by the British Government in their declaration of 1917.
The Indian National Congress, in its annual session held at Amritsar in December, 1919, declared the reforms as inadequate, unsatisfactory and disappointing, but at the same time, decided to “Work the Reforms.” So as to secure the earliest establishment of responsible government.
This attitude of co-operation with the Reforms was exhibited by the Congress even after the tragedy of Jalianwala Bagh. All this was done mostly due to the efforts of Mahatma Gandhi, who till then, believed in the wisdom of co-operation with the Government.
This was after the fashion of Gokhle, in whom Gandhi had found the right guide. The offer of co-operation was made even when Mrs. Besant had pronounced the Reforms as being “unworthy of England to offer and India to accept”. Tilak had characterised the Reforms as “unsatisfactory and disappointing-a sunless down.”
But during the course of the following nine months, certain events happened, which changed the whole attitude of Mahatma Gandhi towards the British Government.
When a special session of the Congress was held at Calcutta in September 1920, the entire outlook of the Congress had transformed and it adopted the non-co- operation programmes and decided to boycott the reformed councils.
Mahatma Gandhi who had taken the lead in December 1919 at Amritsar in offering co-operation was now mainly instrumental in putting the Congress on the war path. The Congress for the first time decided to adopt the policy of direct action i.e., Non-Co-operation and Civil-disobedience against the Government.
The chain of events, which brought about his radical change in the attitude of Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress towards the British Government, is described below.
Agitation against Rowlatt Act:
Various causes were responsible for the enactment of the Rowlatt Act. S.N. Banerji has rightly described as “The parent of the Non-Co-operation Movement.” During the war, the Government had dealt with the revolutionary crime under the Defense of India Act, which was to expire at the end of the War.
The Government of India wanted to arm itself with extra ordinary powers at least for some years more after the War, especially because the war had intensified the force, nationalism.
Moreover, as India was on the eve of future reforms, the bureaucracy wanted an additional weapon to deal with the non-co-operators with a stern hand.
Besides, an agitation for complete Sovereignty had started in Afghanistan and the Government of India expected disorder in that region. And finally, there was the fear of Russia creating trouble on the Indian frontier especially on the side of Afghanistan.
When Montague was about to leave India after his work in connection with the Montford Reforms, permission was taken from him to set up a committee with justice Rowlatt as president to report on the nature and extent of the criminal conspiracies connected with the revolutionary movement in India and to suggest legislation, which was necessary to meet their danger.
This committee was appointed on the 10th December, 1917 and on the basis of its recommendations two Bills were introduced in the Imperial Legislative Council in February, 1919, which are called Rowlatt Bills, after the name of its President.
The introduction of the Bills in the Assembly was a signal of an unprecedented agitation, which started in India to oppose them. In the Bills, the bureaucracy had taken up the position that “it was impossible for them to maintain internal order, unless they were given the power to lock up, without trial, anybody they liked, for as long as they liked.”
All the Indian members of the Imperial Legislative Council opposed the enactment of the Bills. The nationalist opinion feared that the Bills would provide convenient tools in the hands of the Government to beat down even legitimate political agitation and to harass political workers.
In the teeth of a fierce countrywide agitation against the Bills, which came to be nick-named as Black Bills, one of these Bills was passed on March 17, 1919.
Mahatma Gandhi had already declared that he would start an agitation against the Bills, if passed, and had advised the people to take a pledge for disobeying them without violence to life, persons and property.
After the Bill was poised, Mahatma Gandhi advised to people to stage a hartal on April 6 and to observe it as a day of morning. On which no business was to be transacted by way of popular demonstration against the high handed action of the Government. In enacting the Rowlatt Bill.
The hartal was actually observed at Delhi on March 13, 1919-that being the day previously fixed for it, which led to minor violent clashes between the authorities and the public at some places. Gandhiji was invited by public leaders of Delhi to come and pacify the situation.
There were similar troubles at other places especially in the Punjab. Orders were passed by the Government refusing the entry of Gandhiji in the Punjab and Delhi. Gandhiji disobeyed these orders and started towards Delhi.
On the way, he was arrested, taken back to Bombay and later released. The news of Gandhiji’s arrest spread like wild fire, throughout the country and led to more violent outbursts by the Public and further repression by the Government. The Jallianwala Tragedy was sequence of the agitation against the Rowlatt Act.
The Jallianwalla Tragedy:
An agitation was going on in the Punjab against the Rowlatt Bills, which had resulted in violence by the public, at places. The Government was particularly sensitive to the conditions prevailing in the Punjab, because of the large number of disbanded soldiers living there and because of its nearness to Afghanistan.
Dr. Satyapal and Dr. Kitchlu were the popular leaders of the Punjab, at the time. Gandhiji was arrested on 9th April 1919. Sir Michail O’Dwyer, the Lt. Governor of the Punjab, ordered the deportation of Dr. Kitchlu and Dr. Satyapal to some unknown place.
This angered the people. A procession was taken out at Amritsar by the people to protest against the arrest of the popular leaders. This procession was fired at by the authorities, as a result of which some people died.
The dead were taken up by the crowd on their should and on their way back to the city, the processionists set fire to some public buildings and killed some Europeans.
The civil administration requested military authorities to take up the charge of the city. General Dyer, who commanded the Jullunder Division at the time, arrived at Amritsar on April, 12, 1919 to take up the charge. Only a day after i.e. on 13th, the Jallianwala massacre was ordered by him.
The inhabitants of Amritsar has started assembling in the Jallianwala Bagh from mid-day on April 13, to protest against the firing by the authorities on a peaceful crowd, which had resulted in deaths and to protest against the deportation of their leaders, whose where-about were not known. General Dyer prohibited the meeting. Scheduled to be held on the 13th. But the notice of prohibition order was not properly proclaimed. Some came even in spite of the knowledge of the order.
On hearing the news of people assembling General Dyer proceed to the scene of occurrence with one hundred Indian and fifty British soldiers. He took a machine gun along with him, which however, could not be taken to the place of the meeting, because the passage was too small for it.
The people had assembled for making a Protest. The meeting was perfectly peaceful. The leaders, to a man, were wedded to non-violence. The acts of violence that had occurred on the previous days were sporadic in nature. General Dyer did not give even a warning to the crowd for dispersal. 1650 rounds of303 were fired.
The firing stopped only when the entire ammunition was exhausted. According to the Government Report, as a result of firing, 379 persons were killed and 1,137 wounded. The actual number was much greater, Dyer, after the massacre, heartlessly, left the dead and the wounded to their fate.
Jallianwalla Bagh is an open space, in the heart of the city, enclosed on all sides by big walls of houses. A part from the only entrance, which was blocked by the military. Hence, during the course of the firing there was no way to escape.
The places where bullets struck in those high walls and trees have been marked, as a standing testimony to the way in which the people were ruthlessly butchered. Martinal law was declared in Amritsar.
A reign of terror followed. In-discriminate flogging, firing and bombing followed in its wake. In one of the streets, order was issue for the people to come and go from their houses, crawling as four-footed animals.
Khilafat Movement: Turkey fought in the World War I against the Allies. The Muslims of India had always recognised the Sultan of Turkey as their religious chief or Khalifa. The position of Muslim of India during the War was embarrassing indeed, because their religious loyalty was to Turkey and political affiliation to Britain.
Still the Mussalmans of India whole heartedly helped the British in the prosecution of the War because of British assurance regarding Caliphat. When the War ended the news leaked out that the allies were thinking of disrupting and dividing the Turkish Empire. Muslims of India became naturally much agitated and perturbed over this ominous news.
This led to the Khilafat agitation, whose objects were to stop the disiuption of the Turkish Empire, to prevent imposition of severe peace terms on Turkey and to preserve the spiritual head ship of the Sultan of Turkey.
An all-India Khilafat conference was held at Delhi on November 27, 1919, under the president ship of Mahatma Gandhi, who completely identified himself with the movement from is very inception.
Gandhiji objected to the way in which the government was breaking its pledges to Mussalmans of India regarding the fate of Turkey after the War.
He seized the occasion as a great opportunity to Cement Hindu Muslims unity and in return to win the sympathies of Mussalmans for the national movement. Mahatma Gandhi advised Hindus to join the Khilafat agitation and thus to help Muslims in their hour of need.
On the advice of Mahatma Gandhi, a deputation met the Governor-General under the leadership of Dr. Ansari. But nothing came out of it. In March 1920, Maulana Mohammed Ali, along with his brother Shaukat Ali, was deputed to England to support this cause. They also returned empty handed.
The treaty was signed on August 10, 1920. The Turkish Empire was divided. It was to lose the whole of Thrave and the richest area of Asia Minor. The Sultan was to become a virtual prisoner of Allied High Commission.
Thus all the pledges given to Musalmans during the war were broken. Turkey was subjected to Imperialistic exploitation.
In this hour of agony and despair of Muslims, Mahatma Gandhi advises them to begin non-co-operation movement against the Government. This proposal of Gandhi was accepted by the Khilafat committee on May 28, 1920.
Two days later, the All-India Congress Committee decided to convince a special session of the Indian National Congress to consider the question of launching a non-co-operation movement at Calcutta. In 1920 the resolution was adopted.
Congress Decide on Non-Co-operation:
The decision of the Congress to start a non-co-operation movement against the Government was truly a revolutionary step. It was for the first time that the Indian National Congress, as a body, was embarking on the policy of direct action against the Government.
It was a break from the method that Congress had followed during the last 35 years, from the year of its birth. The method of “Political Medicancy”- was discarded once for all.
We may discuss the causes which led to this revolutionary change in the method of the Congress. Mahatma Gandhi, to start with, was a loyalist, a co-operator, a true disciple of Goklile, as is shown by the attitude of the Congress in December, 1919, at Amritsar.
Mahatma Gandhi started, that the report of the Hunter committee, regarding the Jallianwala Bagh happenings, which became final in May, 1920 and terms of the Treaty of serves, which became public also in that month, changed his entire attitude towards the British Government.
Hence, the two main immediate causes, which were callous attitude of the Government towards the victims of Jallianwala and their attitude regarding Turkey. The availability of leaders of the Calibre of Mahatma Gandhi, who had already tested the efficacy of his weapon of non-violent civil disobedience on Satyagraha, was another factor, which made it possible for the Congress to adopt this course.
Moreover, the liberals had left the Congress in 1918. The Extremists were in complete charge of the Congress, at the time when, the bold decision was taken in December 1920.
Mahatma Gandhi was sure that whole hearted co-operation of Muslims would be forth coming in any movement of non-cooperation against the Government, because Muslims were bitterly against the Government on account of the Khilafat issue and the Hindus had given full, support to Muslims.
Mahatma Gandhi, therefore, considered the time ripe for taking up the resolution of non-co-operation at the special session of the Congress held at Calcutta in Sept., 1920, C.R. Das, B.C. Pal, Pt. Malviya, Mrs. Annie Besant and Mr. Jinnah were opposed it. Even Lala Lajpat Rai, who presided over the session, had no sympathy with it.
Thus Mahatma Gandhi had to fight against heavy odds in getting the resolution for non-co-operations adopted by the Congress, which was eventually done by a narrow majority of 11 votes. This very resolution was later reaffirmed by an over whelming majority at the regular session of the Congress, held at Nagpur in Dec., J 920.
The Nagpur session will remain memorable for making two vital changes in the constitution of the Congress. Hitherto, the goal of Congress was the attainment of self Government within the British Empire.
The goal was now declared to be the attainment of Swaraj. Which according to Mahatma Gandhi meant, Sawaraj within the British Empire if possible and outside, if necessary Swaraj was used as a compromising word between those, who wanted self Government within the British Empire and those who wanted to serve all connections with the British.
Secondly, till then according to the constitution, the congress could employ only constitutional means to attain its objective. It was laid down that the Congress could adopt all peaceful and legitimate means to achieve its end.
This again was a compromise between those who wanted to stick to the constitutional means and those who advocated all possible means for the attainments of the objective. The net result of the changes was that the constitutional method was, finally, declared to be adequate for attaining freedom for India.
With the death of Lokmanya Tilak on 31st July, 1920, Mahatma Gandhi became the undisputed leader of the Congress. We may describe this event as the beginning of the Gandhian Era in the political life of India. The sails of the Congress were now resolutely set for a clash with the Government. Never again was the Congress to be accused to ‘Political mendicancy.’
Programmes of the Movement:
In the non-co-operation resolution passed by the Congress at Calcutta in September 1920, and ratified at Nagpur in Dec. 1920, the Congress advised:
a. the Surrender of titles and honorary offices;
b. registration from nominated seats in local bodies;
c. refusal to attend Government bodies, darbars and official functions held by the Government officials on in their honour;
d. gradual withdrawal of children from schools and colleges, owned aided or controlled by the Government;
e. gradual boycott of British courts by lawyers and litigants;
f. refusal on the part of their martial, clerical and labouring classes to offer themselves as recruits in Mesopotamia;
g. withdrawal by candidates from elections to the Reformed councils and refusal on the part of voters to vote for any candidate offering himself for the election; and
h. boycott of foreign goods.
This may be described as the “negative on destructive side of the programme”, which, in short, means the boycott of councils, court, colleges and the Government.
Apart from this there was also a “Positive or Constructive Side” of the programme. In place of Government educational institutions, the resolution advocated the establishment of national schools and colleges all over India. Private arbitration courts were to be established for the settlement of disputes with the aid of lawyers in place of the Government Courts.
The boycott of foreign goods was to be supported by a movement popularizing the Swadeshi Cloths and by the revival of hand-spinning and hand-weaving. A call for Hindu- Muslim unity was also made.
The removal of untouchability was urged. Mahatma Gandhi declared that there could be no swaraj without the removal of untouchability. The people were called upon to go through the or-deal of privations and suffering, and to make utmost sacrifices for the winning of Swaraj, which was promised “within one year” by Mahatma Gandhi.
Truth or satya was declared as the Supreme strategy and non-violence or ahinsa was to be the dominating principle of the whole movement.
Progress of the Movement:
The seed of the non-co-operation movement had really been planned in 1919 against the Rowlatt Act. The Massacre of Jallianwala Bagh was being condemned everywhere hence when the call for non-co-operation came towards the end of 1920; the movement captured the heart to the people from the very beginning. It continued to gather momentum throughout the year 1921.
Many distinguished person’s like C.R. Das, Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lajpat Rai; Vithalbhai and Vallabhbhai Patel and Rajendra Prasad left their practice as lawyers to be join the movement.
Many prominent Muslim leaders like Maulana Mohammad Ali and Maulana Saukat Ali popularly called the Ali Brothers, Dr. Ansari and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad also joined the movement.
Many students gave up’studying in Government schools and colleges and national educational institutions like the Gujarat Vidyapiththe Bihar Vidyapith and Banaras Vidyapith, the Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapith and Kasi Vidyapitha the Bengal National University, the National Muslim University of Aligarh, the Jamia Millia of Delhi, the National College of Lahore and many other national institutions were founded all over the country.
Many lawyers gave up their practice. Jamunalal Bajaj subscribed a lakh of rupees for the maintenance of non-practising lawyers per year. The swadeshi cloth became popular. Handspinning and hand weaving got encouragement. Hindu-Muslim accord developed to an extent never seen before or after liquer shaps and foriegn cloth shaps began to be looked down upon and were often picketed.
The evils of untouchability began to be realized. For the first time. The All India Congress Committee at its meeting in March, 1921, decided to collect a crore of Rupees and the amount was subscribed in a short time. Forty lakh volunteers were enrolled by the Congress and about 20,000 Charkhas were manufactured.
The litigant public at places avoided law courts and settled their disputed by arbitration. Mahatma Gandhi surrendered his title of Kesri-i-Hind and many people followed suit. The visit of his Royal Highness the Duke of Connaught, in connection with the inauguration of the constitution, was successfully boycottul and the prince was greeted by hartals almost everywhere he went.
It is, however to be admitted that the destructive or negative side of the programme was not much of a success. The elections to the Reformed councils were held more or less in the usual manner. 2000 candidate’s contested 774 seats in the councils, only 6 seats were such where no election was held for want of a candidate.
Opportunists and loyalists filled the councils and made them anything but representative of the people, colleges, courts and Government offices continued much the same way. The movement on the whole was non-violent. But here and there the Government machinery came into clash with the picketers and non-co-operators and sporadic acts of violence were committed also by some people.
The movement was progressing beyond expectation and the situation was getting out of the control of the Government. It was perhaps; decided by the Government that the movement should be suppressed and crushed with this object in view the government began to indulge in indiscriminate beating and forceful dispersal of meeting.
The seditious meetings Act was passed and thousands of persons were arrested. Volunteer organisations were made a special target of attack by the Government. The Ali Brothers who were in forefront of the movement made speeches which even incited the people to violence.
In April 1921, as a result on the Gandhi-Reading meeting, the Ali Brothers has given an assurance to the Government that they would not advocate violence in future. But even after this assurance the Government continued its repression; and the Ali Brothers, their inflammatory speeches. Very soon thereafter, the Government announced the visit of the Prince of Wales to India.
The time for the visit was chosen probably to invoke the traditional loyalty of the masses to the crown and to wean them away from the movement. In July 1921, the all India Congress Committee decided in view of the repressive policy of the Government not to participate in the welcome to the prince. This infuriated the Government still further.
On August 20, 1921 most terrible acts of violence were committed by the Moplahs of Malabar which paralysed the administration in that area for several days. The most unfortunate part of the uprising by the Moplahs was that many Hindus were also killed.
As the Government machinery collapsed completely thee Khilafat Republic was setup by the insurgents. Ali Brothers were arrested on September 17, 1921. The working committee of the Congress justified the actions of Ali Brothers and in order to give expression to the popular resentment against the Government for arresting Ali Brothers, declared the observance of hartal all over India on the day of the arrival of the prince in India.
This boycott of the visit of the prince was adopted to show India’s resentment against the repressive policy of the Government. The prince landed at Bombay on November 17, 1921. A complete hartal was observed throughout Bombay by the public on that day.
There were some clashed between the boycotters and the co-operators in which the act of violence was committed by both sides. Mahatma Gandhi accepted full responsibility for violence committed by the public and condemned the excesses in a strong language.
The Government decided to use a great repression. The Congress and the Khilafat volunteer organisations were declared unlawful. Public meetings were forbidden. But the Government failed to repress the tide of popular upheaval.
Orders of the Government were defied. Enrolment of member of the volunteer corps continued. Beating lathi charge and firing began to be indulged in by the Government still mere indiscriminately by December 1921. C.R. Das, Motilal Nehru, Lajpat Rai, Maulana Azad and many other top ranking leaders were put behind the prison walls. Arrests were made ali over India. The total number of arrested persons came in the neighbourhood of about 25,000.
In December 1921, the Prince was visited Calcutta. Lord Reading still desired a settlement with the Congress because of the presence of the Prince in India. Efforts of settlement at Calcutta in December, 1921, before the visit of the Prince there, failed because Government was not prepared to release Ali Brothers, which was made a condition precedent to any settlement by the Congress.
Most of the prominent Congress leaders were now being the prison bars. Mahatma Gandhi was spared. The Congress meeting at Ahmedabad in December 1921 decided to intensify the struggle and sanctioned the starting of civil-disobedience movement. Gandhi was appointed as the highest authority to launch the movement.
Suspension of Movement:
Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter on February 1922, to Lord Reading, intimating that he would start civil disobedience movement after 7 days; unless in the meantime Government shows a change of heart by giving up its repressive policy.
This was a hint for the release of the top leaders. But the period of 7 days notice was over on February 5 1922. At Chauri Chaura, in Gorakhpur District of U.P. 21 policemen and a sub-inspector were burnt alive in a police station by an infuriated mob.
This violence act changed the whole course. Mahatma Gandhi felt so much infuriated at this act of brutal violence that he suspended the movement at once, which was a shock to many Congress men.
This action of Mahatma Gandhi was bitterly resented by the rank and file of the Congress, and Muslims in particular, who never appreciated Mahatma’s attitude about truth and non-violence in a political struggle.
The Congress leaders like C.R. Das, Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lajpat Rai, Ali Brothers and other did to appreciate the action of Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi probably right in suspending the movement. Jawaharlal Nehru, later on justified the action of Mahatma Gandhi, as practical politics.
The Chauri Chaura incident was not only out of violence committed by the people. It was the last straw. There was no discipline left in the rank and file. The leaders were mostly in jail. Masses were indulged in more violence in the absence of the leaders.
“This would have been crushed by the Government in a bloody manner and a reign of terror established which would have thoroughly demoralised the people. As a result of this Mahatma Gandhi popularity reached the lowest ebb. In those days of despair and darkness, some even remembered Lokmaniya Tilak. Who never advanced too far never faltered and never retreated.
Arrest of Mahatma Gandhi:
The Government took advantage of the wave of resentment that was sweeping against Mahatma Gandhi, arrested him to March 10, 1922, and sanctioned his prosecution, Government had withheld this action earlier, lest it should invited the worth of the nation. Now there was no such danger.
The arrest hardly produced a ripple in the people, who were stunned and paralysed by the events. The historical trial started at Ahmadabad on March 18, 1922. Mahatma pleaded guilty to the charge of spreading disaffection against the Government
He said that he would do the same again, if set free. Mahatma Gandhi was sentenced to 6 years simple imprisonment by Mr. Broom’s field. Mahatma Gandhi was released on February 5, 1924, before the expiry of 6 years, on medical grounds.
Limitations of the Movement:
The destructive programme of the movement was somewhat, unrealistic. Even the Civil Disobedience Enquiry Committee set up by the Congress came to the conclusion that the non-co-operation achieved nothing. Its only merit lay in its appeal as a protest. The promise of swaraj within the one year was a little too optimistic.
The introduction of Khilafat question, which was admittedly a religious issue into the national movement, was unfortunate. The Khilafat demand was included by the Congress to hold the sympathies of Muslims for the national movement. But it was hardly a right cause.
Even the Turks, for whose benefits the issue was raised. Discarded Khilafat as is a medieval jargon in 1922 under Kamal Pasha, when Turkey was declared a secural state and the Khalifa was exiled.
The sudden suspension of the movement increased Hindu-Muslim tension because the Muslim mind could not appreciate the implication of non-violence in a just cause.
Contributions of the Movement:
In spite of al I these defects, the movement admittedly helped the cause of nationalism in India. It has tended the advent of swaraj. It was the first truly revolutionary movement in India, since the birth of the Congress. Mere constitutionalism was buried once for all. Revolt entered in to the spirit of the people.
Hence forth the Congress accepted, for good the policy of direct and self radiant action. It decided to depend on its own strength for achieving the objective of swaraj. It was no longer shy of defying the Government. It was the first truly mass movement on an all-India scale.
It was a people movement. To fight for freedom was no longer confined to the intelligentsiaonly. Moreover, the movement made the masses fearless in crossing sword with the Government.
The law of sedition began to be criticized. Jails began to be looked upon us places of pilgrimage for the patriots, constructive work of the Congress received a fillip. Hand-spinning, hand-weaving and Swadeshi cloth become popular.
The Khadi became the grand uniform of the Indian patriot. Prohibition got encouragement. The Congress and the masses had the experiences, thrills and lessons of the first open clash with the Government.
The Congress leaders realised the nature and value of the real sanction, viz; popular support, with which, they learnt to back all their future demands for the political emancipation of the mother land.
The Swaraj Party:
After the collapse of the non-co-operation movement and the arrest of Mahatma Gandhi, the question began to be mooted by the Congress, whether it would be advisable to capture the council. C.R. Das and Motilal Nehru preached the gospel of entering the councils in order to end or mend them.
At session of the Congress held in December 1922, under the president ship of C.R. Das, those who stood for entering the councils could not carry the Congress with them. Orthodox followers of Mahatma Gandhi, who began to call “no changers” under the leadership of C. Rajgopalachari, were able to defeat the objective of those stood for entering into the conflict.
After the Gaya session, C.R. Das resigned from Congress to organise the Swaraj Party with the view to capture the Congress, before the General Election of 1923. A special session of the Congress was held in September 1923, at Delhi.
In between these two sessions, the salt tax was doubled, although the Assembly had rejected the budget containing this item. This swelled the ranks of those congressmen. Who stood for some sort of clash with the Government?
In this special session, which was held under the president ship of Maulana Azad, the programme of ‘Council entry’ was officially adopted by the Congress, Gandhiji was released in February 1924 on the ground of ill-health.
He evidently, did not like the Swarajist programme. He was also not in a position to revert to active non-co-operation. Leaders and the masses were simply not prepared for it. So in 1925, a compromise was reached between the two wings and freedom was given to congressmen to do either ‘Council Work’ or ‘Constructive Work’.
The proverbial ‘long rope’ was given by Mahatma Gandhi to the Swarajists, till they and the masses were, once again, prepared to follow his method of civil disobedience.
Causes of the Formation of the Swaraj Party:
Various causes were responsible for the formation of the Swaraj party. Firstly, after the suspension of the non-co-operation movement and the arrest of Mahatma Gandhi, much was not left in the national movement, which could have a popular appeal.
The constructive work along could not win freedom. Something more dynamic and virile was needed to put life in the despondent nation.
A wave of dissatisfaction was sweeping against the methods of Mahatma Gandhi, especially because of the unceremonious manner in which he had ended the movement. C.R. Das in Bengal, Pandit Motilal Nehru in North India-and N.C. Kelkar in the Deccan, voiced dissatisfaction against the policy of Mahatma Gandhi. Non-co-operation had not been much of a success.
Moreover, the Hindu-Muslim front which was evolved during the Khilafat days had broken down. It was difficult for Muslims, as a community, to appreciate the underlying principle and ethics of Non-violence.
In December 1925, even Mohammed Ali, who was the chief Muslim disciple of Mahatma Gandhi during the non-cooperation days, disowned the Gandhian way and adopted the communal politics, as his creed.
Besides, the Government had adopted a policy of stern repression towards those, who indulged, in anti-Government activities. The council entry was therefore, adopted by some affording a realistic political programme of action.
On August 22, Lloyed George, the British Prime Minister, delivered his famous “steel frame” speech in which he emphasized the pivotal role of the Indian Civil Service in the administration for a long time to come.
If this was the policy of the British Government Co-operation with it was impossible, and obstruction was left as the only course. The Government also started pampering the princes, to make them at as pillars of imperialism against the progressive forces.
Lastly, the response of the Government to the co-operative efforts of the Liberal was too poor to win for the party popularity in the masses. On November 2, 1992, the British Government declared that no early revision of the Constitution was possible.
The prince’s protection Act was certified by the Governor-General as a Law, although it was rejected by the Assembly. Salt tax was doubted with the use of extraordinary powers of the Governor-General, although it was condemned and the Budget containing it was thrown out by the Assembly.
When the time for second General Elections under the reforms came, the Liberals had no popular achievement to their credit in the eyes of the voters on the basis of which they could ask for a second term from the electorates. The uncompromising attitude of the Government was also responsible for the defeat of the Liberals and the success of the Swarajist, who appealed on the basis of some form of non-co-operation against the Government.
Aims & Objectives:
The main objective of the Swaraj party was to win Swaraj, which meant dominion status within the British Empire. But their method was different. They had no faith in the Civil-Disobedience.
They wanted to take part in elections in order to infuse enthusiasm and carry the message of nationalism to the masses. They wanted to capture seats in the legislatures in order to prove their strength with the masses and in order to wreck the citadel of bureaucracy from within.
This was ordered necessary to prevent undesirable persons from capturing seats in the Legislatures and thus bending a show of popular support to the Government by Co-operating with it, as the Liberals had done, ‘obstruction’ to the Government was their key note.
Their immediate objectives were to make the Montford Reforms unworkable. They stood for impeding or ending the Act of 1919.
The Swarajist wanted to destroy the-then prevailing constitutional structure in order to build a new and better one-on its ruins. They contemplated the rejection of all vital legislative programmes of the Government as well as the budgets in order to bring the Government machinery to a standstill.
They refused participation in all Government bodies and functions. This was the destructive side of the programme of Swarajists. There was also a constructive side. In the Legislatives, they wanted to pass resolutions, containing constructive proposals for further constitutional advancement and the laws necessary for the growth of a healthy national life. They also stood for giving a whole-hearted support to the constructive programme of Mahatma Gandhi.
In the manifesto issued in 1923 by the Swarajist party, it was stated as the first duty of the party to demand that the right of the Indian people to control the machinery and system of Government should, at once, be conceded and given effect to.
If the right itself was conceded well and well. But in the event of the Government refusing to entertain the demand, it shall be the duty of the members of the party elected to the Assembly and the provincial councils, if they constitute the majority to resort to a policy of a “‘uniform” continuous and consistent, obstruction to make Government through the Assembly and the councils, impossible. It was also stated.
On their behalf, that if their method itself failed to bring about the required change in the Government they would unhesitatingly, join a civil disobedience movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.
The general elections of 1923 were fought by the Swarajists on the basis of the above mentioned programme. As a result of the elections, the Swarajists returned at the top of the Poll and Liberals were almost wiped off.
The Swarajists won a clear majority in U.P. and dominant position in Bengal and the Central Legislative Assembly. In U.P. and Bombay, the influence of the swarajists was great and, at times, decisive.
Pt. Motilal Nehru was the leader of the Swarajist party in the Legislative Assembly of India. The party won 45 seats out of 145- thus; it was the largest party in the Assembly. Because of the able leadership of Pt. Motilal Nehru, the party was able to enlist the support of the Nationalists and some independent-and thus, commanded a working majority.
As rarely as February 8, 1924. Pt. Nehru was successful in getting passed by the Assembly by an overwhelming majority, in which all the elected members voted for the motion, a resolution, that steps should be taken to have the India Act, 1919, revised with a view to establish full responsible Government.
In India, for that purpose to summon, at an early date, a representative round table conference to recommend, with due regard to the protection of the rights and interests of important minorities, a scheme for the constitution of India, and after dissolving the central Legislature to place it before the newly elected Indian Legislature for its approval and to submit it to the British parliament to be embodied in statute.
The Labour party came into office in England with Mr. Ramsay Macdonald as prime minister in 1917. Macdonald was known to be sympathetic towards Indian aspirations. Hopes sprang high in India.
The demand contained in the resolution was, however, summarily rejected by the British Government. The result of this disillusionment was that the Swarajists and the other nationalist leaders in the Assembly stiffened their policy of obstruction. In desperation, they took up the position “no redress of grievances, no supplies”.
Acting on this principle, they rejected four important demands for grants in the Finance Bill for 1924-25. The appeal of the Governor-General for reconsideration was also ignored.
The Governor-General had to restore the grants and pass the finance Bill by using this extraordinary power of certification. The budget of 1925-26 and 1926-27 were similarly rejected and certified by the Governor-General.
A series of defeats were thus inflicted on the Government Resolutions were passed against the determined opposition of the Government, demanding release of certain political prisoners and asking for the repeal of the Regulation 111 of 1818.
Invitations to functions and parties held by the Governor-General as well as in his honour were not accepted. Many a time the party staged as walk-out to show resentment against the attitude of the Government.
Work in Provinces:
In C.P, the Swarajists being in absolute majority, there was no difficulty in putting Dyarchy out of action. The Governor had no alternative but to take the administration of the transferred subjects in his own hands.
In Bengal, although the Swarajists were not in an absolute majority, yet C.R. Das was able to enlist the support of some Muslims, and was able to make dyarchy unworkable.
On February 28, 1924. C.R. Das declared that his party would oppose the formation of a Ministry in Bengal, unless and until present system of Government is altered and there is a settlement between the Government and the people of this province.
On a real change of heart, without which there can be no guarantee for complete self-government. Thus Dyarcy failed in U.P. and Bengal between 1924 and 1926 because the Swarajists were opposed to its working. In other provinces the party continued to make, new and then, demands for constitutional advancement.
Appraisal of the Policy of the Swarajists:
There was an inherent contradiction in the policy of the Swarajists. If the Government was to be obstructed, why fight elections under the constitution and enter the councils. The policy was illogical.
It was unrealistic in the sense that there was nothing in the policy, which could bring the machinery of the Government to a standstill. It was a weak policy too, because at least some of those who joined were evidently not prepared to undergo sufferings involved in following a policy of civil disobedience.
If it was wrong to let undesirable persons to become members of the legislature, it could not be right to let such persons become Ministers and councilors.
The Swaraj it’s according to Zacharias, “were in the position of people, who wanted to eat their cake and have it at the same time. They considered it necessary, in order to retain their popularity, to talk extremism and yet were resolved to easy parliamentarism.
As a consequence, the Swarajits were driven to a course of quibbling, as to when co-operation was non-co-operation”. The judgement is severe, no doubt, but there is an element of truth in it. No Swarajist courted imprisonment during 1924-26; of course none received lathi blows.
Let us not, at the same time, fail to record the utility of the work of the Swarajist to the national movement. The nation was plunged into difference and despondency in 1922, when the non-co- operation movement was switched off.
Non-co-operation on nonviolent lines had failed, a movement was impossible on violent lines. Mahatma had proved a false prophet; there was no Swaraj within sight. It was not possible to spur the masses into the action again immediately after collapse.
The nation needed a respite. The Swarajists kept the touch of nationalism burning and infused enthusiasm in the masses at a time, when non-co-operation had evidently failed and the constructive work of the Congress alone had no mass appeal. Some form of opposition or obstruction to the Government could only keep enthusiasm in the masses.
The demand for a Round table conference, to which the Government agreed in 1930, was first formulated by Swarajist and pushed through the Assembly. The appointment of the Muddiman Committee was a concession to the demands made by the Swarajists.
The Simon Commission was appointed two years earlier to report on the necessity of further Reforms also because the Swarajists had, throughout-insisted on the revision of the constitution, at the earliest possible time.
No doubt, the Swarajists wanted to avoid a direct clash with the Government so did the whole Congress till 1920. The working of the Swarajists Party in the Legislative Assembly of India exposed the autocratic and irresponsible nature of the Government.
The series of the defeats inflicted by it on the Government, refusals of supplies and rejection of the Government budgets were events, which gladdened the masses and discredited the Government at home as well as abroad.
It kept up the spirit of resistance among the people against the foreign rule, and thus paved the way for eventual Independence. The councils were no longer praised. Very few liberals were elected thereafter. The Government could no more claim that the elected representatives of the people were cooperating with it.
In November 1927, the British Government appointed the Indian statutory commission, popularly known after the name of its chairman as Simon commission. However, the official objective of the appointment of this commission was described as enquiry “into the working of system of Government, the growth of education and development of representative institutions in British India and matters connected therewith”, and to report as to whether and to what extent it is desirable to establish the principle of responsible government, or to extend, modify, or restrict the degree of responsible Government then existing therein, including the question whether the establishment of second chambers of the local legislature, is or is not desirable.
The commission consisted of seven members. All the members of the commission were Englishmen. This announcement was greeted by a chorus of protest from all Indians.
What dissatisfied them most was the exclusion of Indians from the commission and the basic motion behind this exclusion that foreigners would discuss and decide upon India’s fitness for self-government.
In other words, the British action was seen as a violation of the principle of self-determination and a deliberate insult to the self respect of Indians. At its Madras session in 1927, Dr. Ansari, the president of the National Congress decided to boycott the commission “at every stage and is every form”. The Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim league decided to support the Congress decision.
The report of Simon Commission was published in June 1930. It suggested that dyarchy be completely given up and the whole provincial administration should be transferred to the hand of ministers responsible to their legislature. However, the Governor was not to appoint the ministers on the advice of the Chief Ministers.
He was expected to select these persons as ministers who command the confidence of the legislature. As a step towards the establishment of All India Federation, the commission recommended the establishment of a council for the country representing both British India and the Indian states.
The report of commission was bitterly criticised by the Indian political parties. According to Dr. Keeth “It was probably foolish of Indian opinion to repudiate the report out and out.
If it had been accepted, the British Government could hardly have failed to work on its and responsible government in the provinces would have been achieved much earlier than it could be under later Scheme.
Moreover, the pressure of such government on the centre would doubtless have operated strongly in the direction of inducing the British Government to aim at federation and the states to come to term with Indian political leaders”.
An all party’s conference was held in Delhi in February and March 1928. The conference appointed a committee with Motilal Nehru as its president and included among its members Ali Imam, Tej Bahadur Sapru and Subhash Ch. Bose. The committee submitted its report in August, 1928 which is known as Nehru report.
The Report recommended that the attainment of Dominion states should be considered the “‘next immediate step”. India should be a federation built on the basis of linguistic provinces and provincial autonomy; the executive should be fully responsible to the legislatures.
Elections should be by joint electorates on the basis of adult suffrage, and that seats in the legislature should be reserved for religious minority for a period of 10 years.
But, the all party convention held in Calcutta in December 1928, failed to pass the Nehru report. Objections were raised by Hindu Mahasbha, Muslim league and Sikh league.
The Hindu Mahasabha denounced the report as pro-Muslim Mohammad Ali Jinnah put forth “fourteen point” demands at this time, claiming, among other things, separate electorate, one third of the seats in the central the Muslims in Bengal and Punjab in proportion to population, and the vesting of residual powers in the province.
At the Calcutta session of the Congress, it was intended to pass a resolution declaring complete independence as the goal of India. However, Mahatma Gandhi intervened and Dominion States was declared to be the goal of India.
Mahatma Gandhi gave the assurance that he himself would lead the movement for independence if by the end of 1929 the British Government did not conform Dominion status on India.
It is true Lord Irwin, the Governor-General of India, declared in October 1929 that Dominion status was the goal of the British Government in India, but the mere declaration did not satisfy the Congress.
Consequently under the president ship of Pandit Jawahar Lai Nehru, the Lahore session of the Congress passed a resolution declaring complete independence to be the goal of India, on December 1929 was hoisted the newly adopted tri colour flag of freedom, 26 January was fixed as the first Independence day, which was to be so celebrated every year with the people taking the pledge that it was “a Crime against man and god to submit any lounger’s to British rule”.
The Congress session also announced the launching of a civil disobedience movement. But it did not draw up a programme of struggle. That was left to Mahatma Gandhi, the Congress organisation being placed at his disposal. Again the nationalist movement led by Gandhi faced the Government. The country was again electrified with magic touch of Gandhi’s Ahinsha and Non-Violence.