IGNOU HISTORY Study Notes for IAS, UPSC Exams

 Modern India 1857-1964


18.0 Objectives
1 8.1 Introduction
18.2 Background
18.3 The Issue of Khilafat
18.4 Towards Non-Cdoperation: Calcutta to Nagpur
18.5 Main Phases of the on-cooperation Movement
18.6 Peoples' Response to the Movement
18.7 Spread of the Movement, Local Variations
18.8 The Last Phase
18.9 Causes of Withdrawal
18.10 Impact
18.11 LetUsSurnUp
18.12 Key Words
18.13 Answers to Check Your Progress Exercises


After reading this Unit you will be able to:

  • discuss the reasons for launching the Non-Cooperation and Khilafat movements,
  • familiarise yourself with the programme of action adopted in these movements, ,
  • learn about the response of the Indian people towards these movements,
  • learn about the impact of these movements.


During 1920-21 the Indian National Movement entered into a new phase, i.e. a phase of mass politics and mass mobilisation. The British rule was opposed through two mass movements, Khilafat and Non-Cooperation. Though emerging out of separate issues both these movements adopted a common programme of action. The technique of non-violent struggle was adopted at a national level. In this Unit we discuss the reasons for the launching of these movements; the course of the movements; role of leadership and the people. This Unit also analyses the regional variations and the impact of these movements.


The background to the movements was provided by the impact of the First World War, the Rowlatt Act, the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms. i) During the post-First World War period the prices of daily commodities increased sharply and the worst sufferers were the common people. The volume of imports which declined during the First World War again increased towards the end of the war. As a result the Indian industries suffered, production fell, many factories were closed and the workers became its natural victims. The peasantry was also under the heavy burden of rents and taxes. So the economic situation of the country in the post-war years became alarming. In the political field the nationalists were disillusioned when the British did not keep their promise of bringing in a new era of democracy and  self-determination for the people. This strengthened the anti-British attitude of the Non-Cooperation and Khilafat Indians. Movements: 1919-1922

ii) The next important landmark of this period was the passing of the Rowlatt Act in March 1919. This Act empowered the Government to imprison any person without trial and conviction in a court of law. Its basic aim was to imprison the nationalists without giving them the opportunity to defend themselves. Gandhi decided to oppose it through Satyagraha. March and April 1919 witnessed a remarkable political awakening in India. There were hur.tuls (strikes) and demonstrations against the Rowlatt Act.

iii) The same period witnessed the naked brutality of the British Imperialists at Jallianwala Bagh, in Amritsar. An unarmed but large crowd had gathered on 13 April - 1919 at Jallianwala Bagh to protest against the arrest of their popular leaders, Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlu and Dr. Satyapal. General Dyer, the military commander of Amritsar, ordired his troops to bpen fire without warning on the unarmed crowd, in a park from which there was no way out. Thousands were killed and wounded. This shocked the whole world. The famous poet Rabindranath Tagore renounced his Knighthood in protest.

iv) The introduction of another constitutional reform act which is known as the Government of India Act, 1919 further disillusioned the nationalists. The reform proposals (we have discussed it in unit 17) failed to satisfy the rising demand of the Indians for self-government. The majority of the leaders condemned it as "disappointing and unsatisfactory." All these developments prepared the ground for a popular upsurge against the British Government. The Khilafat issue gave an added advantage to get the Muslim support and the final touch to it was given by Gandhi's leadership. We will discuss now the Khilafat issue which provided the immediate background to the movement.

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