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Non-Cooperation Movement

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The Non-Cooperation Movement was a significant event in the history of India’s freedom struggle against British colonialism. The Non-cooperation movement was a non-violent and peaceful protest launched by the Indian National Congress (INC) on 5th September 1920, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. 

The movement is launched after deliberation of events including the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and was called off because of the Chauri Chaura incident of 1922. Mahatma Gandhi was the focal point behind the movement. In March 1920, he issued a manifesto declaring a doctrine of the non-violent and non-cooperation movements. Through this manifesto, he wanted people to:

  • Adopt Swadeshi principles.
  • Adopt swadeshi habits like hand spinning.
  • Work for eradication of untouchability from society.

Causes of Non-Cooperation Movement

  1. Failure of the British government to address Indian demands for greater self-rule and representation in the colonial government.
  2. Discriminatory and oppressive British policies that led to widespread discontent among the Indian population, such as high taxes, restrictions on the press, and the use of Indian soldiers in British wars abroad.
  3. The Khilafat Movement, launched by Indian Muslims in support of the Ottoman Caliphate, sparked protests and demonstrations across India and helped to galvanize the Indian independence movement.
  4. Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership and philosophy of non-violent resistance resonated with millions of Indians and helped to unite them in their struggle for independence.
  5. The impact of World War I, which had drained the resources of the British Empire and weakened its hold on its colonies, including India.
  6. The influence of other successful independence movements around the world, such as the Irish War of Independence and the Russian Revolution, inspired Indian leaders to push for greater autonomy and independence.
  7. The role of Indian nationalist leaders and organizations, such as the Indian National Congress, provided a platform for Indian voices and helped to coordinate the Non-Cooperation Movement.

Features of Non- Cooperation Movement

  1. The movement was a non-violent and peaceful protest against the British government in India.
  2. People were asked to withdraw their titles and resign from nominated seats in local bodies a symbol of protest.
  3. Withdraw children from government-controlled schools and colleges.
  4. Boycott foreign goods and use Indian-made goods instead.
  5. People asked not to serve in the British army.
  6. If the above steps did not bring suitable results, people would refuse to pay taxes.
  7. Indian National Congress also demanded Swarajya or self-government.
  8. First time Congress was ready to forego constitutional means to achieve self-rule.
Features of Non-Cooperation

Features of Non- Cooperation Movement

Different Strands within the Movement 

In January 1921, the Non-Cooperation-Khilafat Movement started, and various groups participated in the movement with their own specific aspirations. All of the groups have responded to the call of Swaraj, but this term has different things for different people.  

The Movement in Towns

This movement started with middle-class participation in the cities in which thousands of students left their government-controlled colleges and universities, headmaster, teachers resigned from government schools, and lawyers gave up their legal practices and left the government court just to the call of swaraj and to join the movement. Some of the states have boycotted the council elections except Madras. In Madras, the justice party, the party of Brahmans has feelings and beliefs that winning the elections is also another way of gaining power only to which Brahmans had access.

This movement’s effects on the economy were huge that the import of foreign cloth just reduces to half and its value dropped from Rs 102 crore to Rs 57 crore between 1921 and 1922 because foreign goods were boycotted, and foreign clothes were burnt by the people in huge bonfires and liquor shops also picketed. This boycott led to an increase in the production of Indian textile mills and handlooms.

But soon after this, the movement started to slow down due to a variety of reasons, like the expensive khadi cloth produced traditionally by Indians compared to the cheap mass-produced mill cloth which the poor people could not afford. Slowly, the institution boycott did not prevail either, as no Indian institutions were set up. That resulted in the reduction of participation of school students and teachers in the boycott as they began to return to government-controlled colleges for their studies and teacher resumed their jobs and lawyers got back to their government courts.

Rebellion in the Countryside

The noncooperation movement has spread from cities to the countryside:

Peasants’ Movement in Awadh 

  1. It drew into its fold the struggles of peasants and Tribals which were developing in different parts of India. This movement started in Awadh under the leadership of Baba Ramchandra – a sanyasi who had earlier been to Fiji as an indentured laborer. An indentured laborer is a bonded laborer who has to work to pay off their debts.
  2. In favor of this movement, in many places, Nai-Dhobi bandhs were organized by panchayats to deny all basic services to landlords, such as washermen, barbers, etc.
  3. After that, Jawaharlal Nehru came to the villages of Awadh to sympathize with the people and talk to them about their grievances. 
  4. By October 1920, Oudh Kisan Sabha was established by Jawaharlal Nehru, Baba Ramchandra, and a few others for the development of peasants. And within a while, 300 branches had been set up in many villages around the region. 
  5. As the movement spread in 1921 then the houses of talukdars and merchants were attacked and looted, and grain hoards were taken over by peasants. This was disliked by Congress.
  6. Even in many places, local leaders used the name Gandhiji and told the people not to pay taxes and for land to be redistributed among the poor.

Tribal movement in Andhra Pradesh 

  1. Tribal peasants interpreted the message of Gandhiji and the idea of swaraj in a different way. 
  2. For example, a Militant Guerrilla movement started in the Guden Hills of Andhra Pradesh in 1920 under the leadership of Alluri Sitarama Raju.
  3. In the forest regions, the government has restricted entry and closed it off, preventing the hill people from entering it for grazing cattle, collecting fuelwood and fruits, etc.
  4. The people felt that not only were their livelihoods affected, but their traditional rights were also being denied.
  5. When the government forced them to contribute beggars for road building, the hill people revolted. The person who came to lead them was an interesting figure, Alluri Sitaram Raju. He claimed that he had special powers and could make correct astrological predictions, was immune to bullets, and could heal people.
  6. The Guden rebels attacked many police stations, killed British officials, and carried out guerrilla warfare for achieving swaraj. In 1924 Raju was captured and executed by British officials and over time he became a Folk hero.

Swaraj in the Plantations 

Every worker had their own understanding of the idea of swaraj. In Assam, freedom meant the right to move freely in and out of the confined space for plantation workers, for them, it meant retaining a link with the village from which they had come.

Under the Inland Emigration Act of 1859, these plantation workers were not permitted to leave their fields and tea gardens without any prior information or permission but when they heard of the Gandhiji non-cooperation movement, thousands of workers denied working under these conditions and they believed that Gandhiraj was coming, and everyone would be given land in their own villages. While returning to their home they were stranded on the way by the railway and steamer strike, and they were caught by the police and brutally beaten up.

Visualization of these movements was not defined by the Congress program. Interpretation of the term swaraj in their own ways, with the expectation that all sufferings and troubles will come to an end with it. When the action was held in the name of Gandhi or linked the movement to Congress, they were identifying with a movement that went beyond the limits of the locality.

Reason for the Suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement

  • The Chauri Chaura incident, which involved a violent clash between protesters and police, resulted in the deaths of several policemen. This event was a significant departure from the movement’s principles of non-violence, which caused Mahatma Gandhi to call off the movement.
  • The need to reevaluate the movement’s strategy and tactics before moving forward, as the suspension of the movement left many Indians disillusioned and frustrated, and the Indian independence movement needed to rebuild its momentum.
  • The movement’s significant successes, such as the boycott of British goods, had a significant impact on the British economy but also caused many British officials and merchants to oppose the movement.
  • The impact of the suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement on Indian leaders and organizations, such as the Indian National Congress, needed to reassess their goals and methods for achieving independence from British rule.
  • The emergence of new forms of resistance against British rules, such as the Civil Disobedience Movement and the Quit India Movement, which were influenced by the Non-Cooperation Movement but adopted different strategies and tactics.

Overall, the suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement was a significant turning point in India’s struggle for independence, which forced Indian leaders to reevaluate their strategies and tactics and paved the way for new forms of resistance against British rule.

Related Links

  1. Khilafat and Non-Cooperation Movement
  2. The First World War, Khilafat, and Non-Cooperation Movement
  3. Difference between Non-Cooperation and Civil Disobedience Movement

FAQs on Non-Cooperation Movement

Q 1. Describe the spread of the non-cooperation movement in the countryside.


Non-cooperation movement spread to the countryside because of the Awadh peasants under the leadership of Baba Ram Chandra revolted against the talukdars and the landlords who demanded high taxes and also rents from the peasants.

Q 2. Explain how the non-cooperation movement emerged in the towns.


Spread of the movement in the towns emerged because of the involvement and also the participation of the middle classes; followed by many students who left government schools and colleges. The headmasters and also teachers left their jobs and lawyers left practice.

Q 3. What was the main reason to withdraw from the non-cooperation movement?


The Non-Cooperation Movement was suspended because of the violent clash that took place between the protesters and police at Chauri Chaura. The incident resulted in the deaths of several policemen, which was against the principles of non-violent resistance that Mahatma Gandhi strongly believed in. 

Q 4. Difference between Non-Cooperation Movement and Civil Disobedience Movement?


Non-Cooperation Movement 

Civil Disobedience Movement 

Gandhiji started the non-cooperation campaign in 1921. In 1930, the civil disobedience movement began.
It began with the participation of the middle class. Industrialists such as GD Birla and Purshottamdas Thakur das were the first to endorse it.
Due to khalifa concerns, the Muslim community took part in a large-scale non-cooperation movement. The developing alliance between the congress party and the hindu Mahasabha stopped Muslims from joining the civil disobedience movement.
Gandhiji withdrew the non-cooperation movement after a violent event in Chauri – Chaura. In 1931, Gandhiji signed the Gandhi-Irwin Act, which ended the civil disobedience campaign.
Women did not take part in this movement in substantial numbers. Women’s large-scale engagement is one of the most important aspects of the Civil Disobedience Movement.

Q 5. What was the cause of the non-cooperation movement’s gradual slowdown?


The causes of the non-cooperation movement’s gradual slowdown are:

  1. Khadi fabric was more expensive than mass-produced mill cloth, making it unaffordable for the poor. 
  2. A issue arose from the boycott of British institutions. Alternative institutions needed to be established in order for the movement to succeed, but these were sluggish to emerge. 
  3. As a result, students and instructors have no choice but to return to government schools, and attorneys have returned to government courts.

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Last Updated : 13 May, 2023
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