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Spectrum Summary: Non-Cooperation Movement & Khilafat Aandolan - History for UPSC CSE


  • During 1919-22, the British were opposed through two mass movements:
    (i) The Khilafat
    (ii) Non-Cooperation
    Though the two movements emerged from separate issues, they adopted a common programme of action—that of non-violent noncooperation.Spectrum Summary: Non-Cooperation Movement & Khilafat Aandolan | History for UPSC CSE
  • The Khilafat issue was not directly linked to Indian politics but it provided the immediate background to the movement and gave an added advantage of cementing Hindu-Muslim unity against the British.


Background of the two movements was provided by a series of events after the First World War.
The year 1919, in particular, saw a strong feeling of discontent among all sections of Indians for various reasons:

  • The economic situation of the country in the post- War years had become alarming with a rise in prices of commodities, a decrease in the production of Indian industries, an increase in the burden of taxes and rents etc.
  • Rowlatt Act, the imposition of martial law in Punjab and the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre exposed the brutal and uncivilised face of the foreign rule. The Hunter Committee on the Punjab atrocities proved to be an eyewash. In fact, the House of Lords (of the British Parliament) endorsed General Dyer’s action and the British public showed solidarity with General Dyer by helping The Morning Post collect 30,000 pounds for him.
  • Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms with their ill-conceived scheme of dyarchy failed to satisfy the rising demand of the Indians for self-government.
  • Post-First World War period also saw the preparation of the ground for common political action by Hindus and Muslims:
    (i) Lucknow Pact (1916) had stimulated Congress-Muslim League cooperation.
    (ii) Rowlatt Act agitation brought Hindus and Muslims, and also other sections of the society, together.
    (iii) Radical nationalist Muslims had now become more influential than the conservative Aligarh school elements who had dominated the League earlier.

The Khilafat Issue

In India, too, Muslims demanded from the British:

  • That the Khalifa’s control over Muslim sacred places should be retained.
  • The Khalifa should be left with sufficient territories after territorial arrangements. In early 1919, a Khilafat Committee was formed.
    Spectrum Summary: Non-Cooperation Movement & Khilafat Aandolan | History for UPSC CSE

Development of the Khalifat-Non-Cooperation Programme 

  • At All India Khilafat Conference held in Delhi in November 1919, a call was made for the boycott of British goods. Gandhi, who was the president of the All India Khilafat Committee, saw in the issue a platform from which mass and united non-cooperation could be declared against the Government.

Congress Stand on Khilafat Question

  • It was felt that this was a golden opportunity to cement Hindu-Muslim unity and to bring Muslim masses into the national movement, now different sections of society could come into the national movement by fighting for their own rights and realising that the colonial rule was opposed to them.
  • Congress was losing faith in the constitutional struggle, especially after the Punjab incidents and the blatantly partisan Hunter Committee Report.
  • Congress was aware that the masses were eager to give expression to their discontent.

➢ Muslim League Support to Congress

  • The Muslim League also decided to give full support to the Congress and its agitation on political questions.

The Non-Cooperation Khilafat Movement

  • February 1920 In early 1920, a joint Hindu-Muslim deputation was sent to the viceroy to seek redress of grievances on the issue of Khilafat.
  • In February 1920, Gandhi announced that the issues of the Punjab wrongs and constitutional advance had been overshadowed by the Khilafat question.
  • May 1920 Treaty of Sevres with Turkey, signed in May 1920, completely dismembered Turkey.
  • June 1920 An all-party conference at Allahabad approved a programme of boycott.
  • August 31, 1920, The Khilafat Committee started a campaign of non-cooperation and the movement was formally launched.
  • September 1920 At a special session in Calcutta, the Congress approved a non-cooperation programme till the Punjab and Khilafat wrongs were removed and swaraj was established.

➢ The programme was to include:

  • Boycott of government schools and colleges.
  • Boycott of law courts and dispensation of justice through panchayats instead.
  • Boycott of legislative councils.
  • Boycott of foreign cloth and use of khadi instead, also practice of hand-spinning to be done.
  • Renunciation of government honours and titles, the second phase could include mass civil disobedience including resignation from government service, and non-payment of taxes.

➢ December 1920 At the Nagpur session of the Indian National Congress

  • An important change was made in the Congress creed: Now, instead of having the attainment of self-government through constitutional means as its goal, the Congress decided to have the attainment of swaraj through peaceful and legitimate means, thus committing itself to an extraconstitutional mass struggle.
  • Some important organisational changes were made: A congress working committee (CWC) of 15 members was set up to lead the Congress from now onwards, provincial congress committees on linguistic basis were organised, ward committees were organised, and the entry fee was reduced to four annas.
  • Gandhi declared that if the non-cooperation programme was implemented completely, swaraj would be ushered in within a year.
  • Surendranath Banerjea founded the Indian National Liberal Federation and played a minor role in national politics henceforward.

➢ The Spread of the Movement

  • Gandhi accompanied by the Ali brothers undertook a nationwide tour. Educational institutions were organised under the leadership of Acharya Narendra Dev, C.R. Das, Lala Lajpat Rai, Zakir Hussain, Subhash Bose (who became the principal of National College at Calcutta) and included Jamia Millia at Aligarh, Kashi Vidyapeeth, Gujarat Vidyapeeth and Bihar Vidyapeeth.
  • A no-tax movement against union board taxes in Midnapore (Bengal) and in Guntur (Andhra) was going on.
  • In Assam, strikes in tea plantations, steamer services and Assam-Bengal Railways had been organised. J.M. Sengupta was a prominent leader in these strikes.
  • In November 1921, the visit of the Prince of Wales to India invited strikes and demonstrations. The spirit of defiance and unrest gave rise to many local struggles such as Awadh Kisan Movement (UP), Eka Movement (UP), Mappila Revolt (Malabar) and the Sikh agitation for the removal of mahants in Punjab.

➢ People’s Response

  • Middle Class - People from the middle classes led the movement at the beginning but later they showed a lot of reservations about Gandhi's programme.
  • Business Class - The economic boycott received support from the Indian business group because they had benefited from the nationalists' emphasis on the use of swadeshi.
  • Peasants - Peasants’ participation was massive.
  • Students - Students became active volunteers of the movement.
  • Women - Women gave up purdah and offered their ornaments for the Tilak Fund.
  • Hindu- Muslim Unity - The massive participation of Muslims and the maintenance of communal unity, despite the events like Moppila Uprisings, were great achievements.

➢ Government Response

  • Talks between Gandhi and Reading, the viceroy, broke down in May 1921 Gandhi realised that the government was trying to drive a wedge between him and the Khilafat leaders and refused to fall into the trap.

➢ The Last Phase of the Movement

  • Gandhi was now under increasing pressure from the Congress rank and file to start the civil disobedience programme. The Ahmedabad session in 1921 appointed Gandhi the sole authority on the issue.
  • On February 1, 1922, Gandhi threatened to launch civil disobedience from Bardoli (Gujarat) if :
    (i) Political prisoners were not released.
    (ii) Press controls were not removed.
  • Chauri Chaura Incident - Chauri-Chaura (Gorakhpur district in United Provinces) has found a place in history books due to an incident of violence on February 5, 1922, which was to prompt Gandhi to withdraw the movement.Spectrum Summary: Non-Cooperation Movement & Khilafat Aandolan | History for UPSC CSE
  • Congress Working Committee met at Bardoli in February 1922 and resolved to stop all activity that led to the breaking of the law and to get down to constructive work.
  • In March 1922, Gandhi was arrested and sentenced to six years in jail. He made the occasion memorable by a magnificent court speech: “I am here, therefore, to invite and submit cheerfully to the highest penalty that can be inflicted upon me for what in law is a deliberate crime, and what appears to me to be the highest duty of a citizen.”

Why Gandhi Withdrew the Movement

  • The movement was also showing signs of fatigue. In November 1922, the people of Turkey rose under Mustafa Kamal Pasha and deprived the sultan of political power. In 1924, the caliphate was abolished.

Evaluation of Khilafat Non-Cooperation Movement

  • The movement brought the urban Muslims into the national movement, but at the same time, it communalized national politics, to an extent.
  • With the Non-Cooperation Movement, nationalist sentiments reached every nook and corner of the country and politicized every stratum of the population.
The document Spectrum Summary: Non-Cooperation Movement & Khilafat Aandolan | History for UPSC CSE is a part of the UPSC Course History for UPSC CSE.
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FAQs on Spectrum Summary: Non-Cooperation Movement & Khilafat Aandolan - History for UPSC CSE

1. What is the Khilafat Issue?
The Khilafat Issue refers to the concern of Indian Muslims regarding the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the potential loss of the Caliphate, which held great religious and symbolic significance to them. Muslims in India feared that without a strong caliphate, their religious and political interests would be undermined.
2. What was the Non-Cooperation Khilafat Movement?
The Non-Cooperation Khilafat Movement was a joint effort by Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress to support the Khilafat cause and protest against British policies in India. The movement aimed to unite Hindus and Muslims in a nonviolent struggle against British rule and gain concessions for the Khilafat issue.
3. Why did Gandhi withdraw the Non-Cooperation Movement?
Gandhi withdrew the Non-Cooperation Movement after the Chauri Chaura incident in 1922. In this incident, a mob of protesters attacked and set fire to a police station, resulting in the deaths of 22 policemen. Gandhi believed that the movement had lost its nonviolent character and feared that further violence would undermine the credibility and effectiveness of the movement. He called off the movement and shifted his focus to constructive programs like education and social reforms.
4. How would you evaluate the Khilafat Non-Cooperation Movement?
The Khilafat Non-Cooperation Movement can be evaluated as a significant episode in India's struggle for independence. It brought Hindus and Muslims together on a common platform and highlighted the unity of the Indian population against British rule. The movement also raised awareness about the Khilafat issue and garnered international support. However, its abrupt withdrawal and shift in strategy raised questions about its long-term effectiveness and ability to achieve its goals.
5. What was the impact of the Khilafat Non-Cooperation Movement?
The Khilafat Non-Cooperation Movement had both immediate and long-term impacts. In the short term, it led to the release of political prisoners and gained concessions from the British government. It also increased the political consciousness and participation of Muslims in the Indian independence movement. However, the movement's withdrawal and subsequent shift in strategy weakened its momentum and resulted in a temporary setback for the nationalist cause. Nonetheless, it laid the foundation for future mass movements and the eventual attainment of independence.
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