Chapters :
  • SURGE TOWARDS FREEDOM – 02
  • JALLIANWALA BAGH
  • MASS STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM

SURGE TOWARDS FREEDOM – 02

Shaukat Ali and Muhammad Ali, the two brothers, and Maulana Abdul Kalam Azard Organized the Khilafat Movement. India’s hopes for a true responsible government were soon belied in the face of unmitigated governmental repression. The Rowlatt Bills were calculated to perpetuate the extraordinary powers given to the Government duting the War for suppressing political activities in the country and punishing persons by depriving them of the ordinary rights and privileges of trial and defence provided by law. As a protest against these. Mahatma Gandhi orgainzed a country-wide passive resistance movement.

JALLIANWALA BAGH

To put down this movement, the Government began’s reign of terror particularly in the Punjab under is Lieutenant-Government in connection with a meeting of the citizens of Amritsar held at the Jallianwala Bagh in the afternoon of April 13, 1919. Under the orders of General R.E.H. Dyer, British troops mercilessly fired over 1,600 rounds on the unarmed and defenceless people who had no means of escape from that small park. Even according to official figures, wrung out of the Government some months later, 379 persons were killed, and 1,200 were left wounded on the field about whom, to use Dyer’s own words, he did not consider it his job to take the slightest though’. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre was indeed a dark tragedy. Even after this the Government had no hesitation in using third-degree methods of torture on political prisoners Martial Law was proclaimed in the Punjab within a few days and special tribunals were set up which served as veritable engines of oppression ‘to carry out the arbitrary will of the autocrat.” Indiscriminate arrests confiscations of property floggings and whippings were freely resorted to. there were shootings hangings and bombing from the air, while at Amritsar innocent men and women were made to crawl like worms on bellies.

All these outrages naturally shocked the people of India and raised a strong wave of discontent throughout the country. As a protest against the atrocities in the Punjab, Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) renounced knight hood.

MASS STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM

Under the inspiration of mahatma Gandhi the Indian national movement now took a new turn and was transformed into a people’ movement for liberty. There had already been a quick and enthusiastic response to the programme of the Non-cooperation Movement throughout the country. It included surrender of titles and honorary offices and resignation of nominated members in the local bodies, boycott of Government educational institutions, law-courts and the Legislatures, boycott of foreign goods, adoption of swadeshi cloth on a vast scale and revival of hand spinning and hand weaving, besides non-payment of taxes. The Congress now defined its objective as the ‘attainment of swaraj by the people of India by all legitimate and peaceful means.” The terms “constitutional means” were replaced by the last phrase and swaraj was considered to be ‘self rule within the Empire, if possible, without, if necessary”. Discipline and self-sacrifice were emphasized as essential conditions of the movement and non-violence was declared to be its “integral part”. Under the guidance of Mahatma Gandhi, the Non-cooperation Movement made remarkable progress as a mass struggle. Students left colleges and schools in large numbers. More national educational institutions were established at different places; many lawyers gave up practice, the most distinguished among them being Pandit Motilal Nehru and Deshbandhu C.R. Das; and about two-thirds of the voters did not participate in the elections held in October 1920. While carrying out the Non-cooperation Movement, the Congress also laid stress on constructive activities. One resolution passed during its meeting held at Bezwada (Vijayawada) on March 31 and April 1, 1921, asked the people to concentrate  on the following three items with a view to their completion by June 30; raising the all-India Tilak swarajya fund to one crore of rupees; enlisting one crore of members for the Congress; and introducing twenty lakhs of charkhas (spinning wheels) in the cities and villages. At another meeting from July 28-30, the Congress passed a resolution for concentrating attention “upon attaining a complete boycott of foreign cloth by the 30th of September next and on manufacture of Khadar by stimulating hand-spinning and hand-weaving”. One important feature of the movement was the brining of foreign cloth. On July 31, 1921 Mahatma Gandhi made a bonfire of foreign cloth at Bombay and the example was soon emulated in other parts of the country. To conciliate the Indians, the British Government sent The Prince Of Wales To India. He landed at Bombay on November 17, 1921, but India refused to ‘welcome a representative of a system’ of which she was “SICK UNTO DEATH“. As a mark of discontent against the Government, people observed hartal all over the country and when the Prince visited the provincial capitals, the streets were deserted. The followed a mounting wave of passive resistance and civil disobedience in different parts of the country. Mahatma Gandhi still advised to ‘hasten slowly’ and asked the people to create a proper atmosphere for civil disobedience. But the growth of Government repression and persecution of some leaders. Including the Ali brothers, added fuel to the fire. Meeting at Delhi on November 4 and 5, 1921 THE ALL-INDIAN CONGRESS COMMITTEE authorized ‘every province on its own responsibility to undertake Civil Disobedience including non-payment of tames. Mahatma Gandhi was chosen as the supreme leader to guide the movement. Instead of  at once launching a country-wide mass movement he decided to start the experiment at bardoli, a small tehsil in the Surat district. He suspended even this after the outbreak of violence at Chauri Chaura a small village near Gorakpur in U.P. on February 5, 1922, where an infuriated mob burnt the police station and killed twenty-two policemen. Mahatma Gandhi’s Bardoli decision caused some restiveness among some of his followers, but the Congress endorsed it in February 1922. In the tense situation, the Government arrested Mahatma Gandhi and took no steps to withdraw their repressive measures.

There was a new development in the Congress during its 37th annual session held at Gaya in December 1922. Some members including Deshbandhu C.R. Das, president of that session and Pandit Motilal Nehru (1861-1931), advocated ‘council entry’ to follow a plan of ‘uniform, consistent and continuous obstruction for mending or ending’ the new reforms by entering the Legislative Assembly and the Provincial Councils. However, the majority was not in favour of this policy. The pro Council group, therefore formed the Swaraj Party early in 1923 with Deshbandhu C.R. Das as its President and Pandit Motilal Nehru as its Secretary. The new party contested the next elections. The Swarajists had at first some success, but their main objective was not fulfilled and their influence on Indian politics practically disappeared after the premature death of Deshbandhu C.R. Das in June 1925.
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