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The Non-Cooperation Movement 1920-22

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The Non-cooperation Movement (Asahayog Andolan) was the next major event in the Indian struggle for freedom after the First War of Independence in 1857. This movement started in 1920 and lasted through 1922, supported all along by the Indian National Congress.

Under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership, the movement aimed at resisting British rule through non-violence (ahinsa). Activists refused to buy British goods, used only local handicrafts, and picketed liquor shops. The goal was to uphold Indian honor and integrity in a peaceful manner. Thousands of common citizens rallied for the cause and it was the first large scale movement in the history of India’s independence.

Many factors culminated over time leading to the Non-cooperation movement. Some of the significant causes were – growing British oppression of Indians as seen by the Rowlatt Act and Jalianwala Bagh massacre, economic inequality due to Indian wealth being exported to Britain, downturn of Indian artisans due to British factory-made goods replacing handmade goods, and strong resentment about Indian soldiers in the British army dying in World War I while fighting battles that otherwise had nothing to do with India.

Before the movement began, political leaders like Annie Besant, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Bal Gangadhar Tilak called for home rule. It involved public petitions and meetings, but did not include peaceful disorder or obstruction of government services. The non-cooperation movement seriously challenged the economic and political power of the British.

The movement achieved overwhelming success across India. On February 5, 1922, violent clashes occurred between the local police and the protesters in Chauri Chaura. Three protesters were killed in police firing, and a police station was set on fire by the mob, killing 22 policemen.

Mahatma Gandhi felt that the movement had gone off-course and lost its non-violent nature. He did not want it to degenerate further and become violent. So he appealed to the Indian masses to cease the disobedience and went on a fast lasting 3 weeks. However, Gandhiji was arrested on March 10, 1922 and imprisoned for 6 years for publishing rebellious material.

While most Congress leaders stood by Mahatma Gandhi, many nationalists felt that the Non-Cooperation Movement should not have been stopped due to isolated incidents of violence. Gandhi's commitment to non-violence continued and resulted in another major movement in the fight for Indian Independence – The Salt Satyagraha.

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The Non-Cooperation Movement 1920-22