Emergence of Non-Cooperation and Khilafat Agitation

Arora IAS Class Notes


  • Post-WWI Discontent:
    • Economic hardship due to rising prices and taxes.
    • Rowlatt Act, martial law, and Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.
    • Disappointment with Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms.
  • Growing Hindu-Muslim Unity:
    • Lucknow Pact (1916) fostered cooperation.
    • Rowlatt Act protests brought communities together.
    • Rise of radical nationalist Muslims in Muslim League.

Seeds of Non-Cooperation:

  • Disillusionment with British promises.
  • Desire for self-government.

Khilafat Issue:

  • Ottoman Caliphate Threatened:After WWI, the British sought to dismantle the Ottoman Empire and remove the Caliph from power.
  • Muslim Anger:Indian Muslims viewed the Caliph as their spiritual leader and were outraged by British actions.
  • Khilafat Committee Formed:Led by Ali brothers, Maulana Azad, Ajmal Khan, and Hasrat Mohani, the committee demanded:
    • Retention of Caliph’s control over Muslim holy sites.
    • Sufficient territories for the Caliphate.


Khilafat and Non-Cooperation:

  • Khilafat Leaders’ Demands:
  • Initially limited to meetings and petitions, later escalated to calls for boycotting British goods and non-cooperation.
  • Gandhi’s View:Saw the Khilafat issue as a platform for mass, united non-cooperation against the British Raj.
  • Congress Divided:Tilak opposed an alliance with Muslims over a religious issue and questioned the effectiveness of satyagraha.
  • Congress Support:Eventually convinced by Gandhi of the benefits of:
    • Hindu-Muslim unity.
    • Bringing Muslim masses into the national movement.
    • Expressing mass discontent after the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.
  • Muslim League Support:Agreed to fully support the Congress and its program.


The Non-Cooperation Khilafat Movement (1920-1922)

Escalating Tensions (Early 1920):

  • Feb 1920: Joint Hindu-Muslim deputation to Viceroy fails.
  • Gandhi threatens non-cooperation if Khilafat demands unmet.
  • May 1920: Treaty of Sevres dismantles Ottoman Empire, angering Indian Muslims.

Launch of Non-Cooperation (June – Dec 1920):

  • June 1920: All-party conference approves boycott of schools, colleges, law courts.
  • Gandhi leads the movement. (Tilak dies in August 1920)
  • Aug 1920: Khilafat Committee starts non-cooperation campaign.
  • Sept 1920: Congress approves non-cooperation program:
    • Boycott of government education, law courts, and elections.
    • Promotion of khadi (homespun cloth) and hand-spinning.
    • Renunciation of titles.
    • Potential civil disobedience (later stages).
  • Dec 1920: Nagpur Congress:
    • Endorses non-cooperation program.
    • Amends Congress goal: “swaraj through peaceful and legitimate means” (allowing extra-constitutional methods).
    • Restructures Congress organization.
    • Gandhi predicts swaraj within a year with full program implementation.

Shifting Alliances:

  • Revolutionary groups support the Congress program.
  • Some leaders (Jinnah, Besant) leave Congress, advocating constitutional struggle.
  • Others form Indian National Liberal Federation (limited political role).


  • Non-cooperation infused the Khilafat movement with new energy.
  • 1921-1922 witnessed significant popular participation in the movement.

Nationwide Campaign:

  • Gandhi and Ali brothers toured the country, mobilizing support.
  • Thousands of students left government institutions for new national schools and colleges led by figures like:
    • Acharya Narendra Dev
    • R. Das
    • Lala Lajpat Rai
    • Zakir Hussain
    • Subhash Bose (led National College, Calcutta)
  • Examples of national institutions:
    • Jamia Millia Islamia (Aligarh)
    • Kashi Vidyapeeth
    • Gujarat Vidyapeeth
    • Bihar Vidyapeeth
  • Lawyers like Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, C.R. Das, and Vallabhbhai Patel gave up their practices.
  • Public burnings of foreign cloth reduced imports by half.
  • Picketing of shops selling foreign goods and liquor.
  • Tilak Swaraj Fund raised over one crore rupees.
  • Formation of Congress volunteer corps as a parallel police force.

Calls for Civil Disobedience (1921):

  • Ali brothers urged Muslims to resign from the army (seen as “unreligious”).
  • Gandhi echoed the call and encouraged local Congress committees to follow suit.
  • Local Congress bodies empowered to initiate civil disobedience if deemed appropriate.
  • Existing no-tax movements continued in Midnapore (Bengal) and Guntur (Andhra).
  • Strikes organized in Assam tea plantations, steamer services, and Assam-Bengal Railways (J.M. Sengupta a prominent leader).
  • Protests and strikes erupted during the visit of the Prince of Wales (November 1921).

Local Struggles:

  • Awadh Kisan Movement (UP) – peasant movement
  • Eka Movement (UP) – social reform movement
  • Mappila Revolt (Malabar) – anti-colonial uprising
  • Sikh agitation for removal of mahants in Punjab

Participation by Social Groups:

  • Middle Class:Led the movement initially but became hesitant about Gandhi’s program later. Limited response in elite political centers like Calcutta, Bombay, Madras. Calls for resignation from government service and surrendering titles not widely embraced. New political figures saw non-cooperation as a viable alternative to terrorism.
  • Business Class:Indian businesses supported the economic boycott due to potential benefits from swadeshi (domestic goods) promotion. However, some big businesses remained cautious due to concerns about labor unrest.
  • Peasants:Mass participation. Peasants’ grievances against landlords and traders merged with the movement, leading to confrontations. The movement offered an outlet for expressing discontent against both British and Indian oppressors.
  • Students:Actively volunteered, leaving government institutions for national schools/colleges.
  • Women:Shed purdah, donated ornaments to the Tilak Fund, participated in picketing, and attended meetings.
  • Muslims:High participation and communal unity despite some events like the Moplah Uprising. Two-thirds of those arrested were Muslims, reflecting unprecedented levels of participation.

Government Response:

  • Talks between Gandhi and Viceroy Reading failed in May 1921 (government wanted Gandhi to pressure Ali brothers to moderate speeches).
  • December 1921: Crackdown on protestors. Volunteer corps outlawed, public meetings banned, press restrictions imposed, and leaders arrested (excluding Gandhi).


The Last Phase and Suspension of Non-Cooperation Movement (1922)

Mounting Pressure for Civil Disobedience:

  • Congress rank and file pressured Gandhi to launch civil disobedience.
  • Ahmedabad Congress (1921): Gandhi authorized to lead civil disobedience program.
  • February 1, 1922: Gandhi threatened civil disobedience from Bardoli if:
    • Political prisoners not released.
    • Press controls not removed.

Chauri Chaura Incident (Feb 5, 1922):

  • Police violence against protestors in Chauri Chaura village (UP).
  • Crowd retaliates by burning police station with officers inside.
  • 22 policemen killed.

Gandhi Calls Off Movement:

  • Dismayed by violence, Gandhi suspends the Non-Cooperation Movement.
  • Congress Working Committee meeting (Bardoli, Feb 1922):
    • Ends civil disobedience.
    • Shifts focus to “constructive work”:
      • Promoting khadi (homespun cloth)
      • Supporting national schools
      • Advocating temperance, Hindu-Muslim unity, and anti-untouchability.

Leader Reactions:

  • R. Das, Motilal Nehru, Subhash Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru disagreed with Gandhi’s decision.

Gandhi’s Arrest (March 1922):

  • Sentenced to 6 years in prison for seditious writings.

Reasons for Gandhi’s Decision:

  • Fear of escalating violence and loss of control over the movement.
  • Movement fatigue.
  • Lack of government negotiation.
  • Decline of the Khilafat issue:
    • Rise of Mustafa Kemal Pasha in Turkey (Nov 1922).
    • Abolition of the Caliphate (1924).

Evaluation of Khilafat Non-Cooperation Movement

  • Inclusion of Urban Muslims: Brought urban Muslims into the national movement.
  • Communalization of Politics: Communalized national politics to some extent.
  • Failure of National Leaders: Leaders failed to elevate Muslim political consciousness to a secular level.
  • Politicization of Population: Non-Cooperation Movement politicized every strata of society.
  • Revolutionary Character: Imparted a revolutionary character to the national movement.
  • Challenge to Colonial Rule: Challenged myths of colonial rule’s benefits and invincibility.
  • Fearlessness: Masses lost fear of colonial repression.


Important Leaders

1.Acharya Narendra Deva

Early Life and Education

  • Born in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh (1889)
  • Studied history, archaeology, religion, philosophy etc.
  • Began teaching history at Kashi Vidyapeeth in 1921

Political and Social Views

  • Believed in democratic socialism
  • Advocated for ending exploitation by all classes
  • Drawn to Marxism but critical of Soviet Union’s lack of democracy

Activism and Imprisonment

  • President of Congress Socialist Party (1934)
  • Actively participated in India’s independence movement
  • Imprisoned during World War II and Quit India Movement


  • Played a key role in India’s independence struggle
  • Emphasized ethical and spiritual values in social change
  • Remembered as a scholar, thinker, and socialist leader


  1. Zakir Husain

Early Life and Education

  • Born in Hyderabad (1897)
  • Completed schooling in Etawah, Uttar Pradesh
  • MA from Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College (Aligarh Muslim University)
  • PhD in Economics from University of Berlin

Education Activism

  • Co-founded National Muslim University (later Jamia Millia Islamia) in 1920
  • Promoted value-based education inspired by Mahatma Gandhi
  • Served as Vice-Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University

Political Career

  • Member of Rajya Sabha
  • Governor of Bihar (1957)
  • Vice President of India (1962)
  • President of India (1962-1969) – First president to die in office
  • Awarded Bharat Ratna (1963)


  1. Vallabhbhai Patel


  • Born on 31st October 1875 in Nadiad, Gujarat.
  • First Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India.

Ideology and Legacy:

  • Advocated unity (Ek Bharat) for a foremost India (Shresth Bharat).
  • Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative echoes his call for self-reliance.

Contribution to Constituent Assembly:

  • Headed various committees, including Advisory Committee on Fundamental Rights.
  • Instrumental in Committee on Minorities and Tribal and Excluded Areas.


  • Fought against alcoholism, untouchability, and caste discrimination.
  • Championed women’s emancipation; led Kheda Satyagraha (1918) and Bardoli Satyagraha (1928).

Integration of Princely States:

  • Key role in integrating 565 princely states into the Indian Union.
  • Employed tactics of Sama, Dama, Dand, and Bhed as necessary.
  • Used force to annex Junagadh and Hyderabad, ensuring national unity.
  • Prevented balkanization of India; earned title “Iron Man of India.”


  • Passed away on 15th December 1950 in Bombay.
  1. Jawaharlal Nehru

Early Life and Education

  • Born: November 14, 1889, Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh
  • Father: Motilal Nehru (President of Indian National Congress)
  • Educated in England: Harrow School, Trinity College (Cambridge), Inner Temple

Freedom Movement Leader

  • Joined Indian National Congress in 1912
  • Advocated for complete independence in 1929
  • Key participant in movements like Non-Cooperation Movement, Salt Satyagraha, Quit India Movement
  • Imprisoned multiple times by British Raj

First Prime Minister of India (1947-1964)

  • Oversaw integration of princely states under Vallabhbhai Patel
  • Established India as a sovereign, democratic republic in 1950
  • Championed Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) during Cold War
  • Promoted democratic socialism and India’s industrialization through Five-Year Plans


  • Remembered for his role in achieving Indian independence and shaping modern India
  • Books: The Discovery of India, An Autobiography, Letters from a Father to His Daughter
  • Died: May 27, 1964




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