Non Cooperation Movement: Causes, Features, Significance

By Shubhra Anand Jain|Updated : January 18th, 2023

Non Cooperation Movement aimed to resist British rule in India following the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the Rowlatt act. It was started on September 5, 1920, by Mahatma Gandhi, who travelled far with the Ali Brothers to spread the idea of national unity and non-cooperation with the British administration. The major forms of protests included in the Non Cooperation Movement were the surrender of titles and honours, boycott of government-affiliated schools and colleges, picketing of shops selling foreign clothes, etc. Eminent personalities like Motilal Nehru, C Rajgopalachari, Vallabhbhai Patel, Chitranjan Das, Gopabandhu Das, Ajmal Khan, Subhash Chandra Bose, and Jawaharlal Nehru joined the Non Cooperation Movement.

The Non Cooperation Movement UPSC notes are important to prepare for the Indian History section covered under the Syllabus for both prelims and mains. The article covers all the relevant aspects of the movement, such as date, features, significance, and causes of Non Cooperation Movement.

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What is Non Cooperation Movement?

The Non Cooperation Movement was pivotal in India’s struggle for freedom from British domination. Itwas officially launched in the Calcutta Congress session in September 1920 under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. The Non Cooperation Movement was launched after the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre and Rowlatt Act with the hope of gaining Purna Swaraj.

The Khilafat movement mobilized Muslims against the Ottoman Empire's dismemberment after World War I. Gandhi did support the Khilafat movement, and both the Khilafat movement and the Indian National Congress embarked on Non Cooperation Movement against British rule.

  • Khilafat and Non Cooperation Movement united Hindus and Muslims against a common cause. It signalled the shift in Indian nationalism from being middle-class to becoming a form of mass movement.
  • Mahatma Gandhi launched the Non Cooperation Movement in 1920. Gandhi believed that if non-cooperation was carried out successfully and without bloodshed, India would be free in a year. 
  • Non Cooperation Movement in India was agreed to by the Indian National Congress at Calcutta in September 1920 and launched that December.

Non Cooperation Movement Date

Go through the Non Cooperation Movement date and associated events to better understand the NCM Movement for the upcoming IAS Exam. The Non-Cooperation Movement was started on 05 September 1920.

  • 1918 - Rowlatt Act
  • 1919- Khalifa (Caliph) lost power (All India Khilafat Committee was formed)
  • 1920 - Non Cooperation Movement started in September
  • September 1920 - Calcutta Session of Congress
  • 5 February 1922 - Chauri Chaura Incident
  • March 1922 - Mahatma Gandhi Arrested
  • November 1922 - Khilafat Issue lost relevance

Non Cooperation Movement

Causes of Non Cooperation Movement

There were several reasons why Non Cooperation was started by Mahatama Gandhi. The details are mentioned below.

  • World War I: Indian soldiers fought on the British side in World War I, forward-thinking that they would repay the service by granting India its independence.
  • Economic concerns: Product prices were skyrocketing, while farmers could not obtain the required income for their agricultural produce, causing discontent towards the British government.
  • Rowlatt Act: The Rowlatt Act took India’s struggle for independence to a new level. According to this act, Britishers had the authority to arrest and detain someone without a fair trial. One of the key causes of the Non Cooperation Movement was the result of this.
  • Jallianwala Bagh massacre: The Jallianwala Bagh slaughter, which occurred on April 13, 1919, united and filled every Indian with wrath. The silver of trust in the British administration had been broken. Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer‘s instructions resulted in the deaths of 379 individuals and the injuries of 1200 unarmed civilians in the massacre.
  • Khilafat movement: At the time, the Sultan of Turkey was considered the religious leader of Muslims. When the British defeated Turkey in World War I, a committee known as the Khilafat movement was founded, led by Maulana Azad, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Maulana Mohammad Ali, Maulana Shaukat Ali, and Hasrat Mohani. As the leaders of the Khilafat movement joined hands with the Non-Cooperation Movement, the movement United Hindus and Muslims.

Khilafat and Non Cooperation Movement

Let us look at the relation between the Khilafat and the Non Cooperation movement here. Muslims worldwide considered Turkey's sultan as their spiritual leader, Khalifa (Caliph). During World War 1, the Indian Muslims helped the British Government because the Ottoman Empire's sacred places would be in Khalifa's hands, and the British would not interfere. However, the Ottoman Empire was divided after the War, and the Khalifa became powerless. This angered the Muslims.

  • Shoukat Ali and Mohammad Ali, better known as the Ali brothers, started the Khilafat Movement in 1919 against the British government, and it lasted till 1924. 
  • Under the leadership of the Ali brothers, Ajmal Khan, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, and Hasrat Mohani, the All India Khilafat Committee was formed to pressurize the British Government to change its attitude to Turkey.

Though on the Khilafat issue, Gandhi was always in favour of initiating Satyagraha and Non Cooperation Movement against the Government, Congress did not agree. But later, seeing it as common ground for Hindu-Muslim Unity, Congress extended its support. The Muslim League also gave full support to the Congress for Khilafat and Non Cooperation Movement.

Short Note on Non Cooperation Movement and Khilafat Movement can be expected in the UPSC Mains exam. Some most asked questions on Khilafat and Non Cooperation Movement are mentioned below.

Features of Non Cooperation Movement

The Non-Cooperation Movement's most important aspect was the struggle against British rule in a non-violent and civilized manner. The Tilak Swaraj fund supported the finances of the Non Cooperation Movement. The movement pushed for more use and production of goods and products manufactured in India while refusing to use British products.

Other features of the Non Cooperation Movement are as follows:

  • Indians were asked to refuse to cast votes in the legislative elections. They were asked to give up their titles and prominent positions.
  • Indians were asked to boycott legislative council elections and prohibit and withdraw from British educational establishments.
  • Boycotts could be broadened to include widespread civil disobedience, such as tax evasion.
  • It fought for more than the manufacturing of commodities and products made in India while discouraging the use of British products.
  • To resolve disputes, panchayats were established.

Non-Cooperation Movement Leaders

Non Cooperation Movement moved the struggle for independence from an individual level to a mass movement. Hindus and Muslims came together to fight against the British. Below mentioned are some leaders who were associated with the Non Cooperation Movement.

  • Mahatma Gandhi - Led the movement to gain swaraj in 1 year through non-violent means.
  • Jawaharlal Nehru - Supported the formation of Kisan Sabhas. JL Nehru did not support MK Gandhi to withdrawal from the movement.
  • Subhash Chandra Bose - resigned from the civil service
  • Ali brothers (Shaukat Ali and Muhammad Ali) - Started the Khilafat Movement and the All India Khilafat Conference
  • Motilal Nehru - Gave up his legal practice.
  • Lala Lajpat Rai, C R Das, and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel were also part of the movement.

Who Participated in Non Cooperation Movement?

Some of the major leaders that participated in the Non Cooperation Movement and Khilafat Movement are listed below. 

Non Cooperation Movement Leaders

Role

Mahatma Gandhi

He started the movement and also played an active role throughout the movement.

C.R. Das

3 of his allies and subordinates, J.M. Sengupta in Chittagong, Birendranath Samsal in Midnapore, and Subhash Bose in Calcutta, worked actively to unite Hindus and Muslims.

In the Congress Nagpur session in 1920, he declared the commitment to non-cooperation.

Jawaharlal Nehru

He opposed Gandhi's decision to withdraw the movement; supported the establishment of Kisan Sabhas.

Lala Lajpat Rai

He did not support the Non-Cooperation movement initially but later was against the decision to withdraw it

Subhash Chandra Bose

He resigned from civil service and was appointed as Principal of Calcutta's National College.

Ali brothers (Shaukat Ali and Muhammad Ali)

Brought Muslims and Hindus together by guiding Muslims not to serve the British army.

Motilal Nehru

Renounced his legal practice

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

Spread the Non cooperation movement in Gujarat

Spread of Non Cooperation Movement in India

The Non-Cooperation Movement saw the coming together of people from different communities, religions, and classes fighting against a common cause. It spread to the urban areas as well as to the rural areas. The key aspects in the spread of the Non Cooperation Movement were:

  • Mahatma Gandhi and the Ali Brothers of the Khilafat movement embarked on a cross-country journey.
  • C.R. Das, M.R. Jaykar, Motilal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, C. Rajagopalachari, Saifuddin Kitchlew, T. Prakasam, and Asaf Ali quit their law firms to enter congress politics on a full-time basis.
  • Someshwar Prasad Chaudhary led the peasants in Bengal in a campaign against indigo farming.
  • In October 1920, during the Jamia Millia Islamia foundation committee gathering in Aligarh, Maulana Mehrnud Hasan laid the foundation for the institution.
  • Western education was boycotted in various provinces, including Bengal and Punjab.
  • The Bihar Vidyapeeth was established. The pioneers of the Indian revolution began to teach in schools with just an Indian curriculum.
  • The stores that offered clothing from abroad were picketed. The national movement adopted the symbols of Khadi and Charkha.
  • The Bihar Tana Bhagat sect abstained from drinking.
  • In Punjab, the Akali movement, which initially demanded Guruduwara reforms, became associated with the Non-Cooperation Movement. To protect Sikh gurdwaras from dishonest preachers, Akali Dal was established on December 13, 1920, following the establishment of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC). Kartar Singh Jabbar, Master Tara Singh, and Baba Kharak Singh were the key founders.
  • Alluri Sitarama Raju recruited the tribal people in Andhra Pradesh and collaborated with the non-cooperation campaign.
  • The All India Khilafat conference was called in Karachi on July 21, 1921. ‘No Muslim should serve the British army’, Maulana Mohammad Ali proposed the message to support the Non Cooperation Movement. The Ali brothers were consequently detained for treason.
  • Birendra Nath Sasmal spearheaded a protest against the Union Board of taxes from the Bengali city of Midnapore. People throughout the nation enthusiastically supported the “no tax to government” campaign in support of the NCM Movement.

Challenges in the Non Cooperation Movement

The major challenges faced by the Non Cooperation Movement were:

  • The boycott of law courts by lawyers did not have the same impact as a boycott of schools.
  • Unfortunately, the campaign in Kerala ended up taking a communal tone.
  • The plantation workers in Assam staged a protest. When the fleeing labourers were shot at, the ferry service and the Assam-Bengal railway began protesting.
  • The peasants had no security of tenure as tenants and were frequently dispossessed, preventing them from gaining any rights to the leased land. As a result, the Awadh Peasant Movement requested a concession in revenue, the elimination of ‘begar’, and a public boycott of oppressive landlords.
  • Although the Non Cooperation Movement was initially peaceful, it eventually developed into a violent fury of protest in some areas.

Withdrawal of the Non Cooperation Movement

The Non Cooperation Movement was withdrawn after the Chauri Chaura incident. The Chauri Chaura incident occurred on February 5, 1922, in the district of Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, that led to the suspension of Non cooperation movement.

  • During the Chauri Chaura incident, the police fired upon a sizable crowd of demonstrators.
  • In retribution, protesters assaulted and destroyed a police station, murdering everyone inside. Three civilians and 22 police officers were killed.

As a result, the Non-Cooperation Movement was put down, and other leaders were thereafter taken into custody. Mahatma Gandhi was detained on February 12, 1922, despite having single-handedly put an end to the national uprising. On 18 March 1922, he was imprisoned for six years for publishing seditious materials.

Impact of Non Cooperation Movement

The most notable impact of the Non Cooperation Movement was elevating Gandhi to the forefront of Indian national politics. Mass incarceration reduced the fear associated with prisons, and going to prison became a symbol of pride.

  • Due to the Non Cooperation Movement in India, the national struggle now had new goals and objectives.
  • Gandhiji outlined the purpose of Swaraj and defined Swaraj as the freedom of self-rule, both inside and outside the boundaries of the British Empire, during the congress session in Nagpur in December 1920.
  • The local public needed to know their political rights and advantages. There was a complete lack of trust in the governmental system, and people could see that the only way India could hope to be free from British rule was through their efforts.

Significance of Non Cooperation Movement

The Non Cooperation Movement was one of the major events in the history of India’s struggle for independence. The significance of the movement can be concluded from the following points:

  • It was a non-violent movement that required self-control, sacrifice, and denial. It represented the commencement of independence. People from various spheres of life participated in the movement.
  • Students avoided enrolling in schools and colleges, attorneys abstained from appearing in courts, and in addition to going on strike, the working class also stopped paying taxes.
  • The common people's fear of British domination was vanquished when they turned out to take part in the national movement. They could physically witness the British’s despair in the face of Gandhiji. Every Indian felt more secure.
  • Because of the vast number of Indian women who responded positively to Gandhiji’s call to join the anti-British struggle, the NCM was crucial in women's liberation. Their increased engagement in the national uprising set the stage for a shift in the societal perspective.

Non Cooperation Movement UPSC

Candidates preparing for the upcoming UPSC Exam must go through the Non Cooperation Movement Notes as it is one of the most important events in modern history. The topic is well mentioned in the UPSC Syllabus. Questions on the topic are asked repeatedly in both Prelims and Mains exams.

UPSC Questions on Non-Cooperation Movement

Download the UPSC Previous Year Question Papers to practice the Non Cooperation Movement UPSC questions.

Question: Due to various factors, the Non-Cooperation Movement in towns was halted. Identify the areas where it caused some practical issues:

A) Boycotting foreign cloth

B) Boycotting British institutions

C) Blockade of liquor stores

D) Both A and B

Answer: Option D

Question: The adoption by the Congress of the non-cooperation movement initiated earlier by the Khilafat Committee gave it new energy. Consider the following statements that show the intensity of the upsurge:

1) Foreign products were boycotted and the British imports fell by half the initial amount.

2) Tilak Swaraj Fund was oversubscribed and 100 crore rupees were collected to support non-cooperation.

3) Congress volunteer corps emerged as the parallel police.

Codes:

  1. A) Only 1
  2. B) Only 3
  3. C) 1 and 3
  4. D) All of the above

Answer: Option C

Other Questions:

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FAQs on Non Cooperation Movement

  • On September 5, 1920, the Non Cooperation Movement began. After the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and a Rowlatt act, a non-violent movement was formed to revoke the nation’s participation. Mahatma Gandhi travelled extensively with the Ali brothers to promote the concept of national solidarity and non-cooperation with the British government.

  • The Non Cooperation Movement started on 05 September 1920. Mahatma Gandhi and his followers started the movement after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the Rowlatt act.

    Check other movements led by Gandhiji:

  • There were several reasons why the Non-Cooperation Movement was started in India.

    • Resentment at the British after the war
    • Home Rule Movement
    • Economic troubles after World War I
    • The Rowlatt Act and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre
    • The Khilafat Movement
  • The Khilafat and non cooperation movement were related to each other as Hindus and Muslims came together to demand non-cooperation against the Britishers. Muslims demanded the leadership of the Ottoman Sultan from the British and later joined hands with the leaders of the non-cooperation movement to achieve a common objective against the British.

  • The peasants in Awadh had no security of tenure as tenants and were frequently dispossessed, preventing them from gaining any rights to the leased land. As a result, the Awadh Peasant Movement requested a concession in revenue, the elimination of ‘begar’, and a public boycott of oppressive landlords.

  • Non cooperation movement was also spread to the countryside. For instance, in Awadh, the movement was led by Baba Ramchandra against landlords and Talukdars to protect the interests of local peasants.

  • The Non Cooperation Movement in India was supposed to be a non-violent movement against the Britishers. The protest in Chauri Chaura was planned as a peaceful protest, but it turned violent. Gandhiji opposed the violent nature of the movement and hence decided to withdraw it.

  • Some of the major reasons for launching the Non cooperation movement in 1920 are as follows:

    • British did not desire to free the occupied territories
    • The economic issues were raised in India after World War 1.
    • Indian Soldiers joined the national movement.
  • Nabakrushna Choudhury, on Gandhiji's invitation, joined the Non-cooperation movement. He left his service at the Cuttack Medical School during the movement.

  • To download notes or essay on Non cooperation movement, click on the link provided here. The Non Cooperation Movement Notes include all details such as date, significance, causes, participation, features, withdrawal, and more.

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