Critical assessment of the Non-Cooperation Movement

In support of the Khilafat Movement Gandhi inaugurated Non-Cooperation Movement with  a bang on 1 August 1920. The Khilafat Committee and the Congress agreed upon the triple purpose of Non Cooperation- 1) Satisfactory solution of the Khilafat issue 2) redressal of the Punjab wrongs 3) attainment of Swaraj.

If we go by the programme of Non-Cooperation movement and success this programme brought, movement seems to have ended in failure, but in real terms the national movement had been strengthened in more than one way. National sentiments and the national movement had now reached remotest corners of the land. Millions of peasants, artisans and urban poor had been brought into the national movement. All strata of Indian society had been politicized. Women had been drawn into the movement. It is this politicization and activation of millions of men and women that imparted a revolutionary character of the Indian National Movement. The notion of invincibility of the British Rule was challenged by Satyagraha and Mass Struggle.

A major result of the Non-Cooperation movement was that the Indian people loss their sense of fear-the brute strength of British power in India no longer frightened them. They had gained tremendous self confidence and self esteem, which no defeats and retreats could shake.

Non-Cooperation movement, by taking the cause of Khilafat had brought urban muslims into the nationalist movement. Some historians have criticised for mixing religion with politics. As a result, they say, religious consciousness spread to politics, and the long run, the forces of communalism was strengthened. This is true to some extent. There was, of course, nothing wrong in the nationalist movement taking up a demand that affected Muslims only. It was inevitable that different sections of the society would come to understand the need for freedom through their particular demands and experiences. The nationalist leadership, however, failed to some extent in raising the religious political consciousness of the Muslims to the higher plane of secular political consciousness.

Finally, the withdrawal of non-cooperation movement did not find favour us with various leaders. Subhash Chandra Bose called it a ‘National Calamity’. Jawaharlal Nehru mentions in his autobiography his ‘amazement and consternation’ at the decision.

But we must see the “withdrawal” as Gandhi’s life long commitment to Non-Violence at any cost. Besides he had for-warned the public at many times that the movement must remain non-violent in nature. Moreover, perhaps he also believed that the British would be able to easily crush a violent movement, for people had not yet built up enough strength and stamina to resist massive government repression.

In retrospect, even when the Non-cooperation Movement had not achieved its stated objective and it was prematurely withdrawn, Gandhi was convinced that the movement had created desired results when he declared that ‘the fight that was commenced in 1920 is a fight to finish, whether it lasts one month or one year or many months or many years.’

For more reading: Non-Cooperation Movement

February 28, 2016

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