updated on March 20th, 2019
While trying to appease the Indians with the reforms, the Government passed the Montague Chelmsford Reforms (1918), which formed the basis of Government of India Act of These were condemned by most of the Congress leaders, but some disagreed, for instance, T. B Sapru, Jayakar, and Chintamani. They left the party and formed National Liberal Federation/Association In continuation of its carrot and stick policy, the government also passed the Rowlatt Act in early 1919 in spite of stiff opposition from all the Indian members of the Legislative Council. It authorized the Government, through a system of special courts, to detain anyone without trial for a maximum period of two years. While all the sections of Indian opinion deeply resented the Act, it was Gandhi Ji who suggested a concrete form of a mass protest his first at an all Indian level. Initially, the plan was a rather modest one of volunteers courting arrest by public sale of prohibited works. It was extended by Gandhi on March 23, 1919, to include the novel and far more radical idea of an all-India Hartal on March 30 (later postponed to April 6). Gandhi used three types of political network—the Home Rule Leagues, certain pan-Islamist groups, and a Satyagraha Sabha which he himself started at Bombay on February 24—to organize the Satyagraha.
As has already been pointed out, the younger and radical members of the two Home Rule Leagues were in need of a leader. Gandhi had already developed excellent relations with some Muslim leaders, particularly with Abdul Ban of the Firangi Mahal Ulama group at Lucknow. Faced with the defeat of Ottoman Turkey and the rumours about the harsh peace terms being prepared by the victorious Allies, the Indian Muslims were increasingly becoming concerned about the future of the Caliph-Sultan. whom they considered as their spiritual leader.
Meanwhile, the moderate section of the ‘young party’ who wanted to accept the Montford reforms was ousted from the Muslim League by an alliance of somewhat more radical politicians like Ansari and a large group of Ulama led by Abdul Bari They came out in favor Satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act after a meeting with Gandhi in mid-March 1919. The Satyagraha Sabha concentrated on publishing propaganda literature and collecting signatures to a Satyagraha pledge, while Gandhi himself embarked on a whirlwind tour.
The movement that emerged was very elemental, almost entirely urban, with the lower middle-class groups and artisans playing a more important role than industrial workers. There were demonstrations and hartals in most of the towns on March 30 and April 6 and these were generally accompanied by violence and disorder Punjab, already suffering from the after-effects of severe wartime repression following the Ghadar outbreaks of 1915, forcible recruitment for the War, and the ravages of disease reacted particularly strongly. In Amritsar and Lahore, the situation became alarming for the Government. The army was called in and Amritsar was handed over to General Dyer, who issued an order prohibiting all public meeting and assemblies.
Jallianwala Bagh Incident
On the Baisakhi Day of April 13, 1919, a peaceful unarmed the crowd, consisting mostly of villagers who had come for a fair and were not aware of the ban on meetings, was fired upon without any warning and provocation by Dyers’ troops, in Jallianwala Bagh, a park enclosed from all sides. The official estimate was 379 deaths, while the other estimates were considerably higher. The brutality at Jallianwala Bagh stunned the entire nation. The response did not come immediately, but a little later. For the moment, repression was intensified and Punjab was placed under martial law.
Gandhi withdrew the movement on April 18 calling it a ‘Himalayan blunder’. Since then, Gandhi became extremely wary about starting movements without adequate organizational and ideological preparation. Rabindranath Tagore, voicing the agony and anger of the nation, through a famous letter, renounced his knighthood (May 30, 1919). Gandhi returned the Kaiser-i-Hind medal given to him for his work during the Boer war The Congress set up a nonofficial enquiry committee into the Punjab massacre. The Government, at the instigation of the nationalist leadership, appointed the Committee of Enquiry (consisting of four British and three Indian members) under the Chairmanship of Lord Hunter. However, to protect its officers, the Government simultaneously passed an Indemnity Act. Dyer was removed from active service by the British Government in London but was absolved from all guilt.
Help us by contributing and making this site better by commenting below or