Modern History

Non-Cooperation Movement (1920) – Significance of NCM [UPSC Notes] l


The Non-cooperation Movement was launched on 5th September 1920 by the Indian National Congress (INC) under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. In September 1920, in Congress session in Calcutta, the party introduced the Non-Cooperation programme. The period of the non-cooperation movement is taken as September 1920 to February 1922. It signified a new chapter in the history of the Indian freedom struggle.

The Non-Cooperation Movement was launched in the wake of a series of events including the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre and was called off because of Chauri Chaura incident of 1922.

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Know the Difference Between the Non-Cooperation Movement and Civil Disobedience Movement at the linked article.

The details about the Non-Cooperation Movement for IAS Exam, are mentioned in this article, both from the UPSC Prelims and Mains perspectives.

Non-Cooperation Movement and Mahatma Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi was the main force behind the non-cooperation movement. In March 1920, he issued a manifesto declaring a doctrine of the non-violent non-cooperation movement. Gandhi, through this manifesto, wanted people to:

  1. Adopt swadeshi principles
  2. Adopt swadeshi habits including hand spinning & weaving
  3. Work for the eradication of untouchability from society

Gandhi travelled across the nation in 1921 explaining the tenets of the movement.

Features of the Non-Cooperation Movement

  • The movement was essentially a peaceful and non-violent protest against the British government in India.
  • Indians were asked to relinquish their titles and resign from nominated seats in the local bodies as a mark of protest.
  • People were asked to resign from their government jobs.
  • People were asked to withdraw their children from government-controlled or aided schools and colleges.
  • People were asked to boycott foreign goods and use only Indian-made goods.
  • People were asked to boycott the elections to the legislative councils.
  • People were asked not to serve in the British army.
  • It was also planned that if the above steps did not bring results, people would refuse to pay their taxes.
  • The INC also demanded Swarajya or self-government.
  • Only completely non-violent means would be employed to get the demands fulfilled.
  • The non-cooperation movement was a decisive step in the independence movement because, for the first time, the INC was ready to forego constitutional means to achieve self-rule.
  • Gandhiji had assured that Swaraj would be achieved in a year if this movement was continued to completion.

Also, read, Non-Cooperation Movement was Launched – [1st August, 1920] 

Causes of Non-Cooperation Movement

  • Resentment at the British after the war: Indians thought that in return for the extensive support of manpower and resources they had provided to Britain during the First World War, they would be rewarded by autonomy at the end of the war. But the Government of India Act 1919 was dissatisfactory. In addition, the British also passed repressive acts like the Rowlatt Act which further angered many Indians who felt betrayed by the rulers despite their wartime support.
  • Home Rule Movement: The Home Rule Movement started by Annie Besant and Bal Gangadhar Tilak set the stage for the non-cooperation movement. The extremists and the moderates of the INC were united and the Lucknow Pact also saw solidarity between the Muslim League and the Congress Party. The return of the extremists gave the INC a militant character.
  • Economic hardships due to World War I: India’s participation in the war caused a lot of economic hardships to the people. Prices of goods began to soar which affected the common man. Peasants also suffered because the prices of agricultural products did not increase. All this led to resentment against the government.
  • The Rowlatt Act and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre: The repressive Rowlatt Act and the brutal massacre at Jallianwala Bagh, Amritsar had a profound effect on the Indian leaders and the people. Their faith in the British system of justice was broken and the whole country rallied behind its leaders who were pitching for a more aggressive and firm stance against the government.
  • The Khilafat Movement: During the First World War, Turkey, which was one of the Central Powers, had fought against the British. After Turkey’s defeat, the Ottoman caliphate was proposed to be dissolved. Muslims regarded Sultan of Turkey as their Caliph (religious head of the Muslims). The Khilafat movement was launched under the leadership of  Ali Brothers (Maulana Mohammed Ali and Maulana Shaukat Ali), Maulana Azad, Hakim Ajmal Khan, and Hasrat Mohani. It got the support from Mahatma Gandhi to persuade the British government not to abolish the caliphate. The leaders of this movement accepted the non-cooperation movement of Gandhiji and led a joint protest against the British.

Why was the Non-Cooperation Movement suspended?

  • Gandhiji called off the movement in February 1922 in the wake of the Chauri Chaura incident.
  • In Chauri Chaura, Uttar Pradesh, a violent mob set fire to a police station killing 22 policemen during a clash between the police and protesters of the movement.
  • Gandhiji called off the movement saying people were not ready for revolt against the government through ahimsa. Several leaders like Motilal Nehru and C R Das were against the suspension of the movement only due to sporadic incidents of violence.

A few other related CSE exam modern Indian history articles are linked below:

Significance of Non-Cooperation Movement

  • Swaraj was not achieved in one year as Gandhiji had told.
  • However, it was a truly mass movement where lakhs of Indians participated in the open protest against the government through peaceful means.
  • It shook the British government who were stumped by the extent of the movement.
  • It saw participation from both Hindus and Muslims thereby showcasing communal harmony in the country.
  • This movement established the popularity of the Congress Party among the people.
  • As a result of this movement, people became conscious of their political rights. They were not afraid of the government.
  • Hordes of people thronged to jails willingly.
  • The Indian merchants and mill owners enjoyed good profits during this period as a result of the boycott of British goods. Khadi was promoted.
  • The import of sugar from Britain reduced considerably during this period.
  • This movement also established Gandhiji as a leader of the masses.

Facts about Non-Cooperation Movement for UPSC

Aspirants preparing for UPSC 2024 should read the facts given below about the movement:

Personalities Associated with Non-Cooperation Movement Role in the Non-Cooperation Movement
Mahatma Gandhi
  • The main force behind the movement
  • Announced a manifesto in 1920
C.R. Das
  • Moved the main resolution on non-cooperation in the annual session of the Congress in Nagpur in 1920
  • His three subordinates and supporters, Birendranath Samsal in Midnapore, J.M. Sengupta in Chittagong and Subhash Bose in Calcutta played a major role in uniting the Hindus and Muslims
Jawaharlal Nehru
  • Encouraged the formation of Kisan Sabhas
  • Was against Gandhi’s decision to withdraw the movement
Subhash Chandra Bose
  • Resigned from the civil service
  • Appointed as the Principal of the National College in Calcutta
Ali brothers (Shaukat Ali and Muhammad Ali)
  • At the All India Khilafat Conference, Muhammed Ali declared that ‘it was religiously unlawful for the Muslims to continue in the British Army’
Motilal Nehru
  • Renounced his legal practice
Lala Lajpat Rai
  • Initially did not favour the movement
  • Later, he was against its withdrawal
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
  • Spread the movement in Gujarat

Aspirants should know that in Indian History, Kheda Satyagraha (1918) is the first step towards non-cooperation.

How did the people respond to the Non-Cooperation Movement?

The great leaders who were supporting the movement were given complete cooperation by people belonging to different sections of the country:

  • The businessmen supported the movement as the nationalist movement on the use of Swadeshi had proven to be beneficial for them
  • Peasants and the middle class got an opportunity to show their unacceptance of British rule by being a part of the movement
  • Women too actively participated in the movement and actively protested
  • Plantation workers who were not allowed to leave the tea gardens left the plantation fields in support of the Gandhian movement
  • A lot of people also surrendered their titles and honours given by the British government
  • People had started boycotting civil services, courts, schools and colleges run by the British government

To get to the point and brief answers for many other such questions on the Non-Cooperation and Khilafat movement, UPSC exam aspirants can refer to the links given below:

Candidates preparing for the upcoming UPSC recruitment must refer to the IAS topper list and get inspired and motivated with their success stories.

For more details, study material and preparation tips for the modern history part of the IAS Syllabus, candidates can visit BYJU’S.


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