Mahatma Gandhi returned from South Africa in 1915. Because of his movements against racial restrictions in South Africa, he had already become a respected leader. This was evident from the rousing welcome he received when he set foot on Indian soil.
Mahatma Gandhi first wanted to understand the people, their needs and overall situation in India. Hence, he spent his first year in India in travelling throughout the country.
His earliest participation in local movements was in Champaran, Kheda and Ahmadabad. After that, he started movements on much large scale. You will learn about such movements in following sections of this chapter.
The Rowlatt Act was passed in 1919. The Act curbed the freedom of expression and strengthened police powers. Gandhiji gave a call for a satyagraha against the Rowlatt Act. He asked the people to observe 6 April 1919 as the day of non-violent opposition to this Act. Satyagraha Sabhas were set up to launch the movement.
The Rowlatt Satyagraha became the first all-India struggle against the British government. However, it was mainly restricted to cities. Many demonstrations and hartals (strikes) took place in the country. The government used brutal measures to suppress the revolt. The Jalianwala Bagh massacre was one example of such brutal measures. Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood in protest of Jalianwala Bagh incident. Knighthood is given to a person to honor his/her contribution to the society. Once a person gets the knighthood, the prefix Sir is attached to the name of that person.
After the First World War, a harsh treaty was imposed on the Turkish Khalifa. The leaders of the Khilafat Agitation, Mohammad Ali and Shaukat Ali wanted to associate with the Non-Cooperation Movement. The Muslims wanted the Khalifa to retain control over Muslim sacred places in the erstwhile Ottoman Empire. Gandhiji supported the Khilafat Movement, in order to ensure Hindu-Muslim unity.
The Non-Cooperation Movement gained momentum through 1921-22. Thousands of students left schools and colleges to join the movement. Many eminent professionals gave up their profession to join the movement. Bonfires of foreign cloths were burnt. The boycott of foreign cloths resulted in imports falling drastically between 1920 and 1922.
The Non-Cooperation Movement remained non-violent at most of the places. But some people interpreted the message of Mahatma Gandhi in their own ways, mostly to suit their local grievances.
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