Events led to Non-Cooperation Movement

Mains Marks Booster     2nd August 2023        

Montague Chelmsford Reforms (1919)

The Government of India Act 1919 represents an important milestone in the constitutional progress of India under colonial rule.

Provisions of the act:

  • Expansion of both provincial & imperial legislature. 
  • Establishment of elected majority at both, provincial and central levels.
  • Introduction of a system of direct election
  • Enfranchisement of the woman for the first time.
  • Voting rights were available only to a very small part of the Indian population due to property criteria.
  • Bicameral legislature at the Centre.
  • Division of subjects into the Central and provincial lists.
  • Introduction of diarchy in the provinces.

Response of Congress:

  • The Congress met in a special session in August 1918 at Bombay under Hasan Imam's presidency and declared the reforms to be “disappointing” and “unsatisfactory” and demanded effective self-government instead.
  •  The 1919 reforms did not satisfy political demands in India.


  • No Swaraj was granted.
  • Introduction of responsible governance on a very limited scale.
  • Transfer of non-sovereign subjects in the Indian hands.
  • Wide powers given to the Governor general and the governor.
  • Extension of the system of separate electorates.
  • Extremely limited franchise.

While they expanded the legislative councils and introduced limited self-governance, they fell short of meeting the aspirations of Indian nationalists for complete independence and a truly representative system of government

Rowlatt Act (1919)

The Rowlatt Act, also known as the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act of 1919, was enacted by the British colonial government in India.


  • It empowered the authorities to suppress revolutionary activities and curb dissent against British rule. It provided the government with powers to arrest without trial.

Opposition and Protests: 

  •  The enactment of the Rowlatt Act led to widespread protests across India. A large peaceful crowd had gathered at Amritsar's Jallianwala Bagh to protest the arrests of pro-Indian independence leaders Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew and Dr. Satya Pal.  In Amritsar, Punjab, the protests culminated in the infamous Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in April 1919. British troops, under the command of General Reginald Dyer, opened fire on a peaceful gathering, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of unarmed Indians.

Impact on the Nationalist Movement: 

The Rowlatt Act and the subsequent Jallianwala Bagh Massacre became a turning point in the Indian nationalist movement:

  • It deepened public discontent with British rule and increased demands for self-governance and independence.
  • It played a significant role in shaping Mahatma Gandhi's decision to launch the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920.
  • The movement aimed to boycott British institutions, courts, and government offices as a form of peaceful resistance.

The Rowlatt Act highlighted the repressive nature of British colonial rule and played a crucial role in mobilizing public sentiment and galvanizing the movement against British rule in India.

Rowlatt Satyagraha:

  • In response to the Rowlatt Act of 1919, Gandhi established the Rowlatt Satyagraha Sabha, which represented a shift in the nationalist movement from agitation to active resistance, through non-cooperation and civil disobedience.
  • The limited Montford Reforms and the repressive Rowlatt Act, which Gandhi dubbed the "Black Act", came as a betrayal to Indians who expected progression towards self-rule for their support in the war effort.
  • Gandhi’s call for an all-India protest through Satyagraha was met with violent anti-British demonstrations in various cities.
  • The National Congress transformed into an action-oriented organization, with the struggle for independence increasingly involving peasants, artisans, and the urban poor, reflecting a shift in focus to the masses, who were encouraged to become politically active.
  • Gandhi emphasized the importance of self-sufficiency and the dignity of labor through khadi (hand-spun and handwoven cloth) as a symbol. He encouraged nationalists to connect with rural India and awakened the masses for political activism, with protests involving nationwide strikes, fasting, prayer, and civil disobedience.
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