In 1917, a committee was set up under the presidentship of Sir Sydney Rowlatt to look into the militant Nationalist activities. On the basis of its report the Rowlatt Act was passed in March 1919 by the Central Legislative Council.
As per this Act, any person could be arrested on the basis of suspicion. No appeal or petition could be filed against such arrests. This Act was called the Black Act and it was widely opposed. An all-India hartal was organized on 6 April 1919. Meetings were held all over the country.
Mahatma Gandhi was arrested near Delhi. Two prominent leaders of Punjab, Dr Satya Pal and Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlew, were arrested in Amritsar.
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (13 April, 1919)
The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre took place on 13 April 1919 and it remained a turning point in the history of India’s freedom movement. In Punjab, there was an unprecedented support to the Rowlatt Satyagraha.
Facing a violent situation, the Government of Punjab handed over the administration to the military authorities under General Dyer. He banned all public meetings and detained the political leaders. On 13th April, the Baisakhi day (harvest festival), a public meeting was organized at the Jallianwala Bagh (garden).
Dyer marched in and without any warning opened fire on the crowd. The firing continued for about 10 to 15 minutes and it stopped only after the ammunition exhausted. According to official report 379 people were killed and 1137 wounded in the incident.
There was a nationwide protest against this massacre and Rabindranath Tagore renounced his knighthood as a protest. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre gave a tremendous impetus to the freedom struggle.
The chief cause of the Khilafat Movement was the defeat of Turkey in the First World War. The harsh terms of the Treaty of Sevres (1920) was felt by the Muslims as a great insult to them.
The whole movement was based on the Muslim belief that the Caliph (the Sultan of Turkey) was the religious head of the Muslims all over the world. The Muslims in India were upset over the British attitude against Turkey and launched the Khilafat Movement.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, M.A. Ansari, Saifuddin Kitchlew and the Ali brothers were the prominent leaders of this movement. A Khilafat Committee had been formed and on 19th October 1919, the whole country had observed the Khilafat day.
On 23 November, a joint conference of the Hindus and the Muslims had also been held under the chairmanship of Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi was particularly interested in bringing the Hindus and the Muslims together to achieve the country’s independence.
Subsequently, the Khilafat Movement merged with the Non-Cooperation Movement launched by Mahatma Gandhi in 1920.