The Khilafat Movement: A Landmark Movement in India’s Journey to Freedom

The Khilafat Movement: A Landmark Movement in India’s Journey to Freedom Thu, 25 Oct 2018

The Khilafat Movement: A Landmark Movement in India’s Journey to Freedom

History of Khilafat Movement:

The Khilafat Movement was one of the significant movements in India’s endeavour to free herself from The British Raj. The Khilafat Movement spanned from the year 1915 to 1924. The key feature of this crusade was that it was a Pan-Islamist movement where the Muslims of the then British India allied with the Indian Nationalist against the colonizers. The various treaties of the British rendered the compromise of the Caliph in Turkey. The Khilafat Movement was an anti-British reaction in this context to that which soon found support of the Muslims of the Indian Subcontinent owing to concerns of the weakening rule of the Caliph. The Khilafat Movement saw the combined efforts of the Hindus and the Muslims under the supervision of the Indian National Congress against the British Raj. The success strengthened even more when Mahatma Gandhi decided to bring together his Non Cooperation movement along with the Khilafat Movement for the combined efforts to vocalize their collective resentment against the colonizers.

Significance of the Leadership of Khilafat Movement:

The Khilafat Movement took to South Asia under the leadership of the Ali brothers; Maulana Muhammad Ali and Maulana Shaukat Ali. Under their leadership, numerous Muslim Leaders such as Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ansari, Sheikh Shaukat Ali Siddiqui, Syed Ataullah Shah Bukhari and others came together for the support of Ottoman Empire and protest against the British rule in India. By the mid-1920s, the Khilafat leaders joined hands with Gandhiji's Non-Cooperation movement by non-violent means whereby Hindus and Muslims formed a united front against British rule in India. In September 1920, at the Calcutta Session of the Indian National Congress, the programme of the movement was drawn which included numerous steps of boycott of the British. Leaders like of Chitta Ranjan Das and Subhas Chandra Bose spearheaded the education boycott in Bengal. Punjab also responded to the educational boycott and Lala Lajpat Rai played the leading role. Other areas that were active were Bombay, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa and Assam. Many lawyers, like, C.R. Das, Motilal Nehru, M.R. Jayakar, S. Kitchlew, V. Patel, Asaf Ali Khan and others lived up to the spirit of the movement where they gave up their practices, and their sacrifice became a source of inspiration for many.

Causes and Importance of Khilafat Movement

What was peculiar about this cause was that it was a global effort of the Muslim community to save the Ottoman Empire and the Turkish Khalifa. This struggle was launched by the Ottoman Emperor Abdul Hamid II (1876-1909) as a concern for the rapidly fragmenting Turkish Empire on account of the repeated foreign attacks. To further add to the threat to sovereignty, in the 10th of August, 1920, under the Treaty of Sevres Turkey had her territories divided after her defeat in the First World War among the European powers. This caused a great concern amongst the Muslims, including their population in British India, about the compromise of the sacrosanct holy territories of Islam. Eventually, the Khilafat Movement propelled in September 1919 to protect the Turkish Khalifa and to save the Ottoman Empire from mutilation by the European Allies. However, this movement extended far beyond the borderlands of the Turkish province and was well received in the Indian subcontinent where it profoundly contributed to the freedom struggle of India’s independence.

Role of Mahatma Gandhi in Khilafat Movement

Mahatma Gandhi had a central role in the juxtaposition of the Khilafat Movement with India’s freedom struggle, primarily the Non Cooperation Movement. Mahatma Gandhi had already materialized his ‘Satyagraha’, the non-violent civil resistant nationalist movement mostly on account of the various inhuman acts of repression by the British Government such as the Rowlatt Act of 1919, the imposition of Marshall Law in Punjab in 1919 and subsequently, the Jalianwallah Bahg Massacre of Aril 1919 among the others. Mahatma Gandhi saw the Khilafat Movement as a brilliant opportunity to bring together the Hindus and the Muslims and their respective causes against one common authority of exploitation and domination. Gandhiji hence, wholeheartedly supported the Khilafat Movement and himself became a member of the Central Khilafat Committee. In 1920, during the Nagpur Session of the Indian National Congress, Mahatma Gandhi linked the proposal of self-government better known as ‘Swaraj’ with the Khilafat concerns and demands and adopted the non-cooperation plan to accomplish the twin objectives.

Khilafat Movement and Hindu Muslim Unity

One of the most important instances in India’s freedom struggle was provided by the Khilafat movement in terms of the unity among the Hindus and the Muslims. This was mostly on account of the intertwining of the leaders of the Indian National Congress and the Khilafat Movement themselves. This campaign saw the popularization of the slogan ‘Hindu-Musalmaan ki Jai’ during strikes, protests and demonstrations across the country. The scenario of the Hindu-Muslim consonance went in tune with Mahatma Gandhi’s idea that freedom from the British Raj could only be achieved if the Hindus and the Muslims both worked together and collectively fought for their freedom.

Contributions of the Khilafat Movement in India

The Ali Brothers were extremely active towards the cause of the Khilafat Movement and this led to their arrest by the British authorities only for them to be released again. The days that followed after the release of the Ali Brothers further saw the widespread popularity of the campaign. The North-West Frontier Province, Bengal and Punjab regions were very active in terms of the Khilafat Movement. The November of 1919 saw the occurrence of the All India Khilafat Conference and the subsequently, the Khilafat Manifesto was written where the demands to the British to protect the Caliphate were penned. The leaders of the Non Cooperation Movement went hand in hand with the Khilafat Movement where there was the boycott of bureaucratic, police posts and the non-payment of the various taxes levied by the British Raj. The mobilization also encompassed the surrender of the titles and resignation from nominated offices in the local bodies. The protestors were to abstain from any government occupation and duties and were also to withdraw their children from the British established centers of education. They were to boycott the British courts and establish private arbitration courts. Foreign textiles were not to be used and they were to use swadeshi cloth. Most importantly, the Non-Cooperators were to observe non-violence and truth in their everyday demonstrations. The adoption of the Non-Cooperation Movement by the Indian National Congress was open to all adult men and women on payment of four ‘annas’ as subscription. This resolution by the Indian National Congress gave it a new energy and from January 1921, it began to register considerable success all over India. Mahatma Gandhi along with Ali Brothers undertook a nation-wide tour during which he addressed hundreds of meetings. In the initial stages of this movement, nine thousand students left schools and colleges and in turn joined more than eight hundred national institutions that had sprung up all over the country. The joined Khilafat and the Non-Cooperation movement had a profound effect in the freedom struggle in India. Under Mahatma Gandhi’s guidance and the supervision of the Indian National Congress, the Khilafat Movement saw great success in protests against the British Raj where ‘satyagraha’ and peaceful boycott of the British were the central themes. This was seen especially in relation to the particular incident where the Prince of Wales visited India on the 17th of November, 1921. The arrival of the Price at Bombay was marked by hartals all over British India. The Prince did not receive ant gleeful welcome but on the contrary, there were mass strikes all across the regions. Subsequently, mass movements became very successful among the population and even more so, the Hindu-Muslim unity in rebelling against their colonizers.

Aftermath of the Khilafat Movement in India

The unfortunate tragedy of Chauri Chaura in 5th February, 1922, where a mob of three thousand killed twenty-five policemen and one inspector changed the direction of the movement. Mahatma Gandhi on account of his selfless commitment to non-violence ordered for the suspension of the movement. Simultaneously for the Khilafat Movement, Turkey herself saw the abolition of this cause when in March 1924, the Sultanate Empire decided to be a Republic. The Khilafat Movement originated in foreign lands but it was fundamental to India’s freedom struggle. The highlight of this effort would be the tremendous unity forged among the Hindu-Muslim population who collectively rose to defy the authoritarian colonial regime of the British. The movement went hand in hand with Mahatma Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement and their combined endeavour marked the first all-India agitation against the colonial British; a milestone in India’s freedom struggle.

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