Nationalism in India For Class 10 History Summary Notes

The First World War, Khilafat, and Non-Cooperation

In India, the growth of modern nationalism is connected to the anti-colonial movement. Due to colonialism, many different groups shared bonds together, which were forged by the Congress under Mahatma Gandhi.

The war created a new economic and political situation in the years after 1919. Income tax introduced and the prices of custom duties were doubled between 1913 and 1918, which led to a very difficult life for common people. In 1918-19 crops failed in India, resulting in a shortage of food accompanied by an influenza epidemic. At this stage, a new leader appeared and suggested a new mode of struggle.

The Idea of Satyagraha

In January 1915, Mahatma Gandhi returned to India from South Africa and started the movement Satyagraha. Satyagraha emphasized the power of truth and the need to search for truth. According to Mahatma Gandhi, people can win a battle with non-violence which will unite all Indians. In 1917, he traveled to Champaran in Bihar to inspire the peasants to struggle against the oppressive plantation system. In the same year, he organized satyagraha to support the peasants of the Kheda district of Gujarat. In 1918, Mahatma Gandhi went to Ahmedabad to organize a satyagraha movement amongst cotton mill workers.

The Rowlatt Act

In 1919, Mahatma Gandhi launched a nationwide satyagraha against the proposed Rowlatt Act. The Act gives the government enormous powers to repress political activities and allowed the detention of political prisoners without trial for two years. The British government decided to clamp down on nationalists by witnessing the outrage of the people. On April 10th, police in Amritsar fired on a peaceful procession, which provoked widespread attacks on banks, post offices, and railway stations. Martial law was imposed and General Dyer took command.

On the 13th of April, the Jallianwala Bagh incident took place. A large crowd gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh where a few people came to protest against the government’s new repressive measures, while some came to attend the annual Baisakhi fair. General Dyer blocked all the exit points and opened fire on the crowd killing hundreds. After the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, people became furious and went on strikes, clashes with police, and attacks on government buildings. Mahatma Gandhi had to call off the movement as it was turning into a violent war.

Mahatma Gandhi then took up the Khilafat issue by bringing Hindus and Muslims together. The First World War ended with the defeat of Ottoman Turkey. In March 1919, a Khilafat Committee was formed in Bombay. In September 1920, Mahatma Gandhi convinced other leaders of the need to start a non-cooperation movement in support of Khilafat as well as for swaraj.

Why Non-cooperation?

According to Mahatma Gandhi, British rule was established in India with the cooperation of Indians. Non-cooperation movement is proposed in stages. It should begin with the surrender of titles that the government awarded and a boycott of civil services, army, police, courts and legislative councils, schools and foreign goods. After many hurdles and campaigning between the supporters and opponents of the movement, finally, in December 1920, the Non-Cooperation Movement was adopted.

Differing Strands within the Movement

In January 1921, the Non-Cooperation-Khilafat Movement began. In this movement, various social groups participated, but the term meant different things to different people.

The Movement in the Towns

The middle class started the movement and thousands of students, teachers, and headmasters left government-controlled schools and colleges, and lawyers gave up their legal practices. On the economic front, the effects of non-cooperation were more dramatic. The production of Indian textile mills and handlooms went up when people started boycotting foreign goods. However, this movement slowed down due to a variety of reasons such as Khadi clothes being expensive, fewer Indian institutions for students and teachers to choose from, so they went back to government schools and lawyers joined back government courts.

Rebellion in the Countryside

The Non-Cooperation Movement spread to the countryside where peasants and tribals were developing in different parts of India. The peasant movement started against talukdars and landlords who demanded high rents and a variety of other cesses. It demanded a reduction of revenue, abolition of begar, and a social boycott of oppressive landlords.

Jawaharlal Nehru in June 1920, started going around the villages in Awadh to understand their grievances. In October, he along with a few others set up the Oudh Kisan Sabha and within a month 300 branches had been set up. In 1921, the peasant movement spread, and the houses of talukdars and merchants were attacked, bazaars were looted and grain boards were taken over.

In the early 1920s, a militant guerrilla movement started spreading in the Gudem Hills of Andhra Pradesh. The government started closing down forest areas due to which their livelihood was affected. Finally, the hill people revolted, which was led by Alluri Sitaram Raju who claimed that he had a variety of special powers.

Swaraj in the Plantations

For plantation workers in Assam, freedom meant the right to move freely in and out and retain a link with the village from which they had come. Under the Inland Emigration Act of 1859, plantation workers were not permitted to leave the tea gardens without permission. After they heard of the Non-Cooperation Movement, thousands of workers left the plantations and headed home. But, unfortunately, they never reached their destination and were caught by the police and brutally beaten up.

Towards Civil Disobedience

In February 1922, the Non-Cooperation Movement was withdrawn because Mahatma Gandhi felt that it was turning violent. Some of the leaders wanted to participate in elections to the provincial councils. Swaraj Party was formed by CR Das and Motilal Nehru. In the late 1920s Indian politics again shaped because of two factors. The first effect was the worldwide economic depression and the second effect was the falling agricultural prices. The Statutory Commission was set up to look into the functioning of the constitutional system in India and suggest changes. In 1928, Simon Commission arrived in India and it was greeted by the slogan ‘Go back, Simon’. In December 1929, under the presidency of Jawaharlal Nehru, the Lahore Congress formalized the demand of ‘Purna Swaraj’ or full independence for India. It was declared that 26 January 1930 would be celebrated as Independence Day.

The Salt March and the Civil Disobedience Movement

On 31 January 1930, Mahatma Gandhi sent a letter to Viceroy Irwin stating eleven demands. Among the demands, the most stirring of all was the demand to abolish the salt tax which is consumed by the rich and the poor. The demands needed to be fulfilled by 11 March or else Congress would start a civil disobedience campaign. The famous salt march was started by Mahatma Gandhi accompanied by 78 of his trusted volunteers. The march was over 240 miles, from Gandhiji’s ashram in Sabarmati to the Gujarati coastal town of Dandi. On 6 April he reached Dandi, and ceremonially violated the law, manufacturing salt by boiling seawater. This marked the beginning of the Civil Disobedience Movement.

The movement spread across the world and salt law was broken in different parts of the country. The foreign cloth was boycotted, peasants refused to pay revenue and in many places, forest law was violated. In April 1930, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, a devout disciple of Mahatma Gandhi was arrested. Mahatma Gandhi was arrested a month later which led to attacks to all structures that symbolised British rule. After witnessing the horrific situation, Mahatma Gandhi decided to call off the movement and entered into a pact with Irwin on 5 March 1931. Gandhi-Irwin Pact, Gandhiji consented to participate in a Round Table Conference in London. When the conference broke down, Mahatma Gandhi returned to India disappointed and relaunched the Civil Disobedience Movement.  It continued for almost a year, but by 1934 it lost its momentum.

How Participants saw the Movement

The Patidars of Gujarat and the Jats of Uttar Pradesh were active in the movement. They became enthusiastic supporters of the Civil Disobedience Movement. But they were deeply disappointed when the movement was called off in 1931. So when the movement was restarted in 1932, many of them refused to participate. The poorer peasants joined a variety of radical movements, often led by Socialists and Communists.

To organize business interests, the Indian Industrial and Commercial Congress in 1920 and the Federation of the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) in 1927 was formed. The industrialists attacked colonial control over the Indian economy and supported the Civil Disobedience Movement when it was first launched. Some of the industrial workers did participate in the Civil Disobedience Movement. In 1930 and 1932 railway workers and dock workers were on strike.

Another important feature of the Civil Disobedience Movement was the large-scale participation of women. But, for a long time, Congress was reluctant to allow women to hold any position of authority within the organization.

The Limits of Civil Disobedience

Dalits, addressed as untouchables were not moved by the concept of Swaraj. Mahatma Gandhi used to call them Harijans or the children of God, without whom swaraj could not be achieved. He organised satyagraha for the untouchables but they were keen on a different political solution to the problems of the community. They demanded reserved seats in educational institutions and a separate electorate.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, who organized the Dalits into the Depressed Classes Association in 1930, clashed with Mahatma Gandhi at the second Round Table Conference by demanding separate electorates for Dalits. The Poona Pact of September 1932, gave the Depressed Classes (later to be known as the Scheduled Castes) reserved seats in provincial and central legislative councils. After the decline of the Non-Cooperation-Khilafat movement, Muslims felt alienated from the Congress due to which the relations between Hindus and Muslims worsened.

Muhammad Ali Jinnah was willing to give up the demand for separate electorates if Muslims were assured reserved seats in the Central Assembly and representation in proportion to population in the Muslim-dominated provinces. Nevertheless, the hope of resolving the issue at the All Parties Conference in 1928 disappeared when M.R. Jayakar of the Hindu Mahasabha strongly opposed efforts at compromise. 

The Sense of Collective Belonging

Nationalism spreads when people begin to believe that they are all part of the same nation. History and fiction, folklore and songs, popular prints and symbols, all played a part in the making of nationalism. Finally, in the twentieth century, the identity of India came to be visually associated with the image of Bharat Mata. Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay created the image and in the 1870s he wrote ‘Vande Mataram’ as a hymn to the motherland.

Abanindranath Tagore painted his famous image of Bharat Mata portrayed as an ascetic figure; she is calm, composed, divine, and spiritual. In late-nineteenth-century India, nationalists began recording folk tales sung by bards and they toured villages to gather folk songs and legends. During the Swadeshi movement in Bengal, a tricolor flag (red, green, and yellow) was designed which had eight lotuses representing eight provinces of British India, and a crescent moon, representing Hindus and Muslims. By 1921, Gandhiji designed the Swaraj flag, a tricolor (red, green, and white), and had a spinning wheel in the center, representing the Gandhian ideal of self-help.


In the first half of the twentieth century, various groups and classes of Indians came together in the struggle for independence. The Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi attempted to resolve differences and ensure that the demands of one group did not alienate another. In other words, what was emerging was a nation with many voices wanting freedom from colonial rule.