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The Khilafat Movement

A new stream of nationalist ideology began to emerge during World War I. (1914-1918). This was a period when an educated younger generation of Muslims, as well as a sector of traditional religious intellectuals, had become increasingly nationalist. This period saw political unity cutting across religions and active participation for the freedom of India.

Political Unity Across Religions

The Lucknow Pact in 1916 had already established a framework for Hindus and Muslims to work together on political issues. The anti-Rowlatt Act movement had also won considerable support, bringing Hindus and Muslims together in political engagement.

This political union was brought about by government repression. Despite the notion that a Hindu would never drink from a Muslim's hand, Hindus and Muslims were tied together, forced to crawl together, and forced to drink water from each other's hands.

Fall of Ottoman Empire

Politically minded Muslims criticised Britain and her allies' management of the Ottoman or Turkish Empire. Muslims believed that the Sultan of Turkey's standing as Caliph (Khalifa) - a Muslim religious leader, should not be jeopardised.

"We are not aiming to deprive Turkey of the rich and renowned provinces of Asia Minor and Thrace, which are primarily Turkish in ethnic composition," British Prime Minister Lloyd George after WWI

Start of Khilafat Movement

The Ali brothers, Maulana Azad, Hakim Ajmal Khan, and other leaders founded the Khilafat Movement in 1919 in response to the treatment of Turkey by the British administration. This group/movement rebelled against British rule and agreed to withhold cooperation from the government until the British kept their word. Their goal was to restore the Sultan's power in Turkey.

Khilafat Committee: The Khilafat Committee was guaranteed by Congress leaders that they would assist them in their fight against the British. This was a perfect opportunity for MK Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak to promote Hindu-Muslim harmony, and they gave their full support to the cause.

Gandhi's Demands: During the Khilafat struggle, MK Gandhi became a well-known figure. He supported the Khilafat movement as well as the repealing of the Rowlatt Act and the establishment of independence. In addition, he requested that British crimes in Punjab and Turkey be stopped. At the start of the non-cooperation movement, he returned the "Kaiser-i-Hind" Medal he had gotten earlier that year for his service in WWI.

Non-Cooperation and Khilafat Movement : The British government refused to repeal the Rowlatt Act, recompense victims of atrocities in the Punjab, or grant independence to nationalists. In response, an all-party meeting was held in Allahabad in June 1920, proposing non-cooperation with British by boycott of schools, universities, and the judiciary.

In September 1920, the Congress convened a special session in Calcutta to advance Gandhi's strategy of non-cooperation with the government until the wrongs of the Punjab and Khilafat were righted and Swaraj was achieved.

What were the Rowlatt Acts? Why did Indians resent it?

These laws were passed by the Imperial Legislative Council in February 1919 and made it possible to prosecute some political crimes without a jury and to detain suspects without charge. Their goal was to pass a permanent statute that would replace the limited provisions of the Defence of India Act, which had been enacted during the war (1915). These acts were based on Justice S.A.T. Rowlatt's 1918 committee report. An enraged Indian population resented the Rowlatt Acts. All of the council's non-official Indian members voted against the bills (i.e., those who were not colonial government employees). The Jaliawalabagh Massacre in Amritsar (April 1919) and, later, Mahatma Gandhi's non-cooperation movement (1920–22) were the culmination of a series of protests against these acts.

Lost Relevance of Khilafat - Formation of Republic of Turkey

The Khilafat saga was quickly forgotten as the Turkish people led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk - (the first president of modern republic of Turkey) deposed the Sultan of his political power.

Abolishment of Caliphate and Modernisation

  • Kamal Pasha made various efforts to modernise Turkey and make it a secular state. He abolished the Caliphate (or Caliph's institution) and built a barrier between state and religion, thereby eradicating Islam from the Constitution.

  • He pushed nationalistic education, provided major rights to women, passed legal codes based on European models, and took attempts to modernise agriculture and build new industries.

The Khilafat Movement's Importance

Spirit of Nationalism: The non-cooperation movement has benefited greatly from the Khilafat agitation as it brought urban Muslims into the nationalist movement and contributed to the spirit of nationalism throughout the country.

Religious Consciousness: The movement was partially successful in raising Muslims' religious political consciousness to the level of political consciousness. The Khilafat movement represented much more than Muslims' concern for the Caliph, it was part of a greater wave of anti-imperialist sentiment among Muslims.


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