Recently, the Prime Minister paid tribute to the heroes of freedom struggle on completion of the hundred years of Chauri Chaura incident.
The Chauri Chaura incident took place on 4 February 1922 at Chauri Chaura in the Gorakhpur district of the United Provinces (modern-day Uttar Pradesh) in British India, when a large group of protesters participating in the non-cooperation movement, were fired upon by the police. In retaliation the demonstrators attacked and set fire to a police station, killing all of its occupants. The incident led to the death of three civilians and 22 policemen. Mahatma Gandhi, who was strictly against violence, halted the non-cooperation movement on the national level on 12 February 1922, as a direct result of this incident. In spite of Gandhi’s decision, 19 arrested demonstrators were sentenced to death and 14 to imprisonment for life by the British colonial authorities.
Chauri Chaura Incident
- The Indian National Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi had launched the non-cooperation movement on 1st August 1920.
- This was supposed to be a peaceful and non-violent movement wherein people would relinquish their government jobs and titles, stop going to government schools and colleges, not serve in the army and also refuse to pay taxes as an extreme measure.
- The aim of the party was Swaraj or self-government.
- The people readily participated in the movement and it saw partial success at least in the participation level.
- However, an incident at Chauri Chaura changed the course of the movement. On 2 February 1922, people were protesting against high meat prices at the marketplace. They were beaten by the police and many of their leaders were arrested and detained at the Chauri Chaura police station.
- The volunteers planned another protest against the police.
- On 5 February, about 2500 people marched towards the Chauri Chaura market in order to picket a shop selling liquor.
- One of their leaders was arrested. A group of people then marched towards the police station demanding the release of the arrested leader.
- The police fired shots in the air hoping to disperse and the crowd. However, the crowd became agitated and started pelting stones at the police.
- Things were getting out of hand and the sub-inspector at the station came forward and fired at the crowd killing three people. This incensed the people who then charged at the policemen who were heavily outnumbered. The police station was set ablaze by the people and all the policemen and officials inside were charred to death.
- The British government in response, imposed martial law in the area and arrested hundreds of people.
- Gandhi went on a fast for five days after the incident for his ‘role’ in the event. He withdrew the movement on 12 February officially since he felt that the people were not ready to take up a non-violent movement. He also felt that adequate training was not provided to the people to show restraint in the face of violent attacks.
- Many Congress leaders like Motilal Nehru (Born on May 6, 1861) and Chittaranjan Das were against the calling off of the movement as they felt that success was being gained in the country.
- The government responded promptly bringing to trial about 228 people in connection with the case. 6 of them died in police custody. After the 8 month-long trial, 172 people were sentenced to death.
- The verdict was met with severe resistance across the country. In 1923, the Allahabad High Court which reviewed the sentences confirmed 19 death sentences, 110 life imprisonments, and the remaining were sentenced to long jail terms.
- In 1923, the British government constructed a memorial to the dead policemen.
- In 1973, a Shaheed Smarak was constructed in memory of the 19 executed persons.
What did the suspension of the Movement result into?
- The disillusionment resulting from the suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement nudged many of the younger Indian nationalists towards the conclusion that India would not be able to throw off colonial rule through non-violence.
- It was from the ranks of these impatient patriots that some of India’s most of the revolutionaries came into picture like Jogesh Chatterjee, Ramprasad Bismil, Sachin Sanyal, Ashfaqulla Khan, Jatin Das, Bhagat Singh, Bhagwati Charan Vohra, Masterda Surya Sen, and many others.
- Besides, sudden termination of the Non-Cooperation Movement disillusioned the Khilafat movement leaders that created a rift between Congress and the muslim leaders.
Memorials Dedicated to the Martyrs
- The British government dedicated a memorial to the dead policemen in 1923. ‘Jai Hind’ and the verse ‘Shaheedon ki chitaaon par lagenge har baras mele’ by revolutionary poet Ram Prasad Bismil were added to the memorial post-independence.
- An association named ‘Chauri Chaura Shaheed Smarak Samiti’ was formed in 1971 by the people of the district. In 1973, a 12.2 metres high minaret was constructed by the association near the lake at Chauri Chaura.
- The Government of India built a Shaheed Smarak to honour the martyrs hanged by the British authorities. The names of those who were executed were engraved upon it. A library and museum have also been set up near the memorial to know more about the Indian Freedom Struggle.
- Chauri Chaura Express was started by the Indian Government, which runs from Gorakhpur to Kanpur as a tribute to those individuals who were executed by the British Government