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The Rowlatt Act


The Rowlatt Act passed in 1919 authorised the government to imprison people without trial. Gandhi was the most vehement critic of the political violence which their act represented. He argued that it was not right to frame drastic legislation for the whole of India because political crimes occurred in a few places. There was a rare unanimity among Indian leaders on opposition of the Rowlatt Bills. It lead to a wave of popular indignation.The government resorted to repressive measures.

  • When constitutional opposition to the Rowlatt bills proved fruitless, under Gandhiji’s leadership, the country was called upon to observe a day of ‘hartal’ when all business should be suspended and people should fast and pray as a protest against the hated legislation.

  • The date fixed for the ‘hartal’ was March 30th, but it was later changed to April 6th.

  • The hartal in Delhi was marred by some rioting.

  • Tension was mounting in Punjab, disturbances had broken out in the cities of Bombay, Ahmedabad, Nadiad and other places in his own province.

Gandhiji came to the conclusion that he had underrated the latent forces of violence, and suspended Satyagraha since he realised that people were not ready for it.

Jallianwala Bagh massacre

  • The Rowlatt Act - came into effect on 10th March in 1919.

  • In Punjab the protest movement was very strong.

  • On 10th April, two outstanding leaders of the congress Dr.Satya Pal and Dr. Saifuddin Kithlew, were arrested and taken to an unknown place.

  • To protest against the arrests, a public meeting was held on 13th April at Jallianwala Bagh, a small park enclosed by buildings on all sides in Amritsar. General Dyer with his British troops entered the park, closed the only exit and without giving any warning ordered the troops to fire.

  • A peaceful meeting also attended by women and children was fired upon.

  • Firing lasted about 10 minutes and about 1600 rounds were fired.

  • As the exit, which was a narrow passage, had been closed, no one was allowed to escape.

  • About 1000 died, according to unofficial estimates, and about 2000 wounded persons lay unattended to in the Bagh.

  • The monstrous act provoked unparalled disgust throughout the country.

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