Chauri Chaura incident

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The Chauri Chaura incident occurred at Chauri Chaura in the Gorakhpur district of the United Province, British India on 5 February 1922, when a large group of protesters participating in the Non-cooperation movement turned violent, leading to police opening fire and in retaliation the burning of a police station. The incident led to the deaths of three civilians and 23 policemen. The Indian National Congress halted the Non-cooperation Movement on the national level as a direct result of this incident.

Background[edit]

In the early 1920s, Indians, led by Mahatma Gandhi, were engaged in a nationwide non-violent movement that later became known as the non-cooperation movement. Using non-violent methods of civil disobedience known as Satyagraha, protests were organized by the Indian National Congress to challenge oppressive government regulatory measures such as the Rowlatt Act with the ultimate goal of swaraj or independence from British rule.

The incident[edit]

Two days before the incident on 2 February 1922, volunteers participating in the Non-cooperation Movement were protesting for a fair price for meat in the marketplace. The demonstrators were beaten back by local police and couple of their leaders were arrested and put in the lockup at the Chauri Chaura police station. In response, a protest against the police was called for 4 February, to be held in the local marketplace.[1]

On 4 February, approximately 2000 to 2500 protesters assembled and began marching towards the market at Chauri Chaura. They had gathered to picket a liquor shop in the market place. One of their leaders was arrested. Part of the crowd gathered in front of the local police station shouting slogans demanding the release of their leader. Armed police were dispatched to control the situation while the crowd marched towards the market and started shouting anti-government slogans. In an attempt to frighten and disperse the crowd, the police fired warning shots into the air. This only agitated the crowd who began to throw stones at the police.[2][3][4]

With the situation getting out of control, the Indian sub-inspector in charge ordered the police to open fire on the advancing crowd, killing three and wounding several others. Reports vary on the reason for the police retreat with some claiming that the police ran out of ammunition while others claim that fear of the crowd's unexpectedly courageous and angry reaction to the gunfire were the cause. In the ensuing chaos, the heavily outnumbered police fell back to the shelter of the police chowki while the angry mob advanced. Infuriated by the gunfire into their ranks, the crowd took revenge by setting the chowki ablaze, killing the 23 Indian policeman trapped inside.[2] [4] [3] Most were burned to death though several appear to have been killed by the crowd at the entrance to the chowki and their bodies thrown back into the fire. The death count is reported variously in the literature as 22 or 23 policemen killed, possibly due to an additional burn victim death after the fact.[2][3][4]

Aftermath[edit]

In response to the killing of the police the British authorities declared martial law in and around Chauri Chaura. Several raids were conducted and hundreds of people were arrested.

Appalled at the outrage, Gandhi went on a five-day fast as penance for what he perceived as his culpability in the bloodshed.[3] In reflection, Gandhi felt that he had acted too hastily in encouraging people to revolt against the British Raj without sufficiently emphasizing the importance of ahimsa (non-violence) and without adequately training the people to exercise restraint in the face of attack. He decided that the Indian people were ill-prepared and not yet ready to do what was needed to achieve independence. Gandhi was also arrested and sentenced to six years of imprisonment but was later released in February 1924, on grounds of his ill health.[4]

On 12 February 1922, the Indian National Congress halted the Non-cooperation Movement on the national level as a direct result of the Chauri Chaura tragedy.[5]

Trial and convictions[edit]

A total of 228 people were brought to trial on charges of "rioting and arson" in conjunction with the Chauri Chaura affair.[6] Of these 6 died while in police custody, while 172 were sentenced to death by hanging following conviction in a trial which lasted eight months.[6]

A storm of protest erupted over the verdicts, which were characterized as "legalized murder" by Indian Communist leader M.N. Roy,[6] who called for a general strike of Indian workers.[7]

On 20 April 1923, the Allahabad High Court reviewed the death verdicts; 19 death sentences were confirmed and 110 were sentenced to prison for life, with the rest sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.[8]

Memorials[edit]

  • A memorial to the dead policemen was dedicated by the British authorities in 1923.[9] Following Independence the words Jai Hind[10] were added to it, as well as a verse by the revolutionary poet Bismil. The Bismil verse reads Shaheed ki chitin par lagenge had baras mele (On the pyres of martyrs, there will be fairs every year).[11]
Martyr's memorial at Chauri Chaura.
  • The people of the district did not forget the 19 persons tried and executed after the Chauri Chaura incident . In 1971, they formed an association called - Chauri Chaura Shaheed Smarak Samiti. In 1973, this Samiti constructed near the lake at Chauri Chaura a 12.2 meters high triangular minaret on each side of which a figure is depicted hanging with a noose round his neck. The minaret was built at a cost of Rs 13,500 contributed by popular subscription.[11] [9] [10]
  • Later another Shaheed Smarak (now the main one) was built by the Government of India to honor those hanged after the incident. This tall memorial has names of those executed engraved upon it. [12] A library & museum related to the independence struggle has been set up near the memorial.

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References[edit]

  1. ^ Event, Metaphor, Memory - Chauri Chaura 1922-92 by Shahid Amin
  2. ^ a b c Longman History & Civics Icse 10 By Singh Vipul. 2009. p. 91. 
  3. ^ a b c d Gandhi: A Political and Spiritual Life By Kathryn Tidrick. 2006. p. 176-180. 
  4. ^ a b c d History of Modern India: 1707 A.D. to Upto 2000 A.D. By Radhey Shyam Chaurasia. 2002. p. 355. 
  5. ^ Batsha, "Gandhi and Chauri Chaura," p. 28.
  6. ^ M.N. Roy, "An Appeal to the Labour Unions of India," Vanguard, vol. 2, no. 2 (1 March 1923). Reprinted in G. Adhikari (ed.), Documents of the History of the Communist Party of India: Volume 2, 1923–1925. New Delhi: People's Publishing House, 1974; pp. 64–65.
  7. ^ "The Chauri Chaura Case," Vanguard, vol. 2, no. 8 (1 June 1923). Reprinted in G. Adhikari (ed.), Documents of the History of the Communist Party of India: Volume 2, 1923–1925. New Delhi: People's Publishing House, 1974; pp. 68–69.
  8. ^ a b "No tears for these martyrs". Times of India. 22 July 2007. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "Haunted by memories". http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/chauri-chaura-village-that-became-metaphor-for-gandhism-gets-entangled-in-criminal-violence/1/205175.html. 20 October 2003. 
  10. ^ a b "Your memory versus mine". Hindustan Times. 14 August 2010. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  11. ^ "Dilapidated freedom fighters’ memorial angers Gorakhpur residents". DNA. 12 August 2012. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Shahid Amin, Event, Metaphor, Memory: Chauri Chaura, 1922–1992. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1995.
  • Nishant Batsha, "Gandhi and Chauri Chaura" Intersections, vol. 10, no. 3 (Autumn 2009), pp. 28–41.

External links[edit]