Chauri Chaura


Chauri Chaura

Chauri Chaura (Hindi: चौरी चौरा, Google Earth / Wikimapia Link Urdu: چوری چورا) is a town near Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, India. The town is known most for an event in February 1922 during the British Raj when a police chowki (pron.-chau key) (station) was set on fire by a mob of angry citizens, killing 23 policemen inside.

Contents

History

Background

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. The movement sought to oppose the oppression of the Indian people by British colonial power. 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.

Though the majority of Indians supported the Non-cooperation Movement, some supporters did not share Gandhi's firm conviction that violence had no place in the struggle. Others who agreed with Gandhi in principle, lacked his discipline and inclined toward violence as an emotional reaction when they felt threatened or attacked. The increasing tension and hostility between the British ruling class and their Indian subjects meant that violence, though not sanctioned by the movement was all but inevitable.

The incident

Around the first of February, 1922, volunteers participating in the Non-cooperation Movement protested for a fair price for meat in the marketplace.[1] The demonstrators were beaten back by local police.[1] In response, a protest against the police was called for February 4, to be held in the local marketplace.[1]

As February 4, 1922, arrived, approximately two thousand protesters assembled and began marching towards the Chauri Chaura bazaar. 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 but this only agitated the crowd who began pelting the police with stones.[2]

With the situation getting out of control, the sub inspector 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 but whatever the case, 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 officers trapped inside.[3]

Aftermath

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

Appalled at the carnage, Gandhi went on a five-day fast as penance for what he perceived as his culpability in the bloodshed. 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.

On February 12, 1922 the Indian National Congress halted the Non-cooperation Movement on the national level as a direct result of the Chauri Chaura tragedy.[4]

Trial and convictions

A total of 228 people were brought to trial on charges of "rioting and arson" in conjunction with the Chauri Chaura affair.[5] 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.[5]

A storm of protest erupted over the verdicts, which were characterized as "legalized murder" by Indian Communist leader M.N. Roy,[5] who called for a general strike of Indian workers.[6]

On April 20, 1923 the Allahabad High Court reviewed the death verdicts. Nineteen death sentences were confirmed and 110 were sentenced to prison for life, with the rest sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.[7]

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ a b c Nishant Batsha, "Gandhi and Chauri Chaura" Intersections, vol. 10, no. 3 (Autumn 2009), pg. 30.
  2. ^ Batsha, "Gandhi and Chauri Chaura," pg. 31.
  3. ^ 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. The higher number is used here.
  4. ^ Batsha, "Gandhi and Chauri Chaura," pg. 28.
  5. ^ M.N. Roy, "An Appeal to the Labour Unions of India," Vanguard, vol. 2, no. 2 (March 1, 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.
  6. ^ "The Chauri Chaura Case," Vanguard, vol. 2, no. 8 (June 1, 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.

Further reading

  • 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


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