Rowlatt Act: At the end of the First World War, when the Indian people were waiting for constitutional reforms, the British government presented the oppressive Rowlatt Act to the public. Rowlatt Act was passed on 26 January 1919. The Act was based on the recommendations of a committee headed by the Judge of the High Court of Britain "Sir Sidney Rowlett".
The main features of the Rowlatt Act are as follows-
- The revolutionaries were brought to take immediate action.
- The British government got the right to arrest Indians indefinitely and imprisoned them for 2 years without trial only on suspicion.
- The right of the person kept in jail to know the sections of the case and even the name of the person who filed the case was taken away by this Act.
- The cases related to revolutionaries should be tried in a special speedy court of three judges. The lower courts had no authority in respect of these cases. With this provision, the scope of appeal again by the convict was removed.
- On the ground of suspicion, a person could be restricted from going to a particular place, holding meetings, and doing any particular work.
- The collection, publication, and distribution of any anti-British government material were declared illegal.
- By this act, the court got the right to accept such materials as evidence that is not valid under the "Indian Evidence Act".
- Gandhiji, who had become famous and courageous from his earlier campaigns, called for a nationwide movement against the proposed Rowlatt Act.
- The British government had agreed to make constitutional reforms in exchange for helping Indians in the First World War. But after the end of the World War, the British government retracted and passed this act, which Indians considered a grave insult. When the constitutional resistance did not have any effect on the government, Gandhiji decided to start Satyagraha. A “Satyagraha Sabha” was formed and it was decided to fight against the British rule by contacting the young members of the Home Rule League.
- The promotional work started.
- It was decided to organize nationwide strikes, fasting, and prayer meetings.
- A plan to arrest was also made. Major laws were also to be disobeyed.
- April 6 was fixed as the date for starting the Satyagraha.
- But due to the misunderstanding of the date, the movement took a violent form even before the start of the Satyagraha.
- There was large-scale violence and anti-British demonstrations were organized in places like Calcutta, Bombay, Delhi, Ahmedabad, etc.
- These violent protests were most severe in Punjab during the First World War, stricken by government repression, forced appointments, and various other factors. In Amritsar and Lahore, the situation became difficult to control.
- Army rule was imposed in Punjab.
- Gandhiji tried to handle the status quo by going to Punjab, but he was stopped near Haryana and sent to Bombay.
- After that, the incident of Jallianwala Bagh took place on 13 April 1919 (Baisakhi).