NCERT Notes Class 10 Social Science History Chapter 2 Nationalism in India

NCERT Notes Class 10 Social Science History Chapter 2 Nationalism in India

Chapter 2 Nationalism in India NCERT Notes

Chapter Name

Nationalism in India Notes


CBSE Class 10

Textbook Name

India and the Contemporary World II Class 10

Related Readings

  • Notes for Class 10
  • Notes for Class 10 History
  • NCERT Solutions for Nationalism in India

Colonial rule in India was one of the major reasons for awakening the nationalist feeling. Before colonial rule, India was divided into kingdoms that fought among themselves for want of power. This made the establishment of control over various kingdoms easy for the British East India Company.

Different people were affected by the colonial rule differently. Soon, there arose an anti-colonial feeling among the people. This was a common ground shared among the vast population of India and was used as a strong force to unite people against the colonial government. The Indian National Congress tried to awaken the nationalist feelings in the heart of people by unifying their various conflicts with the colonial rule under the single motive of freeing the motherland from the British East India Company’s clutches.

The First World War, Khilafat, and Non-Cooperation

The First World War and the effects it caused triggered a sense of anger and hatred in the minds of the people.

  • The war years brought an increase in the common necessities and an increase in customs duties and taxes.
  • As the war lengthened, men from villages were forced to leave their homes to serve as soldiers.
  • In 1918-19 and 1920-21, crops in many parts of India failed, leading to widespread hunger.
  • An influenza epidemic hit India during the war years. An estimated population of 12 to 13 million died due to famines and epidemics in India.

The Idea of Satyagraha

Satyagraha was the concept of truth winning against all obstacles. The idea of Satyagraha prevailed on the basis that if they fight is against injustice and if the motive is pure, the truth will win under all circumstances. It emphasized non-violence. Acts that awaken the oppressor’s conscience without being aggressive and violent were the pillars of the satyagraha movement. It was this idea of dharma that motivated Mahatma Gandhi to unite all of India against British rule.

Many satyagraha movements were organized by Mahatma Gandhi in various parts of India:

  1. Champaran in Bihar in 1917 – against the plantation system.
  2. Kheda district of Gujarat, in 1917 – support peasants who were badly affected by crop failure and plague and thus demanded relaxation in taxes.
  3. Ahmedabad in 1918 – support cotton millworkers.

The Rowlatt Act

  • The Rowlatt Act was passed in 1919. It was passed against the opposition by the Indian members in the Imperial Legislative Council.
  • The Act gave the government power to suppress political activities and detain political prisoners without trial for two years.
  • Mahatma Gandhi launched a civil disobedience movement, starting from April 6th. This led to organizations of rallies, people going on strikes, shops being closed down.
  • The British government feared that this might disrupt the communication systems and railways. So, to stop this movement, peaceful processions were stopped and attacked, leaders were imprisoned, and Mahatma Gandhi was banned from entering Delhi.
  • On 13th April, the Jallianwalla Bagh incident took place. As many people came from villages, not many were aware of Martial law imposed, which prohibited crowds’ accumulation. General Dyer, along with his troops, entered the Bagh and blocked the exit. He leashed firing of bullets on the people gathered, killing hundreds, including women and children.
  • The motive behind such a cruel act was, as stated by Dyer, “to produce a moral effect,” to implant fear among the people.
  • As the news of the incident spread, people began revolting by adopting violent means. Soon, there were clashes with the police. People were treated horribly- forcing them to rub their nose on the ground, do salaam to the officers, crawl on the streets, etc.
  • Witnessing the spread of violence, Mahatma Gandhi called off the movement.

The Khilafat Issue

  • With the end of the First World War and the defeat of Ottoman Turkey, the Ottoman emperor’s power was at stake.
  • As the Ottoman emperor was considered the spiritual head of the Islamic World to protect his position and power, a Khilafat Committee was formed in Bombay in 1919.
  • Mahatma Gandhi brought up the issue for his support by two young brothers and leaders- Mohammed Ali and Shaukat Ali-that maximum people could support it.

Mahatma Gandhi, sensing it as the opportunity to unify Hindus and Muslims, convinced the Indian National Congress members at its Calcutta session in September 1920 to support the Khilafat issue and promote swaraj.

Why Non-cooperation?

Mahatma Gandhi believed that the British rule in India continued for many years because of the cooperation of the Indians. If the Indians refuse to cooperate, it will become tough for the East India Company to assert its authority.

The movement was planned to be taken place in phases. First, Gandhiji asked people to overthrow the titles given by the government and boycott civil services, courts, legislative councils, police, and many more. If the government adopted violent measures, Gandhiji said that the people would then launch a full civil disobedience movement. Mahatma Gandhi and Shaukat Ali organized various rallies to convey their message to a large section of people.

Some of the Congress members were at a crossroads whether to follow the Noncooperation movement or participate in the upcoming provincial elections. The members thought that gaining seats in the decision-making body would give them some power over matters that concern the people’s welfare. Finally, at the Congress Session at Nagpur in December 1920, all the members agreed to follow the Non-Cooperation movement.

Different Strands within the Movement

The Movement in the Towns

The movement started in the towns. Students stopped attending government-run colleges, and many people resigned from offices and institutions run by the government. Provincial elections were also boycotted in many places, except in Madras.

The non-cooperation movement also led to a boycott of foreign goods. This caused a reduction in the import of foreign-made goods. Cloths imported were burned in large bonfires. People stopped trading in foreign goods, and Indian made cloths and goods gained momentum. Liquor shops were also picketed.

But this movement had limitations. As the non-cooperation movement spread, there was a wave to wear Indian made goods. But Khaki was expensive than machine-made foreign goods, and poor people were not able to afford it. Also, as students and officials stopped attending institutions and offices controlled by the government, there were very few available alternatives. Schools and offices were slow to come up, so students and people started going back to institutions and offices after a time.

Rebellion in the Countryside

Peasants of Awadh

Before the initiation of the Noncooperation movement, peasants of Awadh were in a critically bad situation. Their anger and hatred were against their landlords, who forced them to do begar (labor with no payment) and extracted high rents and other taxes.

Peasant movements were carried out in many sections of the region. They wanted the abolition of the beggar and a reduction in rents. For it, they also organized nai-dhobi bandhs. In this, they deprived the landlords of the facilities of barbers and washermen. Jawaharlal Nehru went to these regions during that time, and after listening to their problems, Oudh Kisan Sabha was organized, which was headed by Jawaharlal Nehru and Baba Ramchandra.

When noncooperation movement started, the peasants’ problems were also highlighted, and the peasants also actively participated in the movement. Congress aimed to integrate the peasants in the struggle as they consisted of large numbers, and also, they were the providers of food for the society.

But as the movement progressed, the landlord’s house was attacked, food grain storehouses and bazaars were looted. In the name of Gandhiji, many people carried out their selfish interests by provoking peasants for violent acts.

Tribal Peasants

The tribals of Gudem Hills of Andhra Pradesh were led wrongly in the name of swaraj. The tribals were sufferings at the hands of the colonial government. The officials had banned forest areas from entering and cattle grazing. It also banished them from collecting fruits and wood for fuel. Not only was the lifestyle of the people at stake, they believed that their traditional rights were being taken away from them. This angered the tribals.

Around this time, a leader appeared amongst them named Alluri Sitaram Raju. He claimed that he had supernatural powers and could perfect astrological predictions and survive even bullet shots. Inspired by him, people began following him.

Raju conveyed Mahatma Gandhiji’s message of Noncooperation by encouraging people to adopt khaki and give up drinking. But instead of non-violence, he told people that if they wanted their lands backs, they had to adopt violence. So started a militant guerrilla movement, where police stations were attacked, and officials were tried to be killed.

Raju was captured and executed in 1924, which led him to be sung as a folk hero.

Swaraj in the Plantations

Plantation workers of Assam had their own understanding of swaraj. According to the Inland Emigration Act of 1859, plantation workers were not allowed to leave the region without permission, and they were rarely given permission.

When Gandhiji announced Noncooperation, they took swaraj to be freedom from this restriction and freedom to move from one place to another. They moved out of the plantations in large numbers, ignoring all the authorities. They believed Gandhi Raj was near and that they would be given lands in their own villages. But due to railway and steamer strikes midway, they were caught by the officials and brutally beaten.

Everyone interpreted the meaning of swaraj differently. But despite their differences of opinion about swaraj, all wanted a nation free from the colonial government. All wanted the miseries to end inflicted upon them directly or indirectly by the Company government. This caused them to attach themselves in their fight for independence emotionally.

Towards Civil Disobedience

Gandhiji called off the Non-Cooperation movement in February 1922. The reason being the movement started to turn violent in many places. Gandhiji thought that people needed to be trained properly for peaceful mass struggles.

Meanwhile, there arose internal debate within the Congress party. Some members were reluctant to give upcoming elections. The members thought that getting elected and being present in the government’s Council will give them some control over the decision making process. This internal conflict led to The Swaraj Party’s formation within the Congress, led by C.R. Das and Motilal Nehru. The younger members like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhas Chandra Bose wanted complete independence from the British rule.

The economic depression, leading to agricultural prices from 1926 and complete collapse till 1930, left farmers and peasants in complete devastation. Along with it, a commission under Sir John Simon was constructed by the Tory government in Britain. The commission was set up to regulate the functioning of the constitutional system in India against the nationalist movement. The problem with the commission was that – not a single member was Indian.

In 1928, the Simon Commission was greeted with the slogan of “Go back, Simon.” The Muslim League and the Congress party, along with others, participated in the struggle. To subside the uprising, the viceroy Lord Irwin proposed a ‘dominion status’ to India in the coming future. But the leaders now wanted complete independence. The proposal was rejected.

Under Jawaharlal Nehru’s leadership, in December 1929, the Lahore Congress officially announced the demand for full independence or 'purna swaraj'. 26 January 1930 was declared Independence Day, where people were asked to pledge for the fight against complete independence.

The Salt March and the Civil Disobedience Movement

Salt was a common deity used by everyone. Britishers’ monopoly over its production and salt tax was a key point that Gandhiji utilized to spread his swaraj message.

On January 31, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi wrote a letter to Viceroy Irwin, were 11 demands. The demands were from various sections of the society. He made sure the demands were wide enough to include as many people as possible. From the various demands, one was to abolish tax law. Gandhiji stated in the letter that if his demands were not fulfilled by March 11, he would launch a civil disobedience movement.

The Salt March

  • Gandhiji started the salt march from his ashram in Sabarmati to the coastal town of Dandi.
  • 78 volunteers accompanied him. The distance was about 240 miles.
  • Gandhiji and his volunteers walked for 24 days, covering 10 miles a day to reach their destination.
  • Many people came over and joined Gandhiji during his march. They listened to what he had to say about swaraj and how they need to carry out the fight for independence peacefully.
  • On April 6, Gandhiji violated the salt law, manufacturing the salt by boiling the seawater.

The Civil Disobedience Movement

  • The Civil Disobedience started at the end of the Salt March. Along with noncooperation with the British, people were also asked to break the colonial laws.
  • People broke the salt law in many parts of India, protested outside the salt factories, refused to pay revenue, and chowkidar taxes, resigned from their posts. Foreign goods were boycotted, and liquor shops were picketed, people entered restricted areas in forests to collect woods and graze cattle.
  • Seeing this uprising, government officials began to take arrest Congress leaders. When Abdul Ghaffar Khan was arrested, Peshawar protests against police firing, where many got killed. When Mahatma Gandhi got arrested, police posts, municipal buildings, and railway stations got attacked. Not being able to control the people, the government adopted more aggressive measures.
  • Seeing violence spreading, Mahatma Gandhi called off the movement by entering into the Irwin pact on 5th March 1931. According to the pact, Gandhiji agreed to attend the Round Table Conference in London. But after attending the Conference, he was disappointed with the negotiations made. On returning to India, he found that the government had announced Congress illegal, prominent leaders were in jail, meetings and gatherings were prohibited.
  • Gandhiji again launched the Civil Disobedience Movement, which continued for over a year but then lost its momentum by 1934.

How Participants saw the Movement

Rich Peasant Community

For the rich peasants, swaraj meant a fight against the increased revenue rates. The economic depression caused the decline of the sale of crops, which caused the peasants very hardships as they produced commercial crops. But the decline in trade was not accompanied by a reduction in revenue prices. This caused angered towards the government as they refused to reduce the revenue demand.

When Mahatma Gandhi launched the movement, the rich peasant community actively participated in the fight. They even forced reluctant people to participate in the movement. But when the movement was called off, they were highly disappointed as the revenue demand did not decrease. So when the movement was relaunched, the rich peasants refused to participate.

Poor Peasant Community

Poor peasants wanted a reduction in revenue demands and remittance of rents that were unpaid to their landlords and rich peasants. Afraid to disappoint the rich peasants, who financially supported the congress party, the poor peasant demands were not voiced.

Business-class Community

Business-class people wanted to expand their business in India and abroad. But the Company’s control over import duties and trade restrictions became a barrier to their growth. To oppose the colonial policies, the industrialists formed the Indian Industrial and Commercial Congress in 1920 and the Federation of the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) in 1927.

The business class community saw the Civil Disobedience movement as a turning point where its trade monopoly would be removed. They will have a better chance of expanding their work. When the movement was launched, the community actively participated by providing financial assistance to the Congress party. They boycotted buy or sell of imported goods. Prominent leaders of the industrialists were Purshottamdas Thakurdas and G.D. Birla.

When the movement was called off, they became afraid of the military activities, feared that the trade restrictions might increase, and their business might suffer heavy losses.

Industrial Working Class

Industrial working-class people did not join in large numbers except in the Nagpur region. The Congress party did not include Their demands like low wages and proper working conditions as they were afraid that it might upset the industrialists who supported them financially. But the workers joined the movement for the ideals they felt good like the boycott of foreign goods.


Women participated in the movement as they thought it to be their sacred duty towards the nation. During the salt march, many women came out of their homes to listen to Gandhiji. The large participation of women was mainly from rich peasant and high caste families. They boycott foreign goods, participated in protests, and picketed liquor shops.

Women’s participation was not a welcome sight by the Congress party as they thought women were designed to look over household chores and family. The women were not offered positions in the party despite their efforts.

The Limits of Civil Disobedience

The Untouchables

The ‘untouchables’ were a section discriminated against by the other sections of the society. And including their needs and demands by the Congress party was not considered beneficial as it would have upset the upper-class members. But Gandhiji viewed each one equally and said that every member of society is important and every work done contributes to humankind’s greater. He wanted the Dalits- as they started calling themselves- to have equal participation in the movement.

The Dalits, however, wanted a political benefit by having being voted separately in the electorate, which would choose only Dalit members for the legislative councils. They believed that political recognition would provide them benefits in the law-making and have their say in the decision making. Led by B.R. Ambedkar, Dalits formed an organization called Depressed Classes Organisation in 1930.

At the Second Round Table conference, when the government agreed to the Dalits’ demands at having separate electorates, Gandhiji became determined to include Dalits in the Congress party. He thought having different electorates would divide the society on a long term basis, and then the union of different sections would be complicated. After negotiations, Poona Pact was signed in September 1932, according to which the Dalits would be given reserved seats in the legislative councils.


Muslims’ response to the Civil Disobedience Movement was not as anticipated. After the failure of the Khilafat movement, the Muslims felt alienated. The Congress party members were more inclined towards religious groups like Hindu Mahasabha. The Muslim League and the Congress party tried to negotiate the relations between them. Still, all those hopes were shattered when M.R. Jaykar of the Hindu Mahasabha openly opposed the reunion at the All Parties Conference in 1928.

The Muslims were afraid that being minor, their religion will subside under the dominance of Hindus, and their interests will be overlooked. Because of this, they wanted reserved seats in the electorate.

The Sense of Collective Belonging

Before and during the colonial rule, India was a region of varied religions and communities. They belonged to different cultures and had a different set of beliefs. But the struggle for independence required a unified effort from all the communities who had different motives for the fight against the colonial rule.

  • The idea of a unified nation formed in the minds of great leaders, and slowly it took roots in the people’s imagination.
  • Like many countries, India also came to be depicted as an image: Bharat Mata. It was first brought into the picture by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay.
  • In the 1870s, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay wrote Vande Mataram. The people sang the song during the Swadeshi movement and their fight for independence.
  • Abanindranath Tagore painted a picture of Bharat Mata, which depicted calmness, divinity, and spirituality.

Collecting and reviving traditional stories and songs also came to be seen as love towards the country. Many believed that ancient stories and folklore tales were a true representation of a country’s culture, and binding with it again will lead people towards a feeling of oneness.

  • Rabindranath Tagore collected ballads, rhymes, and myths.
  • Natesa Sastri’s The Folklore of Southern India is a four-volume collection of Tamil folk tales.

Symbols and icons also came to be used to unify people.

  • In Bengal, a tricolor flag (red, green, and yellow) was designed. It had eight lotuses and a crescent moon. The lotuses depicted the eight provinces of British rule, and the moon unified Hindus and Muslims.
  • In 1921, Gandhiji designed a tricolor flag (red, white, and green) with a spinning wheel in the center. The wheel represented the dependence on its own for growth and prosperity.

Redefining history and taking pride in its rich culture and heritage also came to be seen as a sign of nationalism. People put forth the idea that before the colonization, India was a country of brave and great rulers. Under their rule, India excelled in scientific, ayurvedic, philosophy, art, literature, and many more. Bringing to people’s minds what had colonization done to their glorious country also increased hatred against the British rule and forged in the people’s minds to fight for their motherland collectively.

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