The Muslims of India had a great regard for the Khilafat (Caliphate) which was held by the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). During World War I, Turkey joined the war in favour of Germany and lost the war. During the war, the Indian Muslim’s support to the British Government was subject to the safeguard and protection of the holy places of Turkey. But the British Government could not fulfill the promises. A wave of anger swept across the Muslim World and the Indian Muslims rose against the British Government. Muslim leaders like Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Moulana Muhammad Ali Johar, Moulana Shoukat Ali reacted against the British Government policy and were put behind the bars. Thus, Muslims organized a mass movement, which came to be known as Khilafat Movement.
The leaders of Khilafat movement announced the Non Co-operation Movement, the Congress extended its full support to the Khilafat Movement. The leaders of the two met at Amritsar and resolved to launch a country wide agitation under the leadership of Mr. Gandhi.
Muslim ulama issued a verdict and declared India as Dar-ul-Harab (countries where the Muslim law is not in force) and the Muslims therefore needed to migrate to some other country or Dar-ul-Salam (Muslim country). Thousands of families hastily left for Afghanistan, in August 1920. As many as eighteen thousand people marched towards Afghanistan, which was unable to bear the influx of the people. Thus, the Afghan authorities closed their frontiers. Eventually the Muhajarins had to return to their homes.
The Khilafat Movement came to an end when thousands of Indians were put behind the bar. The leaders in spite of their best efforts could not maintain the Hindu-Muslim Unity. One of the main reasons which caused a death blow to Khilafat Movement was the indirect announcement of Gandhiji to discontinue the Non Co-operation Movement due to Chauri Chaura episode. In 1924, Kamal Ataturk set up a government on democratic basis in Turkey by abolishing Khilafat as a system of government which served a finishing blow to Khilafat Movement in India and people lost whatever interest that they had in the movement.
It started a few months after the end of the first world war when an Englishwoman, a missionary, reported that she had been molested on a street in the Punjab city of Amritsar. The Raj’s local commander, Brigadier General Reginald Dyer, issued an order requiring all Indians using that street to crawl its length on their hands and knees. He also authorized the indiscriminate, public whipping of natives who came within lathi length of British policemen.
On April 13, 1919, a multitude of Punjabis gathered in Amritsar’s Jallian wala Bagh as part of the Sikh Festival “Baisakhi fair” and to protest at these extraordinary measures. The throng, penned in a narrow space had been peacefully listening to the testimony of victims when General R.E.H. Dyer appeared at the head of a contingent of British troops. Giving no word of warning, he ordered 50 soldiers to fire into the gathering, and for 10 to 15 minutes 1,650 rounds of ammunition were unloaded into the screaming, terrified crowd. Apart from the many deaths directly from the shooting, a number of people died in stampedes at the narrow gates or by jumping into the solitary well on the compound to escape the shooting. . Official British Raj sources estimated the fatalities at 379, and with 1,100 wounded. However, the casualty number quoted by the Indian National Congress was more than 1,500, with roughly 1,000 killed.
Dyer’s response to the Hunter Commission Enquiry said he did not stop the shooting when the crowd began to disperse because he thought it was his duty to keep shooting until the crowd dispersed, and that a little shooting would not do any good. In fact he continued the shooting till the ammunition was almost exhausted. In a telegram sent to Dyer, British Lieutenant-Governor of Punjab, Sir Michael O’Dwyer wrote: “Your action is correct. Lieutenant Governor approves.” A Sikh teenager Udham Singh saw the happening with his own eyes and avenged the killings of his countrymen by killing Michael O’Dwyer in Caxton Hall of London on 13th March 1940. On the 31st July, 1940, Udham Singh was hanged.