Rowlatt Act — The Making of the National Movement
NCERT History lesson – Chapter ‘The Making of the National Movement’ — Rowlatt Act ..
Rowlatt Act – During the First World War, citing the need for maintaining domestic peace, the colonial government had passed certain legislations under the name of Defence of India Regulation Act. Later, its tenure was indefinitely extended by the Rowlatt Committee, headed by its chairman Sir Sydney Rowlatt. The legislations known as the Rowlatt Act were passed by the Imperial Legislative Council.
Even a cursory reading of the provisions of the Rowlatt Act shows how unfair, oppressive and draconian the Act was. Under this Act, a person accused of inciting terrorist activities against the British colonial government
a. had to face in-camera hearing
b. no material offending the colonial government could be printed by any press including those of reputed newspapers
c. arrests could be made without warrant
d. detention of the accused could be indefinitely extended
e. the accused could be imprisoned for up to five years
f. on release, he could be prohibited from indulging in any political, social or religious activities.
In reality, it was a naked assault on liberty, human rights and freedom of speech and expression. Most educated Indians reviled its provisions, where as for colonial administrators it came as a handy weapon to nip in the bud any form of dissent against British rule.
The Act proved to be too pungent for Gandhi, who had a British degree in Law and who had returned from South Africa after a successful fight against similar colonial practices there. The sweeping powers given by the Rowlatt Act to stifle protest defied logic.
The Rowlatt Act came into force in March, 1919. The brutal shooting in the Jaliwanlalbagh in the same year that killed and maimed scores of innocent men, women and children was the culmination of this Act. It set in motion a forceful and irreversible push towards freeing India from British yoke.