Bhagwan Ahir – Chaura Chauri Kand Gorakhpur

Bhagwan Ahir was born in the Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh. On the afternoon of 4 February 1922, an incident took place just outside of the police station Chaura in the District Gorakhpur between a small body of police and village watchmen and a crowd of some 3000 to 4000 peasants collected from neighboring villages. The police force included a Sub-Inspector and eight men of the armed police. The Majority of the crowd, as they approached the police station, carried no weapon of any sort, not even bamboo sticks or clubs.

The ill-fated officer-in-charge of the police station, Gupteshar Singh, after the crowd had begun to make use of ballasts, committed the fatal blunder of ordering the volley to be fired first in the air and then on the crowd. Some of the peasants were killed by the bullets and hundreds of peasants were wounded during this incident. This agitated the peaceful satyagrahi crowd and in the counterattack by the crowd twenty-three policemen and chowkidars were killed and the police station was set on fire.

Bhagwan, son of Ram Nath Ahir, was a leading volunteer. He was the drill instructor who taught the volunteers to march in order and to obey the sound of the whistle. As per the approvers and the volunteers he was the man who brought thatching grass for burning the police station, carried out the corpse of the Sub-Inspector to throw into the flame, and was involved in the beating of several of the constables who were subsequently killed, and of leading the crowd of volunteers. He was convicted under section 302/149 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced to death by the session court and ed by the High Court on 30 April 1930.

Role of Bhagwan Ahir in regards with the Chauri Chaura Incident

Bhagwan Ahir was an army pensioner who was beaten up badly by the British police. This led to the Chauri Chaura Incident.

Chauri Chaura Incident

On February 4, 1922, a group of non-cooperation movement participants clashed with local authorities, attacked police officers, and burnt police stations which unfortunately led to the death of 22 police officers and three civilians. This incident occurred at Chauri Chaura in the Gorakhpur region of Uttar Pradesh, then known as the United Provinces. 

In September 1920, Mahatma Gandhi introduced the non-cooperation movement, which was peaceful and non-violent. It was assumed to be a non-violent corporation where people gave up their government titles and jobs. 

Students were deprived of attending government schools or colleges and even refused to pay heavy taxes. The aim was to establish self-government or swaraj. People widely participated in the Chauri Chaura movement, and even at a participation level, they witnessed widespread success. 

However, the sudden breakdown of the Chauri Chaura incident of 1922 changed a lot of things to a great extent. On February 2, 1922, the locals were found to protest against the rise in the prices of meat. Many of them were beaten and some of the leaders were sent behind bars at the Chauri Chaura police station. This incident led to a different protest altogether against the police. 

Around 2500 people on February 4 walked towards the Chauri Chaura market, intending to strike a liquor selling shop. During this time, a leader got arrested. As a result, people walk towards the chauri chaura police station to appeal for their release. In order to disperse the crowd, police fired several times in the air. However, the crowd lost their control and started to throw stones at each other. 

When things got out of control, one of the sub-inspector fired three people from the crowd. This filled people with anger and officials inside the police station were hanged to death. Later, hundreds and thousands of people got arrested. 

After the Chauri Chaura incident, Gandhi fasted for a complete five days. A week after the Chauri Chaura incident, Gandhi decided to call off the non-cooperation movement on February 12 against many of his closest associates, including Chittaranjan Das and Motilal Nehru who did not agree to Gandhi’s decision. Gandhi believed that people were yet not ready for a non-violent movement. Also, he felt, adequate training needs to be given to the masses. 

The Chauri Chaura incident in 1922 and Gandhi’s decision gave a deep insight into his ideologies and commitment to non-violence. When India was witnessing several social movements frequently, organisers should internalise this principle. 

After the Chauri Chaura incident in 1922, it was pretty evident that the nationalists were impulsive and making wrong decisions. Depicting it as criminal discounts the local roots of political discontent. According to Gandhi, the violence at Chauri Chaura was terrible as it showcased exceptional moral conviction in pulling back. 

Why did Gandhi withdraw from the non-cooperation movement?

Gandhi had repeatedly warned that he did not even want any violent movement in any other part of the country while conducting mass civil disobedience in Bardoli. First, non-violence is a matter of principle for Gandhi. Second, if violence occurred anywhere, it could easily be made an excuse by the Government to launch a massive attack on the movement as a whole. It would justify the repression.

Gandhi took responsibility for withdrawing the movement on himself and the Working Committee. Gandhi protected the movement from likely repression by the Government and the people from demoralisation.

By the second half of 1921, the movement had shown clear signs of being on the ebb.

The movement had already gone on for over a year, the Government was in no mood for negotiations, and Chauri- Chaura presented an opportunity to retreat with honour before the internal weaknesses of the movement became apparent enough to force surrender or make the retreat look like a rout.

Impact on freedom struggle

With the withdrawal of the movement, Gandhi was arrested immediately. Britishers used a hard-handed approach to deal with the movement. Congress was on the verge of splitting with a faction demanding re-entry to the legislative councils. Still, due to the efforts of Gandhi, both Swarajists and No-Changers remained within the congress organisation.

How is Bhagwan Ahir related to the Chauri Chaura incident?

He was the retired army officer from Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh, who was assaulted by British police, sparking outrage on social media and the Chauri-Chaura incident.

In which of the following provinces did the Chauri Chaura incident take place during Non- Cooperation Movement?

United Province

Important Points

  • On 2 February 1922, Non-cooperation Movement was led by a retired Army soldier Bhagwan Ahir against high food prices and liquor sale.
  • The protestors were beaten by the local police and several leaders were imprisoned at the Chauri Chaura police station. 
  • In response to this incident, around 2,000 to 2,500 protesters assembled at Chauri Chaura, Gorakhpur district of the United Province, British India (present-day Uttar Pradesh, India) and began marching towards the market on 4 February 1922.
  • They picketed a liquor shop following which their leader was beaten and imprisoned.  
  • A group of protestors gathered in front of the local police station, demanding the release of their leader while another group continued marching towards the market and raised anti-government slogans.
  • In an attempt to disperse the protestors, the police fired shots in the air which worsened the situation as protestors began throwing stones at the police.

Additional Information

  • In view of this incident, Martial law was imposed by the British administration in and around the Chauri Chaura area.
  • Raids were also conducted and hundreds of people were arrested in response to the killing of policemen
  • On 12 February 1922, reacting upon the incident, Mahatma Gandhi halted the non-cooperation movement at the national level.
  • In connection with the incident, Mahatma Gandhi was also arrested and sentenced to six years of imprisonment. However, he was later released on grounds of ill health in February 1924. 

People of Gorakhpur had gathered at the marketplace to oppose the selling of liquor. They were led by an ex-British military soldier, Bhagwan Ahir. To dispatch the crowd of protestors, local police arrested Bhagwan Ahir and a few other leaders. The next day a group of 1500 protestors gathered in front of the Chauri Chaura police station. Their demand was the release of their leaders.