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Chauri Chaura is a town near Gorakhpurmarker, Uttar Pradeshmarker, Indiamarker. The town is famous for an event that took place on 4 February 1922 during British rule when a police chowki (pron.-chau key) (station) was set on fire by a nationalist mob, killing 23 of the police occupants.


In the years 1920 and 1921, Indians launched a nationwide revolt now recognized as the Non-Cooperation Movement, which protested authoritarian laws like the Rowlatt Acts of 1919, and lack of human freedom and self-government for Indians in their own country.

Mahatma Gandhi was the leader of the nationwide revolts organised by the Indian National Congress based upon civil disobedience, or Satyagraha by peaceful means alone.

The Incident

On February 4, 1922, around 2,000 protesters gathered for picketing of the liquor shop at the local market in Chauri Chaura. Sensing the trouble, armed policemen were sent to the city police station to control the situation. The crowd marched towards the market and started shouting anti-government slogans. The policemen fired into the air as a warning signal. However, it had the reverse effect on the crowd who were in no mood to retreat and started pelting stones at the armed policemen. Seeing the situation was getting out of control, the sub inspector ordered the policemen to commence firing on the advancing crowd. Three protesters were killed on the spot and several others were injured. Seeing this, the crowd became violent and attacked the police from all the sides. The armed policemen lost their courage to fire, seeing thousands of protesters marching towards them. They retreated to the shelter of the police station. The crowd decided to take revenge for their dead comrades and set fire to the building from all the sides. Twenty-three policemen were burnt alive, including the station sub inspector.


Mahatma Gandhi asked all Indians to end the Non-cooperation movement, and went on a five-day fast to absolve himself of what he perceived as his role in inciting the attacks. Gandhi felt that he had acted too hastily in encouraging a revolt against the British Raj, while not emphasizing the importance of ahinsa (non-violence) and not training the resisters enough. Due to his fast and the exhortation of Congress leaders, Indians gave up civil resistance.

The Trial and the Judgement

The British government was furious after this incident and imposed martial law in the city of Chauri Chaura and surrounding areas. All the areas were raided and hundreds of people were arrested. 172 people were charged and put on the trial. On April 20, 1923 Allahabad high court awarded death sentence to 19, various jail terms including life imprisonment to 2 years jail to 113 accused, and acquitted 38 due to lack of evidence, whereas 3 accused died during the course of the trial.

Modern assessment

Many modern historians view the Chauri Chaura incident as a minor episode of violence, which while regrettable, did not merit the cancellation of a nation's demand for political freedom.

Supporters of Gandhi's point of view agree with his decision, as it was feared by Gandhi that Chauri Chaura was not an isolated incident, but a shocking episode in a rising trend of violence between protesters and police, which could have degenerated into an orgy of mob violence, which would justify martial law and police suppression of even more civil liberties.

Thus (in Gandhi's view) the spiral of violence would have wrecked the wider agenda and organization, while maligning India's patriots as bloodthirsty murderers in the eyes of the world.

The nationalist version of historiography in Indiamarker has linked it with the larger conscious call of Gandhi in Non-cooperation movement. However, the recent subaltern scholarship has tried to dug more substantive meanings of the incidence. The metaphor of Gandhi in the consciousness of masses, the way he moved in masses and his symbolic gestures had a myriad 'meanings' to the masses. Shahid Amin in his book Event, Metaphor, Memory has portrayed the chain of events that were occurring in Gorakhpurmarker in that time. He had tried to argue that the nationalist meta-narrative of Indian National Congress has failed to bring out the history from below. The reason of the masses to act in a manner they did in Gorakhpurmarker was as diverse as caste tensions, belief as Gandhi as liberator that enabled them to defy authority of local zamindars or the Britishmarker.

Therefore, there can be alternative versions of history. The over-arching explanation of event like Chauri Chaura in the Nationalist historiography can be concealing if not read with other accounts.

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