Short Note on Rowlatt Act 1919

The post contains “Short Note on Rowlatt Act 1919. What was Rowlatt Act? Rowlatt Committee. Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.”

Short Note on Rowlatt Act 1919

To crush all the political conspiracies in India against the British Government, a committee under the leadership of Justice Sidney Arthur Taylor Rowlatt was setup. It was given the task of formulating way and means to stabilize political situation in the country and to eradicate all those elements that pose danger and conspire against the British rule in India.

rowlatt act 1919

The committee submitted its report to the government in 1918 which contained very strict rules and measures to be adopted against those who found involved in the political activities against the government.  

What was Rowlatt Act?

To shift their full focus towards war and kept their grip tight on Indian Subcontinent, the British Government of India during the World War I had enacted a series of repressive laws to combat subversive activities in the country. After the end of War, the Indian population was expecting the ease of those laws and the transfer of political autonomy to them. However instead the government of India passed what became known as the Rowlatt Acts in early 1919, which essentially extended the repressive wartime measures.

Sidney Arthur Taylor Rowlatt
Justice S. A. Taylor Rowlatt

On 6th February 1919, two bills were introduced in the Central Legislature based on the recommendations of Rowlatt Committee. Both these bills came to be known as “Black Bills”.  The British Imperial Legislative Council passed it in March 1919, and it was called Rowlatt Act.

Salient Features of Rowlatt Act

Some of the most controversial salient features of the Rowlatt Act were;

  • It authorized the British government of India to arrest anybody on mere suspicion of his involvement in terrorist activities against the government.
  • The act also authorized the government to detain any person found involved in terrorist activities against the government for up to 2 years without trial.
  • Similarly it too empowered the police to search a place without warrant.
  • The act also allowed certain political cases to be tried without juries.

Montague Chelmsford Reforms 1919

Objectives of Rowlatt Act

The prime objective of the Rowlatt Act was to tighten the government grip on the Indian Subcontinent. Muslims due to their cordial affection with the Caliph of Ottoman Empire had started Khilafat Movement to restore his power and the empire. The Hindus on the other hand under the leadership of Gandhi planned to take advantage of the weak position of the British Empire and launched Non-cooperation Movement to get Sawaraj, self-rule. The British Government in order to keep everything under control in India while she was engaged in resolving issues in the aftermath of World War I in Europe adopted Rowlatt Act. The objective of the act was to maximize and tighten its control over the area thereby crushing all sort of political conspiracies against the government.

With Rowlatt Act 1919, the British Government no doubt also wanted to extend its rule over the Subcontinent which was possible only if she had absolute control over the area. To regained power in the Subcontinent after World War I, the government adopted Rowlatt Act.

After the end of World War I political situation in the country was chaotic. To regain its strength and crush all so called political conspiracies and stabilize political situation in the country, the government adopted Rowlatt Act.

Indian Political Leaders Reaction To Rowlatt Act

Both Hindu and Muslim political leaders criticized Rowlatt Committee Report. They expressed their utmost annoyance and declared Rowlatt Act as criminal. The Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah resigned from his Bombay imperial legislative council seat in sheer protest against the Rowlatt Act. He wrote a letter to then Viceroy and said “I, therefore, as a protest against the passing of the Bill and the manner in which it was passed tender my resignation…. … a Government that passes or sanctions such a law in times of peace forfeits its claim to be called a civilized government”

Short Note On Jallianwala Bagh Massacre – Causes and Consequences

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre

The acts were met by widespread anger and discontent among Indians, notably in the Punjab region. In early April, Gandhi called for a one day general strike throughout the country. The news of arrest of prominent leaders and their disposal from city sparked violent protests in Amritsar on 10th April. Situation in the city worsen when soldiers fired upon the protestors.

To normalize the situation in the country, ban on public gathering was issued. Moreover a force of several dozen troops commanded by Brig. Gen. Reginald Edward Harry Dyer was given the task of restoring order.

On the afternoon of April 13, a crowd of at least 10,000 men, women, and children gathered in the Jallianwala Bagh, which was nearly completely enclosed by walls and had only one exit.

Dyer and his soldiers arrived and sealed off the exit. Without warning, the troops opened fire on the crowd, reportedly shooting hundreds of rounds until they ran out of ammunition. It is not certain how many died in the bloodbath, but, according to one official report, an estimated 379 people were killed, and about 1,200 more were wounded. After they ceased firing, the troops immediately withdrew from the place, leaving behind the dead and wounded.


The Rowlatt Act proved a total disaster for the government. It resulted in wide spread protests and increased antagonism against the British Government. It also widened gap between the Indians and the government. The act was never actually implemented.

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