1. Question for UPSC Mains: Freedom Struggle
  2. Introduction (Origin of Freedom Struggle Phases)
  3. Alt. Introduction (Origin of Khilafat)
    1. Body#1: Muslims apprehensive of INC-brand of Freedom Struggle
    2. Body#2: Whether Gandhi’s secular credentials diluted
  4. Conclusion
  5. Self-Assessment Benchmarks & Common Mistakes

Question for UPSC Mains: Freedom Struggle

  • Do you think Mahatma Gandhi’s support to Khilafat movement had diluted his secular credentials ? Give your arguments based on the assessment of the events.  (150 words, 10m)
  • खिलाफत आंदोलन को समर्थन देने से क्या गाँधी की धर्मनिरपेक्ष छवि कमजोर हुई थी? घटनाओका मुल्यांकन कर अपना पक्ष रखिये.


Introduction (Origin of Freedom Struggle Phases)

  • The history of the Indian National Movement can be studied in three important phases:
  1. 1885-1905: Moderate nationalism
  2. 1906-1916: Swadeshi & Home rule Movement, militant nationalism.
  3. 1917-1947: Gandhian era.
  • Body: @end of second phase-> insecurity among Muslims -> Gandhi had to obtain their support -> Khilafat perfect opportunity ->… conclusion- idol of unblemished secularism. (बेदाग धर्मनिरपेक्षता की मूर्ति)

Alt. Introduction (Origin of Khilafat)

  • After WW1, under the treaty of Sevres (1920), the Allied powers led by the British had imposed harsh terms on the Sultan of Turkey, who was revered by the Muslims across the world as ‘Khalifa’ – the religious head of Islam.
  • Therefore, Indian Muslims, led by Ali Brothers (Muhammad Ali and Shaukat Ali) launched Khilafat movement -> Body: Why Gandhi support ->

Body#1: Muslims apprehensive of INC-brand of Freedom Struggle

Hindu revivalism and Khilafat

Before Gandhi’s Non-Cooperation Movement (NCM), the Muslim leaders and Muslim community were apprehensive of such struggle because of following reasons:

  • 1907: Surat Split-> Extremist: “Hindu revivalism”, celebration of Shivaji-Jayanti and Ganesh-Pooja to evoke nationalism among the masses. However, the overt use of Hindu symbols was making the Muslims uncomfortable.
  • 1909: Morley Minto reforms provided for separate electorate for Muslims. It bolstered the feeling among the Muslim league leaders that they were better off with the British than with Hindus.
  • Shuddi movement by the Arya Samaj. Lala Lajpat Rai- a noted leader of Indian National Congress (INC), was also a member of Arya Samaj. Hence, some sections of Muslim society were apprehensive of the INC-brand of nationalism due to the affiliation of its leaders with certain Pro-Hindu organizations.

For educational purpose, I’ve elaborated, else you can summarize in single sentence that

“during second phase of freedom struggle, (i) overt use of Hindu revivalist symbols to evoke nationalism (ii) Separate electorate under the Morley-Minto reforms made the Muslims apprehensive about INC and Gandhi’s freedom struggle. Gandhi supported Khilafat to overcome their apprehensions / win their support for his NCM. (50 words)

Body#2: Whether Gandhi’s secular credentials diluted with Khilafat?

Gandhi's Secular image vs Khilafat

Critiques allege that Gandhi’s support to Khilafat diluted his secular credentials because

  • He supported a religious movement, thereby validating Muslim league’s ‘two-nations theory’. While Khilafat ultimately failed because Turkey itself was declared republic by Kamal Pasha. So, Gandhi fought for a lost cause.
  • Entry of hardcore clerics had communalized the khilafat movement, which escalated into Mopllah riots against the Hindus in Malabar region.

However, the arguments don’t dilute Gandhi’s secular credentials because

  • Even before entry of Gandhi, the communalization of politics had begun through Morley Minto reform’s separate electorates for the Muslims.
  • If Gandhi did not act, it’d have further alienated the Muslims from freedom struggle, due to the aforementioned events of phase-II.
  • 1919’s Khilafat movement was merged into Gandhi’s non-cooperation movement in 1920, so, there was net gain of funds and (Muslims) volunteers for freedom struggle.
  • Gandhi was neither communal nor pro-Muslim nor opportunistic leader but a pragmatic statesman who had to make best use of the opportunities and resources available to him to attain independence from the British rule.
  • However, he believed in the ‘purity of means’, therefore called off the NCM post Chauri-Chaura, where Khilafat & Congress volunteers’ rally led to death of policemen.


  • Thus, Gandhi had supported the Khilafat with the best intentions of obtaining Muslim-support against the British-rule.
  • He is the idol of unblemished secularism who fought for Hindu-Muslim unity till his dying breaths.

Self-Assessment Benchmarks & Common Mistakes

10M Question= Give yourself no less than 0 marks, and no more than 6 marks. Use the following benchmarks:

Parameter Marks Benchmarks
Introduction 0-1-2
  • 0 wrote superficial intros “NCM was Gandhi’s first mass movement so he wanted max. followers”
  • 0 if wrote the “body / climate” material in the introduction itself “Gandhi started Khilafat for Hindu-Muslim unity”
Conclusion -1 to 1
  • (-1): Khilafat was Gandhi’s grave mistake
  • 0: if proved secular image hurt
  • +1: if proved secular image not hurt.
Body 1 to 4 marks
  • Not more than two marks if factual keywords are missing: “Ali brothers”, “Turkey”, “Sultan / Khalifa”.
Logical structure -1 to 0
  • (-1) if spent the whole answer ing vilifying that Jinnah responsible for partition. The question is about Gandhi’s secular image, not about proving Jinnah’s communal image.
  • (-1) if “Gandhi started Khilafat. Or Gandhi was chairman of Khilafat Committee”
Concise expression -1 to 1
  • (-1) if just bolbachhan of same sentence “Gandhi wanted Hindu-Muslim unity”.
Language -1 to 0
  • (-1) if too many English words “secular”, “non-cooperation” etc. used in Hindi / Gujarati medium.
Total Marks out of 10 0 to 6
  • Don’t give yourself more than 3 marks: if only mentioned 1) why Khilafat then 2) bolbachhan of same sentence “Gandhi wanted Hindu-Muslim unity” without ANY ASSESSMENT OF EVENTS.
  • Give yourself upto 6 marks: if wrote introduction & conclusion, gave chronological narration of events- why Muslims feeling insecure, Why Gandhi support Khilafat, Why his secular image not diminished.

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