The Non-cooperation movement was on its pinnacle in all of north India.
On 2 February 1922, volunteers participating in the Non-cooperation Movement led by a retired Army soldier named Bhagwan Ahir, protested against high food prices and liquor sale in the marketplace at Chauri Chaura town near Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh.
In response to this, a protest against the police was called on 4 February at the local marketplace. Approximately 2,000 to 2,500 protesters assembled and began marching towards the market at Chauri Chaura.
Armed police were dispatched to control the situation. The Police, tried to disperse the crowd by firing two shots in air, which resulted in stone pelting. With the situation getting out of control, police fired and killed 3 people.
The result was that the heavily outnumbered police fell back to the shelter of the police chowki while outrageous mob set the Police Chauki on fire killing all 22 or 23 Indian policemen and chaprassis (official messengers) trapped inside.
In reflection, Gandhi felt that he had acted too quickly in encouraging people to revolt against the British Raj without sufficiently emphasising the importance of non-violence and without adequately training the people to exercise restraint in the face of attack.
On 12 February 1922, when the Congress leaders met at Bardoli, Gandhi decided to withdraw the movement as a direct result of the Chauri Chaura tragedy.
Nehru and other workers of the Congress, who were in prison when Gandhi took this decision, felt that this was a hasty and incorrect decision at a time when the nation was finally uniting and rising up to the might of the British government in India.
Mahatma Gandhi was arrested on 10 March 1922 and trial was led at Ahmadabad. A simple prison of 6 years was awarded to him but but was later released in February 1924, on grounds of his ill health.
A total of 228 people were brought to trial on charges of “rioting and arson” in conjunction with the Chauri Chaura affair. Of these 6 died while in police custody, while 172 were sentenced to death by hanging following conviction in a trial which lasted eight months.
On 20 April 1923, the Allahabad High Court reviewed the death verdicts; 19 death sentences were confirmed and 110 were sentenced to prison for life, with the rest sentenced to long terms of imprisonment.
A memorial to the dead policemen was dedicated by the British authorities in 1923.