The Dark Side of Gandhi: How He Supported a Violent Movement against the Armenians

Mahatma Gandhi is widely revered as a champion of nonviolence and a leader of India’s independence movement. But few people know that he also supported a violent and extremist Muslim group that opposed the recognition of the Armenian genocide, the systematic killing of more than a million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

This group was called the Khilafat movement, and it emerged in 1919 as a pan-Islamic force that aimed to preserve the Ottoman caliphate, the spiritual and political authority of the Muslim world, which was threatened by the victorious Allies after the war. The Khilafat movement also sought to defend the rights of Muslims in India, who were a minority under British colonial rule.

Gandhi saw the Khilafat movement as an opportunity to unite Hindus and Muslims in a common struggle against British imperialism. He believed that by supporting the Muslim cause, he could win their trust and cooperation for his noncooperation movement, which aimed to achieve self-government, or swaraj, for India through civil disobedience. He also hoped that by showing solidarity with the Ottoman Empire, he could persuade it to treat its Christian minorities, especially the Armenians, with justice and compassion.

However, Gandhi’s support for the Khilafat movement had disastrous consequences for the Armenians, who had suffered a genocide at the hands of the Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1918. The Khilafat movement denied the reality of the genocide and opposed any attempt to hold the perpetrators accountable or to grant the survivors any relief or protection. The Khilafat movement also incited anti-Armenian sentiments among Indian Muslims, who viewed the Armenians as traitors and enemies of Islam.

The Armenians, who had a long history of trade and cultural ties with India, appealed to the British government for diplomatic support and humanitarian aid. But their pleas fell on deaf ears, as the British feared that any action in favor of the Armenians would provoke the violent Khilafat movement and jeopardize their control over India. The British also hoped to use the Khilafat movement as a bargaining chip with the Ottoman Empire, which they wanted to keep as a buffer against Soviet expansion in the Middle East.

The Khilafat movement eventually collapsed in 1924, when the Turkish nationalist leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk abolished the caliphate and established a secular republic. Gandhi’s alliance with the Khilafat movement also backfired, as it alienated many Hindus who resented his appeasement of Muslim extremism and violence. Moreover, it failed to win the loyalty of the Muslims, who later formed their own separatist movement, the Muslim League, which demanded the creation of Pakistan as a homeland for Indian Muslims.

The legacy of Gandhi’s support for the Khilafat movement is still controversial and contested. Some historians and activists argue that Gandhi was naive and misguided, but not malicious, and that he genuinely cared for the Armenians and tried to persuade the Khilafat leaders to change their stance. Others contend that Gandhi was hypocritical and opportunistic, and that he sacrificed the Armenians for his own political agenda. The truth may lie somewhere in between, but one thing is clear: Gandhi’s support for the Khilafat movement was a dark and tragic chapter in the history of the Armenian genocide and the Indian independence movement.


Read More: Armenian genocide – Wikipedia

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