Modern History

MASS POLITICAL MOVEMENTS – SWADESI MOVEMENT

The anti-partition Swadesi and Boycott movement spread the ideas of nationalism became a political movement and went beyond the elite circles to the students and masses.

  • Frictions emerged among the leaders such as Surendra Nath Banerjee and Motilal Ghosh in Bengal, Aurobindo Ghosh and Bipin Chandra Pal, Brahma Bandhab Upadhyay in Bengal. In Bombay between Gokhale and Tilak for control over the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha. After passing away of Dayanand Saraswati, Arya Samaj split into moderate and radical groups in Punjab.
  • The new constitutuion of INC promoted by Tikal was not operational even after being ratified.
  • Lord Curzon continued his imperialist laws with Calcutta Municipal Amendment Act of 1899, to reduce number of elected representatives, the Indian Universities Act to keep Calcutta University under complete governmental control and the Indian Official Secret Amendment Act of 1904 in order to curb and restricted the freedom of the revolutionary press.
  • But Partition of  Bengal in 1905, was the most outrageous one challenging the Bengali Nationalists. The extremist fraction of  taking control  over INC gained support from the masses and asked for radical measures instead of prayer, petition, public meetings and passive resistance.

PARTITION OF BENGAL (1905)

  • Curzon aimed to weaken congress but instead helped the extremist leaders to take control of the INC and also create a Hindu-Muslim divide, Assamese-Benagali divied and weaken the Bhadralok(Rich and dominant upper varna class) .
  • INC called for Boycott of British goods and institutions and promote national education and development of Swadeshi indigenous alternatives to British goods.
  • Remembering glories of the past, Tilak started Shivaji festival in Bombay and teachings of Vivekananda’s idea of ‘alternative manliness’ which synthesized western modern concepts with old Indian traditions.
  • However, Assam’s interests were gained due to the partition thus the movement was cautious to not look anti to them.

SWADESI MOVEMENT

  • The Bengalis unified cutting across castes, class and religion against the Partition of Bengal and supported the Swadeshi Movement horizontally.
  • Historian Sumit Sarkar has found the following four trends in the movement
    • Moderate in Nature
    • Constructive Swadesi,
    • Political Extremism
    • Revolutionary Nationalism.
  • Surendra Nath Banerjee called for the boycott of British goods and institutions.
  • For self-reliance, indigenous goods, national education, arbitration courts and village level organizations were formed.
  • However indigenization began even before the formal beginning of the movement and Bengal Chemicals and porcelain manufacturing was established before.
  • For national education Satish Chandra Mukherjee founded Bhagavat Chatuspathi and Dawn Society in Calcutta, Brahmabandhab Upadhyay founded Saraswat Ayatan and Rabindra Nath Tagore founded the famous Ashram at Shantiniketan, Bhirbhum and preached principles atma-shakti and atma-shuddhi giving it touch of Religious revivalism. Bengal National College and School was also established.
  • Swadeshi Bhandav Samity organised arbitration committees to settle local disputes and reduce the dependency on British courts.
  • With the rising support of the masses, the movement reached a new phase from Swadesi to Swaraj or complete independence.
  • The extremists were ready for violent movement along with the swadesi and boycott to confront imperial rule. Thus, it was having Gandhian features except use of violence.
  • Extremists like Aurobindo Ghosh, advocated for use of religion to further mobilize the masses. But this eventually separated Muslims and lower caste peasantries from the movement.
  • The movement failed to penetrate into the higher ranks of the British companies, and was untouched to workers of the other parts of India.
  • The decline of political extremism payed way for more radical phase of revolutionary extremism which was to follow in the forms of Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad and others.
  • The 1907 session of the Congress was shifted from extremist stronghold in Poona to Surat by the moderates. Lala Lajpat Rai was nominated by the extremists for the post of the Congress President, while the moderates had Rash Behari Ghosh. Major bone of contention was on the review of four Resolutions passed in the Calcutta session. The session ended with Spilt in congress and extremist leaders were suspended. Extremists B. G. Tilak died soon and Aurobindo took up life of a hermit. The later moderates Mehta-Congress was more loyal to the government.
  • The two factions were again united in 1920 Belgam Session under presidentialship of Mahatma Gandhi.

VIOLENT RESISTANCE

  • National pride was infused with the writings of Bankim Chandra and Vivekananda.
  • Groups were formed with revolutionary ideas even before the movement such as Dhaka Anushilan Samiti  by Satish Chandra Basu, Midnapore Society, Anushilan Samiti of Calcutta was headed by Barindra Kumar Ghosh (brother of Aurobindo Ghosh) with Hemchandra Kanungo and Prafulla Chaki.
  • The first dacoity happened in government loyal officials in Rangpur in August 1906 to fund a bomb manufacturing unit in Maniktala Calcutta
  • District Magistrate Kingsford was attacked killing two women on April 30, 1908 at Muzaffarpur by Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki. Thereafter, Prafulla Chaki commited suicide and the entire group at Maniktala were arrested for terrorism against the imperial government.
  • Barrister C.R. Das managed to acquit Aurobindo but his younger brother Barindra and Ullaskar Dutta and others were sentenced to death which were later reduced to life imprisonment.
  • The hanging of Khudiram and the Maniktala Bomb Conspiracy Trial was popularized and immortalised in patriotic Bengali folk songs.
  • The Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909, induction of S.P. Sinha as the law member in the Viceroy’s Executive Council and annulment of the partition of Bengal in 1911 with transfer of Capital from Calcutta to Delhi was seen as an outcome of efforts of revolutionary nationalists.
  • The revolutionary activities spread from Bengal to Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. Gadhar Party was formed in North America. They attempted to assassinate the viceroy Lord Hardinge in 1912  and in September, 1914 boarded in Japanese ship Kamagata Maru, they clashed with the British army near Calcutta. Later after First World War, the captive Indian soldiers in Japan were organized into a armed force by efforts of Ras Bihari Bose, Subhas Chandra Bose and others.
  • The British government responded by imposing of The Defence of India Act of 1915 and draconian Rowlatt Acts.
  • Later with the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi when the focus shifted from violence to non-violent movements and from elite action to mass action.

AFTERMATH OF SWADESI MOVEMENT

  • The anti-partition Swadesi and Boycott movement spread the ideas of nationalism became a political movement and went beyond the elite circles to the students and masses.
  • Gokhale also founded the Servants of India Society for emancipation of to the poor and  untouchable oppressed part of the society. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, published newspapers Kesari in Marathi and the Mahratta in English.
  • All India Muslim League was formed in Dacca in 1906 which supported Curzon’s partition plan and claimed to be sole representatives of the Indian Muslim and not INC. However, Jinnah did not supported the Leagues views then.
  • The vernacular writings gained public legitimacy. Gandhi wrote Hind Swaraj in Gujarati and English in 1909  and V.D. Savarkar wrote Indian War of Independence in 1910 projecting a Hindu view of nationalism.
  • When Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in 1915, Home Rule League was active under Annie Besant in Madras, Berar and Central Province and B.G. Tilak in Bombay to educate the idea of independence of India. The membership of the two leagues reached over 60,000 in 1917. Annie Besant in her “New India” newspaper criticized the imperial government and propagated the need of Home Rule or Swaraj. Following her popularity, Besant was elected the President of INC in Calcutta session in 1917. The Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms in 1918 was an outcome of the Home Rule movement.
  • Chittaranjan Das also proposed for a composite and inclusive national culture.
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