Era Of Militant Nationalism (1905-1909)

  • v  Growth of Militant Nationalism

      A radical trend of a militant nationalist approach to political activity started emerging in the 1890s and it took a concrete shape by 1905.

  • Ø  Factors contributed to the rise of militant nationalism
  • Recognition of the True Nature of British Rule

§  1892: The Indian Councils Act was criticized by nationalists as it failed to satisfy them.

§  1897: The Natu brothers were deported without trial and Tilak and others, imprisoned on charges of sedition.

§  1898: Repressive laws under IPC Section 124 A were further amplified with new provisions under IPC Section 156 A.

§  1899: The number of Indian members in Calcutta Corporation was reduced.

§  1904: Official Secrets Act curbed freedom of the press.

§  1904: Indian Universities Act ensured greater government control over universities

  • Growth of Confidence and Self-Respect

§  Tilak, Aurobindo, and Bipin Chandra Pal repeatedly urged the nationalists to rely on the character and capacities of the Indian people.

§  A feeling started gaining currency that the masses had to be involved in the battle against the colonial government as they were capable of making the immense sacrifices needed to win freedom.

  • Growth of Education

§  While, on the one hand, the spread of education led to increased awareness among the masses, on the other hand, the rise in unemployment and underemployment among the educated drew attention to poverty and the underdeveloped state of the country’s economy under colonial rule.

  • International Influences

§  The remarkable progress made by Japan after 1868 and its emergence as an industrial power opened the eyes of Indians to the fact that economic progress was possible even in an Asian country without any external help.

§  The defeat of the Italian army by Ethiopians (1896), the Boer wars (1899-1902) where the British faced reverses and Japan’s victory over Russia (1905) demolished myths of European invincibility.

  • Reaction to Increasing Westernisation

§  The new leadership felt the stranglehold of excessive westernization and sensed colonial designs to submerge the Indian national identity in the British Empire.

§  Intellectuals like Swami Vivekananda, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, and Swami Dayananda Saraswati inspired many young nationalists with their forceful and articulate arguments, painting India’s past in brighter colors than the British ideologues had.

  • Dissatisfaction with Achievements of Moderates

§  The younger elements within the Congress were dissatisfied with the achievements of the Moderates during the first 15-20 years.

§  They were strongly critical of the methods of peaceful and constitutional agitation, popularly known as the “Three P’s”—prayer, petition, and protest—and described these methods as "political mendicancy’.

  • Reactionary Policies of Curzon

§  A sharp reaction was created in the Indian mind by Curzon’s seven-year rule in India which was full of missions, commissions, and omissions.

§  He refused to recognize India as a nation, and insulted Indian nationalists and the intelligentsia by describing their activities as "letting off of gas”. He spoke derogatory ily of Indian character in general.

§  Administrative measures adopted during his rule left no doubt in Indian minds about the basically reactionary nature of British rule in India.

  • Existence of a Militant School of Thought

§  The basic tenets/beliefs of this school of thought were –

o   Hatred for foreign rule; since no hope could be derived from it, Indians should work out their own salvation;

o   Swaraj to be the goal of national movement;

o   direct political action required; belief incapacity of the masses to challenge the authority;

o   personal sacrifices required and a true nationalist to be always ready for it.

  • The Emergence of a Trained Leadership

§  The new leadership could provide proper channelisation of the immense potential for the political struggle which the masses possessed and, as the militant nationalists thought, we{sin-quite}re ready to give expression to.

§  This energy of the masses got a release during the movement against the partition of Bengal, which acquired the form of the swadeshi agitation.

  • v  The Swadeshi and Boycott Movement

The Swadeshi Movement had its genesis(origin) in the anti-partition movement which was started to oppose the British decision to partition Bengal.

  • Ø  Partition of Bengal to Divide People

§  The British government’s decision to partition Bengal had been made public in December 1903.

§  The idea was to have two provinces: Bengal comprising Western Bengal as well as the provinces of Bihar and Orissa, and Eastern Bengal and Assam.

§  Bengal retained Calcutta as its capital, while Dacca became the capital of Eastern Bengal.

§  The official reason given for the partition was that Bengal, with a population of 78 million (about a quarter of population of British India), had become too big to be administered. It also stated that the partition would help in the development of Assam if it came under the direct jurisdiction of the govt.

§  The real motive behind the partition was seen to be the British desire to weaken the Bengal.

§  British divided the Bengalis under two administrations: -

o   On the basis of language, thus reducing the Bengalis to a minority in Bengal itself (17 million Bengali & 37 million Hindi and Oriya speakers).

o   On the basis of religion, as the western half was to be a Hindu majority area and Eastern half was to be a Muslim majority  area (42 million out of 54 million were Hindu and 18 million out of 31 million were Muslim).

  • Ø  Anti-Partition Campaign Under Moderates (1903-05)

§  The methods adopted were petitions to the government, public meetings, memoranda, and propaganda through pamphlets and newspapers such as Hitabadi, Sanjibani, and Bengalee.

§  Their objective was to exert sufficient pressure on the government through an educated public opinion in India and England to prevent the unjust partition of Bengal from being implemented.

§  The government announced the partition of Bengal in July 1905. On August 7, 1905, with the passage of the Boycott Resolution in a massive meeting held in the Calcutta Townhall, the formal proclamation of the Swadeshi Movement was made.

§  October 16, 1905, the day the partition formally came into force, was observed as a day of mourning throughout Bengal.

§  ‘Amar Sonar Bangla{sin-quite}, the national anthem of present-day Bangladesh, was composed by Rabindranath Tagore

  • Ø  Congress’s Position

§  The INC, meeting in 1905 under the president ship of Gokhale, resolved to -

o   condemn the partition of Bengal and the reactionary policies of Curzon;

o   And, support the anti-partition and Swadeshi Movement of Bengal.

§  A big step forward was taken at the Congress session held at Calcutta (1906) under the presidentship of Dadabhai Naoroji, where it was declared that the goal of the Indian National Congress was “self government or Swaraj.

  • v  The Movement under Extremist Leadership

§  Reasons behind, the Extremists acquired a dominant influence over the swadeshi movement in Bengal after 1905 –

o   The Moderate-led movement had failed to yield results.

o   The divisive tactics of the governments of both the Bengals had embittered the nationalists.

o   The government had resorted to suppressive measures.

§  The Extremists gave a call for passive resistance in addition to swadeshi and boycott.

§  The purpose, as Aurobindo put it, was to “make the administration under present conditions impossible by an organized refusal to do anything which will help either the British commerce in the exploitation of the country or British officialdom in the administration of it”.

§  Political freedom is the life-breath of a nation,” declared Aurobindo.

  • Ø  New Forms of Struggle and impact

The militant nationalists put forward several fresh ideas at the theoretical, propaganda, and programme levels stated as under: -

§  Boycott of Foreign Goods: - it include boycott and public burning of foreign cloth, boycott of foreign made salt or sugar, refusal by priests to ritualise marriages involving exchange of foreign goods, refusal of washermen to wash foreign clothes.

§   Public Meetings, and Processions: - it emerged as major methods of mass mobilisation.

§  Corps of Volunteers or {sin-quite}Samitis{sin-quite}-Samitis such as the Swadesh Bandhab Samiti of Ashwini Kumar Dutta (in Barisal) emerged as a very popular and powerful means of mass mobilization. In Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, V.O. Chidambaram Pillai, Subramania Siva, and some lawyers formed the Swadeshi Sangam which inspired the local masses.

§  Imaginative use of Traditional Popular Festivals and Melas: - tilak’s Ganapati and Shivaji festivals became a medium of Swadeshi propaganda not only in western India but western India but also in Bengal the traditional folk theatre form were used for this purpose.

§  Emphasis given to Self-Reliance: - Self-reliance or ‘atma shakti’ was encouraged, included re-assertion of national dignity, honor and confidence and social and economic regeneration of the villages.

o   It also included social reforms and campaigns against caste oppression, early marriage, dowry system, consumption of alcohol, etc.

§  Programme of Swadeshi or National Education: - On August 15, 1906, the National Council of Education was set up to organize a system of education— literary, scientific and technical—on national lines and under national control.

§  Swadeshi or Indigenous Enterprises: - V.O. Chidambaram Pillai’s venture into a national shipbuilding enterprise—Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company—at Tuticorin.

§  Impact in the Cultural Sphere: - In Tamil Nadu, Subramania Bharati wrote Sudesha Geetham. In painting, Abanindranath Tagore broke the domination of Victorian naturalism over the Indian art scene and took inspiration from Ajanta, Mughal, and Rajput paintings. Nandalal Bose, who left a major imprint on Indian art, was the first recipient of a scholarship offered by the Indian Society of Oriental Art, founded in 1907.

  • Ø  The Extent of Mass Participation

§  Student participation was visible in Bengal, Maharashtra, especially in Poona, and in many parts of the South—Guntur, Madras, Salem.

§  Women play a significant role in the national movement.

§  The nature of the Swadeshi Movement, with leaders evoking Hindu festivals and goddesses for inspiration, tended to exclude the Muslims.

§  In September 1905, more than 250 Bengali clerks of the Burn Company, Howrah, walked out in protest against a derogatory work regulation.

§  In July 1906, a strike of workers in the East Indian Railway resulted in the formation of a Railwaymen’s Union.

§  Between 1906 and 1908, strikes in the jute mills were very frequent, Subramania Siva and Chidambaram Pillai led strikes in Tuticorin and Tirunelveli in a foreign-owned cotton mill. In Rawalpindi (Punjab), the arsenal and railway workers went on strike.

§  All India Aspect Movements in support of Bengal{sin-quite}s unity and the swadeshi and boycott agitation were organized in many parts of the country.

  • v  Annulment of Partition

§  It was decided to annual the partition of Bengal in 1911, mainly to curb the menace of revolutionary terrorism.

§  The annulment came as a rude shock to the Muslim political elite. It was also decided to shift the capital to Delhi as a sop to the Muslims, as it was associated with Muslim glory, but the Muslims were not pleased.

§  Bihar and Orissa were taken out of Bengal and Assam was made a separate province.

  • v  Evaluation of the Swadeshi Movement

§  The movement failed to create an effective organization or a party structure. It threw up an entire gamut of techniques that later came to be associated with Gandhian politics— non-cooperation, passive resistance, filling of British jails, social reform, and constructive work—but failed to give these techniques a disciplined focus.

§  The movement was rendered leaderless with most of the leaders either arrested or deported by 1908 and with Aurobindo Ghosh and Bipin Chandra Pal retiring from active politics.

§  Internal squabbles among leaders, magnified by the Surat split (1907), did much harm to the movement.

§  The movement aroused the people but did not know how to tap the newly released energy or how to find new forms to give expression to popular resentment. The movement largely remained confined to the upper and middle classes and zamindars and failed to reach the masses—especially the peasantry.

§  Non-cooperation and passive resistance remained mere ideas.

§  It is difficult to sustain a mass-based movement at a high pitch for too long.

  • Ø  Movement a Turning Point

§  It proved to be a “leap forward" in more ways than one. Hitherto untouched sections— students, women, workers, some sections of the urban and rural population—participated.

§  The richness of the movement was not confined to the political sphere but encompassed art, literature, science, and industry also.

§  People were aroused from slumber and now they learned to take bold political positions and participate in new forms of political work.

§  The swadeshi campaign undermined the hegemony of colonial ideas and institutions.

§  The future struggle was to draw heavily from the experience gained.

  • v  The Surat Split (1907)

The congress split at Surat came in December 1907, around the time when revolutionary activity had gained momentum.

  • Ø  Run-up to Surat

§  In December 1905, at the Benaras session of the INC presided over by Gokhale. A relatively mild resolution condemning the partition of Bengal and the reactionary policies of Curzon and supporting the swadeshi and boycott program in Bengal was passed.

§  At the Calcutta session of the Congress in December 1906 Moderates wanted to restrict the Boycott Movement to Bengal and to a boycott of foreign cloth and liquor but the Extremists wanted to take the movement to all parts of the country and include within its ambit all forms of association.

  • Ø  Split Takes Place

§  The split became inevitable, and the Congress was now dominated by the Moderates who lost no time in reiterating Congress’ commitment to the goal of self-government within the British Empire and to the use of constitutional methods only to achieve this goal.

  • Ø  Government Repression

§  The govt. launched a massive attack on the Extremists.

§  Between 1907 and 1911, five new laws were brought into force to check anti-government activity: - The Seditious Meetings Act, 1907; Indian Newspapers (Incitement to Offences) Act, 1908; Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1908; and The Indian Press Act, 1910.

§  Tilak, the main Extremist leader, was tried in 1909 for sedition for what he had written in 1908 in his Kesari about a bomb was thrown by Bengal revolutionaries in Muzaffarpur, resulting in the death of two innocent women.

  • v  The Government Strategy

§  In the government’s view, the Moderates still represented an anti-imperialist force consisting of basically patriotic and liberal intellectuals..

§  The policy was to be of Tallying them’ (John Morley— the secretary of state) or the policy of {sin-quite}carrot and stick’.

§  It may be described as a three-pronged approach of repression conciliation- suppression. In the first stage, the Extremists were to be repressed mildly to frighten the moderates. In the second stage, the Moderates were to be placated through some concessions.

§  The Surat split suggested that the policy of carrot and stick had brought rich dividends to the British Indian government.

  • v  Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909

§  Minto at left and Morley at right

§  In October 1906, a group of Muslim elites called the Simla Deputation, led by the Agha Khan, met Lord Minto and demanded separate electorates for the Muslims.

§  The same group quickly took over the Muslim League, initially floated by Nawab Salimullah of Dacca along with Nawabs Mohsin-ul-Mulk and Waqar-ul-Mulk in December 1906.

  • Ø  The Reforms

§  The Morley- Minto (or Minto-Morley) Reforms translated into the Indian Councils Act of 1909.

§  The elective principle was recognized for the nonofficial membership of the councils in India. Indians were allowed to participate in the election of various legislative councils, though on the basis of class and community.

§  For the first time, separate electorates for Muslims for election to the central council was established—a most detrimental step for India.

§  The number of elected members in the Imperial Legislative Council and the Provincial Legislative Councils was increased. In the provincial councils, a non-official majority was introduced, but since some of these non-officials were nominated and not elected, the overall non-elected majority remained.

§  According to Sumit Sarkar, in the Imperial Legislative Council, of the total 69 members, 37 were to be the officials and of the 32 non-officials, 5 were to be nominated. Of the 27 elected non-officials, 8 seats were reserved for the Muslims under separate electorates (only Muslims could vote here for the Muslim candidates), while 4 seats were reserved for the British capitalists, 2 for the landlords, and 13 seats came under the general electorate.

§  The elected members were to be indirectly elected. The local bodies were to elect an electoral college, which in turn would elect members of provincial legislatures, who in turn would elect members of the central legislature.

§  Besides separate electorates for the Muslims, representation in excess of the strength of their population was according to the Muslims. Also, the income qualification for Muslim voters was kept lower than that for Hindus.

§  Powers of legislatures—both at the center and in provinces—were enlarged and the legislatures could now pass resolutions (which may or may not be accepted), ask questions and supplementary, vote separate items in the budget through the budget as a whole could not be voted upon.

§  One Indian was to be appointed to the viceroy’s executive council.

o   Satyendra Sinha was the first Indian to be appointed in 1909.

  • Ø  Evaluation

§  Lord Morley said, “If it could be said that this chapter of reforms led directly or indirectly to the establishment of a parliamentary system in India, I, for one, would have nothing at all to do with it.”

§  The system of election was too indirect and it gave the impression of “infiltration of legislators through a number of sieves".

§  What the reforms of 1909 gave to the people of the country was a shadow rather than substance.

The people had demanded self-government but what they were given was “benevolent despotism”.

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