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  • 01 January, 1970

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Era of Militant Nationalism

Era of Militant Nationalism

Why Militant Nationalism Grew

1. Realisation that the true nature of British rule was exploitative, and that the British India government, instead of conceding more, was taking away even what existed.

2. Growth of self-confidence and self-respect.

3. Impact of growth of educationincrease in awareness and Unemployment.

4. International influences and events which demolished the myth of white/European supremacy. These included

      1. emergence of Japan—an Asian country—as an industrial power
      2. Abyssinia’s (Ethiopia) victory over Italy.
      3. Boer Wars (1899-1902) in which the British faced reverses.
      4. Japan’s victory over Russia (1905).
      5. nationalist movements worldwide.

5. Reaction to increasing westernisation.

6. Dissatisfaction with the achievements as well as the methods of the Moderates.

7. Reactionary policies of Curzon such as the

  1. Calcutta Corporation Act (1899),
  2. the Official Secrets Act (1904),
  3. the Indian Universities Act (1904) and
  4. partition of Bengal (1905).

8. Existence of a militant school of thought.

9. Emergence of a trained leadership.

The Extremist Ideology

      • Hatred for foreign rule
      • Belief in the capacity of the masses
      • Swarajya as goal
      • Advocacy of direct political action and self-sacrifice.

The Swadeshi and Boycott Movement

* Began as a reaction to partition of Bengal which became known in 1903, was formally announced in July 1905 and came into force in October 1905. The motive behind partition was to weaken Bengal which was the nerve centre of Indian nationalist activity; the official reason given for the partition was that Bengal had become too big to administer—which was true to some extent.

* Moderate-led anti-partition movement (1903-05) was under Surendranath Banerjea, K.K. Mitra, Prithwishchandra Ray.

Methods included -

  • public meetings,
  • petitions, memoranda,
  • propaganda through newspapers and pamphlets.

* The movement under Extremists (1905-08) was led by Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lajpat Rai, Aurobindo Ghosh.

Methods included –

  • boycott of foreign cloth and other goods,
  • public meetings and processions,
  • forming corps of volunteers or samitis,
  • use of traditional popular festivals and melas for propaganda,
  • emphasis on self-reliance or atma shakti,
  • launching programme of swadeshi or national education,
  • swadeshi or indigenous enterprises,
  • initiating new trends in Indian painting, songs, poetry,
  • pioneering research in science and
  • later calling for boycott of schools, colleges, councils, government service, etc.

* Extremists took over because of the failure of the Moderates to achieve positive results, divisive tactics of governments of both Bengals, severe government repression.

* Extent of mass participation-students, women, certain sections of zamindari, labour, some lower middle and middle classes in towns and cities participated for the first time while the Muslims generally kept away.

* Annulment of Partition mainly to curb the ‘menace’ of revolutionary terrorism.

* Why Swadeshi Movement fizzled out by 1908

  • Severe government repression.
  • Lack of effective organisation and a disciplined focus.
  • With arrest/deportation of all leaders, the movement left leaderless.
  • Split in nationalist ranks.
  • Narrow social base.

* Achievements

“A leap forward” because hitherto untouched sections participated, major trends of later movement emerged; richness of the movement extended to culture, science and literature; people educated in bolder form of politics; colonial hegemony undermined.

Major Cause of Moderate-Extremist Split at Surat (1907)

Moderates wanted to restrict the Boycott Movement to Bengal and to a boycott of foreign cloth and liquor.

Extremists wanted to take the movement to all parts of the country and include within its ambit all forms of association with the government through a boycott of schools, colleges, law courts, legislative councils, government service, municipalities, etc.

Government Acts for Repression of Swadeshi Movement

  • Seditious Meetings Act (1907)
  • Criminal Law (Amendment) Act (1908)
  • Indian Newspapers (Incitement to Offences) Act (1908)
  • Explosive Substances Act (1908)
  • Indian Press Act (1910)

Morley-Minto Reforms

  • Number of elected members in Imperial and Provincial Legislative Councils increased—elected non-officials still in minority.
    • Non-officials to be elected indirectly—thus elections introduced for the first time.
    • Separate electorates introduced for Muslims.
    • Legislatures could pass resolutions, ask questions and supplementaries, vote separate items of the budget.
    • One Indian to be on viceroy’s executive council.
    • Aimed at dividing the nationalist ranks and at rallying the Moderates and the Muslims to the government’s side.
    • No responsibility entrusted to legislators—this resulted inthought-less criticism sometimes.
    • System of election was too indirect.

Source: Spectrum

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