Updated December 20, 2022
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The Extremist Phase of Indian National Movement
The period between 1905 and 1920 is known as the period of the extremists or the Extremist Phase of Indian National Movement/Congress. The extremists were radical and militant in their approach in contrast to the Moderates. Hence they were called “Extremists” or “Radical Nationalists”. They considered the British to be “Foreign Invaders”, who were to be driven away by any means possible. The extremist goal was ‘swaraj’. This, at that time either meant complete autonomy and freedom from British control, or a total Indian control over the administration but not necessarily a breakaway from Britain’s imperial reign. The important extremist leaders were Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurobindo Ghosh. The Trio were popular as “Lal-Bal-Pal”. They were called extremist because they believed that success could be achieved only through bold means.
Discussed below are some Amazing and Important facts about ‘The Extremist Phase of the Indian National Movement’ regarding, Reasons for the emergence of extremist, prominent Extremist Leaders, the Partition of Bengal (1905) & Boycott & Swadeshi Movement (1905-08), and so on.
Reasons for the Emergence of Extremists
1.Realization that the true nature of British rule was exploitative
2. International influenes and events which demolished the myth of white/European supremacy. These included-Abyssinia/Ethopia’s victory over Italy (1896), Boer wars (1899-1902) in which the British faced reverse, Japan victory over Russia (1905)
3. Dissatisfaction with the achievements of Moderates
4. Reactionary policies of Curzon such as Calcutta cooperation Act (1904), Indian University Act (1905) & Partition of Bengal (1905).
5. Existence of a militant school of thought and emergence of a trained leadership.
Prominent Extremist Leaders
6. Bal Gangadhar Tilak: Lokmanya Tilak was the uncompromising leader of extremists as was influenced by Agarkar, Ranade & Naoroji. He launched two newspaper the kesari in (Marathi) & the Maratha (in English). He organized Ganpati festival (1893) and Shivaji Festival (1895). He was deported to Mandlay Jail (Burma) for writing seditious articles. He started Home Rule League in 1916. He wrote Gita Rahasya. Tilak asserted: “Swaraj is my Birth Right and I will have it”.
7. Lala Lajpat Rai: Extremist from Punjab. Under the influence of Arya Samaj founded National School at Lahore, presides over the AITUC in 1920. Boycotted Simon Commission and demonstrated against it at Lahore during which he was brutally assaulted by the police and succumbed to his injuries.
8. Bipin Chandra Pal: Discarded orthodox Hinduism and entered Brahmo Samaj and visited England and America. He founded English weekly New India. He led the swadeshi Movement. He carried gospels of Boycott, Swadeshi, National Education, Swaraj and the Passive Resistance. He founded Vande Matram.
9. Sri Aurobindo Ghosh: He passed ICS exam with record marks in Greek & Latin. He had European upbringing. He worked for secret societies in Bengali daily Jugantar. He wrote seditious articles in vande Matram. He was trialed for Maniktalla (Calcutta) Bomb Conspiracy Case. He finally retired to the life of Yoga at pondichery.
10. Chakravarthi Viji Raghvachariar, Aswini Kumar Dutta, Raj Narayan Bose, T. Prakasham, Chidambram Pillai etc. were the other important extremist leaders.
11. Passive Resistance i.e. non-cooperating with the British Government by boycotting government service, courts, school & colleges, and Promotion of swadeshi and boycott of foreign goods were the methods of extremists.
Partition of Bengal (1905) & Boycott & Swadeshi Movement (1905-08)
12. The partition of Bengal came into effect on Oct. 1905, through Royal proclamation, reducing the old province of Bengal in size by creating a new province of East Bengal, which later on became East Pakistan and in present day Bangladesh.
13. The government explained that it was done to stimulate growth of under-developed Eastern region of the Bengal. But actually, the main objective was to ‘divide &rule’ the most advanced region of the country at that time. The main reason for partition of Bengal was to destroy the political influence of educated middle class among whom the Bengali intelligentsia were most prominent. It also set up a communal gulf between Hindus and Muslims. The INC unanimously condemned the partition of Bengal.
14. The Boycott and Swadeshi movement has its genesis in the anti-partition movement which was started to oppose the British decision to divide Bengal.
15. With the start of the Swadeshi movement at the turn of the country, the Indian National Movement took a major leap forward. ‘
16. The INC took up the Swadeshi call in Benaras Session, 1905, presided over by G.K. Gokhle, supported the Swadeshi & Boycott Movement of Bengal. Militant nationalism spearheaded by Trio of Lal-Bal-Pal & Aurobindo Ghosh was however, in favour of extending the movement of the rest of India and carrying it beyond the programme of just Swadeshi and Boycott of goods to full-fledged political mass struggle.
17. On Aug.7, 1905, a resolution to boycott British goods were adopted at a meeting of the INC held in Calcutta. It was started a purely economic measure for the development of Indian Industry.
18. Bonefire of foreign goods were conducted on large scale in all major cities. Tilak took the movement to different parts of India esp. in Pune & Mumba. Ajit Singh & Lala Lajpat Ray spread the Swadeshi message in Punjab and Other parts of Northern India. Syed Haidar Raza set up the agenda in Delhi. Rawalpindi, Kangra, Jammu, Multan, and Hardwar witnessed active participation in the Swadeshi Movement. Chidambram Pillai took the movement to Madras Presidency which was also galvanized by Bipin Chandra pal’s extensive lecture tour.
19. In Dec. 1906, All India Muslim League was set up under the leadership of Aga Khan, Nawab Salimullah of Dacca and Nawab Mohsin-ul-Mulk at Dacca. The league supported the partition of Bengal, opposed the Swadeshi Movement and demanded special safeguard for its community and separate electorate of Muslims. This led to communal difference between Hindus & Muslims.
Calcutta Session of INC (1906)-Swaraj:
20. In Dec. 1906 at Calcutta, the INC under the leadership of Dada Bhai Naoroji adopted, ‘Swaraj’ as the goal of Indian people. Naoroji in his presidential address declared that the goal of the INC was ‘self-government of Swaraj like that of United Kingdom’. The difference between the moderates and the extremists, esp. regarding the pace of the movement and the techniques of the struggle to be adopted came to head in 1907 at the Surat Session of the Congress where the party split with serious consequences for the Swadeshi movement.
Surat Split (1907):
21. The INC split into two groups-the extremists & the moderates at the Surat session in 1907 held on the banks of the river Tapi. The extremists were led by Tilak, Lajpat Rai & Bipin Chandra Pal and the moderate and extremist delegates of Congress met in an atmosphere surcharged with excitement and anger.
They suddenness of the Surat fiasco took the extremists leaders by surprise and they offered their cooperation to the working committee of the Congress by accepting presidentship of Ras Bihari Ghose. But the moderates would not relent as they found themselves on firm ground. The government observing the opportunities launched a massive attack on the extremists by suppressing the Newspaper and arresting their main leader, Tilak and sending him to Mondalay Jail (Burma) for 6 years. The extremists were not able to organize an effective alternative party or to sustain the movement. Aurobindo Ghosh gave up politics and left for Pondicherry. Bipin Chandra Pal also left politics temporarily. Lajpat Rai left for Britain. After 1908, the National movement as whole declined.
Morley-Minto Reforms (1909):
22. Morley-Minto Reforms were introduced in 1909 during the period when Lord Minto was the viceroy of India. The reforms envisaged a separate electorate for Muslims besides other constitutional measures. The Government thereby sought to create a rift within the Congress on one hand by winning the support of the moderates, and on the other, to win favour of Muslims against Hindus. To achieve the latter objective, the reforms introduced the system of separate electorates under which Muslims could only vote for Muslim Candidates. This was done to encourage the notion that the political, economic and cultural interests of Hindus & Muslims were separate and not common. Indian political leaders were however dissatisfied by these reforms.
Home Rule Movement (1915-16)
23. B.G. Tilak founded Indian Home Rule League at Pune on 28 April, 1916. Annie Besant, inspired by the Irish rebellion, started Home Rule Movement in India in Sep. 1916. The movement spread rapidly and branches of the Home Rule League were established all over India. B.G. Tilak wholeheartedly supported this movement. He joined forces with Annie Besant and persuaded the Muslim League to support this programme.
Lucknow Pact-Congress-League Pact (1916)
24. An Important step forward in achieving Hindu-Muslim unity was the Lucknow pact (1916). Anti-British feelings were generated among the Muslims following a war between Britain and Turkey which opened way for Congress and Muslim League unity. Both the Congress and the Muslim League held session at Lucknow in 1916 and concluded the famous Lucknow famous pact. The Congress accepted the separate electorate and both organizations jointly demanded ‘dominion status’ for the country.
Hindu-Muslim unity weakened the British attitude and forced the government to announce its future policy. In 1916, a British policy was announced whereby association of Indians was increased and there was to be a gradul development of local self-government.
Montagu Declaration/August Declaration of 1917
25. The control over the Indian government would be transferred gradually to the Indian people. This was the result of Hindu-Muslim unity exhibited in Lucknow pact
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