Militant Nationalists and Marked Impact in the Cultural Sphere

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Militant Nationalists

  • The extremists were in favor of extending the movement to the rest of India and carrying it beyond the programme of just Swadeshi and boycott to a full-fledged political mass struggle. The moderates were not as willing to go that far.

  • The differences between the extremists and moderates came to have in 1907 Surat session where the party split with serious consequences for the Swadeshi Movement.

  • In Bengal, the extremists acquired a dominant influence over the Swadeshi movement.

  • They proposed the technique of extended boycott which included, apart from boycott of foreign goods, boycott of government schools and colleges, courts, titles and government services and even the organization of strikes.

  • Aurobindo Ghose: Political freedom is the life breath of a nation.

  • Boycott and public burning foreign cloth, picketing of shops selling foreign goods, became common in remote corners of Bengal as well as in many towns across the country.

  • The militant nationalists, however, failed to give a positive leadership to the people. They also failed to reach the real masses of the country, the peasants.

  • The movement also innovated with considerable success different forms of mass mobilization such as public meetings, processions and corps of volunteers.

  • The Swadesh Bandhab Samiti set up by Ashwini Kumar Dutt, a schoolteacher, in Barisal was the most well-known volunteer organization.

  • During the Swadeshi period, traditional festivals were used to reach out to the masses. The Ganapati and Shivaji festivals were popularized by Tilak. Traditional folk theatres such as jatras were also used.

  • Another important aspect was the great emphasis given to self-reliance or Atmasakti as a necessary part of the struggle against the government.

  • Self-reliance was the keyword. Campaigns for social reforms were carried out.

  • In 1906, the National Council for Education was setup to organize the education system.

  • Self-reliance also meant an effort to set up Swadeshi or indigenous enterprises.

Marked Impact in the Cultural Sphere

  • The songs composed by Rabindranath Tago, Mukunda Das and others became the moving spirit for nationalists.

  • Rabindranath’s ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’, written at that time, was to later inspire the liberation struggle of Bangladesh and was adopted as the national anthem of the country in 1971.

  • 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.

  • The social base of the national movement was now extended to include certain zamindari section, lower middle class and school and college students. Women also participated in large numbers.

  • Drawback: Was not able to garner the support of the mass of Muslims, especially the Muslim peasantry. The British policy of communalism responsible for this.

By mid-1908, the movement was almost over. The main reasons were

  • The government, seeing the revolutionary potential of the movement, came down with a heavy hand.

  • The split of the congress in 1907 had weakened the movement.

  • The movement lacked an effective organization and party structure.

  • The movement decline partially because of the logic of the mass movements itself – they cannot be endlessly sustained at the same pitch of militancy and self-sacrifice.

  • The anti-partition movement, however, marked a great revolutionary leap forward for Indian nationalism.

  • The decline of Swadeshi engendered the rise of revolutionary terrorism.

Assessing the Movement

  • Cultural impact

  • Social Impact

  • Economic impact

  • Role of students and Women

  • All India aspect of the movement

  • From passive protest to active boycott

Revolutionary Terrorism

  • Revolutionary young men did not try to generate a mass revolution. Instead they followed the strategy of assassinating unpopular officials

  • 1904: VD Savarkar organized Abhinav Bharat

  • Newspapers like The Sandhya and Yugaantar in Bengal and the Kal in Maharashtra advocated revolutionary ideology

  • Kingsford Incident: In 1908, Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki threw bomb at a carriage they believed was carrying Kingsford, the unpopular judge of Muzaffarpur.

  • Anushilan Samiti threw a bomb at the Viceroy Lord Hardinge

  • Centers abroad

    • In London: led by VD Savarkar, Shyamaji Krishna Varma and Har Dayal

    • In Europe: Madam Cama and Ajit Singh

  • They gradually petered out. It did not have any base among the people

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