History: Indian National Movement: Indian National Movement, Chapter Objectives and Swadeshi and Boycott

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Indian National Movement

The history of our freedom movement is the history of many diverse movements and endeavours that enriched each other and, in the end, led to freedom. This chapter discusses these different movements and their role in achieving the common goal of Indian independence.

Chapter Objectives

Chapter Objective

Chapter Objective

The Indian National Congress and the Early Nationalists

  • The Indian National Congress (INC) was formed in December 1885 by a group of 72 Indians. A retired English Indian civil servant named Mr. A.O Hume played a significant role in its formation. The most notable members of INC were Pherozshah Mehta, Badruddin Tyabji, WC Banerjee, Surendranath Banerjee and others. The INC was not the first organization of its kind. Many such organisations were earlier formed between 1875 and 1885. Some of the most notable among them are as follow:

    • Indian Association by Dwarkanath Ganguly of Calcutta

    • Poona Sarvajanik Sabha by Ranade and GV Joshi of Poona

    • Bombay Presidency Association by KT Telang of Bombay and G Subramaniya Iyer

    • Madras Mahajan Sabha by Viraraghavachari of Madras

  • These were regional associations with a limited agenda of criticizing the colonial policies which were harmful for the Indians. Their primary issues are illustrated below:

    • Cotton import duties to be made favourable for Indians

    • Indianization of government services

    • Opposition to Afghan policy of the British Government

    • Opposition to Vernacular Press Act and control over the press

  • The difference between these organizations and the Indian National Congress was that the latter tried to provide a common political platform for the people of India which enabled it to claim that it represented the country. The most important objective of the INC was to create the consciousness among the people of belonging to a single nation. This was a difficult task due to the presence of diverse linguistic, religious and cultural traditions of the land.

  • The early leaders of the INC were called ‘moderates’ who believed in the policy of prayer and petition. They hoped to influence the colonial government in matters that affected the well-being of the country and expected that the colonial government would take steps to improve the matters. The most important contribution of these leaders, especially Dadabhai Naoroji, was to formulate an economic critique that states that instead of promoting industrialisation in India, the colonial government was destroying its indigenous handicraft production. The other concerns of the moderates were as follows:

    • The reform of Supreme and Local Legislative Councils with greater powers forIndian representatives

    • Indianization of the Civil Services with simultaneous examinations to be held in England and India.

    • Changes in the forest laws that affected the Indian people

    • Organization of campaigns against indentured labour in Assam tea plantations

  • In course of time the younger leaders such as Aurobindo Ghosh, Aswinikumar Dutt, Lajpat Rai, and BG Tilak, who joined the INC later became convinced about the futility of the methods of appeal and petition. They instead favoured to generate mass support for their goal of Swaraj and Swadeshi.

Swadeshi and Boycott: The Extremist Politics

  • The phase of 1885-1905 is known as the period of the moderates. In 1905 Governor General Lord Curzon announced the partition of Bengal. Bengal at that time was a large administrative unit comprising the present states of West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand, Orissa and Assam and the present country of Bangladesh. But the partition of Bengal was proposed on the lines of religion, where the Hindu majority areas were separated from Muslim majority areas.

  • Moreover, the urban bases of resurgent intelligentsia were separated from the mainly cultivating areas (most significantly jute producing areas) to reduce the significance of Calcutta, which was the centre of intelligentsia. This announcement of partition was met with widespread protest. The moderates on the lines of ‘prayer and petition’ tactics filed many petitions to the government and conducted many speeches, public meetings and press campaigns to influence public opinion.

  • But these methods failed, and the partition of Bengal was announced in July 1905. This was followed by widespread protest all over Bengal including the smaller towns e.g. Dinajpur, Pabna, Dacca etc. What followed was a formal proclamation of the Swadeshi movement on August 7, 1905 with the passing of ‘Boycott’ resolution in a meeting at the Calcutta townhall. On the day the partition was put into effect i.e. October 16, 1905, a hartal (strike) was called in Calcutta and a day of mourning was declared. People paraded the streets singing Bande Mataram and observed Raksha Bandhan ceremony as a symbol of solidarity.

  • This new form of mass protest involving both ‘Swadeshi and boycott’ attracted the new leaders of the Congress who popularised it in different places: Lokmanya Tilak in Bombay and Pune; Ajit Singh and Lajpat Rai in Punjab; Syed Haider Raza in Delhi and Chidambaram Pillai in Madras presidency. These leaders were known as extremists because they opposed the methods followed by the moderates. Under their pressure, Dadabhai Naoroji in the Calcutta session of the Congress had to say that the ultimate goal of the INC was ‘self-government or Swaraj’.

  • The contribution of Swadeshi movement was the initiation of new forms of protests such as mass meetings, processions, boycott, and organization of strikes, picketing of ships selling foreign goods etc. The use of traditional and popular festival to reach the masses was also introduced during this time. The Ganapati and Shivaji festivals in Maharashtra celebrated by Tilak are an instance in point. Besides, many cultural activities such as swadeshi songs, popular theatre known as jatra were also employed to spread national feelings. Ultimately, the colonial government was compelled to withdraw the partition in the form in which they envisaged it. However, they shifted the capital from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911 to decrease the importance of Calcutta and its intellectuals.

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