UPSC History Indian National Movement NCERT Extracts - Growth of Militant Nationalism (1905-1918)

NCERT Extracts - Growth of Militant Nationalism (1905-1918)

Category : UPSC

 Recognition of the True Nature of British Rule


  • The politics of the moderate nationalists were founded on the belief that British rule could be reformed from within. But the spread of knowledge regarding political and economic questions gradually undermined this belief
  • Politically conscious Indians were convinced that the purpose of the British rule was to exploit India economically.
  • In 1904, the Indian Official Secrets Act was passed restricting the freedom of the Press. The Natu brothers were deported in 1897 without being tried.
  • The Indian Universities Act of 1904 was seen by the nationalists as an attempt to bring Indian Universities under tighter official control and to check the growth of higher education.
  • Thus an increasing number of Indians were getting convinced that self-government was essential for the sake of the economic, political and cultural progress of the country.


Growth of Self-respect and Self-confidence


  • By the end of the 19th century, the Indian nationalists had grown in self-respect and self- confidence. They had acquired faith in their capacity to govern themselves and in the future development of their country.
  • They taught the people that the remedy to their sad condition lay in their own hands and that they should therefore become fearless and strong.
  • Swami Vivekananda declared : "If there is a sin in the world it is weakness; avoid all weakness, weakness is sin, weakness is death".
  • He also urged the people to give up living on the glories of the past and manfully build the future.


Growth of Education and Unemployment


  • The larger the number of educated Indians, the larger was the area of influence of western ideas of democracy, nationalism and radicalism.
  • The educated Indians became the best propagators and followers of militant nationalism both because they were low-paid or unemployed and because they were educated in modem thought and politics, and in European and world history.


International Influences


  • Several events abroad during this period tended to encourage the growth of militant nationalism in India.
  • The rise of modem Japan after 1868 showed that a backward Asian country could develop itself without western control.
  • The defeat of the Italian army by the Ethiopians in 1896 and of Russia by Japan in 1905 exploded the myth of European superiority.

Existence of a Militant Nationalist School of Thought


  • From almost the beginning of the national movement a school of militant nationalism had existed in the country.
  • This school was represented by leaders like Rajnarain Bose and Ashwini Kumar Dutt in Bengal and Vishnu Shastri Chiplunkar in Maharashtra.
  • The most outstanding representative of this school was Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
  • He helped to found during the 1880s the New English School, which later became the Fergusson College, and the newspapers the Maratha (in English) and the Kesari (in Marathi).
  • In 1893, he started using the traditional religious Ganpati festival to propagate nationalist ideas through songs and speeches, and in 1895 he started the Shivaji festival to stimulate nationalism among young Maharashtrians by holding up the example of Shivaji for emulaion.
  • During 1896-97 he initiated a no-tax campaign in Maharashtra.
  • The most outstanding leaders of militant nationalism, apart from Lokamanya Tilak, were Bipin Chandra Pal, Aurobindo Ghose, and Lala Lajpat Rai.


The Partition of Bengal


  • The conditions for the emergence of militant nationalism had thus developed when in 1905 the partition of Bengal was announced and the Indian national movement entered its second stage.
  • On 20 July, 1905, Lord Curzon issued an order dividing the province of Bengal into two parts: Eastern Bengal and Assam with a population of 31 million, and the rest of Bengal with a population of 54 million.
  • It was said that the existing province of Bengal was too big to be efficiently administered by a singal provincial government.
  • However, the officials who worked out the plan had also other political ends in view.
  • They hoped to stem the rising tide of nationalism in Bengal, considered at the time to be the nerve centre of Indian nationalism.


The Anti-Partition Movement


  • The Anti-Partition Movement was initiated on 7 August, 1905. On that day a massive demonstration against the partition was organised in the Town Hall in Calcutta.
  • The partition of Bengal took effect on 16 October, 1905.
  • The leaders of the protest movement declared it to be a day of national mouring throughout Bengal. It was observed as a day of fasting. There was hartal in Calcutta.
  • People walked barefooted and bathed in the Ganga in the early morning hours. Rabindranath Tagore composed the national song, 'Amar Sonar Bangla, for the occasion which was sung by huge crowds parading the streets.
  • The ceremony of Raksha Bandhan was utilised in a new way.
  • Hindus and Muslims tied the rakhi one the another's wrists as a symbol of the unbreakable unity of the Bengali and of the two halves of Bengal.


The Swadeshi and Boycott


  • Mass meetings were held all over Bengal where Swadeshi or the use of Indian goods and the boycott of British goods were proclaimed and pledged.
  • An important aspect of the Swadeshi Movement was the emphasis placed on self- reliance. Self-reliance meant assertion of national dignity, honour and self-confidence.
  • In the economic field, it meant fostering indigenous industrial and other enterprises.
  • Acharya P.C. Ray organised his famous Bengal Chemical Swadeshi Stores.
  • The Swadeshi Movement had several consequences in the realm of culture.
  • There was a flowering of nationalist poetry, prose and journalism.
  • The patriotic songs written at the time by poets like Rabindranath Tagore, Rajani Kant Sen, Syed Abu Mohammed and Mukunda Das are sung in Bengal to this day.
  • Another self-reliant, constructive activity undertaken at the time was that of National Education.
  • National educational institutions where literary, technical, or physical education was imparted were opened by nationalists who regarded the existing system of education as denationalizing and, in any case, inadequate.
  • On 15 August, 1906, a National Council of Education was set up. A National College with Aurobindo Ghose as Principal was started in Calcutta.


The Role of Students, Women, Muslims and the Masses


  • A prominent part in the Swadeshi agitation was played by the students of Bengal.
  • A remarkable aspect of the Swadeshi agitation was the active participation of women in movement.
  • The traditionally home-centred women of the urban middle classes joined processions and picketing.
  • Many other middle and upper class Muslims, however, remained neutral or, led by the Nawab of Dhaka, (who was given a loan of Rs. 14 lakh by the Government of India), even supported Partition on the plea that East Bengal would have a Muslim majority.
  • In this communal attitude, the Nawab of Dhaka and others were encouraged by the officials.


All-India Aspect of the Movement


  • Movements in support of Bengal's unity and boycott of foreign goods were organised in Bombay, Madras and northern India.
  • The leading role in spreading the Swadeshi Movement to the rest of the country was played by Tilak.


Growth of Militancy


  • The leadership of Anti-Partition Movement soon passed to militant nationalists like Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurobindo Ghose. This was due to many factors.
  • Laws controlling the Press were enacted. Swadeshi workers were prosecuted and imprisoned for long periods.
  • Chidambaram Pillai in Madras and Harisarvottam Rao and other in Andhra were put behind bars.
  • The militant nationalists tried to transform the Swadeshi and Anti-Partition agitation into a mass movement and gave the slogan of independence from foreign rule.
  • Thus, the question of the partition of Bengal became a secondary one and the question of India's freedom became the central question of Indian politics.
  • It should be remembered, however, that the militant nationalists also failed in giving a positive lead to the people.
  • Their movement could not survive the arrest of their main leader, Tilak and the retirement from active politics of Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurobindo Ghose.


Growth of Revolutionary Nationalism


  • Government repression and frustration caused by the failure of the leadership to provide a positive lead to the people ultimately resulted in revolutionary terrorism,
  • The youth of Bengal found all avenues of peaceful protest and political action blocked and out of desperation they fell back upon individual heroic action and the cult of the bomb.
  • As the Yugantar wrote on 22 April, 1906 after the Barisal Conference : "The remedy lies with the people themselves. The 30 crores of people inhabiting India must raise their 60 crores of hands to stop this curse of oppression. Force must be stopped by force".
  • Instead, they decided to copy the methods of the Irish terrorists and the Russian Nihilists, that is, to assassinate unpopular officials.
  • A beginning had been made in this direction when, in 1897, the Chapekar brothers assassinated two unpopular British officials at Poona.
  • In 1904, V.D. Savarkar had organised the Abhinava Bharat, a secret society of revolutionaries.
  • In December, 1907 an attempt was made on the life of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, and in April, 1908 Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki threw a bomb at a carriage which they believed was occupied by Kingsford, the unpopular Judge at Muzaffarpur.
  • Prafulla Chaki shot himself dead while Khudiram Bose was tried and hanged.
  • The era of revolutionary terrorism had begun. Many secret societies of terrorist youth came into existence.
  • The most famous of these were the Anushilan Samiti whose Dhaka Section alone had
  • 500 branches,
  • In London, the lead was taken by Shyamaji Krishnavarma, V.D. Savarkar, and Har Dayal, while in Europe Madame Cama and Ajit Singh were the prominent leaders.


The Indian National Congress (1905-1914)


  • The agitation against the partition of Bengal made a deep impact on the Indian National Congress. All sections of the National Congress united in opposing the Partition.
  • The National Congress also supported the Swadeshi and Boycott Movement of Bengal.
  • There was much public debate and disagreement between the moderate and the militant nationalists.
  • The latter wanted to extend the Swadeshi and Boycott movement from Bengal to the rest of the country and to extend the Boycott to every form of association with the colonial government.
  • There was a tussle between the two groups for the presidentship of the National Congress for that year (1906).
  • In the end, Dadabhai Naoroji, respected by all nationalist as a great patriot, was chosen as a compromise.
  • Dadabhai electrified the nationalist ranks by openly declaring in his presidential address that the goal of the Indian national movement was 'self-government’or Swaraj
  • But the differences dividing the two wings of the nationalist movement could not be kept in check for long.
  • The split between the two came at the Surat session of the National Congress in December, 1907. The moderate leaders have captured the machinery of the Congress excluded the militant elements from it.
  • But, in the long run, the split did not prove useful to either party. The British Government played the game of 'Divide and Rule".
  • To placate the moderate nationalists, it announced constitutional concessions through the Indian Councils Act of 1909 which are known as the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909.
  • In 1911, the Government also announced the annulment of the Partition of Bengal.
  • The Morely-Minto Reforms increased the number of elected members in the Imperial Legislative Council and the provincial councils.
  • The Reforms also introduced the system of separate electorates under which all Muslims were grouped in separate constituencies from which Muslims alone could be elected.
  • It became a potent factor in the growth of communalism - both Muslim and Hindu – in the country.


The Growth of Communalism


  • Along with the rise of nationalism, communalism too made its appearance around the end of the 19th century and posed the biggest threat to the unity of the Indian people and the national movement.
  • Communalism is basically an ideology. Communalism is the belief that because a group of people follow a particular religion they have, as result, common secular, that is, social, political and economic interests.
  • It is the belief that in India Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians form different and distinct communities; that all the followers of a religion share not only a commonality of religious interests but also common secular interests; that there is, and can be, no such thing as an Indian nation, but only Hindu nation, Muslim nation and so on; that India can, therefore, only be a mere confederation of religious communities.
  • Inherent in communalism is the second notion that the social, cultural, economic and political interests of the followers of one religion are dissimilar and divergent from the interests of the followers of another religion.
  • There was hardly any communal ideology or communal politics before the 1870s.
  • Communalism is a modem phenomenon. It had its roots in the modem colonial socio- economic political structure.
  • But this attitude changed in the 1870s. With the rise of the nationalist movement the British statesmen grew apprehensive about the safety and stability of their Empire in India.
  • To check the growth of a united national feeling in the country, they decided to follow more actively the policy of 'divide and rule' and to divide the people along religious lines.
  • Moreover, the government had consciously discriminated against the Muslims after 1858, holding them largely responsible for the Revolt of 1857.
  • Sayyid Ahmad Khan and others raised the demand for special treatment for the Muslims in the matter of government service.
  • The manner in which Indian history was taught in schools and colleges in those days also contributed to the growth of communalist feelings among the educated Hindus and Muslims. British historians and, following them, Indian historians described the medieval period of Indian history as the uslim period.
  • The founding fathers of Indian nationalism fully realised that the welding of Indians into a single nation would be a gradual and hard task, requiring prolonged political education of the people.
  • They, therefore, set out to convince the minorities that the nationalist movement would carefully protect their religious and social rights while uniting all Indians in their common national, economic and political interest.
  • In his presidential address to the National Congress of 1886, Dadabhai Naoroji had given the clear assurance that the Congress would take up only national questions and would not deal with religious and social matters.
  • In 1889 the Congress adopted the principle that it would not take up any proposal which was considered harmful to the Muslims by a majority of the Muslim delegates to the congress.
  • Tilak, for example, declared in 1916 : "He who does what is beneficial to the people of this country, be he a Muhammedan or an Englishman, is not alien. 'Alienness has to do with interests."
  • The separatist and loyalist tendencies among a section of the educated Muslims and the big nawabs and landlords reached a climax in 1906 when the All India Muslim League was founded under the leadership of the Aga Khan, the Nawab of Dhaka, and Nawab Moshin-uI-MuIk.
  • Founded as a loyalist, communal and conservative political organisation, the Muslim League made no critique of colonialism, supported the partition of Bengal and demanded special safeguards for the Muslim in government services.
  • Thus, while the National Congress was taking up anti-imperialist economic and political issues, the Muslim League and its reactionary leaders preached that the interests of the Muslims were different from those of the Hindus.
  • The Muslim League's political activities were directed not against the foreign rulers but against the Hindus and the National Congress.
  • The militantly nationalist Ahrar movement was founded at this time under the leadership of Maulana Mohamed Ali, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Hasan Imam, Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, and Mazhar-ul-Haq.
  • Similar nationalist sentiments were arising among a section of the traditional Muslim scholars led by the Deoband School.
  • The most prominent of these scholars was the young Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who propagated his rationalist and nationalist ideas in his newspaper Al Hilal which he brought out in 1912 at the age of 24.
  • Maulana Mohamed Ali, Azad and other young men preached a message of courage and fearlessness and said that there was no conflict between Islam and nationalism.
  • A wave of sympathy for Turkey swept India. A medical mission, headed by M.A. Ansari, was sent to help Turkey.


The Nationalists and the First World War


  • In the beginning, the Indian nationalist leader, including Lokamanya Tilak, who had been released in June, 1914, decided to support the war effort of the government in the mistaken belief that grateful Britain would repay India's loyalty with gratitude and enable India to take a long step forward on the road to self-government.
  • They did not realise fully that the different powers were fighting the First World War precisely to safeguard their existing colonies.


The Home Rule Leagues


  • The first World War led to increase misery among the poorer classes of Indians.
  • Two Home Rule Leagues were started in 1915-16, one under the leadership of Lokamanya Tilak and the other under the leadership of Annie Besant, an English admirer of Indian culture and the Indian people, and S. Subramaniya lyer.
  • It was during this agitation that Tilak gave the popular slogan : "Home Rule is my birthright; and I will have it”




  • Indian revolutionaries in the United States of America and Canada had established them Ghadar (Rebellion) Party in 1913.
  • Lala Har Dayal, Mohammed Barkatullah, Bhagwan Singh, Ram Chandra and Sohan Singh Bhakna were some of the prominent leaders of the Ghadar Party.
  • The party was built around the weekly paper the Ghadar, which carried the caption on the masthead: Angrezi Raj Ka Dushman (An Enemy of British Rule). "Wanted brave soldiers", the Ghadar declared, "to stir up Rebellion in India Pay - death; Price - martyrdom: Pension - liberty; Field of Battle - India".
  • The Ghadar Party was pledged to wage revolutionary war against the British in India.
  • 21 February, 1915 was fixed as the date for an armed revolt in the Punjab.
  • Unfortunately, the authorities came to know of these plans and took immediate action.
  • Some of the prominent Ghadar leaders were: Baba Gurmukh Singh, Kartar Singh Saraba, Sohan Singh Bhakm, Rahmat Ali Shah, Bhai Parmanand, and Mohammad Barkatullah.
  • In 1915, during an unsuccessful revolutionary attempt, Jatin Mukherjee popularly known as "Bagha Jatin” gave his life fighting a battle with the police at Balasore.


Lucknow Session of the Congress (1916)


  • The growing nationalist feeling in the country and the urge for national unity produced two historic developments at the Lucknow session of the India National Congress in 1916.
  • Firstly, the two wings of the Congress were reunited. The old controversies had lost their meaning and the split in the Congress had led to political inactivity,
  • The Lucknow Congress was the first united Congress since 1907.
  • Secondly, at Lucknow, the Congress and the All India Muslim League sank their old differences and put up common political demands before the Government.
  • The unity between the Congress and the League was brought about by the signing of the Congress-League Pact, known popularly as the Lucknow Pact.
  • The Lucknow Pact marked an important step forward in Hindu-Muslim unity.
  • The government now decided to appease nationalist opinion and announced on 20 August, 1917 that its policy in India was "the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the  progressive realisation of Responsible Government of India as an integral part of the British Empire".
  • And in July, 1918 the Montague-Chelmsford Reforms were announced. But Indian nationalism was not appeased.

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