The Early Phase of the Freedom Struggle (1900-1915): Indian National Movement

Partition of Bengal

• The partition of Bengal was done by Lord Curzon, on 16 October 1905, through a royal proclamation, reducing the old province of Bengal in size by creating East Bengal and Assam out of rest of Bengal.
• The government said that it was done to stimulate growth in the eastern region.
• But motives were to break the growing strength of Bengali nationalism since Bengal was the base of Indian nationalism and to divide the Hindus and Muslims in Bengal.
• On the same day when the partition came into effect, the people of Bengal orgainsed protest meetings and observed a day of mourning.
• The ceremony of Raksha Bandhan was observed on 16th October, 1905 where Hindus and Muslims tied rakhis to each other to show solidarity.
• The whole political life of Bengal underwent a change. Rabindranath Tagore composed the national song ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’ for the occasion which was later adopted as the national anthem of Bangladesh in 1971 after liberation from Pakistan.
• Gandhi wrote that the real awakening in India took place only after the Partition of Bengal.
• The anti-partition movement culminated into the Swadeshi Movement and spread to other parts of India.

Swadeshi Movement

• Lokamanya Tilak took the movement to different parts of India, especially Poona and Bombay; Ajit Singh and Lala Lajpat Rai spread the Swadeshi message in Punjab and other parts of northern India.
• Syed Haidar Raza led the movement in Delhi; Rawalpindi, Kangra, Jammu, Multan and Haridwar witnessed active participation in the Swadeshi Movement; Chidambaram Pillai took the movement to the Madras presidency, which was also galvanized by Bipin Chandra Pal’s extensive lecture tour.
• The Indian National Congress took up the Swadeshi called and the Banaras Session, in 1905, which was presided over by G.K. Gokhale.
• It supported the Swadeshi and Boycott Movement for Bengal.
• The militant nationalists led by Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lajpat Rai and Aurobindo Ghosh were, however, in favour 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.
• Afterwards Naoroji in his presidential address of Congress 1906 declared that the goal of the Indian National Congress was ‘self-government or Swaraj like that of the United Kingdom or the Colonies.’
Course of Action during Swadeshi Movement
• Great emphasis was given to self-reliance or ‘Atmasakti’ as a necessary part of the struggle against the Government.
• Self reliance in various fields meant the re-asserting of national dignity, honor and confidence.
• Further, self-help and constructive work at the village level was envisaged as a means of bringing about the social and economic regeneration of the villages and of reaching the rural masses. In actual terms this meant social reform and campaigns against evils such as caste oppression, early marriage, the dowry system, consumption of alcohol, etc.
• One of the major planks of the programme of self-reliance was Swadeshi or national education.
• Taking a cue from Tagore’s Shantiniketan, the Bengal National College was founded, with Aurobindo as the principal.
• Scores of national schools sprang up all over the country within a short period.
• In August 1906, the National Council of Education was established.
• The Council, consisting of virtually all the distinguished persons of the country at the time, defined its objectives as to organize a system of Education Literary; Scientific and Technical – on National lines and under National control from the primary to the university level. The chief medium of instruction was to be the vernacular to enable the widest possible reach.
• For technical education, the Bengal Technical institute was set and funds were raise to send students to Japan for advanced learning.
• The Swadeshi period also saw the creative use of traditional popular festivals and melas as a means of reaching out to the masses. The Ganapati and Shivaji festivals, popularized by Tilak, became a medium for Swadeshi propaganda not only in Western India but also in Bengal.
• Traditional folk theatre forms such as jatras i.e. extensively used in disseminating the Swadeshi message in an intelligible form to vast sections of the people.
• The newspapers also played a significant role in the movement. The main newspapers were K.K. Mitra’s Sanjeevani, S.N. Banerjee’s Bengali, Motilal Ghosh’s Amrit Bazaar Patrika, B.B. Upadhyaya’s Yugantar, Bipin Chandra Pal’s New India, Aurobindo Ghosh’s Bande Mataram and Ajit Singh’s Bharat Mata.

Muslim League, 1906

• In December 1906, Muslim delegates from all over India met at Dacca for the Muslim Educational Conference.
• Nawab Salimullah of Dacca proposed the setting up of an organisation to look after the Muslim interests.
• The All-India Muslim League was set up on December 30, 1906.
• Like the Indian National Congress, they conducted annual sessions and put their demands to the British government.
• They enjoyed the support of the British.
• Their first achievement was the separate electorates for the Muslims in the Minto-Morley reforms.

Surat Session of INC, 1907

• Controversy rose over the elected president, Ras Bihari Ghosh, as extremists didn’t accept him. Extremists wanted Lala Lajpat Rai to be chosen.
• The moderates also wanted to modify the Congress resolutions on Swadeshi and boycott passed in the 1906 session.
• They wanted to insert a clause in the Congress constitution that Swaraj was to be achieved only through constitutional means and by reforms in Administration. Whereas the extremists were in favour of direct agitation through the Swadeshi and boycott movements.
• The INC split into two groups – The Extremists and the Moderates, at the Surat session in 1907. Extremists were led by Bal, Pal, Lal while the Moderates by G.K. Gokhale.
• Immediately after the Surat Congress, the British Government decided to crush the revolutionary movement – also known as the Extremist movement – led by the Indian Nationalist Congress.
• The British introduced repressive measures such as: The Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act; The Explosive Substance Act; The Criminal Law Amendment Act; The Newspapers (Incitement to Offences) Act.
• Sri Aurobindo was arrested in May 1908, in the Alipur Conspiracy Case as implicated in the doings of the revolutionary group led by his brother Barindra; but no evidence of any value could be established against him.
• At the same time, Lala Lajpat Rai was deported, Tilak was arrested on July 22 and sentenced to six years in prison and Chidambaram Pillai and other leaders from South India were also arrested.

Indian Council Act (Morley-Minto Act) 1909

The Act was introduced during Secretary of State Morley and Viceroy Minto tenure. Major features of this Act were:
• The maximum number of nominated and elected members of the Legislative Council at the Center was increased from 16 to 60. The number did not include ex-officio members.
• The maximum number of nominated and elected members of the provincial legislative councils under a governor or lieutenant-governor was also increased.
• It was fixed as 50 in Bengal, Bombay, Madras, United Provinces, and Eastern Bengal and Assam, and 30 in Punjab, Burma, and any lieutenant-governor province created thereafter.
• The right of separate electorate was given to the Muslims. Thus communal representation was introduced which aimed at dividing the nationalist ranks and at rallying the Moderates and the Muslims to the Government’s side.
• Official members were to form the majority but in provinces non-official members would be in majority.
• The members of the Legislative Councils were permitted to discuss the budgets, suggest the amendments and even to vote on them; excluding those items that were included as non-vote items. They were also entitled to ask supplementary questions during the legislative proceedings.
• The Secretary of State for India was empowered to increase the number of the Executive Councils of Madras and Bombay from two to four.
• Two Indians were nominated to the Council of the Secretary of State for Indian Affairs.
• The Governor-General was empowered to nominate one Indian member to his Executive Council.

Ghadar Party, 1913

• Ghadar Party was formed by Lala Hardayal, Taraknath Das and Sohan Singh Bhakna.
• Its name was taken from a weekly paper, Ghadar, which had been started on November 1, 1913 to commemorate the 1857 revolt.
• Its headquarters was at San Francisco.
• The outbreak of the First World War provided the Ghadarites with an opportunity to free India from a Government which was indifferent to their cause.
• They began to return to India in thousands for a co-ordinated revolt in collaboration with the Bengal revolutionaries.

Komagata Maru Incident 1914

• Komagata Maru was the name of a ship which carried a shipload of Sikh and Muslim immigrants from Punjab to Vancouver, Canada.
• The Canadian immigration authorities turned them back after months of uncertainty.
• The ship finally anchored at Calcutta on September 29, 1914. But the inmates refused to board the Punjab bound train and there was a clash with the police in which 22 persons died.
• This incidence fired up the revolutionary activities which sought to avenge the death of the innocents.

The Lucknow Pact (1916)

• Two major events occurred during Lucknow session of Congress:
– The divided Congress became united, and
– An understanding for joint action against the British was reached between the Congress and the Muslim League and it was called the Lucknow Pact.
• The signing of the Lucknow Pact by the Congress and the Muslim League in 1916 marked an important step in the Hindu-Muslim unity.
The reasons responsible for the pact were:
Cancellation of the Partition of Bengal:- Lord Curzon had partitioned Bengal in 1905 and the cancellation was done in 1911. The Muslims, therefore, lost faith in the British government.
The Turko-Italian War of 1911:- The Turkish Sultan was the Khalifa of Islam, means the religious head of all Muslims in the world. In the Turko-Italian war of 1911, Turkey was defeated by Italy. The British, who often projected as friend of the Muslims did not help Turkey. This event led Muslims in India to go against the British Government.
The World War I (1914-18):- Turkey fought against the British in the World War I. The Indian Muslims considered that it was their duty to help Turkey in the holy war against the British. The Muslims started the Khilafat Movement against the British in India. The Indian National Congress supported the Muslims. That brought them to collaborate with each other.

Home Rule Movement

• Home Rule League, was two short-lived organizations of the same name in India established in April and September 1916, respectively, by Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Annie Besant.
• The term was borrowed from a similar movement in Ireland, referred to the efforts of Indian nationalists to achieve self-rule from the British Indian government.
• Tilak’s League was set up in April 1916 and was restricted to Maharashtra (excluding Bombay city), Karnataka, Central Provinces and Berar. It had six branches and the demands included swarajya, formation of linguistic states and education in the vernacular.
• Besant’s League was set up in September 1916 in Madras and covered the rest of India (including Bombay city). It had 200 branches, was loosely organised as compared to Tilak’s League and had George Arundale as the organising secretary. Besides Arundale, the main work was done by B.W. Wadia and C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar.
• The Home Rule agitation was later joined by Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhulabhai Desai, Chittaranjan Das, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Tej Bahadur Sapru and Lala Lajpat Rai.
• Many of the Moderate Congressmen who were disillusioned with Congress inactivity, and some members of Gokhale’s Servants of India Society also joined the agitation.
• However, Anglo-Indians, most of the Muslims and non- brahmins from South did not join as they felt Home Rule would mean rule of the Hindu majority, mainly the high caste.
• The League campaign aimed to convey to the common man the message of Home Rule as self government.
• It carried a much wider appeal than the earlier mobilisations did and also attracted the hitherto ‘politically backward’ regions of Gujarat and Sindh.
• The aim was to be achieved by promoting political education and discussion through public meetings, organising libraries and reading rooms containing books on national politics, holding conferences, organising classes for students on politics, propaganda through newspapers, pamphlets, posters, illustrated post-cards, plays, religious songs, etc., collecting funds, organising social work, and participating in local government activities.
• The Russian Revolution of 1917 proved to be an added advantage for the Home Rule campaign.

August Declaration, 1917

• On 20 August 1917, Montague, the Secretary of State in England, made a declaration in the Parliament of England on British Government’s policy towards future political reforms in India.
• He promised the gradual development of self-governing institutions in India.
• This August Declaration led to the end of the Home Rule Movement.
• It was attributed to the Hindu-Muslim unity exhibited in the Lucknow Pact.
• The Montague Chelmsford reforms or the Act of 1919 was based on August declaration.


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