Freedom Movements – Revolutionary Movements

Revolutionary movements outside India

       During this period, revolutionary activities and propaganda were conducted Indians settled in abroad especially in the United Kingdom, the USA, France, Afghanistan and Germany.

        The Indian home rule society, one of the earliest revolutionary societies outside India, was founded by Shyamji Krishna Varma who had settled in London in 1897.

He gathered a group of revolutionaries around him; the most prominent among who were V.D Savarkar, Hardayal and Madan Lal Dhinagra, Shyamji Krishna Varma founded the Indian Home Rule Society with the object of securing Home Rule for India.

For this purpose he started he started a paper, Indian sociologists, and founded the India House in London.

The growing revolutionary approach of Shyamji and his associates drew the attention of the British Government, and The Times and other newspapers in London criticised Shyamji and his associates.

Shyamji thereupon left London and settled in Paris and the political leadership of India House came to be vested on V.D. Savarkar.

Savarkar’s colleague Madan Lal Dhinagra shot dead Curzon wyllie on July 1, 1909 in London.

Madan Lal Dhingra was arrested and hanged. Later on, Savarkar was arrested and sent to India to undergo trial to the Nasik Conspiracy case and other charges.

Bhikaiji cama’s movement:

       Madam Bhikaiji Rustam KR Cama, an associate of Shyamji Krishna making revolutionary propaganda against the British rule, both in Europe and America.

She and Sardar Singh Rana lived in Paris and attended the International Socialist Congress at Stuttgart in August 1907, as representatives of India.

Madam Cama made a fiery speech exposing the disastrous results of the British rule in India and t the conclusion of the conference unfurled the National Flag of India- a tricolour in green, yellow and red.

The Ghadar Party Movement:

At the turn of the century, a large number of Indians had settled down in the USA and Canada.

About 1906, these Indians started nationalistic activities in the USA and began to publish material against the British rule in India.

Taraknath Das, one of the leading Indians in the USA, formed the Indian Independence League in California in 1907 and the next year he began to publish the paper Free Hindustan.

Its object was to spread revolutionary ideas among Indians living in the USA. The result of all this activity was the emergence of several political or ganisations of different times and under different leaders.

In November 1913 the Hind Association of America was founded by Sohan Bhakana. It decided to publish a weekly paper Ghagar or Hindustan Ghadar, in commemoration of the revolt of 1857, in English, Urdu, Marathi and Gurmukhi, which gave the association its hallowed name the Ghadar party.

Lala Hardayal was the guiding spirit of the Ghadar party movement. The organisation began to function from the Yugantar Ashram in San Francisco, the place being named after the well-known revolutionary journal published in Calcutta.

Almost every issue of the Ghadar contained poems urging upon Indians, among other things to take up arms, rise in insurrection, and kill the British.

The Ghadar party became very popular, particularly among the Indians living in abroad. The Ghadar became the source for facts and ideas for other papers and then the Ghadar became the source of world-wide revolutionary propaganda, on behalf of India, Lala Hardayal, Bhai Parmanand and Ram Chandra were the leading figures of the Ghadar part movement.

During the First World War, the Ghadar Party established contacts with the revolutionaries in India and planned a revolt against the British, but the plan fizzed out, the Ghadar Party itself having declined towards the end of the First World War.

Among other notable revolutionaries outside India was Raja Mahendra Pratap and Barkatullah who, with the support of Germany and Russia, set up the Provisional Government of India in Kabul.

Partition of Bengal and the Swadeshi Movement

Partition of Bengal (1905):

       Lord Curzon’s viceroyalty marked the high watermark of British imperialism in India as “a country where the Englishmen were to monopolise for all time all power and talk all the while off duty.”

The truncated new province of Bengal was to comprise Calcutta and 11 districts of West Bengal.

The part taken away was to be known as ‘Eastern Bengal and Assam’ comprising the Muslim- majority districts of Bengal, with its Capital at Dacca. Explaining the political purpose behind this partition to his superiors in London, Curzon said he wanted to “spilt up and thereby to weaken a solid body of opponents” to the British rule.

Sir Bamfylde Puller, the governor of west Bengal described Madam as his favourite wife.

Swadeshi Movement:

      The Partition of Bengal officially came into effect on October 16, 1906 the announcement set off a mighty sponge who brought people and political leaders of all the shades together.

The student community joined the partition movement with great contribution.

Vande mataram overnight became the National song for the whole country.

No cooking was done and the shops and marketplaces were kept closed, in the suggestion of Rabindranath Tagore the day of partition was further observed as Rakshi Bandan Day.

To offer more resistance, it was decided to boycott British goods.

People owed not to purchase British cloth, salt, sugar or anything that manufactured in England.

This was the beginning of the Swadeshi movement, which within a few years transformed the Indian political sense.

It became the matter of pride to wear coarse dhotis made on local handlooms rather than the fashionable Manchester textiles.

The University of Cambridge, which supervised education in schools and college, was demonstrated as pulam khana (house for slaves) and ‘National council of Education’ was established with a view of organising a system of education in national level and under national management.

The main feature of Swadeshi movement was the large number of industrial strikes took place during this period.

Significance of Swadeshi movement:

     A remarkable feature of the Swadeshi movement was the “simultaneous presence in it, at least in germ, of so many of the tendencies and forces which went on shaping the life of

Our people till 1947”.

The Swadeshi movement was the beginning of the organised movement in India.

It was the only movement which fully achieved in its objective, in that partition of Bengal was revoked in 1911.

According to Surendera Nath Banesjee, the Swadeshi movement was not “merely an economic or a political movement but an all-comprehensive movement coextensive with the entire circle of our national life”.

The spirit of Swadeshi percolated down to almost every walk of life – industries, education, culture, literature and fashion and it became the symbol of national self- reliance.

The Surat Split:

The Swadeshi movement also cast its shadow on the growing differences between the moderate and extremist groups in the Congress.

The Varanasi session of the congress, presided over by G.K. Gokhale in 1905, recorded its protest against the partition of Bengal.

But the moderates were not ready to extend open support to boycott which was in conflict with their policy of “petition and persuasion”.

The moderators eventually decided to have no truck with the extremists, who succeeded from the INC.

The INC (1908 – 15):

The moderators at the Surat met on December 28, 1907, and formed a convention for drawing up the new constitution of the INC.

This convention met at Allahabad in April 1908, and drew up the constitution of the INC and also formulated a set of rules for the conduct of meetings.

This constitution was ratified by the INC at its Madras session in 1908. The provisions of the new constitution closed the door of the INC to the extremists and henceforth, for a period of eight years, the INC became a party organisation rather than a national institution.

During the next eight years (1908-15) it met year after year, repeating its usual demands to which no importance was attached by the public and no attention was paid by the government.

Shortly after the Surat split most of the extremist leaders including Lala Lajput Raj, B.G. Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal ( Lal, Bal and Pal) were arrested and were given long terms of

Imprisonment. On account of ruthless repressive measures, the national movement went underground and the revolutionary and terrorist activities proliferated.

The Foundation of All – India Muslim League:

The partition of Bengal had created a communal divide. Shortly after the partition scheme was announced a Muslim deputation most of the members belonged to the aristocrats, led by the Agha Khan, the spiritual head of the Khoja Muslim community, met Lord Minto at Simla on October 1, 1906.

In the wake of these developments a meeting was held at Dacca on December 30, 1906, where it was decided to form a political association, called the All India Muslim League, with three objectives. They are:

  • To promote among Muslim loyalty to the British Government.
  • To proceed and advance the political rights of the Muslims.
  • To prevent the rise among the Muslims of any feeling of hospitality towards other communities without prejudice to other objects of the League.

This opposition between the League and the Congress became more significant in the years to come and immeasurably weakened the Indian national movement.

During the years 1907-9, the main programme of the Muslim League was to fight for consolidation of separate electorates.

The Amritsar session of the league, held in 1908, demanded a separate electorate for the Muslims, which was conceded to them by Morley- Minto reforms in 1909.

The Morley- Minto Reforms or the Indian Council Act, 1909:

      In 1905, Lord Minto succeeded Lord Curzon as the new viceroy and shortly afterwards John Morley was appointed the secretary of the state for India in London. In view of the meeting unrest and troubles in India, both of them decided to work on a scheme for the reforms of the Legislative Council. Passed by the British Parliament in 1911, the new status, officially called the Indian Council Act (1909), was popularly known as Minto- Morley Reforms. The main features of this Act were:

  1. It increased the membership of non- officials in the Imperial and Provincial Legislative Council.
  2. The effective principal introduced by the Indian Council Act, 1892, was further extended, so that in 1910 more than a hundred indirectly elected Indians took their seats in the councils.
  3. In the Provincial Legislature, the non-official members had the majority, but an official majority was retained at the centre.
  4. The Act provided for the appointment of an Indian to the viceroy’s Executive Council as well as the provincial Executive Councils.
  5. The powers of the Legislature were also improved. The members could ask questions and even debate the budget, but could not vote on it. They could introduce legislative proposals, but could not enact Laws.
  6. The greatest evil of the Act of 1909 was the grant of separate electorate to the Muslims. The Muslim representatives to the councils were elected not from the general electorate consisting of Muslim Community was recognised as a completely separate section of the Indian nation.

The Minto-Morley Reforms satisfied neither the Moderates nor the Extremists. The Lahore session of the INC in 1909 expressed its strong disapproval of separate electorate formed on the basis of religion.

The Delhi Durbar and the Annulment of Partition of Bengal (December 1911):

In the early December 1911, King George V and Queen Empress visited India. On December 12, 1911 a magnificent coronation Durbar was held in Delhi which was chosen as the seat of the imperial function, with the specific intention of impressing upon the oriental minds that the successors to the Mughals were not in any way behind them in display of magnificence. The Delhi Durbar of 1911 was a memorable for a number of historic announcements made by the Governor- General Lord Hardinge on behalf of his sovereign.

  1. It was decided to transfer the capital of British India from Calcutta to Delhi. Ostensibly the choice of Delhi as capital was irrelevant, for Delhi was not situated in the heart of India. The historical factor meant a plan to mollify the Muslims by an apparent revival of the Muslim tradition. The actual factor for the transfer of the capital was political. Calcutta the storm centre of the anti- partition agitation was to be reduced to the seat of a provincial capital Delhi, a city isolated from political currents was to be the imperial seat. Soon after the Durbar, George V laid the Foundation stone of the new capital of the British India.
  2. Another historic announcement was the annulment of partition of Bengal, in the hope that it would stem the tide of rising nationalism and restore peace. In the wake of this annulment, a new province of Bengal, consisting of all Bengali- speaking districts except Sylhet was created. Bihar and Orissa were separated from Bengal. Assam was created as separate province, the status it had in 1874. The new province, however, included the Sylhet district as well.

Lord Hardinge Bomb case – December 23, 1912:

     Hardinge had taken these bold and conciliatory measures in the belief that they would dump the general unrest and the revolutionary movement which had spread across India. But it was not long before he was sadly disillusioned. December 23, 1912, was fixed as the date for the Viceroy’s state entry into new capital, Delhi. On that day, when the viceroy and vicereine, the Ruling Princes, and senior officials were being taken in a long procession through Chandni Chowk in Delhi, a bomb was thrown at the elephant carrying the Viceroy. Hardinge was badly wounded and fainted from the loss of blood, while the servant behind him holding the umbrella was killed. The news of this outrage evoked a wave of general unrest throughout the India, which was, in due course, further aggravated by the outbreak of the First World War.

Keywords: Madam Bhikaiji Rustam KR Cama, Revolutionary movements outside India, Indian Home Rule Society, Ghadar Party, Partition of Bengal, Swadeshi Movement, Lord Curzon, The Surat Split, Indian National Congress, All – India Muslim League, The Morley- Minto Reforms,  The Indian Council Act, The Delhi Durbar and the Annulment of Partition of Bengal, Lord Hardinge Bomb case.