Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Growth of Militant Nationalism [Extremism]

The trend of militant nationalism was growing in India in the beginning of the 20th century. It found expression in the movement against the partition of Bengal in 1905. The failure of the British Government to accept any of the important demands of the nationalists produced disillusionment among the politically conscious Indians with the principles and methods of the dominant moderate leadership. Consequently there was a strong demand for more vigorous political action and methods than those of meetings, petitions, memorials, and speeches in the legislative councils. The following factors caused the growth of militant nationalism in India.

Recognition of the true nature of British Rule: The nationalist writers and agitators blamed the British rule for the poverty of the people. Politically conscious Indians were convinced that the purpose of the British rule was to exploit India economically. They realized that India could make little progress in the economic field unless British imperialism was replaced by a government controlled and run by the Indian people.

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 the country. Leaders like Tilak, Aurovindo Ghosh, and Bipin Chandra Pal preached the message of self-respect and asked the nationalists to relay on the character and capacities of the Indian people. They taught the people that the remedy to their sad condition lay in their own hands and that they should threrfore 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 in the glories of the past and manfully build the future.

Growth of Education and Unemployment: By the close of the 19th century, the number of educated Indians had increased perceptibly. Large numbers of them worked in the administration on extremely low salaries, while many others increasingly face unemployment. Their economic plight made them look critically at the nature of the British rule. Many of them were attracted by radical nationalist politics. The educated Indians were influenced by western ideas of democracy, nationalism and radicalism.

Revival of Hinduism: Tilak, Dayanand Saraswathi, Vivekananda, and Mrs.Annie Besant preached India’s past glory and the superiority of vedic culture. Their teacghings revived the spirit of Hinduism in the country.

Reactionary Policies of the Viceroys: During the regime of Lord Lansdowne and Elgin several unpopular measures were enacted to harass the people. Lord Curzon had no sympathy with the aspirations of the people of India. In 1899 the Calcutta Corporation Act was passed which completely officialised the Calcutta Corporation. The Indian Universities Act of 1904 curtailed the powers of the universities. The partition of Bengal added fuel to fire.

Discontent over the reforms of 1892: The rights conferred by the Act were quite inadequate and disappointing. The councils were ridden with official nominees. The government paid no heed to Congress demands of the Indianisation of superior services, reduction of military expenditure or lowering of taxes on the people.
Vernacular Newspapers. The potential base for political activity was expanding rapidly with the increasing circulation of the vernacular newspapers. Some of the most popular journals like Calcutta Bangabas and Kesari were very critical of the moderate policies of the Congress.

Racial Discrimination: Another major factor which contributed to the rise of extremism in India was the British policy of racial discrimination. Higher hobs in the government were monopolized by the Britishers.

International Influences: Several events abroad during this period tended to encourage the growth of militant nationalism. The rise of modern 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. Revolutionary movements in Ireland, Russia, Egypt, Turkey and China and the Boer War in South Africa convinced the Indians that a united people willing to make sacrifices could challenge even the most powerful of despotic governments.

Impact of Revolutions: The early years of the 20th century witnessed revolutions in China and Turkey. The educated Indians were inspired by these revolutions and a new urge to liberste the country was generated in them.

Illtreatment of Indians Abroad: Indians were treated like slaves noty only in their own country but also in other countries under the British empire. Mahatma Gandhi had to launch a satyagraha movement against this type of racial discrimination in South Africa.

Misrule of the Tory Government: The rise of extremism in India can be traced to the misrule of Tory party government. Lord Hamilton who presided over the India Office from 1895 to 1903 was very unsympathetic to India. During this period war, famine and other calamities visited India but he remained indifferent to the distress of the Indians.

Existence of a Militant Nationalist School of Thought: From the beginning of the nationalist movement a school of militant nationalism existed in India. This school was represented by Rajnarain Bose, Ashwini Kumar Dutt and Vishnu Shastri Chiplunker. The most outstanding leader of this school was B.G.Tilak. The most outstanding leaders of militant nationalism, apart from Tilak were Bipin Chandra Pal, Aurovindo Ghosh and Lala Lajpat Rai.

Dissatisfaction with the Achievements of the Moderates: The youngest elements within the Congress lost all faith in the British sense of justice and fair play. They were strongly critical of the methods of peaceful and constitutional agitation. Tilak described the Congress as a congress of flatterers and the Congress sessions as a holiday recreation. Lala Lajpat Rai, Bala Gangadhara Tilak, and B.C.Pal [ Lal-Bal-Pal] believed that the Congress had no constructive activity.

Programme of the militant nationalists

The militant nationalists believed that Indians themselves must work out their own salvation and make the effort to rise from their degraded position. They declared that great sacrifices and sufferings were needed for this task. Their speeches, writings and political work were full of boldness and self-confidenceand they considered no personal sacrifice too great for the good of their country. They deeply hated foreign rule, and they declared in a clear cut manner that swaraj or independence was the goal of the national movement. They had faith in the strength of the masses and planned to achieve swaraj through mass action.

Surat Split 1907

There was a much debate and disagreement between the moderates and extremists in the Indian National Congress. The extremists wanted to extend the Swadeshi and Boycott movement from Bengal to the rest of the country and extent boycott to every form of association with the colonial government. The moderates wanted to confine the Boycott movement to Bengal and even there to limit it to the boycott foreign goods. The differences dividing the two wings of the nationalist movement could not be kept in check for long. The moderates had failed to advance to the new stage of the national movement. The split between the two came at the Surat session of the Congress in 1907. The moderate leaders having 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 moderate leaders lost touch with the younger generation of nationalists. The British played the game of Divide and Rule. While suppressing the militant nationalists, it tried to win over moderate nationalist opinion. To placate the moderate nationalists, it announced constitutional concessions through the Indian Councils Act of 1909 which are known as the Morley-Minto Reforms. In 1911, the government announced the annulment of the Partition of Bengal. At the same time the seat of the Central Government was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi.

Bala Gangadhara Tilak

The most outstanding representative of the militant school was Bal Gangadhara Tilak popularly known as Lokamanya. He was born in 1856. From the day of his graduation from the Bombay university, he devoted his entire life to the service of his country. He helped to found during the 1880s the New English School, which later became the Fergussion College. He started two newspapers; the Mahratta in English and the Kesari in Marathi. He preached nationalism and taught the people to become courageous and selfless fighters in the cause of India’s indeperndence. In 1863, he started using the traditional Ganapathi festival to propagate nationalist ideas and in 1895 he started the Shivaji festival to stimulate nationalism among young Maharashtrians by holding the example of Shivaji for emulation.

During 1896-97 he initiated a no-tax campaign in Maharashtra. He set a real example of boldness and sacrifice when the authorities arrested him in 1897. He refused to apologise to the government and was sentenced to 18 months rigorous imprisonment. In 1916, Tilak started the Home Rule League. Tilak declared, “Swaraj is my birth right; I shall have it”. He explained the demand for Home Rule.

He wanted all regional languages and cultures to develop. He argued for education imparted through vernaculars. He opposed untouchability. He declared, “If a God were to tolerate untouchability, Iwould not recognize him as God at all”. He was died in 1920.

Bipan Chandra : India's Struggle for Independence
Bipan Chandra : Freeddom Struggle edtd
Sumit Sarkar : Modern India
NCERT Text book
SCERT Text book Kerala

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