Modern India Part 2
Growth of Political Ideas and Political Associations (up to 1885)

One important effect of the introduction of western culture in India was the growth of modern political concepts like nationalism, political rights; etc.The Indian sub-continent witnessed the growth of political ideas and organizations hitherto unknown to the Indian world. Raja Ram Mohan Roy was the first Indian leader to start an agitation for political reforms in India. Many public associations were started in different parts of India after 1836.All these associations were dominated by wealthy and aristocratic elements-called in those days “prominent persons”- and were provincial or local in character. They worked for reform of administration, association of Indians with the administration, and spread of education and sent long petitions, putting forward Indian demands to the British Parliament. The Bengal British India Society was founded in 1843 which in 1851, merged with the Landholders Society and formed the British Indian Association. The East India Association was organized by Dadabhai Naoroji n 1866 in London to discuss the Indian question and influence public men in England to promote Indian welfare. The Indian Association of Calcutta was founded in 1876 by Surendrenath Bannerjee and Anand Mohan Bose. Poona Sarvajanik Sabha was founded in 1867 by M.G. Ranade and others, with the object of serving as a bridge between the Government and the people. The Bombay presidency Association was started by Badruddin Tyabji, Pherozshah Mehta and K.T. Telang in 1885, and the Madras Mahajan Sabha was founded in 1884 by M. Viraraghavachari, B. Subramiya Aiyer and P. Ananda Charlu.

The Indian National Congress

The time was now ripe for the formation of an all-India political organization of the nationalists who felt the need to unite politically against the common enemy-foreign rule and exploitation. Many Indians had been planning to form an all-India organization of nationalist political workers. But the credit for giving the idea concrete and final shape goes to A.O. Hume, a retired English civil servant. He got in touch with prominent Indian leaders and organized with their cooperation the first session of the Indian National Congress at Bombay in December 1885. It was presided over by W.C. Bonnerjee and attended by 72 delegates. The aims of the National Congress were declared to be the promotion of friendly relations between nationalist political workers from different parts of the country, development and consolidation of the feeling of national unity irrespective of caste, religion or province, formulation of popular demands and their presentation before the government, and most important of all, the training and organization of public opinion in the country.

It has been said that Hume’s main purpose in encouraging the foundation of the Congress was to provide a ‘safety valve’ or a safe outlet to the growing discontent among the educated Indians. He wanted to prevent the union of a discontented nationalist intelligentsia with a discontented peasantry. The ‘safety valve’ theory is, however a small part of the truth and is totally inadequate and misleading. More than anything else, the National Congress represented the urge of the politically conscious Indians to set up a national organization to work for their political and economic advancement. Thus with the foundation of the Indian National congress in 1885, the struggle for India’s freedom was launched in a small but organized manner. The history of the Indian national movement can be divided into three phases. The first phase from the period 1885 to 1905 can be called the moderate phase, the second from the period 1905 to 1919, the period of extremism and finally the third period 1919 to 1947 as the Gandhian phase.

The Moderates (1885-1905)

Programmes. Principles, Methodology and Activities:

The national leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji, P.M. Mehta, W.C.Bannerjee, S.N.Bannerjee who dominated the Congress policies during the period 1885-1905 were staunch believers in liberalism and worked to procure for Indians freedom from race and creed prejudices, equality between man and man, equality before law, extension of civil liberties, extension of representative institutions etc.They genuinely believed that the continuation of India’s political connection with Britain was in the interest of India at that stage of history. They believed in the British sense of justice and fairplay.They believed that a direct struggle for the political emancipation of the country was not yet on the agenda of history. They believed that their main purpose was to educate the masses, heighten national consciousness create a consensus on political issues and to convince the British government about the justness of their demands. The moderates believed in constitutional agitation within the four corners of the law and slow orderly political progress. Gradualism and constitutionalism were the key concepts

The early nationalists carefully analyzed the political economy of British rule in India and put forward the ‘Drain Theory” to explain British exploitation of India. The moderates also put forward a number of constitutional reforms like expansion and reform of the legislative Councils In particular they demanded Indian control over the public purse and raised the slogan of “No taxation without representation”. The British Government was forced by their agitation to pass the Indian Councils Act of 1892. Later on they put forward the claim of self government within the British empire on the model of self governing colonies like Australia and Canada. The most important administrative reform they desired was Indianization of the higher grades of the administrative purposes. They urged the government to undertake and develop welfare activities like expansion of education, development of agricultural  banks and extension of irrigation facilities, extension of medical and health facilities etc.The early nationalists also put up a strong defense of these civil rights namely freedom of speech, the Press thought and association. Whenever the government tried to curtail them.

If we critically evaluate the work of the moderates, it appears that they did not achieve much success. Very few of the reforms by them were carried out. The moderates failed to acquire any roots among the common people as they had a narrow social base. Their methods were described as “halting and half hearted” Their methods were described as those of mendicancy or beggary through prayers and petitions. However historically viewed, the moderates achieved a lot. It succeeded in creating a wide national awakening, in arousing among the people the feeling that they belonged to a common nation – the Indian nation. It made the people of India conscious of the bonds of the common political, economic, social and cultural interests and the existence if a common in imperialism and thus helped to wield them in a common nationality. In spite of many failures, they laid strong foundation for the national movement to grow upon.

Growth of Extremism or Militant Nationalism

The closing decade of the 19th century and early years of the 20th century witnessed the emergence of a new and younger group within the Indian National Congress which was sharply critical of the ideology and methods of the old leadership. This group advocated the adoption of Swaraj as the goal of the Congress to be achieved by more self- reliant and independent methods. The new group came to be called the Extremist Party. There were certain causes which were responsible for the birth of the new group. The political events of the years 1892 to 1905 disappointed the nationalists and made them think of more radical politics. The Indian Councils Act of 1892 was a complete failure. A sharp reaction was created in the Indian minds by Curzon’s seven year rule in India which was full of missions, commissions and omissions. Administrative measures adopted during his rule- the Official Secret’s Act, the Indian Universities Act, the Calcutta Corporation Act and above all, the Partition of Bengal (1905) –left no doubts in Indian minds about the basically reactionary nature of British Rule in India. Several events abroad during this period tended to encourage the growth of militant nationalism in India. 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 convinced the Indians that a united people willing to make sacrifices could challenge the most powerful of despotic governments. The most outstanding leaders of militant nationalism were Lokamanya Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Aurobindo Ghosh and Lala Lajpat Rai.
Principles, Objectives and Methods of Extremist:

Swaraj for the extremists meant “complete freedom from foreign control and full independence to manage national affairs without any foreign restraints. They hated foreign rule and had no faith in the benevolence of the British public or Parliament. They had deep faith in the strength of the masses and they planned to achieve Swaraj through mass action. They, therefore, pressed for political work among the masses and for direct political action by the masses. The extremists also affirmed their faith in passive resistance, mass agitation and strong will to suffer or make self- sacrifices. The extremists advocated boycott of the foreign goods, use of swadeshi goods, national education and passive resistance.

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 phase. On 20 July 1905, Lord Curzon issued an order dividing the province of Bengal into parts: Eastern Bengal and Assam with a population of 31 million and the rest of Bengal with a population of 54 million consisting of Bengalees, Biharis and Oriyas. The official reason given for the decision was that Bengal was too big to be administrated properly. However the real motive behind the partition plan was the British desire to weaken the nerve centre of Indian nationalism- Bengal, on communal grounds by creating a wedge between the Hindus and Muslims. The Indian National Congress and the nationalists of Bengal firmly opposed the partition. The anti- partition movement was initiated on 7 August 1905 at the Town Hall, Calcutta, where a massive demonstration against the partition was organized. The partition took effect on 16 October, 1905. It was observed as day of national mourning and hartal throughout Bengal. Rabindranath Tagore composed the national song, “Amar Sonar Bangla”, for the occasion which was sung by a huge crowd parading the streets. The ceremony of Raksha Bandhan was utilized in a unique way where Hindus and Muslims tied rakhis on one another’s wrist as a symbol of unbreakable unity. To make their protest more powerful the Swadeshi and Boycott movement was launched. 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. In many places public burning of foreign cloth were organized and shops selling foreign cloth were picketed. Soon the movement spread to other parts of the country- in Poona and Bombay under Lala Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh, in Delhi, under Syed Haider Raza and in Madras under Chidambaram Pillai. An important aspect of the Swadeshi movement was the emphasis placed on self reliance or Atmashakti. Self reliance meant assertion of national dignity, honor and self confidence. In economic field, it meant indigenization of the industry. Many textile mills, soaps and match factories national banks and insurance companies were started. As a consequence of the Swadeshi movement, there was a flowering of nationalist poetry, prose and journalism. Another self reliant, constructive activity undertaken at the time was that of National education. National educational institutional institutions were opened by them and literary, technical and physical education was given there. 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 extremists also gave a call for passive resistance. They asked the people to refuse to cooperate with the Government and to boycott government service, the courts, governments’ schools and colleges, and municipalities and legislative councils.
A prominent part in the Swadeshi agitation was played by the students of Bengal and women. Many prominent Muslims joined the Swadeshi Movement. The British Government tried to suppress the extremists by passing a number of restrictions.

Surat  Split  of 1907

The agitation following the partition of Bengal brought into prominence the rise of extremists which differed in some essential points from the Moderates which had hitherto dominated the National Congress. The differences between the two came out in the open at Surat session of Congress in 1907 which led to split in Congress.

Morley- Minto Reforms of 1909

The British Government played the game of ‘Divide and Rule’. While suppressing the militant nationalists, it tried to win over moderate nationalist opinion so that the militant nationalists could be isolated and suppressed. 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. These reforms were responsible for the introduction of separate electorates for Muslims. The number of elected members in Imperial and Provincial Legislative Councils increased. Elections were introduced for the first time.

In 1911, the government also announced the annulment of the Partition of Bengal. Western and Eastern Bengal were to be reunited while a new province consisting of Bihar and Orissa was to be created. At the same time the seat of the Central government was shifted from Calcutta to Delhi.

Revolutionary Terrorism

Revolutionary terrorism was a by-product of the process of the growth of militant nationalism in India.  Inspired by Russian Nihilists and the Irish Nationalists, the youths of these countries felt that to achieve their political objectives they had to follow the path of revolutionary terrorism. The methodology involved individual heroic actions, such as organizing assassinations of unpopular British officials, and of traitors and informers among the Revolutionaries among themselves, conducting Swadeshi dacoities to raise funds for revolutionary activities.

It was concentrated in Bengal, Punjab and Maharashtra.

Anushilan Samiti, Yugantar and Sandhya were important revolutionaries groups of Bengal.

- 1908- Prafulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose attempt to murder Muzaffarpur Judge, Kingsford
- Alipore conspiracy case involving Aurobindo Ghosh, Barindra Kumar Ghosh and others.
- 1912- Bomb thrown at Viceroy Harding by Rashbehari Bose and Sachin Sanyal
- Sandhya, Yugantar- famous revolutionary journals

- Revolutionary activity by Lala Lajpat Rai, Ajit Singh Haider Raza, Bhai Parmanand Sufi Amba Prasad


- 1879-Ramosi peasant force by Vasudev Balwant Phadke
- 1890s- Tilak’s attempts to propagate militancy among the youth, through Shivaji and Ganpati festivals, and journals Kesari and Maharatta
- 1897- Chapekar brothers assassinated two unpopular British Officials, Rand, the Plague Commissioner of Poona and Lt. Ayerst
- V.D. Savarkar and his brother Ganesh Savarkar organized a secret society Mitra Mela. Later the name was changed to Abhinav Bharat . They were co-accused in Nasik and Gwalior Conspiracy cases.

- 1905- Shyamji Krishna Varma set up Indian Home Rule Society and India House and brought out journal The Sociologist in London.
- 1909-Madan Lal Dhingra murdered Curzon –Wyllie;
- Madame Bikaji Cama operated from Paris and Geneva and brought out journal Bande Mataram
- 1913- Ghadar Party , a revolutionary society in U.S.A. with its headquarters in San Francisco. Lala  Hardayal, the moving spirit behind Ghadar brought out a journal called Ghadar to spread the message of nationalism.

The Second Phase of Revolutionary Terrorism 
Influences on Revolutionary Terrorism

- Upsurge of working class trade unionism after the war;
- Russian revolution of 1917
- Newly sprouting communist groups with their emphasis on Marxism, socialism and proletariat

Hindustan Republican Army (HRA)

Sachin Sanyal, Jogesh Chatterjee and Ramprasad Bismil founded Hindustan Republican Army (HRA) at Kanpur in October 1924. HRA aimed at organizing an armed revolution and establishing a Federal Republic with a government elected on the basis of adult franchise. Hindustan Republican Army was later renamed Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) . Important action of Hindustan Republican Army was Kakori Robbery in August 1925

Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA)

It was founded in September 1928 at Feroz Shah Kotla. Delhi under the leadership of Chandrashekar Azad. They were also influenced by socialist ideas.

-1930- Chittagong Armoury Raid under the leadership of Surya Sen.