8. Synopsis of NCERTS(Part -1) - Indian History Notes | Study RAS RPSC Prelims Preparation - Notes, Study Material & Tests - UPSC

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  • Indian national movement: One of the biggest. Inspired many others.
  • Gandhian Political Strategy very important.
  • Elements of Gandhian Strategy can be seen in the Solidarity Movement in Poland by Lech Walesa


  • In the Indian national movement, the Gramscian perspective of war of position was successfully practiced.
  • It provides the only historical example of a semi-democratic or democratic type of political structure being successfully replaced or transformed.
  • State power was not seized in a moment of revolution, but through prolonged popular struggle on moral, political and ideological reserves.
  • It is also an example of how the constitutional space offered by the existing structure could be used without getting coopted by it.
  • Diverse perspectives and ideologies



  • The path that India has followed since 1947 has deep roots in the struggle for independence.


  • Values and modern ideals on which it was based
  • Vision of the leaders: democratic, civil libertarian and secular India, based on a self-reliant, egalitarian social order and an independent foreign policy
  • The movement popularized democratic ideas and institutions in India
  • The strong civil libertarian and democratic tradition of the national movement was reflected in the constitution of independent India.
  • Pro-poor orientation
  • Secular
  • A non-racist, anti-imperialist outlook which continues to characterize Indian foreign policy was the part of the legacy of the anti-imperialist struggle.
  • India’s freedom struggle was basically the result of fundamental contradiction between the interests of the Indian people and that of British colonialism.


Chapter 1: Revolt of 1857

  • During the Governor-General Lord Canning
  • May 11, 1857. The Meerut incident. Capture of Delhi. Proclaiming B S Jazar as the emperor.
  • Almost half the Company’s sepoy strength of 232224 opted out of their loyalty to their regimental colours.
  • Kanpur: Nana Saheb; Lucknow: Begum Hazrat Mahal; Bareilly: Khan Bahadur;  Jagdishpur (Ara): Kunwar Singh; Jhansi: Rani Lakshmi Bai
  • Only the Madras army remained totally loyal. Sikh regiment as well remained largely loyal.

Causes for the revolt

The revolt was a result of the accumulated grievances of the people against Company’s administration and a loathing for the character and policies of the colonial rule. The causes can be classified as social, economic, religious and military. 


  • The conditions of service in the Company’s army and cantonments increasingly came into conflict with the religious beliefs and prejudices of the sepoys.
  • The unhappiness of the sepoys first surfaced in 1824 when the 47th Regiment of Barrackpur was ordered to go to Burma. To the religious Hindu, crossing the sea meant loss of caste. The sepoys refused. The regiment was disbanded and those who led the opposition were hanged.
  • The rumors about the Government’s secret designs to promote conversions to Christianity further exasperated the sepoys.
  • The greased cartridges
  • They were also unhappy with the emoluments
  • Discrimination and racism
  • Misery brought to the peasants by the British rule. E.g. the land revenue system imposed in Oudh, where about 75000 sepoys came from, was very harsh.
  • The civilians also participated
  • After the capture of Delhi, a letter was issued to the neighboring states asking for support.
  • A court of administrators was established in Delhi
  • Ill-equipped, the rebels carried on the struggle for about a year
  • The country as a whole was not behind them. The merchants, intelligentsia and Indian rulers not only kept aloof but actively supported the British.
  • Almost half the Indian soldiers not only did not revolt but fought against their own countrymen.
  • Apart from a commonly shared hatred for alien rule, the rebels had no political perspective or definite vision of the future
  • Delhi fell on September 20, 1857.
  • Rani of Jhansi died fighting on June 17, 1858
  • Nana Saheb escaped to Nepal hoping to revive the struggle.
  • Kunwar Singh died on May 9, 1958
  • Tantia tope carried on guerrilla warfare until April 1959 after which he was betrayed by a zamindar, captured and put to death.

Important Persons relating to the Revolt

Bahadur Shah Zafar: BSZ was the last Mughal emperor of India. 

Nana Saheb

Rani Lakshmi Bai

Kunwar Singh

Nawab Wajid Ali Shah

Birjis Qadr: The son of Wajid Ali Shah and the leader of the revolt in Lucknow.

Shah Mal: He belonged  to a clan of Jat cultivators in parganan Barout in UP. During the revolt, he mobilized the headmen and cultivators of chaurasee des (84 villages: his kinship area), moving at night from village to village, urging people to rebel against the British.

Maulvi Ahmadullah Shah: Maulvi Ahmadullah Shah was one of the many maulvis who played an

important part in the revolt of 1857. 1856, he was seen moving from village to village preaching jehad (religious war) against the British and urging people to rebel. he was elected by the mutinous 22nd Native Infantry as their leader. He fought in the famous Battle of Chinhat in which the British forces under Henry Lawrence were defeated.

Begum Hazrat Mahal:


Chapter 2: Civil Rebellions and Tribal Uprisings

  • The backbone of the rebellions, their mass base and striking power came from the rack-rented peasants, ruined artisans and demobilized soldiers


  • The major cause of the civil rebellions was the rapid changes the British introduced in the economy, administration and land revenue system.
  • The revenues were enhanced by increasing taxes.
  • Thousands of zamindars and poligars lost control over their land and its revenue either due to the extinction of their rights by the colonial state or by the forced sale of their rights over land because of their inability to meet the exorbitant land revenue demanded.
  • The economic decline of the peasantry was reflected in twelve major and numerous minor famines from 1770 to 1857
  • The new courts and legal system gave a further fillip to the dispossessors of land and encouraged the rich to oppress the poor.
  • The police looted, oppressed and tortured the common people at will.
  • The ruin of Indian handicraft industries pauperized millions of artisans
  • The scholarly and priestly classes were also active in inciting hatred and rebellion against foreign rule.
  • Very foreign character of the British rule


  • From 1763 to 1856, there were more than forty major rebellions apart from hundreds of minor ones.
  • Sanyasi Rebellion: (1763-1800)
  • Chuar uprising (1766-1772 & 1795-1816); Rangpur and Dinajpur (1783); Bishnupur and Birbhum (1799); Orissa zamindars (1804-17) and Sambalpur (1827-40) and many others


  • These rebellions were local in their spread and were isolated from each other.
  • They were the result of local causes and grievances, and were also localized in their effects.
  • Socially, economically and politically, the semi-feudal leaders of these rebellions were backward looking and traditional in outlook.
  • The suppression of the civil rebellions was a major reason why the revolt of 1857 did not spread to South India and most of Eastern and Western India.


  • The colonial administrators ended their relative isolation and brought them fully within the ambit of colonialism.
  • Introduced new system of land revenue and taxation of tribal products
  • Influx of Christian missionaries into the tribal areas
  • They could no longer practice shifting agriculture
  • Oppression and extortion by police officials
  • The complete disruption of the old agrarian order of the tribal communities provided the common factor for all the tribal uprisings


  • Santhals
  • Kols of Chhotanagpur (1820-37)
  • Birsa Munda (1899-1900)

CHAPTER 3: Peasant Uprisings

  • Many dispossessed peasants took to robbery and dacoity.
  • Indigo Revolt of 1859-60
  • By the end of 1860 indigo cultivation was virtually wiped out from the districts of Bengal
  • A major reason for the success of the Indigo revolt was the tremendous initiative, cooperation, organization and discipline of the ryots.
  • Another was the complete unity among Hindu and Muslim peasants
  • Another significant feature was the role of intelligentsia of Bengal which organized a powerful campaign in support of the rebellious peasantry.
  • The government’s response to the revolt was rather restrained and not as harsh as in the case of civil rebellions and tribal uprisings.
  • The government appointed the Indigo Commission to enquire into the problems of indigo cultivation.  The report of the commission exposed the coercion and corruption in indigo cultivation
  • The government issued a notification in November 1960 that ryots could not be compelled to sow indigo and all disputes were to be settled by legal means.


CHAPTER 4 & 5 – National movement and INC

Why did national movement arise?

  • Indian nationalism rose to meet the challenges of foreign domination
  • The British rule and its direct and indirect consequences provided the material and the moral and intellectual conditions for the development of a national movement in India.
  • Clash of interest between the interests of the Indian people with British interests in India
  • Increasingly, the British rule became the major cause of India’s economic backwardness
  • Every class gradually discovered that their interests were suffering at the hands of the British
    • Peasant: Govt took a large part of produce away as land revenue. Laws favoured the Zamindars
    • Artisans: Foreign competition ruined the industry
    • Workers: The government sided with the capitalists
    • Intelligentsia: They found that the British policies were guided by the interests of British capitalists and were keeping the country economically backward. Politically, the British had no commitment of guiding India towards self-government.
    • Indian capitalists: the growth of Indian industries was constrained by the unfavourable trade, tariff, and taxation and transport policies of the government.
    • Zamindars, landlords and princes were the only ones whose interests coincided with those of the British. Hence they remained loyal to them.
  • Hence, it was the intrinsic nature of foreign imperialism and its harmful effect on the lives of the Indian people that led to the rise of the national movement. This movement could be called the national movement because it united people from different parts of the country as never before for a single cause.


What factors strengthened and facilitated the national movement?

  • Administration and Economic Unification of the country
    • Introduction of modern trade and industries on all-India scale had increasingly made India’s economic life a single whole and interlinked the economic fate of people living in different parts of the country.
    • Introduction of railways, telegraph and unified postal system brought together different parts of the country and promoted contact among people like never before.
    • This unification led to the emergence of the Indian nation
  • Western Thought and Education
    • A large number of Indians imbibed a modern rational, secular, democratic and nationalist political outlook
    • They began to study, admire and emulate the contemporary nationalist movements of European nations
    • The western education per se did not create the national movement. It only enabled the educated Indians to imbibe western thought and thus to assume the leadership of the national movement and to give it a democratic and modern direction
    • Modern education created a certain uniformity and community of outlook and interests among the education Indians.
  • Role of Press and Literature
    • Large number of nationalist newspapers appeared in the second half of the 19th century
    • They criticized the policies of the British government and put forth the Indian point of view
    • National literature in form of essays, novels and poetry also played an important role. Bamkin Chandra, Tagore: Bengali; Bhartendu Harishchandra: Hindi; Lakshmikanth Bezbarua: Assamese; Vishnu Shastri Chiplunkar: Marathi; Subramanya Bharti: Tamil; Altaf Husain Hali: Urdu
  • Rediscovery of India’s past
    • The British had lowered the self confidence of the Indian through the propaganda that Indians are incapable of self-government
    • Nationalist leaders referred to the cultural heritage of India to counter this propaganda. They referred to political achievements of rulers like Ashoka, Chandragupta Vikramaditya and Akbar.
    • However, some nationalists went to the extent of glorifying the past uncritically. They emphasized on the achievements of ancient India and not medieval India. This encouraged the growth of communal sentiments.
  • Racial arrogance of the rulers
    • Englishmen adopted a tone of racial superiority in their dealings with the Indians
    • Failure of justice whenever an Englishman was involved in a dispute with an Indian.
    • Indians kept out of European clubs and often were not permitted to travel in same compartment as Englishmen

Rise of Indian National Congress

Predecessors of INC

  • East India Association
    • By Dadabhai Naoroji in 1866 in London
    • To discuss the Indian question and to influence the British public men to discuss Indian welfare
    • Branches of the association in prominent Indian cities
  • Indian Association
    • Surendranath Banerjee and Ananda Mohan Bose in 1876, Calcutta
    • The aim of creating strong public opinion in the country on political questions and the unification of the Indian people on a common political programme
  • Poona Sarvajanik Sabha
    • Justice Ranade, 1870
  • Madras Mahajan Sabha
    • Viraraghavachari, Anand Charloo, G Subramanian Aiyer, 1884
  • Bombay Presidency Association
    • Pherozshah Mehta, K T Telang, Badruddin Tyabji, 1885
  • These organizations were narrow in their scope and functioning. They dealt mostly with local questions and their membership were confined to a few people belonging to a single city or province


Indian National Congress

  • Indian National Congress was founded on 28 December 1885 by 72 political workers. A O Hume was the first secretary and was instrumental in establishing the Congress
  • First session in Bombay. President: W C Bonnerjee
  • With the formation of INC, the Indian National Movement was launched in a small but organized manner
  • The Congress itself was to serve not as a party but as a movement
  • Congress was democratic. The delegates to INC were elected by different local organizations and groups
  • Sovereignty of the people
  • In 1890, Kadambini Ganguli, the first woman graduate of Calcutta University addressed the Congress session
  • Safety Valve Theory
    • The INC was started under the official direction, guidance and advice of Lord Dufferin, the Viceroy, to provide a safe, mild, peaceful and constitutional outlet or safety valve for the rising discontent among the masses, which was inevitably leading towards a popular and violent revolution.

Does the safety valve theory explain the formation of Congress?

  • The safety valve theory is inadequate and misleading
  • INC represented the urge of the Indian educated class to set up a national organization to work for their political and economic development
  • A number of organizations, as mentioned above, had already been started by the Indians towards that end
  • Hume’s presence in Congress was used to allay official suspicions



Why was there a need for an All-India organization?

  • Vernacular Press Act, 1878
  • Ilbert Bill (1883) which would allow Indian judges to try Europeans was opposed by the European community and was finally enacted in a highly compromised state in 1884.
  • The Indians realized that they could not get the Ilbert bill passed because they were not united on all India level. Hence need for INC was felt.
  • In order to give birth to the national movement
    • Creation of national leadership was important
    • Collective identification was created


Aims of INC

  • 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
  • Training and organization of public opinion in the country


  •  The first major objective of the Indian national movement was to promote weld Indians into a nation, to create an  Indian identity
  • Fuller development and consolidation of sentiments of national unity
    • Efforts for unity: In an effort to reach all regions, it was decided to rotate the congress session among different parts of the country. The President was to belong to a region other than where the congress session was being held.
    • To reach out to the followers of all religions and to remove the fears of the minorities, a rule was made at the 1888 session that no resolution was to be passed to which an overwhelming majority of Hindu or Muslim delegates objected.
    • In 1889, a minority clause was adopted in the resolution demanding reform of legislative councils. According to the clause, wherever Parsis, Christians, Muslims or Hindus were a minority their number elected to the councils would not be less than their proportion in the population.
    • To build a secular nation, the congress itself had to be intensely secular
  • The second major objective of the early congress was to create a common political platform or programme around which political workers in different parts of the country could gather and conduct their political activities.
    • Due to its focus solely on political issues congress did not take up the question of social reform.
  • Since this form of political participation was new to India, the arousal, training, organization and consolidation of public opinion was seen as a major task by the congress leaders.
    • Going beyond the redressal of immediate grievances and organize sustained political activity.

Contribution of early nationalists

  • Early nationalists believed that a direct struggle for the political emancipation of the country was not yet on the agenda of history. On agenda was:
    • Creation of public interest in political questions and the organization of public opinion
    • Popular demands had  to be formulated on a country-wide basis
    • National unity had to be created. Indian nationhood had to be carefully promoted.
  • Early national leaders did not organize mass movement against the British. But they did carry out an ideological struggle against them. (Important from a Gramscian perspective)
  • Economic critique of imperialism
    • Economic critique of imperialism was the most important contribution of the early nationalists
    • They recognized that the essence of British economic imperialism lay in the subordination of the Indian economy to the British economy
    • They complained of India’s growing poverty and economic backwardness and the failure of modern industry and agriculture to grow
    • They wanted the government to promote modern industries through tariff protection and direct government aid
    • Popularized the idea of swadeshi and the boycott of British goods
    • They propounded the ‘drain of wealth’ theory and demanded that this drain be stopped
    • Demanded reduction of taxes and land revenue
    • Condemned the high military expenditure
  • Constitutional reforms
    • They were extremely cautious. From 1885 to 1892 they demanded the expansion and reform of the Legislative Councils
    • Due to their demands, the British passed the Indian Councils Act of 1892
    • They failed to broaden the base of their democratic demands. Did not demand the right to vote for the masses or for women
  • Administrative and other reforms
    • They demanded Indianisation of the higher grades of the administrative services.
    • They had economic political reasons for this. Economically, appointment of British only to ICS made Indian administration costly because they were paid very high. Politically, appointment of Indians would make the administration more responsive to Indian needs
    • Demanded separation of the judicial from executive powers so that the people might get some protection from the arbitrary acts of the police and the bureaucracy.
    • Urged the government to undertake and develop welfare activities and education
  • Defense of Civil Rights

Methods of work of early nationalists

  • Dominated by moderates till 1905
  • Method of moderates: Constitutional agitation within the four walls of the law, and slow, orderly political progress. Their work had two pronged direction:
    • To build a strong public opinion in India to arouse the political consciousness and national spirit of the people, and to educate and unite them on political questions
    • They wanted to persuade the British government and British public opinion to introduce reforms along directions laid down by the nationalists.
  • In 1889, a British Committee of the INC was founded. In 1890 this committee started a journal called India.

What about the role of the masses?

  • The basic weakness of the early national movement lay in its narrow social base.
  • The leaders lacked political faith in the masses.
  • Hence, masses were assigned a passive role in the early phase of the national movement.


  • The basic objectives of the early nationalist leaders were to lay the foundations of a secular and democratic national movement, to politicize and politically educate the people, to form the headquarters of the movement, that is, to form an all-India leadership group, and to develop and propagate an anti-colonial nationalist ideology.
  • Very few of the reforms for which the nationalists agitated were introduced by the government
  • It succeeded in creating a wide national awakening and arousing the feeling of nationhood. It made the people conscious of the bonds of common political, economic and social interests and the existence of a common enemy in imperialism
  • They exposed the true character of the British rule through their economic critique.
  • All this was to become a base for the national movement in the later period.



  • The leaders assumed that the rulers would be less suspicious and less likely to attack a potentially subversive organization if its chief organizer was a retired British civil servant.
  • Gokhale himself stated explicitly in 1913 that if any Indian had started such a movement the officials wouldn’t have let it happen.


CHAPTER 6 and 7: Socio-religious reforms

  • The socio-religious reforms are also referred to as the Indian renaissance
  • The socio-cultural regeneration in nineteenth century India was occasioned by the colonial presence, but not created by it.
  • Formation of the Brahmo Samaj in 1828.
  • Paramhansa Mandali, Prathna Samaj, Arya Samaj, Kayasth Sabha: UP, Sarin Sabha: Punjab, Satya Sodhak Samaj: Maharashtra, Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Sabha: Kerala
  • Ahmadiya and Aligarh Movements: Muslims, Singh Sabha: Sikhs, Rehnumai Mazdeyasan Sabha: Parsees
  • Their attention was focused on worldly existence.
  • The idea of otherworldliness and salvation were not a part of their agenda.
  • At that time the influence of religion and superstition was overwhelming. Position of priests strong; that of women weak.
  • Caste was another debilitating factor
  • Neither a revival of the past nor a total break with tradition was contemplated.
  • Rationalism and religious universalism influenced the reform movement.
  •   Development of universalistic perspective on religion
  • Lex Loci Act propsed in 1845 and passed in 1850 provided the right to inherit ancestral property to Hindu converts to Christianity.
  • The culture faced a threat from the colonial rule.
  • First, the Indian intellectuals co-operated with the British in the hope that British would help modernize India.
  • However, the reality of social development in India failed to conform to their hopes.
  • Three people who carried out the economic analysis of British India:
    • Dadabhai Naoroji: the grand old man of India. Born in 1825, he became a successful businessman but devoted his entire life and wealth to the creation of national movement in India
    • Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade: He taught an entire generation of Indians the value of modern industrial development.
    • Romesh Chandra Dutt: a retired ICS officer, published The Economic History of India at the beginning of the 20th century in which he examined in minute detail the entire economic record of colonial rule since 1757.
  • They concluded that colonialism was the main obstacle to India’s economic development.
  • Three aspects of domination of British: trade, industry, finance
  • The problem of poverty was seen as a problem of national development. This approach made poverty a broad national issue and helped to unite, instead of divide, different regions and sections of Indian society.
  • The early nationalists accepted that the complete economic transformation of the country on the basis of modern technology and capitalist enterprise was the primary goal of their economic policies.
  • Because their whole-ted devotion to the cause of industrialization, the early nationalists looked upon all other issues such as foreign trade, railways, tariffs, finance and labour legislations in relation to this paramount aspect. (and hence the obsession of Nehru with industrialization)
  • However great the need of India for industrialization, it had to be based on Indian capital and not foreign capital.
  • The early nationalists saw foreign capital as an unmitigated evil which did not develop a country but exploited and impoverished it.
  • Expenditure on railways could be seen as Indian subsidy to British industries.
  • A major obstacle in the process of industrial development was the policy of free trade
  • High expenditure on the army
  • Drain theory was the focal point of nationalist critique of colonialism.
    • A large part of India’a capital and wealth was being transferred or drained to Britain in the form of salaries and pensions of British civil and military officials working in India, interest on loans taken by the Indian government, profits of British capitalists in India, and the Home Charges or expenses of the Indian Government in Britain.
    • This drain amounted to one-half of government revenues, more than the entire land revenue collection, and over one-third of India’s total savings.
    • The Drain theory was put forward by Dadabhai Naoroji. He declared that the drain was the basic cause of India’s poverty.
    • Through the drain theory, the exploitative character of the British rule was made visible.
    • The drain theory possessed the merit of being easily grasped and understood by a nation of peasants. No idea could arouse people more than the thought that they were being taxed so that others in far off lands might live in comfort.
    • This agitation on economic issues contributed to the undermining of the ideological hegemony of the alien rulers over Indian minds.
    • The nationalist economic agitation undermined the moral foundations inculcated by the British that foreign rule is beneficial for India.

CHAPTER 8 and 9: Freedom of Press

  • On 29th January 1780, the Hickey’s Bengal Gazette or the Calcutta General Advertizer was published. It was the first English newspaper to be printed in the Indian sub-continent.
  • The press was the chief instrument of forming a nationalist ideology


  • The resolutions and proceedings of the Congress were propagated through press. Trivia: nearly one third of the founding fathers of congress in 1885 were journalists.


  • Main news papers and editors
    • The Hindu and Swadesamitran: G Subramaniya Iyer
    • Kesari and Mahratta: BG Tilak
    • Bengalee: S N Banerjea
    • Amrita Bazar Patrika: Sisir Kumar Ghosh and Motilal Ghosh
    • Sudharak: GK Gokhale
    • Indian Mirror: N N Sen
    • Voice of India: Dadabhai Naoroji
    • Hindustani and Advocate: GP Varma
    • Tribune and Akhbar-i-Am in Punjab
    • Indu Prakash, Dnyan Prakahs, Kal and Gujarati in Bombay
    • Som Prakash, Banganivasi and Sadharani in Bengal
  • Newspaper was not confined to the literates. It would reach the villages and would be read by a reader to tens of others.
  • Reading and discussing newspaper became a form of political participation.
  • Nearly all the major political controversies of the day were conducted through the Press.
  • ‘Oppose, oppose, oppose’ was the motto of the Indian press.
  • The section 124A of the IPC was such as to punish a person who evoked feelings of disaffection to the government.
  • The Indian journalists remained outside 124A by adopting methods such as quoting the socialist and anti-imperialist newspapers of England or letters from radical British citizens
  • The increasing influence of the newspapers led the government to pass the Vernacular Press Act of 1978, directed only against Indian language newspapers.
    • It was passed very secretively
    • The act provided for the confiscation of the printing press, paper and other materials of a newspaper if the government believed that it was publishing seditious materials and had flouted an official warning.
    • Due to the agitations, it was repealed in 1881 by Lord Ripon.
  • SN Banerjee was the first Indian to go to jail in performance of his duty as a journalist.


B G Tilak

  • The man who is most frequently associated with the struggle for the freedom of Press during the nationalist movement is Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
  • In 1881, along with G G Agarkar, he founded the newspapers Kesari and Mahratta.
  • In 1893, he started the practice of using the traditional religious Ganapati festival to propagate nationalist ideas through patriotic songs and speeches.
  • In 1896, he started the Shivaji festival to stimulate nationalism among young Maharashtrians.
  • He brought peasants and farmers into the national movement.
  • He organized a no-tax campaign in Maharashtra in 1896-97
  • Plague in Poona in 1897.
  • Popular resentment against the official plague measures resulted in the assassination of Rand, the Chairman of the Plague Committee in Poona, and Lt. Ayerst by the Chaphekar brothers on 27 June 1898.
  • Since 1894, anger had been rising against the government due to the tariff, currency and famine policy.
  • Tilak was arrested and sentenced to 18 month rigorous imprisonment in 1897. This led to country wide protests and Tilak was given the title of Lokmanya.
  • Tilak was again arrested and tried on 24 June 1908 on the charge of sedition under article 124A. He was sentenced to 6 years of transportation. This led to nationwide protests and closing down of markets for a week. Later, in 1922 Gandhi was tried on the same act and he said that he is proud to be associated with Tilak’s name.



CHAPTER 10: Nationalist Movement 1905-1918

Reasons for the growth of militant nationalism (this is different from revolutionary terrorism)

Disillusionment of the nationalists with moderate policies

  • The moderates thought that the British could be reformed from within
  • Politically conscious Indians were convinced that the purpose of the British rule was to exploit India economically
  • The nationalists realized that Indian industries could not flourish except under an Indian government
  • Disastrous famines from 1896 to 1900 took a toll of over 90 lakh lives
  • The Indian Councils Act of 1892 was a disappointment
  • The Natu brothers were deported in 1897 without trial
  • In 1897 B G Tilak was sentenced to long term imprisonment for arousing the people against the government
  • In 1904, the Indian Official Secrets Act was passed restricting the freedom of the Press
  • Primary and technical education was not making any progress
  • Thus, increasing number of Indians were getting convinced that self-government was essential for the sake of economic, political and cultural progress of the country

Growth of Self-respect and self-confidence

  • Tilak, Aurobindo and Pal preached the message of self-respect
  • They said to the people that remedy to their condition lay in their own hand and they should therefore become strong
  • Swami Vivekananda’s messages

Growth of education and unemployment

International Influences

  • Rise of modern Japan after 1868
  • 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

Partition of Bengal

  • With the partition of Bengal, 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 mn and the rest of Bengal with a population of 54 mn.
  • Reason given: the existing province of Bengal was too big to be efficiently administered by a single provincial government
  • The partition expected to weaken the nerve centre of Indian Nationalism, Bengal.
  • The partition of the state intended to curb Bengali influence by not only placing Bengalis under two administrations but by reducing them to a minority in Bengal itself as in the new proposed Bengal proper was to have seventeen million Bengali and thirty seven million Oriya and Hindi speaking people.
  • The partition was also meant to foster division on the basis of religion.
  • Risley, Home Secretary to the GoI, said on December 6, 1904 – ‘one of our main objects is to split up and thereby weaken a solid body of opponents to our rule.’
  • the nationalists saw it as a deliberate attempt to divide the Bengalis territorially and on religious grounds

The Swadeshi Movement

  • The Swadeshi movement had its genesis in the anti-partition movement which was started to oppose the British decision to partition Bengal.
  • Mass protests were organized in opposition to the proposed partition.
  • Despite the protests, the decision to partition Bengal was announced on July 19, 1905
  • It became obvious to the nationalists that their moderate methods were not working and that a different kind of strategy was needed.
  • Several meetings were held in towns such as Dinajpur Pabna, Faridpur etc. It was in these meetings that the pledge to boycott foreign goods was first taken.
  • The formal proclamation of the Swadeshi movement was made on 7 August 1905 in a meeting held in the Calcutta town hall. The famous boycott resolution was passed.
  • The leaders like SN Banerjee toured the country urging the boycott of Manchester cloth and Liverpool salt.
  • The value of British cloth sold in some of the districts fell by five to fifteen times between September 1904 and September 1905.
  • The day the partition took effect – 16 October 1905 – was declared a day of mourning throughout Bengal.
  • The movement soon spread to the entire country.
  • Militant nationalists
    • The extremists were in favor 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. The moderates were not as willing to go that far.
    • The differences between the extremists and moderates came too had in 1907 Surat session where the party split with serious consequences for the Swadeshi Movement.
    • In Bengal, the extremists acquired a dominant influence over the Swadeshi movement.
    • They proposed the technique of extended boycott which included, apart from boycott of foreign goods, boycott of government schools and colleges, courts, titles and government services and even the organization of strikes.
    • Aurobindo Ghose: Political freedom is the lifebreath of a nation.
    • Boycott and public burning foreign cloth, picketing of shops selling foreign goods, became common in remote corners of Bengal as well as in many towns across the country.
    • The militant nationslists, however, failed to give a positive leadership to the people. They also failed to reach the real masses of the country, the peasants.
  • The movement also innovated with considerable success different forms of mass mobilization such as public meetings, processions and corps of volunteers.
  • The Swadesh Bandhab Samiti set up by Ashwini Kumar Dutt, a school teacher, in Barisal was the most well known volunteer organization.
  • During the Swadeshi period, traditional festivals were used to reach out to the masses. The Ganapati and Shivaji festivals were popularized by Tilak. Traditional folk theatres such as jatras were also used.
  • Another important aspect was the great emphasis given to self-reliance or Atmasakti as a necessary part of the struggle against the government.
  • Self-reliance was the keyword. Campaigns for social reforms were carried out.
  • In 1906, the National Council for Education was setup to organize the education system.
  • Self-reliance also meant an effort to set up Swadeshi or indigenous enterprises.
  • Marked impact in the cultural sphere
    • The songs composed by Rabindranath Tago, Mukunda Das and others became the moving spirit for nationalists.
    • Rabindranath’s ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’, written at that time, was to later inspire the liberation struggle of Bangladesh and was adopted as the national anthem of the country in 1971.
    • Nandalal Bose, who left a major imprint on Indian art, was the first recipient of a scholarship offered by the Indian Society of Oriental Art founded in 1907.
  • The social base of the national movement was now extened to include certain zamindari section, lower middle class and school and college students. Women also participated in large numbers.
  • Drawback: Was not able to garner the support of the mass of Muslims, especially the Muslim peasantry. The British policy of communalism responsible for this.
  • By mid-1908, the movement was almost over. The main reasons were:
    • The government, seeing the revolutionary potential of the movement, came down with a heavy hand.
    • The split of the congress in 1907 had weakened the movement.
    • The movement lacked an effective organization and party structure.
    • The movement decline dpartially because of the logic of the mass movements itself – they cannot be endlessly sustained at the same pitch of militancy and self-sacrifice.
  • The anti-partition movement, however, marked a great revolutionary leap forward for Indian nationalism.
  • The decline of Swadeshi engendered the rise of revolutionary terrorism.
  • Assessing the movement
    • Cultural impact
    • Social Impact
    • Economic impact
    • Role of students and  Women
    • All India aspect of the movement
    • From passive protest to active boycott

Revolutionary Terrorism

  • Revolutionary young men did not try to generate a mass revolution. Instead they followed the strategy of assassinating unpopular officials
  • 1904: VD Savarkar organized Abhinav Bharat
  • Newspapers like The Sandhya and Yugaantar in Bengal and the Kal in Maharashtra advocated revolutionary ideology
  • Kingsford Incident: In 1908, Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki threw bomb at a carriage they believed was carrying Kingsford, the unpopular judge of Muzaffarpur.
  • Anushilan Samiti threw a bomb at the Viceroy Lord Hardinge
  • Centres abroad
    • In London: led by VD Savarkar, Shyamaji Krishnavarma and Har Dayal
    • In Europe: Madam Cama and Ajit Singh
  • They gradually petered out. It did not have any base among the people


CHAPTER 11: The Split in the Congress

  • Moderates were successful to some extent.
  • Moderates failed in many aspects. Why?
    • They could not acquire any roots among common people.
    • They believed that they could persuade the rulers to change their policies. However, their achievement in this regard was meager.
    • They could not keep pace with the events. They failed to meet the demands of the new stage of the national movement.
  • The British were keen on finishing the Congress because:
    • However moderate the leaders were, they were still nationalists and propagators of anti-colonialist ideas.
    • The British felt that moderates led congress could be finished off easily because it did not have a popular base
  • In the swadeshi movement, all sections of INC united in opposing the Partition
    • However, there was much difference between the moderates and the extremists about the methods and scope of the movement
    • The extremists wanted to extend the Swadeshi and Boycott movement from Bengal to the rest of the country and to boycott 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 of foreign goods
  • After the Swadeshi movement the British adopted a three pronged approach to deal with congress. Repression-conciliation-suppression.
    • The extremists were reppressed
    • The moderates were conciliated thus giving them an impression that their further demands would be met if they disassociated from the extremists. The idea was to isolate the extremists.
    • Once the moderates and extremists were separate the extremists could be suppressed through the use of state force while the moderates could later be ignored.
  • The congress session was held on December 26, 1907 at Surat, on the banks of the river Tapti.
    • The extremists wanted a guarantee that the four Calcutta resolutions will be passed.
    • They objected to the duly elected president of the year, Rash Behari Ghose.
    • There was a confrontation with hurling of chairs and shoes.
  • The government launched a massive attack on the extremists. Newspapers were suppressed. Tilak was sent to Mandalay jail for six years.
  • The extremists were not able to organize an effective alternative party or to sustain the movement.
  • After 1908 the national movement as a whole declined.
  • The moderates and the country as a whole were disappointed by the 1909 Minto-Morley reforms
    • The number of indirectly elected members of the Imperial and provincial legislative councils was increased.
    • Separate electorates for Muslims were introduced.
  • With the split of Congress revolutionary terrorism rose.
  • In 1904 V D Savarkar organized Abhinav Bharat as a secret society of revolutionaries
  • In April 1908, Prafulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose threw a bomb at a carriage which they believed was occupied by Kingsford the unpopular judge at Muzzafarpur.
  • Anushilan Samity and Jugantar were two most important revolutionary groups.
  • An assessment of the split
    • The split did not prove useful to either party
    • The British played the game of divide and rule
    • To placate the moderates they announced the Morley-Minto reforms which did not satisfy the demands of the nationalists. They also annulled the partition of Bengal in 1911.
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