SWADESHI MOVEMENT PART-1

PARTITION OF BENGAL

  • The provincial state of Bengal had an area of 189,000 sq. miles and a population of nearly 8 crores.
    • It included the Hindi-speaking regions of Bihar, the Oriya-speaking regions of Orissa as well as the Assamese-speaking region of Assam, making it a huge administrative entity.
    • Moreover, the capital Calcutta was the capital of the entire British India.
  • With the growing efforts of the Indian National Congress to secure the independence of India, The partition was expected to weaken what was perceived as the nerve center of Indian nationalism.
  • With real objective as second one but declared objective as first one, Lord Curzon decided to partition Bengal into two entities, which would result in a Muslim-majority in the eastern half, and a Hindu-majority in the western half.
    • This he hoped would reduce the administrative pressures as well divide the population on religious grounds, quelling the Indian Independence Movement.
  • The main reason for the Partition was purely political.
    • The Hindus were in a better position in terms of economic status, professional qualities etc., than the Muslims. During the pre-Sepoy Mutiny period, section of Hindu traders greatly helped the British while their Muslim counterparts did not. The British were angry.
    • With the spread of Western education Hindus made a big way, but the Muslims could not. A sense of deprivation crept in. Perhaps, the sense of deprivation was engineered.
    • When the discontentment grew in the beginning of this century, the British capitalised on this sense of deprivation.
  • Even Lord Minto, Curzon’s successor was critical of the way in which partition was imposed disregarding public opinion saw that it was good political strategy; Minto argued that ‘from a political point of View alone, putting aside the administrative difficulties of the old province, I believe partition to have been very necessary.‘
  • The Partition of Bengal in 1905 was made on October 16 by Viceroy Curzon. The former province of Bengal was divided into two new provinces
    • (1) “Bengal” (comprising western Bengal as well as the province of Bihar and Orissa) and capital at Calcutta.
      • It was to have 17 million Bengali and 37 million Oriya and Hindi speaking people thus reducing Bengali to a minority in Bengal itself.
    • (2) “East Bengal and Assam” with a population of 31 million people and with its capital at Dhaka.
  • In the official note, Risley, the Home Secretary to the Government of India said, “Bengal united is power; Bengal divided will pull several different ways”.
  • 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.
  • Also, the partition was meant to foster another kind of division-this time on the basis of religion, i.e. between the Muslims and the Hindus.
    • The Indian Nationalist clearly saw the design behind the partition and condemned it unanimously. The anti-partition and Swadeshi movement had begun.
  • Due to these political protests, the two parts of Bengal were reunited in 1911.
    • A new partition which divided the province on linguistic, rather than religious grounds followed, with the Hindi, Oriya and Assamese areas separated to form separate administrative units: Bihar and Orissa Province was created to the west, and Assam Province to the east.
    • The administrative capital of British India was moved from Calcutta to New Delhi as well.

THE NATURE OF THE SWADESHI MOVEMENT:

  • The Bengalis adopted the boycott movement as the last resort after they had exhausted the armoury of constitutional agitation (between 1903 and 1905) known to them, namely vocal protests, appeals, petitions and Conferences to coerce the British to concede the unanimous national demand.
  • This was boycott-cum-swadeshi movement.
  • The original conception of Boycott was mainly an economic one. It had two distinct, but allied purposes in view.
    • The first was to bring pressure upon the British public by the pecuniary loss they would suffer by the boycott of British goods, particularly the Manchester cotton goods for which Bengal provided the richest market in India.
    • Secondly, it was regarded as essential for the revival of indigenous industry which being at its infant stage could never grow in the face of free competition with foreign countries which had highly developed industry.
  • Like the Boycott, the Swadeshi as a purely economic measure for the growth of Indian Industry was not an altogether novel idea in India.
    • It was preached by several eminent personalities in the 19th century, Gopal Hari Deshmukh, better known as Lokahitawadi of Bombay, Swami Dayananda and Bholanath Chandra of Calcutta.
    • But the seeds sown by them did not germinate till the soil was rendered fertile by the grim resolve of a united people, exasperated beyond measure; to forge the twin weapons of Boycott and Swadeshi in order to undo the great wrong which was inflicted upon them by an arrogant Government.
  • Later on, the economic boycott receded into background with the passage of time and it developed into an idea of non-cooperation with the British in every field and the object aimed at was a political regeneration of the country with the distant goal of absolute freedom looming large before the eyes of the more advanced section.
  • Similarly, Swadeshi completely outgrew the original conception of promoting Indian industry. It assumed a new form based upon the literal connotation of the word swadeshi, namely attachment to everything Indian.
  • The movement marked the beginning of new politics, it marked the beginning of a new nationalist era- the former was politics of militancy and the later the politics of the militant nationalism. It was characterised by a shift from political moderation to political extremism, from constitutional agitation to radical struggle and from politics of petition to direct action.
  • The movement marked the beginning of new form of mobilization. New political weapons for giving a new orientation to the politics of pressure came to be used- Swadeshi, Constructive Swadeshi, Boycott, Extended Boycott, passive resistance, mass agitation etc.
  • The movement was the first popular upsurge and humble beginning of multi-class movement ensuring participation of new section of people like students, women, lower middle class people, zamindars, peasant etc.
    • The mobilisation is remarkable by mobilisation of pantry in some areas and politicization of the economic grievances of the labours.
    • Even though mobilization was in limited areas, the very beginning of modern mass politics in India is markable. Peasants in most parts didn’t actively join boycott or passive resistance but many though meetings, constructive works, etc. were exposed for the first time to modern nationalist ideas and politics.

SWADESHI AND SOCIAL BOYCOTT:

  • The social boycott was an outcome of economic swadeshi movement.
    • It was preached to go against the repressive measures of the Government. The social boycott was a very powerful weapon.
    • A man selling or buying foreign goods or in any way opposing swadeshi Movement and helping Government in putting it down would be subjected to various degrees of humiliation.
    • Such social ostracism would make a man quite unhappy, sometimes even very miserable and the Government could do very little to help him in his distress. But such non-violent ostracism was not the only form of persecution. Sometimes, the ‘renegade’ would suffer material loss and bodily or mental pain.

SWADESHI MOVEMENT

  • The Swadeshi movement had its genesis in the anti-partition movement which started with the partition of Bengal by the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, 1905 and continued up to 1911.
  • It was the most successful of the pre-Gandhian movements. Its chief architects were Aurobindo Ghosh, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai, V. O. Chidambaram Pillai.
  • Though affected in 1905, the partition proposals had come onto the public domain as early as 1903. Therefore, since 1903, there was prepared the ground for the launch of the Swadeshi movement.In first phase (1903-1905), moderate way of 3Ps was in full sway but it could not stop partition.
  • Strong sense of unity among Bengalis fostered by their regional independence,cultural development of 19th century, spread of western education and Hindu revivalist mood gave birth to a vehement resistance.

THE NATURE OF THE SWADESHI MOVEMENT:

  • The Bengalis adopted the boycott movement as the last resort after they had exhausted the armoury of constitutional agitation (between 1903 and 1905) known to them, namely vocal protests, appeals, petitions and Conferences to coerce the British to concede the unanimous national demand.
  • This was boycott-cum-swadeshi movement.
  • The original conception of Boycott was mainly an economic one. It had two distinct, but allied purposes in view.
    • The first was to bring pressure upon the British public by the pecuniary loss they would suffer by the boycott of British goods, particularly the Manchester cotton goods for which Bengal provided the richest market in India.
    • Secondly, it was regarded as essential for the revival of indigenous industry which being at its infant stage could never grow in the face of free competition with foreign countries which had highly developed industry.
  • Like the Boycott, the Swadeshi as a purely economic measure for the growth of Indian Industry was not an altogether novel idea in India.
    • It was preached by several eminent personalities in the 19th century, Gopal Hari Deshmukh, better known as Lokahitawadi of Bombay, Swami Dayananda and Bholanath Chandra of Calcutta.
    • But the seeds sown by them did not germinate till the soil was rendered fertile by the grim resolve of a united people, exasperated beyond measure; to forge the twin weapons of Boycott and Swadeshi in order to undo the great wrong which was inflicted upon them by an arrogant Government.
  • Later on, the economic boycott receded into background with the passage of time and it developed into an idea of non-cooperation with the British in every field and the object aimed at was a political regeneration of the country with the distant goal of absolute freedom looming large before the eyes of the more advanced section.
  • Similarly, Swadeshi completely outgrew the original conception of promoting Indian industry. It assumed a new form based upon the literal connotation of the word swadeshi, namely attachment to everything Indian.
  • The movement marked the beginning of new politics, it marked the beginning of a new nationalist era- the former was politics of militancy and the later the politics of the militant nationalism. It was characterised by a shift from political moderation to political extremism, from constitutional agitation to radical struggle and from politics of petition to direct action.
  • The movement marked the beginning of new form of mobilization. New political weapons for giving a new orientation to the politics of pressure came to be used- Swadeshi, Constructive Swadeshi, Boycott, Extended Boycott, passive resistance, mass agitation etc.
  • The movement was the first popular upsurge and humble beginning of multi-class movement ensuring participation of new section of people like students, women, lower middle class people, zamindars, peasant etc.
    • The mobilisation is remarkable by mobilisation of pantry in some areas and politicization of the economic grievances of the labours.
    • Even though mobilization was in limited areas, the very beginning of modern mass politics in India is markable. Peasants in most parts didn’t actively join boycott or passive resistance but many though meetings, constructive works, etc. were exposed for the first time to modern nationalist ideas and politics.

SAMITIS AND SWADESHI:

  • Corps of volunteers (or samitis as they were called) were another major form of mass mobilization widely used by the Swadeshi Movement.
  • The Swadesh Bandhab Samiti set up by Ashwini Kumar Dutt, a school teacher, in Barisal was the most well known volunteer organization of them all.
    • Through the activities of this Samiti, whose 159 branches reached out to the remotest corners of the district, Dutt was able to generate an unparalleled mass following among the predominantly Muslim Peasantry of the region.
  • The samitis took the Swadeshi message to the villages through magic lantern lectures and Swadeshi songs, gave physical and moral training to the members, did social work during famines and epidemics, organized schools, training in Swadeshi craft and arbitration courts.
  • Though the samitis stuck their deepest roots in Barisal, they had expanded to other parts of Bengal as well. British officialdom was genuinely alarmed by their activities, their growing popularity with the rural masses.
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