The advent of the new century marked the beginning of an organised political agitation in most parts of India. With the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 the old concept of oriental devotion to monarchical form of Government vanished.
One of the worst famines visited Western India. During that critical time when thousands and thousands of people were dying Lord Curzon Dazzled India by the coronation ceremony of Queen Victoria’s successor in the grand Durbar in Delhi.
The Congress felt very bitter about that extravagance. Curzon’s education policy and his desire to control the University education and finally his crowning internal act, the partition of Bengal Act compelled the Congress to rise up in agitation. With this opened the second phase of the congress movement.
Calcutta the capital city of the British Government was seen as a hot-bed of politics with anti-British feelings. Curzon therefore decided to divide Bengal, to break the unity of Indians and to check the growth of nationalism. The partition of Bengal was made in such a manner that germinated the idea of communal disharmony in Bengal.
His idea to use communalism against nationalism thus was exposed. Against such design the nationalist forces led by Aurobindo Ghose had begun this agitation to undo the partition. Vande Mataram became the slogan of the people. The National Congress gave the movement a new message, the message of Swadeshi and thus the movement became famous Swadeshi Movement. Gopal Krishna Gokhale as the Congress President declared “the true Swadeshi movement as both a patriotic and an economic movement. The idea of Swadeshi or one’s own country is one of the noblest conception that had ever stirred the heart of humanity”.
The congress appealed the people to boycott the British goods. The educated Indians knew the economic evils of the British rule. The Indian markets at that time were flooded with the finished goods manufactured in England on Indian raw materials. The Swadeshi movement therefore was a challenge to the British Government. People started burning the British cloth and throwing away foreign goods. People were seduced to use home-made goods and cloth everywhere.
The idea of Swadeshi soon turned into a great political ideal. People felt inspired by the vision that their land should be their own and not of foreigner’s. Along with the Swadeshi movement there developed the idea of Swaraj or Swarajya meaning self Government. Bal Gangadhar Tilak inspired the people uttering “Swarajya is my birth right and I shall have it”. A positive idea for action thus emerged for the congress and the nationalists.
As the anti-partition and the Swadeshi movement spread the extremists decided for more extreme agitation. The extremist- leader Bipin Chandra Pal told the Congress “the car of Jagannath is the car of progress, it moves slowly but it moves surely to its own destination. Those who pull the ropes of the car calling God and “in Bande Matram will be saved those who oppose the car of progress will be crushed under its wheels. Whether it is Hindu or Mohammadan Whether it is in Bengal or in any other province.”
Like him many in the congress wanted to give the movement a militant form. Extremists under Tilak wanted to achieve their goals through struggle. The Congress as a body did not approve of these violent methods but many others believed strongly in revolutionary activities.
It was in this atmosphere the political violence appeared in India. On the other-hand the Government adopted ruthless measures to put down terrorism by all means. The extremist leaders like Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh were arrested and deported to Mandalay. In turn the extremist turned more radical. To face the challenge some extremist members wanted to elect Lajpat Rai as the President of the Congress in 1907. Moderates headed by Gokhale opposed this move.
In this situation the Congress met at Surat. In that Surat Session there took place the split among the members. The Surat split was a threat to the unity of the country yet it did not harm the Swadeshi movement. The moderates captured the Congress organisation and the extremists were forced out of it quite for some years.
In 1908 the government arrested Tilak and sentenced him for six years imprisonment and was sent to Mandalay. The British together with repressive measures also did their best to bring in Communalism to Indian politics. With their patronization some fundamentalists of Muslim community founded a new political party known as All India Muslim League on 30th December 1906 in Dacca, the capital of the newly created Muslim majority province of Eastern Bengal.
The members of the League announced their loyalty to the British Government which virtually went against the Swadeshi Movements. Thus the British introduced the policy of “divide and rule” to check the rising tide of Indian nationalism. At the same time the British in order to satisfy the congress moderates announced the famous Indian Act of 1909 or Morley Minto Reforms.
These reforms gave some political concessions like the increase of the size of the legislative councils in the province and at the centre but it introduced a dangerous principle of “separate electorate”. By that the British separated the Hindus from the Muslims in political institutions. This was a great betrayal to the fundamental principles of democracy. The congress headed by the moderate was disheartened by this Act.
The Swadeshi movement still continued. The agitation was going on against the partition. After Lord Minto the new Viceroy Lord Hardinge realised that the reforms did not satisfy the Indians and he recommended for the change of the policy in regard to the partition. The home authorities agreed to revoke the partition and at last in 1911 in the grand Durbar at Delhi the king, Emperor George V himself announced about the creation of the province of Bengal containing all the Bengali speaking people of both Eastern and Western Bengal. Bihar and Orissa was declared as a separate state in the same day.
This became a great victory for the Congress and a defeat for the British Government. The first organised movement ended in a success. The Swadeshi still continued with vigour and vitality in most parts of the country. To the youthful patriots the cause of the motherland became dearer than life. The youth generation tried their best to get the movement continued.
The youthful patriots thought of supreme sacrifice as their duty. They decided to kill the foreigners who ruled India. Terrorism became a political philosophy in India. Attempts were made at many places on the lives of Englishmen. Many Englishmen were killed. Attempt was made on the life of the viceroy Lord Minto by throwing a bomb while he was moving in an open carriage in Ahmadabad. He was narrowly escaped.
The outstanding hero of this extremist activity was Sri Arobindo Ghose. Birendra Kumar Ghose, the brother of Arobindo formed a society to collect arms and to make hectic preparation for a large scale uprising. Revolutionary activities became a regular feature of life in Bengal. Militant groups were also active in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. Indians living outside formed secret societies in England, France, Germany and United States of America to exhibit their solidarity for their motherland.
The Government took advantage of the split in the Congress and used repressive measures. By 1910 the extremist party had lost all its leaders. Tilak was arrested in 1908, Aurobindo Ghose left for Pondicherry, and a French Colony in India, Lala Lajpat-Rai and Bipin Chander Pal voyaged to foreign lands. For ten years Indian politics remained in the hands of the moderates who reverted to their pre-1905 days.
After 1910 stray incidents took place in some parts of the country. Jyotindranath Mukherjee, leader of the Bengali revolutionaries arranged to receive a shipment of arms at Balasore. The arms never arrived and “Bagha Jatin” (Jyotindranath) and his companions were betrayed. On September 9 they met a glorious death while battling a large contingent of police. The political scene in India received dramatic change during and after the start of the World War.