Read this article to learn about the split in congress, militant nationalism and Muslim league politics upto Lucknow pact, 1916.
Surat Congress: Split, 1907:
The history of the anti-Partition movement and the repressive methods followed by the British government to put it down has already been recounted.
The result was, however, contrary to what the British government had expected. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bepin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Ray, Aurovinda Ghosh and others who had been marked within the Congress as extremists were no longer prepared to continue the policy of prayer and petition to the British for the removal of the grievances of the people.
They were determined to take up a policy of active resistance to the British. In the Calcutta Congress, 1906, the difference between the extremists and the moderates, as the group opposed to the extremists was called, surfaced. The extremists demanded self-government as the ideal of the Congress.
It was due to the good offices of Dadabhai Nauroji that a compromise between the two groups was arrived at and self-government was accepted as the political ideal of the Congress. Next year in the Surat Congress (1907) the difference between the extremists and the moderates reached the breaking point and the moderates who were in the majority had their way.
The extremists went out of the Congress. But they did not accept the defeat. They began to educate the public opinion in their ideology and their journals Sandhya of Brahmabandhab Upadhyaya, Bandemataram of Bepin Chandra Pal, Nabasakti of Manoranjan Guhathakurta and Jugantar of Bhupendranath Datta began to spit fire against the British and enthuse the youth of Bengal and of India in extremist ideology.
In 1907-08 the government began to follow a policy of repression of the extremists and many of their leaders were imprisoned. Bepin Chandra Pal, Bhupendranath Datta and Brahmabandhab Upadhyaya were tried and sentenced to different terms of imprisonment; Aurovinda Ghosh was, however, acquitted.
The government prohibited anti-government meetings, imposed punitive tax on the supporters of the swadeshi movement, suppressed the journals of the extremists on one or the other pretext. The more the government followed the policy of repression the greater was the strength and intensity of anti- British movement of the Bengali youth. Driven to desperation due to the ruthless policy of repression by the British, the Bengali youth took to the ways of militancy.
Militant nationalism had originated in India even before the foundation of the. Indian National Congress. It was based on respect for the ancient religion, history and culture of India, economic regeneration of India and independence from the British rule. The militant nationalism had developed particularly in Bengal, Maharashtra, and Punjab.
Militant nationalism began with Wasudeo Balwant Phadke. In 1976-77 there was a wide-spread famine in Western India, The untold sufferings of the famine-striken people convinced Phadke that the real reason for the sufferings of the Indians was dependence on the British. Phadke, naturally vowed to put an end to the British rule. For meeting the expenses of his movement he began political dacoity and organised an armed troop of a hundred followers.
His plans and activities became known to the British and he was arrested. He was tried and sentenced to transportation for life. Phadke hated to remain imprisoned within the British jail; he gave up taking food and starved himself to death. His soul freed from the British prison became immortal as the first martyr in armed struggle against the British. At that time a number of secret societies in imitation of Italian Carbonari had come up in different parts of Maharashtra.
For the next few years there was no activity worth mentioning tout in 1893 again we come across expression of militant nationalism in Maharashtra. Bal Gangadhar Tilak transformed the Ganapati Utsab into a political celebration. Processions and fairs were organised and speeches stressing the need for patriotism, discipline, physical strength etc. were made.
A deep sense of nationalism swept all over Maharashtra. Tilak’s Shivaji Utsav had contributed even in a larger measure to the development of nationalism among the people of Maharashtra. In 1895 Tilak in his journal Kesari recounted the life story and heroism of Shivaji and paid homage to that great son of Maharashtra.
He got the memorial built on the ashes of Shivaji repaired and revived the respect for the great hero among the people of Maharashtra. In the Shivaji Utsav celebrated few the first time in 1895, Tilak showed by elaborate arguments the justification of Shivaji’s killing of Aezal Khan and defended such killings for the sake of the country. He upheld Shivaji as the symbol of self government and independence. To the people of Maharashtra Tilak made Shivaji and Swaraj synonymous.
When by the efforts of Tilak there was an upsurge of national feeling among the people of Maharashtra, there was an outbreak of plague in Poona. The government employed military to check from door to door if there was any case of plague. In the name of checking if there were cases of plague the military people entered the interior of private residences and misbehaved with the women Two brothers Balkrishna Chapekar and Damodar Chapekar took revenge of this insulting behaviour towards the wives and daughters of the people of Poona by killing the Collector of Poona Mr. Rand and Lieutenant Ayerst. Mr. Rand the Collector of Poona was the President of the Committee for the prevention of plague and it was under his orders that the military was employed to check from door to door if there were cases of plague not reported to the authorities. The Chapeikar brothers were tried and hanged (1898).
In the meantime Shivaji Utsav was being celebrated from year to year. In 1897 the day following the day on which Shivaji Utsav was celebrated Mr. Rand and Lt. Ayerst were killed. For this, the leader of the Shivaji Utsav, Tilak was held responsible, He was arrested, tried and imprisoned for eighteen months.
The Chapekar brothers after having killed Mr. Rand and Lt. Ayerst made good their escape and it was Dravid brothers who informed the police of the whereabouts of the Chapekar brothers and earned a big amount as reward. The third of the Chapekar brothers named Basudev Chapekar took revenge against the Dravid brothers by killing them in 1899.
Western India was also not lagging behind in militant nationalism. Thaikur Sahib, a Rajput of noble extraction gave the leadership of militant nationalism in western India by establishing a secret society, Aurovinda, then Vice-Principal of Baroda College came into touch with Thakur Sahib and was converted to his opinion of driving the British out of India by direct confrontation.
In 1900 V.D. Sarvarkar established a society named Mitra Mela in Nasik. He taught the members of the Mitra Mela to try to wrest Indian independence from the hands of the British by armed resistance. In 1904 the name of Mitra Mela was changed to Abhinaba Bharat. This name was an imitation of the name Young Italy given to his society by Joseph Mazzini, the leader of the Italian national independence and unity.
In Central province a revolutionary association was established under the name Aryabandhab Samaj the purpose of which was to form an army of a large number of fighters divided into small groups and to seize power from the British by force in an opportune moment, loiter on, however, nothing was known of this association.
The most fertile field of revolutionary activities was Bengal where a revolutionary society was established in the name of Anuisilan. Samiti under the leadership of Barrister P. Mitra. In the meantime Aurovinda Ghosh while serving as the Vice Principal of Baroda
College came into touch with a revolutionary named Thakur Sahib, and was imbued with revolutionary idealism. He was influenced by the Bhawani Mandir and Santan Dal concept of Baikimchandra’s Anandamath. He dreamed of establishing a secret revolutionary society on the model of Anandamath in order to turn the nationalist movement of Bengal into the way of revolution. For this purpose he got Jatindranath Banerjee enrolled into the Baroda army and after full military training Jatindranath resigned from the military service. He was sent to Calcutta to establish a secret revolutionary society. But Jatindranath’s secret society was ultimately amalgamated with Anusilan Samity.
The Anusilan Samiti ostensibly kept itself busy in lathi play, wrestling, parades etc. for purposes of physical exercise, but behind this screen training in revolutionary activities, discipline, courage and mental preparedness for revolutionary action was being imparted. Jatindranath Banerjee was not very much successful in organising any strong revolutionary society. Aurovinda, therefore, sent his brother Barindra Kumar Ghosh to Calcutta. Barindra Kumar joined the Anusilan Samiti and under his guidance the Samiti was growing from strength to strength. Aurovinda used to keep in touch with the Anusilan Samiti and meet its expenses.
The Samiti also received great financial help from C. R. Das. Gradually the Anusilan Samiti spread its branches in different parts of Bengal and in order to coordinate the work of the different branches Aurovinda himself went to different parts of Bengal. In 1905 in the wake of the anti-Partition movement militant nationalism acquired more strength. When in 1906 Aurovinda joined the National College in Calcutta as its Principal, he got directly connected with the activities of the Anusilan Samiti and militant or revolutionary nationalism in Bengal became a great force. Militant nationalism gradually took the shape of revolutionary terrorism.
When Lord Curzon made the Bengal Partition effective disregarding the opinion of the Bengalees, the preparation for revolutionary terrorism went on in full swing. Tilak, Lajpat Ray, Aurovinda, Bepin Pal and other leaders of the time by their fiery speeches in directly encouraged revolutionary terrorism in different parts of the country.
The anti-Partition movement in its spontaneity and vastness unnerved the British government. They tried to suppress the movement by all their might. The participation of the youth and the student community added a new dimension to the movement and the British government took steps to prevent the participation of the youth and the students by declaring picketing of shops, selling British made goods, attending political meeting and even shouting Bandemataram as punishable offence.
The youth and the student community of Bengal braved all consequences of disobeying the government order. They plunged headlong into the anti-Partition, i.e., boycott and swadeshi movement. It was at this point of time (1906) the leaders of Bengal who went to Barisal to attend the Provincial Conference were roundly beaten up by the Police. This measure of repression by the British created a deep resentment among the Bengalees and generated a feeling of revenge among them.
In Calcutta in the meantime the Presidency Magistrate Kingsford was systematically awarding disproportionately heavy punishment to the persons who took part in the Swadeshi movement. All this, all the more increased the motive of revenge among the revolutionaries. At that time a young boy named Sushil shouted Bandemataram in the Court premises of Kingsford.
The latter gave him a severe sentence of fifteen stripes for the offence. Considering the age of Sushil fifteen stripes was an extraordinarily severe punishment. The revolutionaries could no longer remain passive spectators to the British brutalities. They decided to kill Kingsford. In the meantime the Anusilan Samiti had shifted from Jugantar office to a garden house at Muraripukur. The revolutionaries of Bengal kept themselves in touch with Muraripukur garden house which was now the centre of work of the Anusilan Samiti. Rashbehari Basu, Raifculal Datta, Jatindra Mukherjee (Bagha Jatin) and many other revolutionaries were members of the secret Samiti at Muraripukur. In Dacca and Midnapore the Anusilan Samiti had two very strong branches. The Dacca branch was under the leadership of Pulin Behari Das.
The plan for killing Kingsford did not remain unknown to the intelligence branch and in order to save Kingsford’s life from the revolutionaries, he was transferred to Muzaffarpore. But this did not alter the plan of-the revolutionaries. They decided to kill him in Muzaffarpore. Kshudiram Basu and Prafulla Chaki were chosen to accomplish the job of killing Kingsford.
They were sent to Muzaffarpore with pistol and bombs. But through mistake they threw the bombs on the carriage in which the wife and daughter of Barrister Kennedy were going taking it to be the carriage of Kingsford. Both Mrs Kennedy and her daughter died. While escaping from Muzaffarpore Prafulla Chriki was arrested at Mokama station but he shot himself dead. Kshudiram was arrested, tried and sentenced to death by hanging (1908). Kshudiram was only 19 at that time.
His unruffled conduct, courage, patriotism, etc. at the time of his trial earned universal admiration. Kshudiram has ever since been enshrined in the heart of hearts of the people and given the honour of a martyr in the cause of the country. Many folk songs were composed and sung all over Bengal which proved that the Bengalees of the time endorsed the ways of the revolutionary terrorism. Although the cruelty of killing individual English men was realised by the people, yet it was supported by them as a symbol of protest against the inhuman repression of the unarmed Indians by the British.
In the same year (1808) in the Manicktala area of Calcutta a secret den for manufacturing bombs was discovered. As many as 47 revolutionaries including Aurovinda Ghosh were arrested. Besides Aurovinda, Barindra Kumar Ghosh, Ullashkar Datta, Kanailal, Narendra Gossain, Satyendranath Basu were accused in the case. They were tried in a court at Alipore. C. R. Das defended Aurovinda and ultimately he was acquitted. Narendra Gossain become approver. Kanai and Satyen killed him within Alipore jail for which both of them were hanged.
By killing Naren, Kanai and Satyen proved that betrayers had no place among the revolutionaries dedicated to the cause of the country. Barindra Kumar Ghosh and Ullashkar Datta were sentenced to transportation for life. But all this did not put an end to the revolutionary terrorism. Attempt on the life of Andrew Fraser, killing of Sub-Inspector of Police Nandalal Banerjee and of the government pleader Asutosh Biswas (1909) were the revolutionary terrorist activities.
It has already been seen that barring a section of patriotic Muslims of high families, the Muslim community, by and large, kept aloof from the anti-Partition movement, that is, the Swadeshi movement. On the contrary they met in a conference at Dacca and adopted a resolution supporting Partition.
In 1906 (Oct. 6) Aga Khan met Viceroy Lord Minto and demanded separate electorate for the Muslims. Minto assured Agha Khan of sympathetic consideration of this demand. Encouraged by this initial success Salim Ullah, the Nawab of Dacca founded an exclusively Muslim political organisation named Muslim League. The main purpose of the Muslim League was to obtain political and other concessions from the British by unquestioned obedience and loyalty to them. This naturally gave a handle to the British to divide the people of India politically on the basis of communalism. In the language of Lord Morley the Muslim League grew up as an anti-Congress organisation.
Aga Khan demanded separate electorate for the Muslims for he and many other Muslim leaders felt that if right to vote was given on the basis of education or ownership of property, the Muslims would not be able to cope with the Hindus. It was in this way that the seeds of communalism were sown in Indian politics.
The immediate result was the Hindu-Muslim clashes in different parts of the country in 1907. However, due to the intensity of the Congress movement and the terror created among the British officers by the revolutionary activists the British government felt compelled to introduce Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909. The Morely-Minto reforms only touched the fringe of the Congress demands and naturally did not satisfy the people of India, whose discontent continued. During the First World War the demand for reforms was more forcefully voiced. In 1916 the extremists re-joined the Congress which they had left in 1907.
The entry of the extremists into the Congress made them stronger than the moderates and henceforward they dominated the Congress. In 1916 two separate organisations of the same name Home Rule League were set up by Tilak and Annie Besant who worked in mutual collaboration.
In the same year (1916) Congress and the Muslim League entered into a pact, named Lucknow Pact and they submitted a joint petition of demands for:
(i) Taking in majority members of the Legislative Councils through election,
(ii) Extension of the power of the Legislative Assemblies,
(iii) Taking in of Indians to at least 50% of the seats in Viceroy’s Executive Council. Simultaneously the Home Rule movement had also acquired a great force. Motilal Nehru, Chitta Ranjan Das etc. supported the Home Rule movement.
The unity of the Congress arid the Muslim League naturally came as a shock and a surprise to the British. They now realized that something had to be done in order that the situation might not go out of hands. In 1917, the Secretary of State for India Mr. Edwin Montagu made the famous announcement in the House of Commons (August 20), that “the policy of His Majesty’s Government with which the Government of India are in complete accord, is that of increasing association of Indians in every branch of the administration and the gradual development of self-governing institutions with a view to the progressive realization of responsible government in India as an integral part of the British Empire”. The result was the reforms Act of 1919.