The Swadeshi and Boycott Movement

The initiation of the Swadeshi and Boycott movement was a reaction to the Partition of Bengal, Which came into public view in 1903. It was formally announced in July 1905 and came into force in October 1905. So it was initiated as an anti-partition movement to oppose the British government to partition Bengal.

The main motive for the partition of Bengal

The main motives/reasons for the partition of Bengal were as follows:

  • The motive behind the partition was to make Bengal weaker.
  • The Bengal was the center of the Indian Nationalist activities, so the British government wanted to stop it.
  • The reason was given by the Government that ‘Bengal had become too big to administer’ as the population of Bengal was 78 million.
  • Bengal was divided into two administrations –
    • Based on Langage– Bengali, Hindi, and Oriya Speakers.
    • Based on religion– the western half -is the Hindu majority area and the Eastern half Muslim majority area.

The Anti-partition movement Under Moderates – (1903-05) 

  • the Anti-partition movement in the period 1903- 1905  was under Surendranath Banerjea, K.K. Mitra, and Prithwishchandra Ray.
  • The Methods used in it were public meetings, petitions, memoranda, and propaganda through newspapers and pamphlets.
  • They began to boycott Foreign goods in the initiative phase.
  • On August 7, 1905, a massive meeting was held in the Calcutta town hall, and the formal proclamation of the Swadeshi movement was made.
  • 16 October 1905 the day of the Bengal partition was observed as a Mourning day throughout Bengal. Bande Mataram became the theme song of the movement, and people sang Amar Sonar Bangla composed by Rabindra Nath Tagore during the movement. People tied Rakhi on Each other hands as a symbol of unity.

The movement under Extremists (1905-08)

After the failure of the movement under moderates,  Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lajpat Rai, and Aurobindo Ghosh led the movement after 1905. They acquired methods included boycott of foreign cloth and other goods, public meetings and processions, forming corps of volunteers or Samiti, use of traditional popular festivals and Melas for their propaganda, emphasis on self-reliance or Atma Shakti, launching a program of swadeshi or national education, swadeshi or indigenous enterprises, initiating new trends in Indian painting, songs, poetry, pioneering research in science and after the boycott of schools, colleges, councils, government service, etc

  • After the failure of the Moderates, Extremists took over to achieve positive results, the divisive tactics of governments of both Bengals, and severe government repression.
  • Mass participation in the movement—students, women, certain sections of zamindari, labor, and some lower-middle, and middle classes in towns and cities participated for the first time while the Muslims were kept away.
  • They tried to transform the anti-partition and Swadeshi Movement into a mass struggle and gave the slogan of India’s independence from foreign rule. Aurobindo declared “Political freedom is the life breath of a nation,”.
  • At the Calcutta session (1906) self-government or Swaraj was the main goal of the Congress by Dadabhai Naoroji.
  • It was decided to cancel the partition of Bengal in 1911 mainly to check the peril of revolutionary terrorism.

Reason for failure of Swadeshi Movement – 1908

By 1908, the open phase of the Swadeshi and Boycott movement was almost over. The main reasons for the failure of the Swadeshi movement were as follows:

  • Lack of effective organization and a disciplined focus.
  • Huge government repression.
  • Many leaders were arrested and deported, the movement became leaderless.
  • The internal dispute among leaders resulted from the Surat split (1907), which did much harm to the movement.
  • The movement largely contributed to the upper and middle classes and zamindars and out of masses like peasants.

Achievements of movements

It can’t be denied that the movement had a significant role in and achievements. The significance of the movement is as follows:

  • Proved “A leap forward” because as yet untouched sections participated
  • significant trends of later movement emerged the richness of the movement extended even to culture, science, and literature.
  • People educated in the new bolder form of politics,
  • Colonial organization undermined,
  • People gained experience for future struggles.

Surat split ( Moderate-Extremist Split at Surat)-1907

In December 1907, congress split at Surat. The main causes of the split were –

  • The Moderates wanted the Boycott Movement to restrict to Bengal and to a boycott of foreign cloth and liquor.
  • The Extremists wanted the movement to take all parts of the country and include within its range all forms of association with the government through a boycott of schools, colleges, law courts, legislative councils, government services, municipalities, etc.

Acts of Government for Repression of Swadeshi Movement

The government launched a massive attack on Extremists, between 1907 and 1911, five new laws came into force to check anti-government activities-

  • Seditious Meetings Act (1907)
  • Criminal Law (Amendment) Act (1908)
  • Indian Newspapers (Incitement to Offences) Act (1908)
  • Explosive Substances Act (1908)
  • Indian Press Act (1910)

The Morley-Minto Reforms – 1909

The viceroy, Lord Minto, and the Secretary of State for India, John Morley agreed to some reforms to make the Moderates as well as the Muslims. They worked out a set of measures that came to be known as the Morley-Minto (or Minto-Morley) Reforms that translated into the Indian Councils Act of 1909.

  • The number of elected members in Imperial and Provincial Legislative Councils increased—elected non-officials are still in the minority.
  • Non-officials were to be elected indirectly—thus elections were introduced for the first time
  • First-time separate electorates were introduced for Muslims.
  • Legislatures could pass resolutions, ask questions and supplementary, and vote on separate items of the budget.
  •  One Indian to be on the viceroy’s executive council. Mr. Satyendra Sinha was the first Indian appointed in 1909
  • Aimed at dividing the nationalist ranks and at rallying the Moderates and the Muslims to the government’s side.
  • No responsibility was entrusted to legislators—this resulted in thought-less criticism sometimes.
  • The system of election was not direct.

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