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The Indian National Movement [1905 AD - 1914 AD]


The major drawback of the early nationalists was that the movement was confined to educated Indians and the middle class and was concentrated in the Presidencies. The method of functioning was within the law and slow. The Indian leaders gradually became disillusioned with the British Government and the new leaders began to assert for the attainment of Swaraj, which could be achieved only by working among the masses and their participation in political affairs. They used popular festivals like Ganesh Utsav in Maharashtra, to spread the new awakening. They also used political agitations like Hartal and boycott of foreign goods.

The prominent leaders, called extremists, were Lala Lajpat Rai (1865-1928), from Punjab, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak (1856-1920) from Maharashtra, Bipin Chandra Pal from Bengal. They together formed the famous trio, Lal-Bal-Pal, whose activities were a source of alarm for the British. Tilak raised the famous slogan Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it and his paper Kesari in Marathi and Maratha in English became the mouthpiece of the new group of nationalists.

On 16th October 1905, Bengal was partitioned by Curzon on the pretext of it being too big to administer. Instead of dividing it on the basis of non Bengali areas, the division was on the basis of Hindus and Muslims. Britishers thought that by partitioning, they would succeed in dividing Hindu politicians of west and east Bengal and increase Hindu - Muslim tensions. The tremor of partition was felt throughout India and was regarded as an insult and challenge to Indian Nationalism. A movement was launched under the moderates. Militant and Revolutionary leadership took over in the later stages. New method of protests Swadeshi and Swaraj became the slogan of the common man and the whole of India was drawn into the National movement.

Swadeshi which means of ones own country implied that people should use only the goods produced in India and boycott foreign goods. Swaraj on the other hand meant Self-Government. In 1915-16 under the leadership of Tilak, Annie Besent and Subramaniya Iyer the Home Rule League was started. This demanded the grant of self-government to India after the war. The growing nationalist feeling and the urge for national unity produced two historic developments at the Lucknow session of the Indian National Congress in 1916. Firstly the two wings of Congress - Moderate and Extremist, were re-united. Secondly the Muslim League sank their old differences and put up common political demands before the government on the condition of separate electorates. This unity popularly known as Lucknow Pact, based on the two separate entities of Hindus and Muslims, left the way open to the future resurgence of communalism in Indian Politics.

After World War I, the Britishers came with some reforms. Indian Nationalism was, however, not appeased. It had advanced far beyond such halting concessions. It was in fact, to enter its last and most vigorous phase - The Gandhian Era.