Leadership of Bal-Lal-Pal
The leadership of Bal, Lal and Pal was the most potent factor which made for the rise of extreme nationalism. Bal Gangadhar tilak, the first in the trio, was a staunch patriot. He was also an inveterate foe of the alien bureaucracy. He used to say that ‘a good foreign government was less desirable than an inferior native government’. He sincerely held that the policy of mendicancy followed by the Congress would not lead to the desired goal, and that the Indians must rely on their own strength and assert their inalienable rights even at the risk of great sufferings and sacrifices.
Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chander Pal who rallied round Tilak as his leading lieutenants also worked for the spread of extremism. They raised the flag of revolt against the mendicant policy of the Congress and preached the doctrine of self-help. Their writings and speeches put a new confidence and self-assertiveness among the Indians and taught them to shape their own destiny without caring for the frowns or smiles of the alien rulers. In a series of articles published in ‘New India’ Bipin Chander Pal attacked the moderate methods and urged for the adoption of militant policy. Lala Lajpat Rai also inspired the Punjabis with a new national spirit and made them bold, brave and patriotic.
Liberation movements in Asia: Extremism in India derived inspiration also from the great liberation movements in Europe and Asia. The younger nationalists watched and studied with interest the national movements in Italy, Egypt Russia, Persia and Turky. They felt inspired with new ideas and aspirations. The defeat of Italy by Abyssinia in 1896 gave a message of hope and confidence to them. But the event which considerably revolutionized their minds was the resounding victory of Japan over Russia, of dwarf over giant, of East over West. It shattered the old-time belief in the invulnerability of western might. It symbolized the regeneration of the East. It gave a new hope to the people of India in their struggle for freedom. The greatness of Japan was attributed to her patriotism and nationalism and her freedom from foreign exploitation. All this, naturally, made the Indians feel that their country, which had more glorious and more ancient past, could also become a great nation, if only she could develop the sense of patriotism and spirit of sacrifice among her people. The victory of Japan thus gave a great stimulus to the national feelings and created a spirit of emulation in the breasts of every Indian patriot.
Reactionary regime of Lord Curzon (1898-1905): The reactionary regime of Lord Curzon (1898-1905) also gave a fillip to the prevailing unrest in the country. Under the pretext of efficiency in the administration, the Governor General trampled upon the feelings of the Indians and thereby called forth all the infamous steps such as the Calcutta Corporation Act (1899) and the Indian Universities Act (1904) which destroyed the autonomy of the institutions. But the crowning act of his folly was the Partition of Bengal in the teeth of an angry and unanimous opposition. This administrative measure created great discontent and provoked protest all over India. His imperious nature, autocratic temperament and provocative speeches also infuriated the Indian people. All this, in consequence, intensified the anti-British feelings among Indians and thereby helped the growth of extreme nationalism.
Partition of Bengal, 1905: The partition of Bengal, carried out by Curzon in a most high handed manner, made a special contribution to the growth of extremism. It fanned the smouldering fire into flames. As soon as the scheme of partition in its final form was announced, there was an outburst of public indignation in the whole province. To the people of Bengal it appeared that this partition was a subtle attempt to break up the political unity of the province, to play off Hindus against Muslims and thus disrupt the spirit of nationalism. They also felt that they had been insulted, humiliated and tricked. The Bengali-owned newspapers – both English and Bengali, made a raging campaign against it. A huge protest meeting was held in the Calcutta Town Hall on August 7, 1905 and boycott was adopted as a political weapon to bring pressure upon the Government. This movement spread like wild fire throughout the country. Mass meetings were held in every important town where Boycott and Swadeshi movements were openly preached. The 16th of October, the day of the partition, was observed as a day of national mourning. This wide-spread and unprecedented agitation was nothing but the emergence of extreme nationalism. The people of India, represented as they were in the Indian National Congress, viewed the partition as an attempt to ‘divide and rule’ and as a proof of the government’s vindictive attitude to curb nationalism, something for which the province of Bengal was known for. ‘Bande-Matarm’ became almost the national anthem of the Indian National Congress. Kali was accepted as a symbol of motherland.
Owing to the nation-wide anti-partition agitation, the partition was revocated Thus, by the early years of the 20th century, the ground was prepared for a split in the Indian National Congress. The split process began in 1905 when a section of neo-nationalists led by B.G. Tilak bitterly denounced the moderates’ policy of mendicancy and advocated passive resistance as an effective means of protest against the British Government. In addition, boycott of foreign goods and of the British educational institutions was also proposed – all these at the Benaras session of the Congress (1905). The debate went on in Benaras, the moderates considering passive resistance as something impracticable. The two sections differed on the concept of “Swaraj” also. While the moderates meant by ‘Swaraj’ as ‘self government’, the extremist-nationalists thought of it as ‘full autonomy.’ With the Congress’s Benaras session coming to an end, Tilak, with his colleagues, formed the Extremist Party in 1905 , though while remaining in the Congress, but with a distinct programme of its own.
The formation of the All-India Muslim League in 1906 at the behest of the British rulers was a notable development on the Indian political scene whose leaders had approved the 1905-partition plan. The Calcutta session of the Congress (1906) saved the party from being divided, thanks to the efforts of the 82-years Dadabhai Naoroji who, as the session’s President, adopted the extremists’ resolution on boycott, swadeshi, passive resistance, and national education. The split in the Congress was not far away.
The split that had been averted in 1906 manifested itself with redoubled force in the Surat session of 1907, called the Surat Split. There was again a trial of strength over the election of the President. The Extremists suggested that Lajpat Rai, who had just been released after deportation, should be elected President to mark the country’s indignation and protest against the unfair treatment accorded to him by the Government. He was, however, not acceptable to the moderates who recommended Dr. Rash Behari Ghosh for the post. The situation was saved by the patriotic action of Lajpat Rai who declined to be a mere pawn in a political game. After the moderates had succeeded in getting their own person elected as the President of the session, they attempted to repudiate the resolutions on Boycott. Swadeshi and National Education, which had been adopted in 1906. This led to the unhappy developments in the session and it broke up amidst scenes of disorder. After the break up of the Congress session in 1907, the moderate Convention decided to have no connection with the Extremists, and the Constitution adopted in the Congress session held at Madras in 1908 barred the doors of the Congress for the Extremist Party.
The national movement, during the period between 1906 and till Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) took the leadership of the Congress passed through numerous stages. The study of such stages needs to be done for a clear understanding of our liberation struggle. The Congress, atleast one shade and that of the moderates, followed the constitutional-peaceful methods within the framework of attaining democratic form of government as a part of the British Empire. Its another shade, the extremists like Tilak, Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal, sought ‘swaraj’ to be attained through the relatively harsher methods of swadeshi, passive resistance. The third, though not as a part of the Congress, oftenly described as the revolutionaries and the radicals, wanted to oust the Britishers through means usually violent. As the Indian national movement moved on its course, the coming of the world war’s (1914-1918) brought forth newer situations facing our movement of adjusting itself accordingly.
The Congress dominated by the moderates sections, following the 1906 years, lost its popularity in the public eyes. The Congress session, during the first five years, had a couple of hundreds delegates: on two occasions, the attendance was as low as 243 and 207. The 1910-Allahabad session (President, William Wedderburn), the 1911- Calcutta session (President, Bishan Narayan Dar), the 1912-Bankipur session (President, Ranganth Mudholkar) had passed without much of work. The 1907-Surat and the 1908-Madras (Rashbehari Ghosh as the President) sessions welcomed the coming Morley-Minto reforms, demanded the reversal of the partition of Bengal. The 1913-Karachi Session (President, Nawab Syed Muhammed) passed a resolution of joint action for attaining self-government. The 1914-Madras session (President, Bhupendranath Basu) welcomed Annie Besant joining the Congress and lauded her efforts to persuade the extremist-nationalists to return to the Congress fold.
The 1915- Bombay session (President, Satyndra Prasanna Sinha) adopted the autonomy plan with regard to self-government and appealed to the Muslim League to join hands with the Congress to prepare a common scheme. The 1916-Lucknow session (President, Ambika Charan Mazoomdar welcomed the extremists back in the Congress, and also adopted the Hindu-Muslim Concordat (better known as the Lucknow Pact). The 1917-Calcutta session (President, Annie Besant) appreciated Annie Besant’s efforts for launching the Home Rule Movement. The 1918-Bombay special session (President, Syed Hassan Imam) discussed the coming Mont-ford reforms (The Government of India Act, 1919) and expressed its disappointment. The 1918-Delhi (President, Madan Mohan Malaviya) passed a resolution hoping that India’s right to self-determination would be recognized while disapproving the Rowlatt bills. The 1919-Amritsar session (President, Motilal Nehru), held in the backdrop of Jallianwala Bagh tragedy, sought the attainment of the responsible government in India.