Chapter- 12 : Rise of Militant Nationalism (1905–1909)

Modern History Notes 

Arora IAS Class Notes

Growth of Militant Nationalism:

  • Emergence of a radical trend in the 1890s, solidifying by 1905.
  • Concurrent rise of a revolutionary wing within the movement.

Factors Contributing to Militant Nationalism:

  1. Recognition of British Rule’s True Nature:
    • Disillusionment with British government’s reluctance to address Indian demands.
    • Growing belief in the capacity of an Indian government to lead the nation towards progress.
    • Economic hardships of the 1890s exposed exploitative colonial rule.
  2. Series of Repressive Measures by British Authorities:
    • Criticism of Indian Councils Act (1892).
    • Deportation of Natu brothers (1897) and imprisonment of Tilak and others on sedition charges.
    • Amplification of repressive laws under IPC Sections 124A and 156A.
    • Reduction of Indian members in Calcutta Corporation (1899).
    • Enactment of Official Secrets Act (1904) and Indian Universities Act.
  3. Deteriorating Social and Cultural Conditions:
    • Suppression of education and cultural identity under British rule.
    • New leadership expressed Indian intellectual and moral inspiration.
    • Intellectuals like Swami Vivekananda, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, and Swami Dayananda Saraswati played influential roles.
  4. Discontent with Achievements of Moderates:
    • Dissatisfaction with moderate methods of peaceful and constitutional agitation.
    • Critique of “Three ‘P’s”—prayer, petition, and protest—as political mendicancy.
  5. Reactionary Policies of Lord Curzon:
    • Curzon’s disdainful attitude towards Indian nationalism.
    • Imposition of administrative measures like the Official Secrets Act and Indian Universities Act.
    • Controversial partition of Bengal in 1905, seen as a deliberate attempt to divide and rule.

Emergence of Militant School of Thought:

  • A band of nationalist thinkers advocating a more militant approach to political work.
  • Key figures included Raj Narain Bose, Aurobindo Ghosh, Bipin Chandra Pal, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Lala Lajpat Rai.
  • Tilak emerged as a prominent representative, emphasizing self-rule (swaraj) and direct political action.

Basic Tenets of Militant Nationalism:

  • Hatred for foreign rule and the belief in Indians’ ability to achieve self-rule.
  • Swaraj (self-rule) as the ultimate goal of the national movement.
  • Advocacy for direct political action and mass mobilization.
  • Emphasis on personal sacrifices for the nationalist cause.

Emergence of a Trained Leadership:

  • New leadership capable of channelizing mass energy towards political struggle.
  • The movement against the partition of Bengal (1905) provided an outlet for mass participation, particularly through the Swadeshi agitation.

Impact and Legacy:

  • Militant nationalism marked a shift towards more aggressive tactics in the Indian freedom struggle.
  • The period witnessed increased mass mobilization and political consciousness among Indians.
  • Events like the Swadeshi movement and the rise of leaders like Tilak contributed to the growth of nationalist sentiment.
  • The era laid the groundwork for future revolutionary movements and the eventual attainment of Indian independence.


The Swadeshi and Boycott Movement

British Motive for Partitioning Bengal (December 1903):

  • Divide and weaken Bengal, the center of Indian nationalism.
  • Achieve this by:
    • Splitting Bengalis based on language: (i) reducing Bengalis to a minority in Bengal (new Bengal with 17 million Bengalis vs 37 million Hindi/Oriya speakers).
    • Splitting Bengalis based on religion: (i) creating a Hindu-majority western Bengal (42 million Hindus out of 54 million) and a Muslim-majority eastern Bengal (18 million Muslims out of 31 million).
  • Appease Muslims with a new capital (Dacca) to counter the Congress and Indian nationalism.

Anti-Partition Campaign (1903-1905):

  • Leaders: Surendranath Banerjea, K.K. Mitra, Prithwishchandra Ray.
  • Methods: Petitions, public meetings, memoranda, pamphlets, newspapers (Hitabadi, Sanjibani, Bengalee).
  • Goal: Pressure the government to stop the partition through public opinion in India and England.

Swadeshi Movement Launched (August 7, 1905):

  • Public meetings erupt in protest after partition announcement (July 1905).
  • Boycott of foreign goods pledged in these meetings.
  • Formal proclamation at Calcutta Townhall with passage of Boycott Resolution.
  • Leaders spread message to boycott Manchester cloth and Liverpool salt.

Day of Mourning (October 16, 1905):

  • Observed throughout Bengal on the day partition takes effect.
  • Activities: Fasting, bathing in Ganges, processions singing Vande Mataram.
  • Rabindranath Tagore composes “Amar Sonar Bangla” (national anthem of Bangladesh).
  • People tie rakhis to symbolize unity.
  • Large gatherings raise ₹50,000 for the movement.

Spread of the Movement:

  • Poona and Bombay: Led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
  • Punjab: Led by Lala Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh.
  • Delhi: Led by Syed Haider Raza.
  • Madras: Led by Chidambaram Pillai.


The Congress Position

  • 1905 Congress Meeting (Gokhale President):
    • Condemned partition and Curzon’s policies.
    • Supported Bengal’s anti-partition and Swadeshi Movement.
  • Militant Nationalists (Tilak, Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal, Aurobindo Ghosh):
    • Wanted movement nationwide and focused on Swaraj (self-rule).
  • Moderate-Extremist Dispute:
    • Moderates unwilling to go as far as radicals.
    • Disagreement over movement’s pace and methods.
  • 1906 Congress Meeting (Dadabhai Naoroji President):
    • Goal declared as “self-government or Swaraj.”
  • 1907 Surat Congress Session:
    • Deadlock between Moderates and Extremists.
    • Party split, impacting the Swadeshi Movement.


The Movement under Extremist Leadership

Rise of Extremism (After 1905):

  • Moderates’ limited success and government repression fueled shift.

Extremist Program:

  • Dadabhai Naoroji’s 1906 declaration of Swaraj as the goal emboldened them.
  • Called for passive resistance beyond Swadeshi and boycott:
    • Boycott government schools/colleges, services, courts, etc.
  • Goal: Make British administration “impossible” (Aurobindo Ghosh).
  • Transformed movement into a mass struggle for Indian independence.

New Forms of Struggle and Impact:

  • Boycott of Foreign Goods:
    • Included public burning, refusing rituals with foreign goods, etc.
    • Achieved great success at the popular level.
  • Public Meetings and Processions:
    • Major methods of mass mobilization and expression.
  • Corps of Volunteers or ‘Samitis’:
    • Groups like Swadesh Bandhab Samiti mobilized masses.
    • Provided training, social work, and education.
  • Traditional Festivals and Melas:
    • Used to spread political messages, like Tilak’s Ganapati festivals.
  • Emphasis on Self-Reliance (“Atma Shakti”):
    • Rebuilding national dignity and social/economic regeneration.
    • Included social reforms against caste oppression, etc.
  • National Education Program:
    • Boycott of British institutions led to founding national schools.
      • Bengal National College and Bengal Technical Institute established.
      • Aurobindo Ghosh as first principal of Bengal National College.
      • National Council of Education set up for a national education system.
    • Satishchandra Mukherjee’s Dawn Society and Bhagabat Chatuspathi promoted self-help in education.
  • Swadeshi Enterprises:
    • Established textile mills, soap factories, etc., driven by patriotism.
    • O. Chidambaram Pillai’s Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company challenged British dominance.
    • Earlier efforts included melas (fairs) exhibiting Indian handicrafts.
      • Rabindranath Tagore’s Swadeshi Bhandar (1897) and others.
  • Bengal Chemicals factory (1893) and porcelain attempts (1901).

Impact in the Cultural Sphere:

  • Nationalist Songs:
    • Inspired by Rabindranath Tagore, Rajnikant Sen, and others.
    • Tagore’s “Amar Sonar Bangla” became Bangladesh’s national anthem.
    • Subramania Bharati’s “Sudesha Geetham” in Tamil Nadu.
  • Painting:
    • Abanindranath Tagore’s shift to Indian art styles.
    • Nandalal Bose, a prominent Indian artist.
  • Science:
    • Pioneering research by Jagdish Chandra Bose and Prafullachandra Roy.
  • Literature:
    • “Desher Katha” by Sakharam Ganesh Deuskar inspired activists.
    • Promoted swadeshi ideas and criticized colonial rule.
    • Became a source for street plays, folk songs, and required reading for activists.


Extent of Mass Participation


  • Active participants in Bengal, Maharashtra (Pune), South India (Guntur, Madras, Salem).
  • Organized picketing of shops selling foreign goods.
  • Faced repression: disaffiliation of schools, scholarship loss, disciplinary action.


  • Traditionally homebound, but urban middle class women actively participated.
  • Joined processions and picketing.
  • Significant role in the national movement from then on.


  • Limited participation: Barrister Abdul Rasul, Liaqat Hussain, Guznavi, Maulana Azad.
  • Most upper and middle class Muslims stayed away or supported partition (Nawab Salimullah).
  • Reasons for limited participation:
    • All-India Muslim League propped up by British government as an anti-Congress front.
    • Movement leaders evoked Hindu festivals and goddesses.

Labour Unrest and Trade Unions:

  • Initial strikes: rising prices, racial insults (foreign-owned companies).
  • Examples:
    • September 1905: Bengali clerks’ strike at Burn Company (Howrah).
    • July 1906: East Indian Railway workers’ strike led to union formation.
    • 1906-1908: frequent jute mill strikes.
    • Strikes in Tuticorin, Tirunelveli (Subramania Siva, Chidambaram Pillai).
    • Rawalpindi: arsenal and railway workers’ strike (Lala Lajpat Rai, Ajit Singh).
  • Decline by 1908 due to strict government action.

Overall Impact:

  • Expanded social base: zamindars, students, women, lower middle class.
  • Attempts to address working class grievances through strikes.
  • Limited Muslim participation due to divide-and-rule tactics and class-community overlap.

All-India Aspect:

  • Movements supporting Bengal and Swadeshi spread across India.
  • Tilak: key figure in spreading the movement outside Bengal.
  • Saw an opportunity for a united national struggle.

Annulment of Partition (1911)

  • Reason: Curb revolutionary terrorism.
  • Impact:
    • Upset Muslim political elite.
    • Delhi became new capital (appease Muslims, but not successful).
    • Bengal province reduced (Bihar & Orissa separate, Assam separate).


Evaluation of the Swadeshi Movement

Movement Fizzles Out (By 1908):

  • Reasons:
    • Severe government repression.
    • Lack of effective organization or party structure.
    • Leaders arrested/deported, others retiring (Aurobindo Ghosh, Bipin Chandra Pal).
    • Internal squabbles (Surat Split, 1907).
    • Difficulty sustaining a mass movement’s high pitch.
    • Limited reach: upper/middle classes, zamindars, not peasantry.
    • Non-cooperation/passive resistance remained ideas.

Turning Point in Modern Indian History:

  • Increased participation: students, women, workers, some urban/rural population.
  • Birthed major trends of national movement: moderation, extremism, revolution, socialism, etc.
  • Impacted art, literature, science, and industry.
  • Aroused people, instilled political participation in new forms.
  • Undermined colonial ideas and institutions.
  • Provided valuable experience for future struggles.

Moderates vs. Extremists:

  • Swadeshi Movement exposed limitations of Moderate methods (petitions, speeches).
  • Moderates failed to:
    • Keep pace with changing times.
    • Gain younger generation support.
    • Work effectively among the masses.
  • Extremist ideology lacked consistency:
    • Open members vs. secret sympathizers vs. opponents of violence.
    • Differing goals for Swaraj (Tilak vs. Aurobindo).
  • Positive aspects of Extremists:
    • Emphasis on mass participation and broadening the movement’s social base.
    • Elevated patriotism from “academic pastime” to “service and sacrifice.”
  • Negative aspects of Extremists:
    • Social conservatism and revivalist undertones.
    • Hindu nationalism alienated Muslims.
    • Promoted unhealthy relationship between politics and religion.


The Surat Split (December 1907)


  • Rise of revolutionary activity.
  • Growing differences between Moderates and Extremists.

Run-up to Surat:

  • December 1905 (Benaras Session):
    • Extremists wanted broader Boycott and Swadeshi Movement.
    • Moderates favored limited action.
    • Compromise resolution passed, averting a split.
  • December 1906 (Calcutta Session):
    • Moderates’ enthusiasm waned due to popularity of Extremists and revolutionaries.
    • Dadabhai Naoroji elected president.
    • “Swaraj” mentioned as Congress goal for the first time.
    • Resolution supporting Swadeshi, Boycott, and national education passed.

Deepening Divide:

  • Extremists called for wider passive resistance and boycotts.
  • Moderates hoped for council reforms and toned down Calcutta program.
  • Extremists felt ready for a “big push” for independence.
  • Moderates saw council reforms as an opportunity.
  • Both sides underestimated the other’s role and overestimated their own strategy.

Split Takes Place:

  • Extremists wanted Nagpur session with Tilak/Lajpat Rai as president and reiteration of previous resolutions.
  • Moderates wanted Surat session to exclude Tilak and drop those resolutions.
  • Rigid positions on both sides led to inevitable split.
  • Moderates dominated the remaining Congress, focusing on self-government within the British Empire through constitutional methods.

Government Repression:

  • Crackdown on Extremists (1907-1911):
    • Seditious Meetings Act (1907)
    • Indian Newspapers (Incitement to Offences) Act (1908)
    • Criminal Law Amendment Act (1908)
    • Indian Press Act (1910)
  • Tilak’s trial and imprisonment (1908-1914) for seditious writings.
  • Aurobindo, B.C. Pal, and Lajpat Rai sidelined from active politics.
  • Weakening of both Extremist and Moderate movements.


  • Decline in national movement activity until 1914.
  • Missed opportunity for a broad-based nationalist movement.



The Government Strategy

Shifting Approach:

  • Initial hostility towards all nationalists (including Moderates).

New Strategy (Post-Swadeshi Movement):

  • “Rallying them” or “carrot and stick” (John Morley, Secretary of State).
  • Three-pronged approach:
    1. Repression (Mild):Target Extremists to frighten Moderates.
    2. Conciliation:Offer concessions to Moderates to isolate Extremists.
    3. Suppression:Suppress Extremists with full force once isolated.


  • Moderates and Extremists didn’t understand the strategy’s purpose.
  • Surat Split: A success for the British government’s strategy.


Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909


  • Muslim Demands:
    • Simla Deputation (1906) led by Agha Khan demanded:
      • Separate electorates for Muslims.
      • Representation exceeding numerical strength.
    • Muslim League (1906) aimed at loyalty to British Empire and distancing Muslims from Congress.
  • Congress Demands:
    • Gopal Krishna Gokhale met John Morley (Secretary of State for India) to seek self-governing system.

The Reforms:

  • Key Players:Lord Minto (Viceroy) and John Morley.
  • Measures (Indian Councils Act of 1909):
    • Limited elective principle for non-official council members.
    • Separate electorates for Muslims in central council (first time).
    • Increased number of elected members in central and provincial councils.
    • Non-official majority in provincial councils (but some nominated, not elected).
    • Indirect elections through electoral colleges.
    • More power to legislatures: resolutions, questions, budget discussions (limited).
    • One Indian appointed to Viceroy’s Executive Council (Satyendra Sinha, 1st in 1909).


  • Negative Aspects:
    • Not a response to Indian political aspirations.
    • Self-government (Congress demand) rejected by Morley.
    • Aimed to divide nationalists (confuse Moderates, check unity).
    • Separate electorates: appeasement of a small Muslim elite, sown seeds of future divisions.
    • Indirect elections: “infiltration of legislators through sieves.”
    • No true responsibility given to legislatures, led to some irresponsible criticism.
  • Limited Positive Aspects:
    • Opportunity for debate on issues like education, repression, and labor.
    • A small step towards eventual self-governance (unintended consequence?).


  • Reforms offered “shadow rather than substance.”
  • “Benevolent despotism” instead of self-government.



Important Leaders

1.Sri Aurobindo Ghose

Early Life and Education (1872-1892)

  • Born: Calcutta, August 15, 1872
  • Educated in Christian convent school (Darjeeling) and Cambridge University
  • Became proficient in European languages
  • Held administrative positions in Baroda and Calcutta

Nationalist Movement (1902-1910)

  • Joined Indian freedom struggle (1902)
  • Edited nationalist newspaper “Bande Mataram” (1905)
  • Imprisoned in Alipore Bomb case (1908)

Spiritual Life (1910-1950)

  • Fled to Pondicherry (1910)
  • Founded Sri Aurobindo Ashram (1926)
  • Developed “integral yoga” philosophy
  • Authored spiritual texts like “Bases of Yoga” and “Savitri”

Died: Pondicherry, December 5, 1950


2.Bipin Chandra Pal

Early Life and Education (1858-1898)

  • Born: Poil village, Habibganj District (now Bangladesh), November 7, 1858
  • Educated at Church Mission Society College, Calcutta
  • Worked as librarian

Transformation and Activism

  • Inspired by social reformers, joined national movement (1886)
  • Advocated for Swaraj (self-rule)
  • Joined Lal-Bal-Pal trio with Lala Lajpat Rai and Bal Gangadhar Tilak
  • Promoted Swadeshi movement (boycotting British goods)


  • Participated in Non-cooperation Movement
  • Emphasized education and national awareness
  • Wrote influential books like “Nationality and Empire” and “The Soul of India”
  • Edited national journals like “The Independent” and “The Democrat”


  • Fought for Indian independence through diverse means
  • Remembered for powerful writing and oratory skills


3.Rajnarayan Basu(1826-1899)

  • Pioneer of Hindu Nationalism

Social and Religious Context

  • British colonization led to spread of Christianity and English education
  • Weakened Hindu identity, created a crisis within Brahmo Samaj

Basu’s Response

  • Advocated for Hindu reform, not destruction
  • Believed Hinduism was the foundation of the nation
  • Promoted national consciousness and self-respect

Nationalist Activities

  • Delivered influential speech “Hindu Dharmer Shreshthata” (1872)
  • Authored pamphlet proposing a “Hindu National Congress” (1885)
  • Co-founded “Hindu Mela” to promote national feeling (1867)


  • Considered “Grandfather of Indian Nationalism” by Jadunath Sarkar
  • Influenced figures like Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore
  • Paved the way for modern Hindu nationalist thought


4.Krishna Kumar Mitra (K.K. Mitra)

  • Born: 1852, Baghil village, Mymensingh district (now Bangladesh)
  • Son of: Guruprasad Mitra (landholder who opposed British indigo planters)
  • Education:
    • Mymensingh Hardinge Vernacular School
    • Zilla School
    • Scottish Church College (Bachelor’s degree, 1876)
    • University of Calcutta (Law studies)


5.Prithwishchandra Ray

  • Moderate Leader in Anti-Partition Movement (1903-1905)
  • Role:Key moderate leader
  • Goal:Oppose partition of Bengal
  • Strategies:
    • Public meetings
    • Petitions
    • Propaganda (newspapers, pamphlets)















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