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Indian National Movement [15 March 2015]

Indian Nationalists and World War I

The Indian National Congress was under the control of the Moderates when the
First World War broke out in 1914. The Indian National Congress decided to
support the British war efforts, both as a matter of duty and in a spirit of
bargaining to get concessions.
However, a section of Indian leadership believed that no concessions could be
possible unless popular pressure was brought to bear upon the government.
Hence the need for a real mass movement and the formation of the Home Rule

League was on demand.

Home Rule Movement

In 1915 Mrs. Annie Besant announced her decision to establish a Home Rule
League at Madras on the model of the Irish Home Rule League. N 1916 Tilak
organised his own Home Rule League at Poona. Both the Leagues worked in unison
and aimed at the achievement of self-government for India. The Leagues
objective was to educate the people and provide the congress demand for selfgovernment with the support and strength of a national united in knowledge of
itself and its single aim. The Home Leagues functioned independently as the
Congress could not adopt a radical programme as that. The Home Leagues aimed
to pressurize the British public for granting self-government to India.

The Lucknow Session, 1916.

The Lucknow session of the Congress is memorable for it marked there-union of
the Moderate and Extremist parties after the Surat Split (1907). The Union
became possible with the deaths of Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Ferozeshah
Mehtra in 1915. Tilak and Mrs. Annie Besant dominated the Lucknow session.


Another noteworthy development was the Congress League Pact (1916) for
acceptance of a united scheme of constitutional reform. The resultant efforts
produced the Congress League Scheme and the Nineteen Memorandum to give
concrete shape to political thinking in the country. This combined activity and
the psychology created by the war culminated in the Declaration of 20
August1917 by the Secretary of State, Lord Montagu in the British Parliaments.
In 1918 the Montagu Chelmsford Reforms were announced and in 1919 the
Government of India Act passed by the British Parliament.

The Act of 1919 did not satisfy national aspirations. This dissatisfaction
coupled with the repressive policies followed by the government gave new turn
to the nationalist movement. Mahatma Gandhi emerged as the new leader and
gave a new direction and new dimension to the nationalist movement.

The Terrorist Revolutionary Movement

The Revolutionary terrorist movement was largely the out-come of the same set
of causes which gave rise to the Extremist wing in nationalist politics. Only the
revolutionaries wanted quicker results and discounted the value of persuasion
(popularized by the Moderates) and low-grade pressure (advocated by the
Extremists). The revolutionaries believed that alien rule was destructive of all
that is worthwhile in national life political liberties, religious freedom,
morality and Indian Culture. Though it is difficult to pin point the political
philosophy of the revolutionary terrorists in different part of India, but their
one common aim was Freedom of the Motherland from British rule.
As to the methods, the revolutionaries believed that Western Imperialism could
only be ended by Western methods of violence. Hence the advocacy of the cult
of the revolver and the bomb was suggested. The Revolutionaries formed secret
societies, recruited the young and enthused them with higher values of bold

Action and Sacrifice for the cause of the country the Motherland; they
distributed arms, taught their members the use of arms and even the
manufacture of bombs. By assassination of European officials, they sought to
demoralise the official class, paralyse the administration and uproot the
enemies of Freedom both Foreign and Indians. To finance their projects, they


even condoned acts of murder, Dacoities, looting of banks, offices and even
train derailments.

Revolutionary Activities in Maharashtra.

The Rowlatt committee was a Sedition Committee appointed in 1918 by the
British Indian Government with Mr Justice Rowlatt, an English judge, as its
president. The purpose of the committee was to evaluate political terrorism in
India, , its impact, and the links with the German government and the Bolsheviks
in Russia. The authors of the Sedition Committee Report, 1918, observed the
first indications of revolutionary movement in India in Maharashtra and among
the Chitpavan Brahmins of the Poona district. These Brahmins were descendants
of the Peshwas (chief ministers under Chhatrapati Shahu and later rulers of
Maharashtra). It was the Peshwa rule (the Chitpavan government) which was
overthrown by the East India Company under Lord Hastings. These Brahmins
kept their love and devotion to Swaraj and a certain discontent and longing for a
return to power naturally remained.
B. G. Tilaks ( a Chitpavan Brahmin) inauguration of the Ganapati festival in 1893
and the Shivaji festival in 1895 injected some pro-Swaraj and Anti-British bias
in the politics of Maharashtra.

The Rand Murder at Poona, 1897

The first political murder of Europeans was committed at Poona on 22nd June
1897 by the Chapekar brothers (Chitpavan Brahmins) - - Damodar and
Balkrishna. The target of attack was Mr. Rand, President of the Plague
Committee at Poona, but Lt. Ayerst was shot accidentally. The provocation was
the tyranny of the Plague Committee on sending soldiers to inspect houses of
civilians for plague-afflicted persons. Tilak in his newspaper Mahratta had
written Plague is more merciful to us than its human prototypes now reigning in
the city. The Chapekar brothers were caught, convicted and hanged. The
authorities also implicated Tilak and prosecuted him for seditious writings
against the British Government.


Tilak was awarded 18 month of rigorous imprisonment. Although the nationalist

opinion then and national historians thereafter have adefended Tilak, but a
more objective view would suggest that Tilaks writings and speeches did preach
and justify resort to violence and inspired the young Chapekar brothers.
Consider, for example, his writing in the Kesari on 15th June 1897, Srimat
Krishnas advice in the Gita is to kill even our own teachers and our Kinsmen. No
blame attaches to any person if he is doing deeds without being actuated by a
desire to reap the fruits of his deeds....God has not conferred upon the
foreigners the grant inscribed on a cooper-plate of the kingdom of
Hindusthan..Do not circumscribe your vision like a frog in a well, get out of the
Penal Code and enter the extremely high atmosphere of the Srimat Bhagavad

Gita and consider the actions of great men.

Shyamji Krishnavarma and Establishment of India House at London.

Krishnavarma, a native of Kathiawar in Western India, had studied at Cambridge
University and qualified for the Bar. After the return to India, he served in
several Indian States but felt thoroughly disgusted with the overbearing
attitude of Political Residents. He decided to work for Indias liberation from
British oppression and chose London as the centre of his activities. In 1905
Krishaverma set up the India Home Rule Society popularly known as the India
House; he also published a monthly journal, the Indian Sociologist to espouse
Indian causes. He also instituted six fellowship of Rs. 1000 each for qualified
Indians visiting foreign countries. Very soon the India House became a centre
of Indian activities in London. A group of Indian revolutionaries including V. D.
Savarkar, Hardyal and Madan Lal Dhingra became members of the India House.
V.D. Savarkar, a young graduate from Fergusson College, Poona, availed of
Krishnavarmas fellowship offer and left for London in June 1906. Earlier at
Nasik, Savarkar had set up an association called Mitra Mela which in 1904 had
been merged into the secret, society called Abhinav Bharata after Mazzinis
Young Italy. The band of young enthusiasts made India House a centre for proIndia and anti-British propaganda. In May 1900 the India House celebrated the
golden jubilee of the Indian revolt of 1857 and V. D. Savarkar described it as a
war of independence. Savarkars views were published the following year in his


book entitled, The Indian War of Independence, 1857. Another pamphlet

entitled Grave Warning was widely distributed in London and copies sent to
In 1909 Madan Lal Dhingra shot dead Col. William Curzon Wyllie, political A.D.C
to the India Office.
The British authorities were swung into action. Madan Lal was hanged, Savarkar
arrested and deported to India where he was sentenced to transportation for
life. Shyamji left London and settled in Paris. Thus the activities of the India
House at London had to be wound up.
On 21st December 1909 Mr. Jackson, the unpopular District Magistrate of
Nasik, was shot dead. The Abhinav Bharat Society at Nasik had members at
various places in Western India. The Ahmedabad Bomb Case (November 1909),
the Satara Conspiracy (1910) wee other cases of terrorist activities in Western

Revolutionary Movement in Bengal.

The beginning of revolutionary activities in Bengal is traced to the work of
bhadralok class. P. Mitra organised a secret revolutionary society under the
name and banner of Anushilan Samiti. The partition of Bengal and the Indian
offensive through Boycott of British goods and Swadeshism stirred the political
consciousness of Bengal to an extent hitherto unknown. Soon the original goal of
the annulment of the Partition of Bengal got enlarged into the attainment of
In 1905Barindra Kumar Ghose published the Bhavani Mandir (indicating a
detailed plan for organising a centre of revolutionary activities) followed by the
publication of Vartaman Rananiti (Rules of modern warfare). The Yugantar (New
Era) and Sandhya preached anti-British ideas. Another pamphlet Mukti Kon
Pathe (which way lies Salvation) exhorted the Indian soldiers to supply arms to
revolutionaries. The youth of Bengal was exhorted to worship Bhawani as the
manifestation of Shaktiand to acquire mental, physical, moral and spiritual
strength. The emphasis was on Karma and Action.


Revolutionary activities resulting in acts of violence began in 1906 when some

robberies were planned to finance the plane of revolutionaries. In 1907
unsuccessful attempts were made to kill the Lt. Governors of Eastern Bengal
and Bengal.

The Muzaffarpur Murders and the Alipore Conspiracy Case.

On 30th April 1908 an attempt was made to murder, Mr. Kingsford, the Judge of
Muzaffarpur (now in Bihar) who earlier as Chief Presidency Magistrate had
awarded severe punishments to some young men for trivial offences. Prafulla
Chaki and Khudiram Bose were charged with the duty of bomb-throwing. The
bomb was by mistake thrown on the carriage of Mr. Kennedy, killing two ladies.
Prafulla Chaki and Bose were arrested; Chaki short himself dead while Bose was
tried and hanged.
The Government searches for illicit arms at Maniktala Gardens and elsewhere at
Calcutta led to the arrest of 34 persons including the two Ghose brothers,
Arobindo and Barindra who were tried in the Alipore Conspiracy case. During the
trial Narendra Gossain, who had turned approver, was shot dead in jail. In
February 1909 the Public Prosecutor was shot dead in Calcutta and on 24the
February 1910 a Deputy Superintendent of Police met the same fate while
leaving the Calcutta High Court.
B. G. Tilak lauded in Bengal terrorist for their higher aims. In the Kesari of 22
June 1908 he wrote There is considerable difference between the murders of
1897 and the bomb outrage of Bengal..their (Chapekar brothers) aim was
specially directed towards the oppression consequent upon the plague, that is to
say, towards the particular act. The Bengali bomb party had of course their
eyes upon an extensive plain brought into view by the partition of Bengal.
The Rowlatt Committee report put the number of dacoities at 110 and attempts
at murder over 60 cases in Bengal alone during 1906-17.


Revolutionary Movement in other Provinces.

The educated classes in the Panjab were affected by revolutionary ideas. The
Panjab Governments proposals for modification of tenures in the Chenab Canal
Colony and the Bari Doab had spread widespread discontent among the rural
masses. The Government of India acted promptly by vetoing the Canal Colony
legislation and arresting and deporting Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh under
provisions of Regulation III of 1818. Ajit Singh was released after 6 months
and later fled to Persia . Lal Chand Falak and Bhai Parmanand were arrested and
sentenced to various terms of imprisonments.
In December 1912 a bomb was thrown on Lord Harding on his state entry in
Chadni Chowk, Delhi, killing his attendants.
Bihar, Orissa and the U.P. were scenes of the Muzaffarpur and Nimez murders
and the Benaras Conspiracy case though these provinces were comparatively
less affected by revolutionary movements.

The Ghadar Movement.

Hardayal, an intellectual giant and a fire-brand revolutionary from the Panjab
was the moving spirit behind the organization of the Ghadr Party on November
1913 at San Franscisco in the U>S>A. He was actively assisted by Ram Chandra
and Barkatulla. The party also published weekly paper, the Ghadr (Rebellion) in
commemoration of the Mutiny of 1857. The Ghadrin its premier issue asked the
questions: What is our name? Mutiny. What is our work? Mutiny. Where will
mutiny break out? In India. The Ghadr Party highlighted the point that Indians
were not respected in the world abroad because they were not free. Consequent
upon complaints made by the British representative, the U.S. authorities
launched proceedings against, Hardayal, compelling him to leave the United
With the outbreak of World War I, Hardayal and other Indians abroad moved
to Germany and set up the Indian Independence Committee at Berlin. The
Committee planned to mobilise Indian settler abroad to make all efforts- send
volunteers to India to incite rebellion among the troops, to send explosives to


Indian revolutionaries, and even organise an invasion of British India- to liberate

the country.

The Komagata Maru case created an explosive situation in the Punjab. One Baha
Gurdit Singh chartered a Japanese ship Komagata Maru for Vancouver and
sought to carry 351 Sikhs and 21 Punjabi Muslims to that town. The Canadian
authorities refused permission to the ship to land and the ship returned to
Budge Budge, Calcutta on 27th September 1914. The inmates of the ship and
many Indians believed that the British government had inspired the Candian
authorities. The Government of India ordered all the passengers to be carried
direct by train to the Punjab. The already explosive situation in the Punjab
worsened with a band of fresh malcontents. Large-scale political dacoities were
committed in the Lullundur, Amritsar, Ludhiana districts of the Punjab. The
Lahore Conspiracy trials revealed the Punjab had come within an ace of
widespread bloodshed.
The Government of India unleashed repressive legislation to meet revolutionary
activities. The Prevention of Seditious Meetings Act (1907), The Explosive
Substances Act (1908), the Indian Criminal Law Amendment Act (1908), The
Newspaper (Incitement to Offences) Act, 1908, The Press Act 1910, and above
all, the obnoxious multi-fanged Defence of India Rules, 1915.
A temporary respite in revolutionary activities came with the close of World
War I when the Government released all political p[risoners arrested under the
Defence of India Act. Further, the discussion about the new scheme of
constitutional reforms (Government of India Act 1919) also created an
atmosphere of conciliation and compromise. More so, Gandhijis emergence on
the national scene with promise of big achievements through non-violent
methods also halted the pace of violent revolutionary activities.