Chapters :
  • MODERN HISTORY – 09

MODERN HISTORY – 09

REPRESSIVE MEASURES

Lord Curzon came to India (1899 – 1905) with a strong determination to stem the rising tide of nationalism. He completely officialized the Calcutta Corporation and gave it a European majority by reducing the total membership by a third.  A similar policy was pursued in THE INDIAN UNIVERSITIES ACT when he took away the autonomy of the universities and in the same year (1904), the Official Secrets Act extended a good deal the scope of the term ‘sedition’. The climax was reached by the Partition of Bengal (1905) which was considered to be a subtle attack on the growing solidarity of Indian nationalism. The official plea that the province had grown unwieldy, thus impairing administrative efficiency in the outlying eastern districts was only part of the reason.

It is estimate that, between December 1903 and October 1905, about 2,000 protest meetings were held and the political associations and newspapers carried on a tearing and raging campaign against this measure. Curzon’s obstinate refusal to pay any heed to popular views in this matter sounded the death-knell of constitutional agitation, and amidst unprecedented scenes of enthusiasm resolutions were passed at a huge public meeting held on August 7, 1905 at Calcutta, to boycott British goods, and adopt Swadeshi (indigenous) goods and to spread national education. It was followed by hundreds of public meetings, picketing of shops where foreign goods were Sold, Clashes With Police., Lathi Blows, imprisonment of volunteers flogging expulsion of students. etc.

During its session held in 1906 at Calcutta, the Congress not only endorsed their plans but for the first time in its history laid down as its goal, ‘the system of Government obtaining in the self-governing British colonies, which THE PRESIDENT DADABHAI NAOROJI, summed up in one word ‘swaraj’.  The Swadeshi movement spread to other parts of India and according to the confidential report of the Intelligence Branch, boycott and swadeshi movements assumed an all-India character even towards the end of 1905. As to its results, Surendranath Banerjea observed:

 “…..What we could not achieve in 500 meetings extending over 2 years” time, we secured by a boycott lasting for a period of 3 months….” The moderates in the Congress however, fought shy of the idea of boycott, though they accepted swadeshi. GOKHALE their leader, argued that the term ‘boycott’ had a sinister meaning as it implied a vindictive desire to injure another and should be discarded. The extremists, however, were of the opinion that the twin ideas of swadeshi and boycott were complementary to each other as one could not succeed without the other. The moderate party criticized both the end and their means of the extremists and characterized them as impracticable. it was the difference on these points which led to the final clash between the two wings of the congress. The ‘BOYCOTT RESOLUTION‘ passed by this Congress at Varanasi (Benares) at the instance of the extremists was a sort of compromise and its confirmation at Calcutta was resented by the moderates who prepared themselves for a show of strength at the venue of the next session which was changed from Nagpur, a stronghold of the extremists to Surat where the Moderate Leader Pherozeshan Mehta had a great following. The extremists genuinely feared that the moderates were bent upon altering the resolutions on swadeshi boycott national education and Swaraj passed at Calcutta. 
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