INC Extremist Phase and Rise of Revolutionaries (1st Phase) Notes



Recognition of the True Nature of British Rule

  • 1892— The Indian Councils Act was criticized by nationalists
  • 1897— The Natu brothers were deported without trial and Tilak and others, imprisoned on charges of sedition. (Tilak was charged for the publication of two texts— ‘Shivaji’s Utterances’, a poem authored under an alias, and an unsigned report on the June 1897 Shivaji festival, at which Tilak and C.G. Bhanu, a notable Pune intellectual, spoke)
  • 1899— Number of Indian members in Calcutta Corporation were reduced.
  • 1904— Official Secrets Act curbed freedom of press.
  • 1904— Indian Universities Act ensured greater government control over universities

Growth of International Influences: The defeat of the Italian army by Ethiopians (1896), the Boer wars (1899- 1902) where the British faced reverses and Japan’s victory over Russia (1905) demolished myths of European invincibility.

  • Reaction to Increasing Westernization
  • Dissatisfaction with Achievements of Moderates: They were strongly critical of the methods of peaceful and constitutional agitation, popularly known as the “Three ‘P’s”—prayer, petition and protest—and described these methods as ‘political mendicancy’.

Reactionary Policies of Curzon: Administrative measures adopted during Curzon’s rule— the Official Secrets Act, the Indian Universities Act, the Calcutta Corporation Act and, above all, the partition of Bengal—left no doubt in Indian minds about the basically reactionary nature of British rule in India.

Existence of a Militant School of Thought: The basic tenets of this school of thought were:

  • Swaraj to be the goal of national movement
  • Direct political action required; belief in capacity of the masses to challenge the authority
  • Personal sacrifices required and a true nationalist to be always ready for it.
  • Emergence of a Trained Leadership


The Swadeshi Movement had its genesis in the anti-partition movement which was started to oppose the British decision to partition Bengal.

Partition of Bengal to Divide People:

  • The British government’s decision to partition Bengal had been made public in December 1903.
  • The idea was to have two provinces: Bengal comprising Western Bengal as well as the provinces of Bihar and Orissa, and Eastern Bengal and Assam.
  • Bengal retained Calcutta as its capital, while Dacca became the capital of Eastern Bengal.
  • This was done by Curzon to woo Muslims on his side.


  • The methods adopted were petitions to the government, public meetings, memoranda, and propaganda through pamphlets and newspapers such as Hitabadi, Sanjibani and Bengalee.
  • Their objective was to exert sufficient pressure on the government through an educated public opinion in India and England to prevent the unjust partition of Bengal from being implemented.
  • The government announced partition of Bengal in July 1905.
  • On August 7, 1905, with the passage of the Boycott Resolution in a massive meeting held in the Calcutta Townhall, the formal proclamation of Swadeshi Movement was made.
  • October 16, 1905, the day the partition formally came into force, was observed as a day of mourning throughout Bengal.
  • ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’, the national anthem of present-day Bangladesh, was composed by Rabindranath Tagore


The Indian National Congress, meeting in 1905 under the presidentship of Gokhale, resolved to

  1. condemn the partition of Bengal and the reactionary policies of Curzon, and
  2. support the anti-partition and Swadeshi Movement of Bengal.

A big step forward was taken at the Congress session held at Calcutta (1906) under the presidentship of Dadabhai Naoroji, where it was declared that the goal of the Indian National Congress was “self-government or Swaraj.


  • Extremists gave a call for passive resistance in addition to swadeshi and boycott
  • The purpose, as Aurobindo put it, was to “make the administration under present conditions impossible by an organised refusal to do anything which will help either the British commerce in the exploitation of the country or British officialdom in the administration of it”.
  • “Political freedom is the life breath of a nation”, declared Aurobindo.
  • New Forms of Struggle: Boycott of Foreign Goods, Public Meetings and Processions
  • Corps of Volunteers or ‘Samitis’-Samitis such as the Swadesh Bandhab Samiti of Ashwini Kumar Dutta (in Barisal) emerged as a very popular and powerful means of mass mobilisation. In Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, V.O. Chidambaram Pillai, Subramania Siva and some lawyers formed the Swadeshi Sangam which inspired the local masses.
  • Imaginative use of Traditional Popular Festivals and Melas
  • Emphasis given to Self-Reliance
  • Programme of National Education: Bengal National College, inspired by Tagore’s Shantiniketan, was set up with Aurobindo Ghosh as its principal.
  • On August 15, 1906, the National Council of Education was set up to organise a system of education— literary, scientific and technical—on national lines and under national control.
  • Swadeshi or Indigenous Enterprises: V.O. Chidambaram Pillai’s venture into a national shipbuilding enterprise—Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company—at Tuticorin
  • Impact in the Cultural Sphere: In Tamil Nadu, Subramania Bharati wrote Sudesha Geetham.
  • In painting, Abanindranath Tagore broke the domination of Victorian naturalism over the Indian art scene and took inspiration from Ajanta, Mughal and Rajput paintings.
  • Nandalal Bose, who left a major imprint on Indian art, was the first recipient of a scholarship offered by the Indian Society of Oriental Art, founded in 1907.


  • Student participation was visible in Bengal, Maharashtra, especially in Poona, and in many parts of the South—Guntur, Madras, Salem.
  • Women played a significant role in the movement.
  • Hindu Muslim unity can be witnessed.
  • The movement largely remained confined to the upper and middle classes and zamindars, and failed to reach the masses—especially the peasantry.
  • All the major trends of the national movement, from conservative moderation to political extremism, from revolutionary activities toincipient socialism, from petitions and prayers to passive resistance and non-cooperation, emerged during the Swadeshi Movement.


  • Internal squabbles among the moderate and extremist leaders, led to the Suratsplit (1907), which had serious consequences.
  • The movement aroused the people but did not know how to tap the newly released energy or how to find new forms to give expression to popular resentment.
  • Non-cooperation and passive resistance remained mere ideas.
  • It is difficult to sustain a mass-based movement at a high pitch for too long.


  • The Congress split at Surat came in December 1907,
  • Moderates wanted to restrict the Boycott Movement to Bengal and to a boycott of foreign cloth and liquor.
  • Extremists wanted to take the movement to all parts of the country and include within its ambit all forms of association
  • The split became inevitable, and the Congress was now dominated by the Moderates who lost no time in reiterating Congress’ commitment to the goal of self-government within the British Empire and to the use of constitutional methods only to achieve this goal.


  • The Seditious Meetings Act, 1907
  • Indian Newspapers (Incitement to Offences) Act, 1908
  • Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1908
  • The Indian Press Act, 1910


  • The partition of Bengal was annulled in 1911 by Lord Hardinge.
  • It was done in response to the Swadeshi movement’s riots in protest against the policy.
  • New provinces were created based on linguistic lines rather than religiouslines. Bihar and Orissa Province was carved out of Bengal. (Bihar and Orissa became separate provinces in 1936).
  • A separate Assam province was created.
  • The capital of British India was moved to Delhi from Calcutta in 1911.
  • Despite the annulment, the partition did create a communal divide among the Hindus and Muslims of Bengal.



Why the Surge of Revolutionary Activities

  • The first phase acquired a more activist form as a fallout of the Swadeshi and Boycott Movement and continued till 1917.
  • The second phase started as a fallout of the Non-Cooperation Movement.

The Revolutionary Programme

Revolutionaries opted to follow in the footsteps of Russian nihilists or the Irish nationalists. This methodology involved individual heroic actions.


  • First revolutionary groups were organised in 1902 in Midnapore, under Jnanendranath Basu and in Calcutta, the Anushilan Samiti founded by Promotha Mitter, and including Jatindranath Banerjee, Barindra Kumar Ghosh and others.
  • In April 1906, an inner circle within Anushilan (Barindra Kumar Ghosh, Bhupendranath Dutta) started the weekly Yugantar and Sandhya, and conducted a few abortive ‘actions’.
  • Rashbehari Bose and Sachin Sanyal had organised secret society covering far- flung areas of Punjab, Delhi and United Provinces while some others like Hemachandra Kanungo went abroad for military and political training.
  • In 1907, an abortive attempt was made by the Yugantar group on the life of a very unpopular British official, Sir Fuller (the first Lt. Governor of the new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam).
  • In December 1907, there were attempts to derail the train on which the lieutenant governor, Sri Andrew Fraser.
  • In 1908, Barrah dacoity was organised by Dacca Anushilan under Pulin Das to raise funds for revolutionary activities.
  • Newspapers and journals advocating revolutionary activity included Sandhya and Yugantar in Bengal, and Kal in Maharashtra.

Muzaffarpur Conspiracy Case

  • In 1908, Prafulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose threw a bomb at a carriage in an attempt to kill Kingsford (judge of Muzaffarpur) Alipore Conspiracy Case
  • In 1908, the whole Anushilan group was arrested including the Ghosh brothers, Aurobindo and Barindra were arrested and tried for conspiracy against the king.


  • First of the revolutionary activities in Maharashtra was the organisation of the Ramosi Peasant Force by Vasudev Balwant Phadke
  • In 1879 Tilak propagated a spirit of militant nationalism, including use of violence, through Ganapati and Shivaji festivals and his journals Kesari and Maharatta.
  • Two of his disciples—the Chapekar brothers, Damodar and Balkrishna— murdered the Plague Commissioner of Poona, Rand, and one Lt. Ayerst in 1897.
  • Savarkar and his brother organised Mitra Mela, a secret society, in 1899 which merged with Abhinav Bharat in 1904.
  • Soon Nasik, Poona and Bombay emerged as centers of bomb manufacture.


Delhi-Lahore Conspiracy Case, 1912: Rashbehari Bose and Sachin Sanyal attempted assassinate Viceroy Hardinge at Chandini Chowk.


  • Lala Lajpat Rai brought out Punjabee (with its motto of self-help at any cost)
  • Ajit Singh (Bhagat Singh’s uncle) organised the extremist Anjuman-i-Mohisban- i-Watan in Lahore with its journal, Bharat Mata.


  • Shyamji Krishnavarma had started in London in 1905 an Indian Home Rule Society—‘India House’—as a centre for Indian students, a scholarship scheme to bring radical youth from India, and brought out a journal The Indian Sociologist.
  • Madanlal Dhingra from this circle assassinated the India office bureaucrat Curzon-Wyllie in 1909. India House dispersed after this.
  • New centers emerged on the continent—Paris and Geneva


  • The earlier activists had set up a ‘Swadesh Sevak Home’ at Vancouver and ‘United India House’ at Seattle.
  • Ghadr Party was a revolutionary group organized in 1913 around a weekly newspaper The Ghadr.
  • Its headquarters were located at San Francisco and branches along the US coast and in the Far East.
  • Key leaders: Lala Hardayal, Ram Chandra, Barkatullah
  • These revolutionaries included mainly ex-soldiers and peasants who had migrated from the Punjab to the USA and Canada in search of better employment opportunities.
  • Their plans were encouraged by two events in 1914—the Komagata Maru incident and the outbreak of the First World War.


  • Komagata Maru was the name of a ship which was carrying 370 passengers, mainly Sikh and Punjabi Muslim would-be immigrants, from Hongkong to Vancouver.
  • The ship was asked to return back by Canadian authorities and finally anchored at Calcutta in September 1914.
  • The passengers were asked to board the train back to Punjab who refused.
  • In the ensuing conflict with the police at Budge Budge near Calcutta, 22 persons died.
  • Ghadrites fixed February 21, 1915 as the date for an armed revolt in Ferozepur, Lahore and Rawalpindi garrisons.
  • The authorities took immediate action, aided by the Defence of India Rules, 1915.


  • Berlin Committee for Indian Independence was established in 1915 by Virendranath Chattopadhyay, Bhupendranath Dutta, Lala Hardayal and others with the help of the German foreign office under ‘Zimmerman Plan’.
  • Indian revolutionaries in Europe sent missions to Baghdad, Persia, Turkey and Kabul to work among Indian troops and the Indian prisoners of war (POWs) and to incite anti-British feelings among the people of these countries.
  • One mission under Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh, Barkatullah and Obaidullah Sindhi went to Kabul to organise a ‘provisional Indian government’ there with the help of the crown prince, Amanullah.


Circumstances leading to the Act

  • In October 1906, a group of Muslim elites called the Simla Deputation, led by the Agha Khan, met Lord Minto and demanded separate electorates for the Muslims
  • The same group quickly took over the Muslim League, initially floated by Nawab Salimullah of Dacca along with Nawabs Mohsin-ul-Mulk and Waqar-ul- Mulk in December 1906.

Central Legislature

  • The number of elected members in the Imperial Legislative Council and the Provincial Legislative Councils was increased.
  • The elective principle was recognized for the nonofficial membership of the councils in India.
  • Indians were allowed to participate in the election of various legislative councils, though on the basis of class and community over territorialrepresentation.
  • For the first time, separate electorates for Muslims for election to the central council was established—a most detrimental step for India.

Provincial Legislature

In the provincial councils, non-official majority was introduced, but since some of these non-officials were nominated and not elected, the overall non-elected majority remained.


  • Powers of legislatures—both at the centre and in provinces—were enlarged and the legislatures could now pass resolutions (which may or may not be accepted), ask questions.
  • One Indian was to be appointed to the viceroy’s executive council (Satyendra Sinha was the first Indian to be appointed in 1909).
  • The elected members were to be indirectly elected.
  • The local bodies were to elect an electoral college, which in turn would elect members of provincial legislatures, who in turn would elect members of the central legislature.
  • The income qualification for Muslim voters was kept lower than that for Hindus.


In First World War (1914-1919), Britain allied with France, Russia, USA, Italy and Japan against Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey. Nationalist response to British participation in the First World War was three- fold:

  1. Moderates, supported the empire in the war as a matter of duty
  2. Extremists, including Tilak (who was released in June 1914), supported the war efforts in the mistaken belief that Britain would repay India’s loyalty with gratitude in the form of self government
  3. Revolutionaries, decided to utilize the opportunity to wage a war on British rule and liberate the country.

Revolutionary activity was carried out through the Ghadr Party in North America, Berlin Committee in Europe etc.


  • Two Indian Home Rule Leagues were organized on the lines of the Irish Home Rule Leagues and they represented the emergence of a new trend of aggressive politics.
  • Annie Besant and Tilak were the pioneers of this new trend.
  • Tilak was ready to assume leadership after his release in June 1914, and had made conciliatory gestures— to the government reassuring it of his loyalty and to the Moderates that he wanted, like the Irish Home Rulers, a reform of the administration and not an overthrow of the government.
  • He urged all Indians to assist the British government in its hour of crisis.
  • Annie Besant, the Irish theosophist based in India since 1896, had decided to enlarge the sphere of her activities to include the building of a movement for home rule on the lines of the Irish Home Rule Leagues.


  • By early 1915, Annie Besant had launched a campaign to demand self- government for India after the war on the lines of white colonies.
  • She campaigned through her newspapers, New India and Commonweal, and through public meetings and conferences.
  • Besant’s League-Annie Besant set up her league in September 1916 in Madras and covered the rest of India (including Bombay city).
  • Tilak set up his Home Rule League in April 1916 and it was restricted to Maharashtra (excluding Bombay city), Karnataka, Central Provinces and Berar.
  • League campaign aimed to convey to the common man the message of home rule as self government.
  • The Russian Revolution of 1917 proved to be an added advantage for the Home Rule campaign.
  • Home Rule agitation was later joined by Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhulabhai Desai, Chittaranjan Das, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Tej Bahadur Sapru and Lala Lajpat Rai.


  • Tilak was barred from entering the Punjab and Delhi.
  • In June 1917, Annie Besant and her associates, B.P. Wadia and George Arundale, were arrested.
  • After this Subramaniam Aiyer renounced his knighthood.


  • Movement shifted the emphasis from the educated elite to the masses and permanently deflected the movement from the course mapped by the Moderates.
  • It created an organizational link between the town and the country, which wasto prove crucial in later years when the national movement entered its mass phase in a true sense.
  • It prepared the masses for politics of the Gandhian style.
  • The Montague-Chelmsford reform were influenced by the Leagues.
  • Tilak and Besant’s efforts led to Moderates and Extremists union.


  • Lucknow session of the Indian National Congress, presided over by a Moderate, Ambika Charan Majumdar led to readmission of Extremists to Congress
  • Various factors facilitated this reunion:
  • Old controversies had become meaningless now.
  • Both the Moderates and the Extremists realized that the split had led to political inactivity.
  • Annie Besant and Tilak had made vigorous efforts for the reunion.
  • Death of two Moderates, Gokhale and Pherozshah Mehta, who had led the Moderate opposition to the Extremists, facilitated the reunion.


Development to take place at Lucknow was the coming together of the Muslim League and the Congress and the presentation of common demands by them to the government. Congress accepted Leagues position on separate electorates.

Why the Change in the League’s Attitude?

  • Britain’s refusal to help Turkey in its wars in the Balkans (1912-13) and with Italy (during 1911) had angered the Muslims.
  • Annulment of partition of Bengal in 1911.
  • Refusal of the British government in India to set up a university at Aligarh with powers to affiliate colleges.
  • Younger Muslims were infuriated by the government repression during the First World War.
  • Maulana Azad’s Al Hilal and Mohammad Ali’s Comrade faced suppression.