Growth of Militant Nationalism
What is Militant Nationalism?
The last decade of 19th century and the early years of the 20th century saw the rise of the group of young nationalists who were increasingly getting critical to the methods and ideology of early nationalists. These younger nationalists demanded Swaraj or self rule as the ultimate goal of the national movement through direct methods like strikes, protests, boycott of foreign goods, passive resistance etc. These younger nationalists came to be known as extremists or militant nationalists.
Causes for the growth of Militant Nationalism
- Understanding the real nature of British government: The early nationalists, journalists and writers through their writings and works had uncovered the real nature of British rule. They held British responsible for the degradation of India from a self-sufficient economy to a colonial economy. Further, they made the public aware about their rights which were not being granted by the British. All these created greater anger among the younger generations of Congress who were the leaders of militant nationalism and led to the growth of militant movements in India.
- Dissatisfaction over the reforms and laws: The Council Act 1892 was a big disappointment for the members of Congress. The legislative councils were full of official nominees. The government did not fulfill the demands for increasing the number of Indians in the government services, reducing military expenditures etc. Further the government brought repressive laws under IPC 124 and 156A which angered the young leaders. The arrest of Tilak in 1897 caused widespread anger among the public. The government reduced the strength of Indian members in the Calcutta Corporation. The Universities Act increased the government control over the universities created anger among the youth.
- Increase in confidence and growth of self-respect: During this Period, there was growth of self-respect and confidence of leaders and also the public. The leaders like Aurobindo Ghosh, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal proposed for greater participation of masses as they had the confidence about the capacity of masses for making sacrifices for attainment of Swaraj.
- Role of education: The growth of education increased awareness among the Indians. The ideas of democracy, Liberty, nationalism etc had reached India. The educated youth became the vocal supporters of militant nationalism. They realised the real impact of British domination on India and their effects on their lives. They became conscious about the need for self government for the economic and political development of India. The increase in unemployment among the Indians in general and youth in particular further added to the discontent among the younger and radical nationalists and led to the growth of militant movements in India.
- Increase in the westernization in India: The new nationalists were worried about the rise of excessive westernization in India which could have eroded the cultural and national identity of Indians under the British rule. The new nationalists took inspiration from the works and ideas of Indians like Dayanand Saraswati, Swami Vivekanand, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee etc. These intellectuals with their strong arguments and speeches had created a bright image of India's past which was much better than the present British rule. Further, the works of Annie Besant added to these ideas and preached the richness of past glory of Indian civilization. All these works had eroded the myth of British superiority in India.
- Racial discrimination against Indians: The British policy of racial discrimination in India increased the feeling of hatred against the British. The Britishers monopolized the higher government posts in the government services. This created a feeling of enmity among the young leaders and led to the rise of extremist nationalism. The policies of discrimination towards the Indians were also a feature of abroad like in South Africa which created a feeling of anger among the Indians. The struggle of Mahatma Gandhi against racial discrimination of Indians in South Africa created hatred towards British rule and added growth of militant movements in India.
Famine and poverty: The famines of 1896-97 and 1899-1900 affected large parts of the country in which millions of Indians died due to starvation and diseases. The apathy and neglect of government created serious discontent among the people against the British rule. The anger against mismanagement of plague had led to the killing of plague commissioner of Poona by Chapekar brothers. All these gave rise to the voices of militant nationalists of Indian freedom movement.
Role of press: The press played a major role in the promotion of extremist and militant Nationalism in India. The leaders like Tilak in his newspapers Mahratta and Kesari promoted the ideas of extremist nationalism. His poem titled "Shivaji's Utterances" in his newspaper Kesari created anger among the youth. Tilak was arrested after the Killing of plague commissioner Rand on the basis of this poem. His arrest further caused enmity and displeasure against the British.
International influences: The rise of Japan economically and industrial after 1868 inspired Indians and gave them the hope that it is possible for a backward Asian country to develop and progress without any external control and help. In 1896 Ethiopia defeated the Italian army which inspired the younger nationalists that it is possible for an Asian country to defeat the colonial powers. Further, the Boer wars (1899- 1902) which was a setback for British as they faced reverses and the Japanese victory against the Russians and 1905 dismantled the myth of European invincibility. The national movements of Ireland, Russia, Turkey, Egypt etc gave inspiration to the youth which ultimately gave rise to the growth of militant nationalists of Indian freedom movement.
Dissatisfaction with the ideology, methods and performance of moderates: The younger nationalists of Indian National Congress were dissatisfied with the methods, ideology and achievements of early nationalists since the birth of Congress in 1885. They described the methods of moderates as political mendicancy and instead advocated greater participation of masses and use of direct methods against the British rule.
The policies of Viceroy Lord Curzon: The repressive policies of Lord Curzon were a major reason for anger among the younger nationalists which gave rise to militant nationalism in India. His 7-year Regime saw several missions, commissions, and omissions. He passed many repressive and regressive laws like Calcutta Corporation act 1899, Indian universities act 1904 which curtailed the freedom of universities. He called the universities as factories producing political revolutionaries and increased the government control over them. The Sedition Act and official secrets act 1904 and partition of Bengal in 1905 exposed the reactionary nature of British government in India. The partition of Bengal was the major reason for the growth of militant movements in India.
Militant school of thought: Since the beginning of Indian National Congress, the militant school of thought existed in the national movement and they became more vocal during the early phase of the first decade of 20th century. The leaders like Raj Narain Bose, Aurobindo Ghosh, Bipin Chandra Pal etc were active in Bengal. Lala Lajpat Rai was the main leader in Punjab and Bal Gangadhar Tilak was active in Maharashtra. Tilak was the most vocal among them and he got the title of Lokmanya (respected and honored by people) after his arrest in 1897. These leaders had a hatred for the British rule and they believed that Indians should not rely on British to remove their problems and misery. They demanded Swaraj or self-government as their ultimate aim. They had faith in the capacity of masses and hence they favored direct actions to challenge the authority of British.
Emergence of trained leadership: By the beginning of 20th century, trained and experienced political leadership had emerged. They had the capacity to direct and lead the masses in the national movement. The role was prominent in the anti-partition movement of Bengal and Swadeshi movement.