Revolutionary Terrorism

Till 1905, the moderates were leading the National Movement and their compatibility with Britishers was beyond any doubt. They in fact, wanted their demand to be conceded through constitutional methods. But the government did not pay attention to the constitutional ways of the Moderates. Therefore, Revolutionary Terrorism, which was a by-product of the process of growth of Militant Nationalism in India emerged as a popular ideology among a section of Nationalists who realised that freedom could not be begged, rather it had to be won.

Revolutionary Terrorism acquired a more activist form as a fallout of the Swadeshi and Boycott Movement. This ideology supported radical change, disagreed with the pacifism of the Congress and Gandhi's philosophy of Ahimsa, and believed in the use of guns and bombs to terrorise the British. Patriots with the ideology of Revolutionary Terrorism, thought nothing before sacrificing their lives for the motherland.

Factors that led to the Growth of Revolutionary Terrorism

  • The Swadeshi Movement -After the decline of the Swadeshi movement, the younger nationalists who had participated in the movement found it impossible to disappear into the background, so they looked for avenues to give expression to their patriotic energies but were disillusioned by the failure of the leadership.
  • Failure of Moderates -Whatever Reforms Moderates wanted, were not acceded by government. Hence, the failure of the constitutional methods of the moderates encouraged Militant Nationalism.
  • Although the Extremists leader called upon the youth to make sacrifices, but they failed to find new forms of political work or to create an effective organisation to tap these revolutionary energies.
  • Victory of Japan over Russia-This victory proved to be the most potent stimulus to Indian nationalism. This victory led to vanishing of the myth of European superiority.
  • Defeat of Italians at Adowa- In 1896, Ethiopia defeated Italy at the Battle of Adowa. This led to securing sovereignty for Italy.
  • Young Turk Movement
  • Repression by the British Government- Government tried to crush the national feeling with all possible severity. Many Indians and their leader were imprisoned. Leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak were arrested on the charge of spreading discontentment among the people. This ignited the feeling of Revolutionary Terrorism among the Indians.
  • Change in approach of the youth- Instead of focussing on mass movements, Indian Youth opted to follow the footsteps of Russian nationalists or the Irish nationalists and went for Individual heroic actions such as organizing assassinations of unpopular British officials and of traitors and informers among the revolutionaries themselves.

First Phase of Revolutionary Terrorism

  • Patriots like Prafulla Chaki (who was associated with Jugantar Group of revolutionaries), Madan Lal Dhingra, Khudiram Bose, Sachin Sanyal and Rashbehari Bose carried out spectacular bomb and gun attacks on British officials.
  • D. Savarkar in 1904 had organised a secret society of revolutionaries named Abhinava Bharat.
  • Madan Lal Dhingra shot dead Curzon Wyllie, an officer of India Office in London in 1909.
  • The government came heavy handed upon these Revolutionaries, convicting or executing revolutionaries.

Second phase of Revolutionary Terrorism

  • Gandhi's unilateral suspension of the Non-Cooperation Movement due to Chauri Chaura incident in 1922, led to the second phase of Revolutionary Terrorism, as many youths began to question the strategy of non-violence/ Ahimsa and its success in gaining Self Rule.
  • Bolsheviks success in Russia also influenced this new generation of revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh.
  • In 1925, Chandrashekhar Azad, Ramprasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan, and others, who were the members of Hindustan Republic Association, robbed a cash train at Kakori to buy arms.
  • Saunders was shot dead by Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekhar Azad and Rajguru, in 1928.
  • Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt threw bombs in the Central Legislative Assembly in April 1929, the purpose was not to harm anybody but to show the protest against two repressive bills i.e. Trade Dispute Bill and Public Safety Bill.
  • In 1930, a raid against the police armoury at Chittagong in Bengal was done by Surya Sen and his associates. Later, Surya Sen was arrested in 1933 and he was tried and hanged.
  • In December 1932, two schoolgirls, Shanti and Suniti Chaudhuri shot dead the Magistrate of Tipperra, Mr. Steven in Bengal.
  • Almost all such revolutionary activities were met with severe repressive measures by the British Government.

Views of the revolutionaries about use of terror as a tool to get independence

  • Ram Prasad Bismil, advised the youth to join the open movement and give up the desire to keep revolvers and pistols .
  • Bhagat Singh's own views evolved over time, he mentioned that though he has acted as a terrorist, but he is not a terrorist. By 1929, Bhagat Singh had concluded that rather than individual heroic action, broad-based mass movements and Marxism were the right road to revolution.
  • In 1931 addressing comrades from Jail, Bhagat Singh mentioned that the use of Bomb had its advantages in the beginning, but it is not sufficient and all over the world it has failed.
  • The revolutionary Bhagwati Charan Vohra countered Gandhi's criticism of the Cult of the Bomb with the Philosophy of the Bomb and mentioned that Terrorism is a necessary and inevitable phase of the revolution and the revolution is not complete without terrorism.

Impact of Revolutionary Terrorism

  • The Congress split at Surat came in December 1907, around the time when revolutionary terrorism had gained momentum. Both the events were not unconnected i.e. rise of Revolutionary ideology paved the way for Split among the factions of Congress.
  • Partition of Bengal in 1911 was annulled primarily to curb the danger of revolutionaries.

Methodology of Revolutionary Terrorist

  • The methodology of Revolutionaries was to arouse people and remove the fear of authority from their minds and strike terror in the heart of the rulers.
  • The revolutionaries intended to inspire the people by appealing to their patriotism, especially the idealist youth who would finally drive the British out.

Role of press in Propagating the idea of Revolutionary Terrorism

  • Sandhya and Yugantar in Bengal, and Kal in Maharashtra were among the newspapers and journals which advocated revolutionary terrorism.

Government efforts to check Revolutionary Activities

  • The prevention of Seditious Meetings Act (1907)
  • In May 1907, Extremism in the Punjab died down quickly after the Government struck with a ban on political meetings and the deportation of Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh.
  • The Explosive Substances Act (1908)
  • The Indian Criminal Law Amendment Act (1908)
  • The Newspaper Act (1908)
  • The Press Act (1910)
  • Defence of Indian Rules (1915)
  • Rowlatt Act (1919).

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