Why did the Swadeshi Movement Fizzle out?
- Firstly, the government, seeing the revolutionary potential of the Swadeshi Movement, came down with a heavy hand. Repression took the form of controls and bans on public meetings, processions and the press. Student participants were expelled from Government schools and colleges, debarred from Government service, fined and at times beaten up by the police. The case of the 1906 Barisal Conference, where the police forcibly dispersed the conference and brutally beat up a large number of the participants, is a telling example of the government's attitude and policy.
- Secondly, the internal squabbles, and especially, the Surat split, in 1907 in the Congress, the apex all-India organisation, weakened the movement. Also, though the Swadeshi Movement had spread outside Bengal, the rest of the country was not as yet fully prepared to adopt the new style and stage of politics. Both these factors strengthened the hands of the Government. Between 1907 and 1908, nine major leaders in Bengal including Ashwani Kumar Dutt and Krishna Kumar Mitra were deported, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was given a sentence of six years imprisonment, Ajit Singh and Lala Lajpat Rai of Punjab were deported and Chidambaram Pillai and Harisarvottam Rao from Madras and Andhra were arrested. Bipan Chandra Pal and Aurobindo Ghosh retired from active politics, a decision not unconnected with the repressive measures of the Government. Almost with one stroke the entire movement was rendered leaderless.
- Third, the Swadeshi Movement lacked an effective organisation and party structure. The movement had thrown up programmatically almost the entire gamut of Gandhian techniques such as passive resistance, non-violent non-cooperation, the call to fill the British jails, social reform, constructive work, etc. It was, however, unable to give these techniques a centralised, discipline focus, carry the bulk of political India, and convert these techniques into actual, practical political practice, as Gandhiji was able to do it later.
- Lastly, the Swadeshi Movement declined partially because of the very logic of mass movement itself- they cannot be sustained endlessly at the same pitch of militancy and self sacrifice, especially when faced with severe repression, but need to pause, to consolidate its forces for yet another struggle.
Rise of Extremism