India witnessed the Bengal’s partition in 1905. To oppose this decision of the British Indian Government, Indians decided to unite and launch an anti-partition movement in the spirit of Indian nationalism. The Swadeshi movement emphasized the self-production of goods and boycotting the products made by the foreign companies.
This economic strategy had a dual impact. It put pressure on the British Indian Government to give in to the demands of the Indians and it also led to improvement in India’s economic conditions with the revival of its domestic goods.
The British divided Bengal on the pretext of administrative difficulty due to its vast territory and large population. In reality, the Britishers were applying the Divide and Rule policy by creating a divide between Hindus and Muslims.
Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy of India, made an announcement of the Bengal partition in 1905, and this prompted the Indian National Congress to start a movement called “Swadeshi Movement” on a massive scale in Bengal.
Leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji and Gokhale were the first ones to initiate this movement back in 1850. The ‘second’ Swadeshi Movement lasted from 1905 to 1911 and is considered to be one of the most successful movements before the Gandhi era.
Objectives of Swadeshi Movement
The word ‘swadesh’ comes from Sanskrit words “Swa” meaning “own” and “Desh” meaning “country”.
- To revive the use of domestic Indian goods and promote self-sufficiency.
- To negatively impact the British Government by causing open manifestations like the burning of British goods to stop the Bengal’s partition.
- To improve India’s economic conditions without the interference of the British rulers.
Agitations by the Moderates
In the beginning, the Swadeshi movement was led by the Moderates. Petitions were addressed to the government, public meetings were held, and the newspapers were used to spread ideas of unity and nationalism.
The moderates wanted to put pressure on the Government to reverse the decision of Bengal’s partition. 7 August 1905 was the date when a huge meeting was held in Calcutta, which led to the official proclamation of this movement.
After the partition became official, the people of Bengal mourned. With so many people involved in this movement, it soon spread to other parts of India like Punjab (under the aegis of Lala Lajpat Rai), Madras (under Chidambaram Pillai), and Delhi (under the aegis of Syed Haider Raza).
The Contribution of Extremists
The Extremists wanted to see better results; as they felt they were being suppressed by the British power.
To make the movement more impactful, following Dadabhai Naoroji’s Calcutta declaration in 1906, the Extremists directed to boycott all government schools and colleges. They wanted to stop doing anything which would help the British either directly or indirectly.
Impact of the Swadeshi Movement
Along with boycott of British goods and services, public meetings started being held more frequently to pass on ideas. Every festival became a reason for people of all religions to gather and spread political messages. With people supporting each other, there was a rise in their confidence and the economic condition of the villages also witnessed improvement.
It was during this time that Bengal National College was established, with Aurobindo Ghosh as its principal.
This phase witnessed brilliant literary works inspired by social conditions as well. Tagore’s “Amar Sonar Bangla” was also written during this time.
Unity in Diversity
After Bengal’s partition, India witnessed great unity between Hindus and Muslims. Everyone would participate in social movements to bring about a change.
Students would encourage the use of local products. They drove the movement even further and this scared the Britishers. As a result, the Government started to subdue the students by penalizing them.
However, there was a certain class of people who supported the partition. The Muslim peasantry, being uneducated, was often blinded by the Government on the pretext of the differences between caste and class.
In 1907, the All India Muslim League was formed.
Reversal of Bengal’s Partition
In 1911, the Government decided to annul Bengal’s partition; as it wanted to put a stop to public movements and demonstrations.
The capital was shifted to Delhi.
Eventually, Bihar and Orissa were separated from Bengal.