Swadeshi Movement

Swadeshi Movement


  • The movement had its roots in the anti-partition movement which was started to oppose Lord Curzon’s decision of dividing the province of Bengal.
  • The Anti-Partition Campaign was launched by Moderates to exert pressure on the government to prevent the unjust partition of Bengal from being implemented.
    • The petitions were written to the government, public meetings were held and the ideas were spread through newspapers such as Hitabadi, Sanjibani, and Bengalee.
  • The partition led to protest meetings in Bengal under which the pledge to boycott foreign goods was first taken.

Swadeshi Movement Proclamation:

  • In August 1905, at Calcutta Townhall, a massive meeting was held and the formal proclamation of the Swadeshi Movement was made.
  • The message was propagated to boycott goods such as Manchester cloth and Liverpool salt.
  • After the partition came into force, widespread opposition was shown by the people of Bengal by singing Vande Mataram.
    • Rabindranath Tagore also composed Amar Sonar Bangla.
    • People tied Rakhis on each other’s hands as a symbol of unity.
  • Although the movement was confined majorly to Bengal, it spread to a few different parts of India:
    • In Poona and Bombay under Bal Gangadhar Tilak
    • In Punjab under Lala Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh
    • In Delhi under Syed Haider Raza
    • In Madras under Chidambaram Pillai.

Congress Reaction:

  • The Indian National Congress (INC) in a meeting in 1905 resolved to condemn the partition of Bengal and support the anti-partition and Swadeshi Movement.
  • The radical nationalists wanted the movement to be taken outside Bengal and go beyond just the boycott of foreign goods.
    • However, the moderates, dominating the Congress, were unwilling to go that far.
  • In the 1906 Congress Session held at Calcutta, the INC under the presidentship of Dadabhai Naoroji declared self-government or Swaraj as the goal of the INC.

Rise of the Radical Nationalists:

  • The Extremists (or the Garam Dal) gained a dominant influence over the Swadeshi Movement in Bengal from 1905 till 1908; it is also known as the “Era of Passionate Nationalists”.
  • Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Bipin Chandra Pal (Lal-Bal-Pal) were important leaders of this Radical group.
  • The reasons for the same were:
    • Failure of the Moderate-led Swadeshi movement.
    • Divisive tactics of the governments of East Bengal and Western Bengal.
    • Violent measures of the British to suppress the movement.
  • In addition to boycotting the Extremists gave a call for boycotting government schools and colleges, government service, courts, legislative councils, municipalities, government titles, etc.
  • Tilak gave the slogan “Freedom is my birthright and I shall have it”.

Participation of People:

  • Students: School and college students were the most active participants of the movement.
    • Student participation was visible in Bengal, Poona (Maharashtra), Guntur (Andhra Pradesh), Madras and Salem (Tamil Nadu).
    • The police adopted a repressive attitude towards the students. The students found guilty were fined, expelled, beaten, arrested, and disqualified for government jobs and scholarships.
  • Women: Traditionally home-centered women too took an active part in the movement.
  • Stand of Muslims: Some of the Muslims participated, however, most of the upper and middle-class Muslims stayed away.
    • They supported the partition on the belief that it would provide them a Muslim-majority East Bengal.

Evaluation of the Swadeshi Movement

  • It led to the beginning of the organized political movement in India.
  • It marked a total reversal of the earlier nationalist approach of “petitioning and praying” to the Raj for concessions, as well as a virtual rejection of the moderate political program.
  • It set before the Indian people the goal of Swaraj or independence and committed them to the task of doing away with Britain’s imperialist stranglehold over India.
  • In the pursuit of Swaraj, it advocated “passive resistance” or civil disobedience against British authority, placing constitutionalism in a secondary role.

The Swadeshi movement, although not a full-fledged mass uprising, exhibited some secretive aspects and revealed certain weaknesses. However, it achieved significant success in terms of ideology, organisation, and political strategies.

Related Links: Atma Nirbhar Bharat