Sample Material of Our IAS Mains History Study Kit
Subject: History (Optional)
Topic: Rise of Indian Nationalism
Spread of western education and thought through English language, which was made the medium of instruction in schools and colleges in 1835 were the root cause of the rise of the Indian nationalism. Socio-religious reformers like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, etc., created self-confidence among the Indians in themselves and respect for their own religions and culture. In 1893 Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) arrived in the city of Chicago in America with great diffculty, to attend the World Parliament of Religion. In the conference, he was given two minutes to speak on the very first day. In his speech he painted an indelible picture of the culture, religion and knowledge of India. It goes without saying that the credit for establishing a spiritual base for Indian renaissance goes to Swami Vivekananda.
In the Parliament of Religions he proclaimed that the Hindu religion was about developing a humanitarian approach to religion and that it was full of the elements of humanism. Thus, he opposed any form of blind faith. The return of Aurobindo Ghosh (1872-1950) to India, after 14 years stay in England in January 1893, was also significant, as he was the one who provided direction to the spiritual and political ideology of India. In a series of articles, published in 1893, called ‘New Lamp for Old’ he severely criticised the loyality of the Congressmen, their timid language and their inclination towards considering the English rule as a boon. The year 1893 was an important year in the life of Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948). This was the year when he went to South Africa in connection with the trial of a Merchant, Abdulla Seth.
From the point of view of revolutionary activities also the year 1893 became an important landmark. In Nasik, the Chapekar brothers set up a secret society named as the Society for the Removal, of Obstacles to the Hindu Religion. In 1892 Indian Council’s Act was passed but it rejected the idea of direct election to Central Legislative Councils. In 1892 the value of Indian rupee was reduced from two shilling to one shilling and two pence. Consequently, Indian wealth started flowing speedily towards England. In 1901, the Home charges, (expenses incurred on Indian affairs in England) came to the tune of £ 17 million.The government did not do much to help the people. Only a commission was appointed which tried Bal Gangadhar Tilak for, treason (1897) and sentenced him to 18 months of imprisonment.
In 1904, the Administrative Secrecy Act was passed. According to this Act a breach in official secret was considered a criminal offence and was to be punished. Similarly, the freedom of the press was curbed. In 1904, Indian Universities Act was passed which increased government control on the universities. The period of Lord Curzon witnessed another terrible famine during 1899-1900. But he never paid any heed to it and held a Royal Durbar in Delhi in 1903 in order to commemorate the coronation of Edward-VII, which was an expensive affair. The announcement of partition of Bengal on 20 July, 1905 was the ultimate explosion that shook the nationalists and the moderates. Lokmanya Tilak also inspired the ideals of Swarajva, patriotism and personal duty by saying that, “swarajya or self-rule is important for carrying out one’s duties, without Swarajya, social reform, industrial progress, useful education and national life are not possible.
Bipin Chandra Pal used the name of Kali and Durga in Bengal to inspire the feelings of self-confidence, self-sacrifice and self-pride amongst the people.
In 1896, the victory of Abyssinia (Ethiopia) over Italy, and in 1904-1905 the victory of a small nation like Japan over a big country like Russia encouraged the Indians. The victory of Japan over Russia was considered as the victory of East over West. It also ended the dream of western superiority and led to the flow of confidence, sacrifice, patriotism and self-esteem amongst the Indians. Introduction of the printing press which became the chief instrument for the nationalist Indians to spread the message of patriotism and modern liberal ideas. Reactionary regime of Lord Lytton (1876-80) gave Indian nationalism a visible form, while the Ilbert Bill Controversy (1883) gave it an organized form.
Partition of Bengal
Curzon’s imperialist policy of ‘divide and rule’ manifested itself most glaringly in the partition of Bengal. As regards its necessity, many arguments were proffered before affecting the partition. According to the Britishers the area and population of the Province of Bengal was too large. There was a problem of communication. The network of railways in the province was scarce. Highways were not safe. The incidences of theft and dacoity were rampant. The peasants of this province were a harassed lot. But actually the cause behind the partition was much more political than administrative. Bengal was becoming the nerve centre ‘of nationalist activities in India. In 1874 Assam had been made into a separate province.
In 1903 Andrew Frazer, after becoming the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, gave a practical shape to William Ward’s proposal and suggested the merger of Dacca, Mymensingh and Chittagong with Assam. In the same year Curzon endorsed the plan. The Government of India formally proposed the partition of Bengal on 19 July, 1905. According to this proposal Chittagong, Rajshahi and Dacca were merged with Assam to form the new province. Curzon announced the partition of Bengal on 16 October, 1905. From the contemporary speeches of Lord Curzon also it becomes apparent that he wanted to weaken the spirit of nationalism among the Indians by driving a wedge between the Hindus and the Muslims. Surendranath Banerjee likened the declaration of the partition to a bomb shell and regarded it as a systematic assault on the traditions, language and history of Bengal.
The famous newspaper from London, ‘The Daily News’ also appealed the Secretary of State to immediately stay the order of partition. Since 16 October, 1905, the reactions against the partition of Bengal started taking shape. This day was observed as a ‘Black Day’. People took holy dip in the Ganga and kept vows. They also tied Rakhi in each other’s hand as symbol of unity. The day partition took effect -16th October 1905 -was declared a day of mourning throughout Bengal. People fasted and no fires were lit at the cooking hearth. In Calcutta a strike was called. People took out processions and band after band walked barefoot, bathed in the Ganges in the morning and then paraded the streets singing Vande Mataram which almost spontaneously, became the theme song of the movement. People tied rakhis on each other’s hands as a symbol of the unity of the two halves of Bengal. Later in the day Anandmohan Bose and Surendranath Banerjea addressed two huge meetings which drew crowds of 50,000 to 75,000 people. These were, perhaps, the largest mass meetings ever to be held under the nationalist banner this far. Within few hours of the meetings, a sum of Rs. 50,000 was raised for the movement.
Surendranath Banerjee, Krishna Kumar Mitra, Prithwihchandra Ray and other leaders launched a powerful press campaign against the partition proposals through journals and newspapers like the Bengalee, Hitabadi and Sanjibani. Vast protest meetings were held in the town hall of Calcutta in March 1904 and January 1905, and numerous petitions (sixty nine memoranda from the Dhaka division alone), some of them signed by as many as 70,000 people -a very large number keeping in view the level of politicization in those days -were sent to the Government of India and the Secretary of State. Even, the big zamindars who had hitherto been loyal to the Raj, joined forces with the Congress leaders who were mostly intellectuals and political workers drawn from journalism, law and other liberal professions.
It began as a anti-partition agitation in Bengal and boycott was first suggested by Krishnakumar Mitra in Sanjivni in 1905. The boycott of British products was followed by the advocacy of swadeshi and to buy indigeno-usly produced goods as a patriotic duty.