REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENTS

The revolutionary movement can be divided into three phases which had different characters:

THE FIRST PHASE (1897-1910)

  • Akharas/ gymnasia and early secret societies:
    • Akharas propagated a ‘physical culture’ and an interest in militant politics and were set up in many parts of Bengal in the 1860s and 1870s.
    • These were the precursors to the earliest secret societies in Bengal which came up around 1902, three in Calcutta and one in Midnapore.
      • Midnapore Secret Society was founded by the brothers Jnanendranath and Satyendranath Basu, and Hemchandra Kanungo;
      • Sarala Ghoshal started a gymnasium for sword and lathi-play to train revolutionaries for action;
      • Atmannyoti Samiti was set up by Nibaran Bhattacharya among others.
      • Anushilan Samiti was set up by Satishchandra Basu.
  • Swadeshi Movement:
    • However, it was the popular upsurge of the Swadeshi Movement in 1905 that marked a sudden increase in the activities of these secret societies and the birth of many more.
    • The Dacca chapter of the Anushilan Samiti was founded by Pulinbehari Das in 1906.
    • In Dacca and Midnapore, the Swadeshi movement was stage-managed by secret societies.
    • In 1906 Hemchandra Kanungo travelled to Europe to train with revolutionaries.
    • Aurobindo and Charuchandra Dutta started a weekly called ‘Yugantar’.
      • They had set up a religious school and bomb making factory at Manicktala, and also used Hemchandra’s expertise in this regard, freshly acquired from his trip to Europe.
  • Alipore Bomb Case, 1908:
    • The first successful assassination was undertaken by Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki.
    • These two young members of the Samiti had thrown a bomb at a carriage they had believed was carrying the magistrate Kingsford, but it had killed the wife and daughter of a barrister, Pringle Kennedy.
    • Within 36 hours, the whole group had been rounded up and arrested, except Aurobindo and Hemchandra. Prafulla shot himself and Khudiram was sent to the gallows.
    • This incident was followed by a series of killings in retaliation.
  • At the same time the Dacca Anushilan Samiti made its presence felt with the Barrah dacoity in 1908.
  • Deccan:
    • Although Bengal was the nerve centre of revolutionary activity of this sort, discontent was rife in the Deccan as well, especially in the aftermath of the plague epidemic, during which the destruction of property and forcible hospitalization of people had created deep resentment among Indians.
    • Moreover, the westernized social reformers of Bombay also provoked angry reactions from those who saw them as defilers of age-old Hindu norms.
    • The Chapekar brothers had assassinated Rand, the Plague Commissioner of Pune in 1897, for which they were hanged in 1898.
      • Their martyrdom deeply influenced V. D. Savarkar who ran a group called the Mitra Mela, which later became Abhinav Bharat.
  • From outside India:
    • A large number of Indian revolutionaries also worked for the cause from Europe.
    • In 1905, Shyamji Krishna Varma founded the India Home Rule Society, started the journal Indian Sociologist and established the India House to help fund Indian students studying abroad.
      • The India House became a meeting place for other revolutionary leaders like P. M. Bapat, Virendranath Chattopadhyay, Lala Hardayal, Bhai Parmanand, Madanlal Dhingra, V. V. S. Aiyar, Madame Cama and Savarkar, who had left for London in 1906.
      • Savarkar’s elder brother, Ganesh Savarkar was sentenced to life imprisonment.
      • Jackson, the collector of Nasik, was assassinated in retaliation, and Madanlal Dhingra shot dead Curzon Wyllie, an officer from the India House. Dhingra was hanged in May, 1909.
  • Those involved in the Muzaffarpur blast and those found to be running a bomb factory in Manicktala garden house were tried in 1910, and some were hanged and others deported for life.
    • Savarkar was transported to the Andamans for life, and after Madanlal Dhingra’s execution, his revolutionary friends in London, now under police surveillance, had to leave for Paris, Berlin and Geneva.
    • These incidents had a strong impact on revolutionaries, bringing the intense first phase of revolutionary activity to an end.

THE SECOND PHASE (1910-1918)

  • Expansion to other parts of India:
    • The beginning of the second phase was crucial because centres of revolutionary activity came up in many parts of the country.
    • Secret societies emerged in Benaras and Dehradun under the leadership of Rashbehari Bose and Sachindranath Sanyal.
    • Similar organizations were set up in Punjab under Ajit Singh, Bhai Parmanand, Hardayal, with the encouragement of Lala Lajpat Rai and Hansraj.
    • The Ansuhilan Samiti in Dhaka and the Yugantar group in Calcutta under Jantindranath Mukherji, expanded their operations.
    • The Bharat Mata Association came up in Tirunelveli in Madras Presidency.
  • These secret societies continued to attack British officials and to undertake ‘dacoities’ to raise funds.
    • Its leaders established contacts with each other and sought sympathy and arms from sources beyond Indian boundaries.
  • Emergence of Ghadar Movement:
    • Revolutionaries in Europe kept up attacks on the colonial government in India through its journals.
    • But the most significant development in this second phase was the emergence of a movement on the Pacific coast of America and British Columbia, by Punjabi traders, peasants and workers who had emigrated from India.
    • The movement in San Fransisco, referred to as the Ghadar party after its popular publication, was established in 1913 under the leadership of Lala Hardayal and Sohan Singh Bhakhna.
    • Another similar organization called ‘Free Hindustan’ came up in Vancouver in Canada.
    • Their aim was to use British preoccupation with the First World War to their advantage, link up with enemies of the British, notably Germany and Turkey and eventually organize an uprising in India by 1915, with the help of sepoys.
    • Leaders in India, like Rashbehari Bose, Jatindranath Mukherjee, Vishnu Ganesh Pingle and Sachindranath Sanyal would coordinate with them to ensure the success of the uprising.
    • The ‘Ghadar’ was circulated widely amongst Indians all over the world – in America, Canada, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Manila, Penang and Singapore.
    • With minimal planning, ‘branches’ almost spontaneously mushroomed in many of these countries, to generate sympathy and excitement for the revolution. Meanwhile, Indian leaders negotiated with Germans to receive arms and ammunition, because Germans were keen to cause trouble for the British in their colonies.
    • The date for the revolution in northern India was fixed for 21 February 1915, by which date almost 8000 Ghadarites had come into Punjab and spread all over the north.
      • They had also made contact with garrisons in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Ferozepur, Banaras, Danpur and Fort William.
      • However, the plan ended in a fiasco because the German cache of arms didn’t arrive and the British uncovered the conspiracy.
      • 46 Ghadarites were executed, 64 transported for life and hundreds got life imprisonment.
      • Sachindranath was deported for life, Jatindranath died in a gun battle against policemen and Rashbehari Bose managed to leave the country for Japan.

THE THIRD PHASE (1918-1938)

  • The early years of the third phase was a period of lull, as the entry of Gandhi to the political stage had re-invigorated mass support, apparent in the scale of participation in the Non-Cooperation Movement of 1920.
    • Revolutionaries also watched the ‘non-violent’ mass movement unfold with admiration.
    • But the euphoria proved to be short-lived as Gandhi revoked the movement abruptly in February 1922, when it was at its peak.
    • Gandhi’s action caused great dismay within the Congress and the country at large. It precipitated the third phase of the revolutionary movement.
    • Revolutionary activity re- emerged with the aim of tapping into the strength of mass agitation, but through a technique diametrically opposed to Gandhi’s ‘ahimsa’.
  • Development of a larger ideology of socio-economic emancipation:
    • Preparation for an armed struggle against the British continued through secret societies, bomb factories, assassination and ‘political dacoities’.
    • But, apart from this, there was also an attempt to develop a larger ideology of socio-economic emancipation of the poor masses of the country through a revolution.
    • The centres of the movement were all over Bengal, UP and Punjab. In Bengal a ‘New Violence Party’ came up in 1923, which established links with the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA). The latter had centres in UP.
    • In Kakori, 14 miles from Lucknow, a train was held-up in a daring ‘dacoity’ by HRA activists in 1925, for which many of them were arrested later.
    • The most significant developments of this period took place in UP and Punjab. The H.R.A. in UP already had a revolutionary ideology which aimed, not just at overthrowing the British colonial state, but replacing it with some form of ‘federal republic’ in India.
      • This ‘republic’ would be established by mass participation through universal suffrage, in order to end the exploitation of the poor.
    • Important members of the HRA — Ashfaqullah, Ram Prasad Bismil, Rajendranath Lahiri and Thakur Roshan Singh fearlessly faced death in 1927 for their role in the Kakori conspiracy case. After their hanging, the leaders of the movement, now under close surveillance of the police, met in Delhi in 1928 to establish the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army.
    • The young Bhagat Singh was the main ideologue of the HSRA, and gave the movement a clear Marxist-Socialist orientation. They were intent on spreading their ideas primarily amongst peasants, students and workers.
    • In December 1928, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru killed, Saunders, a police official, to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai in the police lathi-charge during the anti-Simon Commission agitation. This act turned them into national heroes.
    • In 1929, Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt hurled harmless bombs in the Central Legislative Assembly, to ‘make the deaf hear’, and scattered HSRA leaflets.
      • They courted arrest and were tried for the Lahore and U.P. Conspiracy cases.
      • They turned their prison into a political platform by agitating for the rights of political prisoners through long hunger strikes.
      • Jatin Das died in prison after an epic 64 days of starvation. They used the spotlight to propagate their ideas and inspire the country to action.
  • Surya Sen’s IRA:
    • In Bengal, national independence, and not a socialist revolution, remained the more urgent and hallowed goal.
    • Surya Sen was a revolutionary form Chittagong who had escaped the police in Shovabazar, to reorganize revolutionary work in Bengal, Bihar, Assam and UP.
    • In 1928 he along with his friends established the Indian Revolutionary Association (IRA) in Chittagong, on the lines of the Irish Sinn Fein.
    • They planned a military insurrection to take over Chittagong and to declare it a republic.
    • On 22 April, 1930, the IRA was engaged in a fierce gun battle with the police, in which they lost 13 of their ranks.
      • After this the IRA started ‘khanda juddha’ or guerilla warfare against the state.
      • This ‘war’ continued for a long time until Surya Sen was arrested in February 1933, and his closest aides Tarakeswar Dastidar and Kalpana Datta in May 1933.

Bhagat Singh and his aides, including Chandrashekhar Azad were killed in 1931. Surya Sen and Tarakeswar were sentenced to death and Kalpana for life, in 1934. After this, some revolutionary activity continued sporadically, often to avenge the death of these heroes, but with little impact. In 1938, the most long-lived revolutionary organization, the Yugantar formally decided to dissolve itself.

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