December 4, 2013


The rise of robust nationalism cannot be attributed to any single factor. The major contributing factors to this were as follows:
1.            The Famine and Plague: Drought led to a countrywide famine in 1896-97. It affected crores of people and caused nearly 45 lakh deaths. The government machinery was slow in providing relief— money, food and clothing—to the people. Tilak, through his writings, explained to the peasants their right to relief under the Famine Relief Code. Plague followed in the wake of famine. The soldiers were deputed to take the plague infected people to isolation camps. They behaved like a gang of invaders, insulting women and throwing household goods on the streets. This angered the people. Two sensitive young men, Damodar Chapekar and Balkrishna Chapekar, killed the Plague Commissioner, Mr. Rand. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who was not at all connected with the murder, was also arrested. He was tried for having written explosive articles in the 'Kesciri' and sentenced to eighteen months' imprisonment. It was greatly resented by the people throughout the country.

2.            Worsening of the Economic Conditions: Our peasants were made poor by a prolonged spell of drought and famines. Indian traders and manufacturers had lost all confidence in the government of the country. India's gold reserves were being transferred to London. India was thus starved of its own resources. A point reached when "money was not available for loans even against government securities and the Bank rate was artificially high".
3.            Ill-treatment of Indians in South Africa: Everywhere in South Africa Indians were subject to racial discrimination. They were denied the right to vote and could not enter the buses or railway coaches reserved for the Whites. They were subject to unfair taxation. The Registration Act required them to carry their Identity Cards. In India itself assault by British soldiers often resulted in the death of Indians.
4.            International Events: In South Africa, the Boers fought with amazing courage for three years (1899-1902) against the mighty British empire. In Ireland people were waging a full-scale Home Rule agitation. Revolutionary movements were going on in China, Egypt, Russia, Turkey and Iran. Nationalists in India drew inspiration and courage from such events. Italy's defeat in Ethiopia in 1896 and Japan's victory over Russia (1905) shattered the myth of European superiority. Japan's victory "heralded the dawn of a new era for the whole of Asia." The people of India had caught fire from the patriotic instincts which were animating the world around them.
5.            Repressive Policy of Lord Curzon: Much of the unrest in India was due to Lord Curzon's repressive measures. "To him," said Gokhale, "India was a country where the Englishman was to monopolize for all time all power." He roused a storm of opposition in the country by the Calcutta Corporation Act of 1899 which reduced the elected members of the Corporation to half. Similarly, the chief purpose of the Universities Act of 1904 was to reduce their autonomy and turn them into departments of government. The Sedition Act and the Official Secrets Act curtailed the liberties of all sections of the society.
6.            Partition of Bengal: Lord Curzon's most unpopular measure was the Partition of Bengal, which he announced in 1903 and carried out in 1905. He justified the partition on grounds of administrative convenience. However, his real object was not to relieve Bengal administration, but to contain and crush the rising tide of Bengali nationalism. The support of the Muslims was sought by telling them that they would derive great benefits from it. Under the leadership of A. Rasul and Bipin Chandra Pal, the Bengalis carried on a fierce agitation against the partition. Every town and village rang with the  slogan of "Bande Mataram" which meant "patriotism, unity and determination to free the Motherland".
A split was feared but the personality of the Grand Old Man prevented it from happening. 'Swaraj' was proclaimed by the Congress President as the Goal of India.


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