First Phase of Revolutionary Movement in India and Abroad

The rift between the moderates and extemists grew wider and wider within the Congress. The Extremists were in favour of boycott of the assembly elections to be conducted under the constitutional reforms introduced by the colonial government.

The moderates wanted to participate in the electoral process however limited. Finally the rift resulted in the split in the Congress in the Surat session of the Congress, 1907.

The extremist leaders continued to mobilise the masses while the Congress tried to influence the government policies. The Morely-Minto reforms of 1909 were a blow to the aspirations of the moderates. The swadeshi movement had lost its momentum. However the revolutionary message of the movement inspired another more individualistic kind of protest i.e. the revolutionary movement.

The revolutionary goal was the end of British rule through extreme self sacrifice. Their methods were to assassinate unpopular colonial officials who were responsible for giving shape to the repressive acts of the Government. The colonial response to the mass movements was always two fold. On the one hand it gave concessions to the leaders by undertaking constitutional reforms and inviting them to participate in the limited elections, on the other hand there was large scale repression mainly through arrest of key leaders.

The extremist leadership spent several years in jails. Their being in and out of jails resulted in the revolutionary movement largely being underground, operated by secret organizations. These organizations had their genesis in the samitis of the Swadeshi days.

In 1908 Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki threw a bomb at a carriage that was occupied, they believed, by Kingsford, the unpopular judge of Muzzafarpur. However they killed two English ladies in his place. Chaki shot himself and Khudiram was hanged. The revolutionaries who mainly belonged to the Anushilan and Yugantar samitis, also undertook swadeshi dacoities to raise funds for their movement. The revolutionary movement was not confined to Bengal. Rasbehari Bose and Sachindranath Sanyal setup a revolutionary network spanning Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi areas. In 1912 these two revolutionaries made an unsuccessful attempt on the life of the Viceroy Lord Hardinge in Delhi.

The Revolutionary movement had also started slowly spreading beyond the shores of India. Shyamji Krishnaverma had started in 1905 a centre for Indian students in London called India House. In 1907 this organization was taken over by a revolutionary group under VD Sarvarkar. Madanlal Dhingra of this organization assassinated the India Office bureaucrat Curzon-Wyllie in London in 1909.

In Europe (Paris and Geneva) Madame Cama a Parsi revolutionary established contacts with French socialists and brought out the revolutionary journal Bande Mataram. In Berlin, Virendranath Chattopadhay and others operated since 1909. In Britain and Europe the revolutionary groups were fairly isolated.

However the movement found something of a mass base in the United States of America, specially in the states of British Columbia and those along the Pacific coast. These states had a population of 15000 Indians mainly of the Sikh community who were facing considerable amount of racial discrimination in spite of being successful traders and workers. Among this population began the Ghadr Movement in 1913 in the city of San Francisco. The movement was founded by Sohan Singh Bhakna and Har Dayal was one of its most prominent leaders.

The First World War began in 1914, and the revolutionaries saw in this a very good opportunity in pushing through their agenda of complete independence. Britain was busy in preparation for war and troops from India were sent out for this purpose. Enemy nations like Germany would be only too willing to give funds for revolutionary activities to weaken Britain. Britain's aggression on Turkey brought the support of pan-Islamists as Turkey was the seat of the Khalifa revered by Muslims the world over.

Barkatulla was one of the important Muslim revolutionary leaders who joined the Ghadr movement. At Deoband, in an Islamic centre of learning in Uttar Pradesh a group of learned men, or Ulema, also preached the revolutionary message which had a large following among Muslims.

Meanwhile swadeshi dacoities and the assassination of Englishmen continued and there was a marked increase in revolutionary activity at this time. The Bengal revolutionary outfits united under Jatin Mukherjee (Bagha Jatin) and planned large scale disruption of rail communications and seizure of arms. They were successful when a large arm and ammunition of the Rhoda firms in Calcutta came into their hands.

However, their long-term plans were cut short due to the capture of Bhagha Jatin by the police in Balasore, Orissa. Ras Behari Bose and Sachin Sanyal plan was also a part of the Bengal revolutionary movement. This group established contact with the Ghadr movement. The Ghadrites had started coming back to India in large numbers. The Komagata Maru incident further inflamed passions. The ship Komagata Maru carrying Sikh and Muslim passengers to Canada was turned away by the Canadian government and reached Calcutta in September 1914. The passengers clashed with the police and 22 people were killed.

The Ghadr movement and the revolutionary plans were unsuccessful because the British government came down with a heavy hand on them. Most of the Ghadrites who returned were immediately arrested. The attempt to incite mutiny in several army units was foiled and Ras Behari Bose fled to Japan and Sachin Sanyal was transported for life. The revolutionaries and specially the Ghadrites were the pioneers of organizing revolution among the army units and among peasants.