The year 1885 marks the beginning of a new epoch in Indian history. In that
year, an all-India political organisation was set on foot under the name of the
Indian National Congress (INC). The INC has three main aims.
- To bring together political workers from different parts of the country.
- To promote national consciousness among the people.
- To educate the people and influence public opinion in the interest of the country.
The Indian National Movement suggests three broad stages in its development (A.)
Stage I (1885-1905) (B.) Stage II (1905-1918) and, (C.) Stage III (1919-1947).
- Stage I (1885-1905)
(Period of Moderate Politics or Tea-Party Politics or Political Mendicancy.)
The vision of the INC was dim, vague, and confused. The movement was confined to
the handful of educated middle-class intelligentsia who drew inspiration from
Western Liberal and Radical thoughts.
- Stage II (1905-1918)
During the second stage, the Congress came of age and its main aim and scope
were considerably extended. It aimed at an all-round uplift of the people-
social, cultural, economic, and political. Swaraj or Self-government was the
goal on the political front. Some progressive elements within the Congress
adopted Western revolutionary methods to liquidate Western Imperialism.
- Stage III (1919-1947)
The final stage was dominated by the objective of Purna Swaraj or Complete
independence to be achieved under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi by the
characteristically Indian method of non-violent, non-cooperation.
The Moderate leaders were influenced by Western political ideas and practices,
especially by the political philosophy of liberalism.
The liberal philosophy of
moderate Congress leaders emphasized:
- Dignity of the individual.
- Individual's right to freedom.
- Equality of all irrespective of caste, creed, or sex.
The liberal philosophy guided moderate leaders of the Congress in opposing the
autocratic attitude of the British government, demanding the rule of law and
equality before the law, and advocating secularism. Some prominent moderate
leaders who became president of Congress in their early years were Dadabhai
Naraoji, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, etc.
Ideology & Methods Of Work
The moderate leaders made modest demands from the British rulers very cautiously
and peacefully, mainly for two reasons.
Firstly, most of the moderate leaders had an enduring attachment to the British
way of life, they believed that it was the association with British rule and
English education that had exposed the Moderates to modern ideas such as
liberty, equality, democracy, and dignity of the individual.
Secondly, the moderates were also aware that INC was a young organization in its
early stage of development, and they did not want to incur the wrath of the
British rulers, which could have resulted in the suppression of their activities
and nipped Congress in the bud.
The moderates disfavoured a confrontation with the British rulers but wanted to
change their rule to reflect the interest of the country. Later, when they
realised that British rule had done a lot more harm to the country than good,
they changed hearts and began to press for 'Swaraj' or self-government for India
within the British Empire.
In India, they sought to promote national consciousness and educate the people
on political issues by submitting petitions to British authorities, organising
meetings, passing resolutions, and giving speeches.
Outside India, in Britain, they made efforts to familiarise the people of
Britain and the Parliament with the 'real' conditions in India. They carried out
active propaganda to influence public opinion in Britain by sending delegations
of leading Indians to Britain.
Contribution Of Moderates
The Congress program during the early phase (1885-1905) can be divided into
- Constitutional and administrative reforms
- Social reforms and defense of civil rights
- Economic reforms
One of the major demands of the moderate leaders was a proper representation of
Indians on the Legislative Councils as well as the increase in the power of
these Councils. The Moderate leaders also pressed for reforms in the
They vehemently argued for:
- Increase in the number of Indians in the higher echelons of administration.
- Separation of judiciary from the executive.
- Promotion of primary education, technical and higher education.
- Establishment of agricultural banks to prevent the farmer from being exploited by the moneylender.
- Development of irrigation to avoid famines.
- Extension of medical and health facilities.
- Reform of the police system, which was dishonest, inefficient, and unpopular.
Moderate leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji made scathing criticism of the economic
policies followed by the British rulers in India. The Moderate leaders through
books, newspapers articles, and speeches exposed the British Government's
economic exploitation of India.
The Drain Theory, in which the moderates argued that wealth from India was being
drained to England, exploded the myth that British rule was good for India. The
Moderates demanded changes in official policies on industry, agriculture,
tariff, transport, and taxation that would improve the system of India.
The rise of extremism on the Indian scene was not sudden. It had been growing
steadily since the uprising of 1857. Though the uprising was brutally suppressed
by the British, the ideas of 'Swadharma' and 'Swaraj,' which had kindled the
uprising continued to linger on as an undercurrent among the Indian people.
The 'peaceful' methods used by the moderate leaders were not effective in making
the British Government accept their demands. As a result, several politically
conscious people became frustrated and disillusioned, and at the end of the 19th
century, a strong feeling arose among the people that more radical political
action was needed to force the British to accept popular demands. The extremist
leaders of INC like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, and
Aurobindo Ghose articulated radical political ideas against colonial rule.
Ideology & Methods
The extremist leaders neither believed in the goodness of British rule nor their
sense of justice and fair play. The extremists' program of action was radically
different from that of the moderates.
Extremists aimed specifically at arousing emotive indignation against British
rule and thereby promoting active involvement of the masses in the agitations to
gain 'Swaraj' by educating them, uniting them, and instilling in them a sense of
self-respect, self-reliance, and pride in their ancient heritage.
Aurobindo Ghose and Lokmanya Tilak played a major role in developing the
blueprint of the extremist program, which involved the following activities:
- 'Boycott' of foreign goods and promotion of 'Swadeshi' goods to give impetus to the growth of indigenous industry and commerce.
- Non-cooperation with the bureaucracy; this included a 'boycott' of governmental activities.
- The establishment of schools and colleges that gave education in the Indian languages and instill in the students pride in the glorious heritage of India, making them nationalistic and public-spirited in character and knowledgeable, self-reliant, and independent in spirit.
- 'Passive Resistance' to British rule by non-payment of revenue and taxes and by organizing separate 'indigenous administrative institutions' parallel to those of the British at the level of villages, talukas, and districts.
The revolutionaries questioned the non-violent strategy of struggle adopted by
the INC, as they believed passive resistance could not be effective against the
They believed in adopting violent methods and aspired to organize an armed mass
revolution to drive away the British from the country. They adopted the path of
heroic action or revolutionary terrorism.
The assassination of unpopular British officials (by the Chapekar brothers) was
done by the revolutionaries to achieve three things:
- To strike fear in the officials.
- To remove the fear of the Indian people.
- Ignite a feeling of national consciousness.
The revolutionaries gradually moved away from individual heroic action and were
attracted by the possibility of armed mass struggle.
In 1924, the Hindustan Republican Association was formed to organize an armed
revolution against the British. But the British suppressed the movement by
arresting several revolutionaries and implicating them in the Kakori Conspiracy
Case in 1925.
The moderates stood for the constitutional method of attaining responsible
government, believed in petitioning and prayer, and had faith in the goodness,
justice, and fair play of the British.
The extremists advocated both constitutional and extra-constitutional means for
the achievement of 'Swaraj', which was considered by them as a birth right of
every man. To counter British rule, they developed the four-point program of
Swadeshi, Boycott, National Education, and Passive Resistance against the
The revolutionaries abhorred British rule and advocated the use of violence to
get rid of the British from India. Initially, they undertook acts of individual
heroic action by assassinating unpopular British officials but later began
advocating collective armed action against British rule.