The Swadeshi Movement is an important marker in Modern Indian History and is a topic of importance for the UPSC Mains and Civil Services (Prelims) Examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).
Swadeshi Movement (1903-1908)
1. This was a comprehensive movement that lasted 5 years.
2. Although this was regarded as a cultural movement celebrating the rich harvest of history- the rich traditions like folk music, paintings, culture of Bengal was highlighted. But very soon, it got integrated with the political upheavals that followed after the partition of Bengal. Krishna Kumar Mitra, in his newspaper, ‘Sanjivani’ highlighted the prospects of national education and ‘Economic Swadeshi’.
3. Very soon, this movement started gaining momentum with the help of the entire Bengali middle-class intelligentsia.
4. After the partition of Bengal, the Swadeshi movement got a big boost, because of the integration of the boycott movement with the Swadeshi movement.
5. Tilak called this movement “Bahishkar Yoga“ and most of the Bengali intelligentsia that was initially not in favour of the boycott movement, got integrated with the Swadeshi movement.
6. This was a primary learning for the national movement. According Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Lala Lajpat Rai, it was training in ‘self-determination’, ‘self-help’, and ‘self-reliance’.
7. In fact, the Swadeshi movement can be called as a nursery of the further course that the Indian National Movement was to take. The programmes and ideas that were practiced during the Swadeshi movement became the hallmark of the Gandhian movement as well.
8. Surendranath Bannerjee said that it is a ‘protectionist movement’. And that it ‘generates the material prosperity of the masses’.
9. Very soon, the Swadeshi movement spread to different parts of India, like Bihar, U.P., C.P., Bombay and Madras.
10. Radicalism also became a part of the Swadeshi movement after the partition of Bengal. After the partition of Bengal, industrial strikes became the hallmark of the Swadeshi movement.
11. There were strikes carried out in various cotton and jute factories of Bengal. Railway workers also went on strike. The Burnpur mill also went on strike.
12. But, the context of anti-partition movement made it a very aggressive movement.
Problems with Swadeshi Movement
1. But the problem with the Swadeshi movement was that it was not properly directed and it failed to unite the Hindus and Muslims because of the work of Nawab Salimullah of Dhaka and the establishment of the Muslim league.
2. The demand of separate electorates became an issue to seek political mileage for the Muslims. Thus, the Swadeshi movement lacked having a large mass-base. The grievances of the peasants were not at all taken into consideration- such as lack of uniformity of the land revenue system, rights of the tenants, prevention of land grabbing, were not taken up by the Swadeshi movement, and thus the peasants did not become a part of the Swadeshi movement.
3. But, overall, the period of 1903-1908, the partition of Bengal served as a catalyst for the Swadeshi Movement.
Context of various Scholars:
1. Surendranath Bannerjee said that it is a ‘protectionist movement’. And that it ‘generates the material prosperity of the masses’.
2. R.C. Majumdar opined that the Swadeshi Movement brought the realm of the national movement from ‘theory to absolute practicality’.
3. Sumit Sarkar, a modern historian, said that one of the remarkable features of the Swadeshi movement was to ‘shape the life of the people’ which directed till 1947.
1. The Swadeshi Movement, anticipated the movements which was later started by Gandhi.
2. The Non-cooperation movement, the Civil Disobedience movement which was labeled as a ‘constructive boycott’, had its genesis in the Swadeshi movement itself.
3. Even G.K. Gokhale who had firm opposition to the ideas of boycott accepted the programmes of Swadeshi in the Swadeshi Movement. Thus the Swadeshi movement brought many streams of nationalism together under one political platform. This, later on, found expression in the mass-politics of Gandhi. Therefore, the Swadeshi movement was very short-lived, it had a great impact on Indian Nationalism.
Also see other notes on modern Indian history: