UPSC Preparation: Modern Indian History - Indian Revolutionaries

Revolutionaries played an important part in the Indian freedom struggle. They were also called militant nationalists. However, the British termed them ‘terrorists’ for obvious reasons. This is an important topic for the UPSC exam.


A group of people who take arms and attack their rivals or government, etc.  They believe they can change the system through armed struggle.

The revolutionary movement originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries first in Bengal and then in the Bombay presidency (particularly around Pune).


Factors that led to the emergence of militant nationalism:

Internal Factors:

  1. Exploitation

The root cause of the rise of militant nationalism was British suppression and humiliation of Indians. There was large scale unemployment as a result of British economic policies that aimed only at filling British coffers. There were atrocities committed by collectors and their agents particularly during land revenue collection and also brutalities by the police. Any opposition against the British like dharnas, public meetings, etc. were met with stiff resistance and oppression by the British. There were no fundamental rights. Naturally, the young people of the country were provoked and they resorted to arms.


  1. Absence of a political movement or leadership.

External Factors:

  1. Russia’s defeat at the hands of Japan-inspired the Indians. This was a major victory by an Asian power against the ‘invincible’ white Europeans. This gave young Indians confidence in their fight against the British.
  2. Also, the Irish Republican Army’s violent uprising against England, as well as the Russian nihilists motivated the Indian revolutionaries.


Major Organisations:

Bengal – Anushilan Samiti, Sandhya, Yugantar

Maharashtra – Mitra Mela, Abhinav Bharat (V D Savarkar)


Objectives of the revolutionaries:

Initial objective – to take revenge

Later on –to obtain Swaraj

  1. Revenge as the objective

Initially, the revolutionaries aimed only on taking revenge for the atrocities committed by the British. They targeted controversial British officials. Many events took place.

The first political murder took place in 1897.

Mr Rand, President of the Plague Committee of Poona was killed by Damodar Hari and Balkrishna Hari Chaphekar.

Another event took place in 1908. In Muzaffarpur, Bihar, Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Kumar Chaki threw a bomb at a carriage assuming it to be Kingsford’s. But, it was carrying the wife and daughter of Pringle Kennedy, and they were killed. Bose was hanged while Chaki committed suicide.

In 1912, a bomb was thrown on Lord Hardinge on his state entry to the new imperial capital in Chandni Chowk, Delhi, killing his attendants.


  1. Swaraj as objective

When the Congress leaders said Swaraj, they meant autonomy within the British administration. But the revolutionaries wanted complete independence.


Methodologies adopted by the revolutionaries:

  1. They were organised secretly. They met at odd times and places and also used women as courier agents.
  2. Funding – they needed money for arms and ammunition. For this, they often resorted to dacoity.
  3. One important methodology was to kill controversial British individuals, mainly in retaliation for any unjust activity.
  4. They also attacked certain public government offices.
  5. They had support outside India also. For instance, the Gadar Party was formed in San Francisco by Lala Hardayal.
  6. They were also influenced by the Russian revolution and leaders like Karl Marx and Lenin. As a result of this, the objective was not merely Swaraj but also making India a socialist nation.


Causes for their failure:

  • It was limited to the intelligentsia.
  • There was no central leadership.
  • The British adopted ruthless repressive actions against them.


Consider the question asked in IAS prelims 2000 GS paper I:

  1. Q) Match List I with List-II and select the correct answer using the codes given below the Lists:

List I                                                                                      List II

  1. Chittagong Armoury Raid                                A.    Kalpana Dutt
  2. Abhinav Bharat                                                   B.   Guru Ram Singh
  3. Anushilan Samiti                                                C.   Vikram Damodar Savarkar
  4. Kuka Movement                                                 D.    Aurobindo Ghosh
  1. I-A, II-C, III-D, IV-B
  2. I-A, II-C, III-B, IV-D
  3. I-C, II-A, III-B, IV-D
  4. I-C, II-A, III-D, IV-B

Answer: A


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