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Swadeshi Movement, Background, Leaders, Significance, Outcome

The Swadeshi movement, which placed a strong emphasis on self-sufficiency during the Indian independence movement, helped to shape Indian nationalism. As a unified reaction to Bengal’s Partition, the Swadeshi movement began in 1905 and lasted until 1908. Among the pre-Gandhian movements, it was the most successful. 

Swadeshi Movement Background

  • Lord Curzon’s decision to divide Bengal led to the formation of the anti-partition movement.
  • Moderates started the Anti-Partition Campaign to put pressure on the government to avoid unfairly dividing Bengal.
  • Numerous petitions were delivered to the government, gatherings of the general public were held, and ideas were published in newspapers like Hitabadi, Sanjibani, and Bengalee.
  • Protests started in Bengal, the place where the pledge to boycott foreign goods was first made, as a result of the news of the partition.

Swadeshi Movement and Partition of Bengal

The Swadeshi movement was a response to the British Partition of Bengal in 1905, and was a significant moment in India’s fight for independence. The movement lasted from 1905 to 1911 and was officially announced in August 1905 at a Calcutta town hall meeting. The movement’s goals were to promote Indian industries, boycott British goods, and pressure the government for political concessions.
The partition of Bengal was announced in 1905 by Lord Curzon, the Viceroy of India at the time.

The British government claimed the partition was for administrative reasons, but many believed it was an attempt to divide and rule by creating religious divisions. Moderate leaders like Surendranath Banerjee and Ananda Mohan Bose opposed the partition, believing it would harm Bengal’s social and cultural fabric and hinder the nationalist movement.

The Swadeshi movement’s strategies included: Publicly burning foreign cloth, Promoting Indian-made alternatives like Khadi, and Reviving traditional industries. The movement was initially led by moderates but gained momentum with more radical participation from figures like Tilak and Lajpat Rai. In 1907, the movement was officially incorporated into the Indian National Congress.

Swadeshi Movement Beginning

Following the partition, the Extremist wing of the Indian National Congress took over as the anti-partition movement’s leader. Extremist leaders thought that protests, gatherings of the general public, and resolutions would not have much of an effect on the British government. They believed that passive resistance was necessary to best convey the intensity of the general sentiment. They believed that boycotting and swadeshi were the answers.

Swadeshi Movement: Course of the Movement

  • Students from Bengal played a significant part in the Swadeshi agitation. They participated in picketing campaigns against stores that sold foreign clothing as well as practising and promoting Swadeshi.
  • The government did everything it could to suppress students. 
  • Strict actions were taken against schools and colleges whose students took part in Swadeshi movement activities.
  • Disciplinary action was taken on guilty students. Often fine was imposed or they were suspended from their schools and colleges. Arrest and lathi charges on students were also common. 
  • One noteworthy aspect of the Swadeshi agitation was the active involvement of women.
  • Urban middle-class women, who are typically homemakers, participated in processions and picketing. In fact, the Swadeshi Movement marked the beginning of women’s participation in the national movement.
  • A large number of Muslims also joined the movement including prominent businessmen and barristers. However, some upper and middle-class Muslims under the leadership of Nawab of Dhaka supported partition under the premise of two two-nation theory. This was encouraged by the British government under their policy of Divide and Rule. 
  • Swadeshi schools for education were set up. 
  • Many new Swadeshi industries like soap, match stick, chemicals, cotton etc. were also opened.

Expansion of Swadeshi Movement

The Swadeshi Movement spread from Bengal to other parts of India, including Bombay, Poona, Punjab, Delhi, and Madras. The movement also involved several million Indians living abroad.

The movement spread through public meetings, petitions, newspapers, and other means of communication. School and college students were the most active participants, along with women who traditionally stayed at home. The movement also spread through festivals, such as the Shivaji and Ganapati festivals in Maharashtra, which were organized by Lokmanya Tilak.

The Swadeshi Movement emphasized “Atmasakti,” or self-reliance, to regain national pride. The movement also led to the spread of national ideas beyond elite circles, and the emergence of a new generation of Indian politicians.

Swadeshi Movement Government Response

The government responded with suppressive action, including lathi charges on students, outlawing the singing of Vande Mataram, not allowing public meetings, arrest and imprisonment of Swadeshi leaders, press censorship

The government also gave proposals for legislative reforms which placated many congress leaders. This created division within Congress as many were opposed to falling to this bait. Slowly government was able to suppress the movement. 

Swadeshi Movement Significance

  • For the first time, the Indian National Movement saw the participation of masses in large numbers which included sections like women and students. 
  • The movement gave birth to the powerful idea of passive resistance which was later used by Mahatma Gandhi to liberate the nation from colonial Rule. 
  • The movement created new leadership which came from the urban middle class. Also, it saw the participation of rural peasants in significant numbers. 
  • Movement is significant from a cultural viewpoint like the composition of patriotic poems, and the revival of folk tales, and songs. 
  • From an economic viewpoint movement led to a decline in imports of foreign products and the promotion of Swadeshi products. Many new non-British-owned Industries also came up. This in a way was the beginning of Indian-led Industrialisation. 

Swadeshi Movement Shortcoming

  • The movement largely remained confined to urban areas. 
  • The movement had inconsistent leadership which ultimately divided as is evident from Surat Split. 
  • The movement could not break the loyalty of urban Indian elites towards the British. 
  • Movement often acquired communal colours due to the use of religious practices like the Ganapati festival, taking an oath with Ganga water etc.

Swadeshi Movement Conclusion 

The Swadeshi movement was a watershed in the Indian Independence movement. It instilled a strong sense of nationalism and self-confidence in Indian people. Momentum picked up by the Swadeshi movement was harnessed to a conclusion during the Gandhian phase of the national movement.

Swadeshi Movement UPSC

The Swadeshi Movement was the first organized mass movement that took place in response to the British Government’s decision to partition Bengal province. It was led by the congress organization, particularly extremists within the congress. The movement saw the participation of the masses including women, students and urban middle class, and rural peasants. The movement led to a number of political, social, cultural and economic developments. The British Government was taken by surprise and responded with ruthless repression. Despite this people remained largely non-violent and used the technique of passive resistance as their strength. The movement ultimately subsided with the split of Congress in the Surat session. However, it remained an inspiration for future movements to come. 

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Who started the Swadeshi movement and why?

Swadeshi Movement was started by the Congress in opposition to the British Government decision to partition Bengal.

What was the main purpose of the Swadeshi movement?

Main purpose of the Swadeshi movement was to protest against the partition of Bengal province.

Who is the main leader of the Swadeshi movement?

The Swadeshi movement was primarily led by the extremist faction of the Indian National Congress.

Who ended the Swadeshi movement?

Swadeshi Movement ended due to suppression of government and split of congress organization in 1907 during the Surat Session.

What does Swadeshi stand for?

Swadeshi stands for indigenous. It instills a strong feeling of nationalism.

About the Author

I, Sakshi Gupta, am a content writer to empower students aiming for UPSC, PSC, and other competitive exams. My objective is to provide clear, concise, and informative content that caters to your exam preparation needs. I strive to make my content not only informative but also engaging, keeping you motivated throughout your journey!

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