India's struggle for freedom is a subject that has been widely researched. Thousands of Article have been published  on the different aspects of this single theme, but still there is scope for fresh attempts on a regional level. This Article is a sincere endeavour to throw new light on a much neglected but very important phase of the freedom struggle in south India.

What is Swadeshi Movement In India

Swadeshi Movement In India

 In 1905, Bengal was divided into two separate provinces. The origin of the partition idea lies in the Orissa famine of 1866, when it was felt that the province of Bengal was so big that in times of emergency it was very difficult to pay attention to the outlying areas of the province. In 1874, a few Bengali-speaking districts were transferred from Bengal. Even then, the crisis posed by the large size of the province of Bengal loomed large. But the bold step to manage the situation was taken up by Lord Curzon who, in June 1903, prepared an exhaustive Minute on the territorial redistribution of India. Efficiency of administration, unification of the Oriya-speaking population under a single administration, development of Assam, and the like, were cited as the rationale behind the partition.

The proposal for partitioning Bengal 

The proposal for partitioning Bengal was officially published in January, 1904. Swarms of small boys in the Dacca streets, carried with them placards bearing the words "Do not turn us into Assamese", and the street walls were filled with slogans such as "Pray, Do not sever Bengalis", "Do not divide us", "Do not flout, history and nationality". Lord Curzon ignored the writings on the wall and moved ahead to carryout his scheme, only to see it annulled on 12 December 1911. A crisis, it is said, brings out, individually or collectively, the best in men and even the worst as well. In partitioning Bengal, it was publicised, Curzon had only administrative motives.

 But beneath this seeming earnestness it was found that he had also some ulterior motives such as undermining the prowess of the Bengalis and curtailing the importance of the Calcutta city as the centre of national activities. Also, he wanted to drive a wedge between the Hindus and the Muslims and to break the solidarity of the Bengali-speaking people. While Curzon stuck to his proposal, the people of Bengal began to strike vehemently against it. The Bengalis took the cause so dearly and daringly that the courses that they followed brought them to a stage from where national politics went further with no returning. 

Swadeshi Movement In Bengal

During the course of the Swadeshi movement in Bengal, Bipin Chandra Pal, like a victorious general, undertook a pro-paganda tour, in the first five months of 1907. From April 12 to May 9, he covered south India and delivered inflammatory speeches at Vizagapatam, Vizianagaram, Cocanada, Rajah-mundry and Madras, on boycott, swadeshi, swaraj and national education. Bipin Chandra Pal's speeches had tremendous impact on south India. No wonder, the Sedition Committee Report of 1918 held him responsible for the wide-spread unrest in south India resulting in various trials 'n 1908, notably of Subramonia Siva and V.O. Chidambaram Pillai. The triumph of Pal's speeches found expression in the sudden change in the behaviour of the student community, pushing them into anti-British activities. The student unrest in the Rajahmundry College, and the Cocanada riot, served as the epicentre of extremist politics in south India. The cry to Bande Mataram was raised as a political slogan, for the first time at the historic Town Hall Meeting held on 7 August 1905 for passing a resolution of boycott and for taking the vow of swadeshi. Since then, a multitude of voices through-out the country rent the sky with these words and made it the battlecry of a subject nation. Europeans either restrained themselves or got enraged when they were shouted at by street boys with this slogan. 

Mark Hunter, the Principal of the Rajahmundry College and Major Kemp, I.M.S., the District Medical Officer of Cocanada were victims of this 'Bande Mataram' fever. Mark Hunter considered the cry of 'Sande Mataram' slogans by his students to be an offence. But his students dared to wear the 'Bande Mataram' badges and shout the slogans in the face of the Europeans. This provoked the Principal who dismissed some of his students, and later the Government was obliged to punish sacral of them. The revolt that began to sprout in the Rajahmundry College could have been averted if there was a spark of statesmanship in Mark Hunter. Thus, the student movement grew along as an ancil-lary of the national struggle and at times outgrew the move-ment itself. Outbursts of student community prior to 1905 were either sporadic or found isolated in the city colleges in several parts of India. 

But the student movement became a tributary to the national movement only with the advent of the swadeshi movement. The Kakinada riot is a concrete case of mob action in a climate of political unrest. Major Kemp smacked a boy on his head, for crying 'Bantle Mataram' in his face. The boy was seriously injured. Soon a mob gathered spontaneously and wrecked the club where the Europeans were dining. The author has gone into the details of this episode from its very roots. The study gives a fine example of the Indian tempera-ment in moments of political excitement. A highly religious and God•fzaring people, who shuddered even at the thought of killing a fly or hurting an ant, had suddenly swung to the other extreme, when seized by a blind fury, to kill men and pillage. Such cases of mob frenzy, rising to the great heights of revenge, still defy proper diagnosis putting successive govern-ments in India under great strain.

Boycott Movement

The agitation against the partition of Bengal threw up the twin weapons of `swadeshi' and 'boycott' which became the weapons of the future political agitation in the country to force the British Government to accede to public demand .While the partition of Bengal was annulled, the inherent mischief to divide the Hindus and Muslims by accentuating their differ-ences succeeded. Though the Bengali agitation fashioned up several national leaders and brought the whole of India under the Congress flag, it had also driven the Bengali students to underground and terroristic activities.

 No authentic study has yet been made on the role of south India in the swadeshi movement and the part played by the student community in it. This book is a sincere attempt to give a comprehensive coverage to that chapter in Indian history. It may seem that the students' role is over-stressed in the survey. But it is a fact that the students played a major role in that moving drama and our historians of Indian struggle have very little to say about it. Hence the necessity for under-scoring the activities of the student community. I have great pleasure in introducing this well-documented book to the students of history.