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Effects of the Swadeshi Movement

Due to the lack of exact statistical data, it is hard to estimate the precise effect of the boycott movement on foreign goods import in Bengal. The official and confidential police reports, however, suggest that there was a steep decline in import of British products in the first couple of years or so, especially with respect to the cloth. Several secret revolutionary organizations that were resolute in countering the Government came up during this time. The movement that was initiated as a mere boycott of foreign goods with time became widespread across the nation evolving as an integral part of the greater movement, the Indian independence movement. Emphasis was given on self-reliance or Atma shakti thus asserting on national dignity, honour and confidence and with such mindset, several Indian enterprises, organisations and institutions came into being. The Swadeshi movement led the people to learn to challenge and disobey the British government explicitly without fearing the atrocities of the police and imprisonment. Even an ordinary man didn’t shy away from showing his love and respect for his motherland and resentment over the British rule.

Lord Hardinge later on December 12, 1911, re-united the two parts of Bengal in face of continuous political protests as well as to pacify the sentiment of the Bengalis. The Oriya, Hindi, and Assamese areas were taken out of the Bengal Presidency thus dividing the province this time on linguistic ground instead of on religious ground. While in the west Bihar and Orissa were separated from the Bengal Presidency and the Bihar and Orissa Province was created on April 1, 1912, in the east Assam was separated and made a chief commissioner’s province in 1912. The annulment of partition of Bengal was however not taken well by the Muslims. As a concession the British decided to shift the administrative capital from Calcutta to Delhi, a place historically associated with Muslim glory.

Impact of Swadeshi Movement on Students

  • The students who supported Swadeshi and boycott movements faced stern and violent actions from the British Raj.
  • Circulars were given that those students found involved in the boycott movement in any way would face severe penalty.
  • The students were also warned to refrain from giving voice to the slogan ‘Vande Mataram’ in public places which would also amount to punishable offence.
  • Institutions were warned, If their students defy such orders then Government grants would be withdrawn and the institution may also lose affiliation while their students would be proclaimed ineligible for Government Service. (Even the schools and colleges were not spared from such warnings as these institutions were alarmed that
  • Instructions were given to authorities of such institutions to be vigilant on their students and to report names of disobeying students to the Education Department so that strict measures can be taken against them.
  • It was also conveyed to the teachers and other management staffs through the magistrates that if required they would be commissioned as Special Constables.
  • The principals of colleges were directed to show causes by the Direction of Public Instruction for the reason of non-expulsion of students who participated in picketing.
  • The teachers who refrained from whipping the boys were asked to resign. Such measures only gave rise to resentment across the country and were sternly censured by the Indian-owned Press.
  • It was taken up as a challenge by the Bengalis and college students of Rangpur disobeyed the orders of the Government while their guardians refused to pay the fine and instead established a national school for the expelled students.
  • The students then protested the action of the authorities by boycotting the Calcutta University that was tagged by them as Gulamkhana that is a place where slaves are manufactured. On November 10, 1905, a conference was held that was attended by many prominent personalities of Bengal from different occupation or position within the society.
  • There it was resolved to set up a National Council of Education so that a system of education can be arranged which will be under national control. The National Council of Education was established on August 15, 1906.
  • Bengal National College was established and Aurobindo Ghosh was inducted as its principal. Rapid establishment of several national schools and colleges across the nation was witnessed during this time.

In pursuit of parting technical education, a Bengal Institute of Technology was established and funds were raised so that students can be sent to Japan for advanced learning. The way the inspirited Bengalis from both parts of divided Bengal acknowledged the cause of national education and countered the repressive measures of the British only fostered the idea of the Swadeshi movement which by such time thrived in spreading its wings across the nation.

Impact of Swadeshi Movement on Art & Culture

The Swadeshi movement had a great impact on the cultural arena. Several songs composed during this time by stalwarts from the field including Rabindranath Tagore, Makunda Das, Dwijendralal Ray, Syed Abu Mohammad and Rajani Kanta Sen became extremely popular infusing Indian nationalism among people from different walks of life. Many of these songs were adopted by prominent Indian nationalists and groups in keeping the spirit of the Indian independence movement alive.

  • The liberation struggle of Bangladesh undertaken decades later took inspiration from the song ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’ (“My Golden Bengal”) penned down by Rabindranath Tagore during the Swadeshi movement in 1905.
  • The first ten lines of this song were adopted by Bangladesh as its National Anthem in 1971.
  • Refinement of Indian art was also witnessed during the Swadeshi movement.
  • ‘Vande Mataram’ meaning “I praise thee, Mother”, the title of a Bengali poem written by eminent Bengali writer, poet and journalist Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in the 1870s was used by the leaders of the anti-partition movement as their slogan.
  • The slogan ‘Vande Mataram’ as also the revolts eventually garnered widespread attention across the nation.
  • The poem ‘Vande Mataram’ that personified India as a mother goddess and was included in the writer’s 1881 Bengali novel titled ‘Anandamath’ played an instrumental role in the Indian Independence movement. Rabindranath Tagore composed a song out of the poem.
  • The song eventually developed into an extremely popular marching song of Indian nationalists in 1905 where the Mother was interpreted as Bharat Mata (Mother India). Indian philosopher, yogi, guru, poet, and freedom fighter Sri Aurobindo referred it as the “National Anthem of Bengal”.

The first two verses of the song were later adopted by the Congress Working Committee (in October 1937) as the National Song of India. Both the song and the novel ‘Anandamath’ were banned by the British Government, however, this couldn’t deter the general public or workers who did not hesitate to sing the song over and over again even after being put behind bars repeatedly for singing it. The ban was later removed post-Indian independence from the British rule. The newspapers in Bengal also played an instrumental role in protesting against the partition of Bengal and revolutionizing the people for the cause of a united Bengal. These included prominent roles from four leading newspapers of Calcutta, namely the Amrita Bazaar Patrika, the Hindu Patriot, the Indian Mirror and the Bengalee; as also the vernacular newspapers like Bangabashi and Sanjivani. In an early issue of the Amrita Bazaar Patrika dated December 14, 1903, the newspaper urged people of East Bengal to conduct public meetings across towns and villages in pursuit of preparing a petition to submit to the government, which garnered signatures of lakhs of people.

What British Government did to Restraining the Swadeshi Movement

The police roughly handled and lathi-charged the volunteers of the Swadeshi and boycott movement, even in cases where peaceful picketing and protests were conducted.

  • The police had a free hand in applying what was called ‘Regulation Lathis’ to disperse the protesters.
  • Although such assault of the police was described as “mild lathi-charge”, the severe wounds and injuries inflicted on the people spoke volumes of the brutality applied in repressing the nationalists.
  • While students were forbidden to take part in the movement with the threatening of dire consequences;
  • uttering Vande Mataram in public places was made illegal;
  • processions and meetings were banned;
  • rural markets were dominated; leaders were imprisoned sans any trial,
  • and attempts were made to stir up the loyal Muslims against the rebellious Hindus.
  • In some way, the British thrived in separating the very essence of Bengal on the basis of religion.
  • Eventually, the elites from the Muslim community met the new viceroy, Lord Minto in 1906 and sought for separate electorates for Muslims as also proportional legislative representation.
  • The All Indian Muslim League political party was founded in December 1906 during a conference hosted by Nawab Sir Khwaja Salimullah held at Ahsan Manzil, the official residence of the Dhaka Nawab Family in Dhaka (presently in Bangladesh).
  • Although such Hindu- Muslim Divergence was opposed by prominent Indian freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi, the seed of the “divide and rule” policy sown by the British already started germinating and only developed with time.

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