Extremist Phase of Indian National Congress – Extremist Leaders, Role of Extremists In Indian National Movement PDF

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The Extremist Phase of Indian National Movement was from 1905 to 1920. Extremist leaders were a new generation of younger politicians who did not believe in soft persuasion and resorted to forceful and open opposition. They worked restlessly towards establishing ‘Swaraj’ and achieving freedom. The Extremist Phase of the Indian National Congress was a turning point in India’s fight for freedom. It united the nation and instilled a strong sense of patriotism in the general public.

Extremist leaders played an important role in the freedom struggle. Their ideology emerged in the early 20th century as a result of moderates’ failure to achieve autonomy from the government. Extremists emerged as an inclusive class of leaders whose ideology was rooted in Indian culture and values. They vehemently opposed the westernization of India and worked towards achieving economic and spiritual freedom from the British.

Extremist Phase (1905 to 1920)

Extremist Movement in India began in 1905 after the dissatisfaction caused by the failure of methods employed by the moderates. Moderate leaders were not able to produce any positive results from their negotiations with the British. Their aversion towards radical views led to the rise of extremism in India which aimed to bring out the reality of British atrocities in front of the general public. Extremism was rooted in employing aggression to resist British oppression and establish ‘Swaraj’ which will belong to the people of the nation.

  • The extremist phase was a result of British contempt for Indians which created resentment among extremist leaders.
  • There was also a suspicion that moderates were trying to westernize the nation and build it in Britain’s image.
  • The extremist movement in India led to a revival of national pride. Extremist leaders were aggressive but were also impacted by the spiritual notions of that time.
  • The extremist period of the Indian National Movement was also influenced by Japan’s defeat of Russia and the loss of Italy in Abyssinia.
  • The aim of extremists was to rid India of British rule by following radical methods which moderates failed to do.

Extremist Leaders of India

Bipin Chandra Pal, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Lala Lajpat Rai were the three major extremist leaders who were leading the movement in Bengal, Bombay, and Punjab. These three came to be known as Lal-Bal-Pal as they gained recognition and popularity for their efforts. Apart from these three, there were also other extremist freedom fighters who believed in the use of force and aggression to get rid of British rule. The complete list of extremist leaders of India is provided below.

  • Lala Lajpat Rai
  • Bal Gangadhar Tilak
  • Bipin Chandra PalA K Dutt
  • Aurobindo Ghosh
  • Rajnarayan Bose
  • V O C Pillai

Extremist Movement in India – History

The movement for Indian freedom began in 1885 with the establishment of the Indian National Congress. Initially, INC leaders were known as moderates. They believed in constitutional methods and their demands were more representation of Indians in the army and administration. However, their demands fell on deaf ears. Their failure to produce a positive response from the British led to the emergence of a new group of leaders, extremists, who opposed the persuasive ways of the moderates. This group of extremist leaders was formed because of a combination of circumstances that include.

  • Moderates and their failure to achieve any sense of autonomy from the British.
  • The Russian Revolution excited extremists as it was able to overthrow the Czar.
  • Discrimination against Indians in South Africa.
  • Partition of Bengal in 1905 revealed the true nature of the British government to Indians.

Role of Extremists in Indian National Movement

The methods used during the extremist phase of Indian National Movement were aggressive and radical in nature. The extremist leaders did not believe in diplomacy and strongly opposed the discrimination against Indians in their own land. The goal of the extremists was to establish ‘Swaraj’ and gain autonomy. They wanted freedom from the British Raj and a right to exercise control over the decision-making concerning India. To achieve this end goal, various methods were employed that are listed below,

  • Extremist methods were in complete contrast with the methods of moderates. Where moderates only demanded an increased share of Indians in the administration and military, the extremist leaders demanded full autonomy. Unlike moderates, extremists did not believe in the British administration.
  • The extremist leaders belonged to a wide section of society. From the upper class to the lower-middle class, the wide array of people involved helped bring important issues to the forefront.
  • Extremists employed various methods of protesting that deviated from constitutional methods. They organized boycotts, strikes, and demonstrations where they also burned foreign goods.
  • Extremist methods involved confrontation. They demanded instead of persuading. They were strongly against the imperialistic laws and rule of the British.
  • Extremists established various banks and factories with the aim of furthering the scope of the Swadeshi movement.
  • Extremist leaders of India were proud of Indian culture and history and showed it by opposing the westernization of the country. They often referred to the ancient scriptures and used their lessons for inspiration.
  • They worshipped the motherland and believed in sacrificing everything including life for its cause. They invoked and popularised past heroes like Rani Laxmibai, Shivaji and Ashoka to instil a stronger feeling of patriotism among the general public.

Methods of Extremist Leaders

The extremist leader’s working method differed from the moderate because it was based on self-confidence and self-sacrifice. The main program of extremism was-

  • Swaraj
  • Swadeshi
  • National Education
  • Boycott of a foreign institution

The Extremist leader had no conviction in the imperial British government. They always emphasize opposing the government by a method of passive resistance, mass movement, and refusal of everything related to the imperial government.

This leader tried to use their own cultural and social symbols, festivals, meals, etc., to cement the growing tendency of nationalism. Tilak organized Ganpati Mahotsav and Shivaji Mahotsav; Aurobindo created an energetic spirit over youth through Kali Puja. At the same time, these leaders also took inspiration from the song of Rabindranath Tagore, ‘Amar Sonar Bangla,’ as well as the painting of Arvind Nath Tagore.

Unlike moderate leaders, extremist leaders’ demands were based on legitimate rights. They thought that without making this organization, strong their demands for Swaraj, Swadeshi, and national education could not be promoted.

Rise of Extremism in India

The extremist period in Indian National Movement began in the early 20th century for various reasons. The British rule compromised various values of Indian society which extremist leaders aggressively opposed. The other reasons for the rise of extremism in India are listed below.

  • In the late 1980s, India went through famine and plagues. The British government was not supportive of the suffering Indians and left them feeling completely helpless during the tough times which led to rising resentment. The Organisation of Delhi Durbar only aggravated these matters.
  • There was also rampant unemployment which led to further discontent among the public, especially extremists.
  • One of the major reasons for the extremist phase was also the discontent of the young Congress with the failure of moderates in achieving equality or a semblance of it from the British. The moderate methods were criticized and the extremist leaders of the Indian National Congress considered them a failure.
  • Dadabhai Naoroji’s views and expressions brought out the reality of British exploitation of economic resources to the forefront. People started to realize that the reason for their poverty was the British administration.
  • As people became more educated and were exposed to western thoughts and philosophies, they began to realize important ideals of democracy and freedom. It was akin to the enlightenment era where the harm done to India by the British became more apparent and urged people to oppose it.
  • People realized that they did not have enough freedom and that the laws of the time were highly discriminatory in nature. Extremists oppose these discriminatory practices and demand equal treatment.

Impact of Extremist Movement in India

Extremism in India had a significant impact on the general public. Their efforts materialized in a renewed vigor to fight for India’s independence. They were successful in invoking a sense of pride in being an Indian in many people who began embracing their cultural values over British ideals.

  • Bal Gangadhar Tilak spread cultural values by organizing Ganpati and Shivaji festivals. This had a large impact and many people started boycotting the westernization of India.
  • He also gave Indians the popular slogan, “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it” which was used widely and motivated people to keep fighting for the ‘Swaraj.’
  • There was a nationwide boycott of British goods. People burnt these goods as a sign of their protest and started relying on the goods produced by their own countrymen.
  • There were various changes brought in the economy as extremists learned from the example of Japan how economic independence can be achieved without foreign influence. As a result of their efforts, many people found employment and stability.
  • People also boycotted national education imposed by the British. Extremists worked to transform the education system by establishing universities that were free from government control.

Limitation of the Extremist Phase

The following were the limitations faced during the Extremist Phase of the Indian Independence Movement.

  • Though extremism demanded Swaraj as a new goal of a national movement, the definition of Swaraj by extremist leaders was unclear. For example, Aurobindo Ghosh’s Swaraj’ meant complete Independence from foreign rule, but for Tilak, it was a kind of self-government under the British framework.
  • Although the extremist leader opposed the moderates for not creating any mass movement but failed to create a mass movement, the social base of Congress led them couldn’t bring the rural people within the radius of their ideology.
  • The extremist leader, by their energetic and emotional appeal, created a new zeal among the people, but they failed to translate them into reality; reversionary activism came to emerge that was believing in bombs, pistols, and the assassination of famous English officers.
  • Since all these extremist leaders started taking inspiration from the cultural legacy of Hinduism, the isolation of Muslims and Communalism started gaining momentum, and the British Empire instigated it.
  • Like moderate, their ideology was not fundamental. They failed to provide a classic analysis like the drain of wealth theory.

Moderates vs Extremists: Surat Split

Moderates and Extremists have always been different in their idealogy and methods. However, during the Surat session of the Indian National Congress (1907) this difference became more prominent and led to a split. Both extremists and moderates wanted their own leaders to become the president of INC. To ensure Bal Gangadhar Tilak could not become the President, moderates moved the venue of the meeting to Surat which was in Tilak’s home province. This excluded him from the list as the president cannot be from the home province of the session. This led to great discontent.

In addition to this, moderates were also planning to drop any resolutions concerning the Swadesh movement. As moderates excluded extremist leaders, the discontent during the conference only grew and led to a split between both groups. The Surat Split is signified by both the groups being insulting towards each other and extremist leaders ultimately choosing to follow their own path and segregating themselves from the moderates.

Extremists UPSC

The Extremist phase of Indian National Movement is one of the most significant historic periods. The new class of leaders that emerged during that time played a huge role in India’s independence. Hence, candidates who are preparing for the UPSC exam must study about the extremists and the role they played. Their actions inspired future courses of action which led to freedom. Hence, understanding their motivations and methods is essential as Extremist Phase 1905 to 1920 UPSC questions are often asked which makes it an important topic for the exam.

Extremist Phase UPSC Sample Question

Question– Which of the following is correct regarding the Extremist Phase?

  1. Swaraj was accepted as a new goal for Independence.
  2. Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Bipin Chandra Pal are the only extremist leaders.

Choose the correct answer from the options given below:

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 only
  3. Both 1 and 2
  4. Neither 1 Nor 2

Answer– A

Question– Which of the following is/are the working method of extremist leaders?

  1. Swaraj
  2. Swadeshi Movement
  3. National Education
  4. Boycott the foreign institution

Choose the correct option from the options given below:

  1. 1 and 4
  2. 1, 2, 3, and 4
  3. 1, 2, and 3
  4. 1, 3, and 4

Answer– B

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