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Unit 3
Growth of Militant Nationalism

Learning Outcomes

After reading this unit, the learner will be able to:

  • familiarise themselves with the concept of Militant Nationalism
  • delineate the reasons behind the emergence of extremists and revolutionaries going against the imperialistic policies of the British rule in India.
  • debunk the plans, strategies, programmes and execution of the same by Militant Nationalists against the British
  • critically analyse the contributions of such revolutionary activities leading to the Indian Freedom struggle
  • point out the major reason that paved the way for the decline of Militant Nationalism without much sought out impact as expected


Militant Nationalism is an integral part, especially in the case scenario of the liberation process to conquer more territories like we saw during the time of world wars. Similarly, in almost all colonies of Asia and Africa we could see some type of surging militant nationalist groups emerging to liberate their people from the hands of colonialist powers at that point of time. Organisations like LTTE which went extinct recently and Maoists who are still believed to be functional in India in certain regions still stand up for a particular cause for their people and fight for the same though it cannot be considered as a clear example of militant nationalism. However, during the colonial period we could certainly classify militant nationalism as part and parcel of freedom struggle. It stood up against the imperialist policies of Britain.

Failure of the moderates and extremists agendas to a certain extent favoured the growth of militant nationalism in India. It began to create a kind of fear and insecurity in the minds of the British which made them more vigilant and suspicious of every activity in the name of freedom struggle in India whether it implied peaceful means or not.

According to the extremists and revolutionaries, the Moderate phase (1885-1905) was an utter failure which contributed to the acquiring of power by a new set of young people ready to take radical actions who believed in self-might and extreme nationalism. They were guided over and backed up by patriotic feelings and spiritual nationalism. They planned to violently react against the imperialistic policies of the British. Their activities were mainly concentrated on north, north-west and north-eastern regions of India funded by various organisations from inside and outside India. Youth were mostly attracted to them though they lacked proper organisation or specific strategies. These activities created more martyrs than any other anti-British movements in India. Sukh Dev, Chandra Sekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, to name a few, embraced death in the course of their activities against the British at a very young age. It did have its own significance in the era of Indian freedom struggle on varying grounds and did play a major role in impressing people and voluntarily taking part in freedom struggle supported by the feelings of intense nationalism and spiritual mobilisation based on their attitudes towards the British. It couldn’t succeed well and at the end it declined due to lack of popular leadership, organisation, funding and support. All these will be discussed in this particular unit with corroborative evidence.

Key Words

Moderates, Extremists, Revolutionaries, Activities, Significance, Decline.

5.3.1 The factors that led to the rise of extremist trend within the Congress circles

Frustration with moderate politics was one of the major reason behind the rise of extremist’s reaction. The congress under moderate leadership was being governed by an undemocratic constitution, although after repeated attempts by Tilak, a new constitution was drafted and ratified in 1899, but it was never given a proper trial.

  • Moderate politics reached a dead end as most of their demands remained unfulfilled and this was certainly a major reason behind the rise of extremism.
  • The failure of the Moderates to win any notable success other than the expansion of the legislative councils by the Indian Councils Act (1892).

The partition of Bengal in 1905 opened the eyes of the Indians to the true colours of the British rulers.

It is believed that the extremists drew inspiration from India’s past, invoked the great episodes in the history of the Indian people and tried to infuse national pride and self-respect among them. They considered that idealising western culture gives Indians an inferiority complex. So they revived the rich history of India, especially with regard to Hindu history and ideologies.

5.3.2 Extremists

  1. They were radical in their approach. Demands of extremists were aggressive.

  2. They believed in ‘atmashakti’ or self-reliance as a weapon against domination.
  3. Ideological inspiration was Indian History, Cultural heritage, National education and Hindu traditional symbols. Hence, they revived the Ganapati and Shivaji festivals to arouse the masses.
  4. They wanted to inculcate pride in India’s glorious culture to generate the spirit of nationalism. They invoked goddesses Kali or Durga for strength to fight for the motherland.
  5. Guided by four principles: Swarajya, Swadeshi, Boycott of foreign goods, and National education to make Indians aware of patriotism.
  6. They believed in militant methods.
  7. Method of Non-Cooperation.
  8. They advocated democracy, constitu-tionalism and progress.

5.3.3 The Revolutionary Movement

The emergence of revolutionary ideology in India during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was the result of several internal and external influences working on the minds of the youth.

Early phase of the revolutionary movement in India was in Bengal, Maharashtra, Punjab, U.P., Orissa, Bihar, and Madras provinces. But it predominantly operated in Bengal, Maharashtra and Punjab .

5.3.4 The reasons behind rise of revolutionary terrorism

  1. Nationalism among youth: Most vital factor which contributed to amplifying the spirit of nationalism among the countrymen was the ‘economic exploitation’ of Indians by the British Government and the Partition of Bengal.
  2. Failure of Moderate and extremist congress: Younger elements was not ready to retreat after the decline of the national militancy phase. Fallout of the Swadeshi and Boycott Movement was the immediate reason.
  3. Leadership’s failure to tap revolutionary energies of the youth.
  4. Government repression left no peaceful avenues open for the protest.

Major Revolutionary Activities
Their ideologies were based on radical and vibrant actions thrusted on instilling fear in the minds of Britishers. They believed in strong spiritual ideologies backing them up in this process. In the initial stages they were not organised enough, and was mainly based on actions, whereby they eliminated or assassinated traitors and cruel British officials. Furthermore, there is tangible evidence to prove that they hatched military conspiracies and even did some kind of swadeshi dacoities to raise funds alongside some other funding agencies inside and outside India. Infact, through their actions based on patriotic feelings they were able to inspire millions of youth in India. They rebelled against the imperialistic policies of the British and vowed to eliminate anything that stood in their path. Peaceful methods or discussions with the opposition were not an option for them to resolve any kind of issues. All of them who entered into this were even ready to embrace death at any point in time through an encounter with their enemies. This itself was the fate of many during the course of various events that took place in relation to their activities.

The first revolutionary organisations were formed in 1902 in Midnapore (under Jnanendra Nath Basu) and Calcutta (under Promotha Mitter, and including Jatindranath Banerjee, Barindra Kumar Ghosh, and others). This was followed by Anusilan Samiti in 1906 pioneered by Barindra Kumar Ghosh and Bupendranath Dutta. Their ideologies were propagated through Yugantar Newspaper and through many other options available at that point in time. Sandhya and Yugantar were the main weapons of print media against the British in those days. Even British Official General Fuller even became a victim to the revolutionaries.

There were murder attempts against Andrew Fraser in the year 1907, by derailing the train in which he was travelling. Similarly, revolutionaries like Khundiram Bose and Chakki were charged with a case whereby they threw a bomb at a carriage in Muzaffarpur (1908) in an attempt to kill the judge. However, this plan failed as the judge was nowhere to be found there except for the fact that those who attempted murder were tried and executed. There were also incidents like Muraripukur Conspiracy case, and Barrah dacoity which as per British was a very serious offence against them and their rule.

In December 1912, Rashbehari Bose and Sachin Sanyal staged a spectacular bomb attack on Viceroy Hardinge as he made his official entry into the new capital of Delhi in a procession through Chandni Chowk. Jatin revitalised connections between the central organisation in Calcutta and other locations in Bengal, Bihar, and Orissa. During World War I, the Jugantar party arranged for the import of German arms and ammunition through sympathisers and revolutionaries in other countries.

The Ramosi Peasant Force founded by Vasudev Balwant Phadke in 1879 was the first of its kind, spreading revolutionary activities in the Maharashtra region. They believed in armed revolt and did the same against the zamindars and the British who supported them. Damodar and Balakrishna better known as Chapekar brothers murdered higher British officials, such as Rand and Lieutenant Ayerst in the year 1897. Likewise, Balgangadhar Tilak also instilled militant spirit in the people through Ganapati and Shivaji festivals.

Vinayak Damodar Savarkar and his brother Ganesh Damodar Savarkar founded the Abhinav Bharat Society (Young India Society) in 1904. It was founded as “Mitra Mela” in Nasik while Vinayak Savarkar was still a student at Fergusson College in Pune. Following a few assassinations of British officials, the Savarkar brothers were convicted and imprisoned. In 1952, the society was formally disbanded. Some other major assassinations in this regard were that of the Lieutenant Colonel William Curzon-Wyllie and AMT Jackson’s, committed by Madanlal and Anant Laxman Kanhare respectively as part of the revolutionary activities in this region. The Nasik Conspiracy case in the year 1909 was also related with these kinds of activities which really annoyed British imperialist rule in India. In Punjab, Lala Lajpat Rai and others led these kinds of activities in which most of their aims were achieved until his death. Besides these activities, Sukh Dev, Chandra Sekhar Azad, and Bhagat Singh can’t be forgotten as they all became martyrs in the month of March, 1931 at the hands of the British.

Significances of Revolutionary Movements in Indian Freedom Struggle

  1. The emergence of secret societies help-ing and funding such activities emerged globally. Activities of Anusilan Samiti operating from Calcutta and other places can be viewed from this perspective to get more clarity about this system.
  2. Revolutionaries concentrated much on raising funds for purchasing arms, and further they used the same for assassinating potential threats from the Britishers who were standing as a bulwark against gaining their independence from British control.
  3. Their radical and vibrant actions attracted more adults from among men and women to actively participate in the Indian Freedom Struggle, so that leaders didn’t have to take much effort in this regard of recruitment procedure of adult volunteers who could boost up their anti- british activities.
  4. Even though the movement never acquired a mass character capable enough to mobilise the masses, it did influence the people to fight for their country, and was deeply grounded on love, and pa-triotism, and the sacrifices of individual heroes and martyrs that did not go in vain after all.
  5. Martyrdom of great patriots like Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad, Surya Sen, Shivram Rajguru, Sukhdev Thapar, Raj Guru, etc. in the months of February and March of 1931 did have an adverse impact upon the advance of this movement as it virtually came to an end in the North and North-western part of India which was considered the epicentre of such activities.
  6. Though they couldn’t achieve their goal of independence from British rule, they showed people how to resist, and fight for one’s cause without fear, and to sacrifice their life in the process so that it would act as a model or inspiration for others in the future.
  7. Surprisingly, it did serve its purpose as we could see many youths voluntarily taking part in the Indian Freedom Struggle without any forcible compulsions or persuasions.


  1. Lack of mass participation, and their secret nature of operation backfired in the long run as this helped the British to sketch their movements and hunt them down individually. It began to fall apart as it could only influence and attract adults, especially young people to the movement, and one thing to be noted down here is that those who entered into such activities never tried to pro-mote or spread it to other people and were limited to them and their militant activities against the British. There was no central power to exert control over them and monitor their activities.This alongside the lack of funds from countries like Germany and Japan did heavily impact the revolutionary activities in India. World War and its effects also had its impact upon the declining pat-tern of anti- British activities in India. Non-cooperation of Indian National Congress, and other prominent leaders like Gandhi, created a kind of “black-listed” image in the minds of people and thereby restricted its popularity among masses.Furthermore, lack of support from organisations like INC affected their stability and back up strategies. Last, but not the least, Montagu’s reforms ensuring self-governance took the spotlight from revolutionaries to the benefits of the former.


  • Failure of the Moderates and their goals paved the nurturing ground for Ex-tremists.
  • Extremists believed in radical actions based on self-reliance and spiritual nationalism.
  • They strongly opposed the imperialistic policies.
  • Swarajya was the ultimate goal of Extremists.
  • Swadeshi and Boycott Movements were the main resistance strategies adopt-ed by Extremists in Bengal.
  • People from all sections were inspired by them and their activities.
  • They played a major role in inculcating the feelings of patriotism and nation-alism.
  • Activities of revolutionaries were based on violence and strong opposition against the policies of the British in India.
  • They murdered, bombed and massacred many British Officials and traitors who were a threat to Indian Nationalism.
  • Revolutionaries gained the support of the adult population and from all sec-tions of the society.
  • Finally, the British were able to curb their activities so that most of them were either killed or jailed accordingly.
  • They failed due to lack of goals, organisation, mass support, funds and enough men to support their cause.
  • It did play a major role in inspiring people to be part of Indian Freedom Struggle

Objective type questions

  1. What are the four principles of Extremists?
  2. Name the method adopted by the extremists against the British regime?
  3. Which were the two strike methods used by the extremists as a protest against the illegal Partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon?
  4. What was the main reason that triggered the growth of revolutionaries in India?
  5. Who founded the Abhinav Bharat Society?
  6. What was the name of organisation that funded the activities of revolutionaries on a large scale?
  7. Which British “reform” measure adversely impacted the growth of militant nationalism in India?
  8. Young India Society was founded in which year?
  9. Which was the main case associated with Bhagat Singh?
  10. Who were the trio hanged to death in the year 1931?

Answer to Objective type questions

  1. Swarajya, Swadeshi, Boycott and National Education
  2. Militant Nationalism
  3. Swadeshi and Boycott
  4. Economic Exploitation
  5. Vinayak Damodar Savakar and Ganesh Damodar Savarkar
  6. Anushilan Samiti
  7. Montague Reforms
  8. 1904
  9. Saunders Murder Case
  10. Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar


  1. Discuss the circumstances that led to the emergence of revolutionary activities in India.
  2. Elucidate on the revolutionary activities that took place in north-western region pertaining to the Indian Freedom Struggle.
  3. Trace the contributions of Bhagat Singh, Raj Guru and Sukhdev to the Indian Freedom Struggle through their patriotic revolutionary activities.
  4. Enumerate the consequences of revolutionary activities in the Indian Freedom Struggle.

Suggested Reading

  1. Majumdar, Bimanbehari, Militant Nationalism In India and Its Socio-Religious Background (1897 – 1917), General Printers and Publishers, 1966.
  2. Johari, J.C, Extremists and Militant Nationalism, Bloomsbury, 1995.
  3. Sarkar, Sumit, Modern India : 1885 – 1947, Pears Education Publishers, 2014.
  4. Chandra, Bipan, India’s Struggle For Independence,Penguin Books Random Pub-lishing House, 2016.
  5. Argov, Daniel, Moderates and Extremists in Indian National Movement,Asia Publishing House, 1968.
  6. Sharma, Mallikarjuna, Role Of Revolutionaries In Indian Freedom Struggle: A Critical History of Indian Revolutionary Movements 1918 – 1934, Marxist Study Forum, 1987.
  7. Nath Sen, Sailendra, History of the Freedom Movement in India(1857 – 1947),New Age International Publishers, 2009.