Swadeshi Movement


    • The Swadeshi Movement arose from the Anti-Partition Movement, which began to protest Bengal's partition.
    • Bengal, the major province in British India, had become the nerve centre of Indian Nationalism. In 1903, the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, decided to divide Bengal.

    • Ignoring a loud public opinion against partition, Lord Curzon issued an order on July 20th, 1905, dividing the province of Bengal into two parts– 
      • Eastern Bengal and Assam, with a population of 31 million
      • Rest of Bengal, with a population of 54 million - 18 million Biharis and 36 million Oriyas
  • The reason behind this division-
    • The population is huge, and would be difficult for the single province government to administer efficiently. 
    • Officials also hoped to stem the rising tide of nationalism in Bengal.

  • The Anti-Partition Campaign was established by moderates to put pressure on the government to avoid partitioning Bengal unjustly.
  • The movement was initiated on August 7, 1905.
  • Many petitions were delivered to the government, public rallies were held, and ideas were published in newspapers such as Hitabadi, Sanjibani, and Bengalee.
  • As a result of the news of the division, protests began in Bengal, where the commitment to boycott foreign goods was first made.

The Partition of Bengal (Formally enforced on October 16th, 1905)
Bengal was split on the basis of linguistics because it has become administratively unfavourable, but the true and concealed objective was to separate the Bengali-speaking populace on religious grounds.

Bengal had a population of around 78.5 million people. West Bengal had a Hindu majority, whereas East Bengal and Assam had a Muslim majority. It encompassed the Hindi-speaking portions of Bihar, the Odia-speaking regions of Odisha, and the Assamese-speaking regions of Assam, making it a massive administrative unit. Bengal's previous province was separated into two new provinces, "Bengal" (which included West Bengal as well as the provinces of Bihar and Orissa) and East Bengal and Assam, with Dacca serving as the seat of the latter. The state's separation was meant to limit Bengali's impact by placing it under two administrations and reducing it to a minority in Bengal itself since the new proposal would have 17 million Bengali speakers and 37 million Odia and Hindi speakers. Furthermore, as previously said, the separation was designed to encourage a second type of division based on religion.

What led to the beginning of the movement?

  • Exposure to the True Motives Behind Split - Indian Nationalists recognized that the split was based on language and religion, as the British planned.
    • To weaken Bengal and the Bengali intellectuals by making Bengalis a minority in Bengal by incorporating Hindus and Oriyas.
    • To create a sectarian split, with Western Bengal being a Hindu-majority territory and Eastern Bengal being a Muslim-majority area.
  • Failure of Moderate Techniques (1903-05) - Through pleas, petitions, and newspaper campaigns, moderates like Surendra Nath Banerjee, K.K. Mitra, P. C. Ray, and Dwijendra Tagore resisted division. However, it was unable to prevent the implementation of Partition.
  • To support the Anti-Partition Movement, which was inaugurated on August 7, 1905, during a great assembly at Calcutta Town Hall in Bengal. People fasted and marched barefoot in protest against the partition, chanting "Bande Mataram." Hindus and Muslims tied Rakhis on one another's hands as a sign of Bengal's two parts harmony.
    •  The 16th of October, 1905, was declared a National Day of Mourning in Bengal.
  • More Positive Action is Required - The Bengalis chose a boycott of British products and used Swadeshi items as a last option. It was the Swadeshi Movement's Formal Proclamation. Leaders then scattered throughout Bengal to spread the boycott message against Manchester Textiles and Liverpool Salt.

Aim of the movement 

  • To avert the implementation of the unjust division of Bengal.
  • To put financial pressure on the government, notably through a boycott of Manchester Cotton Goods, for which Bengal supplied the richest market in India.
  • To revitalise the indigenous sector via the promotion of Swadeshi goods

Nature of the movement

  • Boycott of foreign goods, such as sugar or salt, and public burning of foreign clothing
  • Women refused to wear bangles from other countries.
  • Women, students, and a considerable segment of the urban and rural populace actively participated in politics for the first time.
  • Washermen refused to wash foreign clothing
  • Priests refused to perform rituals involving the exchange of foreign commodities.
  • Students promoted Swadeshi by arranging "peaceful picketing" of stores selling imported clothing.
  • Tilak's National Movement spread to other sections of the nation, including Poona and Mumbai, Punjab under Lala Lajpat Rai and Ajit Singh, Delhi under Syed Haider Raza, and Madras under Chidambaram Pillai.
  • The Swadeshi Movement's major focus was 'Self-Reliance' or 'Atmasakti' as a statement of national dignity, such as the creation of indigenous alternatives, campaigns against casteism, early marriages, and so on. 
  •  After 1905, the Extremists switched the campaign from boycotts to passive resistance, such as vendor boycotts of English colonies, educational institutions boycotted by teachers, and courts boycotted by attorneys, among other things. 

Significance of the movement?

  • It saw the transition from traditional means of prayer and petition to Passive Resistance, such as the breaking of unjust laws, etc.
  • For the first time, moderates moved beyond their traditional political strategies, such as mobilising worker strikes, etc.
  • It evoked the Golden Past to inspire nationalist feelings, idolising historical figures like Shivaji, Ranjit Singh, and Siraj-ud-Daula as advocates of national glory.
  • To contradict the colonial rationale that British rule prepares Indians for self-government, the movement demonstrated that Indians already had a rich heritage of self-government, such as Indian Aryan traditions.
  • Instead of weakening the Congress, it served as a revitalising potion since Congress agreed with radicals and stated its goal of "Swaraj" in 1906.
  • Instead of separating Bengalis, the movement created a Swadeshi Coalition by uniting Calcutta elites with their East Bengal counterparts.
  • More significantly, it awoke people's consciences, and they were ready to resist British supremacy in all fields.

How did the masses participate?

  • Crops of volunteers, or Samitis, raised political consciousness via moral and physical training, arbitration, social services, and other means. Ashwini Kumar Dutta's Swadesh Bandhab Samiti claimed to have settled 523 conflicts through arbitration by 1906.
  • Bengali students were instrumental in the Swadeshi agitation. They practised and promoted Swadeshi while also leading picketing activities against stores selling imported apparel.
    • Innovative utilisation of classic popular theatre styles, festivals, and fairs to reach the public. Tilak's Ganapati and Shivaji festivals in Bengal, for example, evolved as key tools of social mobilisation.
  • Women's strong engagement in the Swadeshi agitation was a standout element of the movement.
  • Women from the urban middle classes, who are generally home-centred, participated in picketing and processions. From then on, they were to play an active role in the nationalist cause.
  • Many famous Muslims joined the Swadeshi Movement, including Abdul Rasul, a well-known attorney, Liaquat Hussain, a well-known agitator, and Guznavi, a merchant. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad became a member of a revolutionary terrorist organisation.

Architecture of the movement

  • Krishna Kumar Mitra recommended boycotting foreign goods in his publication 'Sanjivani' for the first time. Lokmanya Tilak, along with Ajit Singh, Lala Lajpat, Syed Haidar, Chidambaram Pillai, and Bipin Chandra Pal, performed a key role in expanding the campaign to unify India against British rule outside Bengal.
  • The movement's success was aided by Ashwini Kumar Dutt's magic talks at 'Swadesh Bandhab Samiti,' P. C. Ray's Bengal Chemical Factory, and J. C. Bose's unique scientific study.

Outcomes of the movement 

  • The Movement got its start by calling for a boycott of Manchester fabric, but it has since grown to include the advocacy of locally made products. 
  • As a result, Swadeshi Textile Mills, Soap Factories, Match Factories, Tanneries, Banks, Insurance Companies, Shops, and so on were established.
  • National Education - National educational institutions such as Bengal National College (principal Arvind Ghosh), National Council of Education for Literary, Scientific, and Technical Education, Bengal Institute of Technology, and others were established.
  • Patriotic Songs of Rabindranath Tagore, Rajnikant Sen, Mukunda Das, and Syed Abu Mohammad popularised the national spirit, and 'Vande-Mataram' became the Swadeshi Movement's theme song.
  • On this occasion, Tagore's Amar Sonar Bangla was written, and it was ultimately accepted as Bangladesh's national anthem.
  • The Bengalee, Hitabadi, Sanjivani, the Indian Mirror, and other powerful newspapers publicly opposed the partition of Bengal. Amrita Bazar Patrika drafted a petition with public support for submission to the government.

How did it affect nationalist politics?

  • The partition of Bengal was denounced by the Indian National Congress (INC), which backed the Swadeshi Movement.
  • The struggle against the partition of Bengal had a great impact on the Indian National Congress. The National Assembly unanimously rejected the partition proposal. Gokhale, who was president of parliament at the time, severely attacked the partition and Curzon's dictatorship. The National Congress also supported the Bengali Swadeshi and the boycott movement.
  • There were a lot of public discussions between moderate and radical nationalists. While the moderates wanted to restrict the boycott to Bengal and even Swadesh, the latter group wanted to expand the mass movement both in Bengal and elsewhere.
  • Ultimately, Dadabai Naoroji, regarded by all nationalists as a great patriot, was chosen as a compromise. In his presidential address, Dadabai publicly stated that the aim of the Indian national movement was "autonomy or swaraj like that of Britain and the colonies", inspiring nationalists.
  • The split between the two nationalist movements was short-lived, though. Numerous moderate nationalists struggled to keep up with what was happening. They were unaware that their previous strategies, which had served a purpose, were no longer effective. They failed to reach the next level of national movement. When moderate leaders took control of the parliamentary machinery and drove out militants, the rupture happened during the National Congress Surat session in December 1907. 

How did the British respond?

  • The government used repressive methods to crush the Swadeshi and Boycott Movements.
    • The government retaliated with repressive measures such as lathi charges against students, the prohibition of chanting Vande Mataram, the prohibition of public gatherings, the arrest and incarceration of Swadeshi leaders, and press censorship.
    • The government also proposed legislative improvements, which pleased many members of Congress. Many in Congress were averse to falling for this bait, which caused a schism. Slowly, the government was able to put a stop to the movement. 
  • Threats to withhold grants and scholarships as well as to sever ties with organisations that failed to stop students from getting involved in politics were made in the "Carlyle Circular."
  • The government enacted many legislation to limit the spread of the movement, including:
    • The Seditious Meeting Act of 1907
    • The Indian Newspapers (Incitement to Offences) Act (1908), 
    • The Explosive Substances Act (1908), and 
    • The Indian Press Act (1910)
    • The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1908.

Why did the movement lose its momentum?

  • Strict Government Repression- The revolutionaries were suppressed by the British administration. The movement withdrew from the public domain as a result of the brutal persecution.
  • Inadequate organisation to continue the action and channel the newly liberated energy into widespread involvement. In other words, Because there was no formal party organisation, a crucial component of the movement that could have been led by its office bearers was lacking.
  • By 1908, Tilak had been jailed, and Aurobindo Ghosh and Bipin Pal had departed from politics.
  • Lack of Muslim participation - Except for a few upper-class Muslims such as Abdul Rasul, a barrister, and Liaquat Hussain, a prominent agitator, there is little Muslim support. The formation of the All India Muslim League as a result of British divisive efforts during the Swadeshi Movement was a blow to Hindu-Muslim harmony.
  • Lack of mass support - The movement was mostly restricted to the upper and middle classes and zamindars, with no active involvement from the peasantry.
  • Non-cooperation and passive resistance remained concepts.
  • Religious communalism allegations based on the use of traditional  festivals, rituals, and institutions for mass mobilisation
  • Ideological differences between moderates and extremists over the speed of the movement and methods of resistance finally led to the INC breaking in 1907 at Surat.

Consequences of the movement

  • Between 1905 and 1908, it resulted in a dramatic decline in foreign imports.
  • The movement resulted in an increase in radical nationalism among young people, who turned to violence to eliminate British control.
  • It forced the British rule to make concessions to Indians through the Morley-Minto reforms in 1909. Gopal Krishna Gokhale was a driving force behind these reforms.
  • Swadeshi Institutions have been set up. In the spirit of Rabindranath Tagore's Shantiniketan, the Bengal National College, as well as a number of national schools and colleges around the country, were built.
  • In August 1906, the National Council of Education was formed to organise the national education system. To provide technical education, the Bengal Institute of Technology was formed.
  • Swadeshi textile mills, soap and match manufacturers, tanneries, banks, insurance firms, and stores were established as a consequence.
  • It also aided in the revitalization of the Indian cottage sector. The rebirth of the Indian industry was accompanied by an increase in the usage of local items.
  • Clothing, sugar, salt, and other luxury things from other countries were not only boycotted but also torched.
  • The Swadeshi movement also resulted in a social boycott of both foreign consumers and merchants.


The Swadeshi Movement marked the onset of a well-structured political campaign in India. Movements like the Non-Cooperation Movement, inspired by Gandhian principles, were built upon the foundation of the Swadeshi Movement. This movement stood as a pivotal moment in India's contemporary history, serving as a transformative juncture in the quest for independence. It instilled a profound sense of patriotism and self-assuredness among Indians. As the Gandhian era of the national movement unfolded, the impetus generated by the Swadeshi movement was directed towards a meaningful culmination.

Book A Free Counseling Session