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Mains Test Series

Swadeshi Movement and Early Revolutionary activities. Minto-Morley Reforms

Q. The Swadeshi movement failed in achieving its immediate objective, though it contributed immensely to India’s freedom struggle-critically analyse (250 words)

Answer introduction

The Swadeshi movement spread as a reaction to Curzon’s reactionary policies and, more importantly, his policy of the Bengal partition. It is called Swadeshi as the movement emphasised the Boycott of foreign-made clothes and goods such as sugar, salt, government schools and colleges and other government services. 

Reasons for failure:

  • Leaderless movement: Symbolic figures were missing as most of the leaders, like Bal Gangadhar Tilak was sent to jail, Aurobindo Ghosh took asylum in Puducherry, Ashwin Kumar Dutt, Krishna Kumar Mitra, Ajit Singh and Lajpat Rai, were either arrested or deported. This paralysed the movement.
  • The rift between moderates and extremists: Moderates wanted to keep the Swadeshi movement confined to Bengal, while extremists wanted it to be a pan-India movement. This rift finally culminated with the surat split.
  • The divide-and-rule policy of the government led to the isolation of most Muslims, especially the Muslim peasantry, from the movement.
  • Lack of coordination: The non-cooperation and the passive resistance didn’t take concrete form. Several programmes running simultaneously, such as non-cooperation, Swadeshi, Boycott, passive resistance, and social reforms, lacked coordination.
  • Lack of Mass appeal: The movement failed to reach the masses, mainly peasants. It was primarily restricted to the zamindars and upper and middle classes. The leaders could not tap the masses’ energy and thus could not guide them effectively against the British.

Swadeshi movement- a great leap in Indian independence struggle:

  • It was a ‘leap forward in more ways than one. Students, women and working classes who had previously been excluded from participation took part.
  • Growth of culture and literature: The richness of the movement was not limited to politics but also included art, literature, science, and industry. For example, Rabindranath Tagore composed a song, ‘Amar sona bangla ami tomake valo basi’- the national anthem of modern Bangladesh.
  • Growth of National Education: It led to students boycotting government institutions, which later led to the constitution of the National Education Council in 1906.
  • Growth of indigenous industries: During the anti-partition agitation, many indigenous industries developed.For example, Bengal chemicals of P.C. Ray, Swadeshi bhandar, etc.
  • Revival of self-respect among the population: The movement emphasises self-reliance or Atma Shakti. People gave up hard-paid British jobs. People were awakened from their slumber, and they learned to take bold political stands and participate in new forms of political work.
  • Attainment of Swaraj: The Swadeshi campaign challenged colonial ideas and institutions’ hegemony. The future struggle would rely heavily on the gained experience. Mahatma Gandhi described Swadeshi as the soul of Swaraj.


The Bengali middle class led the Swadeshi movement, though they had no ties to capitalists or peasants’.Initially, the partition plan was opposed, but later, it became successful in the form of boycotting British goods, Raksha Bandhan, Arandhan and so on. The immense success of this movement compelled The Britishers to reunite Bengal in 1911.

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