The Congress was split up into
two factions at its Surat session in 1907 to be known as the moderates and the
extremists. The moderates had their hold on the party while the extremists
furrowed a bold and independent
path. The moderates put their faith in the British benevolence, but the extremists scoffed at it. The former advocated patience and the latter were too restive. How could they pull on together? The restive asserted that there could be no philanthropy in politics. Rights are not conferred upon, but are asserted and won. So, said Tilak, “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it.” Aurobindo Ghosh declared, “Political freedom is the life-breath of a nation.” Lala Lajpat Rai thundered, “Indians should no longer be content to be beggars whining for favours; for, if they really cared for their country, they would have to strike a blow for themselves.” These ideas were too radical to the contemporary thinking. Their authors, therefore, came to be known as the radical nationalists. Being too restive for the results, they were also called the extremists or the militant nationalists. They had their day. They did their work well. They suffered for the sake of their patriotism, made supreme sacrifices and infused a new spirit among the young. They quickened the growth of national consciousness and made the nation wake up from its slumber and sluggishness.
Writing on the Wall
“Political rights would have to be fought for,” declared Tilak. The radical nationalists fought for them ferociously. Their exertions brought the results. The government read the writing on the wall. The Partition of Bengal was annulled. The policy of the British imperialism towards India also underwent a change. It came out in the historic declaration of Montague made on August 20, 1917—gradual development of self-governing institutions with an ultimate aim at the progressive realisation of responsible government in India. People became confident that Swaraj could be attained. The government aimed at the increasing association of Indians in every branch of administration. The radical nationalists exploited the government’s failures to arouse national wrath against the authorities and foster patriotism among the people. But as rain and thunder cannot become the permanent feature of weather, the radicalism in politics also had its limitations. Tilak joined the Congress again in 1916 at Lucknow. Gandhiji came on the political scene after the First World War. He gave a new shape to the national consciousness. He made the national struggle derive its strength from the masses. This made the nationalist militarism and radicalism a little out of tune with the situation.
The radical nationalists had three staunch
stalwarts—Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal. They were
known as the trio—Bal, Lal and Pal. Tilak was active in Maharashtra, Lajpat Rai
in Punjab and Bipin
Chandra Pal in Bengal. Tilak revived the festivals of Ganpati and Shivaji in Maharashtra to arouse a new spirit among the youth of the country. Ganpati was the remover of the obstacles.
The name of Shivaji created in the minds of the people the spirit of rebellion against the despotic rule. It also gave them the feeling of their national pride. He spoke to them in their own language, the Marathi, through his newspaper Kesari. In its issue dated June 15, 1898, Tilak wrote, “God has not conferred on mlechchas (foreigners) the grant inscribed on copper plate of the kingdom of Hindustan. Do not circumscribe your vision like a frog in the well. Get out of the Penal Code, enter into the extremely high atmosphere of the Bhagvad Gita and then consider the actions of great men.” For this article, he was sentenced to fifteen months’ imprisonment on the charge of fomenting disaffection. What Tilak did in Maharashtra, Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai accomplished in Bengal and Punjab, respectively.
Bipin Chandra Pal was a great orator. He started a weekly, New India, through which he preached his views. He often took up the burning issues. His arguments won him many adherents throughout the country. In 1906, he started the daily Bande Matram to spread his message to the masses. Unfortunately, it had to close down barely two years after its publication, because the government brought out a prosecution case against it. Aurobindo Ghosh was an associate of Bipin Chandra. He resigned the principalship of Baroda College to become the principal of the Bengal National College which had started in 1906. Inspired by the writings of Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Aurobindo became an advocate of the violent revolution on the Russian terrorist pattern against the British imperialism. He called upon his countrymen to raise an armed rebellion and liberate the motherland. What he had in view came to be known with the bomb attacks in Muzaffarpur and discovery of the hideouts of the terrorists in Maniktala. Bal Gangadhar Tilak gave moral support to Aurobindo in his ideas through his writings in Kesari. For this, he was sentenced to six years’ transportation to Mandalay in Burma. Aurobindo himself was also arrested in connection with the Alipore bomb case. Chittaranjan Das ably defended him in the court. He was acquitted. But his stay in jail brought out a great transformation in the mind of Aurobindo. He gave up politics and became a spiritualist. He founded an ashram at Pondicherry and passed the rest of his life there.
A Fiery Orator
Lala Lajpat Rai attended the
fourth session of the Congress at the age of twenty-four. He had already been
wellknown for his political writings in Koh-i-noor, an Urdu weekly published from Lahore. Later, he also edited the Punjabee, the Bande Matram in Urdu and the People in English. He wrote in three languages—Urdu, English and Punjabi—but his short biographies of Mazzini and Garibaldi in Urdu did much to arouse the feelings of patriotism among the youth of Punjab. Lajpat Rai was also a great orator and could move the people to frenetic fervour. He was, therefore, known as ‘Lion of Punjab’. Like Lokmanya Tilak, he was deported along with Ajit Singh in 1907 under Regulation III of 1818. During the First World War, Lajpat Rai was in exile in U.S.A. He made many lectures there to win the public sympathy of the Americans to the cause of India. He was also a great educationist and was one of the founders of the D.A.V. College, Lahore and the Servants of the People Society. He was also a social reformer and started the Hindu Orphan Relief Movement. Apart from these stalwarts, many other radical nationalists like Chidambaram Pillai of Madras, Paranjpaye, editor of the Kal, and Harisa Vottama Rao of Andhra made many sacrifices and played their role well. In short, the radical nationalists did a lot for their country. They brought the lower-middle classes, the students, the youth and the women to the forefront of the national struggle. They placed before them very clear objectives, gave them a spirit of self-reliance and self-confidence. It was, indeed, a big contribution.