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Mains Practice Questions

  • Q.“Though Swadeshi movement failed in achieving its immediate objective, yet it played a significant role in the Indian freedom struggle”. Discuss (250 words)

    30 Mar, 2020 GS Paper 1 History


    • Briefly discuss the Swadeshi Movement.
    • Reason for failure of the Swadeshi Movement.
    • Impact of Swadeshi Movement on Indian National Movement.
    • Conclusion


    Indian National Congress initiated the Swadeshi movement in Bengal against the announcement of the partition of Bengal in July 1905 by Lord Curzon. It was launched as a protest movement which also gave a lead to the Boycott movement in the country. It led to the use of goods produced in India and burning British-made goods.

    Reasons for Failure

    • The movement threw up an entire gamut of techniques that later came to be associated with Gandhian politics—noncooperation, passive resistance, filling of British jails, social reform and constructive work.
      • However, the movement failed to create these techniques with a disciplined focus and it lacked an effective organisation or a party structure.
      • The movement aroused the people but did not know how to tap the newly released energy or how to find new forms to give expression to popular resentment.
    • Surat split: internal squabbles among leaders, magnified by the Surat split (1907), did much harm to the movement.
    • Leaderless movement: the movement was rendered leaderless with most of the leaders either arrested or deported by 1908 and with Aurobindo Ghosh and Bipin Chandra Pal retiring from active politics.
    • Limited participation: the movement largely remained confined to the upper and middle classes and zamindars, and failed to reach the masses—especially the peasantry.

    Impact of Swadeshi Movement

    • Change in strategy: the movement was a turning point in modern Indian history. It proved to be a “leap forward” in more ways than one.
      • The previously untouched sections like students, women, workers, some sections of the urban and rural population participated.
      • The trend of the national movement moved from conservative moderation to political extremism, from revolutionary activities to incipient socialism, from petitions and prayers to passive resistance and non-cooperation, emerged during the Swadeshi Movement.
    • Growth of indigenous industries: the anti-partition agitation paved the way for the development of indigenous industries, for example, Acharya PC Ray’s Bengal Chemical Stores. This inculcated a feeling of self-reliance by reducing the dependence on foreign goods.
    • Growth of national education: the movement also increased the demand for national education and numerous national schools and colleges came up in various parts. 
      • In1906, a National Council of Education was set up. A National College with Aurobindo Ghose as Principal was opened in Kolkata. 
      • The movement led to the flourishing of the Bengali literature under Rabindranath Tagore, Rajani Kanta Sen etc.
    • Attainment of swaraj: Swadeshi, as a strategy, was a key focus of Mahatma Gandhi, who described it as the soul of Swaraj (self-rule). It became an important tool for Gandhian movements in Indian National Movement.

    The Swadeshi Movement was not successful in reaching its immediate goals but it provided a platform for the national freedom struggle. Later it showed the way to nationalist leaders to prepare the masses for the next phase of struggle under Gandhiji’s leadership.

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