Chapter 15: SURAT SPLIT

Reasons for rise of revolutionary terrorism

The contribution of the moderates were great as they succeeded in creating a political education and awareness but their failures too were great as they failed to mobilize the masses. They did not form roots amongst the masses and hence their propaganda never reached the masses. Their politics had become moribund as they never started any mass campaigns nor did they head any if it was started [Swadeshi movement]. Due to this they invited contempt of the British and never could attract the youth.

Although initially the congress wasn’t repressed by the British who believed it would be confined to academic activity and reach out to a few intellectuals only. But as time passed they realized the wide reach of the congress and then resorted to publicly ridicule it. The British were eager to attack and finish of the congress. It knew that the congress was held by moderates who were loyal in their political perception but still they were anti colonist and nationalists.

Carrot and stick policy

However soon the British realized that the moderates could be useful as an alternative to the militant nationalists who were growing in popularity. So the British followed policy of carrot and stick. The policy involved repressing the extremists, making promises to the moderates for reforming institutions if they were to separate from the extremists and then once the extremists were repressed the moderates could be ignored. This strategy was successful and led to the split as both the moderates and extremists fell into the trap.

Surat Split

The moderates and extremists were working together for the Bengal movement. The extremists were of the view that the movement should be expanded and should target the government. The moderate leadership which was invited to see the process of administrative reforms by the British felt it would be dangerous to rouse the British at this time. Both sides thus viewed each other as the enemy.

The extremist leader Tilak and moderate leader Gokhale wanted to avoid split as they knew that divided congress could be easily subdued by the British. But they had to kneel before the other leaders of their factions. Finally on 1907 under president ship of Rash Bihari Ghosh the party split in Surat.

Immediately after the split the leaders of the extremists were repressed by the government and the faction was left leaderless. Tilak was imprisoned in Burma; Aurobindo Ghosh gave up politics for religion. Pal retired from politics and lala lajpat rai went abroad for an extended stay.

The moderates too were fooled and no concessions were given by the Morley Minto reforms. Instead it sowed the seeds of communal representation and which finally led to the partition of India. They lost their credibility and support. The period from 1907-1914 was a dark period for the congress.

Rise of revolutionary terrorism

It was here that the revolutionary terrorism raised its head. The youth of Bengal was not interested in the petition politics of the moderates. The extremists had effectively critiqued the moderates and were responsible for introducing the youth to politics of the bomb. But even though the extremists were successful in establishing a link with the masses and their methods of agitation were better and their willingness to sacrifice was greater. They couldn’t succeed in creating an effective expression to this anger and finally they to failed like the moderates.


This led the youth towards more violent tactics of militancy like the Russian nihilists. They aimed to assassinate unpopular officials and their action would then strike terror in the minds of rulers. If captured their trial would be propaganda to inspire others. Here the extremist leadership failed them. The extremist leaders couldn’t explain to the youth the misgivings of their ideas but Aurobindo Ghosh even encouraged them to fight force with force.

Reasons for failure

Around 186 different acts of militancy were recorded from 1908-1918 but eventually they petered out. As they too lacked the popular support and couldn’t match the mighty colonial state even though they were courageous. But despite their small numbers and failures they succeeded in contributing to the growth of nationalism in India.

The Yugantar wrote "The remedy lies with the people. The 30 crore people inhabiting India must raise their 60 crore hands to stop this curse of oppression. Force must be stopped by force."

But, an overemphasis on religion kept the Muslims aloof while it encouraged quixotic heroism. No involvement of masses was envisaged, which, coupled with, the narrow upper caste social base of the movement in Bengal, severely limited the scope of the revolutionary terrorist activity. Lacking a mass base, it failed to withstand the weight of state repression.

Social base—zamindars and upper middle classes in towns.Social base educated middle classes in towns and lower middle class
Ideological inspiration— western liberal thought and European history.Ideological inspiration—Indian history, cultural heritage and Hindu traditional symbols.
Believed in England's providential mission in India.Rejected 'providential mission theory' as an illusion.
Believed political connections with Britain to be in India's social, political and cultural interests. Had immense faith in the capacity of masses to participate and to make sacrifices.
Professed loyalty to the British CrownBelieved that political connections with Britain would perpetuate British exploitation of India.
Believed that the movement should be limited to middle class intelligentsia; masses not yet ready for participation in political work.Believed that the British Crown was unworthy of claiming Indian loyalty.
Demanded constitutional reforms and share for Indians in services.Did not hesitate to use extraconstitutional methods like boycott and passive resistance to achieve their objectives.
Insisted on the use of constitutional methods only. Had immense faith in the capacity of masses to participate and to make sacrifices.
They were patriots and did not play the role of a comprador (person who acts as an agent for foreign organizations) class.Demanded swaraj as panacea for Indian ills. They were patriots who made sacrifices for the sake of the country.

Extremists proved to be social reactionaries. They had revivalist and obscurantist undertones attached to their thoughts.

Tilak's opposition to the Age of Consent Bill (which would have raised the marriageable age for girls from 10 years to 12 years, though his objection was mainly that such reforms must come from people governing themselves and not under an alien rule), his organising of Ganapati and Shivaji festivals as national festivals, his support to anti-cow killing campaigns., etc. portrayed him as a Hindu nationalist.

Similarly B.C. Pal and Aurobindo spoke of a Hindu nation and Hindu interests.

Q.The `Swadeshi’ and ‘Boycott’ were adopted as methods of struggle for the first time during the (UPSC CSAT 2016)

  • agitation against the Partition of Bengal

  • Home Rule Movement

  • Non-Cooperation Movement

  • visit of the Simon Commission to India

Ans . A

  1. Swadeshi and Boycott started against Partition of Bengal in 1905

Q.Satya Shodhak Samaj organized (UPSC CSAT 2016)

  • a movement for upliftment of tribals in Bihar

  • a temple-entry movement in Gujarat

  • an anti-caste movement in Maharashtra

  • a peasant movement in Punjab

Ans . C

  1. Jyotiba Phule had setup this organization to begin anti-caste movement in Maharashtra.

Q. The Montague-Chelmsford Proposals were related to(UPSC CSAT 2016)

  • social reforms

  • educational reforms

  • reforms in police administration

  • constitutional reforms

Ans . D

  1. They’re related to Constitutional reforms.

Q.Consider the following :
1. Calcutta Unitarian Committee
2. Tabernacle of New Dispensation
3. Indian Reform Association
Keshab Chandra Sen is associated with the establishment of which of the above? (UPSC CSAT 2016)

  • 1 and 3 only

  • 2 and 3 only

  • 3 only

  • 1, 2 and 3

Ans . B

  1. In 1881, Keshab Chandra Sen established Naba Bidhan ( New Dispensation) meaning new universalist religion after having differences within Brahmo Samaj. He was also part of Indian reform association to legalize Brahmo marriage and to fix minimum age of marriage.

Q. What was the main reason for the split in the Indian National Congress at Surat in 1907?(UPSC CSAT 2016)

  • Introduction of communalism into Indian politics by Lord Minto

  • Extremists’ lack of faith in the capacity of the moderates to negotiate with the British Government

  • Foundation of Muslim League

  • Aurobindo Ghosh’s inability to be elected as the President of the Indian National Congress

Ans . B

  1. In 1907, the extremists wanted either Tilak or Lajpat Rai to be president, so when Rasbehari Ghose was announced as president, the extremist resorted to violence. Hence Surat Split happened.

Q.Which one of the following movements has contributed to a split in the Indian National Congress resulting in emergence of ‘moderates’ and ‘extremists’? (UPSC CSAT 2015)

  • Swadeshi Movement

  • Quit India Movement

  • Non-Cooperation Movement

  • Civil Disobedient Movement

Ans . A

  1. Surat split was due to disagreements between Moderates and extremists regarding the methods for protest against the partition of Bengal (in the Swadeshi Movement).

Q.The Government of India Act of 1919 clearly defined (UPSC CSAT 2015)

  • the separation of power between the judiciary and the legislature

  • the jurisdiction of the central and provincial governments

  • the powers of the Secretary of State for India and the Viceroy

  • None of the above

Ans . B

  1. It relaxed the central control over the provinces by demarcating and separating the central and provincial subjects. The central and provincial legislatures were authorised to make laws on their respective list of subjects. However, the structure of government continued to be centralised and unitary.

  2. It further divided the provincial subjects into two parts—transferred and reserved which is what we know as diarchy.

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