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Day 4 – Q 5.The Swadeshi movement may be described as the best expression of extremist politics. Comment.

5. The Swadeshi movement may be described as the best expression of extremist politics. Comment. 

स्वदेशी आंदोलन को चरमपंथी राजनीति की सर्वश्रेष्ठ अभिव्यक्ति के रूप में वर्णित किया जा सकता है। टिप्पणी करें।


 The swadeshi movement had its genesis in the anti-partition movement which was started to oppose the British decision to divide Bengal. The movement was led majorly by leaders like Tilak, Lala Lajpat rai, Bipin Chandra pal and an element of extremism was incorporated by the overt boycott of British goods.


Extremist politics:

  • Methods: The movement was beyond the methods of moderates (petitions, prayers and political protests) as it involved passive resistance in the form of boycott.
  • Goal: The end goal of swadeshi movement was ‘Swaraj’ and not just autonomy and more representation in administration which was the ideology of moderates.

E.g. Indian national congress declared ‘Swaraj’ as end goal in 1905 congress session.

  • Emphasis was given to Atma Shakti (self-reliance) which was extremist ideology while moderates depended on British for any improvement in the administration.

E.g. Establishment of National schools, swadeshi enterprises and so on.

  • New forms of extremist struggle: Boycott of foreign goods, public meetings and processions, formations of samitis for mass mobilization.
  • Role of masses: every struggle during swadeshi movement involved the masses who played limited role in moderate’s style struggle.
    • Students: came out in large numbers to propagate and practice the swadeshi idea.
    • Women took active part in processions.
    • Labor class and trade unions participated with leaders like Chidambaram pillai.
  • Revolutionaries: on the sidelines, many revolutionaries like Sachin Sanyal, Rashbihari Bose and others who led the movement extended it to include the element of force which was an ideal of extremists.

Not all extremist politics:

  • Moderate leaders like Surendranath Bannerjee, Pherozhshah Mehta etc., played major role in leading the movement who were against extremist ways of protest. 
  • The movement was not able to incorporate the ideas of non-cooperation and passive resistance which were the main ideas of extremists.
  • Extremists were expelled from the congress for difference of opinion with moderates in 1907 Surat session. This shows that the movement was still an extension of moderate form of struggle rather than led by Extremist ideology.


The 1857 revolt as British called it was indeed a mutiny of soldiers. However, when it spread among civilians it assumed the civilian character and instilled nationalist feelings. The observation by S N Sen summarizes it “The Mutiny became a Revolt and assumed a political character when the mutineers of Meerut placed themselves under the king of Delhi. What began as a fight for religion ended as a war of independence. “

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