Surat Split (December 1907)

The expulsion of extremists from congress in December 1907 at the Surat session is known as “Surat Split” in modern Indian history. It was the most significant event in the history of the Indian Struggle against British Rule.

Causes of Surat Split

The ideological difference between moderates & extremists was responsible for Surat Split. These differences got widen signature after the Partition of Bengal & due to massive mass support attracted by the Swadeshi movement. In December 1905, congress sanctioned the launching of mass movements to oppose the partition of Bengal. Moderates were not in favor of its wholehearted because they believed in the policy of petition & prayer. But they could not oppose the launching of mass movements due to public pressure.

By December 1906, extremists had gained immense confidence they wanted to have President as their person. But Dadabhai Naoroji was elected as resolutions were adopted on Swaraj, boycott, and nationalism education at Calcutta. The growing strength of Indian Nationalism was posing a serious challenge to British Rule. To counter this a prompt strategy adopted, its component was

  • Conciliate moderates by indicating reforms.
  • Isolate extremists
  • Suppress extremists by using force.

Moderates failed in the British trap. Moderates came to Surat session in December 1907 with a firm resolve to take book resolution of 1906. On the other hand, the extremists had gained so much confidence that moderates were called “useless baggage”. Extremists wanted to establish their control over congress.

Due to the numerical majority, moderates got the candidate Rasbihari Ghosh elected as congress President. But when the session was going on the ideological difference got transformed into a physical fight. Police entered into the venue, extremists were pulled out & moderates adopted a resolution provided for the expulsion of extremists.

Significance of Surat Split

Surat Split was a big failure of Indian nationalists on the one hand & the hand it was the great success of the British. What the British fail to achieve in Partition of Bengal was achieved by Surat Split. Expulsion of extremists nullified the effect of both sections of Nationalists because moderates & extremists could effective only by together. If extremists sword, moderates are shield once they were away they lose effect.

Surat Split allowed the British to neglect moderates & suppress extremists successfully. Tilak was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment & was deported to Myanmar. Arvindo Ghosh was tried in the Alipur Bombing case. Though he was acquitted but left active politics & retired to the president. Surat Split resulted in the sudden death of the Swadeshi Movement. It was a movement by extremists & once they were no longer in congress movement lost its leadership & it died out suddenly.

Surat Split transformed the atmosphere of political activism into passivism because for decades no mass agitation could be organized in India. Surat Split & failure of the swadeshi movement disillusioned the younger generation of nationalists they lost their faith in the efficacy of peaceful methods & started believing that western bondage of British only by the western hammer of the violation.

This thinking gave a boost to the revolutionary extremist movement. Surat Split came as a great lesson to Indian nationalists. They realized their mistake. This bitter experience came in handy when similar ideological difference developments due to the sudden withdraw of Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920-21. It was because of the tough lesson fought by Surat Split another split could be avoided consciously.

Rise of Extremist in National Movement

During the opening years of the 20th century, new ideas & beliefs had started becoming visible among Indians National Leaders. This new orientation of Indian leaders was fundamentally different when compared with the early phase of the national movement.

Nationalism Lal Bal Pal
Lal Bal Pal

Extremists emerged as the dominant ideology in national struggle under the leadership of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, and Lala Lajpat Rai & Arvindo Ghosh, etc. Despite fact that most extremist leaders were expelled from Congress in 1907, the dominance of extremist ideology in National Struggle had continued.

Factors which caused the Emergence of Extremism

The failure of the Muslim League in producing many concrete results forced the younger generation of nationalists to develop faith in the efficacy of extremism. Realization of the true character of British Rule as a result of efforts made by the early nationalist. Shattered faith of Indian leaders in the British sense of justice & fairness. They started demanding Swaraj & used a radical method for attainment of the same.

Economic difficulties being faced by masses & repressive policy followed by British Rule at a time when millions were dying due to starvation, compelled Indian Leaders to raise voice against British Rule strongly(1899, 1897, 1896). Extremism in National Movement also emerged as a reaction to the increasing westernization of India. British were consciously pushing western ideas, institutions & practices to strengthen the foundation of British colonial rule.

This westernization was taken as an assault on Indians culture & it was opposed strongly by Indian nationalists. Contemporary international development such as the defeat of Italy at hands of Ethiopia (1896) & the victory of Japan against Russia (1905) greatly emboldens the Indian nationalist leaders. They also started believing that British Rule could be opposed manifested itself in form of extremists.

The racial policy of Lord Curzon was played an important role. Curzon was racist in outlook. He insulted Indian citizens & culture as & when he got the opportunity. The representative election was suppressed by him through the Calcutta corporation act (1899) & Indian university act (1904). Partition of Bengal & Swadeshi movements launched to opposite it pushed extremists forefront of Indian struggle against British Rule moderate lost into the background.

Nature & Character of National Movement during Extremist Phase

National Movement was radical in character during the extremist phase because the demands rose by extremists & methods used by them were aggressive. Extremists were not satisfied with concessions & reforms. They raised the demand for “Swaraj”. Extremely radical methods such as Swadeshi & boycott were used by extremists to pressurize British Rule. Extremist progressive in outlook but the time appeared as if they were reactionary in character.

Extremist leaders like Tilak opposed the age of concert act 1891 that rose the manageable age not cause them against reforms but cause extremist was against British interference in Indian socio-cultural matter.

  • Democratic and egalitarian in outlook.
  • Urban in character.
  • Non-violent and Anti-colonial in nature.

The extremist was secular in character but in time religious slogan was used by them to mobilize masses against British Rule. Because of these critics of congress questioned the secular credentials of extremists. Extremists were Indianized in their outlook. They drove inspiration from the greatness of Indian culture.

National Movement was no longer elitist during the Extreme Phase because most Extremist Leaders were coming from the middle & lower middle section of Indian society. Even though issues concerning the peasantry & working class were raised by extremist leaders, National Movement continued to remain non-sectarian in outlook.

Extremists didn’t have any faith in the efficacy of the British Rule. They knew that British Rule essentially colonial & exploitative. There was no faith in the British sense of justice & fairness among Extremist Leaders. They believed that “Swaraj” was the only solution to Indian problems.

Constitutionalists as well as extra-methods of agitation were used by extremists because this National Movement was no longer constitutionalist in character. National Movement assumed a comprehensive outlook during the extremist phase. Not only economic impacts of British Rule were analyzed but at the same time, socio-cultural dimensions of British Rule were highlighted.

National Movement assumed mass character during the extremist phase because these leaders had great faith in the strength & capacity of common masses. Swadeshi Movement launched in 1906 was the first milestone in the history of Indians’ struggle against British Rule.

Extreme Phase of National Movement was highly successful cause pressure developed by extremists forced the British government to hasten the process of reform. It was the pressure built by extremists that British Rule to anole the partition of Bengal in 1911 & for capital from Calcutta to Delhi.