The early nationalists or the so-called moderates kept hold of the congress up to 1916.
They had faith in the intentions of the British, were impressed by the initial benefit or rather modernization of India by the British, owned complete loyality to the British, were not prepared to severe the relations of India with Britain, pursued the path of petitions and passing resolutions every year with a view to organize Indian public opinion and draw the attention of the British public towards the genuine grievances of Indians with expectations that these would be removed if brought to the notice of their masters and. in no way, were prepared to protest the government so much so that many of the moderate leaders refused to be a party to the boycott and Swadeshi during the course of agitation against the partition of Bengal.
Yet within the congress, a group of people realized the futility of the ideology and techniques of the moderates and formed a group or party which was called the extremists.
They preferred not to get out of the congress but to capture it from within. It first resulted in the Surat Split of the congress in 1907 where the moderates succeeded in turning out the Extremists from the congress. But, ultimately, the politics of the country- favoured the cause of the extremists.
The two groups of the congress were reunited in 1916. But then it was the congress dominated by the extremists. The moderates detached themselves from the congress and formed a separate party, the Indian Liberal Federation. But, the party remained ineffective and insignificant in the politics of the country.
Extremist ideology grew within the congress during the anti partition of Bengal agitation. When the British Government refused to annul the partition of Bengal in face of mass protestations of the people of Bengal arousing sympathy of the Indian people in general, a large section of the Indian people and a few leaders lost faith in the sense of Justice of the British.
The repressive policy of the Government against the boycott and Swadeshi movement further convinced them that the Government meant to rule by force if found necessary in the interest of Britain besides, the emotional response of the people of Bengal in favour of boycott and Swadeshi developed implicit faith among many leaders to depend more on their own people than to rely in the utterances of a foreign Government. Dr. R.C Majumdar writes “As the Swadishi movement outstripped its original limitation and became an All-India Movement, so the extremist party of Bengal became an All-India party under the leadership of Tilak, Lajpat Rai, Khaparde, B.C. Pal and Arbinda Ghosh.
This was an accomplished fact before the end of 1906 and the new alignment in Indian politics was the most striking feature in the congress session held in Calcutta in December of that year.”
Another fact which helped in accentuating differences between the moderates and the extremists leading further growth of extremism was the return of Liberal party to power in Britain at the close of 1905. It revived the hope among the moderates that the Indians might still achieve a great deal by following the policy of submitting of petition.
The British also allured them by assurances of certain reforms with the view to check the growth of extremism. This further annoyed the extremists who had no faith in the assurances of the British. Therefore, they chose to pursue their course more aggressively against the moderates.
But, the frustration felt by the Indians in regenerating Indian economy by the government was the primary cause of the rise of extremism in Indian politics. Gradually, all Indian leaders, including the moderates realized that the primary cause of poverty of India were the policies deliberately pursued by the British in favour of Britain at the cost of India.
That resulted in the loss of faith by them in British sense of justice and fairplay “And in course of time”, writes Dr. Bipan Chandra, “This decadence of faith led to the questioning not only of the results of the British rule but also of its very whys and wherefores.
Why India kid not progressed materially and why had not the; early promise in this respect been realised? Who was responsible for this failure? Was the injury done to India inadvertent or deliberate? In other words, what w as the real purpose of British rule and, as a corolry could their, own faith in it ‘providential’ character be reconciled with their current belief that the rule had been materially injurious to India?” These doubts were raised by Indian leadership of all shades and a strong propaganda was carried on by them against the economic policies of the British and their results on the economy of India.
The people, thus, lost faith in the British. Dr. Bipan Chandra Writes :” In any case it may be suggested that ultimately it was the agitation around economic policies that was carried out unremittingly by all sections of the national leadership which dispelled the halo of beneficence around British rule as far as the vast majority of the: Indian leaders and people were concerned.” This certainly helped in the rise of extremism in India.
The extremists differed fundamentally with the moderates concerning their political goal and the method to be adopted to achieve it. The highest goal fixed up by the moderates at the congress of 1905 was the attainment of the colonial form of self government.
But the ideal before the extremists was absolute autonomy for India. They fixed up their goal as Swaraj. Bal Gangadhar Tilak declared that “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it.” The leaders of the extremists were B. G. Tilak in Maharashtra, Bipin Chandra Pal in Bengal and Lala Lajpat Rai in Punjab. B.G. Tilak gave his message to the people through his news paper Kesri While B.C. Pal carried on his message through New India. But, above them all, who raised politics to the plane of spiritualism was Arabinda Ghosh of course, he left politics very soon and fled to pondicherry in 1910, Yet he gave a philosophy to Indian extremism.
He gave first priority to independence. He declared. “Political freedom is the life breath of a nation, to attempt social reform, educational reform, industrial expansion., the moral improvement of the race, without aiming first and foremost at political freedom, is the very height of ignorance and futility” Referring to nationalism he wrote . “What is nationalism? Nationalism is not a mere political programme. Nationalism is a religion that has come from God.
It is a religion by which we are trying to realise God in the nation, in our fellow country men. We are trying to realise him in the three hundred millions of our people “. He taught the people to be fearless of repression. He observed. “Repression is nothing but the hammer of God.
Without suffering there can be no growth. They do not know that great as he is, Aswini Kumar Datta is not the leader of this movement, that Tilak is not the leader. God is the leader.” Certainly, Arabindo added flavour of spiritualism to the movement of extremists.
He was certainly inspired by the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda. The same way Tilak added religious ferour to it. The beginning of Ganesh Puja and celebrating the birth-day of Shivaji were simply means to arouse the national feeling in he people of Maharashtra Lala Lajpat Rai too was inspired by the Arya-Samaj.
Thus militant Hindu nationalism certainly inspired the extremists to fix up their goal as Swaraj i.e. complete Independence.
The extremists rejected the techniques of the moderates ‘petitioning’ was rejected as mad and fantastic for, as Arabindo put it, ‘it is not in human nature that one people would sacrifice their interests for the save of others, and, the technique of self-development and self-help’ was rejected as vague and in adequate.
The extremists, therefore, preached the policy of ‘Passive Resistance’ as the only effective means by which India could attain Independence. Arabindo explained the philosophy of ‘Passive Resistance’ in a series of seven articles published in Bande Mataram in April 1907. He wrote “The essential difference between passive or defensive and active or aggressive resistance is this, that while the method of the aggressive resistance is to do something by which he can bring positive harm to the Government, the method of the passive resistance is to abstain from doing something by which he would be helping the Government.
The object in both cases is the same to force the hands of Government: The line of attack is different.’ This sort of passive. Resistance was adopted by the extremists preached violence against the Government. They did not choose even to disobey its laws. They simply suggested to with drawing the cooperation of the people to the Government-directly or indirectly. Therefore, in fact they suggested boycott movement to be pursued.
They asked the people to refuse to cooperate with the Government in the industrial exploitation of the country, in education, in Government, in Judicial Administration and in the details of official intercourse. The Technique, thus, also meant Swadeshi and emphasized on National education as well.
Therefore, boycott. Swadeshi and National education, the techniques which were evolved by the Indians during the anti-partition of Bengal agitation remained the primary means and techniques of the extremists as well to attain Independence.
The congress in its session at Calcutta endorsed these techniques because of the resolute efforts of the extremists. But the moderates were not happy with it.
They tried to sabotage these resolutions at the Surat session of the Congress in 1907. That was the primary cause of the split of the Congress, though formally it was on the election of the president while the moderates chose Rashbehari Ghose as their candidate, the extremists chose
B.G Tilak as their candidate. Rashbehari Bose succeeded physical violence also erupted between the two groups on matters of procedures of carrying on the work of the session. It resulted in the turning out of the extremists from the congress.
At that time, the extremists thus failed. They lost their leaders also for the time being. Tilak was imprisoned for six years in 1908, B. C. Pal retired from active politics, Arabindo fled to Pondicherry in 1910 and Lajpat Rai went on a tour to U S. A. in 1914.
But, the movement again gained momentum by formation of Home Rule league, by Tilak after coming back from prison and also by another ‘League’ by Mrs. Anne Besant Finally, the extremists were taken back in the congressin 1916 and since then got hold over the congress because they had a large following because of the changed political circumstances in the country.