Along with the open political movements, there arose in the first decade of the 20th century various revolutionary groups in the different parts of the country.
These early revolutionaries, active mainly in Bengal, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Punjab had no faith in constitutional agitations.
They believed that by terrorizing British officials, they would be able to demoralize the entire machinery of the government and bring about freedom. After the government suppressed almost all open political agitations and imprisoned a large number of nationalist leaders, the activities of the revolutionary groups intensified.
After the division of Bengal, the leadership of Anti-partition movement soon passed to militant nationalist, like Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurobindo Ghose. This was due to many factors.
Firstly, the early movement of protest by the moderates failed to yield results. Even the liberal secretary of state John Merely, from whom much was expected by the moderate Nationalists, declared the partition to be a settled fact which would not be changed. Secondly, the government of the two Bengals, particularly of East Bengal, made effective efforts to divide Hindu and Muslim. Seeds of Hindu- Muslim disunity in Bengal Politics were perhaps sown at this time.
This embittered the nationalists. But most of all, it was a repressive policy of the government which led people to militant and revolutionary politics. The government of East Bengal, in particular, tried to crush the nationalist movement. Official attempted at preventing student participation in the Swadeshi Agitation.
The singing of Bande Matram in public streets in East Bengal was banned. Public meetings were restricted and sometimes forbidden. Laws controlling the press enacted. Swadeshi workers were prosecuted, and imprisioned for long periods.
Many students awarded even corporate punishment. From 1906 to 1909 more than 550 cases came up before Bengal court. Prosecutions against a large number of nationalist newspapers were launch and freedom of press was completely suppressed Military police was stationed in many towns where clashed with the people.
One of the most notorious examples of repressions was the police assault on the peaceful delegates of Bengal provincial conference; Barisal in April 1906. Many of the young volunteer was severely beaten up and the conference itself was forcibly dispersed.
In December 1908 nine Benga leaders including the venerable Krishna Kumar Mitra and Ashwini Kumar Dutt were deported. In 1908, the great Tilak was arrested and given the severe sentence of 6 years imprisonment. Chidambram Pillai in Madras and Hari Sarvottam Rao and other in Andhra were put behind bars.
As the militant nationalists came to the face, they gave the call for passive resistance in addition to Swadeshi and Boycott. They asked the people to refuse to cooperate with the government and to boycott government service, the courts, government schools, and colleges and municipalities and legislative councils, and thus, as Aurobindo Ghose put it, “to make administration under present condition impossible”. The militant nationalists tried to transform the Swadeshi and Anti-partition agitation into a mass movement and gave the slogan of independence from foreign rule.
The youth of Bengal found all avenues of peaceful protest and political actions blocked and out of desperation they fell back upon individual heroic action and the cult of the bomb. They no longer believed that passive resistance could achieve nationalist aims.
The British must therefore, be physically expelled. In 1904, V.D. Savarkar had organized the Abhinav Bharat, a secret society of revolutionaries. After 1905 several news papers had begun to advocate revolutionary terrorism. The Sandhya and the Yugantar in Bengal and the Kal in Maharashtra were the most important among them.
In December 1907 an attempt was made on the life of the Lieutenant Governor of Bengal and in April 1908, Khudiram Bose and Prafull a Chaki threw a bomb at a carriage which they believed was occupied by Kingsford, the popular judge at Muzaffarpur. Prafulla Chaki shot himself dead while Khudiram Bose was tried and hanged. The era of revolutionary terrorism had begun.
The revolutionaries also established centers of activity abroad. In 1915 during an unsuccessful revolutionary attempt, Jatin Mukherjee popularly known as Bagha Jatin gave his life fighting a battle with the police at Balasore. Rash Bihari Bose, Raja Mahendra Pratap, Lala Hardayal, Abdul Rahim, Maulana Ubaidllah Sindhi, Champa Karaman Pillai, Sardar Singh Rana and Madam Cama were some of the prominent leaders who carried on revolutionary activities and propaganda outside India.
Another reflection of the new mood was growing activity of the revolutionary terrorist movement which too was beginning to take a socialist turn. The failure of the first non-cooperation movement had led to the revival of the revolutionary movement. After an all India conference, the Hindustan Republican Association was founded in October 1224 to organize an armed revolution.
The government struck at it by arresting a large number of terrorist youths and trying them in the Kakori conspiracy case (1925). Seventeen were sentenced to long term of imprisonment, four were transported for life and four including Ram Prasad Bismal and Ashfaquallah were hanged. The terrorists soon came under the influence of socialist ideas, and in 1928, under the leadership of Chandra Shekher Azad changed the name of their organization to the Hindustan Sociolist Republican Association (HSRA).
They also gradually began to move away from individual heroic action and terrorism. But the brutal lathi-charge on an anti-Simon Commission demonstration on 30 October, 1928 led to a sudden change. The great Punjabi Leader Lala Lajpat Rai died as a result of the lathi blows. This enraged the youth and on 17 December 1928, Bhagat Singh, Azad and Rajguru assassinated Saunders, the British Police officer who had led the Lathi Charge.
The HRSA leadership also decided to let the people know about their changed political activities and objectives and the need for a revolution by the masses. Consequently, Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt a threw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly on 8 April 1929.
The bomb did not harm anyone, for it had been deliberately made harmless. The aim was not to kill but, as their leaflet put it, “to make the deaf hear”. Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt a could have easily escaped, but they deliberately chose to be arrested for they wanted to make use of the court as a forum for revolutionary propaganda.
In Bengal too, revolutionary terrorist activities were revived. In April 1930, a well-planned and large- scale armed raid was organised on the government armory at Chitagang, under the leadership of Surya Sen. This was the first of many attacks on unpopular government officials.
A remarkable aspect of the terrorist movement in Bengal was the participation of young women. The Chitagang revolutionaries marked a major advance. Their’s was not an individual action but a group action aimed at the organs of the colonial state. Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were executed on 23 March 1931.
In his last message of 3 March 1931 he declared that the struggle in India would continue so long as “a handful of exploiters go on exploiting the labour of the common people for their own ends. It matters little whether these exploiters are purely British capitalists, or British and Indians in alliance or even purely Indians”. And he accepted that he acted as a terrorist but he was not the terrorist.
The revolutionary terrorist movement soon abated though stray activities were carried on for several years more. Chandra Shekhar Azad was killed in a shooting encounter with the police in a Public Park. Surya Sen was arrested in February 1933 and hanged soon after.