Short essay on history of the Swadeshi Movement in Bengal

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a. Introduction:

Lord Curzon’s sole motive behind the Partition of Bengal was to weaken Bengal by sowing the seeds of dissension between the Hindus and the Muslims.

The people of Bengal had been opposing the partition since the time when the proposal for partitioning Bengal was officially announced. But when the Partition was finally affected to utter disregard to the popular sentiment, the people of Bengal launched a powerful movement against it.

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b. ‘Boycott’ Movement:

In order to put pressure upon the government, they thought, some practical demonstration of their feeling was necessary. At this juncture a new weapon was found which could be effectively used against the British.

This was the famous Boycott, that is to say, a policy of refusal-refusal to buy foreign goods.

In the programme of movement against Partition greatest emphasis was laid upon the boycott. People of Bengal unitedly took the vow that so long as the Partition was not undone they would eschew all foreign articles. The conception of boycott was mainly an economic one, though it had other aspects too.

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It aimed at pressurising the British government through the textile merchants of Manchester who would suffer financial loss by the boycott of British goods in Fungal and India.

Along with the boycott of foreign goods measures were taken for the growth of indigenous industry. This was the famous ‘Swadeshi’ (i.e., manufacture and use of indigenous goods).

c. Swadeshi Movement :

Boycott of foreign articles necessitated their supplementation by indigenous goods. It was out of this necessity that Swadeshi was born.

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Along with the bonfire of the foreign cloth the weavers in villages as well as the Indian mill- owners were encouraged to produce cloth. In fact, the boycott seemed to be a suitable opportunity for reviving indigenous industry.

And cloth-mill, sugar-mill, match and soap industries were established all over India by the native industrialists.

d. Spread of the Swadeshi:

Though the Partition of Bengal directly affected the people of Bengal yet the tidal wave of the boycott and Swadeshi swept away the country as a whole.

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Under the leadership of Bal Gangadhar Tilak the bonfire of British goods had taken place at Poona (present Pune). The people of Punjab joined the movement under the leadership of Lala Lajpat Rai.

He personally came to Calcutta to offer his support and express solidarity with the people of Bengal.

e. Popular Support to the Swadeshi:

Participation of the common people in the Swadeshi movement proved beyond doubt the popularity of the movement. The student community of Bengal played an active role in popularizing the Swadeshi.

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The womenfolk rendered moral support to the movement.

The labour movement during the period also had a Swadeshi tone as the leaders of the Swadeshi rendered all support to the strikes organised by them. Despite British efforts the unity of the Hindus and Muslims of Bengal did not suffer any major set back.

f. An Assessment:

The Swadeshi movement could not unify the divided Bengal. Yet the importance of Swadeshi in the history of the freedom movement of India can in no way be denied.

The Swadeshi movement was a united movement of the Indians. Indeed, the manner in which the movement integrated the people of India had never been seen before.

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