The 1857 Revolt became a major turning point in the history of modern India. The period following the 1857 Indian Rebellion witnessed growing political awareness and unrest among Indian people, and the emergence of strong national and provincial Indian leaders. Bal Gangadhar Tilak was the first leader of the Indian Independence Movement who was aptly labelled as “The father of the Indian unrest” by the British authorities. He strongly opposed the then British education system and the lack of freedom of expression for Indians. Tilak was also the first Indian nationalist to recognise and advocate the ideology of ‘Swaraj’ (“self-rule”) as the only natural solution to counter-attack British oppression. His most popular quote “Swaraj mera janma siddha adhikaar hai, aur main ise lekar rahunga!” became a major source of inspiration for Indians.
The Swadeshi movement originated from the anti-partition movement that started with the opposition of British decision to partition Bengal. In 1900, the Indian national movement began in Bengal, which was the major province in British India and was the nerve centre for Indian nationalism. To dampen the nationalist movement, Britishers decided to part Bengal in July 1905 and use the policy of divide and rule to their advantage. This resulted in a widespread agitation by masses in streets and press.
Following the Partition of Bengal (Lord Curzon), Tilak initiated and endorsed the ‘Swadeshi Movement’, which led to the ‘Boycott Movement’ in the country. The ‘Swadeshi Movement’, now known as the ‘Make in India’ campaign, was officially announced on August 7, 1905 at the Calcutta Town Hall in Bengal. The ‘Boycott Movement’ was also launched at the same time.
The two nationalist movements were aimed at freeing India from the clutches of the British Empire and improving the economic conditions within the country by following the core principles of ‘swadeshi’, meaning “of one’s own country”. These movements included using goods produced in India and burning British-made goods in public bonfires. Once British goods were eschewed, there was a supply gap which had to be filled by the production of those goods in India itself. Therefore, the Swadeshi and Boycott movements were regarded as two sides of the same coin.
In 1909, the revolutionary movement had widely spread across India and people had started participating in several other anti-partition and anti-colonial movements, which were synonymous to the Swadeshi movement. In the state of Andhra Pradesh, the Swadeshi Movement came to be known as the ‘Vande Mataram Movement’.
From 1915 onward, movements started by Mahatma Gandhi, such as the ‘Satyagraha’ movement, ‘Non-Cooperation’ movement, etc., were mostly based on Swadeshi movement.
Thus, ‘Swadeshi’ became the key focus of the Independence movement and was described as ‘the soul of Swaraj’.
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