Mohandas Gandhi was a leader in a massive boycott movement in India – which changed the course of India’s destiny and independence from British Rule. Gandhi’s Swadeshi movement launched in the early 20th Century was a direct fallout of the decision of the British India government to partition Bengal. Use of Swadeshi goods and boycott of foreign made goods were the two main objectives of this movement. In this post we shall learn about the facts and significance of the swadeshi and boycott movements in detail. This decision to partition Bengal led to resentment among the Bengali intelligentsia who clearly saw through the British ploy of dividing Indians on communal lines.
Before the launch of the Swadeshi movement, the main form of protest techniques adopted by the moderate nationalist leaders were petitions, speeches, memoranda, public meetings and press campaigns. However the main moderate leaders like Surendranath Banerjea, Krishna Kumar Mitra and others realised that the usual moderate methods of protest were not working and something larger in scope, with different strategy, was required. Facts About the Swadeshi and Boycott Movements On 7th August 1905, a Boycott Resolution was passed in the Calcutta town hall where it was decided to boycott the use of Manchester cloth and Liverpool salt. In Barisal district, this message of boycott of foreign made goods was adopted by the masses and value of the British cloth sold there decreased sharply.
Bande Mataram became the theme song of the boycott and swadeshi movements. Among the several forms of struggle thrown up by the movement, it was the boycott of foreign made goods that met with the greatest visible success at the practical and popular level. Boycott and public burning of foreign cloth, picketing of shops selling foreign goods, all became common in remote corners of Bengal as well as in many important towns and cities throughout the country. Corps of volunteers (samitis) were another form of mass mobilization widely used by the Swadeshi movement. The Swadesh Bandhab Samiti set up by Ashwini Kumar Dutt, a school teacher, in Barisal was the most well-known volunteer organization of them all. Lokmanya Tilak organized the Shivaji and Ganapati festivals in Western India (Maharashtra) to spread the message of the swadeshi and boycott movements among the masses.
The Swadeshi and boycott movements gave great emphasis upon ‘Atmasakti‘ or self-reliance in different fields as a means to re-assert national dignity. This emphasis on self-reliance was most evident in the field of National Education. The Bengal National College was founded with Aurobindo as its Principal. Scores of national schools were established in a short period all over the country. In August 1906, the National Council of Education was established. Self-reliance was also evident in the entrepreneurial zeal of Indians. The period saw an explosion of Swadeshi textile mills, soap and match factories, tanneries, banks, insurance companies, shops etc. While most of these Swadeshi enterprises were established and run owing to patriotic fervour than any real business interest and were unable to survive for long, some others such as Acharya P.C. Ray’s Bengal Chemicals Factory, became successful and famous. In the field of culture Rabindranth Tagore’s Amar Sonar Bangla, which he wrote in protest against the partition of Bengal, became a rallying point of the Swadeshi and boycott movements and later inspired the liberation struggle of Bangladesh.