This Day in History (26-Dec-1907) – In 23rd session of INC at Surat, Congress split into two groups named ‘Extremists’ and ‘Moderates’

In December 1905, at the Benaras session of the Indian National Congress, the Extremists wanted to extend the Boycott and Swadeshi Movement to regions outside Bengal and also to include all forms of associations within the boycott programme and thus start a nationwide mass movement. The Moderates, on the other hand, advocated strictly constitutional methods to protest against the partition of Bengal. At the Calcutta session of the Congress in December 1906, as a concession to the militants, the goal of the Indian National Congress was defined as ‘swarajya’ or self-government. The word swaraj was mentioned for the first time, but its connotation was not spelt out.

The Extremists, emboldened by the proceedings at the Calcutta session, gave a call for wide passive resistance and boycott of schools, colleges, legislative councils, municipalities, law courts, etc. The Moderates, encouraged by the news that council reforms were on the anvil, decided to tone down the Calcutta programme. The Extremists thought that the people had been aroused and the battle for freedom had begun. The Moderates saw in the council reforms an opportunity to realise their dream of Indian participation in the administration.

By 1907 session in Surat, Both sides adopted rigid positions, leaving no room for compromise. The split became inevitable, and the Congress was now dominated by the Moderates who lost no time in reiterating Congress commitment to the goal of self- government within the British Empire and to constitutional methods only to achieve this goal. The Government launched a massive attack on the Extremists. Between 1907 and 1911, five new laws were enforced to check anti-government activity. Tilak, the main Extremist leader, was sent to Mandalay (Burma) jail for six years. Aurobindo and B.C. Pal retired from active politics. Lajpat Rai left for abroad. The Extremists were not able to organise an effective alternative party to sustain the movement. The Moderates were left with no popular base or support, especially as the youth rallied behind the Extremists. After 1908, the national movement as a whole declined for a time. In 1914, Tilak was released and he picked up the threads of the movement.

Reference:

http://www.indianage.com/search.php

http://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/history/major-causes-of-moderate-extremist-split-at-surat-1907/23240/

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