Reasons for rise of revolutionary terrorism

The contribution of the moderates were great as they succeeded in creating a political education and awareness but their failures too were great as they failed to mobilize the masses. They did not form roots amongst the masses and hence their propaganda never reached the masses. Their politics had become moribund as they never started any mass campaigns nor did they head any if it was started [Swadeshi movement]. Due to this they invited contempt of the British and never could attract the youth.

Although initially the congress wasn’t repressed by the British who believed it would be confined to academic activity and reach out to a few intellectuals only. But as time passed they realized the wide reach of the congress and then resorted to publicly ridicule it. The British were eager to attack and finish of the congress. It knew that the congress was held by moderates who were loyal in their political perception but still they were anti colonist and nationalists.

Carrot and stick policy

However soon the British realized that the moderates could be useful as an alternative to the militant nationalists who were growing in popularity. So the British followed policy of carrot and stick. The policy involved repressing the extremists, making promises to the moderates for reforming institutions if they were to separate from the extremists and then once the extremists were repressed the moderates could be ignored. This strategy was successful and led to the split as both the moderates and extremists fell into the trap.


Surat Split

The moderates and extremists were working together for the Bengal movement. The extremists were of the view that the movement should be expanded and should target the government. The moderate leadership which was invited to see the process of administrative reforms by the British felt it would be dangerous to rouse the British at this time. Both sides thus viewed each other as the enemy.

The extremist leader Tilak and moderate leader Gokhale wanted to avoid split as they knew that divided congress could be easily subdued by the British. But they had to kneel before the other leaders of their factions. Finally on 1907 under president ship of Rash Bihari Ghosh the party split in Surat.

Immediately after the split the leaders of the extremists were repressed by the government and the faction was left leaderless. Tilak was imprisoned in Burma; Aurobindo Ghosh gave up politics for religion. Pal retired from politics and lala lajpat rai went abroad for an extended stay.

The moderates too were fooled and no concessions were given by the Morley Minto reforms. Instead it sowed the seeds of communal representation and which finally led to the partition of India. They lost their credibility and support. The period from 1907-1914 was a dark period for the congress.


This led the youth towards more violent tactics of militancy like the Russian nihilists. They aimed to assassinate unpopular officials and their action would then strike terror in the minds of rulers. If captured their trial would be propaganda to inspire others. Here the extremist leadership failed them. The extremist leaders couldn’t explain to the youth the misgivings of their ideas but Aurobindo Ghosh even encouraged them to fight force with force.

Reasons for failure

Around 186 different acts of militancy were recorded from 1908-1918 but eventually they petered out. As they too lacked the popular support and couldn’t match the mighty colonial state even though they were courageous. But despite their small numbers and failures they succeeded in contributing to the growth of nationalism in India.


he Yugantar wrote “The remedy lies with the people. The 30 crore people inhabiting India must raise their 60 crore hands to stop this curse of oppression. Force must be stopped by force.”

But, an overemphasis on religion kept the Muslims aloof while it encouraged quixotic heroism. No involvement of masses was envisaged, which, coupled with, the narrow upper caste social base of the movement in Bengal, severely limited the scope of the revolutionary terrorist activity. Lacking a mass base, it failed to withstand the weight of state repression.

Rise of revolutionary terrorism

It was here that the revolutionary terrorism raised its head. The youth of Bengal was not interested in the petition politics of the moderates. The extremists had effectively critiqued the moderates and were responsible for introducing the youth to politics of the bomb. But even though the extremists were successful in establishing a link with the masses and their methods of agitation were better and their willingness to sacrifice was greater. They couldn’t succeed in creating an effective expression to this anger and finally they to failed like the moderates.

The national agitations led the government to increase the size of the legislative councils and give them more powers but this was done to allow the vocal political leaders to get a chance to let off steam.

While doing so the British underestimated the zeal of the Indian leaders who converted these impotent mechanisms into forums for ventilating popular grievances, exposing bureaucratic administration and criticizing every policy of the colonial government.

Use of the legislatures

The nationalist leaders used these councils to enhance their own political stature and build a national movement. They kept up the political criticism of the government by sheer will, deep knowledge and skilled debating and thus generated a powerful anti imperialist sentiment.

Pherozshah Mehta and GK Gokhale were two most prominent leaders who put the councils to good use and introduced a new spirit in them. Mehta was known for his wit and oratory and was criticized by British but lauded by the Indians. Mehta retired in 1901 and was succeeded by GK Gokhale who proved to a worthy successor..

The initial years of the congress were of heavy dependence on the press to propagate its resolutions, debates and meetings to the people. The congress didn’t have an organization for carrying out political work.

Gopal Krishna Gokhale - Leader of the Moderates

G.K. Gokhale was trained by Justice Ranade and G.V. Joshi. Though he was no orator like Dadabhai Nauroji or Tilak nor could he use satire as a weapon like Pherozshah Mehta but his speeches were based on deep study and careful data.

Hence they captivated the listener on their intellectual content alone. Even his opponent Tilak had deep respect for him. Gandhiji considered him his political guru.

He founded the “Servants of India Society” to train Indians to dedicate lives to cause of their country. He was called the Socrates of Maharashtra.

Chapter Review

Q1:Failure of the moderates was too

  • to mobilize the masses.
  • win any concessions from the british
  • lose out of the party leadership to extremists
  • all


Q2:British wanted the moderates due to.

  • as an alternative to the militant nationalists
  • GK Gokhale
  • Motilal nehru
  • Pherozshah mehta


Q3:”Servants of India Society” wanted

  • train Indians to dedicate lives to cause of their country
  • serve dalits
  • fight for freedom
  • none


Q4:G.K. Gokhale was trained by.

  • Justice Ranade
  • G.V. Joshi
  • both
  • none


Q5:British allowed nomination of Indians to legislative council too


  • to allow the vocal political leaders to get a chance to let off steam.
  • allow self rule
  • allow limited transfer of powers
  • persuade India to join the World War