Revolutionary Terrorism in India

The fight for India's independence took various forms of resistance and struggles. These had different outcomes, which either helped the freedom movement or hindered it by promoting violence. Certain groups and sections of society were forced to resort to violence to reclaim their rights and resources. Some of these were outright battles and violence, while some targeted specific individuals or groups in power through terrorism. These resulted in the formation of revolutionary terrorist groups that used violence to fight for the nation's freedom. Actions by such groups involved attacking important individuals of the colonial administration, ambushing troops and government convoys, and apprehending valuables from the British.


Terrorism and its motive

Terrorist activities are meant to induce fear in the minds of their targets (for example, the state, its agents, and significant private figures via their persons or their property). The goal is to intimidate. This is achieved primarily through the use of violence, but this needn’t be limited to physical force. It can also include the use of psychological weapons. The same may occur in war and violent crimes; the victims are rarely restricted to the targeted groups.

Terrorism and indiscriminate violence are frequently argued to be closely connected. Some scholars suggest that indiscriminateness is essential to spread fear and panic. It will be considerably more challenging to justify terrorist acts if this accusation is true since it implies a lack of control over the outcome. The claimed indiscriminate nature of terrorist actions is at the heart of the generally adverse reaction to such activities.


Justifying Revolutionary Terrorism

Justification for revolutionary terrorism is built on a similar line of thought that justifies war. In some cases, the morality of the cause and the hope of bringing about a situation with better consequences for the public. For example, more autonomy, freedom from foreign domination, and puppets of foreign powers, these provide grounds for a moral defense of revolutionary terrorism. In such cases, terrorist actions are usually only a minor portion of the total offensive against the enemy. Eventually, war is inevitable and its possibility declines with the number of people that support the terrorist groups.

A few objections can be made against the attempt to link the morality of revolutionary terrorism with the waging of war. First, it may be argued that the concept of war is most commonly associated with fights between governments and rulers rather than conflicts between free actors. One of the conventional criteria for determining whether or not a war is legitimate is that a lawfully constituted authority must proclaim it.

However, as it is neither individually adequate nor required, this condition appears to be best understood as an indication of justifiability. The second argument is that, due to the indiscriminate nature of modern weaponry, the concept of a fair war has been found to be ethically irrelevant. Several years ago, Donald Wells advocated vehemently for this viewpoint- because the concept of a fair war is meaningless, any reference to it in support of the moral justification of some acts of revolutionary terrorism is also meaningless. (Young. R., 1977).


Ghose's Revolution

The importance of Aurobindo Ghose as a political leader during India's national movement's Swadesh phase (1905–10) is well-acknowledged. His position as a revolutionary terrorist leader, however, is not fully understood and this is due to the shortcomings of secondary literature.

His memory is mainly employed to maintain interest in his spiritual achievements. The majority of his biographers were either pupils or admirers of his principles and ideas. They concluded that, while he was not averse to violent revolution, he never pushed for such large-scale violence. He is portrayed as a revolutionary leader who was hardly involved in revolutionary activities

The participants of the movement, Charu Chandra Dutt, for example, however, remembered him as the head of a wide revolutionary network. From excerpts of his writing, Aurobindo states that he was never opposed to the practice of violence for the revolutionary movement, but that terrorism was not a part of his plan for his organization; that is formed due to governmental repression. He denied having any direct connection with the terrorist group led by his brother, Barin Ghose because he was occupied with the Congress and the Newspaper outlet, Bande Mataram.

In his words, "…I never knew who these boys were and never saw them... It is true that Barin used to consult me or Mullick for any advice. But the whole movement was in his hands".

Aurobindo emphasised on the difference between war and terrorism by stating that, "My idea was an open-armed revolution in the whole of India. What they did at that time was very childish, e.g., beating magistrates and so on. Later it turned into terrorism and dacoities, which were not at all my idea or intention." (Heehs. P, 1992).


Revolutionary Terrorism in Bengal:

In Bengal, there was only a minute difference between the mass protests of the Indian National Congress and the activities of revolutionaries. Up to the mid-1930s, the revolutionary terrorist movement in Bengal had widespread support among the Bengali people. Many Samitis (societies) formed during the Swadeshi movement in protest of the 1905 Partition of Bengal, supported the earliest revolutionary groups.

Following the 1919 amnesty, many erstwhile revolutionaries re-established their groups under the guise of Gandhi's non-cooperation campaign. According to an Intelligence Branch assessment, many former terrorists became organisers of non-cooperation activities, and they recruited many of the volunteers as terrorists. Terrorist groups used Gandhi's civil disobedience movement, which began in 1930, as a recruiting platform.

Almost all British officials thought the Bengali "terrorist" movement was modeled after European nihilism and anarchism from the start. The development of revolutionary societies was explained using British perceptions of Bengalis as mindless followers of Western culture. Valentine Chirol, a journalist for The New York Times, who was one of the most influential proponents of this viewpoint, stated, "…of all Indians the most slavish imitators of the West, as represented, at any rate, by the Irish Fenians and the Russian anarchist."

Since the early 20th century, Bengali revolutionaries were inspired by the actions of European revolutionaries, but in the 1920s and 1930s, the example of Ireland gained precedence over all others. The perceived ties that existed between Irish and Bengali nationalism were more important than any actual ties. During this time, there were physical links between Indian and Irish nationalists. While some anti-Treaty members of the Irish Republican Army talked about going to India to continue the war against the Empire, nothing came of their plans. (Silvestri. M., 2000).


The HRA and the Kakori Conspiracy:

The Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) was founded in 1924 by revolutionaries from Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. The objective of the HRA, according to its constitution, was to establish the Federated Republic of the United States of India with an organised and armed revolution. According to the HRA, "…the basic premise of the republic shall be universal suffrage and the destruction of all structures that allow any type of exploitation of man by man to be possible."

It was devoted to the importance of labour organisations in the battle against capitalism and feudalism. They were inspired by the Bhagavad Gita, Aurobindo, Vivekanand, Anandmath, militant nationalists, and by Russian, French, and Irish revolutions. The HRA was a firm believer in and practitioner of previous revolutionary methods. It also advocated for the military overthrow of the capitalist regime. According to their manifesto,

"Foreigners have no reason to rule over India save the justification of the sword, and the revolutionary party has raised the sword."

One of HRA's key activities was the Kakori Train Dacoity Case, also known as the Kakori Conspiracy Case. The organisation orchestrated this horrific murder in order to generate much-needed cash. A group of HRA activists led by Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan, Chandrashekhar Azad, Manmathnath Gupta, Rajen Lahiri, and others stopped a train near Lucknow and stole government cash from the guard's carriage on August 9, 1925.

No innocent passengers were harmed. In this case, the majority of the rebels were apprehended and convicted within a few months. Bismil and Ashfaqullah were among the four executed, while the others were sentenced to varying jail terms. (Habib. I. S., 2018).



Every form of freedom struggle had a significant and varying effect on the overall independence movement of India, and it is essential to acknowledge all fighters since they all worked towards the rights and sovereignty of the country.

Some of these actions are not appreciated; violence may be effective in the short run but could always have serious repercussions. However, they must be acknowledged as desperate actions to overthrow colonial rule due to several communities and individuals' dire situations. While they did not remain as effective as the non-violence movement, they showed resilience to fight against the colonizer.

50 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All