Surat Session of INC, 1907

In the early twentieth century the nationalism was gaining fervor so Curzon decided to divide Bengal, to break the unity of Indians and to check the growth of nationalism. The dream of a ‘Surat Split’ was already conceived by Curzon when he made the statement ‘Congress was tottering to its fall and one of the biggest ambitions in my life is to give it a peaceful demise’

British policies led to Surat split:

    • The new policy, known as the policy of the carrot and the stick, was to be a three pronged one. It may be described as a policy of repression-conciliation-suppression.
    • The Extremists, were to be repressed, though mildly in the first stage, the purpose being to frighten the Moderates.
    • The Moderates were then to be placated through some concessions and promises and hints were to be given that further concessions would be forthcoming if they disassociated themselves from the Extremists.
    • The entire objective of the new policy was to isolate the Extremists. Once the Moderates fell into the trap, the Extremists could be suppressed through the use of the full might of the state.
    • The Moderates, in turn, could then be ignored. British offered a bait of fresh reforms in the Legislative Councils began discussing them with the Moderate leadership of the Congress.
    • The Moderates agreed to cooperate with the Government and discuss reforms even while a vigorous popular movement, which the Government was trying to suppress, was going on in the country. The result was a total split in the nationalist ranks.
    • So British were using the divide a style policy.

Ideological differences between moderates and extremists:

    • There was a great deal of public debate and disagreement among Moderates and Extremists in the years 1905-1907, even when they were working together against the partitioning of Bengal.
    • The Extremists wanted to extend the Swadeshi and the Boycott Movement from Bengal to the rest of the country. They also wanted to gradually extend the boycott from foreign goods to every form of association or cooperation with the colonial Government.
    • The Moderates wanted to confine the boycott part of the movement to Bengal and were totally opposed to its extension to the Government.
    • Matters nearly came to a head at the Calcutta Congress in 1906 over the question of its Presidentship.
    • A split was avoided by choosing Dadabhai Naoroji.
    • Four compromise resolutions on the Swadeshi, Boycott, National Education, and Self-Government demands were passed.
    • Throughout 1907 the two sides fought over differing interpretations of the four resolutions.
    • By the end of 1907 the Extremists were convinced that the battle for freedom had begun as the people had been roused.
    • Most of them felt that the time had come to part company with the Moderates
    • Most of the Moderates, led by Pherozeshah Mehta, were no less determined on a split. They were afraid that the Congress organization built carefully over the last twenty years, would be shattered.

How congress underwent rebirth in Lucknow?

    • The Lucknow Session 1916 was special in many respects.
    • This session brought the moderates and extremists in Congress on common platform again after nearly a decade.
    • Congress and All India Muslim League signed the historic Lucknow Pact.
    • Muslim League sought for a sort of joint platform with the congress to put constitutional pressure on the British Government towards making reforms.
    • The idea was that such joint demand would give an impression of Hindu-Muslim unity.
    • Towards this, Congress and Muslim League negotiated an agreement in Lucknow pact whose main clauses are as follows:
      • There shall be self-government in India.
      • Muslims should be given one-third representation in the central government. Etc

The Moderates did not see that the colonial state was negotiating with them not because of their inherent political strength but because of the fear of the Extremists. The Extremists did not see that the Moderates were their natural outer defence line (in terms of civil liberties and so on) and that they did not possess the required strength to face the colonial state’s juggernaut.

The only victorious party was the rulers. Even later British applied this policy for dividing congress but congress realized the consequences of split and stayed together.