Moderates and Extremists: India’s struggle for freedom was a long process. It could not have been achieved without the contribution of different leaders that carried on the struggle throughout the years. Nationalists arose because of colonial practices and as a reaction to colonial practices. While Britishers brought modernization to India, certain policies received harsh criticism. India had its renaissance, worldwide revolutions and the concept of nationalism paved the way for two types of nationalists: Extremists and Moderates.
Differences between Moderates and Extremists in Indian History
Who were the Moderates?
Moderates were leaders who believed in Liberalism and Moderate Politics. They considered Britishers to be just but unaware. They believed that if the Rulers became aware of the condition of the Indians, they would improve the same. To achieve this, they tried to unite the public, educate them and create a strong public opinion. This unity was then used to force Britishers to reform their policies and bring them in line with the opinion of the public.
Amongst the various leaders, Pherozshah Mehta, Dadabhai Naoroji, S N Banerjee, D E Wacha are few of the names. The activities of the Moderates were limited to the British Constitution. They were progressive, were able to awaken the masses, popularized modern ideas, and created a political base for expanding the struggle. The method adopted by them was slow and organized and achieved steady political progress.
Who were the Extremists?
Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal, and Bal Gangadhar Tilak are few of the names of Extremist leaders. Extremism or Militant Nationalism came later. Many reasons led to its growth:
- The true nature of the British Rule surfaced. There were frequent famines and plague. The Government was not conceding to the important demands made by the Moderates.
- Since Moderates focused on educating the masses, there was an increased sense of self-respect. People became more aware and were confident in their political stance and actions.
- The spread of education brought in ideas of nationalism. It also highlighted the economic state of the country and underemployment.
- There was dissatisfaction amongst the youth. They were not satisfied with the progress that was being made and its pace.
These were some of the factors that led to an increase in militant nationalism. It brought in new forms of struggle which ultimately led to the Swadeshi and Boycott Movements. Unlike the Moderates, they were willing to sacrifice their lives for the country and adopt unconstitutional means of struggle. They helped appeal to a larger group of people. There was no consistency in their ideology but all of the leaders believed in the participation of the masses.
What were the differences between the Extremists and the Moderates?
There were many differences in the way both the freedom fighters fought. In spite of the differences in ideology and actions, their contribution to the freedom struggle cannot be undermined:
- Moderates found their support in Zamindars and Upper Middle Class while Extremists found their support in Educated Middle and Lower Classes.
- While Moderates were largely inspired by the European History and Liberal Ideology, Extremists found inspiration in Indian Culture, History, and Heritage.
- Moderates believed that political connections with Britain would benefit India in every aspect while Extremists believed in complete independence.
- Instead of complete independence, Moderates wanted changes in the Constitution for increased participation of Indians in the Government. Extremists wanted complete independence or Swaraj.
- Moderates were loyal to the crown while Extremists were against the crown and considered it unworthy of loyalty.
- Moderates did not want to mobilize the masses and wanted to restrict their struggle to the intellectual middle class. Extremists believed in the masses.
- Moderates always limited their struggle to Constitutional methods. While Extremists used extra-constitutional methods often during their struggle.
What caused these developments?
Swadeshi and Boycott movements highlighted the difference between the two. Unlike other protests and movements that happened before, these two saw the participation of students and women. The movements also involved extensive use of Arts, Literature, Science, and Industry. They were not limited to the political sphere alone. Since the masses were mobilized, many people actively participated in various forms of political work. Future struggles were based off on these two movements and paved the way for Extremists to act as leaders.
Moderates had their fair of struggle and leadership. They started many political and social movements and helped initiate an organized freedom struggle. They could not keep up with the pace of struggle and change in ideology and therefore, the need for new leaders arose. Though Extremists shared no consistency and were factional, they were able to broaden their social base. The youth was mobilized by the Extremist ideology. People moved on from inactivity to non-cooperation and from moderation to political extremism. Extremism led to revivalist and obscurantism but it also changed the stance of the masses. Thus, in spite of their setbacks, both, Moderates and Extremists contributed heavily to the freedom struggle.