The Swadeshi movement, part of the Indian independence movement and the developing Indian nationalism, was an economic strategy aimed at removing the British Empire from power and improving economic conditions in India by following the principles of swadeshi (self-sufficiency; Hindi: स्वदेशी svadēśī), which had some success. Strategies of the Swadeshi movement involved boycotting British products and the revival of domestic products and production processes. It was strongest in Bengal and was also called vandemataram movement.
The Swadeshi movement started with the partition of Bengal by the Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, 1905 and continued up to 1911. It was the most successful of the pre-Gandhian movements. Its chief architects were Aurobindo Ghosh, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai, V. O. Chidambaram Pillai. Swadeshi, as a strategy, was a key focus of Mahatma Gandhi, who described it as the soul of Swaraj (self rule). Gandhi, at the time of the actual movement, remained loyal to the British Crown.
During 1900, Bengal had become the nerve centre for Indian nationalism. At that time it was the biggest province of British India and included parts of Bihar and Orissa. To weaken it, Lord Curzon (1899–1905) the Viceroy of India, proposed partition of Bengal. The official reason was stated as administrative inconvenience due to the size of Bengal. But partition itself was based on a religious and political agenda. Bengal was to be divided into two regions i.e. East Bengal and Assam out of the rest of Bengal. Thus to reduce the nationalist movement in Bengal and thereby in the entire country, Bengal partition was to take place on 16 October 1905.
H. H. Riseley, home secretary to the government of India, stated on 6 December 1904: "Bengal united is a power; Bengal divided will pull in several different ways. That is what Congress leaders feel; their apprehensions are perfectly correct and they form one of the great merits of the scheme... in this scheme... one of our main objects is to split up and thereby weaken a solid body of opponents to our rule".
So the British tried to curb Bengali influence on the nationalist movement and also introduced a new form of division based on religion to create challenges for the Indian National Congress, which was slowly becoming the main opponent to British rule.
But the Indian nationalists saw the design behind partition and condemned it unanimously, starting the anti-partition and the Swadeshi movements. The Swadeshi movement was also known as Vandemataram movement in deltaic Andhra Pradesh.
The proposal of partition of Bengal became publicly known in 1903, followed by immediate and spontaneous protests all over Bengal. 500 meetings were held in East Bengal alone. 50,000 copies of pamphlets with a detailed critique of partition were distributed. This phase is marked by moderate techniques of protest such as petitions, public meetings, press campaign, etc. to turn public opinion in India as well as in Britain against partition. This movement also involved the boycott of British products. Western clothes were thrown onto bonfires. To let the British know how unhappy the Indians were at the partition of Bengal, leaders of the anti-partition movement decided to use only Indian goods and to boycott British goods. People gathered at the cross roads and burnt the imported clothes that they had. People picketed the shops selling foreign goods, and imported sugar was boycotted. People also resolved to use things made only in India and this was called the Swadeshi movement.
Swadeshi after independence
The Post-Independence "Swadeshi Movement" has developed forth differently than its pre-independence counterpart. While the pre-independence movement was essentially a response to colonial policies, the post-independence swadeshi movement sprung forth as an answer to increasingly oppressive imperialistic policies in the post-second world-war climate. For a nation emerging from two centuries of colonial oppression, India was required to compete with the industrialised economies of the west. While rapid industrialisation under the umbrella of "Five year Plans" were aimed at enabling a self-sufficient India, the need to balance it with a predominantly agrarian set-up was the need of the hour. This need to preserve the old fabric of an agrarian country while simultaneously modernising, necessitated a resurgence of a slightly recast "Swadeshi Movement". Forerunners of this resurgent movement was noted journalist, writer and critic S. R. Ramaswamy. Others of late in the movement include the likes of Rajiv Dixit and Swami Ramdev.
The word Swadeshi derives from Sanskrit and is a sandhi or conjunction of two Sanskrit words. Swa means "self" or "own" and desh means country, so Swadesh would be "own country", and Swadeshi, the adjectival form, would mean "of one's own country".
- E. F. Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful, was influenced by Gandhi's concept of Swadeshi when he wrote his article on Buddhist economics
- Satish Kumar, editor of Resurgence, has promoted the concept of Swadeshi in his writing and teaching, including a section in his book You Are, Therefore I Am (2002).
- Indian independence movement
- Juche - The North Korean philosophy of self-reliance.
- Bandyopadhyay, Sekhar. From Plassey to Partition - A History of Modern India (2004) pp 248–62
- Das, M. N. India Under Morley and Minto: Politics Behind Revolution, Revolution and Reform (1964)
- Gonsalves, Peter. Clothing for Liberation, A Communication Analysis of Gandhi's Swadeshi Revolution, SAGE, (2010)
- Gonsalves, Peter. Khadi: Gandhi's Mega Symbol of Subversion, SAGE, (2012)