Revolutionary Movements (Phase 2)

Revolutionary Movements (Phase 2)

This article deals with ‘ Revolutionary Movements (Phase 2) – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

Rise of Second Phase of Revolutionary Movement

  • Most of Revolutionary Terrorists were jailed during WWI but in order to create more harmonious atmosphere for Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms government released most of them under general amnesty
  • When Non Cooperation Movement (NCM) was launched, on the request of Gandhi & CR Das they stopped their activities in order to participate in it & give it a chance . But sudden suspension of NCM shattered their hopes & they began to look for alternatives .
  • Many were drawn to idea that violent method alone can make India free . Two strands of revolutionary terrorism developed
    • One in Punjab, U.P. & Bihar
    • Other in Bengal

Influence on these groups

Apart from getting rid of Britishers , two things influenced these groups

  1. Upsurge of working class trade unionism after the War. They could see the revolutionary potential of the new class and desired to harness it to the nationalist revolution.
  2. Russian Revolution and the success of the young Socialist State in consolidating itself.

Hindustan Republican Association (HRA)

  • Founded in October 1924 by  Ram Parsad Bismil, Jogesh Chandra  Chaterjee & Sachin Sanyal at Kanpur
  • To organize armed revolution to overthrow colonial rule and establish in its place a Federal Republic of the United States of India whose basic principle would be adult franchise.
  • To finance their activities and with objective of propaganda ,they decided to organise dacoities . Most important action of HRA was Kakori Robbery in 1925. 10 men held 8 Down train at Kakori(village near Lucknow) carrying official railway cash
  • Government reaction was quick and hard. It arrested a large number of young men and tried them in the Kakori Conspiracy Case. Ashfaqulla Khan, Ramprasad Bismil, Roshan Singh and Rajendra Lahiri were hanged, four others were sent to the Andamans for life & 17 others were sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. Chandrashekhar Azad remained at large.

HSRA: Hindustan  Socialist  Republican ASSOCIATION

  • After Kakori Conspiracy case ,revolutionary ranks were decimated . But soon new batch of young men from Punjab & UP who also came under influence of socialism met at Pherozshah Kotla on 9 Sept 1928 & reorganised HRA as HSRA
  • Founders were Bhagat Singh, Bhatukeshwar Dutt, Sukhdev etc.


1 . Saunders murder or Lahore conspiracy case,December 1928

  • HSRA was rapidly moving away from individual heroic action and assassination and towards mass politics. Lala Lajpat Rai’s death, as the result of a brutal lathi-charge when he was leading an anti-Simon Commission demonstration at Lahore on 30 October 1928, led them once again to take to individual assassination
  • He was killed by Bhagat Singh ,Azad and Raj Guru
  • They justified their act through poster saying that murder of a leader respected by millions at unworthy hands of ordinary police official was insult on nation

Note : They wanted to kill Scott

2. Bomb in central legislative assembly, April 1929

  • HSRA decided to let people know about its changed objectives & need of revolution by masses .
  • Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt threw bomb in central assembly to create awareness among people against passage of the Public Safety Bill and the Trade Disputes Bill (to strike hard Communist Lockdowns during Depression ) which would reduce the civil liberties of citizens in general and workers in particular.
  • The aim was not to kill, for the bombs were relatively harmless, but, as the leaflet they threw into the Assembly hail proclaimed, ‘to make the deaf hear’ & to get arrested & use trial court as forum for propaganda

3. Assembly Bomb Case

  • Bhagat Singh and B.K. Dutt were tried in the Assembly Bomb Case. Then the police was able to uncover the details of Saunders assassination and Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru, and several others were tried in the Lahore Conspiracy case.
  • Bhagat Singh and his comrades turned the court into a forum of propaganda.
  • Their statements were published in the newspapers and widely discussed by the people. Their defiant and courageous conduct in the court won them the admiration of the people. Even believers in non-violence loved them for their patriotism.

4. Activity in the jail

  • Nearly 100 revolutionaries arrested from HSRA fought for treatment as political prisoners by keeping fast . Jatin Das died on 64th day of his fast
  • Bhagat Singh,  Sukhdev & Raj Guru were hung on 23/03/1931 as capital punishment for Lahore conspiracy case
  • As news of their hanging spread , a death like silence engulfed the entire nation . Bhagat Singh soon became a  legend in the country with popularity rivalling that of Gandhi

5. Viceroy bomb case

  • Azad was involved in attempt to blow train in which viceroy Irwin was travelling
  • He killed himself in a park in Allahabad in February 1931 to avoid arrest by police

Ideological Development of North Indian Revolutionaries


  • 1925 Manifesto  had set forth its objective ie establishment of Federal Republic of United States of India by an organised & armed revolution
  • Basic principle of  republic would be Universal Adult Suffrage & abolition of all systems that make exploitation of man by man possible
  • It advocated nationalisation of railways & large scale industries such as steel, ship building & mines

Bhagat Singh & HSRA

  • Major shift – All revolutionaries of HSRA turned to Socialism & Marxism & this shift is epitomised by life & thoughts of Bhagat Singh (through his letters, statements & writings)

Bhagat Singh

Life of Bhagat Singh

  • Born in 1907  in a patriotic family , son of Congressman & nephew of famous revolutionary Ajit Singh
  • Was deeply influenced  by Ghadar hero, Kartar Singh Sarabha
  • Was a voracious reader and had read extensive literature on Socialism, the Soviet Union and revolutionary movements the world over. At Lahore he and Sukhdev organized study circles for young students (This devotion to intensive reading was also true of other leaders such as Bejoy Sinha, Yashpal, Shiv Varma and Bhagwati Charan Vohra. Chandrashekhar Azad knew little English; but he too fully participated in political discussions and followed all major turn in the field of ideas )

Foundation of Naujawan Bharat Sabha (NBS   1926)

  • Already before his arrest in 1929 ,he had abandoned his faith in terrorism & individual heroic action. He had come to believe that broad popular mass movements alone could liberate India & mankind from servitude
  • For this he made NBS in 1926 to carry out political work among youth, peasants &’workers
  • Bhagat Singh never identified revolution with the cult of the bomb . This was the  only reason they threw a relatively harmless bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly in 1929.Their strategy was to get arrested and then turn the courts into arenas for the propagation of their ideas.

He changed meaning & method of revolution

  • Method : revolution can be achieved by  arousing the masses and organizing a mass movement. Just before his execution, Bhagat Singh declared that “the real revolutionary armies are in the villages and in factories“.
  • Meaning : Revolution was no longer equated with mere militancy or violence. Its first objective was national liberation and then the building of a new socialist society (a society in which there is no exploitation of man by man & of nation by nation )
  • Philosophy of Bomb (written by BC Vohra,Azad & Yashpal)  also favoured above definition of revolution

Bhagat Singh defined socialism in scientific manner . It meant abolition of capitalism & class domination . He fully accepted Marxism & class approach to society

  • Bhagat Singh was the first leader who understood full dangers of communalism . According  to him Communalism was big danger than colonialism & even criticised Lala Lajpat Rai when he took communal politics after 1924 . People must free themselves from mental bondage of religion & considered religion as a matter of personal belief of man . He wrote Why am a Atheist in which he said any man who stands for progress has to challenge every item of old faith .
  • His relevance in present times : Communalism, student politics,  inequality, scientific approach.

Revolutionary Terrorism in Bengal

  • Began reorganizing after 1922 & started their underground activities but continued to work in Congress at same time because it provided them access to masses
  • Problems – Congress divided in Bengal after CR Das’s death into SC Bose & JM Sengupta . Yugantar joined forces with Bose wing & Anushilan Samiti with Sengupta.  Hence there was always factionalism of Yugantar vs Anushilan  (YvsA)
  • By 1924, they  understood utter inadequacy of individual heroic action & accepted the strategy of national liberation through armed seizure of power by mass uprisings. But, in practice, they still relied upon small scale ‘actions’, in particular dacoities and assassination of officials.
  • 1 March 1924 : Gopinath Saha made an unsuccessful assassination attempt on  Commissioner of Calcutta & was hanged . This started large scale repression & put large number of revolutionaries in jails including Bose who was released in 1926
  • From 1926  because of YvsA rivalry , new groups came up called REVOLT GROUPS  mainly of new revolutionaries who were fed up of old revolutionary leaders

Chittagong Armoury Raid (1930)

  • Main leader was Surya Sen
    • Active participant of NCM
    • Became teacher in Nationalist School in Chittagong & commonly known as Masterda
    • Arrested in 1926 & released in 1928 . In 1929 became Secretary of Chittagong District Congress
  • Soon gathered gang of youth revolutionaries & formed a plan to organise an armed rebellion on small scale to demonstrate that British rule could be challenged . To equip adequately they planned to raid several districts . First such raid in Chittagong
  • Carefully prepared plan – occupied two armouries + cut telephone & telegraph + damaged railway lines connecting Chittagong with Calcutta
  • First band captured Police Armoury & other captured Auxiliary Force Armoury . Raid was on name of Indian Republican Army , Chittagong Branch . Then they gathered outside police station pulled down Union Jack & raised Indian flag . Surya Sen was declared President of Provisional Revolutionary  Government
  • They knew cant face troops directly &  started guerrilla war . Surya Sen was captured after 3 years because of local support in 1933 . He was tried & hanged

Points to notice about Revolt Groups

  • Extremely secular (although earlier  werent  communal too but their ideology was tinged with hindu religiosity).  Many groups now included Muslims
  • Large scale participation of women ( Kalpana Datta & Pritilata Waddedar in Surya group)
  • Led to major revival of revolutionary activity after this . In Midnapore, 4 Magistrates were assassinated + 2 IGs assassinated + life attempt on 2 Governors + Bina Das assassinated Governor while receiving degree at Convocation in 1932


Unlike Bhagat Singh & his comrades, Bengal Revolutionaries failed to evolve a broader radical Socio-Economic programme

Decline of Revolutionary Terrorism

  • Declined in the 1930s
  • Most important reason was national movement opposed to violence & terrorism even when its leaders admired the heroism of its youthful practitioners and defended them in the courts and condemned the police repression directed against them.
  • With death of Azad in encounter in Allahabad on 27 Feb 1931 came to end in North India & with capture & hanging  of Surya Sen in Bengal


  • Set rare examples of death defying heroism in cause of complete independence . Their desperate deeds won them a lasting place and they became popular among  their compatriots
  • Brought new ideology of socialist thought in India
  • Large number of them turned to Marxism as Bhagat Singh and many of his comrades had already done in the 1920s. Many joined the Communist Party, the Congress Socialist Party, the Revolutionary Socialist Party and other left parties and groups. Others joined the Gandhian wing of the Congress.

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