Discuss the changes in the nature & character of later Revolutionary Movements (1920-1940’s) in India compared to the early revolutionary Movements. (150 Words/ 10 Marks)

Mentor’s Comment:

Again, this is a straightforward question where all you have to do is compare the nature and character of Revolutionary Movements of pre 1920 and post 1920 era.

Start with explaining what was revolutionary movement or who were revolutionaries.

Then in the main body of answer, compare the strategies and nature of revolutionary movements of these two time periods. The talking points would revolve around how post 1920 revolutionary movements were more organised, had mass struggle in their doctrine, avoided religiosity in their movements, participants were well read and educated and fed upon the growing trend of socialism unlike their counterparts before 1920s.

Model Answer:

Though the Indian National Movement was largely non-violent, a small revolutionary strand did emerge in the early decades of the 20th century. The ineffectiveness of passive resistance advocated by the extremist leaders provoked the youth to engage in individual heroic actions like assassinating unpopular officials. These individuals and participants were known as revolutionaries. The failure of the Swadeshi movement gave real impetus to revolutionary activities. However, the character of these movements changed with time.

Revolutionary movements from 1900 to 1920:

  • In Bengal, a number of societies like ‘Anushilan Samiti’ and ‘Yugantar’ came into existence and planned assassinations of unpopular British officials.
  • Revolutionaries like Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki made attempts to kill unpopular British officials.
  • In this early phase, the revolutionaries did not try to organise a mass armed revolution.
  • They focused on acts of individual heroism.
  • They were less organised and proper communication channel among its leaders was missing.
  • Their acts were based on the Russian Nihilists which looked for short term results. This was done to invoke fear in British but failed to arouse nationalism.
  • Their outreach and propaganda was limited and therefore they failed to get support from masses.
  • They had religious tone in their activities and frequently invoked religious oaths.
  • They represented the disenchantment of youth towards the passive activities of larger political organisations like INC and Muslim League.
  • They sowed an idea of an armed struggle against the British.

Revolutionary movements from 1920 onwards:

  • The second wave of revolutionary activities commenced in the early 1920s. The withdrawal of Non-Cooperation in 1922 made the youth more radical.
  • In North India, revolutionaries organised themselves under Hindustan Republican Association (HRA), and later, under the leadership of Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad.
  • In Bengal too revolutionary activities were revived under the leadership of Surya Sen.
  • They believed in adopting violent methods and aspired to organise an armed mass revolution to drive away the British from the country.
  • They adopted the path of the Irish nationalists- while it attacked the British officials and institutions, it also ignited a feeling of national consciousness.
  • The revolutionaries gradually moved away from individual heroic action. In Bengal too, individual heroic action was replaced by group action.
  • A number of them also came under the influence of Socialism.
  • In 1928, they renamed their organisation as the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) to reflect their newly acquired ideology, which gave importance to socialist principles and revolution by the masses.
  • Many revolutionaries, like Bhagat Singh were more humanist and Secularist than their predecessors. Their pamphlets spoke of establishing India as Secular, Democratic, Republic. This was lacking in early revolutionary figures.
  • This brand of revolutionaries were well read and educated. Bhagat Singh was nick named as a mobile library for his reading habits.
  • This era of revolutionary movement also contributed to arts as they perpetuated and propagated their thoughts through art forms like plays, songs and poems. While it helped a dying form of art and gave it a new lease of life in hinterland of India; it also helped these leaders in connecting with masses efficiently and gained their support.
  • Comradery of revolutionaries energized many religious friendship like Ashfaqullah Khan and Ram Prasad Bismil set examples to commoners. This was missing in the early phases of revolutionary movement.
  • They worked towards social cause (education, untouchability etc) as well and claimed of representing workers and peasants in their struggle.


The revolutionary movement in India could not survive the harsh measures initiated by the British against its leaders. Moreover, their use of violence as a political weapon gave a justification to the British to counter them by using more violence. Nevertheless, the selfless sacrifice of the revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, Chandrasekhar Azad , Surya Sen and hundreds of others gained for them unparalleled popularity among the people. One can debate their means to achieve the freedom for the nation but can not question their intentions.


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