Economic decay and stagnation, the fruits of colonial underdevelopment, were beginning to surface by the end of the 19th century. Symbolic in this respect were the famines that devastated the country from 1897 to 1900, and killed millions. Several international events at this time contributed to the growth of militant nationalism. The defeat of the Italian army by the Ethiopians in 1896 and Russia by Japan in 1905 exploded the myth of European superiority.
Similar was the impact of the revolutionary movements in Ireland, Russia, Egypt, Turkey and China. These events convinced the militant leaders that united people, who were willing to make sacrifices, were surely capable of overthrowing foreign despotic rule even if it appeared powerful on the surface. The new leadership believed and preached that Indians must rely on their own efforts, on their own political activity and on their own sacrifices. Their political work and outlook encouraged self-reliance and self-confidence. Moreover, they possessed deep faith in the strength of the Indian people and mass action.
Once the masses took up politics, they asserted, it would be impossible for the British to suppress the national movement. They, therefore, pressed for political work among the masses. They also denied that British rule could be reformed from within. The partition of Bengal (October, 1905) is rightly considered as the turning point in the Indian politics since it aroused intense opposition among the people. As a result of the growing disillusionment about the activities of the British rulers there came into existence the extremism in Indian politics which advocated a policy of boycott, swadeshi and national education.
Extremists found a potent political weapon in boycott and asked the people not to cooperate the government. The basic theory of Tilak, Aurbindo and Pal (which was later put into operation on mass scale by Mahatma Gandhi) was based on the fact that the existence of the Government depended on the cooperation of the people, the Government would cease to function or to exist the very day the people withdrew their Cooperation from it. The extremists were influenced and inspired by stories as how the Italians drove the Austrians out of their land and this in fact gave militant nationalists a new conception and a new ideal of independence. Self-government under British had been the goal of the moderate school, but the ideal of extremist or militant school was complete autonomy and elimination of all foreign control. During the anti-partition agitation, in the first decade of the 20th century, Tilak wrote: “The time has come to demand Swaraj or self Government. No piecemeal reform will do. The system of the present administration is ruinous to the country. It must mend or end.
” According, to him Swaraj was the birthright of every Indian. Similarly Bipin Chandra Pal (1858-1932) said that swaraj was not merely a political but primarily a moral concept. Aurobindo Ghosh (1872-1950) another Swarajist leader wanted absolute Swaraj-Self-Government as it exists in the United Kingdom. Lajpat Rai (1865-1928), along with Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Pal, constituted the Swarajist triumvirate called “Lal-Bal-Pal”. Lajpat, like the other extremists, believed that India must rely on her own strength and should not look to Britain for help. Therefore the Swarajists considered that freedom was their birthright.