What were the points of conflict between the moderates and extremist in the Indian National Congress during the initial stages of the nationalist movement? Methods of which of the two ideologies ultimately guided the nationalist movement in the later years?
Formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885 was the fist organized step to manifest the need for a nationalist movement. The initial years of the Congress were marked by the learning of the democratic methods. Till the beginning of the twentieth century, the methods of the nationalist leaders continued to be highly democratic and respectful in nature. These methods evolved under the bonafide belief of the leaders that the British government was responsive towards various needs and suggestions of the people of India and were willing to make certain changes as requested by them from time to time.
But, gradually the people began to get disillusioned with this method of nationalism. It was realized that on most of the issues the British government adopted dilatory tactics and avoided taking any decisions. Most of the petitions ultimately bore no results. The Congress leaders who still believed in these methods were referred to as the moderate leaders.
The moderates failed to produce any results and most of the moderate leaders like Surendranath Banerjea and Gopal Krishan Gokhale failed to lead the masses and could not force the British government to take any steps towards the welfare of the people of the country. Within the Congress, certain new generation leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chander Pal and Bal Gangadhar Tilak began to disagree with the methods of the moderate leaders and formed a new faction with the Congress which wanted to deviate from the traditional methods of written protests and petitions and wanted direct action in the form of agitations and strong physical protests. This group of the nationalist was not satisfied with the demand for dominion status and wanted complete independence from the British rule. These leaders came to be known as the extremists.
Gradually, the people could gauge the fruitlessness of the moderates. The extremist Congress leaders with their ideal of ousting the British from India, could get more support from the masses and the moderate leaders gradually disappeared into oblivion and irrelevance. The newly found confidence of the extremist leaders was accentuated by the advent of Gandhiji on the Indian nationalist scene.
With his firm belief in truth and non-violence, Gandhiji emerged as a leader of the masses. The ideology and methods of the extremist leaders got a fillip and resurrected nationalist movement caught the fancy of the masses. With appropriate direction to the movement, efficient leadership and plethora of movements and agitations, the masses not only got involved in the nationalist movement but also believed that it was only the aggressive and non-violent policy of agitation that could result in ultimate independence for the country.