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Swadeshi Movement: The Beginning of Student Unrest in South India

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About the Book

The feeling of Nationalism manifested itself in the country right from the middle of the 19th century or even much earlier than the advent of the British. There were a number of uprisings against foreign rule and the fight of 1857 stands out very prominent but was not organised country wide. As the struggle continued, the very youth who got English education realised their plight and began showing contempt for the British rule in India. This was more evident in Maharashtra and later in Bengal and other places. Those who went out as students turned out to be the very people who started various Indian associations abroad. Leaders like Krishna Varma, Bhikaji Cama, Savarkar and Bapat guided them, and supplied them with literature, booklets and leaflets to be smuggled into the country. Princely states like Baroda played an important role in this. Leaders like Tilak encouraged students to study Advanced Chemistry in Japan and other countries. Paris and London were the most important centres for such activities. A guide book for bomb-making was smuggled into the country. Originally this seems to have been translated from Russian to French and then into England. Both the French and English versions were smuggled into the country and copies seem to have passed hands to Maharashtra, Punjab, Bengal and the South. All the bomb cases either at Tinnevellay, Manicktola, Nasik or Tenali reveal that the same material including picric acid was used and the same method was followed in bomb-making. Students and youngmen were involved in these activities. The author has aptly dealt with the part played by the students in the struggle for freedom and how the student activities were politically motivated. Bengal took the lead in student activity with Baren Ghosh, brother of Aurobindo Ghosh at the help in the beginning of this century. Maharashtra was equally in the fore-front especially Pune. ‘To inculcate the fundamentals of political consciousness among students’ a number of societies, some secret and some very active were formed in different parts of the country. The student activity became much noted in Rajahmundry and Cocanada during and after B.C. Pal’s visit and so was the case with Machilipatnam, B.C. Guntur, Madras, Salem and elsewhere. Students and other youngmen got more organised from the middle of 1907. The background for national schools and colleges was provided and such institutions were started all over the country and the Presidency. The volume covers the major role played by students in the Madras Presidency during the Vande Mataram and also the Swadeshi Movement. The author has collected authentic material very painstakingly and the effort is commendable as there are hardly any printed books exclusively on the student activity in the Madras Presidency for that period. This unique work on students’ movement in the South is a pioneering effort on the part of the learned author which will remind present as well as succeeding generations that the freedom they enjoy today was not something they were given on a platter but was achieved by incredible sufferings and sacrifices under the inspiring leadership whose devotion, dedication and patriotism have been unparalleled in world history.


Born in 1950, Dr. V. Sankaran Nair was educated in Madras and Kerala. After working as Research Associate in a Project sponsored by the Indian Council of Historical Research, he concentrated on his doctoral dissertation under Dr. T.K. Ravindran for his thesis on the “Role of Students in Freedom Movement with Special Reference to Madras Presidency”. He was on the research staff of Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund (1981-83). Later, rejoined Kerala University as UGC Research Associate. Dr. V. Sankaran Nair has written several research papers on the various aspects of Indian struggle for freedom.

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