Daily Answer Writing for UPSC –10th August 2023

Question: Analyze the ideological differences that led to the Surat split and its aftermath on the trajectory of the Indian struggle for independence.


The Surat Split was the splitting of the (INC) Indian National Congress into two groups – the Moderates and Radicals – at the Surat session in 1907. The Surat Split of 1907 was a pivotal event within the Indian National Congress, showcasing the deep ideological divisions that existed among its members and shaping the course of the Indian struggle for independence. This schism highlighted the clash between the Extremists, who advocated for radical and direct methods to achieve self-governance, and the Moderates, who favored a gradual and diplomatic approach within the British constitutional framework.

Ideological Differences:

Extremists vs. Moderates:

The split primarily revolved around the difference in approach between the Extremist faction, led by leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, and Lala Lajpat Rai, and the Moderate faction, led by leaders like Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Dadabhai Naoroji.

  • Extremists: The Extremists advocated for more assertive and radical methods to achieve self-governance and complete independence from British rule. They believed in direct action, mass mobilization, and the use of boycotts and civil disobedience to press their demands.
  • Moderates: The Moderates, on the other hand, preferred a more gradual and diplomatic approach. They believed in working within the British constitutional framework to secure incremental reforms and gradually gain self-governance over time.

Aftermath on the Trajectory of the Indian Struggle for Independence:

  • Shift towards Direct Action: The split marked a shift toward more aggressive and direct methods of protest within the Indian National Congress. The Extremists’ emphasis on mass mobilization and non-cooperation laid the foundation for future movements like the Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-1922) and the Civil Disobedience Movement (1930-1934).
  • Increased Nationalist Sentiment: The Surat Split contributed to the growing nationalist sentiment among Indians. The Extremists’ efforts to highlight the urgent need for self-governance resonated with a wider section of society, fostering a sense of unity and shared purpose.
  • Elevation of Leaders: The leaders who emerged from the Extremist faction, such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal, gained prominence and played crucial roles in shaping future independence movements. Their ideas and strategies influenced subsequent leaders like Mahatma Gandhi.
  • Evolution of Gandhi’s Approach: Mahatma Gandhi, who initially aligned with the Moderates, was influenced by the ideas of both Extremists and Moderates. The Surat Split contributed to his evolving stance on nonviolent civil disobedience and mass mobilization, which became central to his approach in later movements.
  • Impact on British Attitudes: The emergence of a more assertive and united Indian nationalist movement pushed the British authorities to adopt repressive measures to suppress dissent. This often led to crackdowns, arrests, and clashes, further fueling anti-British sentiment.
  • Strategic Diversification: The split highlighted the importance of having a diverse set of strategies within the struggle for independence. While the Extremists emphasized direct action, the Moderates’ advocacy for constitutional reforms remained relevant and eventually contributed to negotiations for India’s independence.

The Surat Split reflected the contrasting approaches within the Indian National Congress and marked a turning point in the trajectory of the Indian struggle for independence. It set the stage for more assertive and direct methods of protest, fostering a stronger sense of national unity and laying the groundwork for future movements that eventually led to India’s independence in 1947.

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