Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 1:2 April 2001

Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.

In This Issue:


M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.


Political splits, religious schisms, and family and individual feuds are well attested in the history of humankind. Each of these phenomena appears to follow its own course of genesis and development. However, they may share some common elements.

Whatever may be the reason or reasons for the origin of political splits and religious schisms, these ultimately aim at attracting into their fold those not originally connected with the splits or schisms. Success or failure of a political split or a religious schism is measured generally in terms of the following each party to the split or schism can muster. In its very nature, a political split or a religious schism is a public event. It gets publicized and is in dire need of justifying itself before the eyes and ears of those who are not committed to one party or another of the split or schism.

On the other hand, the family and individual feuds, unless raised to a more public plane, will be seen as a restricted phenomenon, meant only for the families and individuals involved. Those involved in the family and individual feuds also resort to the justification of their own positions before the eyes and ears of those perceived to be adjacent or at least partially interested. Ensuring the active involvement of those not involved so far in the on-going feud may not be the focus of these family and individual feuds. Moreover, even if such an involvement is asked for, it may not be readily forthcoming.

The language used by the parties to the split in their public utterances performs the function not only to adumbrate the justification for the split or schism, but also to present such justification in order to persuade others who are uncommitted to the view-point of the respective party. The language used on such occasions and utterances should announce the split, justify the split, by bringing to the fore, among others, the genesis of the split, blame the other party for the split, even as it should persuade the non-committed public to join its fold. It should establish the reasonableness of its own position vis-à-vis the unreasonableness, if not the intransigence, idiocy, selfishness, and, where necessary, the treachery of the other party. It should establish the correctness of its own approach over the other contending parties. But all these things are often not planned in advance, and are not even fully anticipated, although there will be accusations to this effect offered by the parties to the split or schism.

In certain political splits there may have been preparations for the split, but even in these cases the game plan for a proper language use may not have been fixed beforehand. The initial hesitations, false starts, the uncertain terminology adopted, and varying degrees of harshness in the use of the language all go to indicate that the language strategies may not have been fully anticipated or designed beforehand. These strategies are allowed to develop as the exigency of the situation may demand. The political splits are very dynamic in their nature. They happen very rapidly. Persistent and ingenious demands will be made in quick succession, forcing changes in the language style. The dynamic situation demands a dynamic response attacking the position of the opponent. No fixed game plan can ever meet the demands of the situation. This is fully reflected in the language strategies used in political splits. Also the language used in political splits clearly reveals the changing political strategies of the parties involved in the split.


A political split is generally characterized as the division of a political party into disagreeing or hostile parties on certain matters of importance from the point of view of the contending parties to the split.

A schism generally refers to the separation of a body of religious faith into two or more groups or a secession of a part of the body owing to differences of opinion on doctrine or discipline.

A splinter party or group in politics is a party that has broken away or may ultimately break away, because of doctrinal disagreement, from a larger one.

A splinter group is generally a small group. A splinter group may or may not endure. The stability of its views and its stability as a group is often questionable.

Whereas a splinter may project an image of ideological or doctrinal difference between it and the larger group, a faction, which is also based on doctrinal differences, attitudes, and objectives, generally carries pejorative connotations; it is accused of stubbornness and even disloyalty, and is charged with creating disharmony in the political party. A faction is seen as a group to be more certain of its views and thus may any day leave the parent body.

The splinter group and faction are generally small in size, whereas a bloc and wing within a political party refer to relatively larger groupings, but with loose allegiance. To be siding with the viewpoints of a bloc or a wing does not necessarily entail membership in the bloc or the wing or even the parent political body. These two words generally refer to practical alliances with ideological leanings or coloring.

Dissidence, dissension, malcontent, detractor, clique, conscientious objector, rebel, firebrand, recanter, agitator, agent, and destabilizer are the other more popular words that all converge on the phenomenon of political splits.

Platform and forum are two other planks from which the process of split may be initiated. A political platform is the declared policy of a political party. In due course, in the parent body, several political platforms may develop and several fora are established to air publicly the differences in the political platforms.

In most cases, the overall differences relating to all kinds of factors, both political and non-political including personality factors, seek a platform as well as a splinter group/faction status which, when pressed ahead, would lead to political splits.


The divide in the Indian National Congress that occurred in Surat, Gujarat, in 1907 between the so-called Extremists and the Moderates of the organization is perhaps the oldest political split in modern Indian history. It set the tone for subsequent splits in terms of language use and strategies. This split offers an insight into the dynamics of political splits in modern India.

The Indian National Congress was founded in December 1885. Mr. A. O. Hume, who sent the initial letter calling for the meeting, conceived it to be composed of delegates-leading politicians well acquainted with the English language-from all parts of Bengal, Bombay, and Madras Presidencies. The Annual Congresses were expected to be the germ of a native Parliament. A competent acquaintance with the English language was made a pre-requisite for the delegates of the Congress sessions in 1885 and subsequent years. However, there is evidence to show that, from the very beginning, the use of the vernacular could not be avoided in the deliberations of the Congress sessions, even though English was to be the language of the Annual Congresses. For the Third Annual Congress held in Madras in 1887, thirty thousand copies of a Tamil booklet titled "Congress-Question and Answer" were sold before the Congress began and the proceeds of the sale were used towards meeting the expenses for the session. Rao Sahib Mookkannachary, an iron merchant, spoke in Tamil in the Third Congress, which had a large number of representatives from the districts of present Tamilnadu, unlike the previous Congresses at Bombay and Calcutta. In these two Congresses, mostly people from the urban centers and capitals of Provinces were in attendance. The delegates to the 1887 Madras Congress were not nominated or chosen by individual leaders, but were elected by various bodies, including those representing craftsmen, small businessmen and workers. Thus, a large number of delegates from the Madras Presidency happened to be those who did not know English-a clear violation of the original understanding that the membership was generally open to those delegates well acquainted with the English language.

Within a short period of three years, the Congress had accepted the use of Indian languages in its deliberations, at least as a concession to the dominant spirit of the occasion. But this use of the Indian vernaculars was different from the function assigned to the use of English in the Annual Congresses. Indian vernaculars came to be used for emotive appeal, for pungent metaphors closer to the heart of the audience, for satire and cynicism, daring personal attacks, with the power to arouse the passions of the audience. A fine illustration of this exploitation of the vernacular is found in the speech of Lala Murlidhar in Urdu in the Nagpur Congress of 1891.

The top Congress leadership used English not only because that was the only language mutually intelligible to the cross sections of the leadership, hailing from the various regions of the country, but also because the leadership was trained using that language and it also suited their style of functioning. A functional separation between cool and calculated deliberations, on the one hand, and the arousal of passions for an effective building up of a following on the other, was established. There was recognition that English could not be expected to perform all the functions of communication. English was effective in certain spheres and worthless or handicapped in several others, wherein only a vernacular could perform the desired functions effectively. So, the Indian vernacular intruded into the deliberations of the Indian National Congress unobtrusively, much before the agitation politics and radicalization of the Congress programs set in.

The wider participation of the people from different walks of life had brought in some use of the vernaculars, but this did not ensure the radicalization of politics yet, thus suggesting no causal relationship between the two in Indian National Congress. Over the years there was a much closer relation established between the radicalization of political programs and the use of the Indian vernaculars. Generally speaking, use of the vernaculars preceded the radicalization and agitation programs. However, it was an issue of language and linguistic identity that quickened the process of radicalization of political programs in India. The split in the Congress, witnessed in Surat in 1907, followed the partition of Bengal.


The proposal for the partition of Bengal was mooted as part of the re-distribution of various British Indian provinces for administrative reasons since 1867-68, but such proposals did not materialize in full scope until Lord Curzon, the Viceroy, took up the matter. The plan for the partition of Bengal was revealed in 1903 and was announced as official policy in July 1905. The policy was to become effective from December 1905. This started a turbulent period in Indian politics. The partition of Bengal awakened the Indian masses and helped bring their participation in agitation politics.

It was the decision of Lord Curzon to divide a linguistically homogeneous community into two religiously heterogeneous groups that started the agitation. The partition of Bengal was made to look like a partition based on religion by the British Indian Government, but the entire country took it as a vivisection of a single linguistic body-politic. Until then there was no formal evidence of language becoming a candidate for political activities in such a magnitude. Even the Hindu-Urdu controversy and the attendant Devanagari-Urdu script controversy for writing Hindi/Hindustani, which started well ahead of the partition of Bengal but was raging in north India simultaneously during the period of partition of Bengal, had just a limited influence in Indian politics as a whole, since the matter was then viewed only as a provincial issue. In essence, the Hindi-Urdu controversy did not lead on to the radicalization of national politics unlike the partition of Bengal.


The language of supplication and petition adopted by the Indian National Congress did not bring out the desired result either of restraining the British India government from partitioning Bengal or of annulling the partition after Bengal was partitioned. A section of Congress politicians were getting disillusioned with the dominant leadership of the Congress which was manifestly moderate in its views and which was decidedly against agitation politics. So, a scene was now set for the confrontation between the groups holding different views within the Indian National Congress.

Often for a political split, mere differences in the viewpoints or ideologies are never adequate enough. The triggering mechanism lies mostly in the differences in the personality sported by the actors in the political drama. In addition, personal ambition comes to play an important role. It is difficult to assert that the differences in the personality of the leaders and their personal ambitions precede the differences in the viewpoints and ideologies. However, the triggering function of the difference in the personality for a political split cannot be exaggerated.

For one thing, the Congress leaders involved in the Surat split in 1907 were of an impeccable character, who sacrificed all their lives for the Indian nation. Personal ambition appeared to be out of the question, because the Congress itself was not then conducting its business based only on the charisma of the individual leaders. It was pre-Gandhi era, and the dictatorship of the top leadership was not pronounced. Moreover, the organization was so organized that there was much provincial autonomy. So, the political split in 1907 was to be seen mostly in relation to the differences in the points of view and the personality of the political leaders.

Indeed, the split in Surat revolved around the conduct of two individuals, Gopala Krishna Gokhale and Bala Gangadhar Tilak, who represented respectively the so-called moderate and extremist viewpoints in the Congress in relation to what should be done to annul the partition of Bengal and to win ultimately the self-governing status for India.

As Sitaramayya (1935:158, 166) pointed out,

When Lokamanya Tilak spoke, there was as much that was left unsaid as was actually said. That is how his writings and speeches were understood. They (Gokhale and Tilak) had a flair all their own. Lokamanya employed gentle satire in his remarks … they were both patriots of the first order. Both had made heavy sacrifices in life. But their temperaments were widely different from each other. Gokhale was a "Moderate" and Tilak was an "Extremist," if one may use the language in vogue at the time. Gokhale's plan was to improve the existing constitutions (of the Congress); Tilak's was to re-construct it. Gokhale had necessarily to work with the bureaucracy; Tilak had necessarily to fight it. Gokhale stood for co-operation wherever possible and opposition wherever necessary; Tilak inclined towards a policy of obstruction. Gokhale's prime consideration was with the administration and its improvement; Tilak's was service and suffering. Gokhale's method sought to win the foreigner; Tilak's to replace him. Gokhale depended upon others help, Tilak upon self-help. Gokhale looked to the classes and the intelligential, Tilak to the masses and the millions; Gokhale's arena was the council's chamber; Tilak's forum was the village mandap. Gokhale's medium of expression was English; Tilak's was Marathi. Gokhale's objective was self-government for which the people had to fit themselves by answering the tests prescribed by the English; Tilak's objective was Swaraj which is the birth right of every Indian and which he shall have without let or hindrance from the foreigner. Gokhale was on a level with his age; Tilak was in advance of his times.

Although it is incorrect to identify in total the personalities of Tilak and Gokhale respectively with the positions of the Extremists (or Nationalists) and the Moderates, the characteristics of the individuals and their leadership styles certainly contributed to the elaboration of the positions taken by the Extremists and the Moderates. The ground for the political split in Surat was to be found equally in the personality traits of the leaders in the drama. The split in Surat brought out the divergence in the style of thinking, speaking and the manner politics was practiced.


Although a polemic discourse is mainly a discourse of wanton manipulation to suit the ends of its advocates, the discourse reveals the truth of the matter in several unexpected ways. The linguistic utterances illumine how different groups, to meet their own ends, can manipulate one another and the content or event differently. In spite of this, facts slowly emerge in the discourse and the onlooker will be able to discern the truth and intent of the participants in a split.

The 1907 Congress was to be originally held at Nagpur, but due to local differences the All India Congress Committee changed the venue to Surat in Gujarat. The differences between the Moderates (comprising of leaders like Gokhale, Surendra Nath Banerjee, Sir Pherozeshah Mehta and Dr. Ghose) and the Extremists (comprised of leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Khare and V.O.Chidambaram Pillai) mainly revolved around the emphasis that should be given to the Calcutta 1906 resolutions of Boycott, Swadeshi, National Education and Self-government. There were rumors that the Surat Congress would not deliberate on the Calcutta Congress resolutions on the above topics so as to delay or postpone the agitation programs. The policy of moderation, loyalty to the Crown, firmness and unity of the Moderates, especially the characteristics of moderation and loyalty to the Crown, were not any more acceptable to the Extremists. There was also a difference of opinion as to who should be elected the President of the Congress that year. The stage was thus set for a confrontation that ultimately led to the split.

We give below three documents that presented the same happenings in three different angles.


The twenty-third national Congress met on Thursday afternoon in the grand pandal at Surat at a place known as the French Garden. The pandal is a large square with seating capacity for over 7000, and the whole place was filled to its capacity. Long before the President-elect, the Hon. Dr. Ghose, arrived, the delegates and spectators had taken every available seat and some of the busy Extremist leaders took occasion to harangue their followers. Mr. Khare, an Extremist leader of Nasik, intimated to a group of Mahratta Extremists that the Congress should be asked to include resolutions on boycott of foreign made goods, Swaraj, and national education in the year's programme, and, if this was not considered favourably, Mr. Tilak was to oppose the motion formally voting Dr. Ghose to the presidential chair. This announcement was received with approval and applause by the Poona Extremists, and also elicited approbation from the feeble ranks of the Madras Extremists. There were appeals made to the excitable spectators by irresponsible and mischievous preachers in the pandal, with the result that for over an hour before the President's arrival, the scene was one of excitement among the extremists and intense anxiety among the Moderates.

Meanwhile the leading Congressmen from several parts as they arrived were received with ovations. Lala Lajpat Rai's arrival was the occasion for the greatest enthusiasm, demonstrated in a most unmistakable manner. He was conducted to the platform and took his seat between Dr. Rutherford and Mr. Surendra Nath Banerjee. Sardar Ajit Singh also received some demonstrations. The long platform at the western end of the hall was occupied by a distinguished gathering of the principal Congressmen and visitors. There were among those present at the Congress, leaders like Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, the Hon. Mr. Gokhale, Sir Balchandra Krishna; merchant princes like the Hon. Vithaldas Damodar Thakersey, Lalubhai Samal Dass, Ibrahim Adamji Peerbhai from Bombay; patriots like Surendra Nath Banerjee and Bhupendra Nath Basu from Calcutta; and Punjab leaders like Lala Harkisen Lal and Lajpat Rai from Lahore, and the Hon'ble Krishnasami Iyer and Govindaraghava Iyer, N. Subba Rao and others from Madras; also Extremist leaders, Messrs. Tilak and Khaparde.

Dr. Ghose arrived, accompanied by Sir Pherozeshah Mehta and other members of the Congress executive, and was welcomed with loud and prolonged cheering, not unmingled with stray shouting of "Shame" from some of the Extremists.

As soon as Dr. Ghose took his seat the Chairman of the Reception Committee (Mr. Tribhuvandas Malvi), delivered his address of welcome to the delegates, in the course of which he referred to the great historic antecedents of Surat and its subsequent downfall as a commercial center, and in consequence, the rise of Bombay. He also dealt with the good work, which the Congress had done I the past in the cause of the country, and hoped that it would continue its policy of moderation, loyalty, firmness and unity.

This statement roused the ire of the Extremists, who hissed and cried "No, no" and otherwise attempted to interrupt him whenever they heard him preach moderation.

When he sat down Dewan Bahadur Ambalal Sarkar Desai proposed that Dr. Ghose do take the presidential chair, in a short speech in which he extolled his patriotic services, and he, too, was again interrupted by cries of "No, no" from the Extremists.

Then Mr. Surendra Nath Banerjee rose to address the assembly. It was hoped that he would be able to address the assembly. It was hoped that he would be able to command the audience with his powerful voice and compelling eloquence; but the moment he uttered the first word the Extremists were determined to give him no chance. The greatest disturbance proceeded from the front rows of the Madras and Deccan blocks of delegates, which were nearest the platform, and the rowdy section among the Extremists made a determined effort to obstruct the proceedings. They called loudly for Mr. Tilak and Lajpat Rai, and would have none of Mr. Banerjee; but the Moderates urged him to go on and he made repeated attempts to make himself heard, but scarcely a word could be heard above the noisy clamour of the Extremists. They were only about 30, the majority of these coming from Madras. At this stage the Chairman of the Reception Committee stood up and warned the Extremists that, if they kept up like that, the sitting would be impossible, and he would be compelled to suspend the Congress. Even he was not heard, Mr. Banerjee made another futile attempt and was obliged finally to retire, giving rise to great shouts of triumph on the part of the disturbers.

Meanwhile some parleying went on among the leaders and a movement in the direction of Messrs. Tilak and Khaparde was noticed with a view to persuade them to intervene. This attempt was unsuccessful. Either they did not intervene, or only did so in an equivocal manner, so that their following could not understand them. Meanwhile, the Bengalis in particular, and the audience in general, resented the insult offered to the great Bengali leader and orator, and would not hear any one in preference to him. The rowdies, however, continued their noisy demonstration and the Chairman was compelled to declare the Congress suspended for the day, and the leaders retired. But for long afterwards the Extremists held possession of the pandal, men of both parties crying "Shame" against each other.

It is obvious that the disturbance during the afternoon was the result of a deliberately pre-concerted plan of action on the part of the Extremist leaders. These seeing that they and their party were in a hopeless minority were determined not to take defeat on the industrial resolutions before the Congress and so resolved to make the situation impossible at the outset and wreck the Congress. The ostensible pretext of the Extremists in support of their conduct is the alleged omission of the Congress authorities to include resolutions on boycott, Swaraj, and national education, which turn out to be absolutely unfounded. A statement denying the rumours set afloat by scheming Extremist leaders was circulated over the signature of the Secretary, but apparently they were spoiling for a split, and they have succeeded in creating an impasse.

The Statesman added on 27th December:

Since last night a manifesto has been issued over the signatures of about twenty leading Congressmen of all parts of the country appealing to the delegates. The manifesto is signed for each province by the respective leaders and runs as follows:

Babu Surendra Nath Banerjee, who was to second the proposition moved by Dewan Bahadur Amba Lal Sarkar Desai, for the election of Dr. Ghose as President of the Congress has been prevented from speaking against the established practice of the Congress and violation of old traditions. The session of Congress has had to be suspended for the day. If similar obstruction continues it might be necessary to close the session of Congress, a situation that is humiliating for all delegates and an event which will bring disgrace to the country. It is requested that all delegates to the Congress of all shades of opinion will express their differences in a proper constitutional manner and it is hoped that all will use their influence towards this end.

The Congress assembled at 1 p.m., a large number of visitors and delegates were present. The proceedings began where they were left yesterday by voting Dr. Ghose to the Presidential chair. This was supported and declared carried. Dr. Ghose stood up, but before his address began Mr. Tilak went up on the platform. The audience would not hear him and cried "Shame". Great confusion then ensued. Mr. Tilak would not leave the platform despite passing requests from eminent men, including Dr. Rutherford. Dr. Ghose then proceeded with his address whereupon Mr. Tilak appealed to his followers, who were considerably excited and rushed up to the platform and attacked every one with sticks with which they were armed. The ladies were removed in safety. Confusion still reigned supreme. The police came in and made arrests. The magistrate of Surat on the afternoon of the 27th telegraphed to the Government of India: "Indian National Congress meeting today became disorderly, blows being exchanged. The President called on the police to clear the house and the grounds which was done. Order now restored. No arrests. No one reported seriously hurt. No further hurt anticipated." As a matter of fact some arrests were made, but the Reception Committee declining to proceed, the prisoners were at once released by the police. (Quoted from Mazumdar 1915).


Report from the Hon. Dr. Rash Behari Ghose, President, Mr. Tribhuvandas N. Malvi, Chairman of the Reception Committee, and Mr. D.E. Wacha and Mr. G. K. Gokhale, Joint General Secretaries of the Indian National Congress issued an official statement which stated, among other things, corroborating what we just now read as part of the Statesman report, that rowdyism had been determined upon to bring the proceedings to a standstill and that the whole demonstrations seemed to have been pre-arranged.

It further said that when the Congress reassembled at 1:00 p.m., the President-elect was escorted in procession through the Hall to the platform and that an overwhelming majority of the delegates present greeted him a most enthusiastic welcome, thereby showing how thoroughly they disapproved the organized disorder of yesterday. As this procession was entering the pandal, a small slip of paper written in pencil and a volunteer into the hands of Mr. Malvi put bearing Mr. B. G. Tilak's signature, the Chairman of the Reception Committee. It was a notice to the Chairman that after Mr. Banerjee's speech, seconding the proposition about the President was concluded, Mr. Tilak wanted to more an amendment for an adjournment of the Congress. The Chairman considered a notice adjournment at that stage to be irregular and out of order. The proceedings were then resumed at the point at which they had been interrupted yesterday, and Mr. Surendra Nath Banerjee was called upon to conclude his speech. Mr. Banerjee having done this, the Chairman called upon Pandit Motilal Nehru of Allahabad to support the motion. The Pandit supported in a brief speech and then the Chairman put the motion to the vote. An overwhelming majority of the delegates signified their assent by crying "All, all" and a small minority shouted "No, no."

The Chairman thereupon declared the motion carried and the Hon. Dr. Ghose was installed in the Presidential chair amidst loud and prolonged applause. While the applause was going on, and as Dr. Ghose rose to begin his address, Mr. Tilak came upon the platform and stood in front of the President. He urged that as he had given notice of an "amendment to the Presidential election," he should be permitted to move his amendment. Thereupon, it was pointed out to him by Mr. Malvi, the Chairman of the Reception Committee, that his notice was not for "an amendment to the Presidential election," but it was for "an adjournment of the Congress," which notice he had considered to be irregular and out of order at that stage; and that the President having been duly installed in the chair no amendment about his election could be then moved. Mr. Tilak then turned to the President and began arguing with him. Dr. Ghose, in his turn, stated how matters stood and ruled that this request to move an amendment about the election could not be entertained. Mr. Tilak thereupon said, "I will not submit to this, I will now appeal from the President to the delegates." In the meantime an uproar had already been commenced by some of his followers, and the President who tried to read his address could not be heard even by those who were seated next to him. Mr. Tilak with his back to the President kept shouting that he insisted on moving his amendment and he would not allow the proceedings to go on. The President repeatedly appealed to him to be satisfied with his protest and to resume his seat. Mr. Tilak kept on shouting frantically, exclaiming that he would not go back to his seat unless he was "bodily removed." This persistent defiance of the authority of the chair provoked a hostile demonstration against Mr. Tilak himself and for some time, nothing but loud cries of "Shame, shame" could be heard in the pandal.

It had been noticed, that when Mr. Tilak was making his way to the platform some of his followers were also trying to force themselves through the volunteers to the platform with sticks in their hands. All attempts on the President's part either to proceed with the readings of his address or to persuade Mr. Tilak to resume his seat having failed, and a general movement among Mr. Tilak's followers to rush the platform with sticks in their hands being noticed, the president, for the last time, called upon Mr. Tilak to withdraw and formally announced to the assembly that he had ruled and he still ruled Mr. Tilak out of order and he called upon him to resume his seat. Mr. Tilak refused to obey and at this time a shoe hurled from the body of the Hall, struck both Sir Pherozeshah Mehta and Mr. Surendranath Banerjee who were sitting side by side. Chairs were also hurled towards the platform and it was seen that Mr. Tilak's followers who were brandishing their sticks wildly were trying to rush the platform which other delegates were endeavouring to prevent. It should be stated here that some of the delegates were so exasperated by Mr. Tilak's conduct that they repeatedly asked for permission to eject him bodily from the hall; but this permission was steadily refused. The President, finding that the disorder went on growing and that he had no other course open to him, declared the session of the 23rd Indian National Congress suspended sine die. After the lady-delegates present on the platform had been escorted to the tents outside, the other delegates began with difficulty to disperse, but the disorder, having grown wilder, the Police eventually came in and ordered the Hall to be cleared.


The Extremists' version of the events, given below, contradicted the official version on most points, but did not deny the violent happenings. It assigned these happenings to the manipulation of the Moderates. We discuss the versions in some detail not only as a matter of historical interest but also to indicate the changing nuances of language use within the Congress. In the heat of arguments in favour or against positions taken by respective opponent groups, the early leadership of Congress set a model for events to unfold in the future.

A Press Note containing an official narrative of the proceedings of the 23rd Indian National Congress at Surat has been published over the signatures of some of the Congress officials. As this Note contains a number of one-sided and misleading statements, it is thought desirable to publish the following account of the proceedings:


Last year when the Congress was held at Calcutta sunder the presidency of Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji, the Congress, consisting of Moderates and Nationalists, unanimously resolved to have for its goal Swaraj or Self-government on the lines of the Self-Governing colonies, and passed certain resolutions on Swadeshi, Boycott and National Education. The Bombay Moderates, headed by Sir P.M. Mehta, did not at the time raise any dissentient voice, but they seem to have felt that their position was somewhat compromised by these resolutions, and they had since then been looking forward to an opportunity when they might return to their old position regarding ideals and methods of political progress in India. In the Bombay Provincial Conference held at Surat in April last, Sir P.M. Mehta succeeded by his personal influence in excluding the propositions of Boycott and National Education from the Programme of the Conference. And when it was decided to change the venue of the Congress from Nagpur to Surat, it afforded the Bombay Moderates leaders the desired-for opportunity to carry out their intentions in this respect.

The Reception Committee at Surat was presumably composed largely of Sir Pherozesha's followers, and it was cleverly arranged by the Hon. Mr. Gohale to get the Committee nominate Dr.R.B.Ghosh to the office of the President, brushing aside the proposal for the nomination of Lala Lajpat Rai, then happily released, on the ground that "we cannot afford to flout Government at this stage, the authorities would throttle our movement in no time." This was naturally regarded as an insult to the public feeling in the country, and Dr. Ghosh must have received at least a hundred telegrams from different parts of India requesting him to generously retire in Lala Lajpat Rai's favour. But Dr. Ghosh unfortunately decided to ignore this strong expression of public opinion. Lala Lajpat Rai, on the other hand, publicly declined the honour. But this did not satisfy the people who wished to disown the principle of selecting a Congress President on the above ground, believing as they did that the most effective protest against eh repressive policy of government would be to elect Lala Lajpat Rai to the chair.

The Hon. Mr.Gokhale was entrusted by the Reception Committee, at its meeting held on 24th November 1907 for nominating the President, with the work of drafting the resolutions to be placed before the Congress. But neither Mr. Gokhale nor the Reception Committee supplied a copy of the draft resolutions to any delegate till 2:30 P.M. on Thursday the 26th December, that is to say, till the actual commencement of the Congress Session. The public was taken into confidence only thus far that a list of the headings of the subjects likely to be taken up for discussion by the Surat Congress was officially published a week or ten days before the date of the Congress Session. This list did not include the subject of Self-Government, Boycott and National Education, on all of which distinct and separate resolutions were passed at Calcutta last year. This omission naturally strengthened the suspicion that the Bombay Moderates really intended to go back from the position taken up by the Calcutta Congress in these matters.

The press strongly commented upon this omission, and Mr. Tilak, who reached Surat on the morning of the 23rd December, denounced such retrogression as suicidal in the interests of the country, more especially at the present juncture, at a large mass meeting held that evening, and appealed to the Surat public to help the Nationalists in their endeavours to maintain at least the status quo in these matters. The next day a Conference of about five hundred Nationalist Delegates was held at Surat under the chairmanship of Sriyut Arabindo Ghose where it was decided that the Nationalists should prevent the attempted retrogression of the Congress by all constitutional means, even by opposing the election of the president if necessary; and a letter was written to the Congress Secretaries requesting them to make arrangements for dividing the house, if need be, on every contested proposition including that of the election of the President.

In the meanwhile a press note signed by Mr. Gandhi, as Hon. Secretary, was issued to the effect that the statement, that certain resolutions adopted last year at Calcutta were omitted from the Congress programme prepared by the Surat Reception Committee, was wholly unfounded; but the draft resolutions themselves were still withheld from the public, though some of the members of the reception Committee had already asked for them some days before. On the morning of 25th December, Mr. Tilak happened to get a copy of the draft of the proposed constitution of the Congress prepared by the Hon. Mr. Gokhale. In this draft the object of the Congress was thus stated: "The Indian National Congress has for its ultimate goal the attainment by India of Self-government similar to that enjoyed by the other members of the British Empire" and etc. Mr. Tilak addressed a meeting of the delegates the same morning at the Congress camp at about 9 A.M., explaining the grounds on which he believed that the Bombay Moderate leaders were bent upon receding from the position take up by the Calcutta Congress on Swaraj, Boycott and National Education.

The proposed constitution, Mr. Tilak pointed out, was a direct attempt to tamper with the ideal of Self-government on the lines of the Self-Governing colonies, as settled at Calcutta by making the acceptance of this new creed an indispensable condition of Congress Membership. Mr. Tilak further stated in plain terms that if they were assured that no sliding back of the Congress would be attempted the opposition to the election of the President would be withdrawn. The delegates at the meeting were also asked to sign a letter of request to Dr. Ghosh, the President-elect requesting him to have the old propositions on Swaraj, Swadeshi, Boycott and National Education taken up for reaffirmation this year; and some of the delegates denied it on the spot. Mr. G. Subramania Iyer of Madras, Mr. Kharandikar of Satara and several others were present at this meeting and excepting a few all the rest admitted the reasonableness of Mr. Tilak's proposal.

Lala Lajpat Rai, who arrived at Surat on the morning of that day, saw Messrs. Tilak and Khaparde in the afternoon and intimated to them his intention to arrange for a Committee of a few leading delegates from each side to settle the question in dispute. Messrs. Tilak and Khaparde having agreed, he went to Mr. Gokhale to arrange for the Committee if possible; and Messrs. Tilak and Khaparde returned to the Nationalists Conference which was held that evening (25th December). At this Conference a Nationalist Committee consisting of one Nationalist delegate from each Province was appointed to carry on the negotiations with the leaders on the other side; and it was decided that if the Nationalist Committee failed to obtain any assurance from responsible Congress failed to obtain any assurance from responsible Congress officials about the status quo being maintained, the Nationalists should begin their opposition from the election of the President. For the retrogression of the Congress was a serious step, not to be decided upon only by a bare accidental majority of any party, either in the Subjects Committee or in the whole Congress (as at present constituted), simply because its session happened to be held in a particular or province in a particular year; and the usual unanimous acceptance of the President would have under such exceptional circumstances, greatly weakened the point and force of the opposition. No kind of intimation was received from Lala Lajpat Rai this night or even the morning regarding the proposal of a Joint Committee of reconciliation proposed by him, nor was a copy of the draft resolutions supplied to Mr. Tilak, Mr. Khaparde, or any other delegates to judge if no sliding back from the old position was really intended.

On the morning of the 26th December, Messrs. Tilak, Khaparde, Arabindo Ghose and others went to Baby Surendranath Banerjee at this residence. They were accompanied by Baby Motilal Ghose of the Amrita Bazar Patrika who had arrived the previous night. Mr. Tilak then informed Babu Surendranath that the Nationalist opposition to the election of the President would be withdrawn, if (1) the Nationalist party were assured that the status quo would not be disturbed; and (2) if some graceful allusion was made by any one of the speakers on the resolution about the election of the President to the desire of the public to have Lala Lajpat Rai in the chair. Mr. Banerjee agreed to the latter proposal as he said he was himself to second the resolution; while as regards the first, though he gave an assurance for himself and Bengal, he asked Mr. Tilak to see Mr. Gokhale or Mr. Malvi. A volunteer was accordingly sent in a carriage to invite Mr. Malvi, the Chairman of the Reception Committee, to Mr. Banerjee's residence, but the volunteer brought a reply that Mr. Malvi had no time to come as he was engaged in religious practices. Mr. Tilak then returned to his camp to take his meals as it was already about 11 A.M.; but on returning to the Congress pandal an hour latter, he made persistent attempts to get access to Mr. Malvi but could not find him anywhere. A little before 2:30 P.M. a word was brought to Mr. Tilak that Mr. Malvi was in the President's camp, and Mr. Tilak sent a message to him from an adjoining tent asking for a short interview to which Mr. Malvi replied that he could not see Mr. Tilak as the presidential procession was being formed. The Nationalist Delegates were waiting in the pandal to hear the result of the endeavors of their Committee to obtain an assurance about the maintenance of the status quo from some responsible Congress Official, and Mr. V.S.Khare of Nasik now informed them of the failure of Mr. Tilak's attempt in the matter.


It has become necessary to state these facts in order that the position of the two parties, when the Congress commenced its proceedings on Thursday the 26th December at 2.30 P.M. may be clearly understood. The President-elect and other persons had not taken their seats on the platform; and as no assurance from any responsible official of the Congress about the maintenance of the status quo was till then obtained, Mr. Tilak sent a slip to Babu Surendranath intimating that he should not make the proposed allusion to the controversy about the presidential election in his speech. He also wrote to Mr. Malvi to supply him with a copy of the draft resolutions if ready, and at about 3 P.M. while Mr. Malvi was reading his speech, Mr. Tilak got a copy of the draft resolutions which he subsequently found were published the very evening in the Advocate of India in Bombay clearly showing that the reporter of the paper must have been supplied with a copy at least a day earlier. The withholding of a copy from Mr. Tilak till 3 P.M. that day cannot, therefore, be regarded as accidental.

There were about thirteen hundred and odd delegates at this time in the pandal of whom over 600 were Nationalists, and the Moderate majority was thus a bare majority. After the Chairman's address was over, Dewan Bahadur Ambalal Sakarlal proposed Dr. R.B. Ghosh to the chair in a speech which though evoking occasional cries of dissent, was heard to the end. The declaration by the Dewan Bahadur as well as by Mr. Malvi that the proposition and seconding of the resolution to elect the President was only a formal business, led many delegates to believe that it was not improbable that the usual procedure of taking votes on the proposition might be dispensed with; and when Babu Surendranath Banerji, whose rising on the platform seems to have reminded some of the delegates of the Midnapur incident, commenced his speech, there was persistent shouting and he was asked to sit down. He made another attempt to speak but was not heard, and the session had, therefore, to be suspended for the day. The official press note suggests that this hostile demonstration was pre-arranged; this suggestion is unfounded. For though the nationalists did intend to oppose the election, they had at their conference held the previous day expressly decided to do so only by solidly and silently voting against it in a constitutional manner.

In the evening the Nationalists again held their Conference and authorized their Committee, appointed on the previous day, to further carry on the negotiations for having the status quo maintained if possible, failing which it was decided to oppose the election of Dr. Ghose by moving such amendment as the Committee might decide or by simply voting against his election. The Nationalists were further requested, and unanimously agreed, not only to abstain from joining in any such demonstration as led to the suspension of that day's proceedings, but to scrupulously avoid any, even the least, interruption of the speakers on the opposite side, so that both parties might get a patient hearing. At night (about 8 P.M.) Mr. Chuni Lal Saraya, Manager of the Indian Specie Bank and Vice-Chairman of the Surat Reception Committee, accompanied by two other gentlemen, went in his unofficial capacity and on his own account to Mr. Tilak and proposed that he intended to arrange for a meeting that night between Mr. Tilak and Mr. Gokhale at the residence of a leading Congressman to settle the differences between the two parties. Mr. Tilak agreed and requested Mr. Chuni Lal if an interview could be arranged to fix the time in consultation with Mr. Gokhale, adding that he, Mr. Tilak, would be glad to be present at the place of the interview at any hour of the night. Thereon Mr. Chuni Lal left Mr. Tilak, but unhappily no word was received by the latter that night.


On the morning of Friday 27th (11 A.M) Mr. Chuni Lal Saraya again saw Mr. Tilak and requested him to go in company with Mr. Khaparde to Prof. Gajjar's bungalow near the Congress pandal, where by appointment they were to meet Dr. Rutherford who was trying for a reconciliation. Messrs. Tilak and Khaparde went to Prof. Gajjar's, but Dr. Rutherford could not come then owing to his other engagements. Prof. Gajjar then asked Mr. Tilak what the latter intended to do and Mr. Tilak stated that if no settlement was arrived at privately owing to every leading Congressman being unwilling to take any responsibility in the matter upon himself, he (Mr. Tilak) would be obliged to bring an amendment to the preposition of electing the President after it had been seconded. The amendment would be to the effect that the business of election should be adjourned, and a Committee, consisting of one leading Moderate and one leading Nationalist from each Congress Province, with Dr. Rutherford's name added, be appointed to consider and sett1e the differences between the two parties, both of which should accept the Committee's decision as final and then proceed to the unanimous election of the president. Mr. Tilak even supplied to Prof. Gajjar the names of the delegates, who in this opinion should form the Committee, but left a free hand to the Moderates to change the names of their representatives if they liked to do so. Prof. Gajjar and Mr. Chuni Lal undertook to convey the proposal to Sir P. N. Mehta or Dr. Rutherford in the Congress Camp and asked Messrs. Tilak and Khaparde to go to the pandal and await their reply. After half an hour Prof. Gajjar and Mr. Saraya returned and told Messrs. Tilak and Khaparde that nothing could be done in the matter, Mr. Saraya adding that if both the parties proceeded constitutionally there would be no hitch.

It was about 12:30 at this time, and on the receipt of the above reply Mr. Tilak wrote in pencil the following note to Mr. Malvi, Chairman of the Reception Committee: "Sir, - I wish to address the delegates on the proposal of the election of the President after it is seconded. I wish to move an adjournment with a constructive proposal. Please announce me.

Yours sincerely, B. G. Tilak Deccan Delegate (Poona),"

This note, it is admitted, was put by a volunteer into the hands of Mr. Malvi, the Chairman, as he was entering the pandal with the President-Elect in procession.

The proceedings of the day commenced at 1 P.M. when Babu Surendranath Banerji was called upon to resume his speech seconding the election of the President. Mr. Tilak was expecting a reply to his note but not having received one up to this time asked Mr. N. C. Kelkar to send a reminder. Mr. Kelkar thereupon sent a chit to the Chairman to the effect that "Mr. Tilak requests a reply to his note." But no reply was received even after the reminder, and Mr. Tilak who thought he was allotted a seat on the platform was sitting in the front row of the delegates' seats near the platform-steps, rose to go up the platform immediately after Babu Surendranath, who was calmly heard by all, had finished his speech. But he was held back by a volunteer in the way. Mr. Tilak, however, asserted his right to go up and pushing aside the volunteer succeeded in getting to the platform just when Dr. Ghosh was moving to take the President's chair. The Official Mote says that by the time Mr. Tilak came upon the platform and election of Ghose had been passed by an overwhelming majority: and Dr. Ghose being installed in the Presidential chair by loud and prolonged applause, had risen to begin his address. All this, if it did take place as alleged, could only have been done in a deliberately hurried manner with a set purpose to trick Mr. Tilak out of his right to address the delegates and move an amendment as previously notified. According to the usual procedure Mr. Malvi was bound to announce Mr. Tilak, or if he considered the amendment out of order, declare it so publicly, and to ask for a show of hands in favour of or against the motion. but nothing of the kind was done; nor was the interval of a few seconds sufficient for a prolonged applause as alleged.

As Mr. Tilak stood up on the platform he was greeted with shouts of disapproval from the Members of the Reception Committee on the platform, and the cry was taken up by other Moderates. Mr. Tilak repeatedly insisted upon his right of addressing the delegates, and told Dr. Ghose, when he attempted to interfere, that he was not properly elected. Mr. Malvi said that he had ruled Mr. Tilak's amendment out of order to which Mr. Tilak replied that the ruling, if any, was wrong and Mr. Tilak had a right to appeal to the delegates on the same. By this time there was a general uproar in the pandal, the Moderates shouting at Mr. Tilak and asking him to sit down and the Nationalists demanding that he should be heard. At this stage Dr. Ghose and Nr. Malvi said that Mr. Tilak should be removed from the platform: and a young gentleman, holding the important office of a Secretary to the Reception Committee, touched Mr. Tilak's person with a view to carry out the Chairman's order. Mr. Tilak pushed the gentleman aside and again assorted his right of being heard, declaring that he would not leave the platform unless bodily removed. Mr. Gokhale seems to have here asked the above-mentioned gentleman not to touch Mr. Tilak's person. But there were others who were seen threatening an assault on his person though he was calmly standing on the platform facing the delegates with his arms folded over his chest.

It was during this confusion that a shoe hurled on to the platform hit Sir P. M. Mehta on the side of the face after touching Babu Surendranath Banerji, both of whom were sitting within a yard of Mr. Tilak on the other side of the table. Chairs were now seen being lifted to be thrown at Mr. Tilak by persons on and below the platform, and some of the Nationalists, therefore, rushed on to the platform, to his rescue. Dr. Ghose in the meanwhile twice attempted, to read his address, but was stopped by cries of "no, no" from all sides in the pandal, and the confusion became still worse. It must be stated that the Surat Reception Committee, composed of Moderates, had made arrangements the previous night to dismiss the Nationalist Volunteers and to hire ........ ( names deleted; referring to a dominant religious minority community -- Thirumalai) goondas for the day. These with lathis were stationed at various places in the pandal and their presence was detected and protested against by the Nationalist Delegates before the commencement of the Congress proceedings of the day. But though one or two were removed from the pandal, the rest who remained therein now took part in the scuffle on behalf of their masters. It was found impossible to arrest the progress of disorder and proceedings were then suspended sine die and the Congress officials retired in confusion to a tent behind the pandal. The police, who seem to have been long ready under a requisition, now entered into and eventually cleared the pandal; while the Nationalist Delegates who had gone to the platform safely escorted Mr. Tilak to an adjoining tent. It remains to be mentioned that copies of an inflammatory leaflet in Gujarati asking the Gujarati people to rise against Mr. Tilak were largely distributed in the pandal before the commencement of the day's proceedings.

It would be seen from the above account that the statement in official note to the effect that Dr. Ghose was elected President amid loud and prolonged applause before Mr. Tilak appeared on the platform, and that Mr. Tilak wanted to move an adjournment of the whole Congress are entirely misleading and unfounded. What he demanded, by way of amendment, was an adjournment of the business of the election of the President in order to have the differences settled by a joint Conciliatory Committee of leading delegates from both sides. Whether this was in order or otherwise, Mr. Tilak had certainly a right to appeal to the delegates and it was this consciousness that led Mr. Malvi and his advisers to hastily wind up the election business without sending a reply to Mr. Tilak or calling upon him to address the delegates. It was a trick by which they intended to deprive Mr. Tilak of the right of moving an amendment and addressing the delegates thereon. As for the beginning of the, actual rowdyism on the day some of the members of the Reception Committee itself were responsible. The silent hearing given by the Nationalists to Mr. Surendranath on the one hand, and the circulation of the inflammatory leaflet and the hiring of the goondas on the other, further prove that if there was any pre-arrangement anywhere for the purpose of creating a row in the pandal, it was on the part of the Moderates themselves. But for their rowdyism there was every likelihood of Mr. Tilak's amendments being carried by a large majority and the election of President afterwards taking place smoothly and unanimously. But neither Dr. Ghose nor any other Congress officials seemed willing to tactfully manage the business as Mr. Dadabhai Naoroji did last year.

Dr. Ghose's speech though undelivered in the Congress pandal had been by this time published in the Calcutta papers, and telegrams from Calcutta received in the evening showed that he had made an offensive attack on the Nationalist party thereon. This added to the sensation in the Nationalist camp that evening, but the situation was not such as to preclude all hope of reconciliation. Sriyut Motilal Ghose of the Patrika, Mr.A. C. Moitra of Rajshahi, Mr.B. C. Chatterji of Calcutta and Lala Harkisen Lal from Lahore accordingly tried their best to bring about a compromise, and, if possible, to have the Congress session revived the next day. They went to Mr. Tilak on the night of 27th and the morning of 28th to ascertain the views of his party, and to each of them Mr. Tilak gave the following assurance in writing:

"Surat, 28th December, 1907".

"Dear Sir, With reference to our conversation and principally in the best interests of the Congress, I and my party are prepared to waive our opposition to the Indian National Congress, and are prepared to act in the spirit of forget and forgive, provided, Firstly the last year's resolutions on Swaraj, Swadeshi, Boycott and National Education are adhered to and each expressly reaffirmed; Secondly, such passages, if any, in Dr. Ghose's speech as may be offensive to the Nationalists Party are omitted. Yours etc., B. G. Tilak.

This letter was taken by the gentlemen to whom it was addressed to the Moderate leaders but no compromise was arrived at as the Moderates were all along bent upon the retrogression of the Congress at any cost. A convention of the Moderates was, therefore, held in the pandal the next day where Nationalists were not allowed to go even when some of them were ready and offered to sign the declaration required. On the other hand, those who did not wish to go back from the position taken up at the Calcutta Congress and honestly desired to work further on the same lines met in a separate place the same evening to consider what steps might be taken to continue the work of the Congress in future. Thus ended the proceedings of the 23rd Indian National Congress: and we leave it to the public to judge of the conduct of the two parties in this affair from the statement of facts hereinbefore given. B. G.TILAK G. S .KHAPARDE ARABINDO CHOSE H.MUKERJEE B.C.CHATTERJEE SURAT 31st December, 1907


This version of the Extremists (Nationalists) was contradicted by Mr. R. N. Madholkar, a respected Congress Leader from Berar. Mr. Madholkar was a Maharashtrian just as Gokhale and Tilak were. He said in a statement:

It is with great reluctance that I take up my pen to write on an event, the tragical nature of which cannot be felt more acutely by any one than by those who for the last twenty years and more have been devoting their best energies to the one great national institution, which gave hope of a better future, and who struck steadfastly to it when the leaders of the newly arisen new party were trying to stab it by ridicule, misrepresentation and calumny. Having been an eye-witness of all that happened on the two memorable days, the 26th and the 27th December, I thought that deplorable, disgraceful and utterly unworthy of gentleman as those occurrences were, even those who had so far forgotten what they owe to themselves, to the country and to posterity as to have indulged in rowdyism and open violence, would despite party passions, admit the real facts and express their sorrow for the grievous mistakes committed by them. It is therefore humiliating, nay, disgusting to see that men of education and position, who must be regarded as representatives, have shown an open disregard for truth which augurs ill for the progress of our motherland. Whatever room for misapprehension there might have been as to the intentions and plans of the Bombay leaders and whatever scope one or two unintentional acts or omissions might have afforded for criticism there could be those who would not willfully disregard the evidence of their senses.

No doubt the whole rowdyism, unseemly squabbles and resort to sticks and physical violence, which disgraced the last session of the Congress, was due to Extremists and that the responsibility for the fracas lies upon the leaders of that party. It appears that Mr.G. Subramania Iyer has written to the Hindu stating that he has modified the views, which he had first expressed. I have not seen the latter, but, if the criticism which the Indu Prakash makes on it is well based, I must say, it is curious if Mr. Iyer throws on the Moderates any responsibility for the disorderly scenes on the 26th and the attack of the 27th. He was sitting next to me on the first day and when the din of cries, shouts and unparliamentary terms was raised against Mr. Surendranath Banerjee by some Nagpurians, Benarsees and Madrasis, he became very angry and exclaimed excitedly: "This is most disgraceful, most shameful. This is all due to Tilak and Khaparde. They are responsible for all this." He further said to me "this is all the doing of your Central Provinces. Nagpur has brought troubles on the Congress." I felt that taunt and replied sharply "your rebuke is, I must admit, sorrowfully true so far as men of my province are concerned, but are there not 8 or 10 Madrasis, who are even wilder than they?" On the 27th, he was, again, not far from me and saw all the incidents and when we met again shortly afterwards he threw the whole blame on those same persons. On both occasions, the remarks were voluntarily made. On the following days, I remonstrated with several Berar Extremists and told them what Mr. O. Subramania Iyer had said, leader though he was till late of the Extremist party of the Madras Presidency.

To me it is small comfort that hooliganism was shown by Extremists and not by Moderates, and I would not have written a word for publication in regard to these disgraceful performances, but for the monstrous lies that are studiously being circulated by the foolish, misguided sinner and their culpable and designing leaders. Rowdyism and violence are bad enough but to add wicked untruthfulness to it is infamous. The facts are all plain and lie on the surface and if people would only drive away the cloud of dust, which the breakers of the peace purposely raise in order to conceal the real issues, there would be little room for doubt as to where the guilt lies.

The campaign of vilification of the Moderate party was commenced in the first fortnight of January last by Mr. Tilak at Allahabad where the people and especially the young men were exhorted to pull down their leaders and high ideal was impressed upon them that morality had no place in politics. Mr. Khaparde followed in a few days by a most outrageous speech at Nagpur in which the Moderate leaders were called "infamous," "the most debased of human kind," etc., and the fraternity of men who ventured to hold views (different from those of the "New School" was questioned. In about 4 weeks more came the meeting at Nagpur for the formation of the working Committee when a respected old C.P. leader of 60 years of age was greeted with a shoe, burning powder was sent in a letter to the President of the meeting, Dr. Gour, and threatening letters were sent to some other prominent men. Simultaneously with this and four months after this, the Kesari at Poona and the Deshasewak at Nagpur carried on a regular crusade against those members of the Moderate party whose opposition to Mr. Tilak's Presidentship was feared by them. Week after week and month after month men like Mr. Gokhale became the subjects of the foulest columnies and most wanton perversions of truth. It would be well if the articles in these papers and others of that school are translated word for word so that the whole Indian world might know how low have fallen those from whom much was expected. It is dispiriting to see the literary and moral garbage on which the new generation of Maharashtra is sought to be brought up.

The occurrences of 22nd September at Nagpur (which were the direct offspring of the spirit created and fed by these writings) are well known. The concerted rowdyism within the hall, the pre-arranged hooliganism outside and worse than all the shameless effrontery with which these proceedings are white washed and defended (which are the most distressing developments of the "New Spirit") need not be recounted.

Then came the All India Congress Committee's meeting in which after refusal by Messrs Tilak and Khaparde to adhere to the compromise which they had accepted only three or four hours previously, the resolution was arrived at to transfer the venue of the Congress to Surat. And then followed the most vitriolic, venomous and bitter attacks on Sir P. M. Mehta, Mr. Gokhale and the Surat people, the language of which would put to shame even the street brawlers. It deserves to be noted that the Deshasewak and other Tilakite papers distinctly used the threat that no efforts would be spared to make a Congress at Surat impossible.

First, a difficulty is sought to be created by dragging in Mr. Lajpat Rai's name against his expressed wishes. Even when he definitely and openly puts his foot down, attempts to prevent Dr. Ghosh from taking the presidential chair is persevered in and carried out. Finding that Mr. Lajpat Rai would not allow himself to be made a cat's-paw the story is next invented and studiously spread that the Reception Committee wanted to go back on the propositions in regard to Self-Government, Swadeshi, Boycott in Bengal and National Education. On the evening of the 24th I told a number of delegates that there was no valid basis for this assertion and that propositions on the subjects substantially the same in spirit as those of last year would be put before the Subjects Committee. On the 25th at noon when Mr. N. C. Kelkar was at the place where I was putting up, I told him the same thing and begged that scenes and split be avoided. That day in the evening, Mr. Gokhale made a detailed statement to the delegates in the Congress Camp. About 150 attended and he told them the exact wording of the Resolution drafted by him as the draftsman of the Subjects Committee. Mr. R. P. Karandikar of Satara and other friends of Mr. Tilak were present on the occasion. In spite of this, conclaves were held in the Nationalist camp and the resolution arrived at to oppose the election of the President and other obstruction and organise rowdyism at every stage of the proceedings.

On the 26th, when thousands were present in the Congress Pandal, Mr. Khare of Nasik went on shouting from block to block that Mr. Tilak had sent word that the election of the President was to be prevented. In the face of all these facts, can there be any doubt left that the rowdyism and violence carried out had been deliberately planned and organized? It is admitted that before time for proposing the President came, Mr. Tilak had in his possession a copy of the draft resolutions containing the ones on "Swaraj," "Swadeshi," "Boycott" and "National Education." And yet the row was made, carried on and persisted in and not the least efforts made to check it. It is sickening to see the ignoble tactics and dishonorable methods adopted by the leaders of the rowdies, and the lies that were invented and busily spread, even after contradiction, so as to create prejudice against the Moderates in general and Mr. Gokhale in particular. One word and I shall conclude this already too long communication. What is said in the Manifesto issued by the Extremist leaders or by their very "impartial" friend and ally Babu Motilal Ghosh, is sufficient to prove the main charge that these people wanted to impose their will upon the Moderates who formed the majority and if that could not be done to create an uproar and to resort to the use of force. They only acted in obedience to a telegram which had been received from their headquarters from Calcutta: "Blow up if every thing else fails."

R. N. Madholkar Amraoti, January 1908.


Retrieval of truth involves both verbal and nonverbal modes in interpersonal communication. Since the "truth" could be preconceived, one indeed looks for it in a familiar form and content in statements made and in behaviour under progress.

Judicial processes, governmental conduct in foreign and internal political affairs, and communiqués of political parties are some of the areas that depend mostly on verbal statements, in their early phases, for identification and adumbration of "truths". Often we have to penetrate through the verbal statements to arrive at their intent and the "truth" that lies buried in such statements. This need for penetrating through verbal statements to arrive at facts and truths is felt all the more when the parties involved in a political split, for reasons of attracting more people to their side, put on an appearance of reasonableness and justificatory postures.

While it is true that the immediately preceding arid following phases of a political split are marked by inadvertent and deficient verbal conceptualizations of the relative positions of the parties/groups involved in the split, soon the parties/groups, especially the winning side, need to set their houses in order through a properly organized verbal discourse. But what one is concerned with here is not the properly organized verbal discourse that gets formulated after the split is well settled; the concern here is with the verbal discourse while the split is in progress.

The verbal discourse of the split indeed offers an excellent opportunity to extract the facts and truths even as it enables us to predict the likely course of events to follow. There may be a gap between what political parties say and what they do, but if one assumes what they say is also pertinrnt to what they do, the perception of the split process becomes much clearer. Moreover, often the parties to the split speak virtually in identical terms in so far as they aim to put up an appearance that they indeed work towards upholding the ideals. When one appears to vie with the opponent group to uphold the "ideals", it is the language that is used that will bring out the differences.

Franck and Weishand (1971) in fact take the position that the distinction between words and deeds sought to be made by foreign policy analysts has lost its significance and that words have become deeds. Verbal weapons are now real weapons, they assert. If we look into a political split in progress, we find that both the levels-one treating the words used as a means to retrieve the intent, truth and facts, and the other using words as actual deeds-have a chronologically organized function leading on to a merger of the two. The verbal discourse in a political split in progress not only functions as a means to reveal and retrieve the intent of a party, and the adjutant facts and truths of happenings, but also becomes an occasion to evolve a strategy for future use and consolidation.

Unlike the word politics between two nation-states described by Franck and Weisband (1971), the verbal strategy of a political split in progress, which is one of a rupture of a supposedly cohesive organization, must have mostly elements designed with an eye to their effects on the immediate crisis. It is the exigency of the present that dominates in the content and form of the verbal discourse in practical politics; the consistency and correctness of positions, and the imposed self-restraint noticed in foreign policy politics between nation-states are not found in practical politics of a political split. An eye for the long systemic effects of the present word and act is not a characteristic that is highly valued in practical politics of a political split. Because the word and act of one nation in a dispute between nation-states set the precedent for the other in future disputes between the two, the word politics of foreign policy carefully evaluates the effects of present words and acts for long-term systemic effects and interests. On the other hand, we notice that in practical politics, in disputes between political parties within a nation, and in political splits in particular, the words cease to be systematically and strategically important in the sense that a group, especially the winning side in a split, can conveniently forget and ignore what it originally said. Thus the verbal discourse during a split in progress must be considered a class in itself; it may have the germs of a future ideology but no guarantee is given on that count. What is at stake is the successful management of the split in progress, and hence the justificatory language in the garb of sweet reasonableness dominates the discourse.


The papers presented above bring out glaringly not only the differences in personalities involved in the first major political split in India, but remind us also of the fact that most political splits, which happened subsequently in India both during pre-independence and post-independence days, had traversed the same course of action and had identical idiom. Accusations and counter-accusations apart, one is able to extract "hard facts." The Moderate vs. Extremist controversy was perhaps the first-ever major political controversy in modern India. The controversy paved the way for the traditional professional groups, generally rated lower in the social hierarchy of Indian communities, to participate fully in the activities of the Indian National Congress. Tilak was largely responsible for it. The controversy paved the way also for the emerging working class to enroll itself to the ranks of the Indian National Congress, and thus with the enrollment of traditional professional groups and the emerging working class into the ranks of the Congress, use of Indian languages, insistence on national education, and Swadeshi, gained a greater strength.

It is amusing to us now that our forefathers were so greatly excited about the dynamics of a single shoe hurled at someone on the dais. What would they feel when they see the mikes removed and used as effective instruments of physical warfare to silence the opponents even within the legislature assemblies or perhaps in the houses of Par1iament? When they see women beaten to bleed within legislative assemblies? Well, would they have admired that we have progressed much further and made a fine art of what they began as an unwonted hobby?

Splits of Indian political parties had become a regular feature since independence, whereas before independence the Indian National Congress accommodated within itself groups that could be properly called independent political parties. The Congress Organization, was not an organization having a single and cohesive ideology to which everybody that considered them, as members of the Organization owed their allegiance. Extremists or Nationalists and Moderates who formed the earlier vocal groups were followed later on by groups such as Swarajists, Socialists, Communists, etc., as the Organization grew into a truly national organization representing all shades of ideologies. Whereas the Swarajists always considered themselves as part of the Congress Organization, and ultimately did not have their independent identity within the Organization, the bulk of socialists and communists left the organization on their own to form their respective independent political parties. The Communist Party of India split into the Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist), and, from these two, several other communist parties sprang as splinter groups while the major two parties retained their identities. The Socialist Party first broke into the Praja Socialist party and the All India Socialist Party. They came together again as the Samyukta Socialist Party to be split into their original divisions within a year. The Indian National Congress itself was rocked by a major split in 1969 with one major group led by Indira Gandhi and another by a group of senior congress leaders, dubbed generally as forming a Syndicate. Once again the Congress led by Indira Gandhi split itself further into two, one major group retained itself under the command of Indira Gandhi calling itself Indian National Congress (Indira) and the other Indian National Congress (Socialist). The Janata Party came into existence by a process of merger of several political parties. The Indian National Congress (Organization), Bharatiya Lok Dal, Bharatiya Janasangh and the Socialist Party merged into one political organization called the Janata Party, but within a few years Janata Party was split into the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Janata Party and Janata Party (S). The Janata Party (S) split into two groups, one of which finally became Lok Dal once again. This Lok Dal split again into two parties. Then we had the Janata Dal, which was a merger of the Janata Party and Lok Dal. At present the Janata party is once again split into numerous groups. Many political parties that had influence only in certain states or regions had also gone through splits. It is indeed very difficult to keep track of the political splits in India since the splits also lead to dynamic mergers sometimes very much similar to the conditions prevailing before the splits.


1. As already pointed out, while personality clashes and ideological differences together may instigate the splits in a political organization, more often than not it is the non-compatibility of the personalities that finally bring about the split,It is again the difference in personality that regulates the method and manner by which the split is finally achieved. However, all the groups that are actively engaged in bringing about the split play down the differences in the personalities involved, play down the likely personal political ambitions that might have caused the split, but focus energetically upon the differences in the ideologies followed by the groups. The split between the Extremists (Nationalists) and the Moderates in the Indian National Congress in Surat 1907 was no exception to it.

2. Involvement of and instigation by Madras Presidency delegates within the pandal, was focused upon in the Statesman report, but not stated in the official release by the Moderates. The Statesman, a Calcutta-based paper, gave prominence to the noisy scenes created by the delegates from the Madras Presidency. The involvement of these delegates, though not highlighted in the official release, is corroborated in the other statement issued by a Moderate. The official position must he viewed only as an attempt to keep the doors open for as many people as possible to return to its fold. See items 4 and 5 below.

3. The noisy scenes and the rowdy acts were sought to be shown as an insult to Bengali leadership in the Statesman report. The Bengali delegation's opposition to the Extremist's position was also highlighted in the Statesman report, thus bringing an element of diversity in regional approaches to the dispute on hand.

4. The shouting down of the speech of a Bengali leader, Babu Surendranath Banerjee, was highlighted in the Statesman report,and the official resolution/version of the Moderates agreed upon this point of disturbance of this speech of a great leader, but not on the basis of Babu Surendranath Banerjee being a Bengali leader. Both ascribed the disturbance to the rowdyism of the extremists, the Statesman ascribed it mostly to Madras delegates, whereas the official statement to all extremists.

5. The purpose of the official statement was to blame Tilak's leadership and ideology and not to isolate any one particular/regional group for the disturbance, thus blaming it on rowdyism of a general kind of all the Extremists. But the Statesman report focused on Madras (and Deccan) elements pitting themselves against Bengali and other regional groups. However, the individual Moderates (for example, the version put out by Mr. R. N. Madholkar) put the blame on the Deccan (Maharashtra at large) delegates.

6. Both Moderates and Extremists were not blaming any one particular regional and/or linguistic groups for the disturbance, thus acknowledging and emphasizing the ideological basis for the split even as they would like to preserve Indian integrity and the integrity of regional groups. This was evident in the efforts of both the groups who mustered people from different regions and linguistic groups to sign their respective statements. Both the groups sought to present a picture that they were in a majority or represented in all the regions. In particular, since the Moderates might draw a picture just as Statesman did, as one of deliberately insulting a great Bengali leader (whose speech was disturbed arid at whom, among others, a shoe was hurled at), the Extremists saw to it that their position was amply supported by other Bengali leaders in a manifest form when they had several Bengali Extremists signing the statement issued by Tilak and others.

7. There was, however, a clear attempt on the part of the extremists to blame the violent happenings within the pandal on the goondas hired from a religious minority community from Surat, thus bringing an element religion into the picture. On the other hand, the Moderates blamed these on the people belonging to professional classes, who by virtue of their not being acquainted with the English language, did not have a right to be in the Congress-that is, whereas the Extremists would blame the goondas belonging to a particular religion, the Moderates would blame the uneducated classes for the violent happenings, thus betraying each other's preferences and prejudices. Note, however, that none denied that there were violent happenings; the dispute was only with regard to who caused them, how these happened, and who were involved in it.

8. The statements made it clear that, for the Extremists, a personal attack on Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, the leader of the Moderates in Bombay, was not undesirable. Whereas the Moderates as well as the newspaper reports made out that the shoe thrown at the people on the dais landed finally on Babu Surendranath Banerjee, thus insulting a great Bengali leader, the Extremists rather gleefully pointed out that the shoe did hit Sir Pherozeshah Mehta on the side of the face after touching Babu Surendranath Banerjee. The emphatic description of the shoe hitting on the side of the face of Sir Pherozeshah Mehta was given in the Extremists' narrative, whereas the Moderates reported only that the 'shoe hurled from the body of the Halls struck both Sir Pherozeshah Mehta and Mr. Surendranath Banerjee who were sitting side by side'. But the Extremists' version also implied that the shoe might have been thrown at Tilak himself when it said that 'a shoe hurled on to the platform hit Sir P. M. Mehta on the side of the face after touching Babu Surendranath Banerjee, both of whom were sitting within a yard of Mr. Tilak on the other side of the table (italics mine). This implication was stoutly denied in a subsequent statement by a participant-the observer Moderate R. N. Madholkar wrote: 'It is now well known from what quarter the shoe came and that it was aimed at Sir P. M. Mehta. It is a wicked lie to say that it was aimed at Mr. Tilak'. Thus there was no denying the fact that a shoe was hurled. However, the parties differed from one another as to whom the shoe was thrown at. The reluctance to accept responsibility for this act clearly showed that none of the parties considered the act of throwing the shoe at the individual or individuals on the dais as an honourable act tolerated or condoned in public. The Extremists, however, were unwilling to hide their glee that it did hit Sir P. M. Mehta, when they did not fail to mention in their statement the spot on the body of Sir P. M. Mehta that the shoe hit. Within Indian cultural ethos, a severest insult is meted out to a person when that individual's face is mauled in some form or the other (Thirumalai 1987). Hence the focus on the spot at which the hurled shoe hit on its course.

9. Often it is the case that one of the parties in dispute will blame the other for following retrograde policies and practices harmful to larger interests vouchsafed by both the groups in unison. One of the main charges leveled against the Moderates by the Extremists (Nationalists) was that the Moderates were following a policy of retrogression as revealed in their position regarding ideals and methods of political progress in India. The Extremists' contention was that they aimed at stopping this policy of retrogression only by constitutional means by questioning the validity of the procedures adopted in electing the President of the session that year, whereas the Moderates emphasized that the violent activities adopted by the Extremists to disrupt the proceedings of the Congress clearly betrayed the unconstitutional means adopted by the Extremists.

10. Another feature of the split was that both sides claimed majority strength among the delegates present for their respective positions. Along with this assertion, both sides asserted that only a few opposed their own respective positions -an all too familiar situation in present day party politics in India.

11. The Extremists claimed that if there was any majority for the Moderates in any of the Committees, such a majority was only accidental, not fully reflecting the wishes of the entire party. Note, however, that the group, which claimed the majority of the opponent as accidental, recognized implicitly that at the time of dispute the opponents did have a majority in some Committee or the other.

12. Another important phenomenon in the splits is the invo1vement or the place assigned to the mediators. All of a sudden a crop of mediators does emerge, but the crop would soon be repudiated by one of the warring groups. Lala Lajpat Rai who intimated the Extremists (according to the version of the Extremists) his intention to arrange for a Committee to settle the question in dispute did not arrange for it. Also in political disputes, there could be denials by the mediators of their role and contribution towards solving the dispute in question.

13. In disputes which are deep seated and which are really intended to perpetuate and widen the differences between the parties, one side always claims that it made serious attempts to contact the other and that it was the opponent side which did not respond. The opponent side will claim that it was always available during the period in question for parleys in spite of the busy schedule, but the other side did not make any serious effort to make contacts.

14. It was the unwillingness of the people to hear (a volitional act) the speeches of the Moderate leaders rather than deliberate insult and shouting down that was highlighted in the Extremists' version: 'He (Babu Surendranath Banerjee) made another attempt to speak but was not heard and the session had, therefore, to be suspended for the day'. On the other hand, wanton shouting done in a rowdy-like manner was the description given in the Moderates' version. The Moderates took the position that Babu Surendranath Banerjee was not allowed to speak, whereas the Extremists took the position that the people were unwilling to hear him.

15. Both the sides in a split generally accuse one another of pre-mediated and precipitate action. Bringing in the hired goondas by dismissing the Nationalist volunteers was given as proof of pre-meditated action on the part of the Moderates by the Extremists, along with several other issues, whereas the Moderates repeatedly pointed to people within the pandal having brought with them sticks; these were the professional classes brought to the pandal by the Extremists, alleged the Moderates.

16. Note also the differences in the versions regarding the sequences of events taking place on the dais. According to the Extremists, there was no intention on the part of Tilak to interrupt the proceedings when he attempted to go over to the platform. He was simply proceeding over to the platform to occupy the seat presumably assigned to him already there; he was going over to the platform only to address the delegates on the adjournment motion he had proposed. Whereas the Moderates claimed that Dr. Ghose had already occupied the chair, thus claiming that the election was over; the Extremists asserted that Dr. Ghose was moving just then to take the chair, thus implying that the election was not yet over. An attempt was made by both the sides to prove that the narration found in each other's statement was false.

17. Violence was started by the Moderates, so claimed the Extremists (Nationalists), whereas the Moderates insisted that violence was indeed started by the Extremists. It was to save Tilak from the attack on him by people on the dais that the Nationalist volunteer rushed to the platform, claimed the extremists.

18. Apart from bringing in religion in an indirect manner to the arena of conflict when there was a mention specifically of hired goondas from a minority religious group from Surat, the Extremists a1so brought in the Gujarati-Maharashtrian controversy when they added the information that 'copies of inflammatory leaflets in Gujarati asking the Gujarati people to rise against Mr. Tilak were largely distributed in the pandal before the commencement of the day's proceedings'. The Moderate's version, though not the official release, took note of the alleged religious and linguistic prejudice of the Extremists - R. N. Madholkar reported in his statement: 'I rebuked sharply some C.P. graduates who were rushing towards Sir P. M. Mehta who was being taken out by the hind entrance. They said, "We have no grievance against you. We want to punish these .... (the terms used are deleted; the name of another ethnic group -- Thirumalai)....'. In general, while both the parties to the dispute were willing not to focus on linguistic identities of their respective opponents in all the provinces excepting Bombay Presidency and Central Province and Berar, both the groups were willing to blame the delegates of Bombay Presidency as well as the Central Province and Berar dividing them into Marathi and Gujarati/Parsee groups.

In all the splits, nearer home the parties are more hardened, and thus both the parties would have no hope of weaning away the people respectively opposed to them from their respective positions. This difficulty in winning people from the other side to their own side, especially nearer home, emboldens the groups to indulge themselves in activities with ho holds barred. Abusive language used against any one group's identity -religious or linguistic or caste- should be viewed only in the contest of the case being perceived as a hopeless condition by both the parties. However, the fact that the groups could use abusive language against any one group's identity -religious or linguistic or caste-does betray the dormant prejudice against the particular group. A dormant prejudice comes very handy in such conflicts to downgrade the opponent.

19. One strategy that is often resorted to in political conflicts and splits is to quote men of standing on the opponent's side in favour of one's own position, to cite that people of great respect and seniority do not approve of the "heinous acts of the opponent." Mr. R. N. Madholkar pointed out in his rejoinder Mr. G. Subramania Iyer 'was sitting next to me on the first day and when the din of cries, shouts and unparliamentary terms was raised against Mr. Surendra Nath Banerjee by some Nagpurians, Benarsees and Madrasis, he became very angry and exclaimed excitedly: "This is most disgraceful, most shameful...." '. Note, however, that Nr. R. N. Madholkar found it curious that Mr.G. Subramania Iyer who was so vehement in his criticism of the "disorderly behaviour" of the Tilak party, ultimately threw on the Moderates the responsibility for the disorderly scenes. It always happens that a senior party leader who deprecates the act of one group comes to justify and condone it later on for various reasons of ideology and personal preferences. His original criticism of the group would then be denied.

20. Violence and use of foul language always go hand in hand in political splits. Prevarication of language is yet another characteristic that is in heavy demand in political splits. The third linguistic characteristic often used is the process of communicating via implied meanings. Literalness that demands a better and closer coordination/correspondence between word and deed is not generally preferred by sophisticated leadership or even by the leadership, which anticipates some oppressive measures against it. Literalness gives way generally to metaphor in many cases with possibilities for multiple interpretations.

21. The Moderates accused the Extremists not only of the use of violence in the panda1 but also of the use of foul language - both not expected from educated people according to the Moderates. The Moderates also tried to blame the new young generation of Maharashtrians for the violent happenings the panda1; thus the political split was seen to be related to the generation gap, widening differences in the values held between the older and younger generations.

22. The wide divergence between what was in newspapers and magazines published in English and Indian vernaculars was brought to the notice of all by the Moderate R. N. Madholkar's version, with the accusation that writings in the vernacular newspapers were full of foul language, inciting the people against the Moderates 'the Kesari of Poona and the Deshasewak at Nagpur carried on a regular crusade against those members of the Moderate party... It would be well if the articles in these papers and others of that school were translated word for word so that the whole Indian world might know how low have fallen those from whom much was expected,' according to Mr. R. N. Madholkar.


To conclude, the content and form of language used in political splits in India have not yet attracted the attention of the students of linguistics in India. I believe that an analysis of the political splits in India regarding their content and form of language use would fully reflect the changing trends within the national and sub-national ethos in India and, as such, would be a rewarding experience. The analysis of the content and form of language use in these splits will be a va1uable tool for ultimate political and socio-economic interpretation of the forces behind such splits. Language, in such an analysis, will not only be studied as it functions in its 'social context', but we will also be able to explicate the notion of the context. Then that language is placed in its 'social context' (Labov 1970). That is to imply that it is placed within the given political activity in a given polity.


Frank, T.M. and Weisband, E. 1971. Word Politics: Verbal Strategy Among the Superpowers. Oxford University Press, New York.

Labov, William, 1970. The Study of Language and its Social Context. Studium Generale 23: 30-87.

Mazumdar, A.C., 1915 The Indian National Evo1ution. Also available in reprint by Michiko "&" Panjathan, New Delhi, 1974.

Pande B.N. (Ed.) 1985. Concise History of the Indian National Congress 1885-1941. Vikas Publishing House, New Delhi.

Sitaramayya, P.B. 1935. The History of the Indian National Congress (1885-1935). The Working Committee of the Congress.

Sitaramayya, P. B. 1947. The History of the Indian National Congress (1935-1947). Vol. 2. Padma Publications, Bombay.

Thirumalai, M.S., 1987. Silent Talk: Nonverbal Communication. Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysore.

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