Foundation of the Congress: The Myth Indian Nat ional Congress was founded in December 1885 by seventy-two pol i t ical workers. It was the fi rst organized expression of Indian nat ional i sm on an al l -India scale. A.O. Hume, a ret i red Engl i sh ICS officer, played an important role in i t s format ion. The myth i s that the Indian Nat ional Congress was started by A.O. Hume and others under the official di rect ion, guidance and advice of no less a person than Lord Dufferin, the Viceroy, to provide a safe, mi ld, peaceful , and const i tut ional out let or safety valve for the ri sing di scontent among the masses, which was inevi tably leading towards a popular and violent revolut ion. In hi s Young India publ i shed in 1916, the Ext remi st leader Lala Lajpat Rai used the safetyvalve theory to at tack the Moderates in the Congress. Blavat sky enabled Hume to get in touch wi th one of these mahatmas named ‘Koot Hoomi Lal Singh.’

Foundation of The Indian National Congress: The Reality For example, the Bri t i sh Indian Associat ion of Bengal had increasingly ident i fied i t sel f wi th the interest s of the zamindars and, thus, gradual ly lost i t s ant i -Bri t i sh edge. The Bombay Associat ion and Madras Nat ive Associat ion had become react ionary and moribund. And so the younger nat ional i st s of Bengal , led by Surendranath Banerjea and Anand Mohan Bose, founded the Indian Associat ion in 1876. Younger men of Madras — M. Vi raraghavachariar, G. Subramaniya Iyer, P. Ananda Charlu and others — formed the Madras Mahajan Sabha in 1884. In Bombay, the more mi l i tant intel lectual s l ike K.T. Telang and Pherozeshah Mehta broke away from older leaders l ike Dadabhai Framj i and Dinshaw Pet i t on pol i t ical grounds and formed the Bombay Presidency Associat ion in 1885. Among the older associat ions only the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha carried on as before. But , then, i t was al ready in the hands of nat ional i st intel lectual s. A sign of new pol i t ical l i fe in the count ry was the coming into exi stence during these years of nearly al l the major nat ional i st newspapers which were to dominate the Indian scene t i l l 1918 — The Hindu, Tribune, Bengalee, Mahrat ta and Kesari . The one except ion was the Amri ta Bazar Pat rika which was al ready edi ted by new and younger men. It became an Engl i sh language newspaper only in 1878.



By 1885, the format ion of an al l -India pol i t ical organizat ion had become an object ive necessi ty, and the necessi ty was being recognized by nat ional i st s al l over the count ry. Many recent scholars have furni shed detai led informat ion on the many moves that were made in that di rect ion from 1877. These moves acqui red a greater sense of urgency especial ly from 1883 and there was intense pol i t ical act ivi ty. The Indian Mi rror of Calcut ta was carrying on a cont inuous campaign on the quest ion. The Indian Associat ion had al ready in December 1883 organized an Al l -India Nat ional Conference and given a cal l for another one in December 1885. (Surendranath Banerjea, who was involved in the Al l India Nat ional Conference, could not for that reason at tend the founding session of the Nat ional Congress in 1885). Since 1875, there had been a cont inuous campaign around cot ton import dut ies which Indians wanted to stay in the interest s of the Indian text i le indust ry. A massive campaign had been organized during 1877-88 around the demand for the Indianizat ion of Government services. The Indians had opposed the Afghan adventure of Lord Lyt ton and then compel led the Bri t i sh Government to cont ribute towards the cost of the Second Afghan War. For example, P. Ananda Charlu in hi s president ial address to the Congress in 1891 described i t ‘as a mighty nat ional izer,’ and said that thi s was i t s most ‘glorious’ role. Among the three basic aims and object ives of the Congress laid down by i t s fi rst President , W.C. Bonnerj i , was that of ‘the ful ler development and consol idat ion of those sent iment s of nat ional uni ty.’ In an effort to reach al l regions, i twas decided to rotate the Congress session among di fferent part s of the count ry. The President was to belong to a region other than where the Congress session was being held. To reach out to the fol lowers of al l rel igions and to remove the fears of the minori t ies, a rule was made at the 1888 session that no resolut ion was to be passed to which an overwhelming majori ty of Hindu or Musl im delegates objected. In 1889, a minori ty clause was adopted in the resolut ion demanding reform of legi slat ive counci l s. According to the clause, wherever Parsi s, Chri st ians, Musl ims or Hindus were a minori ty thei r number elected to the Counci l s would not be less than thei r proport ion in the populat ion. At i t s second session, the President of the Congress, Dadabhai Naoroj i , laid down thi s rule and said that ‘A Nat ional Congress must confine i t sel f to quest ions in which the ent i re nat



ion has a di rect part icipat ion.’ Congress was, therefore, not the right place to di scuss social reforms. ‘We are met together,’ he said, ‘as a pol i t ical body to represent to our rulers our pol i t ical aspi rat ions. Dadabhai Naoroj i put i t , on ‘the new lesson that Kings are made for the people, not peoples for thei r Kings.’ Simi larly, the early nat ional leaders made maintenance of civi l l ibert ies and thei r extension an integral part of the nat ional movement . They fought against every infringement of the freedom of the Press and speech and opposed every at tempt to curtai l them. They st ruggled for separat ion of the judicial and execut ive powers and fought against racial di scriminat ion. To sum up: The basic object ives of the early nat ional i st leaders were to lay the foundat ions of a secular and democrat ic nat ional movement , to pol i t icize and pol i t ical ly educate the people, to form the headquarters of the movement , that i s, to form an al l -India leadership group, and to develop and propagate an ant i -colonial nat ional i st ideology.

Socio-Religious Reforms and the National Awakening Apart from the Brahmo Samaj , which has branches in several part s of the count ry, the Paramahansa Mandal i and the Prarthana Samaj in Maharasht ra and the Arya Samaj in Punjab and North India were some of the prominent movement s among the Hindus. There were several other regional and caste movement s l ike the Kayasth Sabha in Ut tar Pradesh and the Sarin Sabha in Punjab. The backward castes al so started the work of reformat ion wi th the Satya Sodhak Samaj in Maharasht ra and the Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Sabha in Kerala. The Ahmadiya and Al igarh movement s, the Singh Sabha and the Rehnumai Mazdeyasan Sabha represented the spi ri t of reform among the Musl ims, the Sikhs and the Parsees respect ively.

Reject ing supernatural explanat ions, Raja Rammohan Roy affi rmed the principle of causal i ty l inking the whole phenomenal universe. To him demonst rabi l i ty was the sole cri terion of t ruth. In the Brahmo Samaj , i t led to the repudiat ion of the infal l ibi l i ty of the Vedas, and in the Al igarh Movement , to the reconci l iat ion of the teachings of Islam wi th the needs of the modern age.

In advocat ing widow marriage and opposing polygamy and chi ld marriage, Akshay Kumar was not concerned about rel igious sanct ion or whether they exi sted in the past . Hi s argument s were mainly based on thei r effect s on society. Instead of depending on the scriptures, he ci ted medical opinion against chi ld marriage. To Gopal Hari Deshmukh, popularly known as Lokahi tavadi , whether social reforms had the



sanct ion of rel igion was immaterial . If rel igion did not sanct ion these, he advocated that rel igion i t sel f should be changed as i t was made by man and what was laid down in the scriptures need not necessari ly be of contemporary relevance. Raja Rammohan Roy considered di fferent rel igions as nat ional embodiment s of universal thei sm. The Brahmo Samaj was ini t ial ly conceived by him as a universal i st church. He was a defender of the basic and universal principles of al l rel igions — the monothei sm of the Vedas and the uni tariani sm of Chri st iani ty — and at the same t ime at tacked polythei sm of Hindui sm and the t rini tariani sm of Chri st iani ty. Syed Ahmed Khan echoed the same idea: al l prophet s had the same din (fai th) and every count ry and nat ion had di fferent prophet s. Ranade, Dayanand and Vivekananda denounced the exi st ing system of caste in no uncertain terms. Whi le the reform movement s general ly stood for i t s abol i t ion, Dayanand gave a utopian explanat ion for chaturvarna (four-fold varna divi sion of Hindu society) and sought to maintain i t on the basi s of vi rtue. ‘He deserves to be a Brahman who has acqui red the best knowledge and character,’ and an ignorant person i s fi t to be classed as a shudra,’ he argued. Understandably the most vi rulent opposi t ion to caste came from lower caste movement s. Jyot iba Phule and Narayana Guru were two unrelent ing cri t ics of the caste system and i t s consequences. A conversat ion between Gandhi j i and Narayana Guru i s signi ficant . Gandhi j i , in an obvious reference to Chaturvarna and the inherent di fferences in qual i ty between man and man, observed that al l leaves of the same t ree are not ident ical in shape and texture. To thi s Narayana Guru pointed out that the di fference i s only superficial , but not in essence: the juice of al l leaves of a part icular t ree would be the same in content .

It was he who gave the cal l — ‘one rel igion, one caste and one God for mankind’ which one of hi s di sciples, Sahadaran Ayyapan, changed into ‘no rel igion, no caste and no God for mankind.’

But the reformers were aiming at modernizat ion rather than westernizat ion. the general resentment against the Lex Loci Act . (the Act proposed in 1845 and passed in 1850 provided the right to inheri t ancest ral property to Hindu convert s to Chri st iani ty).


An Economic Critique of Colonialism It i s not that the early Indian nat ional i st s were unaware of the many pol i t ical , psychological and economic di sabi l i t ies of foreign dominat ion, but they st i l l supported colonial rule as they expected i t to rebui ld India as a spi t image of the Western met ropol i s. Three names stand out among the large number of Indians who ini t iated and carried out the



economic analysi s of Bri t i sh rule during the years 1870-1905. The tal lest of the three was Dadabhai Naoroj i , known in the pre-Gandhian era as the Grand Old Man of India. . Hi s near contemporary, Just ice Mahadev Govind Ranade, taught an ent i re generat ion of Indians the value of modern indust rial development . Romesh Chandra Dut t , a ret i red ICS officer, publ i shed The Economic Hi story of India at the beginning of the 20th century in which he examined in minute detai l the ent i re economic record of colonial rule since 1757.

The early nat ional i st s accepted wi th remarkable unanimi ty that the complete economic t ransformat ion of the count ry on the basi s of modern technology and capi tal i st enterpri se was the primary goal of al l thei r economic pol icies. or, in the words of Ranade, factories could ‘far more effect ively than School s and Col leges give a new bi rth to the act ivi t ies of the Nat ion. Surendranath Banerjea’s newspaper the Bengalee made the point on 18 January 1902: ‘The agi tat ion for pol i t ical right s may bind the various nat ional i t ies of India together for a t ime. The communi ty of interest s may cease when these right s are achieved. But the commercial union of the various Indian nat ional i t ies, once establ i shed, wi l l never cease to exi st . The early nat ional i st s di sagreed vehement ly wi th thi s view. They saw foreign capi tal as an unmi t igated evi l which did not develop a count ry but exploi ted and impoveri shed i t . Or, as Dadabhai Naoroj i popularly put i t , foreign capi tal represented the ‘despol iat ion’ and ‘exploi tat ion’ of Indian resources. Simi larly, the edi tor of the Hindustan Review and Kayastha Samachar described the use of foreign capi tal as ‘a system of internat ional depradat ion.’ In essence, the early nat ional i st s asserted that genuine economic development was possible only i f Indian capi tal i t sel f ini t iated and developed the process of indust rial izat ion. Foreign capi tal would nei ther undertake nor could i t ful fi l l thi s task. To vi t iate thi s, they demanded the reduct ion of land revenue and abol i t ion of the sal t tax and supported the imposi t ion of income tax and import dut ies on product s which the rich and the middle classes consumed. On the expendi ture side, they pointed out that the emphasi s was on serving Bri tain’s imperial needs whi le the developmental and wel fare department s were starved. In part icular, they condemned the high expendi ture on the army which was used by the Bri t i sh to conquer and maintain imperial i st cont rol over large part s of Asia and Africa. The focal point of the nat ional i st cri t ique of colonial i sm was the drain theory. The nat ional i st leaders pointed out that a large part of India’s capi tal and weal th was being t ransferred or ‘drained’ to Bri tain in the form of salaries and pensions of Bri t i sh civi l and mi l



i tary official s working in India, interest on loans taken by the Indian Government , profi t s of Bri t i sh capi tal i st s in India, and the Home Charges or expenses of the Indian Government in Bri tain. The drain took the form of an excess of export s over import s for which India got no economic or material return. According to the nat ional i st calculat ions, thi s drain amounted to one-hal f of government revenues, more than the ent i re land revenue col lect ion, and over one-thi rd of India’s total savings. (In today’s terms thi s would amount to eight per cent of India’s nat ional income). R.C. Dut t , for example, made the drain the major theme of hi s Economic Hi story of India.

Dadabhai Naoroj i was the most advanced. Speaking on the drain at the Internat ional Social i st Congress in 1904, he put forward the demand for ‘sel f-government ’ and t reatment of India ‘l ike other Bri t i sh Colonies.’

A year later in 1905, in a message to the Benares session of the Indian Nat ional Congress, Dadabhai categorical ly asserted: ‘Sel f-government i s the only remedy for India’s woes and wrongs.’

And, then, as the President of the 1906 session of the Congress at Calcut ta, he laid down the goal of the nat ional movement as “sel f-government or Swaraj ,” l ike that of the Uni ted Kingdom or the Colonies.

The Fight to Secure Press Freedom Interest ingly, nearly one-thi rd of the founding fathers of the Congress in 1885 were journal i st s. Powerful newspapers emerged during these years under di st ingui shed and fearless journal i st s. These were the Hindu and Swadesami t ran under the edi torship of G. Subramaniya Iyer, Kesari and Mahrat ta under B.G. Ti lak, Bengalee under Surendranath Banerjea, Amri ta Bazar Pat rika under Si si r Kumar Ghosh and Mot i lal Ghosh, Sudharak under G.K. Gokhale, Indian Mi rror under N.N. Sen, Voice of India under Dadabhai Naoroj i , Hindustani and Advocate under G.P. Varma and Tribune and Akhbar-i -Am in Punjab, Indu Prakash, Dnyan Prakash, Kal and Gujarat i in Bombay, and Som Prakash, Banganivasi and Sadharani in Bengal . The Amri ta Bazar Pat rika was started in 1868. The Vernacular Press Act of 1878, di rected only against Indian language newspapers, was conceived in great secrecy and passed at a single si t t ing of the Imperial Legi slat ive Counci l . The Act provided for the confi scat ion of the print ing press, paper and other material s of a newspaper i f the Government bel ieved that i t was publ i shing sedi t ious material s and had flouted an official warning.



Indian nat ional i st opinion fi rmly opposed the Act . The fi rst great demonst rat ion on an i ssue of publ ic importance was organized in Calcut ta on thi s quest ion when a large meet ing was held in the Town Hal l . Various publ ic bodies and the Press al so campaigned against the Act . Consequent ly, i t was repealed in 1881 by Lord Ripon. The Act was in part icular aimed at the Amri ta Bazar Pat rika which came out at the t ime in both Bengal i and Engl i sh. The object ive was to take summary act ion against i t . But when the official s woke up the morning after the Act was passed, they di scovered to thei r di smay that the Pat rika had foxed them; overnight , the edi tors had converted i t into an Engl i sh newspaper! Surendranath Banerjea, one of the founding fathers of the Indian nat ional movement , was the fi rst Indian to go to jai l in performance of hi s duty as a journal i st . Born in 1856, Ti lak devoted hi s ent i re l i fe to the service of hi s count ry. In 1881, along wi th G.G. Agarkar, he founded the newspaper Kesari (in Marathi ) and Mahrat ta (in Engl i sh). Popular resentment against the official plague measures resul ted in the assassinat ion of Rand, the Chai rman of the Plague Commi t tee in Poona, and Lt . Ayerst by the Chaphekar brothers on 27 June 1898. Echoes of Ti lak’s t rial were to be heard in another not -so-di stant court when Gandhi j i , hi s pol i t ical successor, was t ried in 1922 for the same offence of sedi t ion under the same Sect ion 124A for hi s art icles in Young India.


Propaganda in the Legislatures Legi slat ive Counci l s in India had no real official power t i l l 1920. The Indian Counci l s Act of 1861 enlarged the Governor-General ’s Execut ive Counci l for the purpose of making laws. The Governor-General could now add from six to twelve members to the Execut ive Counci l . At least hal f of these nominat ions had to be non-official s, Indian or Bri t i sh. Thi s counci l came to be known as the Imperial Legi slat ive Counci l . It possessed no powers at al l . It could not di scuss the budget or a financial measure or any other important bi l l wi thout the previous approval of the Government . It could not di scuss the act ions of the admini st rat ion.



The Government had decided to add them in order to represent Indian views, for many Bri t i sh official s and statesmen had come to bel ieve that one reason for the Revol t of 1857 was that Indian views were not known to the rulers. But in pract ice, the Counci l did not serve even thi s purpose.

Moreover, the Government invariably chose rulers of princely states or thei r employees, big zamindars, big merchant s or ret i red high government official s as Indian members. Only a handful of pol i t ical figures and independent intel lectual s such as Syed Ahmed Khan (187882), Kri stodas Pal (1883), V.N. Mandl ik (1884-87), K.L. Nulkar (1890-91) and Rash Behari Ghosh (1892) were nominated. The overwhelming majori ty of Indian nominees did not represent the Indian people or emerging nat ional i st opinion. It was, therefore, not surpri sing that they completely toed the official l ine. Ti l l 1892, thei r demand was l imi ted to the expansion and reform of the Legi slat ive Counci l s. They demanded wider part icipat ion in them by a larger number of elected Indian members as al so wider powers for the Counci l s and an increase in the powers of the members to ‘di scuss and deal wi th’ the budget and to quest ion and cri t icize the day-to-day admini st rat ion.

The nat ional i st agi tat ion forced the Government to make some changes in legi slat ive funct ioning by the Indian Counci l s Act of 1892. The number of addi t ional members of the Imperial and Provincial Legi slat ive Counci l s was increased from the previous six to ten to ten to sixteen. A few of these members could be elected indi rect ly through municipal commi t tees, di st rict boards, etc., but the official majori ty remained. The members were given the right to di scuss the annual budget but they could nei ther vote on i t nor move a mot ion to amend i t . They could al so ask quest ions but were not al lowed to put supplementary quest ions or to di scuss the answers. The ‘reformed’ Imperial Legi slat ive Counci l met , during i t s tenure t i l l 1909 Many leaders — for example, Dadabhai Naoroj i in 1904, G.K. Gokhale in 1905 and Lokamanya Ti lak in 1906 began to put forward the demand for sel f government on the model of the sel f-governing colonies of Canada and Aust ral ia. Lord Dufferin, who had prepared the out l ine of the Act of 1892 Born in 1845 in Bombay, Pherozeshah Mehta came under Dadabhai Naoroj i ’s influence whi le studying law in London during the 1860s. He was one of the founders of the Bombay Presidency Associat ion as al so the Indian Nat ional Congress. Mehta’s fi rst major intervent ion in the Imperial Legi slat ive Counci l came in January 1895 on a Bi l l for the amendment of the Pol ice Act of 1861 which enhanced the power of the local authori t ies to



quarter a puni t ive pol ice force in an area and to recover i t s cost from selected sect ions of the inhabi tant s of the area. And when the Government insi sted on using i t s official majori ty to push through the Bi l l , Mehta along wi th Gokhale, G.K. Parekh, Balachandra Kri shna and D.A. Khare took the unprecedented step of organizing the fi rst walk-out in India’s legi slat ive hi story. He got elected in hi s place thi rty-five-year-old Gokhale, who had al ready made hi s mark as the Secretary of the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha and the edi tor of the Sudharak. Gopal Kri shna Gokhale was an out standing intel lectual who had been careful ly t rained in Indian economics by Just ice Ranade and G.V. Joshi . Gokhale was to be repaid in plenty by the love and recogni t ion of hi s own people. Proud of hi s legi slat ive achievement s, they were to confer on him the t i t le of ‘the leader of the opposi t ion.’ Gandhi j i was to declare him hi s pol i t ical guru.

The Swadeshi Movement — 1903-1908 Wi th the start of the Swadeshi Movement at the turn of the century, the Indian nat ional movement took a major leap forward. Women, student s and a large sect ion of the urban and rural populat ion of Bengal and other part s of India became act ively involved in pol i t ics for the fi rst t ime. The Swadeshi Movement had i t s genesi s in the ant i -part i t ion movement which was started to oppose the Bri t i sh deci sion to part i t ion Bengal . The at tempt , in the words of Lord Curzon, the Viceroy, (1899-1905) was to ‘dethrone Calcut ta’ from i t s posi t ion as the ‘cent re from which the Congress Party i s manipulated throughout Bengal , and indeed, the whole of India . . . The cent re of successful int rigue,’and ‘divide the Bengal i speaking populat ion. The part i t ion of the state intended to curb Bengal i influence by not only placing Bengal i s under two admini st rat ions but by reducing them to a minori ty in Bengal i t sel f as in the new proposal Bengal proper was to have seventeen mi l l ion Bengal i and thi rty-seven mi l l ion Oriya and Hindi speaking people! Al so, the part i t ion was meant to foster another kind of divi sion — thi s t ime on the basi s of rel igion. The Indian nat ional i st s clearly saw the design behind the part i t ion and condemned i t unanimously. The ant i -part i t ion and Swadeshi Movement had begun. Even, the big zamindars who had hi therto



been loyal to the Raj , joined forces wi th the Congress leaders who were most ly intel lectual s and pol i t ical workers drawn from journal i sm, law and other l iberal professions. Despi te the widespread protest voiced against the part i t ion proposal s, the deci sion to part i t ion Bengal was announced on 19 July 1905. It was in these meet ings that the pledge to boycot t foreign goods was fi rst taken. In Calcut ta, student s organized a number of meet ings against part i t ion and for Swadeshi . The formal proclamat ion of the Swadeshi Movement was, made on the 7 August 1905, in a meet ing held at the Calcut ta town hal l . The movement , hi therto sporadic and spontaneous, now had a focus and a leadership that was coming together. At the 7 August meet ing, the famous Boycot t Resolut ion was passed. Even Moderate leaders l ike Surendranath Banerjea toured the count ry urging the boycot t of Manchester cloth and Liverpool sal t . In Calcut ta a hartal was declared. People took out processions and band after band walked barefoot , bathed in the Ganges in the morning and then paraded the st reet s singing Bande Mataram which, almost spontaneously, became the theme song of the movement . People t ied rakhi s on each other’s hands as a symbol of the uni ty of the two halves of Bengal . Later in the day Anandamohan Bose and Surendranath Banerjea addressed two huge mass meet ings which drew crowds of 50,000 to 75,000 people. These were, perhaps, the largest mass meet ings ever to be held under the nat ional i st banner thi s far. Wi thin a few hours of the meet ings, a sum of Rs. 50,000 was rai sed for the movement . The message of Swadeshi and the boycot t of foreign goods soon spread to the rest of the count ry: Lokamanya Ti lak took the movement to di fferent part s of India, especial ly Poona and Bombay; Aj i t Singh and Lala Lajpat Rai spread the Swadeshi message in Punjab and other part s of northern India; Syed Haidar Raza led the movement in Delhi ; Rawalpindi , Kangra, Jammu, Mul tan and Hardwar wi tnessed act ive part icipat ion in the Swadeshi Movement ; Chidambaram Pi l lai took the movement to the Madras presidency, which was al so galvanized by Bipin Chandra Pal ’s extensive lecture tour.