The reform movements of the 19th century sparked an intellectual revolution in India. The formation of numerous political organizations in various regions of the nation was one of its significant effects. However, only a small portion of their provinces or specific social groups benefited from their influence. A unifying political organization for the entire nation was desired, and on 28 December 1885, the Indian National Congress (INC) was established to fulfill this requirement. The fight for India's independence from British domination began with the establishment of the Indian National Congress (INC). The national movement would continue to expand and would not stop until independence was achieved.
It will not be overstating things to state that the founding of INC signaled the start of a movement, not merely a body. In the history of modern India, INC began a new chapter. Its growth was strongly related to the growth of the National Movement and was divided into three general stages:
- 1885-1905: The Moderate Phase was in effect from 1885 until 1905. The Congress's goals and operations were obscure and hazy throughout this time.
- 1905-1918: The Extremist Phase is another name for the period 1905–1918. Swaraj, or self-rule, was chosen as the political objective.
- 1919–1947: Mahatma Gandhi's "Phase of Mass Mobilization" was during this time. The aim was Purna Swaraj or total independence.
BACKGROUND ON THE BIRTH OF THE INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS
Increasing Discontent with British Rule
Indians started to notice the unfavorable effects of the British Raj as foreign rule had extended throughout the country. They believed that their faith and way of life were being challenged and that they were being humiliated and subjected to their own nation. Their lives had started to suffocate because there were few prospects for them to advance in any area. Peasants and tribal people, who are the lowest members of society, began to revolt in various regions of the nation. The accumulated complaints of the people found release in the Great Revolt of 1857.
Indians with education are becoming new leaders
The Revolt of 1857's defeat revealed the limitations of conventional leadership. The British had beaten both the landlords and the raja-maharajas. The emerging middle class, educated in English, has now taken the lead. The historians also refer to them as the "professional classes," "English educated elite," or "intelligentsia." They engaged in an entirely new kind of warfare against British control. They had started to comprehend the wrongs of imperialism as their minds were brimming with modernism and their emotions were brimming with pride for their magnificent past. These early leaders used moderate forms of agitation at first, but over time they became more radical.
What was intended by "educated Indians"? In general, it refers to Indians who were professionals with a working understanding of the English language, such as lawyers, journalists, teachers, and government employees. They began to appear in the presidencies of Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras before progressively dispersing thinly across the entire nation. They mostly belonged to the higher castes and made up the middle class, which was above the laborers but below the landowners. In the sense that it was the exclusive group that was fluent in English, this portion was also referred to as the elite.
The educated middle class in India led the Renaissance and Reformation during the 19th century, taking on the same role that the middle class in the West did.
Role of Nationalist Art and Literature
Nationalist concepts had started to show up in people's songs, poems, and plays at this time. The indigo farmer's misery was depicted in Dinbandhu Mitra's Bengali drama Neel Darpan (1860), which was based on the Indigo Revolt. It was extremely well-liked. The most notable author, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, included descriptions of British persecution in his historical novels. His most well-known piece, Anandamath (1882), which was written against the backdrop of the Sanyasi Rebellion, includes the enduring ballad "Vande Matram" (which was first written in 1875 and is also pronounced "Bande Matram"). The creator of modern Hindi, Bhartendu Harsihchandra, also exhorted his people to support Swadeshi products in his plays and poems. To promote local art and craft, certain Bengali leaders also organized the Hindu Mela for a number of years (1867 and after) (During this time, British policies were blamed for Indian poverty, and the need for Swadeshi goods was emphasized).
The popular opinion against the excesses of British authority was significantly shaped by the numerous newspapers and journals of this era. These featured publications in English including The Hindu, Som Bazaar, and Amrit Bazaar Patrika. Bharat Mitra and Jagat Mitra were two significant Hindi-language publications.
Political associations function before the INC
The establishment of Bengal's Landholder's Society in 1838 served as the initial catalyst for a series of political events. In various regions of the nation, several political organizations gradually began to appear. They did an excellent job of igniting political momentum and creating the conditions for the INC to become an all-Indian organization.
FORMATION OF INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS
AO Hume planned the Congress's inaugural gathering. He was a former civil servant who left his position after retiring. According to Hume and Lord Ripon, India's educated middle class is here to stay, and as such, its legitimate ambitions should be answered as well as its frustrations. Hume put a lot of effort into reviving his network of contacts for this reason to explore the political agenda of educated Indians. The 'Indian National Union' (the name previously chosen) will hold a convention at Poona in March 1885, it was determined. But because of a cholera outbreak in Poona, the location had to be changed to Bombay.
First meeting date and location
The first INC meeting was conducted on December 28th, 1885 in the Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit College's lecture hall in Bombay.
The first president of the Congress was Bengal's, W. C. Banerjee. One of the original four Indian barristers, he was. His victory established the custom that the President should come from a different province than the one hosting the Congress Session.
Banerjee, W. C. (1844-1906) The first president of the INC was a lawyer named Womesh Chandra Banerjee. He was also the first Indian to run in the British House of Commons election, however, he was unsuccessful.
In the W. C. Banerjee speech, WC Banerjee outlined the goals, objectives, and intentions of the Congress in his speech. The following were the stated goals and purposes of the Congress:
- Promoting comradeship among compatriots.
- The eradication of any racial, religious, or geographic prejudice that may exist
- Strengthening feelings of national solidarity.
- Recording the opinions of the educated classes on current issues.
- Representing public demands to the government.
- Setting forth a plan for future action that will serve the public interest.
The President further emphasized in his statement that the Congress members had great faith in the British concept of justice. They were the government's devoted well-wishers. Banerjee listed all of the benefits that the British had given the Indians. Additionally, Congress is not a den of conspirators.
The President gave assurances that the Congress was only established to represent the opinions of educated Indians to the ruling elite. All they wished for was for the government to work for the Indians' well-being. Only after Indians received representation in the government was this made possible. The foundation of government should be expanded in this way. They requested higher positions and more Indian representation in the administration in exchange for this.
There were 72 delegates present at the inaugural meeting, including 39 attorneys. This pattern persisted, and more than one-third of the delegates to every Congress session were members of the legal profession. Old-style nobility including rajas, maharajas, and large zamindars abstained from the event. At this point, The Congress did not try to connect with the general public; instead, it relied on petitions and conversations. Decisions were made The meeting was run in a strictly parliamentary manner. The lawmakers emphasized moderation and fidelity to the Crown in their speeches. Nine resolutions in total were approved, for example.
- One resolution urged that a Royal Commission be established to investigate Indian affairs, with proper representation for Indians.
- Another resolution urged that the Secretary of State for India's Indian Council be abolished.
- Another resolution denouncing the annexation of Upper Burma was passed. The Congress also determined that an effort should be made to have all other political groups in India ratify resolutions approved by the Congress. Therefore, it is evident that the members did not envision the Congress as a stand-alone entity but as a vehicle for the political aspirations of all Indians.
DISPUTES OVER THE HISTORY OF THE INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS
There are several competing views on how the Congress came to be, and this disagreement dates to its inception. This is especially true given the part A. O. Hume played. It would have been regarded as natural if Hume had been an Indian. However, Hume was English and a former government servant at that. Why would one of these people decide to start an all-India organization?
Theory of Safety-Valves (or Official Conspiracy Theory)
In his own words, Hume said his goal was to "safety valve" the "vast and rising forces generated by the British themselves." W. C. Banerjee has also said that Governor-General Lord Dufferin had initially mentioned the notion of INC to Hume. These two elements together led to the claim that the Congress was a government conspiracy, with the aim of securing the British Raj by offering educated Indians a peaceful and constitutional outlet for their mounting unhappiness.
Criticism Many arguments have been raised by the critics to refute this hypothesis. They make the point that Hume's goal was higher than just producing a safety valve. He was an "enlightened imperialist" who wanted to see the Indian people truly regenerate. He genuinely cared about Indians and devoted a lot of years to the Congress (1885 to 1906, Hume was the General Secretary of the Congress).
Historians also emphasize that no single person can be solely blamed for a national body's continued existence. Initially, the early nationalists chose Hume as their leader because he was English and thus qualified to provide impartial leadership devoid of regional bias. Second, the state was less likely to suspect his leadership. The early Congress leaders sought to utilize Hume as a "lightning conductor" if he wished to use the Congress as a safety valve, according to historian Bipan Chandra.
Desires of the Indian Elite Anil Seal, a historian, has advanced the idea that rather than serving national interests, the Congress was a group of vested interests.
Criticism Although it is true that ambition for power and the need to pursue one's own interests cannot be completely ignored, such a viewpoint denigrates the nationalist vision that inspired the Congress' founders. These leaders were aware that any effort at a total rupture could hasten the demise of the political movement they had in mind because memories of 1857 were still vivid and British control was firmly in place.
An All-Indian Body is Required The founding of the Congress was merely the culmination of a process that had started back in 1838 (Landholder's Society), according to most historians, who believe that the need for an all-Indian organization was very much in the air. The most notable aspect of the INC's development was that both participants and viewers were aware that they were making history and that the Congress represented a sense of national identity. And history's conclusion has supported this.