Formation Of Indian National Congress

Formation Of Indian National Congress – Background

The formation of Indian National Congress was a culmination of the process of political awakening that began in the post Revolt of 1857 era. With the enactment of Government Of India Act 1858, the entire Indian administration of India went directly under the Crown. With this began a new innings of British rule in India. At the same time the political awakening of Indians also started gaining momentum in the 1860s and 1870s. The same political awakening took a major leap forward in the late 1870s and early 1880s creating grounds for the formation of Indian National Congress. Some aspects of the formation of Indian National Congress can be seen as:

  •  The formation of Indian National Congress got impetus from the enactment of Indian Councils Act 1861 which provided for the inclusion of Indians in the newly created Legislative framework. With this, the educated Indians realized that they did not get a fair deal.
  • Another important point is that the formation of Indian National Congress was also related to the existence and creation of some political associations in the Presidencies of Bengal, Madras and Bombay.
  • Thus the year 1885 marked a turning point in the history of India in which modern intellectuals and political Indians no longer saw themselves as the spokespersons of narrow group interests but representatives of national interest. 
  • With this now the stage was set for the formation of the Indian National Congress.

{Also Read : How to read Bipin Chandra India’s Struggle For Independence}

Formation Of Indian National Congress
Indian National Congress

Political Associations Before The Formation Of Indian National Congress

The political associations before the formation of Indian National congress can be categorized into 2 parts namely Pre and Post 1850 associations.

Political Associations In The First Half Of 19th Century

These associations were dominated by wealthy and aristocratic elements who sent petitions to the British Parliament demanding:

  • Reforms in administration
  • Association of Indians with the administration, and
  • Spread of Education

Political Associations In The Second Half Of 19th Century

These associations were increasingly dominated by the urban based educated middle class. The men involved in such associations were professionals like lawyers, journalists, doctors, teachers etc. Being exposed to western thought and modern education, they had a wider perspective and a larger agenda. Some these associations were:

Bengal

  • The Zamindari Association, also known as the Landholders Society marked the beginning of organized political activity and use of constitutional agitation for the redressal of grievances.
  • Bengal British India Society: Worked for securing just rights and advancing the interests of all classes. Later the Zamindari Association and Bengal British Indian Society combined together to form the British Indian Association.
  • The East India Association: It was founded by Dada Bhai Naoroji in 1866 in London in order to discuss Indian questions and influence British public opinion. Later its branches were opened in many Indian cities.
  • The Indian League: It was started by Sisir Kumar Ghosh in 1875 to stimulate a sense of nationalism and encourage political education amongst Indians.
  • The Indian Association of Calcutta: It was founded by Surendranath Bannerjee with the motto of creating strong public opinion on political questions and unifying Indians on a common political program. 

Bombay

  • Poona Sarvajanik Sabha: It was founded by Justice Mahadeo Govind Ranade and others in 1867 to serve as a bridge between government and the people. Gopal Krishna Gokhle was also its member in later years.
  • Bombay Presidency Association: It was started by Bedruddin Tyabji, Pherozshah Mehta and K.T. Telang in 1885. It served as a precursor to the Indian National congress.

Madras

  • Madras Mahajan Sabha: It was founded in 1884 by M.Viraraghavachariar, B.Subramaniya Aiyer and P. Ananda Charlu.

Campaigns Before The Formation Of Indian National Congress

 All the above mentioned associations created before the formation of Indian National Congress campaigned commonly against:

  • Lytton’s Afghan Adventure
  • Arms Act 1878
  • Vernacular Press Act 1878
  • Reduction of  maximum age for appearing in the Civil Services Examination

These organizations also campaigned for:

  • Imposition of import duty on cotton in 1875
  • Indianization of government service
  • Right to join volunteer corps
  • Ilbert Bill
  • All India fund for political agitation

Formation Of Indian National Congress – The Reality

Most of the efforts and campaigns conducted by the above-mentioned associations failed to deliver the desired results because they had not been coordinated on an all India basis. Thus by 1885 the formation of Indian National Congress which was supposed to be an all India body had become an objective necessity. Many moves were made in this direction from 1877 onwards. These moves acquired a greater sense of urgency from 1883 and intense political activity was undertaken. This sense of urgency can be seen as:

  • The newspaper ‘Indian Mirror’ carried out an intense campaign on the issue of an all India body.
  •  The Indian Association founded by Surendranath Bannerjee organized an ‘All India National Conference’ in December 1883 and gave a call for another one in 1885.
  • In July 1883, massive all India level efforts were made to raise a  National Fund. The money would be used to promote political agitation in India as well as England.
  • In 1885 Indians agitated for the right to join volunteer corps the way it was allowed to the Europeans.
  • Indians organized appeals to the British voters to vote for candidates who were sympathetic towards Indians. For this several Indians were sent to England to put forward their case to the British voters through speeches and propaganda.
  • Thus the formation of Indian National Congress was a natural culmination of the arduous work that had been done by the various organizations and their leaders in various parts of the country.
  • By 1885, the stage was set for the formation of Indian National Congress in which some basic objectives had to be laid down and struggled for.

The First Meeting

  • On 26th December 1885, the first meeting of the Indian National Congress was held at Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit Pathshala in Bombay city.
  • The session was presided over by Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee who was an eminent lawyer by profession.
  • The meeting was attended by 72 delegates. Hereafter the Indian National Congress met every year in December in various parts of the country.
  • Since the formation of Indian National Congress, it was presided over by great leaders who made lasting contributions to the Freedom struggle.
  • With the formation of Indian National Congress a new idea was asserted that India is now becoming a nation rather than being a mere geographical entity.
  • Since its inception the Congress has been organized in the form of a mini Parliament. The word ‘Congressitself was borrowed from North American history which meant assembly of people.
  • In all the Congress sessions, proceedings were conducted in a democratic manner. All issues were decided through debate and discussion and occasionally through voting.
  • In essence it was the Congress and not the colonial state that indigenized, popularized and rooted parliamentary democracy in India.

Objectives Of Indian National Congress

 There were 2 main objectives behind the formation of Indian National Congress. Along with these there were other aims and objectives that hovered around the 2 main objectives. 

  • To promote the process of nation building and to create a creed of Indian people.
  • To create a common political program or platform around which the political workers in different parts of the country could gather and conduct their political activities for mobilizing people on an all India basis.

Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee, the first president of the Indian National Congress delineated 3 basic aims and objectives of the Congress and they were:

  1. Fuller development and consolidation of sentiments of national unity. For this the Congress sessions were held in various parts of the country. The presidents of these sessions were to belong to regions other than the region or province where the session was held.
  2. To reach out to the followers of all religions and remove the fears of minorities. For this a rule was made in the 1888 session that no resolution would be passed if an overwhelming majority of Hindus or Muslims objected to it.
  3. Congress was to be determined to build a secular nation. For this the Congress itself was to be intensely secular.

Other Aims And Objectives

  Other aims and objectives were to:

  • Found a democratic nationalist movement
  • Propagate and develop an anti colonial and nationalist ideology
  • Promote friendly relations among nationalist political workers belonging to different parts of the country
  • Politicize and politically educate Indians
  • Establish a headquarter of the movement
  • Formulate and present popular demands before the government
  • Carefully promote and nurture Indian Nationhood
  • Congress was not to take up questions of social reform. Dada Bhai Naoroji in his presidential address to the 2nd session of Congress made this point clear. According to him Congress must confine itself to questions in which the entire nation has a direct participation.

Ideological Underpinnings & Formation of Indian National Congress 

 One of the major tasks of the founding fathers of Indian National Congress was to evolve a nationalist ideology. For this a clear cut understanding of the nature of colonialism was required. As no ready-made understanding of the colonial understanding or ideology was available in the 1870s and 1880s, the leaders had to devise their own anti-colonial ideology. For this they had to answer many questions like:

  • Is British rule beneficial to India?
  • Are the interests of the British and those of Indians in harmony or there is some inherent contradiction between the two?
  • What is the nature of contradiction i.e. is it with the bureaucracy, the British or the system?
  • Can Indians challenge the mighty British rule?
  • If at all Indians decide to fight then how is the fight to be waged?

 In those days it was difficult to find answers to these questions. In the quest of finding answers to these questions many mistakes were also made. For example, since the formation of Indian National Congress till the beginning of 20th century, majority of the Congress leaders believed in the invincible and benevolent character of British rule. But due to lack of ready made, cut and dried, symmetrical formulae, mistakes were bound to happen. Even if such formulae were available they would have been lifeless and poor guides to action.

The Safety Valve Theory for Formation Of Indian National Congress

 The safety valve theory for the formation of Indian National Congress hovers around the myth that the British created the Indian National Congress to provide a safe, mild, peaceful and constitutional outlet or Safety Valve for rising discontent among the masses. The advocates of this theory assert that Congress was created by A.O. Hume under the official direction of Viceroy Dufferin. But despite widespread popular belief this myth has little basis in historical fact.

 As mentioned earlier the formation of Indian National Congress was a culmination of the process of political awakening that began in the post Revolt of 1857 era. As far as A.O. Hume’s role is concerned, founding fathers of Congress cooperated with him because:

  • They did not want to arouse any official hostility at such an early stage of their work.
  • By involving a retired British civil servant the rulers were less likely to attack a potentially nationalist organization.
  • According to Gokhle, if Indians had come forward to embrace an all India movement by themselves, the officials would have never allowed it to come into existence.

 Thus it can be safely said that if Hume and other English liberals hoped to use Congress as a ‘Safety Valve’, the Congress leaders hoped to use Hume as a ‘lightning conductor’.

Conclusion

 On the whole the formation of Indian National Congress has its genesis in the events that were unfolding in the 1870s and 1880s. The changes introduced by the Government of India Act 1858 and Indian Councils Act 1861 gave an impetus to leaders in various parts of the country to organize and agitate. After the formation of the Indian National Congress, the government was forced to bring reforms. These reforms took shape in the form of Indian Councils Act 1909 (Morley Minto Reforms) and later Government of India Act 1919 (Montagu Chelmsford Reforms). With the formation of Indian National Congress, a tradition of open opposition of rulers got firmly entrenched in India.

See Also

Partition Of Bengal 1905 – Background, Fallout, Impact and Annulment

Swadeshi Movement

The Surat Split 1907 – Background, Fallout And Consequences

FAQs

How the Indian National Congress was formed?

Indian National Congress was formed as a result of the process of political awakening that had begun in the post Revolt of 1857 era. The real impetus came in the late 1870s and the late 1880s.

What were the objectives of Indian National Congress short note?

1. Found a democratic nationalist movement
2. Propagate and develop an anti colonial and nationalist ideology
3. Promote friendly relations among nationalist political workers belonging to different parts of the country
4. Politicize and politically educate Indians
5. Establish a headquarter of the movement
6. Formulate and present popular demands before the government

What were the two objectives of the formation of Indian National Congress in 1885?

1. To promote the process of nation building and to create a creed of Indian people.
2. To create a common political program or platform around which the political workers in different parts of the country could gather and conduct their political activities for mobilizing people on an all India basis.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *