➢ Foundation of Indian National Congress
- The final shape to the establishment of an all-India organisation idea was given by A.O. Hume, who organised the first session of the Indian National Congress at Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit College in Bombay in December 1885.
- Two sessions of the Indian National Conference had been held in 1883 and 1885, Surendranath Banerjee and Ananda Mohan Bose were the main architects of the Indian National Conference.Surendranath Banerjee
- The first session of the Indian National Congress was attended by 72 delegates and presided over by Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee.
- Kadambini Ganguly, the first woman graduate of Calcutta University, addressed the Congress session.
➢ Was It a Safety Valve?
- Hume formed the Congress with the idea that it would prove to be a safety valve’ for releasing the growing discontent of the Indians.
- Even the Marxist historian’s 'conspiracy theory’ was an offspring of the "safety valve’ notion.
- R.P. Dutt opined that the Indian National Congress was born out of a conspiracy to abort a popular uprising in India and the bourgeois leaders were a party to it.
- Bipan Chandra observes, the early Congress leaders used Hume as a "lightning conductor Lto bring together the nationalistic forces even if under the guise of a "safety valve’.
➢ Aims and Objectives of the Congress-The main aims of the Indian National Congress in the initial stage were to—
- found a democratic, nationalist movement;
- politicize and politically educate people;
- establish the headquarters for a movement;
- promote friendly relations among nationalist political workers from different parts of the country;
- develop and propagate an anti-colonial nationalist ideology;
- formulate and present popular demands before the government with a view to unifying the people over a common economic and political programme;
- Develop and consolidate a feeling of national unity among people irrespective of religion, caste or province.
- Carefully promote and nurture Indian nationhood.
➢ The era of Moderates (1885-1905)
- The national leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji, Pherozshah Mehta, D.E. Wacha, W.C. Bonnerjea, S.N. Banerjea
➢ Moderate Approach
- They worked on a two-pronged methodology—one, create a strong public opinion to arouse consciousness and national spirit and then educate and unite people on common political questions; and two, persuade the British Government and British public opinion to introduce reforms in India on the lines laid out by the nationalists.
- A British committee of the Indian National Congress was established in London in 1899 which had India as its organ.
➢ Contributions of Moderate Nationalists
- The early nationalists, led by Dadabhai Naoroji, R.C. Dutt, Dinshaw Wacha and others, carefully analysed the political economy of British rule in India and put forward the “drain theory" to explain British exploitation of India.Dadabhai Naoroji
- They opposed the transformation of a basically self-sufficient Indian economy into a colonial economy.
➢ Constitutional Reforms and Propaganda in Legislature-From 1885 to 1892, the nationalist demands for constitutional reforms were centred around—
- Expansion of councils—i.e., greater participation of Indians in councils; and
- Reform of councils—i.e., more powers to councils, especially greater control over finances. They gave the slogan—“No taxation without representation".
➢ Campaign for General Administrative Reforms-The Moderates campaigned on the following grounds -
- Indianisation of government service
- Call for separation of judicial from executive functions.
- Criticism of an oppressive and tyrannical bureaucracy and an expensive and timeconsuming judicial system.
- Criticism of an aggressive foreign policy which resulted in the annexation of Burma, attack on Afghanistan and suppression of tribals in the North-West—all costing heavily for the Indian treasury.
- Call for increase in expenditure on welfare (i.e., health, sanitation), education— especially elementary and technical—irrigation works and improvement of agriculture, agricultural banks for cultivators, etc.
- Demand for better treatment for Indian labour abroad in other British colonies, where they faced oppression and racial discrimination.
- Protection of Civil Rights- Through an incessant campaign, the nationalists were able to spread modern democratic ideas, and soon the defence of civil rights became an integral part of the freedom struggle.
➢ An Evaluation of the Early Nationalists
- They represented the most progressive forces of the time.
- They were able to create a wide national awakening of all Indians having common interests and the need to rally around a common programme against a common enemy, and above all, the feeling of belonging to one nation.
- They trained people in political work and popularized modern ideas.
- They exposed the basically exploitative character of colonial rule, thus undermining its moral foundations.
- Their political work was based on hard realities, and not on shallow sentiments, religion, etc.
- They were able to establish the basic political truth that India should be ruled in the interest of Indians.
- They created a solid base for a more vigorous, militant, mass-based national movement in the years that followed.
- They failed to widen their democratic base and the scope of their demands.
➢ Role of Masses
- The moderate phase of the national movement had a narrow social base and the masses played a passive role. This was because the early nationalists lacked political faith in the masses; they felt that there were numerous divisions and subdivisions in the Indian society, and the masses were generally ignorant and had conservative ideas and thoughts.
➢ The attitude of the Government
- The government resorted to open condemnation of the Congress, calling the nationalists “seditious brahmins", “disloyal babus", etc. Duffer in called the Congress “a factory of sedition". Later, the government adopted a "divide and rule' policy.