The Nationalist Movement (1858-1905)- 2 Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC

UPSC: The Nationalist Movement (1858-1905)- 2 Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC

The document The Nationalist Movement (1858-1905)- 2 Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course History for UPSC CSE.
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REDISCOVERY OF INDIA'S PAST

  • Many Indians had fallen so low that they had lost confidence in their own capacity for self-government. Also, many British officials and writers of the time constantly advanced the thesis that Indians had never been able to rule themselves in the past, that Hindus and Muslims had always fought one another, that Indians were destined to be ruled by foreigners, that their religion and social life were degraded and uncivilized making them unfit for democracy or even self-government. 
  • Many of the nationalist leaders tried to arouse the self-confidence and self-respect of the people by countering this propaganda. They pointed to the cultural heritage of India with pride and referred the critics to the political achievements of rulers like Ashoka, Chandragupta Vikramaditya and Akbar. 
  • In this task they were helped and encouraged by the work of European and Indian scholars in rediscovering India’s national heritage in art, architecture, literature, philosophy, science and politics. 
  • Unfortunately, some of the nationalists went to the other extreme and began to glorify India’s past uncritically, ignoring its weaknesses and backwardness. Great harm was done, in particular, by the tendency to look up only to the heritage of ancient India while ignoring the equally great achievements of the medieval period. 
  • This encouraged the growth of communal sentiments among the Hindus and the counter tendency among the Muslims of looking to the history of the Arabs and the Turks for cultural and historical inspiration. Moreover, in meeting the challenge of cultural imperialism of the West, many Indians tended to ignore the fact that in many respects the people of India were culturally backward. 
  • A false sense of pride and smugness was produced which tended to prevent Indians from looking critically at their society. This weakened the struggle against social and cultural backwardness, and led many Indians to turn away from healthy and fresh tendencies and ideas from other parts of the world.

Racial Arrogance of the Rulers 
An important though secondary factor in the growth of national sentiments in India was the tone of racial superiority adopted by many Englishmen in their dealings with Indians. A particularly odious and frequent form taken by racial arrogance was the failure of justice whenever an Englishman was involved in a dispute with an Indian.

As G.O. Trevelyan pointed out in 1864

  • “The testimony of a single one of our countrymen has more weight with the court than that of any number of Hindus, a circumstance which puts a terrible instrument of power into the hands of an unscrupulous and grasping Englishman.” 
  • Racial arrogance branded all Indians irrespective of their caste, religion, province, or class with the badge of inferiority. They were kept out of exclusively European clubs and often not permitted to travel in the same compartment in a train with the European passengers. This made them conscious of national humiliation, and led them to think of themselves as one people when facing Englishmen.

Predecessors of the Indian National Congress

  • By the 1870s it was evident that Indian nationalism had gathered enough momentum to appear as a major force on the Indian political scene. The Indian National Congress, founded in December 1885, was the first organised expression of the Indian national movement on an all-India scale. It had, however, many predecessors. 
  • Raja Rammohun Roy was the first Indian leader to start an agitation for political reforms in India. Many public associations were started in different parts of India after 1836. 
  • All these associations were dominated by wealthy and aristocratic elements—known in those days as ‘prominent persons’— and were provincial or local in character. They worked for reform of administration, association of Indians with the administration, and spread of education, and sent long petitions, putting forward Indian demands, to the British Parliament. 
  • The period after 1858 witnessed a gradual widening of the gulf between the educated Indians and the British Indian administration. As educated Indians studied the character of British rule and its consequences for India, they became more and more critical of British policies in India. The discontent gradually found expression in political activity. The existing associations no longer satisfied the politically conscious Indians. 
  • In 1866, Dadabhai Naoroji organised the East India Association in London to discuss the Indian question and to influence British public officials to promote Indian welfare. Later he organised branches of the Association in prominent Indian cities. Born in 1825, Dadabhai devoted his entire life to the national movement and soon came to be known as the ‘Grand Old Man of India’. He was also India’s first economic thinker. 
  • In his writings on economics he showed that the basic cause of India’s poverty lay in the British exploitation of India and the drain of its wealth. Dadabhai was honoured by being thrice elected president of the Indian National Congress. In fact he was the first of the long line of popular nationalist leaders of India whose very name stirred the hearts of the people. 
  • The most important of the pre-Congress nationalist organisations was the Indian Association of Calcutta. The younger nationalists of Bengal had been gradually getting discontented with the conservative and pro-landlord policies of the British India Association. They wanted sustained political agitation on issues of wider public interest. They found a leader in Surendranath Banerjea who was a brilliant writer and orator. 
  • He was unjustly turned out of the Indian Civil Service as his superiors could not tolerate the presence of an independent-minded Indian in the ranks of this service. He began his public career in 1875 by delivering brilliant addresses on nation­alist topics to the students of Calcutta. Led by Surendranath and Ananda Mohan Bose, the younger nationalists of Bengal founded the Indian Association in July 1876. 
  • The Indian Association set before itself the aims of creating strong public opinion in the country on political questions and the unification of the Indian people under a common political programme. 
  • In order to attract large numbers of people to its banner, it fixed a low membership fee for the poorer classes. Many branches of the Association were opened in the towns and villages of Bengal and also in many towns outside Bengal. 
  • The younger elements were also active in other parts of India. Justice Ranade and others organised the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha in 1870. M. Viraraghavachari, G. Subramaniya Iyer, Ananda Charlu and others formed the Madras Mahajan Sabha in 1884. Pherozeshah Mehta, K.T. Telang, Badruddin Tyabji and others formed the Bombay Presidency Association in 1885. 
  • The time was now ripe for the formation of an all-India political organisation of nationalists who felt the need to unite politically against the common enemy—foreign rule and exploitation. The existing organisations had served a useful purpose but they were narrow in their scope and functioning. 
  • They dealt mostly with local questions and their membership and leadership were confined to a few people belonging to a single city or province. Even the Indian Association had not succeeded in becoming an all-India body.

THE INDIAN NATIONAL CONGRESS

  • Many Indians had been planning to form an all-India organisation of nationalist political workers. But the credit for giving the idea concrete and final shape goes to A.O. Hume, a retired English Civil Servant. 
  • He got in touch with prominent Indian leaders and organised with their cooperation the first Session of the Indian National Congress at Bombay in December 1885. It was presided over by WC. Bonnerjee and attended by 72 delegates. 
  • The aims of the National Congress were declared to be the promotion of friendly relations between nationalist political workers from different parts of the country, development and consolidation of the feeling of national unity irrespective of caste, religion or province, formulation of popular demands and their presentation before the government, and most important of all, the training and organisation of public opinion in the country. 
  • It has been said that Hume’s main purpose in encouraging the foundation of the Congress was to provide a ‘safety valve’ or a safe outlet to the growing discontent among the educated Indians. He wanted to prevent the union of a discontented nationalist intelligentsia with a discontented peasantry. 
  • The ‘safety valve’ theory is, however, a small part of the truth and is totally inadequate and misleading. More than anything else, the National Congress represented the urge of politically conscious Indians to set up a national organisation to work for their political and economic advancement. 
  • We have already seen above that a national movement was already growing in the country as a result of the working of powerful forces. No one man or group of men can be given credit for creating this movement. Even Hume’s motives were mixed ones. He was also moved by motives nobler than those of the ‘safety valve’. 
  • He possessed a sincere love for India and its poor cultivators. In any case, the Indian leaders, who cooperated with Hume in starting this National Congress, were patriotic men of high character who willingly accepted Hume’s help as they did not want to arouse official hostility towards their efforts at so early a stage of political activity and they hoped that a retired Civil Servant’s active presence would allay official suspicions. If Hume wanted to use the Congress as a ‘safety valve’, the early Congress leaders hoped to use him as a ‘lightning conductor’. 
  • Thus with the foundation of the National Congress in 1885, the struggle for India’s freedom from foreign rule was launched in a small but organised manner. The national movement was to grow and the country and its people were to know no rest till freedom was won. The Congress itself was to serve from the beginning not as a party but as a movement. 
  • In 1886 delegates to the Congress, numbering 436, were elected by different local organisations and groups. Hereafter, the National Congress met every year in December, in a different part of the country each time. The number of its delegates soon increased to thousands. Its delegates consisted mostly of lawyers, journalists, traders, industrialists, teachers and landlords. 
  • In 1890, Kadambini Ganguli, the first woman graduate of Calcutta University, addressed the Congress session. This was symbolic of the fact that India’s struggle for freedom would raise Indian women from the degraded position to which they had been reduced for centuries past. 
  • The Indian National Congress was not the only channel through which the stream of nationalism flowed. Provincial conferences, provincial and local associations, and nationalist newspapers were the other prominent organs of the growing nationalist movement. The press, in particular, was a powerful factor in developing nationalist opinion and the nationalist movement. 
  • Of course, most of the newspapers of the period were not carried on as business ventures but were consciously started as organs of nationalist activity. Some of the great presidents of the National Congress during its early years were Dadabhai Naoroji, Badruddin Tyabji, Pherozeshah Mehta, P. Ananda Charlu, Surendranath Banerjea, Romesh Chandra Dutt, Ananda Mohan Bose and Gopal Krishna Gokhale. 
  • Other prominent leaders of the Congress and the national movement during this period were Mahadev Govind Ranade, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the brothers Sisir Kumar and Motilal Ghose, Madan Mohan Malaviya, G. Subramaniya Iyer, C. Vijayaraghava Chariar and Dinshaw E. Wacha.
The document The Nationalist Movement (1858-1905)- 2 Notes | Study History for UPSC CSE - UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course History for UPSC CSE.
All you need of UPSC at this link: UPSC
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