Early Indian Nationalism

Indian Nationalism:

indian nationalism

Political Associations before the INC (Indian National Congress):

  • In 1866, Dadabhai Naoroji founded East India Association in London.
  • In 1867, Mary Carpenter, biographer of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, founded National Indian Association in London.
  • In 1870, Poona Sarvajanik Sabha was founded by M.G.Ranade.
  • In 1872, Indian Society was founded by Anand Mohan Bose in Kolkata. It became Indian Association under Surendranath Banerji in 1876. It was the most dynamic political party before the Congress.
  • In 1875, the Indian League was founded by Sisir Kumar Ghosh.
  • The Madras Mahajan Sabha, 1884, by M.Viraraghavachari, B.Subramaniya Aiyer & P.Anand Charlu.
  • The Bombay Presidency Association, 1885, by Badruddin Tyabji, Pherozshah Mehta & K.T.Telang.

Formation of Congress:

  • INC formed in 1885, at the instance of A.O.Hume, 72 delegates from different political parties met at Sir Tejpal Sanskrit College during Dec. 28-31 in Bombay (Venue shifted from Pune to Bombay due to outbreak of Cholera). Kadambari Ganguli as the only female member.
  • The name ‘Indian National Congress’  for the new party was suggested by Dadabhai Naoroji.
  • W.C.Banerji became the First President.
  • A.O.Hume (a retired civil servant) was the General Secretary, called the ‘Founder Father of the Congress’.
  • The ‘Safety Valve Theory‘ is actually a criticism against Hume attributing ulterior motives in founding the Congress. The adversaries of congress like Lala Lajpat Rai propagated this more. But recent findings, based on Dufferin’s correspondence to Hume & the activities of early Nationalists, have proved the ‘safety valve’ theory is nothing but a myth.
  • Hume wrote two pamphlets– ‘A Rising Star in the East’ & ‘Old Man’s Dream’.

The Moderate Phase:-

  • Period between 1885 & 1905 is known as the Moderate Phase of the Congress.
  • Congress since its inception was dominated by educated middle class, the landed aristocracy & the capitalist class called the moderates. The moderate ideology was the British colonialism & Indian Nationalism were not contradictory, rather complimentary. For the moderates, development of England was the development of India.
  • The Moderate method of struggle was defined as ‘Constitutional Means of Agitation’ (anything except popular means of agitation & seditions). It was well explained by Gokhale in his  journal ‘Sudhar’. It is also ‘Petition, Prayer & Protest’.

Economic Demands – 

  1. Eradication of poverty by increasing industrial production, & by giving protection & encouragement to Indian industries.
  2. Reduction of land revenue, extension of irrigation and development of agricultural banks which would free the agriculturists from the clutches of the money lenders.
  3. Abolition of salt tax because it hit the poor & lower middle classes hard.
  4. Cuts in Home Charges & military expenditure.
  5. Protection against exploitation of Indian labour in British colonies Abroad.

Administrative Demands – 

  1. Indianisation of civil services.
  2. Removal of restrictions on freedom of the press & speech.
  3. Separation of Judiciary from Executive.
  4. Extension of trial by jury.
  5. Higher jobs in the army for Indians.
  6. Rising of an Indian Volunteer force.

Political Demands – 

  1. To give greater power to the Supreme Council & local legislative Council.
  2. To allow the council to discuss on budget.

Moderate Politics –

The relations between the moderates & the British were strained for the first time in Madras Session in 1887, presided over by Badruddin Tyabji (the first muslim president of INC). The word ‘self-governance’ was mentioned for the first time. Lord Dufferin criticised Congress as ‘Microscopic Minority’.

Achievements – 

  1. On the request of the Moderates in 1886, Lord Dufferin appointed Aitchison Committee on Indian Civil Services. The upper age limit was increased to 22 years, on the recommendations of the committee.
  2. Succeeded in getting the Indian Council Act, 1892, passed. Under this act, the number of elected members in Central Legislative Council & the provincial Legislative Council increased. The council acquired the right to discuss on budget, but was not permitted to vote on it.
  3. On the request of the Moderates, the Calcutta University Act, 1904 & Calcutta Municipal Corporation Act, 1904; the two acts that affected the autonomy of local bodies were revoked by Lord Curzon.
  4. Most important achievement of the Moderates was their economic critique of colonialism, called the Drain Theory that exposed the exploitative nature of colonialism.


  1. They restricted the social bases of the Congress only for the elite.
  2. They failed to understand the clash of interests between colonialism & nationalism.
  3. Their major failure was stopping the Partition of Bengal, done much against the public will.

The Extremist Phase (1905-1915):

Aurbindo Ghosh –

  • Pioneers of passive resistance.
  • Actively involved in Swadeshi Movement.
  • Cleared ICS Exam, but not admitted on technical ground, which was just an excuse.
  • Spread extremist ideas through Yugantar & Vandematram.
  • He published New Lamps for Old in 1893-94, in which he described the Congress leaders pleas to the government on issues like Legislative Councils & simultaneous Civil Service examination in London & India, as “playing with bubbles”.
  • Put on trial in Alipur Conspiracy Case (1910).
  • Leave politics & settled at Pondicherry as spiritual guru.
  • Book – Life Divine.

Ashwini Kumar Datta –  derided the congress as a ‘three days tamasha’.

Bipin Chandra Pal –  mocked it as a “begging institution”.

Lala Lajpat Rai – 

  1. Also known as ‘Sher-e-Punjab‘ (Lion of Punjab).
  2. He declared that political rights could not be won by an organisation which could not “distinguish between begging rights & claiming them”.
  3. He also argued that sovereignty rests with the people, the state exists for them & rules in their name.
  4. Launched newspapers like The Punjabee, The People.
  5. Wrote – Unhappy India.
  6. Injured in demonstration against the Simon commission in lahore & died after few days.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak- 

  1. Chitpavan Brahmin of Poona.
  2. Called the Father of Indian Unrest by Valentine Chirole.
  3. Tilak who was in the forefront of this new ideology, said that “Indians could not achieve any success if we croak once a year like a frog”.
  4. He declared Swaraj is my birth right & I shall have it.
  5. Founded Ganesh Festival since 1894 to mobilise people.
  6. Founded Shivaji Festival since 1896 to inspire the youth.
  7. No revenue campaign 1896-97, during severe famine in Maharashtra.
  8. Boycott movement on the issue of countervailing cotton excise of 1896.
  9. Wrote – Gita Rahasya.
  10. Newspaper – Kesari (Marathi) & Maratha (English).

Vishnu Shastri Chipulankar wrote Nibandhamala, as collection of poems with extremist thought.

Critics –

The use of religious symbols & festivals by Tilak & Lajpat Rai was intended to awake India both politically & culturally. But, it had an inherent danger in separating the Muslims & other minorities from congress.

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