NCERT Extracts - Growth of New India : The National Movement (1885-1905)
Category : UPSC
Consequence of Foreign Domination
- It was the British rule and its direct and indirect consequences which provided the material, moral and intellectual conditions for the development of a national movement.
- The foundations of the Indian nationalist movement lay in the fact that increasingly British rule became the major cause of India's economic backwardness.
- Every class, every section of Indian society, gradually discovered that its interests were suffering at the hands of the foreign rulers.
- The rising intelligentsia - the educated Indians - used their newly acquired modem knowledge to understand the sad economic and political condition of their country.
- Politically, educated Indians found that the British had abandoned all previous pretensions of guiding India towards self-government.
- British official and writers declared Indian to be unfit for democracy or self- government.
- Moreover, the policies of racial dominance and discrimination apalled and aroused every thinking and self-respecting Indian, to whichever class he might belong.
- To sum up, it was as a result of the intrinsic nature of foreign imperialism and of its harmful impact on the lives of the Indian people that a powerful anti-imperialist movement gradually arose and developed in India.
Administrative and Economic Unification of the Country
- India was unified and welded into a nation during the 19th and 20th centuries. The British had gradually introduced a uniform and modem system of government throughout the country and thus unified it administratively.
- The introduction of the railways, telegraph and a unified postal system had brought the different parts of the country together and promoted mutual contact among the people, especially among the leaders.
- All over the country people saw that they were suffering at the hands of a common enemy - British rule.
Western Thought and Education
- As a result of the spread of modem western education and thought during the 19th century, a large number of Indians imbibed a modern rational, secular, democratic and nationalist political outlook.
- They also began to study, admire and emulate the contemporary nationalist movement of European nations.
- It should be clearly understood that it was not the modem educational system that created the national movement which was the product of the conflict of interests between Britain and India.
- The system only enabled the educated Indians to imbibe western thought and thus to assume the leadership of the national movement and to give it a democratic and modern direction.
- Modem education also created a certain uniformity and community of outlook and interests among the educated Indians.
- The English language played an important role in this respect.
- In fact, so far as the common people were concerned, the spread of modern ideas occurred through the developing Indian languages.
The Role of the Press and Literature
- The chief instrument through which the nationalist-minded Indian spread the message of patriotism and modern economic, social and political ideas, and created, an all-India consciousness was the Press.
- In their coloumns, the official policies were constantly criticised; the Indian point of view was put forward; the people were asked to unite and work for national welfare; and ideas of self-government, democracy, industrialization, etc. were popularised among the people.
Rediscovery of India's Past
- 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 uncivilised 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 ait, architecture, literature, philosophy, science and politics.
- 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.
- 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.
- They were kept out of exclusively European clubs and were often not permitted to travel in the same compartment in a train with the European passengers.
Predecessors of the Indian National Congress
- The Indian National Congress, founded in December, 1885, was the first organized expression of the Indian national movement on all-India scale. It had, however, many predecessors.
- Raja Rammohan Roy was the first Indian leader to start an agitation for political reforms in India.
- In 1866; Dadabhai Naoroji organised the East India Association in London to discuss the Indian question and to influence British public men to promote Indian welfare.
- 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 Indian’s first economic thinkers.
- Dadabhai was honoured by being thrice elected president of the Indian National Congress.
- The most important of the pre-Congress nationalist organisations was the Indian Association of Calcutta.
- Surendranath Banerjea 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 Anand Mohan Bose, the younger nationalists of Bengal founded the Indian Association in July, 1876
- Justice Ranade and others organised the Poona Sarvajanik Sbha in 1870. M. Viraraghavachari, G, Subramaniya lyer, Anand Chartu and other formed the Madras
Mahajan Sabha in 1884
- Pherozeshah Mehta, K.T Telang, Badmddin Tyabji and other formed the Bombay Presidency Association m 1885,
- 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 Ac idea, concrete and final shape: goes to O. Hume, a retired English Civil Servant
- The first session of the Indian National Congress at Bombay in December, 1885. It was presided over by C. Banerjee and attended by 72 delegates.
- 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.
- If Hume wanted to use the Congress as a 'safely valve", the early Congress leaders hoped to use him as a 'lightning conductor’.
- The Congress itself was to serve from the beginning not as a party but as a movement.
- In 1890, Kadambini Ganguli, the first woman graduate of Calcutta University, addressed the Congress session.
- Provincial conferences, provincial and local associations, and nationalist newspapers were the other prominent organs of the growing nationalist movement.
The Programme and Activities of the Early Nationalists
- Early nationalist leadership believed that a direct struggle for the political emancipation of the country was not yet on the agenda of history.
- What was on the agenda was the arousal of national feeling, consolidation of this feeling, the bringing of a large number of the Indian people into the vortex of nationalist politics, and their training in politics and political agitation.
- The first important task in this respect was the creation of public interest in political questions and the organisation of public opinion in the country.
- Secondly, popular demands had to be formulated on a country-wide basis so that the emerging public opinion might have an all-India focus.
Economic Critique of Imperialism
- Perhaps the most important part of the early nationalists' political work was their economic critique of imperialism.
- They clearly grasped that the essence of British economic imperialism lay in the subordination of the Indian economy to the British economy.
- They organised a powerful agitation against nearly all important official economic policies based on this colonial structure.
- Dadabhai Naoroji declared as early as 1881 that the British rule was “an everlasting, increasing, and every day increasing foreign invasion" that was utterly, though gradually, destroying the country".
- The nationalists complained that India's wealth was being drained to England, and demanded that this drain be stopped.
- They declared high taxation to be one of the causes of India's poverty and demanded the abolition of the salt tax and reduction of land revenue.
- They condemned the high military expenditure of the Government.
- From the beginning the early nationalists believed that India should eventually move towards democratic self-government.
- They hoped to win freedom through gradual steps. They were also extremely cautious, lest the Government suppress their activities.
- Form 1885 to 1892 they demanded the expansion and reform of the Legislative Councils.
- The British Government was forced by their agitation to pass the Indian Councils Act of 1892.
- By this Act the number of members of the Imperial Legislative Council as well as the provincial councils was increased.
- In particular, they demanded Indian control over the public purse and raised the slogan that had earlier become the national cry of the American people during their War of independence : “No taxation without representation”.
- At the same time, they failed to broaden the base of their democratic demands; they did not demand the right to vote for the masses or for women.
Administrative and other Reforms
- The most important administrative reform they desired was Indianisation of the higher grades of the administrative services.
- The nationalists demanded separation of the judicial from executive powers so that the people might get some protection from the arbitrary acts of the police and the bureaucracy.
- They laid a great deal of emphasis on the spread of primary education among the masses. They also demanded greater facilities for technical and higher education.
- They urged the development of agricultural banks to save the peasant from the clutches of the money-lender.
- The nationalist leaders also spoke up in defense of Indian workers who had been compelled by poverty to migrate to foreign countries such as South Africa, Malaya, Mauritius, the West Indies and British Guiana in search of employment.
Defence of Civil Rights
- They put up a strong defence of these civil rights whenever the Government tried to curtail them.
- In 1897 the Bombay Government arrested B.G Tilak and several other leaders and newspaper editors, and tried them, spreading disaffection against the Government.
- At the same time two Poona leaders, the Natu brothers, were deported without trial. The entire country protested against this attack on the liberties of the people.
Methods of Political Work
- The Indian national movement up to 1905 was dominated by leaders who have often been described as moderate nationalists or Moderates.
- Their political work had, therefore, a two-pronged direction. Firstly, to build up a strong public opinion in India to arouse the political consciousness and national spirit of the people, and to educate and unite them on political questions.
- Secondly, the early nationalists wanted to persuade the British Government and British public opinion to introduce reforms along direction laid down by the nationalists.
- Therefore, next to educating Indian public opinion, the Moderate nationalists worked to educate British public opinion.
- For this purpose, they carried on active propaganda in Britain. Deputations of leading Indians were sent to Britain to propagate the Indian view.
- They therefore, planned not to expel the British but to transform the British rule to approximate to national rule.
Role of the Masses
- The basic weakness of the early national movement lay in its narrow social base.
Attitude of the Government
- The British authorities were from the beginning hostile to the rising nationalist movement and had become suspicious of the National Congress. Dufferin, the Viceroy, had tried to divert the national movement
- British officials from Dufferin downwards began to brand the nationalist leaders as 'disloyal babus’, 'seditious brahmins’ and 'violent villains’.
- The Congress was described as 'a factory of sedition9.
- In 1887, Dufferin attacked the National Congress in a public speech and ridiculed it as representing only "a microscopic minority of the people".
- In 1900, Lord Curzon announced to the Secretary of State that "the Congress is tottering to its fall;, and one of my great ambitions, while in India is to assist it to a peaceful demise".
- Realising that the growing unity of the Indian people posed a major threat to their role, the British authorities also pushed further the policy of ‘divide and rule’.
Evaluation of the Early National Movement
- It represented the most progressive force of the time. It succeeded in creating a wide national awakening, in arousing among the people the feeling that they belonged to one common nation - the Indian nation.
- It trained people in the art of political work, popularised among them the ideas of democracy, civil liberties, secularism and nationalism, propagated among them a modem outlook and exposed before them the evils results of British rule.
- Most of all, the early nationalist did pioneering work in mercilessly exposing the true character of British imperialism in India.
- It established die political truth that India must be ruled in the interests of die Indians.
- It can “therefore, be said that in spite of their many weaknesses” the early nationalists laid strong foundations for Ac national movement to grow upon and that they deserve a high place among the makers of modem India.