For the first time, most of the regions in India were united politically and administratively under a single power (the British rule). It introduced a uniform system of law and government.
The introduction of railways, telegraphs and postal services and the construction of roads and canals facilitated communication among the people. All these brought Indians nearer to each other and provided the facility to organise the national movement on an all India basis.
The English language played an important role in the growth of nationalism in the country. The English educated Indians, who led the national movement, developed Indian nationalism and organised it. Western education facilitated the spread of the concepts of liberty, equality, freedom and nationalism and sowed the seeds of nationalism.
The Indian Press, both English and vernacular, had also aroused the national consciousness.
The leaders of various organisations like the Brahmo Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission, Arya Samaj, and Theosophical Society generated a feeling of regard for and pride in the motherland.
A good deal of anti-British feeling was created by the economic policy pursued by the British government in India. The English systematically ruined the Indian trade and native industries. Therefore, economic exploitation by the British was one of the most important causes for the rise of Indian nationalism.
The Revolt of 1857 created a kind of permanent bitterness and suspicion between the British and the Indians. The English feeling of racial superiority grew. India as a nation and Indians as individuals were subjected to insults, humiliation and contemptuous treatment.
Lord Lytton arranged the Delhi Durbar at a time when the larger part of India was in the grip of famine. He passed the Vernacular Press Act which curbed the liberty of the Indian Press. His Arms Act was a means to prevent the Indians from keeping arms. All these measures created widespread discontent among the Indians.
The Ilbert Bill was presented in the Central Legislature during the Viceroyalty of Lord Ripon. The Bill tried to remove racial inequality between Indian and European judges in courts. This Bill was opposed by the British residents in India. Ultimately the Bill was modified. Thus various factors contributed to the rise of nationalism and the formation of the Indian National Congress.
The Indian National Congress (1885)
Allan Octavian Hume, a retired civil servant in the British Government took the initiative to form an all-India organization. Thus, the Indian National Congress was founded and its first session was held at Bombay in 1885. W.C. Banerjee was its first president. It was attended by 72 delegates from all over India.
Persons attending the session belonged to different religious faiths. They discussed the problems of all the Indians irrespective of their religion, caste, language and regions. Thus Indian National Congress from the start was an all-India secular movement embracing every section of Indian society.
The second session was held in Calcutta in 1886 and the third in Madras in 1887. The history of the Indian National Movement can be studied in three important phases:
(i) The phase of moderate nationalism (1885-1905) when the Congress continued to be loyal to the British crown.
(iii) The period from 1917 to1947 is known as the Gandhian era.
The leading figures during the first phase of the National Movement were A.O. Hume, W.C. Banerjee, Surendra Nath Banerjee, Dadabhai Naoroji, Feroze Shah Mehta, Gopalakrishna Gokhale, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Badruddin Tyabji, Justice Ranade and G.Subramanya Aiyar. Surendranath Banerjee was called the Indian Burke.
He firmly opposed the Partition of Bengal. He founded the Indian Association (1876) to agitate for political reforms. He had convened the Indian National Conference (1883) which merged with the Indian National Congress in l886.
G. Subramanya Aiyar preached nationalism through the Madras Mahajana Sabha. He also founded the The Hindu and Swadesamitran. Dadabhai Naoroji was known as the Grand Old Man of India. He is regarded as India’s unofficial Ambassador in England. He was the first Indian to become a Member of the British House of Commons.
Gopal Krishna Gokhale was regarded as the political guru of Gandhi. In 1905, he founded the Servants of India Society to train Indians to dedicate their lives to the cause of the country
For a few years the Congress enjoyed the patronage of the British administrators. Between 1885 and 1905, the Congress leaders were moderates. The Moderates had faith in the British justice and goodwill. They were called moderates because they adopted peaceful and constitutional means to achieve their demands.
Main Demands of Moderates
- Expansion and reform of legislative councils.
- Greater opportunities for Indians in higher posts by holding the ICS examination simultaneously in England and in India.
- Separation of the judiciary from the executive. More powers for the local bodies.
- Reduction of land revenue and protection of peasants from unjust landlords.
- Abolition of salt tax and sugar duty.
- Reduction of spending on army.
- Freedom of speech and expression and freedom to form associations
Methods of Moderates
The Moderates had total faith in the British sense of justice and fair play. They were loyal to the British. They looked to England for inspiration and guidance. The Moderates used petitions, resolutions, meetings, leaflets and pamphlets, memorandum and delegations to present their demands.
They confined their political activities to the educated classes only. Their aim was to attain political rights and self-government stage by stage. In the beginning, the British Government welcomed the birth of the Indian National Congress.
In 1886, Governor General Lord Dufferin gave a tea garden party for the Congress members in Calcutta. The government officials had also attended Congress sessions. With the increase in Congress demands, the government became unfriendly. It encouraged the Muslims to stay away from the Congress.
The only demand of the Congress granted by the British was the expansion of the legislative councils by the Indian Councils Act of 1892.
Achievements of Moderates
1. The Moderates were able to create a wide national awakening among the people.
2. They popularized the ideas of democracy, civil liberties and representative institutions.
3. They explained how the British were exploiting Indians. Particularly, Dadabhai Naoroji in his famous book Poverty and UnBritish Rule in India wrote his Drain Theory. He showed how India’s wealth was going away to England in the form of
(d) payments to British troops in India and (e) profits of the British companies.
In fact, the British Government was forced to appoint the Welby Commission, with Dadabhai as the first Indian as its member, to enquire into the matter.
4. Some Moderates like Ranade and Gokhale favoured social reforms. They protested against child marriage and widowhood.
5. The Moderates had succeeded in getting the expansion of the legislative councils by the Indian Councils Act of 1892.