Sie sind auf Seite 1von 7

EMERGENCE OF NATIONALISM IN INDIA Ques: What were the factors that lead to the emergence of the Indian National

Co ngress in 1885? The Indian National Congress, which was to become the leading body guiding the I ndian National Movement towards independence and produced some of the important leaders of the movement like Gandhi, Nehru and Sardar Patel was founded in 1885. Although one of the leading political parties in the Indian political system at this point of time the INC was started as an idea to provide a space for regula r meetings and hadn t been visualised as a political party. It aimed at providing a common platform for common grievances that had arisen as a result of the defic iencies in British rule. However, it was the first organised expression of India n Nationalism on an all-India scale. The initial years of the INC came to be known as the moderate phase . According to SR Mehrotra, the INC wished to retain the British Yolk . The moderates were guided by the belief that British rule wasn t essentially bad but certain deficiencies in their rule had to lead to certain common problems. Thus, they were only advocat ing a change within the existing framework of colonial rule and not the overthro w of the British Empire. They believed that the British were genuinely intereste d in working towards the upliftment of the Indian people but the absence of a co mmon platform prevented the Indians from being able to express themselves effect ively. Thus, the INC was meant to overcome this obstacle and act as a link betw een the people and the government and at the same time through the medium of new spapers, journals, pamphlets, petitions etc bring about these reforms and raise public opinion and awareness about the plight of the Indians. The initial moderate years of the INC has given rise to criticisms against the party for being pro-British Rule and thus for being an implant of the British them selves. It is this that has given currency to the safety-valve theory myth, which at one point of time was the most important factor forwarded for the creation of the INC. The myth states that the INC was created because of the initiative taken by A.O. Hume, a retired English ICS officer under the official direction and guidance of Lord Dufferin, the viceroy of that time. After retiring from the civil services and towards the end of Lord Lytton's rule, Hume sensed that the people of India had got a sense of hopelessness and wanted to do something, "a sudden violent o utbreak of sporadic crime, murders of obnoxious persons, robbery of bankers and looting of bazaars, acts really of lawlessness which by a due coalescence of for ces might any day develop into a National Revolt." The memory of the revolt of 1 857 still afresh the British government didn t want to deal with another major reb ellion of this kind. Therefore, they believed that the rising discontent among t he masses that was inevitably leading towards a popular and violent revolution c ould be best dealt with by providing a safe, mild, constitutional outlet or safe ty valve for the masses. It was based on the assumption that such an organisatio n would serve to provide a mechanism to channelize the thoughts, demands and ang er of the Indians in a peaceful and well-organised manner, without endangering t he British rule or interests in India. The INC was meant to play the role of an intermediary and act like a line of communication between the rulers and the rul ed thereby helping to prevent a mass revolution. Thus, it was the fear of anothe r popular revolt and the need to safeguard the British rule that encouraged them to undertake this initiative. This theory seemed to have been accepted for a long time by various schools of t hought and used by them to highlight the INC in a negative light. For instance, as early as 1916 the extremist leader Lajpat Rai criticised the INC for being a brainchild of the British and for giving his prominence to British interests tha n to that of India. He argues that the Congress was created to preserve British rule in India than to win political liberty for the country and thus condemned i t. R.P.Dutt s work India Today also used this theory to criticise the INC from the Marxist point of view. He believed that the INC acted as an obstacle in the nat ional movement as it forestalled an impending revolution . He believed that this wa s due to the genesis of the organisation that had been an outcome of the direct intervention of the British. Thus, the British intended to use this body as a w

eapon against the rising tide of anti-imperial sentiments. Even though he admits that in its later years the INC shed its loyalist character and became a nation -wide party the original sin of its birth left a permanent dark mark on its charac ter. Some of the extremist right wing leaders like M.S.Golwalkar- RSS chief- hav e also used the safety valve theory to denounce the secularism of the INC portra ying it as an anti-nationalist party for cooperating with the old foes of Hindu na tionalism i.e. Muslims. This theory had first originated from William Wedderburn s biography of Hume publi shed in 1913. Wedderburn claims that Hume had come across seven volumes of secre t reports which showed that there had been growing discontent among the masses a nd a conspiracy to overthrow the British rule by force. It was this discovery th at led Hume, an English patriot according to Lajpat Rai despite his love for liber ty, to create this safety valve to safeguard British interests. Gradually, these seven volumes assumed a new character. For instance, R.P. Dutt claimed that the se were secret police reports and hence provided authentic information. This vie w has been accepted by numerous other historians like R.C. Majumdar and Tara Cha nd. However, by the 1950s serious questions began to be raised about this theory. Fi rstly, these seven secret volumes have not been discovered in any archives, eith er in India or Britain. Apart from Wedderburn s biography no other source mentions the existence of these volumes and even in this work he states that Hume had pr ocured these volumes from religious gurus and not official sources. Thus, their credibility, even if they did exist is dubious. Moreover, the structure of the B ritish administration in the 1870s also creates logical obstacles in the accepta nce of the existence of these seven volumes. The intelligence department at that time could not have employed more than a few hundred people at that time, which was not enough to produce such a large volume of secret reports as was claimed by some leaders like Lajpat Rai. Also, Hume at this point of time worked for the Revenue department and thus could not have had access to secret or home departm ent files. Bipan Chandra also argues that these secret reports were read by Hume in 1878 and if the possibility of a mass rebellion was so high than why did it take the British seven long years to finally create the INC. Finally, Shekhar Ba ndyopadhyay argues that the opening up of Lord Dufferin s private papers in the 19 50s cleared up all the myth that existed around his alleged sponsorship of the I NC. Dufferin had definitely met Hume in Simla in 1885 but refused to take his vi ews or predictions seriously and had also warned the government to be cautious o f the delegates that were meeting in Simla later that year. In fact, he was firm ly opposed to the creation of the INC as he believed that it could lead to the c reation of another Irish Home League movement, which would endanger the British rule more than helping it. He criticised the INC in its formative years by calli ng it a minority organisation and this in itself explodes the myth of the safety -valve theory. Most of the historians today reject the existence of the seven volumes as mentio ned in Wedderburn s work that forms the basis of the safety-valve theory . However, a t the same time it would be wrong to overlook the contribution of A.O.Hume in th e formation of the INC and he did indeed play an important role. He was a politi cal liberal, who definitely had a clear idea about the growing discontent among the Indians. Thus, he visualised an all-India organisation, which would represen t Indian interests and act like an opposition in the government. Moreover, Hume was also moved by more nobler issues than the desire to protect British rule in India. He possessed a sincere love for India and its poor cultivators and there fore urged the INC to focus on issues of poverty alleviation. He wished that the INC would act as an "association for the mental, moral, social, and political r egeneration of the Indian people". He also attempted to increase the Congress b ase by bringing in more farmers, townspeople and Muslims between 1886 and 1887 a nd this created a backlash from the British, leading to backtracking by the Cong ress. In 1892, he tried to get them to act by warning of a violent agrarian revo lution but this only outraged the British establishment and frightened the Congr ess leaders. Disappointed by the continued lack of Indian leaders willing to wor k for the cause of national emancipation, Hume left for Britain in 1894. The rol

e and impact that Hume had on the INC can be gauged by the fact that the 27th se ssion of the Indian National Congress at Bankipur (26-28 December 1912) recorded their "profound sorrow at the death of Allan Octavian Hume, C.B., father and fo under of the Congress, to whose lifelong services, rendered at rare self-sacrifi ce, India feels deep and lasting gratitude, and in whose death the cause of Indi an progress and reform sustained irreparable loss." However, despite his efforts and role it would be wrong to credit the entire creation of the INC solely to h im or the British. There were a number of other factors that helped in the forma tion of the INC. A number of theories have been propounded regarding the rise of nationalism in I ndia. Benedict Anderson argued that nationalism in Asia and Africa (including In dia) developed on similar lines as it did in the west. Thus, this theory essenti ally ignores the possibility of the people of India or Asia having the intellect ual capability of shaping their own history. This has recently been criticised b y a number of scholars, prominent among them being Partha Chatterjee in his arti cle Whose Imagined Community?. He believes that the concept of nationalism is high ly subjective, case specific and needs based. Therefore, to impose a western mod el blindly on Indian nationalism would be ahistorical and incorrect. He believes that the Indian society was imagining its nation and domain of sovereignty much before the actual movement started. Thus, according to Chatterjee this national ism was modern but not necessarily western. It was from this cultural constructi on of a space for autonomy in the early 19th century that the seeds for Indian n ationalism had been sown. C.A.Bayly has traced the roots of Indian nationalism to its pre-colonial days. H e believes it stemmed out from traditional patriotism , which essentially meant the attachment of the people to land, language and culture; a concept that develope d much before the arrival of westernisation. However, he argues that in the 18th and early 19th century these feelings were extremely regional in character but these regional barriers were breaking down as a result of growing commercialisat ion and improving means of communication. It was the growth of the oppressive ru le of the British that provided the stimuli that brought this traditional patrio tism together and resulted in a major upheaval against the British i.e. the revo lt of 1857. After the revolt, a modern sector of politics emerged in India throu gh the rapid spread of education, development of the communications system like the railways and telegraph etc that reshaped and reworked the older system of pa triotism resulting in the creation of a new colonial modernity. Keeping these theories in mind it is very important to trace these changes that were taking place in India in the 18th and early 19th century that tried to fuse together, according to Shekhar Bandyopadhyay the different local, regional and fragmentary identities into a modern nation. The British rule witnessed the administrative and economic unification of the co untry. This unification and the process of the emergence of an Indian nation in th e 19th century helped in the growth of the nationalistic feelings among the peop le. As most of the principalities were under British administrative control, a u niform and modern system of governance prevailed all over the country thereby su bjecting people to uniform and at times common laws, institutions and taxes. The Government of India was one and indivisible and its actions infused in the people that they too were one and indivisible . The introduction of modern trade and industries on an all-India scale that had l ed to the destruction of the rural and localised self-sufficient economy made In dia s economic life a single whole and interlinked the economic fate of people liv ing in different parts of the country. For instance, if famine or scarcity occur red in one part of the country the availability of food or their prices were aff ected in a different part of the country as well. However, it was the telegraph and the railways that played one of the most signi ficant roles in this unification process. The steady improvement of the postal s ystem, with the introduction of a cheap and uniform rate of postage placed the p rivilege of communicating freely with all parts of India within the reach of the poorest. It allowed public men, who were taking the lead in the protest and agi tation movements to be in close touch with public men in other parts of the coun

try. It annihilated distances, lessened isolation and helped in promoting the so cial and intellectual interaction between people, which went a long way in promo ting the spirit of unity and oneness. The railways in India were also a creation of the British. It not only speeded u p travel and communication between different parts of the country but it also le d to the exchange of information and culture as it became a popular means of tra nsport used by a variety of people. People from different castes, regions and re ligions travelled in the same compartment and were exposed to the different trad itions and cultures that existed all over the country and this according to S.R. Mehrotra became the symbol of a new and united India in the making. Madhav Rao stated in the 1880s that the railways along with the medium of English language had welded India into a nation that no other factor or medium had succeeded in d oing. Travel through railways also served as a great education in patriotism as it heightened one s awareness of the geography, history and culture of one s own lan d. A number of prominent leaders like Surendranath Banerjee, Keshavchandra Sen e tc travelled all over the country and it was this, which helped them to discover their own country and added a new sense of patriotism to their dimension. For i nstance, when Sen travelled to Bombay and Madras from Bengal he discovered that the people of these presidencies were not all that different from the people of Bengal and that they were facing similar grievances at the hands of a common ene my. It was the railways, which like the postal system, facilitated the quick tra nsport of ideas from one region to another. A large number of nationalist newspapers made their appearance during the last h alf of the 19th century. The press provided a regular and potent means of consti tutional agitation and became important means of propoganda. They fearlessly cri ticised official policies and gave expression to the wants and views of the peop le. Most of the messages also contained messages for Indians to unite and work f or national welfare, while, at the same time they were promoting ideas of democr acy, self-governance, freedom etc which were to become the leading ideals of the Indian national movement. The Indian newspapers developed an all-India outlook; not only did they circulate freely all over the nation but they were constantly in touch with what was happening in different parts of India. The leading Engli sh newspapers like the Indian Mirror of Calcutta made it their deliberate policy to inculcate an all-India outlook in their readers and were available in large numbers in almost every important town of India. The vernacular newspapers had a far more restrictive circulation as compared to the English newspapers but even then they did not confine themselves to parochial matters and had a much wider circulation than what is generally imagined. Thus, the press was able to break d own the internal barriers and encouraged inter-regional solidarity. It enabled p eople in one part of the country to become aware about the aspirations, ideas an d grievances of people living in a different part of the country. Thus, in this way the press helped in unity the country by creating a community of thought and feeling. It also helped in the growth of the nationalist sentiments as newspape rs were used increasingly by the early nationalist leaders to spread their word and it was because of this medium that people like Dadabhai Naoroji, Surendranat h Banerjee, Syed Ahmed Khan etc became well known national public figures. However, the most important factor that united the people was the existence of a common enemy that oppressed all sections of society irrespective of their socia l class, caste, religion or region. Although, the British had been able to estab lish their control over India due to the differences that existed between the In dians the subjugation of the entire population to a common yoke had laid the fou ndations for the development of national unity. This common yoke created common grievances and disabilities, and as every section of society- from the peasants to the artisans and from the educated Indian to the politically minded class- re alised that they were suffering at the hands of a common enemy it became possibl e for the heterogeneous population of India to unite in a common hatred of its f oreign rulers. The complete foreignness of British rule and their unwillingness to shed that ch aracter and learn about the real life and feelings of Indian people acted as an important unifying factor. India had been exposed to foreign rule in the past bu

t on all these occasions the foreigners had gradually got Indianised and thus ev entually became a part of the Indian society. However, the British, who continue d to uphold the notion of white man s burden and belonging to a superior race preven ted this phenomenon from occurring and with time the gulf between the rulers and ruled went on increasing. The British were not only conscious of their racial a nd cultural superiority but also anxious that the people of India should recognise it. Even the ordinary British in India considered himself to be a demi-god look ing upon the Indians and their customs with contempt and disgust. Thus, the Indi ans who were racially abused or insulted would naturally have united in their co mmon humiliation and even developed a xenophobia of their own. According to S.R. Mehrotra, a common hatred binds people more strongly than a common love. This gr owing racial antagonism naturally provided this bond uniting people from all cla sses and sections in common protest. He goes on to say that by the 1860s there w as a growing demand for equal rights and privileges for Indians with their Briti sh fellow-subjects, which was spearheaded by the educated Indians. Thus, the Bri tish unlike anyother previous rulers were unable to imbibe in the people a sense of allegiance or loyalty towards them, which was essential for any foreign powe r trying to rule over the indigenous people. Closely linked to the racial prejudices of the British were the activities of th e Christian missionaries. Even after the revolt of 1857, the Christian missionar ies continued their policy of denouncing Indian religions and of forcible conver sion of Indians. They believed that the entire purpose of British rule in India was the Christianisation of the Indian race and such views were gradually echoed by the British press in Britain and India. This constant attack by the missionar y party forced the Indian reformers to turn their past in order to derive inspira tion and sanction for their progressive views. This also lead to a process that Bernard Cohn has described as the objectification of culture. The purpose of this process was to purify and rediscover an Indian civilisation that would be compatible with the European ideals of rationalism, empiricism, monotheism and individuali sm. It was meant to show that Indian civilisation by no means was inferior to th at of the west, and in one sense i.e. spiritual accomplishment was superior to i ts western counterpart. This sense of pride in the spiritual essence of the Indi an civilisation, as opposed to the material culture of the West, not just helped the Indians reorganise and sanctify their private spheres of life; its ideologi cal inspiration also motivated them to confront the colonial state in a newly em erging public space. It was this rediscovery of India s past that provided the ideol ogical foundation of modern Indian nationalism that developed in the late 19th c entury. Modern Education probably played the most decisive role in bringing about nation alism in India as it created a critical public discourse conducive to the growth of nationalist feelings as it placed the colonial state under stringent scrutin y. Modern education had been started in India with the intention of creating a c lass of Indians, educated in modern and western thought and thus capable of work ing in the administrative system of British India. This education was designed t o colonise the minds of the Indian intelligentsia and imbibe in them western ide as, cultural traits and mannerisms that would produce a sense of loyalty in them towards the British, thereby, becoming the mainstay of British power in India i n the long run. However, the exposure to western thoughts and ideas had a positi ve impact on this class of Indians as they were able to imbibe a modern, rationa l, secular, democratic and nationalist political outlook, which gave rise to a c ritical consciousness among these Indians against British rule. These ideas came to constitute an ideological package that Dipesh Chakrabarty has called politica l modernity , consisting of concepts such as citizenship, the state and civil soci ety, equality before law, human rights, social justice, democracy etc and these became the ideal milestones that these leaders hoped to achieve. The educated In dians now used these concepts to form their own critique of autocratic rule and to form their own theories of nationalism. This new educated middle class that h ad emerged in India studied and got encouragement from revolutionary movements i n America, Europe, France and other colonies of Britain to dream of the idea of an independent and united India. It was this new class of Indians that were the

first to feel the humiliation of foreign subjection and by becoming modern in th eir thought process they also acquired the ability to scrutinise the foreign rul e and become aware of its evil effects. They realised that the social, economic and political development of India was not possible till the Indians themselves ruled over their country in the interest of the people. Thus, in due course of t ime it was this class that took upon themselves the burden of organising and lea ding a nationwide movement against colonial rule. They were the ones who took th e initiative to use their modern education, control over the press and access to government services to initiate agitations and protests over the racial policie s of the British, exclusion of Indians from government services and other acts o f the British. Like most other innovations of the British, English education also served to bec ome a means of unification. English proved to be a common medium of interaction and it soon replaced the various regional and vernacular languages making it eas ier for the Indians to interact with each other. The Bombay Guardian reported in the 1860s that English language is becoming a medium of communication between th e natives of the different presidencies . Moreover, the system of English educatio n was more or less uniform throughout the country thereby imposing a common set of standards and a common cultural discipline. The Hindoo Patriot wrote in 18778 that English education is binding the whole population of India with a golden c hain. It is breaking down provincial jealousies, tribal exclusiveness, caste ant ipathies. Similarly, S.N.Banerjee stated that Educated Indians, whether of Bengal, Madras, Bombay or the North-Western Provinces, are brought up under the same in tellectual, moral and political influences. Kindred hopes, feelings and aspirati ons are thus generated. The educated class of Indians are thus brought nearer to gether. In the second half of the 19th century, the educated Indians had many reasons to be aggrieved and antagonised by the British rule. The British policies througho ut the 1860s and 70s helped in creating an environment that was favourable to th e growth of anti-imperial sentiments. The imposition of income tax in 1860 witho ut giving Indians any control over its expenditure and their progressive exclusi on from the civil services through various restrictions and provisions throughou t the 1860s and 70s had become reason enough for these Indians to start agitatin g for reforms. Although, they met with some form of initial success they were qu ickly reversed. When the government decided to cut back its expenditure on Engli sh education in order to rechannel the funds for mass education through vernacul ar languages, it was looked upon as a government attempt to crush the rising tid e of nationalist feelings that were being promoted by the modern education syste m. It became a further source of tension when it was realised that the same fund s were being used unnecessarily on the army, public works serving imperial inter ests or being sent back home as remittances. However, it was the policies adopte d by Lord Lytton that caused the most uproar among the educated Indians. In 1878 , in order to curb the freedom of press that had become the most important means of propaganda he passed the Vernacular Press Act. The act provided for a deposi t from all printers and publishers of regional language newspapers, which was to be forfeited and their machinery confiscated if it published anything objection able. The act lead to immediate nationwide resentment lead by the educated India ns, which was further intensified by the passing of the Arms Act that prohibited Indians from carrying firearms but excluded Europeans or Eurasians from under i ts purview. However, the act that provided the final spark leading to the creation of the IN C was the Ilbert Bill . Lord Lytton had been replaced by a far more liberal viceroy - Lord Rippon, who repealed the Vernacular Press Act and made changes to the arm s act to exclude the racial aspects within it. Moreover, he also proposed to int roduce local self-government in India. Thus, an appreciable liberal environment was being developed under his tenure. However, the proposal of the Ilbert Bill t hat made provisions for the Indian district magistrates to try European offender s was bitterly opposed by every section of the Europeans. They believed that an e ffeminate babu was not fit to preside over the trial of a manly Englishman . This ra cial prejudice made it extremely clear to the Indians that the colonial regime,

despite the facade of humanity that it may display, was not willing to provide a ny form of racial equality to the Indians. Moreover, the withdrawal of the bill made the educated Indians painfully aware of their subordinate position in the i mperial power structure. The counter agitations and protests initiated by them l aid the foundation for a new era of political activity in India. It should be kept in mind that while the INC was the first nation-wide organisat ion, it was not the first organisation or political structure to have existed in India. From the early years of the 19th century a number of public associations had come up in the first half of the 19th century. However, these were all domi nated by the landed class and were highly provincial or local in character. More over, they were highly passive and moderate in their demands and wanted the Indi ans to become a part of the British administration. However, it was post the int roduction of modern education that new associations dominated by these educated Indians started appearing. As the new middle class became more and more aware of the evils of colonial rule they wanted to engage in political activity to have a productive outlet for their discontent and the existing associations did not s atisfy their intentions. For instance, in Bengal the British India Association w as replaced by the India Association, lead by Surendranath Banerjee that aimed a t creating strong public opinion in the country on political questions and the u nification of the Indian on a common political programme. Many branches of this organisation were opened up in different towns and villages of Bengal and some o utside of Bengal as well. Younger elements were stepping up to take the lead in other parts of the country as well. For instance, in Pune, the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha was established in 1870 by Justice Ranade and others with the aim of repre senting the wishes of the people. Within a year it was able to get about 17,000 members thereby becoming a truly representative body. The Bombay Presidency Asso ciation was started in 1885 by the efforts of Pherozeshah Mehta, K.T.Telang and Badruddin Tyabji. In South India, however, political activities remained at a lo w ebb and it was only with the establishment of the Madras Mahajan Sabha that th e political life became vibrant once again. Outside of the presidencies, new ass ociations came up that gave voice to the discontent of the people. Prominent amo ng them were the Allahabad Peoples Association in the United Provinces and the La hore Indian Association in Punjab. What set these new associations distinctly ap art from their predecessors was the national outlook that they had adopted. Whil e they may have been confined to a particular region or locality their demands r eflected the spirit of Indianness that was emerging all over the country. They d emanded Indian representation in the legislative council, separation of power of the branches of the government, Indianisation of the civil services, protection of Indian industries, reduction of unnecessary expenditure etc. Apart from init iating agitations against various British policies and laws they also took up th e cause of the peasantry and worked progressively towards their upliftment and w elfare. While these associations may have been fighting for limited reforms, the y reflected a new public awareness, a nationalist outlook and a demand for India ns to be treated on par with the British. They may not have been extremely succe ssful in their intended aims and objectives but they along with their young lead ers provided the base for the creation of a much larger and more effective organ isation that was to take over the reign of the national movement i.e. the INC. Thus, to conclude, one can say that it is true that the very conditions of the B ritish rule assisted in the growth of national sentiment among the Indian people and it was the direct and indirect consequences of this rule that provided the material, moral and intellectual conditions for the development of a national mo vement in India. However, this was not a sudden event but the culmination of a p rocess that had started in the middle of the 19th century. Thus, the formation o f the INC should be seen as a process rather than the deliberate policy of the B ritish to safeguard their own interests. Even if A.O.Hume or the safety-valve the ory had played a major role in the creation of the INC, the conditions of the 187 0s and 1880s India was such that the creation of an organisation like the INC wa s inevitable and it would have come about even without this push by the British.