Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Indian National Congress and Safety Valve Theory

Indian National Congress

Many Indians had been planning to form an all- India organization of nationalist political workers. But the credit for giving the idea a final shape goes to A.O.Hume, a retired English Civil Servant. He got in touch with prominent Indian leaders and organized with their cooperation the first session of the Indian National Congress at Bombay in December 1885. Hume has been called the Father of the Congress. It was presided over by W.C.Banerjee and attended by 72 delegates. At the second session in Calcutta [1886] there were 434 delegates; at the third session in Madras [1887] there were 607 ; and at the fourth session at Allahabad [1888] there were 1248. The aim of the Indian 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 the training and organization of public opinion in the country.

Safety valve theory

It has been said that Hume’s main purpose in encouraging the foundation of the Congress was to provide a safety valve or safe outlet to the growing discontent among the educated Indians. He wanted to prevent the union of a discontented educated Indians with a discontented peasantry.

The safety valve theory is, however, a small part of the truth and is totally inadequate and misleading. The National Congress represented the urge of the politically conscious Indians to set up a national organization to work for their political and economic advancement. A national movement was already growing in the country as a result of the working of powerful forces. No one man or group of man can be given the 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.
The Indian leaders who cooperated with Hume in starting the Indian 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 ally 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.