Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Indian National Congress Moderate Phase 1885-1905

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.

The Programme and Activities of the Early Nationalists

The early nationalist leaders 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 Indians into the vortex of nationalist politics and their training in politics and political agitation.

The first important task was the creation of public interest in political questions and the organization 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.
Most important of all, national unity had to be created, in the first instance, among the politically conscious Indians and political workers and leaders. The early national leaders were fully aware of the fact that India had just entered the process of becoming a nation. Indians had to be carefully welded into a nation. Politically conscious Indians had to constantly work for the development and the consolidation of the feeling of national unity irrespective of religion, caste or region.

Economic Critique of Imperialism

The early nationalists took note of all the three forms of contemporary colonial economic exploitation, namely, through trade, industry and finance. They clearly grasped that the essence of British economic imperialism lay in the subordination of the Indian economy to the British economy. They strongly opposed the British attempt to develop in India the basic characteristics of a colonial economy. They organized a powerful agitation against official economic policies based on their colonial structure.

The early nationalists complained of India’s growing poverty and economic backwardness and the failure of modern industry and agriculture to grow and they put the blame on British economic exploitation. Dadabhai Naoroji declared that the British rule was “an everlasting, increasing, and every day increasing foreign invasion”. The nationalists criticized the official policies for bringing about the ruin of India’s traditional economic policies for bringing about the ruin of India’s traditional handicraft industries and for obstructing the development of modern industries.

The chief remedy they suggested for the removal of poverty was the rapid development of modern industries. They popularized the idea of Swadeshi or the use of Indian goods, and the boycott of British goods as a means of promoting Indian industries.

The nationalists complained that India’s wealth was being drained to England, and demanded that the drain be stopped. They carried on persistent agitation for the reduction of land revenue in order to lighten the burden of taxation on the peasant. They declared that high taxation to be one of the causes of India’s growing poverty and demanded the abolition of the salt tax. The nationalists agitated for the improvement in the conditions of work of the plantations.

Nationalist agitation on economic issues led to the growth of an all- India opinion that the British rule was based on the exploitation of India, was leading to India’s impoverishment and was producing economic backwardness and underdevelopment.

Constitutional Reforms

Their immediate demands were extremely moderate. They hoped to win freedom through gradual steps. From 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 were increased. The nationalists were totally dissatisfied with the Act of 1892. They demanded a larger share for Indians in the councils.

By the beginning of the 20th century the nationalist leaders advanced further and put forward the claim for swarajya or self-government within the British empire.This demand was made from the Congress platform by Gokhale in 1905 and Dadabhai in 1906.

Administrative Reforms

The early nationalists criticized the administrative measures of the British government. The administrative system was corrupt, inefficient and oppressive. The most important administrative reform they desired was Indianisation of the higher grades of administrative services. They put forward this demand on economic, political and moral grounds. Economically the European monopoly of the higher services was harmful to India on two grounds. Firstly, the Europeans were paid at very high rates and this made Indian administration very costly. Secondly, the Europeans sent out of India a large part of their salaries and their pensions were paid in England. This added to the drain of wealth from India. Politically the nationalists hoped that the Indianisation of these services would make the administration more responsive to Indian needs.

Defence of Civil Rights

The early Indian nationalists were attracted to modern civil rights, namely, the freedoms of speech, the Press, thought and association. They put up a strong defence of these civil rights whenever the Government tried to curtail them. The struggle for democratic freedoms became an integral part of the nationalist struggle for freedom. The Government arrested B.G.Tilak and several other leaders in 1897 for spreading disaffection against the Government. 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 moderate leaders. They started constitutional agitation with in the four walls of law. They believed that if public opinion was created and organized and popular demands presented to the authorities through petitions, meetings, resolutions and speeches, the authorities would concede these demands gradually and step by step. Their political work had 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. Secondly, the early nationalists wanted to persuade the British Government and British public opinion to introduce reforms along directions laid down by the nationalists. The moderates were never resorted to rebellion, aiding or abetting a foreign invasion or resort to crime.

Role of the Masses

The basic weakness of the early national movement lay in its narrow social base. It did not penetrate down to the masses. In fact, the leaders lacked faith in the masses. Describing the difficulties in the way of organizing of active political struggle, Gopal Krishna Gokhale pointed to the endless divisions and subdivisions in the country, the bulk of the population ignorant and clinging with a tenacity to the old modes of thought and sentiment, which are averse to all changes and do not understand change. Lacking support of the masses, the early nationalists could not adopt a militant political position.

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 by suggesting to Hume that the Congress should devote itself to social rather than political affairs. But the Congress leaders had refused to make the change. British officials now began to openly criticize the National Congress. British officials from Dufferin downwards began to brand the nationalist leaders as disloyal babus, seditious Brahmins and violent villains. The Congress was described as factory of sedition. In 1887, Dufferin attacked the Congress in a public speech and ridiculed it as representing only a microscopic minority of the people and Congress demands as a big jump into the unknown. Realising that the growing unity of the Indian people posed a major threat to their rule, the British authorities also pushed further the policy of divide and rule. They encouraged Sir Sayyed Ahmed Khan, Raja Shiva Prasad of Benaras, and other pro- British individuals to start anti- Congress movement. Lord Curzon said that the Congress was tottering to its fall and one of my greatest ambitions while in India was to assist it to a peaceful demise.


  1. Moderates are the personalities who showed the seed of national movement by using A O Home as a lightening conductor. Moderates followed the policy of liberalism, passive resistance with constitutional or legal means. they thought that all will be good if the government is acquainted with the true condition of the people. at that time(1885) it was necessary to follow the peaceful means of putting their demands for reforms because if violence was used the government would have followed repressive measures in order to curb the voice. Their contributions cannot be neglected because it is they who represents the masses, they marked the beginning of true national movement because it was not based on self-interest but it was the voice of masses..

    1. Pls write here the conclusion fr extremist phase also

  2. i wish i could have been there as a leader during our independence, india might have been in better condition right now

  3. You may think it now to improve India, time has yet not passed.People will automatically come in your way of mission.

  4. You may think it now to improve India, time has yet not passed.People will automatically come in your way of mission.