Biography of Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee

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Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee (1844-1906) was born at Calcutta in an affluent Brahmin family. Following his family tradition, he studied law (at the Middle Temple, London) and later became very successful as a lawyer. While he was in London, he helped in the formation of the London Indian Society, which later integrated with the East India Association. Thus, even while he was in London, he championed the cause of his country and his countrymen.

After returning to India, Bonnerjee played a pioneering role in the formation of the Indian National Congress. He was its first President and as such, presided over its first session in 1885. In 1891, he was once again chosen as the Congress President. As a politician, Bonnerjee held a moderate ap­proach. If on one hand, he strongly condemned the anti-India policies of the British, on the other he also acknowledged the benefits India enjoyed from its association with Britain. He wanted the British to provide the "same facilities of national life that exist in Britain" to Indians. Further, he was in favour of western education for his countrymen.

In his personal life too, Bonnerjee had an unorthodox attitude towards various aspects of life, especially religion and social customs. He advocated widow remarriage, abo­lition of child marriage etc.

In 1902, Bonnerjee left for England and settled there. He started practicing at the Privy Council. Bonnerjee has the distinction of being the first Indian to contest election to the British House of Commons.


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