As a result of the spread of modern Western education and thought during the nineteenth century, a large number of Indians imbibed a modern rational, secular, democratic and nationalist political outlook.
They also began to study, admire and emulate the contemporary nationalist movements of European nations. Rousseau, Paine, John Stuart Mill and other Western thinkers became their political guides, while Mazzini, Garibaldi and Irish nationalist leaders became their political heroes.
These educated Indians were the first to feel the humiliation of foreign subjection. By becoming modern in their thinking, they also acquired the ability to study the evil effects of foreign rule.
They were inspired by the dream of a modern, strong, prosperous, and united India. In course of time, the best among them became the leaders and organisers of the national movement.
It should be clearly understood that it was not the modern educational system that created the national movement which was the product of the conflict of interests between Britain and India.
The system only enabled educated Indians to imbibe Western thought and thus to assume the leadership of the national movement and to give it a democratic and modern direction.
In fact, in the schools and colleges, the authorities tried to inculcate notions of docility and servility to foreign rule. Nationalist ideas were a part of the general spread of modern ideas.
In other Asian countries such as China and Indonesia, and all over Africa, modern and nationalist ideas spread even though modern schools and colleges existed on a much smaller scale.
Modern education also created a certain uniformity and community of outlook and interests among the educated Indians. The English language played an important role in this respect.
It became the medium for the spread of modern ideas. It also became the medium of communication and exchange of ideas between educated Indians from different linguistic regions of the country.
But soon English also became a barrier to the spread of modern knowledge among the common people. It also acted as a wall separating the educated urban people from the common people, especially in the rural areas.
This fact was fully recognised by Indian political leaders. From Dadabhai Naoroji, Sayyid Ahmed Khan and Justice Ranade to Tilak and Gandhiji, they agitated for a bigger role for the Indian languages in the educational system.
In fact, so far as the common people were concerned, the spread of modern ideas occurred through the developing Indian languages, the growing literature in them, and most of all the popular Indian language press.