The growth of nationalism and political consciousness led to the birth and growth of several political organizations emerged mostly during the later half of the 19th century.
The “British Indian society, British Indian Association, Indian League, Indian Association, Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, Hindu Mela, London Indian Society, the National Indian Association, the Indian Society and All India National Conference were among the political organizations which played significant part in the political life of India before the birth of Indian National Congress.
None of the above mentioned political organizations had the purpose of fighting against the British to achieve independence for India. They simply wanted to ventilate the grievances of the people through constitutional and peaceful means and to pray for some political concessions to the British Indian subjects.
Birth of Indian National Congress:
There are several views in the origin of the National Congress. Some opine that the idea originated in the Delhi Durbar of 1877. Others say that the idea was conceived in a private meeting of some members of the Theosophical Convention held at Madras in December 1884. But there is no historical evidence in support of these views.
It was Lord Dufferin, the Viceroy of India, who had already hinted at the need of an all India organization of Indian intellectuals through which the demand and grievances of the Indians could be better represented to the Government. Mr.A.O. Hume, a retired member of Indian Civil Service and a great champion of Indian cause, took the initiative in the formation of such an organization.
In an opened letter addressed to the young graduates of Calcutta University on the 1st March 1883, Hume appealed to the Indian intellectual to form an association for the moral, social and political regeneration of India. In response to his appeal, the Indian National union was formed towards the close of 1884 with its branches in big cities of India.
Though an English man Hume was terribly moved by the abject poverty and the distress of the people of India under the British rule. He cautioned the British authorities in India against the growing discontent might lead to a violent revolution to drive out the British from Indian soil.
He therefore, wanted to save the British Empire in India from an impending danger by forming an organization of educated and consciousness Indians to ventilate the grievance of the Indian mass. He met Lord Dufferin, the Viceroy and explained to him the need for a political organization of some Indian intellectuals. The Viceroy immediately agreed to the proposal of Mr. Hume, who gave a clarion call to few graduates of Calcutta University to form such an organization. It was well responded and an all-India political organization came into being in the name of Indian National union.
The first session of the Indian National Union was held on 28th, 29th, and 30th December 1885, during the Christmas holidays at6 Bombay within the Campus of the Gokuladas Tejpal Sanskrit College. It was presided over by Mr. W.C. Banarjee. A.O.Hume, K.T.Telang, Subramanya Aiyar and Dadabhai Naroji were among the distinguished speakers of the session. Dadabhai, the grand old man of India, suggested that the Indian National Union be named as Indian National Congress. It was unanimously accepted and the Indian National Congress was, thus, born in December 1885.
Objectives of the Indian National Congress
The objects of the Congress, as stated by its president W.C. Banarjee were:
(i) to promote personal intimacy of and friendship amongst those people from every part of India who were sincerely devoted to the welfare of India.
(ii) To protect and enhance the feeling of unity among all Indians without distinction of Caste, religion and province ETC.
(iii) to collect all those opinions concerning society which were properly deliberated on by the educated Indians and
(iv) to fix up those aims and means which were to be adopted by Indian politicians for the welfare of India.
Besides it passed certain resolutions which were to be placed before the Government in form of petitions. The resolutions requested the Government to abolish the India Council, to hold the Indian Civil Service Examination in India as well to increase the age limit for appearing in the Indian Civil Service Examination, to have elected members in legislative assemblies and to establish legislative assemblies in North-West Frontier Province, Oudh and Punjab. Thus, the Congress started functioning as an all-India organization from 1885 with very modest objectives.
It will not be correct to trace the origin of the Indian National Congress to the efforts of a single individual like A.O. Hume. The various political organizations, started earlier, in different parts of India had already prepared the ground.
The foundation of the Indian National Congress in 1885 was only a visible expression of that national awakening. Again it has been said that Hume’s main purpose in encouraging the foundation of the Congress was to provide a “Safety Valve” or a safe outlet to the growing discontent among the educated Indians. Lord Dofferin, the then Viceroy of India, welcomed Hume’s plan for establishing a political organization through which the Government would be in a position to ascertain the real wishes of the people and , thus, save the administration from any possible political revolt in the country.
The Indians wanted to establish the Congress to fight and India’s political and economic advancement. They co-operated with Hume, because they did not want to arouse official hostility to their early political efforts. “If Hume wanted to use Congress as a ‘Safety Valve’, the early congress leaders hoped to use him as a lightening conductor.”