The Indian national movement up to 1905 was dominated by leaders who have often been described as moderate nationalists or Moderates.
The political methods of the Moderates can be summed up briefly as constitutional agitation within the four walls of the law, and slow, orderly political progress.
They believed that if public opinion was created and organised 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, therefore, a two-pronged direction. First, to build up a strong public opinion in India to arouse the political consciousness and national spirit of the people, and to educate and unite them on political questions.
Basically, even the resolutions and petitions of the National Congress were directed towards this goal. Though ostensibly their memorials and petitions were addressed to the government, their real aim was to educate the Indian people.
For example, when in 1891 the young Gokhale expressed disappointment at the two-line reply of the government to a carefully proposed memorial by the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, Justice Ranade replied:
You don’t realise our place in the history of our country. These memorials are nominally addressed to government. In reality they are addressed to the people, so that they may learn how to think in these matters.
This work must be done for many years, without expecting any other results, because politics of this kind is altogether new in this land.
Second, the early nationalists wanted to persuade the British government and British public opinion to introduce reforms along directions laid down by the nationalists.
The Moderate nationalists believed that the British people and Parliament wanted to be just to India but that they did not know the true state of affairs there.
Therefore, next to educating Indian public opinion, the Moderate nationalists worked to educate British public opinion. For this purpose, they carried on active propaganda in Britain.
Deputations Indians were sent to Britain to propagate the Indian view, 1889, a British Committee of the India National Congress was the Committee started a journal called India. Spent a major part of his life and income in and Popularising India’s case among its people.
A student of the Indian national movement sometimes gets confused when he reads loud professions of loyalty to the British rule by prominent Moderate leaders.
These professions do not at all mean that they were not genuine patriots or that they were cowardly men. They genuinely believed that the continuation of India’s political connection with Britain was in the interests of India at that stage of history.
They, therefore, planned not to expel the British but transform the British rule to approximate national rule. Later, when they took note of the evils of the British rule and the failure of the government to accept nationalist demands for reform, many of them stopped talking of loyalty to the British rule and started demanding self-government for India.
Moreover, many of them were Moderates because they felt that the time was not yet ripe to throw a direct challenge to the foreign rulers.