The popular resentment against the British rule began to express itself in the form of various associations like East India Association, Madras Mahajan Sabha, Bombay Presidency Association, the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, and the Servants of India Society. But the most active among all these associations was the Indian Association established under the leadership of S.N. Banerjee and Anand Mohan Bose. It organised active political propaganda throughout India and awakened the people. In 1883 it set up an All-India National Conference to bring representatives from all over India to a common platform.
In 1885 it held the meeting of the National conference at Calcutta for the second time. The idea of having an all-India organisation had struck the minds of several Indians. It only required the genius of an expert architect to devise a suitable plan and lay the foundation stone. The architect was Allan Octavian Hume, a retired British Civil Servant.
A.O. Hume had been constantly watching the developments that were taking place in India and realised that unless the discontentment of the Indian people were channelised through a peaceful organisation, it would lead to disastrous consequences. On 1st March, 1883 he made his famous appeal to the graduates of calcutta to set up an organisation with a band of fifty youngmen and to come forward to make every sacrifice in the service of their motherland.
He urged them to organise an association for the mental, social and political regeneration of the people of India. The appeal had a ready response and Indian National Union was formed towards the close of 1884. In March 1885 the Union decided to hold a meeting of the representatives from all parts of the country in December.
Accordingly in April 1885 a manifesto was issued inviting important persons to meet at Poona and to establish a national organisation. Hume was able to get official sympathy and support and even went to England to discuss the matter with British leaders. He sailed back to India in November 1885 and eminent Indians were invited to attend the meeting at Poona. As Poona became infected with cholera, the venue of the meeting was shifted to Bombay.
The first session of the All-India congress began on 28th December 1885 at Gokul Das Tej Pal Sanskrit College. It was presided over by Womesh Chandra Banerjee.Thus the Indian National Congress was brought into existence by the joint efforts of both Indian and British democrats.
Various interpretation are given to the objective of Hume in founding the congress. While some say Hume formed the congress to save the British Empire in India from a violent over-throw, others say that it was formed to act as a safety-valve to release the discontent of the Indians. But Prof. Bipan Chandra opines, “The congress was the culmination of the process of political awakening that had its beginning in the 1860s and 1870s and took a major leap forward in 1880s, and therefore the organisation would have been established without Hume.”
Whatever might have been the motive of A.O. Hume, it can not be denied that the Indian National Congress was established due to his efforts. He not only became its first General Secretary but continued to serve and guide it till his death in 1912.The aims of the 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 among the people, formulation of popular demands and their presentation before the Government and most important of all, the training and organisation of public opinion in the country.
The Indian National Congress was the Spearhead of freedom struggle and constituted the mainstream of the Indian National Movement. Its growth almost became synonymous with the growth of the Indian National Movement. The leadership of the movement always remained in the hands of the congress. The history of the congress and the Freedom Movement in India can be divided into three distinct phases – the Moderate, the Extremist and the Gandhian.