The British authorities were from the beginning hostile to the rising nationalist movement and had become suspicious of the National Congress. Duffer in, the Viceroy, had tried to divert the national movement by suggesting to Hume that the Congress should devote itself to social rather than political affairs.
But the Congress leaders had refused to make the change. It soon became a tool in the hands of the authorities and it was gradually becoming a focus of Indian nationalism. British officials now began to openly criticise and condemn the National Congress and other nationalist spokesmen.
British officials from Duffer in downwards began to brand the nationalist leaders as ‘disloyal babus, ‘seditious Brahmins’ and ‘violent villains’.
The Congress was described as ‘a factory of sedition’. In 1887, Duffer in attacked the National Congress in a public speech and ridiculed it as representing only “a microscopic minority of the people”.
In 1900, Lord Curzon announced to the Secretary of State that “the Congress is tottering to its fall, and one of my great ambitions, while in India is to assist it to a peaceful demise.”
Realising that the growing unity of the Indian people posed a major threat to their rule, the British authorities also pushed further the policy of ‘divide and rule’.
They encouraged Sayyid Ahmad Khan, Raja Shiva Prasad of Banaras, and other pro-British individuals to start an anti- Congress movement. They also tried to drive a wedge between Hindus and Muslims.
They followed a policy of minor concessions on the one hand and ruthless repression on the other to put down growth of nationalism. Opposition by the authorities failed, however, in checking the growth of the national movement.