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National Congress of India

In this blog post we will discuss about the National Congress of India. Before, let us remember that East India Company, which granted charter to trade with the East Indies in 1600 CE.

But the successful trading made great British influence in India 1600–1800. When Indian army rose up in revolt against the British trading (becoming political) power, it affected things in opposite. As a result the incident compelled an establishment of British rule (colonial power) in India.

The policy of repression and racial discrimination followed by the British rulers in India agitated the Indians against them. Indians could not tolerate some of the English attitudes towards them, and lost their faith in the English people.

They came to realize that no justice could be expected from the English men. Under such circumstances the need for all- India organisation keenly felt. Therefore Surendra Nath Banerjee called, in 1883, the so-called Indian National Conference which regarded as the forerunner of the National Congress of India.

National Congress of India

The National Congress of Indian founded in 1885 on the initiative of Mr.Allan Octavian Hume, a retired British civilian. He suggested the formation of an association for mental, moral, social and political regeneration of the people of India.

The first meeting held in 1885 in Bombay (today’s Mumbai) with 70 delegates. The second and third sessions held at Calcutta and Madras respectively. It was in 1887 that Indian National Conference and Indian National Congress merged together. Throughout the 19th century Indian National Congress (INC) criticized the British Government policy and demanded for reforms. It asked for very genuine reforms on the followings:

1. More Indians should be employed on higher posts.

2. The provincial as well as the Central legislature should be expanded.

3. More facilities should be provided for education both general and technical.

4. The military expenditure should be reduced.

5. The burden of taxes should be made lighter,

6. Separation of Judicial and Executive Functions in criminal justice administration, etc.

In the beginning British Government was more or less friendly towards the INC. After hearing more and more demands, the British Government changed her attitude to the INC. In turn, a section of the Congress lost faith in the British Government. However, up to 1905, men like Surendra Nath Banerjee, Feroz Shah Mehta, Dadabhai Naoroji and Gopal Krishna Gokhale guided the Congress with the belief in the moderate policy, i.e the policy of resolution and reforms.

Rise of Swadeshi Movement

British Govt. could not grant all the petitions of the Congress and the Congress was unhappy. In 1896 a severe famine broke out, and the Indians suffered severely. The Indians (like Bal Gangadhara Tilak and others) blamed British for their suffering.

The Universities’ Act (1904) and the Partition of Bengal (1905) passed by the British. Against these acts of the Government; and the Bengalis started Swadeshi Movement on 7th Aug.1905 and boycotted the British goods. The Congress too, in its sessions of 1905 and 1906, adopted the Swadeshi Movement.

In addtion to this, when the British Govt. did not listen to the Crogress properly a section of the Congress began to drift towards extremism. Famous revolutionary leaders were Bal Gangadhara Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal and others.

Muslim Attitude toward the National Congress of India

For some time the policy of British ‘Divide and Rule’ was successful to the Muslims of India and Muslims did not support the Congress because they thought of it to be a Hindu body and feared it.

Taking an advantage of their fear, the English kept Muslims far away from Congress. The Muslim founded the Muslim League in 1906 to ask for more and more reforms for the Muslims and to make a demand for a separate electorate.

The war between Turkey and British aroused strong anti-British feelings among powerful sections of the Muslims and paved the way for co-operation between the Congress and the Muslim League.

Both the parties concluded the famous ‘Lucknow Pact’ in 1916. But nothing came out of it and the two organizations never came together again.

Extremists and Moderates of the National Congress of India

Due to the negligence of the British to the demands of the Congress, there came out two groups of the Congress, i.e. Extremists/Left Wings and Moderates/Right Wings of the Congress. The split between those groups occured at Surat in 1907.

Some of the extremist leaders imprisoned to please the Moderates. The British passed the Minto-Morley and the Moderates not satisfied with that. The British policy of ‘Divide and Rule’ alienated the Moderates and paved the way for their union with the Extremists at the Lucknow Session in 1916.

Home Rule Movement

Mrs Annie Besant (leader of Theosophy) joined the Congress in 1914 and started in 1916 the Home Rule Movement in collaboration with B.G Tilak. She arrested in 1917 but released later. However the Home Rule Movement died out.

Rowlatt Act, January, 1919

In July 1919 the British promised to give some more share to the people of India in the administration of the country. The Moderates welcomed it but the Extremists did not approve it. Again there was a split between them and the Moderates left theCongress.

Thus the Extremists dominated the Congress. To face the extremist Congress, the British Government passed the Rowlatt Act in January, 1919 to challenge the self-respect of the people-Indians. This Act gave the Govt. power to imprison the suspected persons. But this Act badly counteracted by the Indians.

It was at that critical junction that M.K.Gandhi played important role in the political affairs of India. B.G.Tilak died in 1920 August: and then Gandhi became the sole guide of the Congress.

National Congress of India under Gandhi and Freedom Movement

Before, Gandhi entered to political field of India he served the Indians for the last 22 years (1893- 1915) in South Africa. During the First World War, he helped the British Government. But when he found British attitude towards his country people he plunged into the Freedom Movement with heart and soul.

When Tilak died on 1st Aug.1920, Gandhi came to control the Congress. He started Non-Co-operation Movement and asked the people to offer Satyagraha in against to the Rowlatt Act of 1919. Many Indians killed and wounded in 1919.

Even Gandhi arrested, but the Indians were more determined to fight against the foreign rule.

When Gandhi came out of the jail, he once again started the Non-Co-Operation Movement. He supported by some of the nationalists including Rabindra Nath Tagore who renounced his knigthood. Many students cooperated with Gandhi.

In 1928 the Congress appointed a committee to draft the future constitution of India. In December, 1928, this committee popularly known Nehru Committee, under the presidentship of Pt Moti Lal Nehru, proposed a Dominion Status for India.

The next year, i.e in 1929 Lahore Session of the INC, under the Presidentship of Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru, declared complete independence as the chief goal of the Indians.

Civil Disobedience Movement

In order to achieve complete independence for India, M.K Gandhi started the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930. Many Indians supported and took part in it. But the British Govt., in order to suppress this movement, imprisoned as many as 60,000 people. Gandhi also arrested.

There could be no agreement between the Congress and British Govt. during 1930–1934. Only when the British Parliament passed the Government of India Act of 1935 Gandhi called off the Civil Disobedience Movement.

According to this Act elections held for the Provincial Legislature in 1937; and the Congress Party established Government in 8 out of the 11 Provinces; but they resigned in 1939.

Mr. Jinnah (Muslim League leader) took the advantage of Congress’ resignation by demanding a separate home and of Muslims. British Government supported him.

Individual Civil Disobedience Movement

Then Gandhi started the Individual Civil Disobedience Movement in 1940 that caused imprisonment of himself and Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru.

In addition to the then political problem of India, the Second World War was in its full swing. In order to save India from Japanese attack, Gandhi (the leading spirit of the Congress), started the ‘Quit India Movement’ in 1942 to let English people leave India.

As a result, Gandhi himself arrested and the Congress Party declared illegal; and British Government curently treated many innocent Indians. In return, many Indians rose in open rebellion. Riots broke out at various places.

Thousands of Indians killed and many were arrested. But the fire of nationalism and patriotism burnt greatly in the minds of many Indians.

In 1947 Second World War was over with the victory of the English. In the same year the Labour Party in Britain that wanted to transfer power to India came to power and sent Cabinet Mission to India.

There was election for the Constituent Assembly in July, 1944. The Congress took 211 seats out of 296. Muslim League boycotted the Constituent Assembly. Communal riots broke out in different parts of India.

Now it was clear that the Partition of the country was quite inevitable. Thus Interim Government set up in India. But Muslim League and Congress continued the conflict.

The Independence Act of 1947 and the Partition India

On 20th January, 1947, the British Government made an important announcement by declaring that the British would leave India with condition that Muslim League should join Constituent Assembly.

Knowing that the British declaration contained a veiled hint for/about the Partition of India, Muslim League had cruelly shown its demand for a separate country. In March 1947 Lord Mountbatten replaced Lord Wavell, the then Viceroy of India.

The new Viceroy tried to unify Muslim League and the Congress, but he found the impossibility of unity. Thus he made an important announcement on 3rd June, 1947 regarding the partition of India. You can read about justice by clicking here.

On the basis of the above mentioned declaration; the British Parliament proposed the establishment of two dominions of India, and Pakistan; and the withdrawal of the British authority in India came to an end on 15th August 1947; and the country partitioned into two parts, i,e India and Pakistan.

Manorama Year Book, 1991, p.488 has contained: “Parts of Punjab (West Punjab) and Bengal (East Bengal) and the whole of the provinces of Sind, Baluchistan, and the North West Frontier became Pakistan. The rest of India formed another State”.

The Indian National Congress got her goal, independence of India; but with the loss of the area called ‘Pakistan’. Indian independence became a successful attainment with the expense of the beloved area of a part of the country.

Originally published at https://mahasoe.com on May 19, 2021.