The Indian National Congress was founded in 1885 under the leadership of A.O. Hume. Originally known as the Indian Nation Union, the establishment of the Indian National Congress in 1885 was not a coincidence. It emerged as a result of a political awakening process that began in the 1860s and 1870s, culminating in the late 1870s and early 1880s.
This process experienced a significant turning point in 1885 when modern political thinkers, who saw themselves as champions of the nation’s interests rather than specific interest groups, witnessed the fruition of their efforts. They formed a nationalist organization that operated on a pan-Indian scale, serving as a platform, coordinator, focal point, and representation of the emerging national politics.
- The Indian National Congress was founded by 72 delegates on December 28, 1885, at Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit College in Mumbai (then Bombay). It was created by former Indian Civil Services Officer Allan Octavian Hume. The Congress was established with the goal of fostering a climate that would allow for polite dialogue between Indians and the British.
- Only educated Indians were invited to the Congress. Through the Congress, the British could gain support for their rule in India. This was made feasible because educated Indians were more receptive to modernization concepts and could therefore influence other Indians. The General Secretary of the Congress was Allan Octavian Hume, and the President of the Congress was Womesh Chunder Banerjee.
- The foundation for the establishment of a pan-Indian organization began to take shape in the late 1870s and early 1880s. A.O. Hume, a retired English civil official, played a crucial role in crystallizing this idea by seeking the assistance of prominent intellectuals of that era.
- To hold the inaugural session, Hume obtained permission from Lord Dufferin, who was the viceroy of India at the time. However, due to a cholera outbreak in Poona, the original location, the session was moved to Bombay. In 1883, Hume expressed his desire to create an organization that would represent educated Indians and advocate for increased participation in government. He conveyed this intention through an open letter addressed to graduates of Calcutta University.
- An important milestone in the history of the Indian National Congress was the participation of Kadambini Ganguly, the first woman to graduate from Calcutta University. In 1890, she delivered a speech at the Congress, highlighting the commitment of the freedom movement to ensuring equal rights and opportunities for Indian women in public life.
- The Indian National Congress (INC) was the first nationwide political movement in India, initially focused on promoting Indian participation in governmental affairs. However, its objective later evolved to strive for complete independence from British rule. After India gained independence, the INC transformed into a prominent political force within the country. In its early stages, the INC followed a moderate approach, employing constitutional means and discourse as its primary tactics.
- During this period, the party’s demands were limited to advocating for increased representation of Indians in the armed services and government, without explicitly discussing independence. Over time, the party’s demands and strategies became more radical.
- By 1905, clear divisions had emerged within the party. The more recent faction, known as the extremists, employed more radical tactics, while the long-standing moderates pursued a more restrained approach. Alongside the Indian National Congress, provincial conferences, associations, newspapers, and literature also played significant roles in the nationalist movement.
- The primary objective of the Indian National Congress (INC) was to promote and enhance Indian participation in governmental affairs. As the country’s first large-scale political movement, the INC aimed to establish friendly connections among nationalist political activists from different regions of the nation. It sought to foster a sense of national unity that transcended barriers of caste, religion, and province.
- The INC had multiple goals, including the compilation and submission of a list of general demands to the government. Additionally, the organization aimed to organize and shape public opinion across the country. It actively worked towards creating and promoting an anti-colonial nationalist ideology while upholding a strong sense of national unity among all citizens, irrespective of their religious, caste, or provincial identities.
Role of A. O Hume
- A.O. Hume played a significant role in the establishment and early years of the Indian National Congress (INC). While the idea for an all-India congress was discussed by a small group before Hume’s involvement, it is believed that his Indian Union, which he founded after leaving the Civil Service, contributed to the formation of the Congress.
- Hume, the son of British radical activist Joseph Hume, inherited his father’s political beliefs and initially had an interest in European revolutionary groups. He began his career with the East India Company in 1849 and was stationed in the Northwestern Provinces of India. During his time there, he developed an interest in initiatives aimed at promoting education, addressing social issues, and advancing agriculture. Hume even launched a newspaper in 1861 to raise awareness about political and social matters among the residents of Etawah.
- Hume’s pro-Indian stance and his efforts to improve Indian welfare were not appreciated by other British commanders. In 1870, he became Secretary to the Government of India, but his opinions led Viceroy Northbrook to threaten his dismissal. Hume’s strained relationship with Lord Lytton further led to his demotion in 1879, and he eventually left the civil service in 1882.
- After settling in Shimla, Hume developed a strong interest in Indian politics. He felt a closer connection to the Bombay and Poona factions of Indian leaders rather than those in Calcutta, such as Surendranath Banerjee and Narendra Nath Sen. Hume also acquainted himself with Viceroy Lord Ripon and became interested in his plan for local self-government.
- Overall, A.O. Hume’s background, experiences, and passion for Indian politics contributed significantly to his role as one of the key figures behind the formation of the Indian National Congress.
- There are several theories surrounding the foundation of the Indian National Congress (INC). Here are three prominent theories:
Safety Valve Theory (Lala Lajpat Rai)
- According to this theory, proposed by Lala Lajpat Rai, it is speculated that A.O. Hume, a retired English civil officer, established the INC as a means to address the growing discontent and unrest against British rule. It is suggested that Viceroy Dufferin may have suggested the idea of an annual gathering of intelligent Indians for political discussions. However, there is no concrete evidence to support the claim that Dufferin influenced the formation of the INC or that it was intended as a “safety valve” to vent out frustrations.
Conspiracy Theory (R.P. Dutt)
- The conspiracy theory, put forth by Marxist historian R.P. Dutt, suggests that the INC was a scheme orchestrated by bourgeois leaders to suppress a potential uprising of the Indian people. According to this theory, the INC was formed as a deliberate strategy to control and manipulate the nationalist movement.
Lightning Conductor Theory (G.K. Gokhale)
- G.K. Gokhale proposed the Lightning Conductor Theory, which posits that politically aware Indians wanted to establish a national organization to voice their political and economic aspirations. However, if they had attempted to create such an organization independently, the authorities would have strongly opposed it and likely suppressed its existence. Therefore, the early leaders of the INC utilized A.O. Hume as a “lightning conductor” or catalyst to unite patriotic forces and provide a platform for their political aspirations, albeit under the guise of a “safety valve.”
- It is important to note that these theories offer different perspectives on the motives and circumstances surrounding the establishment of the Indian National Congress. The accuracy and validity of each theory may vary, and further research and analysis are necessary to ascertain the true factors that contributed to the foundation of the INC.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What is the Indian National Congress (INC)?
A: The Indian National Congress, often referred to as Congress or INC, is one of India’s oldest and prominent political parties. It was founded in 1885 and played a significant role in India’s struggle for independence from British colonial rule.
Q: Who were the prominent leaders associated with the Indian National Congress during the freedom movement?
A: The INC was led by several prominent leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose, and many others who played crucial roles in India’s fight for independence.
Q: What is the ideology of the Indian National Congress?
A: The INC is known for its commitment to secularism, social justice, and inclusive development. It follows a broadly centrist and socialist ideology and has advocated for policies such as land reforms, economic equity, and the welfare of marginalized communities.
Q: How has the Indian National Congress performed in Indian elections?
A: The INC has had periods of both success and decline in Indian elections. It has formed the government at the central level several times and has also governed many Indian states. Its performance in elections has varied over time, with challenges from other political parties.
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