- Before the Indian National Congress (INC) came into existence, there were different political groups present. The INC was not the initial political organization in India. However, during the early 19th century, most political associations were primarily controlled by affluent and aristocratic individuals. These associations had a more localized or regional focus. As time progressed into the latter half of the 19th century, political organizations saw a shift in dominance towards the educated middle class, including professionals like lawyers, journalists, doctors, teachers, etc. These individuals possessed a wider outlook and pursued more comprehensive goals.
The objectives of political associations prior to the establishment of the Indian National Congress (INC) were as follows:
- Promoting Education: They advocated for the expansion of education among the general population, emphasizing the importance of education for social progress and empowerment.
- Enhancing Indian Representation: Their aim was to increase the presence and participation of Indians in the executive and legislative councils, seeking a more inclusive and representative governance structure.
- Opposing Discrimination: These associations actively opposed the discriminatory policies and actions implemented by the British administration that adversely affected Indians, striving for equality and justice.
- Administrative Reforms: They sought to bring about reforms in the administrative system to make it more responsive, transparent, and accountable to the needs and aspirations of the Indian population.
- Press Freedom: Ensuring the freedom of the press was another objective, advocating for the right to express opinions and disseminate information without censorship or undue restrictions.
- These objectives reflected the aspirations and concerns of the pre-INC political associations, laying the foundation for the larger movement towards independence and self-governance in India.
Bangabhasha Prakasika Sabha
- The Bangabhasha Prakasika Sabha was established in 1836 by the associates of Raja Rammohan Roy. It emerged prior to the formation of the Indian National Congress (INC). The primary objectives of this organization were to advocate for administrative reforms, promote the participation of Indians in the administration, and spread education. Additionally, the Sabha played a significant role in awakening a sense of collective will and fostering a path toward modern nationalism among the general population.
Zamindari Association (Bengal Landholders Society)
- The Zamindari Association also referred to as the ‘Landholders’ Society,’ was established in 1838 with the aim of protecting the interests of landlords. Its founders included Prasanna Kumar Tagore, Dwarkanath Tagore, and Radhakant Deb, who formed the organization in 1836. Although the Landholders’ Society had a specific focus, it marked the beginning of the organized political engagement and the utilization of constitutional methods to address grievances.
- The association primarily sought to safeguard the interests of landlords and pursued its objectives through constitutional means. It employed tactics such as lengthy petitions to the British Parliament, advocating for administrative reforms, greater Indian participation in the administration, and the promotion of education, among other demands.
- These political organizations played a crucial role in advancing their causes by utilizing constitutional agitation methods and engaging with the British authorities through petitions and appeals.
Bengal British India Society
- The Bengal British India Society was established in 1843 in England by William Adam, who was a close associate of Raja Ram Mohan Roy. Its primary goal was to raise awareness about the dire conditions in which the British were subjecting the Indian population, with the aim of improving their circumstances. The society employed constitutional and legal methods to pursue its objectives.
British India Association
- The British India Association came into existence in 1851 through the merger of the Bengal Landholders Society and the British India Society. Its main function was to present petitions that addressed the concerns and grievances of the general public. For example, they submitted a petition to the British Parliament, offering suggestions for the new Charter Law of the company. As a result, one of their suggestions was incorporated into the Charter Act of 1853, leading to the expansion of the Governor General’s Council for Legislative purposes by adding six new members.
- However, due to the lack of a comprehensive political strategy, the British India Association was unable to operate on a nationwide scale.
East India Association
- The East India Association was founded by Dadabhai Nawrojee in London in 1867. Its primary objective was to raise awareness among the British public about the prevailing conditions in India and to garner support for the welfare of the Indian people. It is also recognized as the precursor to the Indian National Congress, which played a crucial role in India’s independence movement.
- One significant aspect of the East India Association was its challenge to the notion of Asians being inferior to Europeans, particularly in response to the Ethnological Society of London’s beliefs in 1866. The association aimed to refute these discriminatory ideas and promote equality.
- By 1869, the East India Association had established its presence in major Indian cities such as Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta, indicating its growing influence and outreach.
- The Indian League was established in 1875 by Sisir Kumar Ghosh with the aim of fostering a spirit of nationalism and promoting political education among the Indian population. The organization attracted prominent nationalist leaders, including Ananda Mohan Bose, Durgamohan Das, Nabagopal Mitra, and Surendranath Banerjee, among others. These leaders played significant roles in advocating for Indian independence and shaping the nationalist movement in India.
Indian National Association (Indian Association of Calcutta)
- The Indian National Association, also known as the Indian Association of Calcutta, was founded in 1876 by prominent Bengali nationalists like Anand Mohan Bose and Surendranath Banerjee. The organization emerged as a response to the British India Association’s conservative and pro-landlord policies, which caused discontent among the younger generation of Bengali nationalists.
- The Indian National Association had several objectives, including advocating for reforms in civil services examinations and mobilizing public opinion on significant national political issues. The association’s presence in various Indian cities allowed them to expand their membership and connect with a wider audience.
- Eventually, the Indian National Association merged with the Indian National Congress, which became the leading political organization in the struggle for India’s independence. The merger helped consolidate the nationalist movement and strengthen its efforts to achieve self-rule for India.
Poona Sarvajanik Sabha
- The Poona Sarvajanik Sabha was founded in 1870 by notable figures such as M.G. Ranade, G.V. Joshi, S.H. Chiplankar, and their associates. This sociopolitical organization played a crucial role in British India, serving as a mediator between the government and the Indian people. One of the primary objectives of the Sabha was to raise awareness and promote the legal rights of peasants.
- The Poona Sarvajanik Sabha aimed to bridge the gap between the authorities and the common people, advocating for the rights of the agricultural community and working to popularize their legal entitlements. By acting as a mediating body, the Sabha sought to foster a better understanding between the government and the Indian population while championing the cause of the peasants.
Bombay Presidency Association
- The Bombay Presidency Association was founded in 1885 by Pherozshah Mehta, K.T. Telang, and Badruddin Tyabji. The establishment of this association was a response to the reactionary policies of Lord Lytton, the then Viceroy of India, and the controversy surrounding the Ilbert Bill.
- The Bombay Presidency, also referred to as Bombay and Sind from 1843 to 1936, was an administrative region within British India. It encompassed the area with its capital in Bombay (now Mumbai), which was the first mainland territory acquired in the Konkan region through the Treaty of Bassein in 1802.
Madras Mahajan Sabha
- The Madras Mahajan Sabha was a prominent Indian nationalist organization based in the Madras Presidency. It is considered one of the precursors to the Indian National Congress, alongside other organizations such as the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, the Bombay Presidency Association, and the Indian Association.
- In May 1884, the Madras Mahajan Sabha was founded by influential individuals such as M. Veeraraghavachariar, G. Subramania Iyer, and P. Ananda Charlu. The Sabha played a vital role in promoting nationalist ideals and advocating for the interests and rights of the Indian people in the Madras Presidency region. Its formation and activities contributed to the eventual emergence of the Indian National Congress as a unified national platform for the Indian independence movement.
Bombay Association (Bombay Native Association)
- The Bombay Association, also known as the Bombay Native Association, was initiated in 1852 by notable individuals including Jaggannath Shankersheth, Sir Jamshedji Jejibhai, Jagannath Shankarshet, Naoroji Fursungi, Dr Bhau Daji Lad, Dadabhai Naoroji, and Vinayak Shankarshet. This association is recognized as the first political party or organization in the Bombay Province.
- The primary objective of the Bombay Association was to address public grievances by employing legal and agitational means. The organization sought to represent the interests and concerns of the local population, advocating for their rights and working towards the improvement of their social, economic, and political conditions within the Bombay Province.
Madras Native Association
- The Madras Native Association was established by Gazulu Lakshminarasu Chetty in 1849 within the Madras Presidency. This organization holds the distinction of being the first political organization in Madras.
- The Madras Native Association played a significant role in voicing the concerns and interests of the local population in the Madras Presidency. It aimed to promote the rights and welfare of the native people and actively engaged in political activities to address their grievances. By providing a platform for political mobilization, the association laid the groundwork for subsequent political organizations and movements in the region.
Limitations of Political Association Before INC
- Before the formation of the Indian National Congress (INC), the political associations of the time played a crucial role in generating nationalism and addressing the political aspirations of the Indian public. However, these associations had certain limitations:
- Local Focus: The activities of these associations were primarily centred around resolving local issues and concerns. Their scope and impact were limited to specific regions or provinces.
- Regional Leadership: The members and leaders of these associations were generally limited to individuals from one or adjoining provinces. This regional focus restricted their ability to represent a diverse range of interests and perspectives from across the entire subcontinent.
- Lack of National Unity: The absence of a unified national platform meant that these political associations operated independently and did not have a coordinated effort or shared vision for the entire country. The absence of a cohesive national front limited their collective strength and impact.
- The emergence of National Unity: The formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885 marked a significant turning point as it brought together leaders from different regions and communities, providing a platform for national unity and a coordinated effort towards common political goals.
- The Indian National Congress played a pivotal role in establishing a nationwide movement for independence and became a unifying force for the diverse aspirations of the Indian people.
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