Lord Dufferin 1884

Lord Dufferin served as Governor General of India and Viceroy from 1884 to 1888. During his tenure, the Third Burmese war led to annexation of whole of Burma and Burmese ruler was exiled to India. In 1885, AO Hume laid the foundation of Indian National Congress. In 1885, the Panjdeh Incident happened in which the Russian forces seized Afghan territory south of Amu Darya around site of Panjdeh {now located in Turkmenistan}. This created a diplomatic crisis between Russia and Great Britain.

Panjdeh Incident

This incident occurred in 1885 as consequence of constant expansion policy of Russia towards Afghanistan. Russians occupied Merv Oasis in 1884 and further claimed Panjdeh. Both British and Russians started making military preparation as an all out war could happen next. However, the war was averted by diplomatic efforts of Lord Dufferin who managed to secure a settlement in which Russia kept the Merv Oasis and Panjdeh, but relinquished an important pass {Zulfikar Pass} further west and promised to respect Afghan territorial integrity in the future.

Further, a joint commission of the British and the Russians was appointed to demarcate the Northern boundary of Afghanistan. The line demarcation was fixed in 1887.

The Third Burmese War, 1886

The lower Burma had been annexed by Lord Dalhousie but upper Burma was still independent and King Thebau was ruling it. He had entered into a commercial treaty with the French and had personally welcomed and honoured the French envoy. This raised British concerns of increased French influence in Burma. Further, the King imposed heavy fine on the Bombay Burma Trading Company and ordered arrest of officials of this company. Lord Dufferin requested the King that before taking any action, a thorough inquiry should be made. However, King rejected the request. Irked Dufferin sent an ultimatum to suspend the proceeding against Bombay Burma Trading Company till the arrival of the envoy and also grant the British to trade with China through Burmese territory. Further, he also asked the King to not to keep relations with foreign countries except without advice of Government of India.

When these demands were rejected, British invaded upper Burma and within two weeks King surrendered. He was taken prisoner and was sent to Madras. On January 1, 1886, the territories of Burma were annexed in British India and on September 25, 1886, Lower Burma was annexed as province of British India under Sir Charles Bernard as the first chief commissioner.

The British interference and annexation of Upper Burma has been severely criticised by many writers and is called “unjust” and a result of imperialism. Thebaw was an independent ruler and was free to establish diplomatic relations with any country.

This annexation aroused the Burmese people who started seeking independence by protracted guerrilla warfare. The series of expensive campaigns against these Guerrilla warriors was led and they were suppressed brutally. This annexation was not even welcome in India because of the increased expenses which were now to be at the cost of Indian Subjects. So, Indians prayed to make the Burma a crown colony like Ceylon rather than a province of India.

Birth of Congress 1885

In May 1885, Allan Octavian Hume secured the Viceroy’s approval to create an “Indian National Union”, which would be affiliated with the government and act as a platform to voice Indian public opinion. On 28 December 1885, the Indian National Congress was founded at Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit College in Bombay, with 72 delegates in attendance. The first session was presided by Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee. In this session, Congress adopted a resolution expressing the dissatisfaction on the current system of Governance and demanded reforms in the Councils. After this resolution, Lord Dufferin had established a committee for the reforms in the councils and this resulted in the Indian Councils Act 1892.  This act introduced the principle of representation in India.

Resignation of Lord Dufferin

Lord Dufferin resigned in 1888 and was succeeded by Lord Lansdowne as Governor-General and Viceroy of India.

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