Birth of Congress 1885

The need for the formation of an all-India political organization had become an objective necessity. The pre-congress organizations were limited in scope and objectives. This led to development of some basic needs and objectives before the leaders. It was said that the Indians need to be welded together for their political advancements.

It was Allan Octavian Hume, who embarked on an endeavor to start an organization of select alumni of the University of Calcutta in 1883. By May 1885, he was able to secure 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. At the time of General Elections in Britain in 1885, A O Hume published an “Appeal from the People of India” to the electors of Great Britain and Ireland. This appeal asked the British Voters to support the candidates who were sympathetic to the Indian public opinions. However, there was no substantial result of this appeal. The major issued raised by these people were:

  • Spending Indian taxpayer’s money on British Indian campaigns in Afghanistan
  • Legislative reforms on India for greater participation of the Indian people.
  • Increased pressure on India by annexation of Burma.

On 28 December 1885, the Indian National Congress was founded at Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit College in Bombay, with 72 delegates in attendance. The first meeting was originally scheduled for Pune but due to plague outbreak, the venue was shifted to Mumbai. The first Session of INC was held from 28-31 December 1885, and was attended by 72 delegates. A O Hume assumed office as the General Secretary. Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee of Calcutta was elected President. The additional British Members were William Wedderburn and Justice John Jardine. All others were the Hindus from Calcutta and Madras Presidency.

Initial Sessions

In the First session of the Congress, it 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. The second session of Indian National Congress met at Calcutta in December 1886 under Dadabhai Naoroji.

Congress Demands in Early Years

During the early years, Congress passed the resolutions on the related to political, administrative and economic public grievances. The main political demand was the reform in the legislative councils so that the Indians get wider powers such as discussion on Budget, so that they work as representatives of the people. There was a demand of local self-government at a wider level. They wanted reforms in the Civil services and through a simultaneous ICS examination at India as well as England, so that the administration becomes more responsive to the needs of the Indian People.

The other demands were:

  • Seperation of Judiciary with Executive
  • Repeal of the arms act
  • Higher jobs in the army for the Indians
  • Rising of an Indian volunteers force.
  • Similarly, the economic issues were based upon the drain of wealth from India to England.
  • It was documented and published by Dada Bhai Naoroji as “Poverty and un-British Rule in India”.
  • The Congress leaders wanted an inquiry into India’s growing poverty and famines, reduction in military expenditure and home expenditures
  • They wanted more funds for technical education to promote Indian industries.
  • Another demand was to put an end to unfair tariffs and excise duties imposed on Indian traders very discriminately.
  • They wanted extension of permanent settlement to other areas.

Early Congress and British

The idea behind these reasonable demands was to put a national character to the British Government of India. The methodology of the early Congress leaders was limited to pass resolutios and prepare petitions to be sent to England. The British Committee of INC was founded in 1889 and in 1890; this committee started a journal called India.

Thus we see that initially the Indian National Congress wished to achieve the Indian Objectives within the British Empire. But in the due course, Congress became the focus and fulcrum of Indian Nationalist aspirations and it was in 1929, when independence was kept above all the other goals. Initially the objectives were limited and it worked with the constitutional limits. But still it was being looked with suspicion with the by the British.

When Congress was formed, the secretary of state for India was Earl of Kimberley, who served in this capacity from December 1882 to 9 June 1885. But when the Congress met for the first time on 28 December 1885, the Secretary of State for India was Lord Randolph Churchill, whose tenure was from  24 June 1885 28 January 1886, just 6 months. After that Earl of Kimberley again became secretary of state for India and served in this capacity from 6 February 1886 to 20 July 1886. This question has been asked many times in examinations.

The demands of the Congress were ridiculed in the British Media. But it was Earl of Kimberley, the Secretary of State for India who somewhat supported the reasonable demands. Lord Dufferin initially did not take Congress much seriously. Then, there was a blast and all of a sudden a Pamphlet appeared titled “The Rising Tide“. Another pamphlet appeared titled “An Old Man’s Home“. These were agianst the British and Lord Dufferin took no time to react and express objection to these mischief. He initially called Congress as representative of “microscopic minority of India” but later in the fourth session of Allahabad, the Government servants were disallowed to take part in the proceedings of the Congress.  Thus was the beginning of the movement of Independence in India.

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