Beginning of Modern Nationalism in India

The rise and growth of Indian nationalism has been traditionally explained in terms of Indian response to the stimulus generated by the British Raj through creation of new institutions, new opportunities, resources, etc.

  • v  Factors in Growth of Modern Nationalism
  • Ø  Understanding of contradictions in Indian and colonial interests

§  People came to realize that colonial rule was the major cause of India’s economic backwardness

  • Ø  Political, administrative and economic unification of the country

§  For administrative convenience, considerations of military defense and the urge for economic penetration and commercial exploitation were the driving forces behind the planned development of modern means of transport and communication such as railways, roads, electricity and telegraph.

§  A professional civil service, a unified judiciary and codified civil and criminal laws made throughout the whole country.

§  From the nationalists’ point of view, this process of unification had a two-fold effect:

(i)             The economic fate of the people of different regions got linked together.

(ii)            This was important for the exchange of political ideas and for mobilisation and organisation of public opinion on political and economic issues.

  • Ø  Western thought and education

§  Modern system of education afforded opportunities for assimilation of modern Western ideas, also helped nationalist leaders from different linguistic regions to communicate with each other.

§  English educated class formed the middle class intelligentsia who constituted the nucleus for the newly arising political unrest.

  • Ø  Role of press and literature

§  The press while criticising official policies, on the one hand, urged the people to unite, on the other.

§  It also helped spread modern ideas of self-government, democracy, civil rights and industrialization.

  • Ø  Rediscovery of India’s past—historical researches

§  Historical theories by European researchers like Max Mueller, Monier Williams and by Indian scholars such as R.G. Bhandarkar, R.L. Mitra and later Swami Vivekananda, created an entirely new picture of India’s past.

§  The theory put forward by European scholars, that the Indo-Aryans belonged to the same ethnic group from which other nations of Europe had evolved, gave a psychological boost to the educated Indians.

o   It helped the nationalists to demolish colonial myths that India had a long history of servility to foreign rulers.

  • Ø  Progressive Character of Socio-religious Reform Movements

§  Reform movements sought to remove social evils which divided the Indian society; this had the effect of bringing different sections together.

  • Ø  Rise of middle class intelligentsia

§  British administrative and economic innovations give rise to a new Urban middle class in towns.

§  The leadership to the Indian National Congress in all its stages of growth was provided by this class.

  • Ø  Impact of contemporary movements worldwide

§  Rise of a number of nations on the ruins of the Spanish and Portuguese empires in South America, and the national liberation movements of Greece and Italy in general and of Ireland in particular deeply influenced the nationalist ranks.

  • Ø  Reactionary Policies and Racial Arrogance of Rulers

§  Racial myths of white superiority were sought to be perpetuated by the British through a deliberate policy.

o   Indians felt deeply hurt by this.

§  Lytton’s reactionary policies Provoked a storm of opposition in the country such as –

o   Reduction in minimum age limit for the ICS examination from 21yrs. to 19yrs. (1876).

o   The grand Delhi Durbar of 1877 when the country was in the severe grip of famine.

o   The Vernacular Press Act (1878).

o   The Arms Act (1878).

  • v  Political Associations Before Indian National Congress

Most of the political associations, in the early half of the nineteenth century, were dominated by wealthy and aristocratic elements. Through long petitions to the British Parliament most of them demanded—

o   Administrative reforms,

o   Association of Indians with the administration, and

o   Spread of education.

The political associations of the second half of the nineteenth century came to be increasingly dominated by the educated middle class—the lawyers, journalists, doctors, teachers, etc.,—and they had a wider perspective and a larger agenda.

  • Ø  Political Associations in Bengal

§  1836 - Bangabhasha Prakasika Sabha by associates of Raja Ram Mohan Roy.

§  1836 - Zamindari Association or Landholders’ Society.

§  1843—Bengal British India Society – Created for collection and dissemination of the information relating to the actual condition of the people of British India.

§  1851—British Indian Association – demanded inclusion of some of its suggestions in the renewed Charter of the Company, such as - Establishment of a separate legislature of a popular character; Separation of executive from judicial functions; Reduction in salaries of higher officers; and Abolition of salt duty, abkari and stamp duties.

o   These were partially accepted in the Charter Act of 1853.

§  1866—East India Association – Organised by Dadabhai Naoroji in London to discuss the Indian question and influence public men in England to promote Indian welfare.

§  1875—Indian League – by Sisir Kumar Ghosh with the object of “stimulating the sense of nationalism amongst the people”.

§  1876—Indian Association of Calcutta or Indian National Association – by Surendranath Banerjea and Ananda Mohan Bose, who were getting discontented with the conservative and pro-landlord policies of the British Indian Association. It set out to - Create a strong public opinion on political questions, and unify Indian people in a common political programme.

o   It later merged with the Indian National Congress in 1886.

  • Ø  Political Associations in Bombay

§  1870—Poona Sarvajanik Sabha – To serve as a bridge between the government and the people.

§  1885—Bombay Presidency Association – started by Badruddin Tyabji, Pherozshah Mehta and K.T. Telang.

  • Ø  Political Associations in Madras

§  1884—Madras Mahajan Sabha – founded by M. Viraraghavachari, B. Subramaniya Aiyer and P. Anandacharlu.

  • v  Pre-Congress Campaigns

The associations organised various campaigns before the Indian National Congress appeared on the scene. These campaigns were—

i.                For imposition of import duty on cotton (1875).

ii.              For Indianisation of government service (1878-79).

iii.             Against Lytton’s Afghan adventure.

iv.             Against Arms Act (1878).

v.               Against Vernacular Press Act (1878).

vi.             For right to join volunteer corps.

vii.            Against plantation labour and against Inland Emigration Act.

viii.          In support of Ilbert Bill.

ix.             For an All India Fund for Political Agitation.

x.              Campaign in Britain to vote for pro-India party.

xi.             Against reduction in maximum age for appearing in Indian Civil Service; the Indian Association took up this question and organised an all-India agitation against it, popularly known as the Indian Civil Service agitation.

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