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The Indian National Congress     [1885 AD - 1905 AD]

 

The British policy changed the social, economic and political life in India. This made the Indian people unite and challenge the British domination. The lead in organising political activity at the national level was taken by the Indian intelligentsia. The response of the organisation was fairly positive; as they believed that the reshaping and transforming of India would occur under the British. This support they gave even during the revolt of 1857. But gradually they began to understand the true nature and character of the British rule.

The series of devastating famines between 1866 - 1901 and the British cruelty shattered the dream of the nationalists. In the post 1857 phase, Britishers resorted to the divisive forces of communalism and casteism to maintain their supremacy and stopped the social reforms. Moreover, Indians suffered from growing unemployment and most of the better paid jobs were reserved for the British.

Lord Lytton passed the Vernacular Press Act in 1878, which imposed a severe restriction on the vernacular press - a major instrument in spreading nationalist ideas. Lord Rippon passed the Ilbert Bill Act in 1833, a law which gave Indian magistrates the right to try Europeans. The Europeans in India agitated and the bill was withdrawn. The racial discrimination horrified the nationalist Indians and they realised the need of organising themselves to get their demands accepted. There were various meetings in different presidencies but it was not collective. With the initiative of Allen Octavian Hume, in 1885 the Indian National Congress was formed and it became the the chief organization representing the will of the common people and led the Indians in their struggle for freedom.

 

The first meeting was held in December 1885 at Bombay under the president ship of Womesh Chandra Banerjee and it held its sessions every year in December at different parts of the country. During its early years, it pressed the need for giving Indians greater power in legislative councils and to check the Drain of wealth - a theory propounded by Dadabhai Navroji. The main strategy at this time was Petition, Pray and Protest.