POLITICS OF ASSOCIATION BEFORE CONGRESS
- The political associations in the early half of the nineteenth century were dominated by wealthy and aristocratic elements, local or regional in character, and through long petitions to the British Parliament demanded
- Administrative reforms,
- Association of Indians with the administration, and
- Spread of education.
- The second half of the 19th century witnessed the growth of national political consciousness and foundation and growth of an organised national movement. During this period the modern Indian intelligentsia created political associations to spread political education and to initiate political work in the country. This work was to be based on new political ideas, new intellectual perception of reality, new social, economic and political objectives, new forces of struggle and resistance and new techniques of political organisation.The task as difficult as Indians were unfamiliar with modern political work. Even the notion that people could organise politically in opposition to their rulers was a novel one. Consequently the work of these early associations and of the early political workers proceeded rather slowly and it took more than half a century to bring the common people within the fold of modern politics.
- 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.
- The failure of 1857 revolt made it clear that traditional political resistance to British rule under the leadership of the landed upper classes could no longer succeed and resistance to colonial rule must flow through different channel. On the other hand the character of British rule and policies underwent a major change after 1858. It became more reactionary. Indian intellectuals gradually became more critical of British policies and began to grasp the exploitive charater of British rule.
- Understanding of Indian intelligentsia took long time to develop but process once begun, based on as it was on modern thought, probed deeper into the real nature of imperialism and was ultimately transformed into modern political activity.
- The political conscious Indians realised that existing political associations were too narrowly conceived to be useful in the changed circumstances. For example British Indian Association had increasingly identified itself with the interests of the Zamindars and consequently with the ruling power.
- The openly reactionary and anti-Indian measures introduced under Lytton’s viceroyalty from 1876 to 1880 quickened the pace of Indian nationalistic activity.
Political Associations in Bengal:
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy was one of the first Indian leaders to start an agitation for political reforms. He fought for the freedom of press, trial by jury, separation of executive and judiciary, appointment of indian to higher offices, protection of ryots from Zamindari oppression and development of Indian trade and industry. He took keen interest in International affairs and supported cause of liberty, democracy and nationalism.The Bangabhasha Prakasika Sabha was formed in 1836 by associates of Raja Rammohan Roy.
British Indian Association: (Landholders’ Society+ British India Society)
- The Zamindari Association, more popularly known as the ‘Bengal Landholders’ Society’, was founded in 1836 by Dwarkanath Tagore, Prasanna Kumar Tagore, Radhakanta Deb to safeguard the interests of the landlords. Although limited in its objectives, the Landholders’ Society marked the beginning of an organised political activity and use of methods of constitutional agitation tor the redressal of grievances.
- The British India Society was set up in 1843 in England primarily as a result of the efforts of William Adam, who had come to India and befriended Ram Mohan Roy. On his return to England he took up India’s cause. Its objective was “the collection and dissemination of information relating to the actual condition of the people of British India and to employ such other means of peaceful and lawful character as may appear calculated to secure the welfare, extend the just rights and advance the interests of all classes of our fellow subjects”.
- In 1851, both the Landholders’ Society and the Bengal British India Society merged into the British Indian Association. It sent a petition to the British Parliament demanding 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
- Abolition of salt duty, abkari and stamp duties.
- These were partially accepted when the Charter Act of 1853 provided for the addition of six members to the governor- general’s council for legislative purposes.
- During the early years the activities of the association consisted mainly of submissions of petitions to the Government and to the British Parliament on grievances. There was an inherent trust in the good intentions of the rulers. The association sought to take up issues on behalf of all sections of society but occasionally it made conscious efforts to protect the right of the landed aristocracy.
- Constructive policy they had none and seldom, if ever, they laid down any programme of systematic action for the political advancement of the country. It had failed to cover the country with a network of branches.
- In 1857 the Association supported the East India Company in the Sepoy Mutiny, calling for stern punishment for the rebels.
East India Association:
- The East India Association was organised by Dadabhai Naoroji (Grand Old Man of India) in 1867 in London to discuss the Indian question and influence public men in England to promote Indian welfare. Later, branches of the association were started in prominent Indian cities.
- It was one of the predecessor organizations of the Indian National Congress in 1867. The idea was to present the correct information about India to the British Public and voice Indian Grievances.
- The Association was instrumental in counter-acting the propaganda by the Ethnological Society of London which, in its session in 1866, had tried to prove the inferiority of the Asians to the Europeans. This Association soon won the support of eminent Englishmen and was able to exercise considerable influence in the British Parliament.
- In 1869, this organization opened branches in Bombay, Kolkata and Madras. It became defunct in 1880s.
Indian League and Indian Association of Calcutta (Indian National Association):
- The Indian League was started in 1875 by Sisir Kumar Ghosh with the object of “stimulating the sense of nationalism amongst the people” and of encouraging political education.
- [Sisir Kumar Ghosh (1840–1911) was a noted Indian journalist, founder of the Amrita Bazar Patrika, a noted Bengali language newspaper in 1868. He lived most of the time in Santiniketan, West Bengal, where he was a Professor of English.]
- The Indian Association of Calcutta (Indian National Association) superseded the Indian League and was founded in 1876 by younger nationalists of Bengal led by Surendranath Banerjee and Ananda Mohan Bose, who were getting discontented with the conservative and pro-landlord policies of the British Indian Association.
- (Ananda Mohan Bose, was a member of Brahmo Dharma.The young members of Brahmo Samaj differed with Keshab Chandra Sen regarding matters like child marriage, running of the organisation and various other matters. As a result, on May 15, 1878 he, along with Shibnath Shastri, Sib Chandra Deb, Umesh Chandra Dutta and others founded the Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. He was elected its first president.)
- The Indian Association of Calcutta was the most important of pre- Congress associations and aimed to:
- Reform in Civil Services Examinations. The Association sent Surendranath Banerjee as a special delegate to other part of the country for support of this agitation and he became first Indian to gain all India popularity.
- Create a strong public opinion on political questions
- Unify Indian people on a common political programme
- Promoting by every legitimate means the political, intellectual and material advancement of the people
- Branches of the association were opened in other towns and cities of Bengal and even outside Bengal. The membership fee was kept low in order to attract the poorer sections to the association.
- The Indian National Association was the first avowed nationalist organization founded in British India .The Association attracted educated Indians and civic leaders from all parts of the country. It later merged with the Indian National Congress.
Political Associations in Bombay:
- In 1852 the Bombay Native Association was founded by Jagannath Shankar Seth as the first political party.
- The Poona Sarvajanik Sabha was founded in 1870 by Mahadeo Govind Ranade, GV Joshi and others, with the object of serving as a bridge between the government and the people. The Sabha carried active political education fo the next 30 years.
- The Bombay Presidency Association was started by Badruddin Tyabji, Pherozshah Mehta and K.T. Telang in 1885.
Political Associations in Madras:
- In 1852, Madras Native association was formed as the first poltical party in Madras Presidency,
- The Madras Mahajan Sabha was founded in 1884 by M. Viraraghavachari, B. Subramaniya Aiyer and P. Ananda- charlu.
- The East Indian Association was organised by Dadabhai Naoroji in 1866-67 in London. Later he organised branches of the Association in prominent Indian cities.