Foundations of Indian Nationalism

Surendranath Banerjea
  • Famines had been a regular phenomenon in India but during British rule famines were man made disasters because of exploitative policy of British government.
  • The British land revenue system, commercialisation of agriculture(Indigo), drain of wealth, heavy taxes on artisans and handicraftsmen and de-industrialisation adversely affected the peasants and the tribal people who revolted in localized area but masses against the colonial regime from Sanyasi and Fakir rebellions in 1760s in Bengal till the Santhal rebellion of 1850s in the Rajmahal Hills area accumulated and major outburst took place in great revolt of 1857 in much semi National level.
  • The resistance continued even after 1857 as mentioned in  Neel Darpan written by Din Bandhu Mitra in 1860 against Indigo cultivation.
  • In 1873 peasants formed informal agrarian league in district of Pabna in Eastern Bengal and stopped payment of land revenues to zamindars which spead to other parts of the country and forced the government to pass Bengal Tenancy Act in 1885 to protect  the rights of tenants.
  • The new intelligentsia in Bengal emerged such as Bankim Chandra Chatterjea, R.C. Dutt, Surendranath Banerjea etc in solidarity and support of poor tenants.
  • Upper caste elites got  to learn about westerm thoughts and science with the establishment of  Hindu College(1817) at  Calcutta that led to the new Intellectual awakening. Welcoming the new ideas and scientific education, the intelligentsia supported the British rule initially, but became anti-colonial after the mid-nineteenth centuary.
  • Lord Macualay replaced Offical language from Persian to English in 1835 to build a class of Indians with imperial taste and language. English was further promoted in Sir Charles Wood Education Policy in 1854 which led to setting up of Universities in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras in 1857.
  • Due to racial arrogance Indians educated with vernacular language had less employment opportunities than English educated Indians and Europeans. But still there was rise in the Literacy and press in vernacular language.
  • The intellectuals disillusioned by the colonial rule came together and formed several political associations to appeal British parliament for protecting their personal and general interests, such as- 
    • Landholders’ Society and the Bengal British India Society in Calcutta
    • British Indian Association
    • Calcutta in 1851 by Zamindars of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa
    • Bombay Association (1852)
    • Madras, Madras Native Association (1852)
    • Indian League after 1857 revolt
    • Indian Association by Surendranath Banerjea in 1876 for opening Civil Services to Indians, representation in municialties , repeal Vernacular Press Act of 1878 etc.
    • Poona Sarvajanik Sabha 1870 by M. G. Ranade
    • Bombay Presidency Association 1885 by Pherozeshah Mehta, Badruddin Tyabji and Kashinath Telang
    • Madras Mahajana Sabha 1884 by P. Ananda Charlu
  • The press gained it popularity in English and vernacular languages to educated the Peoples and emerge political conscience during the period from 1860 to 1885.  Some prominent journals being Bengalee and Amrita Bazar Patrika in Bengal, KesariMahrattaIndu Prakash and Voice of India in Bombay, Hindu in Madras and Tribune in Punjab etc.
  • To  curb the Indian Press Viceroy Lord Lytton passed the VernacularPress Act in 1878.followed by the Arms Act mandating of license of firearms by Indians but not from Europeans. However, Lord Ripon, repealed the Vernacular Press Act but not the Arms Act. Moreover he brought Ilbert Bill to enable Indian magistrate to judge a European which was invoked after strong criticism by the Englishmen and preventing the threat of a “white Mutiny”. Ripon increased the age limit for Civil Sevices to appease the Indians.
  • Allan Octavian Hume(Retd. ICS) motivated for a one national association  which culminated into Indian National Congress in 1885 under the Presidency of W. C. Bonnerji and 72 delegates. Surendranath joined the INC.

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