There is general consensus of opinion that the reactionary measures of Lytton and the Anglo-Indian agitation over the Ilbert Bill hastened the process which lad to the foundation of Congress towards the very end of the year 1885. The Indian National Congress was the fulfillment of and logical corollary to all the efforts at organising political associations in different parts of India. Towards the close of Lytton’s Vicroyalty, that is about 1878 and 1879, Allan Octavian Hume, a retired official of the Government of India, became convinced that some definite action was called for to counteract the growing unrest. Hume was an enlightened imperialist, alarmed at the growing gulf between the rulers and ruled. He had considerable misgiving about establishment of the Indian National Conference in 1883 by SurendraNath Banerjee, a dismissed government servant.
He decided to bypass the National Conference and instead organise a loyal and innocuous political organisation. Hume made the National Congress, at least in the beginning, a forum for Pro-British and anti-Russian propaganda. The establishment of the congress was in fact as much the work of the Indian Moderates as of the Government. There was an identity of interest between the two. The former wanted political recognition as a means to rise in social scale, the latter a non-official political organisation to act as barometer of public opinion. Hume secured the sympathy and support of the Government officials and public men in India and England for the Indian National Congress. Thus the movement was a child both of England and India.
The formation of the Congress represented from the point of view of Government an attempt to defeat or rather forestall an impending revolution. Hume own conception of the role of Congress was : ‘A safety valve for the escape of great and growing forces generated by our own action, was urgently needed and no more efficacious safety valve than our congress movement could possibly be devised.’ Something like a national organisation had been in the air, for quite some time. Hume took advantage of an already created atmosphere, helped by the fact that he was more acceptable to, Indians as free of regional loyalties. The nucleus of the Congress leadership consisted of men from Bombay and Calcutta who had come together in London in the late 1860’s and early 70’s while studying for the ICS or for law.. who all fell under the influence of Dadabhai Naoroji who was then settled in England as businessman-cum-publicist.
Early in December 1884, Hume arrived in Bombay, apparently to bid farewall to Ripon and stayed there far three months. He discussed with Indian leaders about the holding of an annual conference, the organization the charter of demands and the formation of an Indian Party in Parliament. Later he visited Madras, Calcutta, Simla and several places in North-Western province and Avadh and probably also in the Punjab. In June, 1885, before the congress was started, Viceroy Dufferin was one of the first person whom Hume consulted. Dufferin warmly approved the proposal. But Dufferin advised Hume; ‘don’t ask Lord Reay, the Governor of Bombay to preside because it will be awkward for him if..administration comes to be severely criticized whilst he is the chair.’
On the proposal of Hume, which was seconded by SubramaniaAiyar and supported by Talang and unanimously, carried, W. C. Bonnerjee was elected President of the first session of the Congress. Bonnerjee refuted the charge that congress was a nest of conspirators and disloyalists and affirmed that much had been done by Britain for the benefit of India and the whole country was truly grateful to her for it….. But a great deal still remain to be done.
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