The Early Nationalists (or the Moderates)
In the years from 1885 to 1905, the Congress was led by a group of leaders, who were called Early Nationalists or Moderates. The Moderates were drawn from the educated middle class consisting of professionals like lawyers, barristers, teachers and officials.
The Moderates or the Early Nationalists were included from all parts of the country – WC Bonnerjee, Rashbihari Ghosh, Surendranath Banerjee from Bengal, Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya from Uttar Pradesh and some other Moderates were from Maharashtra and Gujarat like – Dadabhai Naoroji, Gopal Kirshna Gokhle, Justice Ranade, Pherozeshah Mehta, etc.
Belief of the Early Nationalists
The Early Nationalist leaders believed in moderate politics and in loyalty to the British crown. They asked for any constitutional and other reforms within the framework of the British rule as they had faith in the British sense of justice and fair play. Their demands were moderate in nature. They thought that Englishmen are willing to put India on the path of democracy and self-governance. They praised British for English language and the modern means of communication and transport.
Objectives/Demands of the Early Nationalists
The objectives of the Early Nationalists were as follows:
The Moderates wanted a larger share in the Government of their country. They believed that eventually Indian should go more towards democratic self-government. Moderates demanded the expansion of the Legislative Council and Legislative Assemblies both at the centre and in the provinces.
The Moderates also wanted a reduction in land revenue and protection of peasants against unjust demands of the zamindars. They demanded for the development of banking industrial growth by the protection of trade.
The Moderates demanded for the Indianisation services through simultaneous Indian Civil Services Examinations in England and India. They wanted to repeal the Arms Act and Licence Act and also wanted to spread primary education among the maximum population of India.
They demanded for the complete separation of the Executive and the Judiciary, wider employment of Indians in higher ranks and also wanted to gradually move towards Democratic self-government of India.
Moderates demanded the industrial growth through trade protection. It means that a heavy tax should be imposed on imported goods and the government should give out loans for the development of iron, coal, paper and sugar industries in India.
Criticism of the Early Nationalists
The Moderates failed to draw the maximum people into the mainstream of the National Movement. Their field of influence was very limited to the urban educated Indians. Their leadership was confined by the particular professional groups like- lawyers, doctors, journalists and teachers, etc.
Methods of Struggle and Achievements of the Early Nationalists
- Relying on constitutional and peaceful methods and avoiding violence and confrontation, the Early Nationalists made good use of the three P’s – Petitions, Prayers and Protest, to accomplish their objectives.
- Early Nationalists aroused the feeling of one nation, and they trained people in politics by popularising the ideas of Democracy, Civil lilberties, Secularism and Nationalism, etc.
Following reforms were led by the efforts of moderates:
- In 1886, the Public Service Commission was appointed by the British.
- A Resolution was passed by the House of Commons in 1893 for simultaneous examination of the ICS in London and India.
- In 1895, the British Government appointed the Welly Commission on Indian expenditure, under Sir Reginald Earle Welhy.
- In 1892, the Indian Council Act was passed by the British.
Official Attitude towards the Congress
In the initial stage of the Congress, the British Government favoured the Congress. In fact, a few Government officials like Sir William Wedderbwin, Sir Henry Cotton also attended the First Session of the Congress.
In 1887, Lord Dufferin attacked the National Congress in his speech and ridiculed it as representing only a microscopic minority of the people. British officials criticised the National Congress and branded its leaders as ‘disloyal babus’ and ‘violent villains’.
Prominent Early Nationalist Leaders
Dadabhai Naoroji (1825-1917)
Dadabhai Naoroji generally known as the ‘Grand Old Man of India’ was looked upon as India’s unofficial ambassador during his stay in England. He was elected to the Bombay Municipal Corporation and later, to the Town Council. He was the founder of Bombay Association. The newspaper Rast Goftar was edited by him.
In 1865, he founded the London India Society in collaboration with WC Bonnerjee. The theory of Drain was presented by him in his book ‘Poverty and Un-British Rule in India.’ After spending years collecting statistics, Dadabhai propounded that “The inevitable consequences of foreign domination is the drain of wealth of the subject nation to the country of the rulers.” Dadabhai proved that the average annual income of an Indian was barely Rs.20.
Naoroji was thrice elected as the President of Congress. The credit for demanding Swaraj from the Congress platform for the first time (1906) goes to him. In England during the year 1892, he presented the cause of the Indians in the house. In 1866, he established the East India Association in London. The East India Association soon became popular and its branches were set-up in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras.
Gopal Krishna Gokhle (1866-1915)
Gopal Krishna Gokhale was influenced by the ideas of Justice Ranade. He joined the Deccan Education Society, which was founded by Justice Ranade.
Gokhale presided over the Varanasi Session of the INC in 1905. In year 1905, he founded the ‘Servants of India Society’ and went to England and Africa. Srinivas Shastri and Hridayanath Kunzru were some of the important members of the society.
Surendranath Banerjee (1848 – 1925)
Surendranath Banerjee was a nationalist leader, popular journalist and also a dedicated educationist, who advocated the use of constitutional methods for the attainment of India’s goals.
He was the first Indian to qualify for the Indian Civil Services Examination, and was elected from the Bengal Council four times. The Arms Act, the Vernacular Press Act and the lowering of age for appearing in the ICS Examination from 21 to 19 years were all opposed by him. He also opposed the Morely-Minto Reforms and the Partition of Bengal.
Assertive Nationalism (or the Extremists)
In the years from 1905 to 1918, there emerged a new and younger group of leaders within the Congress, who did not agree with the methods and ideology of the Moderates, this group of leaders came to be known as Assertive Nationalists. The three prominent leaders of the Assertive groups were Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandrapal. They belonged to the famous trio Lal-Bal-Pal. The difference in the ideologies and in the methods to voice their anger also led to a huge argument between the Early Nationalists and the Assertive Nationalists. While the Moderates wanted to gain Swaraj through constitutional means, the extremists wanted to do so through putting pressure on the government. This episode at the Indian National Congress, was a reason for the Surat Split (1907)
The immediate attainment of Swaraj was the main objective of the Assertive Nationalists.
Main Causes of the Rise of Assertive Nationalism
The main causes of the rise of Assertive Nationalism were as follows:
- Restrictions on Indians for their own natural rights.
- Britishers were responsible for the bad economic conditions of India.
- To make Indians aware about their self-respect and rights to freedom of speech, and right of property etc.
- Unfavorable policies of the British Government.
Methods of the Assertive Nationalists
Passive resistance, non-cooperation with the British Government by boycotting foreign goods, etc, were the methods of the Assertive Nationalists.
Achievements of the Assertive Nationalists
The true character of the British Rule was exposed by the Assertive Nationalist. They promoted self-reliance by Swadeshi and Boycott Movements. Many educational institutions were established also by them. They brought the middle classes into the National Movement.
Failure of the Early Nationalists (or Moderates)
The youths of the Indian National Congress were dissatisfied with the achievements of the Early nationalists. The methods of peaceful constitutional agitations were criticised by them.
Worsening Economic Conditions
They exposed the evil economic consequences of the British during the end of the 19th century. When there were famines, which ravaged India from the year 1896 to 1900 and took a huge toll of over ninety lakhs of lives.
Growing Consciousness Among Indians
The Assertive Nationalist leaders like Aurobindo Ghosh, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal asked the nationalists to rely on the abilities of the Indians.
Ill-treatment of Indians abroad, growth of education and unemployment, existence of Nationalist school of thought, repressive policies of Lord Curzon and, Partition of Bengal were the other important causes for the emergence of extremists or the Assertives.
Prominent Assertive Leaders
Bal Gangadhar Tilak
He was known as the father of Assertive Nationalism. Lokmanya Tilak was the uncompromising leader of the Assertive group. He was influenced by Agarkar, Ranade and Dadabhai Naoroji. The two newspapers, The Kesari (in Marathi) and The Maratha (in English) were launched by him. He organised the Ganpati festival to propagate nationalist ideas (1893) and the Shivaji festival (1895) to encourage young Maharashtrians. He was deported to Mandaly Jail (Burma) for writing seditious articles. He started the Home Rule League in 1916. He wrote Gita Rahasya. Tilka asserted, ‘Swaraj is my birth-right and I shall have it.’
No-rent campaigns were also organised by him. Due to his efforts Congress passed the resolution of Swadeshi, Boycott, Swaraj and National Education.
Bipin Chandra Pal
He discarded orthodox Hinduism and entered Bramho Samaj and visited England and America. He founded English weekly and New India. He led the Swadeshi Movement. He carried the gospels of Boycott, Swadeshi, National Education, Swarai and of Passive Resistance. He started a journal named Vande Matarm.
Pal was known as the father of revolutionary thought in India. He gave a strong speech so to repeal the Arms Act. He also opposed the caste system and other rigiditions connected to the same.
He advocated widow remarriage. According to him educating women was the most effective way of elevating their position.
Lala Lajpat Rai
Under the influence of Arya Samaj, Lajpat Rai founded the National School of Lahore, Lala Lajpat Rai joined Congress in 1888 and remained its member till the end of his life. He presided over the AITUC (All India Trade Union Congress) in 1920 in its opening session. He also started a newspaper named The Young India. He boycotted the Simon Commission and demonstrated against it in Lahore. During which he was brutally assaulted by the police to which he subsequently succumbed. Lala Lajpat Rai was referred to as Punjab Kesari or Sher-e-Punjab. His contributions as an educationist and a writer are immense. Lalaji started ‘Punjabi’ from Lahore. He also published Urdu daily ‘Vande Mataram’ and English weekly named ‘People’. Along with ‘Young India’ he also published ‘The Call to Young India”, “England’s Debt to India” and “The Political Future of India.”
He is also credited with writing a book on national education that called for a reform of the prevalent educational system.