After the first ‘War of Independence” in 1857, wherein Indians put on a brave front, but lost to the British, the control of India was taken over by the British Raj from East India Company. There was much bitterness against the British in India, after this rebellion. The British administration sought to change Indian minds, and get support for its governance through English educated Indians. It wanted to form an organization of such Indians, who would be friendly to its policies and governance.
The Forming of Indian National Congress
With this goal in mind, A O Hume, a British Civil Servant embarked on the task of creating an organization by reaching out to the alumni of the Calcutta University. On 28th December 1885, Hume along with 72 Indians founded the Indian National Congress, to form a platform for Indian Public opinion. Hume assumed the office as the general secretary, and Womesh Chandra Bonnerjee was elected President.
The first session of the Indian National Congress, December 28th, 1885
The Initial years
In its Initial years, British hegemony was very much apparent in the activities of Indian National Congress, as it was not concerned by the real problems faced by Indians, such as poverty, and merely echoed the British position. The members of the Indian National Congress, failed to influence the Indian public opinion, and the ordinary people of India, were hardly impressed by its functioning.
Slowly and steadily, Indian National Congress became one of the principal opposition forces against the British Raj, as it took part in India’s Freedom struggle. Their main principles were the 3 Ps – Petition, Prayer and Protest.
With the passage of time, there was much unrest in India due to the misrule and plunder by the British administration. The general public opinion began to slowly reflect in the minds of the congress members, as a wave of nationalism swept the whole country. Now there arose a desire in the congressmen to play an active role in governing their country, even though as a part of the British Government. Many prominent freedom fighters, like Dadabhai Naoroji, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Gopala Krishna Gokhale and Mahatma Gandhi found their way to its ranks.
“Lal Pal Bal”
The Trio of “Lal Pal Bal” were forerunners of the freedom struggle much before the times of Mahatma Gandhi. Lal was Lala Lajpat Rai from Punjab, Bal was Bala Gangadhar Tilak from Maharahstra, and Pal was Bipin Chandra Pal from East Bengal. They came from different corners of India and asked for Swaraj in united voice.
Lal Bal Pal
Congress and Gandhi
After the First World War, Gandhi became the primary face of the Congress. Many leaders who were committed to the Gandhian principles of Ahimsa and Satyagraha, came to fore, in their struggle against the British, which soon became a movement for independence, under the leadership of Gandhi. Some of these leaders of the Congress were Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Rajendra Prasad, Jawahar lal Nehru and C Rajagopalachari, among many others.
Some of the prominent Congress leaders who fought for India’s freedom
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was another leader from the ranks of Congress, whose achievements stood apart from the rest.
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose
In 1943, Bose regrouped the Indian National Army with the help of the Indian soldiers from among the defeated British Indian Army in Singapore and marched through South East Asia reaching Moirang in Manipur.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose inspecting Troops of Indian National Army, Singapore
In Manipur, he hoisted the Indian Army flag – the Azad Hind Fauz for the first time on Indian Soil on April 14, 1944, defeating the local British Army.
While British could not but respect Mahatma for his non-violent struggle, the British feared the Indian National Army of Netaji.
This twin approach of Gandhiji and Netaji led to the dismantling of the British Empire not only in India, but in other parts of world.
Independence and Post-Independence
This country eventually attained freedom in 1947, and Congressmen played a vital role for the same, as India became an independent nation. After independence, Gandhi called for the disbanding of the Indian National Congress, as he felt that its purpose had been served. However, the legacy of Congress continued, and it became a national ruling party with Jawahar Lal Nehru as the first prime minister.
Indian National Congress was the principal opposition party opposing the British, before independence. After independence, it became the principal ruling party, and is one of the two national parties in India today.