Foundation of Congress (1885): Role of AO Hume

The circumstances leading the foundation of congress reveals that it didn’t emerge suddenly from the situation of vacuum. In reality, the foundation of congress in December 1885 symbolized the culmination of a long procedure of gradual evolution going on since the 1830s. Bangbhasha Prakashika Sabha established by followers of Raja Ram Mohan Roy in 1836 at Calcutta was 1st political association in India.

In July 1838, the Jamindari association/Land holder’s society was established at Calcutta by Dwarkanath Tagore. In 1843, the Bengal British India Society was established by George Thompson at Calcutta. In 1851, the British Indian Association was established at Calcutta by Debendranath Tagore. This process of political awakening raised Madras’ residency as well.

In 1852 February, Madras Native Association was established by G.L. Chetty. In August 1852, the Bombay Association was created by Jaganath Shankar Seth. In 1870, Poona Sarvajanik Sabha was established by M.G. Ranade & others. In September 1875, the Indian league was found by Babu Shishir Ghosh & Motilal Ghosh at Calcutta. In July 1876, Indian Association was established by S.N.Banerjee & Anand Mohan Bose.

In May 1884, Madras Mahajan Sabha was found by B. Ananda Charlu, G. Subramanya Ayyar & M. Vira Baghavachari. In January 1885, the Bombay Presidency Association established by Feroz Shah Mehta, K.T. Tailenga & Badruddin Tyaibji. In this way procedure of establishing a regional nationalist political platform was successfully over. Indian nationalists were looking for pan India political platform at the foundation of congress in December 1885 was the outcome of the same aspirations.

Role of Hume in Foundation of Congress

AO Hume, Foundation of COngress
AO Hume

Recent researches have brought light that Hume has enlightened importance. He was concerned about the white gulf prevailing in the government of India & the people of India. He was apprehensive that the situation of lack of a common channel would intensify anti-British discontent among the masses & in the long run this situation could hurt the interest of the British Empire.

He believed that limited political awakening among Indians would be beneficial to the British Indian Empire. Hume retired from government service in 1882 but did nothing signature before December 1888. He was triggered into action by the foundation of the Indian nationalist conference by Surendra Nath Banerjee in December 1883. Banerjee declared that it would convert in a pan India national platform.

Banerjee was a radical nationalist. He was close followers of Italian nationalist philosopher Mazzini. Hume was apprehensive that the leadership of Indian nationalists fell into the hand of Surendra Nath Banerjee them British Indian Empire would be seriously harmed. Surendra Nath Banerjee undertook a tour of various parts of India to bring Indian leaders on to the platform of the Indian National Congress.

To take the wind out of the sail (to nullify) of Surendra Nath Banerjee, Hume mobilized Indian nationalist leader on a common platform & founded Indian National Congress in December 1885, before Surendra Nath Banerjee could return from his tour. The role of Hume in the foundation of the Indian National Congress was just that of organizers.

Larger circumstances were already ready by December 1885 for the emergence of a pan India political platform. This platform would also come out even without Hume. So it doesn’t correct to say that Congress was handy of the work of Hume. His role was just a minor factor in the foundation of the Indian national congress.

Why did Indian leaders accept the leadership of Hume?

Indian nationalist leaders were aware of the imperialist outlook of Hume. They knew very well Hume wanted Indian National Congress to use as Safety Valve against the British Indian Empire in spite of this Indian nationalist cooperated with Hume to use him as lightning conductors. Indian nationalist was aware of the fact that if a pan India platform like congress was established under the leadership of an Indian the British wouldn’t let it survive.

To protect the nascent congress from British suppressive reaction the Indian leaders kept Hume in front to convince the British government that congress wasn’t going to work against British Rule. Hume was used as a shield by Indian leaders to protect congress. History is living evidence of fact that Congress never acted as a safety valve for British Rule. Hume couldn’t succeed in his design but Indian leaders outsmarted Hume & they use him as a lightning conductor.