INDIAN NATIONAL MOVEMENT – 02
INDIAN NATIONAL MOVEMENT – 02
The agitation of the Europeans against the attempt to extend the jurisdiction of the Company’s criminal courts to British nationals, who were then subject only to the Supreme Court of Calcutta, had great effect on the development of an intense political sense. The violent attitude of the European community against the so-called ‘Black Acts’ generated a feeling of alarm. Consequently the need was keenly felt for a strong political association not only as a defensive measure against European challenges, but also to represent Indian views to Parliament, specially on the eve of the renewal of the Charter of the East Indian Company in 1853. This resulted in the setting up of a new political association in Bengal named The British Indian Association (1851). A branch of the same organization founded in Madras developed into an independent organization and a similar political association was setup in Bombay. The petition sent to Parliament in the name of the British Indian Association represented the grievances of Indian and suggested administrative reforms at the time of the renewal of the Charter in 1853.
It reflects the extent to which political ideas had developed in India at that time. The Association asked for the establishment of a legislature of popular character and on the same footing as those of most of the colonies of Her Majesty’s Government. The petitioners accordingly proposed that the legislature of British India should be constituted with 17 members, including three representatives of the people and one nominated official from each of the Presidencies. The petition also pleaded for the reduction of salaries of the higher officers, abolition of taxes, such as the salt levy and stamp duties. Occasionally the Association also stressed the need for throwing open all offices to Indians. Introduction of trial by Jury abolition of discrimination between Indians and Europeans before the law and many other such demands which anticipated those made by the Indian National Congress half a century later. It suggested various measures of reform and tried to rouse the interest of the masses in political questions by framing questionnaires on important topics of the day. It was served by distinguished publicists and leaders like Peary Chandra Mitra, Ram Gopal Ghose, Kisori Chand Mitra, Govinda Chandra Dutta, Dakhinaranjan Mukerji and above all by Debendranath Tagore, the founder Secretary of the Association.
The activities of the British Indian Association may justly be regarded as a pioneering effort towards the political awakening of India in the pre-1857 period. Two broad ideas one for a united stand by all Indians and the other for demanding political rights and administrative reforms worked simultaneously to produce a feeling of oneness. The freedom movement in India in the pre 1857 period was an expression of two contradictory ideas, one anti-British and the other pro-British. The latter related to the birth of nationalism and patriotism as a reaction to the devotion of the people to the principles of British administration and English education.