1st Session of the Indian National Congress (INC)

 

The establishment of the Indian National Congress (INC) was a landmark event in modern Indian History and over many years, questions on this topic has featured in the Civil Services (Prelims) and Civil Services (Mains) Examinations.

Here we briefly outline the demands placed by the leaders of the Indian National Congress (INC) before the British.

  1. The first session of the INC was proposed at Poona, but because of an outbreak of plague in Poona, the venue was shifted to Bombay. And in the first session that was held in Bombay, at the ‘Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit Pathshala’ only 72 delegates had participated and most of them belonged to a background of lawyers, and there weren’t any women in this session.
  2. The first president of this session was W.C. Bonnerjee. W.C. Bonnerjee was a very famous lawyer.

At the end of every year, sessions were held at different cities of India and it was described as a ‘memorandum’ to present the Indian political viewpoint before the British Government. So, in each session, the memorandum was presented.

  1. C) In the first session that was held at Bombay, there were few important segments of the demands from Indians that were presented before the British. They are as under:
  • Appointment of a commission to enquire into the working of the Indian Administration
  • This commission was to assess Indian Administration from 1858- till date.
  • India Council in London should be abolished
  • The moderates demanded this and questioned the authority of the Secretary of State to govern India. The moderates were very critical of the functioning of the ‘India House’ or Indian Council.
  • The creation of legislative councils for the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), Sindh and Awadh. The main demands were constitutional and legislative demands. Legislative demands included increasing the number of Indians in legislature, so that it would be more responsible to the people of India. Their demands were not restricted to the Central legislative assembly alone, but also extended to the provincial legislative assembly. Their demand was that Indians should have the right to discuss over the budget and also have the right to question issues of Governance.
  • Reduction of Military Expenditure
  • India was of great strategic importance to the British and the cost of maintaining the Indian military was very high, because the entire colonial operation in Asia was operated through India itself.
  • Civil Services Reform
  • Already Lytton had reduced the age limit from 21 years to 19 years, thus the ‘Early Nationalists’ or moderates, raised their voices against this. Early nationalists also demanded simultaneous holding of civil services examination in India and England.

Note:

  1. In the very first session, the Early Nationalists, presented 9 resolutions before the British, and Lord Dufferin who was closely watching the activities of the Indian National Congress, called the organization a ‘microscopic minority’. Thus one can say that the ‘benevolent neutrality’ of Lord Dufferin turned to ‘bitter hostility’.
  2. This enraged most of the Indian leaders, and from this point onwards, the economic agenda came to the forefront- they demanded the presentation of budget in the assembly, they highlighted the growth of agricultural labour, drain theory, ruin of handicraft industries, rise in rural indebtedness, poverty, famine and depeasantization.
  3. Thus, the ‘Early Nationalists’ although had a very limited mass base to spread this message, but they had done wonderful work during the early days of the Indian National Congress.

The moderates didn’t want ‘complete independence’, they mainly wanted ‘Indianisation’ of the services, their effort was that India should be governed by Indians, along with collaboration by the British. So, even in 1904, the popular demands from the moderates were representation in the House of Commons- so that the integration of British and Indian political system could be achieved.

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