Saturday, October 1, 2011

Birth of Indian National Congress

Thomas O'Donnell
It took nearly 50 years to form an organised national Platform for organised mass action against the British rule in India. The Delhi Darbar of  January 1, 1877, held to mark the assumption of the New title of " Empress of India"by Queen Victoria, and attended by princess and rulers of the land, is said to have first suggested the idea of a periodical national conference of representative men from all parts of the Country.
The cause of formation of a new organisation, Indian Association,  was explained by Surendranath as follows;
"The idea that was working in our minds was that the Association as to be the centre of an All India movement. For even then, the conception of a united India derived from the inspiration of Mazzini, or, at any rate, of bringing all India upon the same common political platform had taken firm possession of the minds of the Indian leaders in Bengal...... The objects of this Associations would be,
1. The creation of a strong body of public opinion in the country, 2. the unification of India races and peoples upon the basis of common political interests and aspirations, 3. the promotion of friendly feeling between Hindus and Muslims; and lastly, inclusion of the masses in the great public movements of the day.      
But, according to Surendra Nath Banerjea, it was rather the All-India Conference of 1883 to which the origin of the Congress may be traced.
Some of the organizers of the first national Congress had obtained notes of the first National Conference which provided a source of inspiration for a similar move in Bombay. The "Hindu" wrote on 18 Jan, 1883, that it had information that the Indian Association of Calcutta was "maturing a scheme of an annual National Congress to be held in some central city such as Delhi to which native gentlemen from different parts of the country were to be invited." Warmly welcoming the idea the Hindu wrote, " Time had come when the people of India should assert their rights with all the strength of a national movement."

(Thomas O'Donnell (30 November 1871 – 11 June 1943) was an Irish nationalist politician of the Irish Parliamentary Party who served as Member of Parliament (MP) for West Kerry from 1900 to 1918. He was an active promoter of agrarian reform. M.A. (R.U.I.). Chairman of the Tralee and Dingle Railway. Became a prominent Irish Judge.
Son of Michael O’Donnell and Ellen Rohan, he came from a Gaelic-speaking family in Liscarney, Ballyduff, on the Dingle Peninsula, but his family were evicted during the Irish Land League's Land War in 1880, and lived in a small cabin for the next seven years. He became a national teacher after qualifying in Marlborough Street Training College, teaching in a boys’ school in Killorglin from 1892 until 1900.
Early in life he allied himself with the Home Rule movement, while concerning himself with the land issue, and in 1898 formalised that commitment by joining with William O'Brien in the United Irish League. This organisation pursued the breaking up of large farms, and O'Donnell was to prove himself a tenacious fighter for tenant rights. Even at the end of the 20th century, his efforts at a local level are recalled.
He was a close associate of Maurice Moynihan (died 1915), leader of the Irish Republican Brotherhood in Kerry, as well as founder of the Gaelic Athletic Association club in Kerry in 1885, father of Maurice Gerard Moynihan, and in 1900 chairman of O’Donnell’s election campaign committee. O'Donnell was involved with the Gaelic League from 1893 and was instrumental in having the Irish Party force a debate in the House of Commons on the use of Gaelic in national schools. Despite his roots, he wasn't a fervent nationalist and shunned the Fenian tendencies of many of his more strident contemporaries.)
O'Donnell published a letter reproduced in Bombay "Native Opinion" on 4 Feb, 1883, suggesting the establishment of a national association. Several news papers in India published the letterand welcomed O'Donnell's proposal.