Friday, October 7, 2011

The Role of Allan Octavian Hume

Allan Octavian Hume (6 June 1829 - 31 July 1912) was a civil servant, political reformer and amateur ornithologist in British India. He was one of the founders of the Indian National Congress, a political party that was later to lead the Indian independence movement. A notable ornithologist, Hume has been called "the Father of Indian Ornithology" and, by those who found him dogmatic, "the Pope of Indian ornithology
After retiring from the civil services and towards the end of Lord Lytton's rule, Hume observed that the people of India had a sense of hopelessness and wanted to do something, noting "a sudden violent outbreak of sporadic crime, murders of obnoxious persons, robbery of bankers and looting of bazaars, acts really of lawlessness which by a due coalescence of forces might any day develop into a National Revolt." Concerning the British government, he stated that a studied and invariable disregard, if not actually contempt for the opinions and feelings of our subjects, is at the present day the leading characteristic of our government in every branch of the administration.
There were agrarian riots in the Deccan and Bombay, and Hume suggested that an Indian Union would be a good safety valve and outlet to avoid further unrest. On the 1st of March 1883 he wrote a letter to the graduates of the University of Calcutta:
Paradoxically, the credit of organizing the Indian National Congress belongs to an English man.He joined the East India Company's Civil Service in 1849, became a secretary to the Government of India in 1879, retired in 1882 and settled in Simla. As the son of the famous Joseph Hume, he had inherited from his father the creed of radical liberalism, and took a keen Interest in Indian progress. He came in contact with Lord Ripon, became enthusiastic about the latter's scheme of self-government, and by late 1883 began to advise him unofficially on Indian public opinion and politics. In his open letter to the graduates of the Calcutta University on March 1, 1883, Hume made a stirring appeal to them to take the initiative in establishing an Association which would promote "the mental, moral, social and political regeneration of the people of India." The Ilbert Bill agitation of 1883 extended Hume's contact throughout India.
Ripon's compromise over the Bill disappointed and disillusioned the politically conscious Indians, but Hume defended it and organised a grand farewell demonstration for Ripon. It represented "the first achievement of national India.
Between Dec 1884, and march 1885, Hume had prolonged discussion with eminent nationalist leaders for holding an annual conference of representative men from all parts of India, organising a central 'natioanl association' with a view to directing political activity throughout the country, preparing a charter of demands to be represented to the British Parliament, setting up a 'telegraphic agency' to send news to the British press giving India's point of view and countering the mis-representations of the Anglo-Indians, and also forming an "Indian Party" in the Parliament.