Monday, July 23, 2007

 

Rise of Indian Nationalism

In India, the decades after the First War for Independence (1857) were a period of growing political awareness, manifestation of public opinion, and emergence of leadership at national and provincial levels. Gloomy economic uncertainties created by British colonial rule and the limited opportunities that awaited for the increasing number of western-educated graduates began to dominate the rhetoric of leaders who had begun to think of themselves as a nation despite differences along the lines of region, religion, language, and caste.

Dadabhai Naoroji formed East India Association in 1867, and Surendranath Banerjee founded Indian National Association in 1876. Indian National Congress is formed in 1885 in a meeting in Bombay attended by seventy-three Indian delegates. The delegates were mostly members of the upwardly mobile and successful Western-educated provincial elites, engaged in professions such as law, teaching, and journalism. They had acquired political experience from regional competition in the professions and from their aspirations in securing nomination to various positions in legislative councils, universities, and special commissions.

The Congress had no well-defined ideology or necessary resources to be a political organization at the beginning. It functioned more as a debating society that met annually to express its loyalty to the British Raj and passed numerous resolutions on less controversial issues such as civil rights or opportunities in government etc. These resolutions were submitted to the viceroy's government and, sometimes to the British Parliament without any positive results. With a membership consists only of urban elites the Congress voiced their interests even though it claims to represent India.

Indian National Congress failed to attract Muslims to the organization. Although the Congress made efforts to enlist the Muslim community in its struggle for Indian independence, most of the Muslims remained reluctant to join the Party.

Islamic rule was established across northern India between the 7th and the 14th centuries. The Muslim Mughal Empire ruled most of India from Delhi from the early 16th century until its power was broken by the British in the 19th century. This left a disempowered and discontented Muslim minority, afraid of being swamped by the Hindu majority. Muslims represented about 23% of the population of British India, and constituted the majority of the population in several regions.

By 1900, the Indian National Congress had emerged as an all-India political organization, Muslims began to realize their inadequate education and under representation in government service. Muslim leaders saw that their community had fallen behind the Hindus. Attacks by Hindu reformers against religious conversion, cow killing, and the preservation of Urdu in Arabic script deepened their fears of minority status and denial of their rights if the Congress alone were to represent the people of India. For many Muslims, loyalty to the British crown seemed preferable to cooperation with Congress leaders. Sir Sayyid Ahmad launched a movement for Muslim regeneration that culminated in the founding in 1875 of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College (renamed Aligarh Muslim University in 1921) at Aligarh, United Provinces (now Uttar Pradesh). Its objective was to educate wealthy students by emphasizing the compatibility of Islam with modern Western knowledge. The diversity among India's Muslims, however, made it impossible to bring about uniform cultural and intellectual regeneration. A turning point came in 1900 when the British administration in the United Provinces acceded to Hindu demands and made Hindi as the official language. This seemed to aggravate Muslim fears that the Hindu majority would seek to suppress Muslim culture and religion in an independent India. A British official, Sir Percival Griffiths, wrote of "the Muslim belief that their interest must be regarded as completely separate from those of the Hindus, and that no fusion of the two communities was possible."

All India Muslim League founded at Dhaka in 1906 on the occasion of the annual All India Muhammadan Educational Conference in Shahbagh, Dhaka. The meeting was hosted by Nawab Salimullah Khan and was attended by three thousand delegates. The resolution was moved by Nawab Salimullah says “The musalmans are only a fifth in number as compared with the total population of the country, and it is manifest that if at any remote period the British government ceases to exist in India, then the rule of India would pass into the hands of that community which is nearly four times as large as ourselves …our life, our property, our honor, and our faith will all be in great danger, when even now that a powerful British administration is protecting its subjects, we the Musalmans have to face most serious difficulties in safe-guarding our interests from the grasping hands of our neighbors.”


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