Attitude of Government during Early Nationalism

British attitude towards Indian National Congress during early nationalism

Initially, the British attitude towards Indian national congress was of indifference and neutrality as they believed that the Congress would confine itself to academic and social demands. The viceroy Lord Dufferin had invited the delegates and leaders of Indian National Congress to a garden party in Calcutta in 1886. Later in 1887, a similar event was organized by the governor of Chennai for the early nationalists.

However, the government soon became openly hostile to the Indian National Congress despite the fact that early nationalists had a moderate approach. The moderate nationalists had from time and again reiterated their faith and loyalty to the British crown. The Britishers criticized the Nationalist of Congress as “disloyal babus” and “seditious Brahmins” who only represent a microscopic minority of the English educated middle class. Lord Dufferin labeled the Indian National Congress as a “factory of sedition”. 

From 1890, onwards the government servants were not allowed to participate in the meetings and activities of the early nationalists. The British Indian government used the policy of “divide and rule” on the basis of religion to reduce Unity among the Nationalist and public. The British rule in India was responsible for increasing and encouraging the communalism between the Hindus and the Muslims in India.

The British encouraged the pro-British personalities like Syed Ahmed Khan, Raja Shiv Prasad of Banaras to counter the propaganda of the nationalists through organizations like Indian Patriotic Association etc. They used the policy of “carrot and stick” by giving concessions to the moderates and open hostility towards the extremists. However, despite this, the British rule in India was not able to stop the rise of nationalism in India.

The policies adopted by Viceroy Lord Curzon against the moderate nationalists of Indian National Congress further hardened the approach of nationalists. Lord Curzon criticized the leaders of Congress and frequently insulted them. He talked derogatory about the moderate nationalists and called their activities as "letting off of gas". He adopted harsh and repressive measures to deal with the nationalist leaders of Congress. He brought "The sedition act and official secrets act (1904)" to control and restrict the rising tides of nationalism in India. His ultimate goal was to end the propaganda and activities of the nationalists and Congress. The partition of Bengal was the policy of Lord Curzon to stop and reduce the activities of nationalists.

Later on, they gave minor concessions to the moderate nationalists to pacify their attitude and hostility towards the British Indian Government. The Indian council act of 1892 and later the Morley Minto reforms of 1909 was aimed to pacify and appease the moderates and hence remove their opposition to the British rule and British actions. It was also aimed at creating a wedge between the extremists and the moderate nationalists.

The British were successful in their divide and rule policy after Surat split of Congress in 1907. The British adopted an openly harsh attitude against the extremists aimed to totally remove their opposition toward the British rule. The separate electorates of 1909 were aimed at dividing the Hindus and the Muslims. However, the British could not stop the rose of the national movement in India despite their regressive policies.

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