Contributions of Moderate Nationalists

The moderate phase 1885 to 1905 played an important role in the promotion of moderate nationalism in India. They took various issues and demands of public importance and prepared the stage for the next phase of national movement.

Criticism of Economic Policies of British

The moderate phase leaders uncovered the truth about the negative impacts of British colonialism on the economy of India. Dadabhai Naoroji gave the drain theory to explain about the economic exploitation of India in his book Poverty and UnBritish rule in India. The theory states that the Britishers exported a part of India's wealth to Britain for which India did not get any benefit. India's wealth was exported to Britain through the salaries and pensions of British officials, payment of interest on loans from Britain, payment for services like shipping, banking etc.
R.C. Dutt in his book the Economic history of India has told about the negative effects of British policy on Indian handicraft industries and on Indian economy in general. The moderate phase leaders held the British responsible for transforming the self-sufficient economy of India into a colonial economy. They explained how India was transformed into a supplier of raw materials and importer of final goods.

The moderates put forward the following demands before the British :
  • To reduce the land revenue and to protect the peasants from illegal revenue collection by the zamindars.
  • To reduce the military expenditure.
  • To increase the allocation of money for activities such as health and education.
  • To abolish the salt tax.
  • To improve the working conditions of plantation laborers.
  • To provide for the cheaper credit to the peasants with the help of Agricultural banks
  • They demanded for the development and protection of Indian Industries through increased tariffs on imports and government aid for these industries.
Demands for constitutional reforms and propaganda in the legislative councils

Britishers had established Imperial legislative councils under the Indian Councils Act 1861. These councils did not have any real power and were intended to mask the official acts and policies as being passed by a representative body. Further, the Britishers appointed only 45 Indian members from 1862 to 1892. Except for the few independent members like Syed Ahmed Khan, Rash Behari Ghosh, K.L. Nulkar, rest of the members were wealthy and loyal to British.

So the moderate members of Congress put forward the following demands
  1. To increase the number of Indians in the councils.
  2. They demanded for the greater power over financial matters like budget.
  3. The long term objective was to establish self government.
In 1892, Indian Councils Act was passed to fulfill the demands of the moderate phase leaders. However, the moderates harshly criticized these reforms as they were not satisfied with it.

The moderates put forward following new demands after their dissatisfaction with these reforms :
  1. The power to vote and make changes in the budget.
  2. The majority membership of Indians in the legislative councils.
  3. The demand for the self government similar to the colonies of Australia, Japan was put forward by leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and Lokmanya Tilak. They raised the slogan no taxation without representation .
  4. They demanded for sufficient representation of Indians in the executive Council of the Viceroy and the Governors.
Further, the policies and actions of government were severely criticized by leaders like Phirozshah Mehta, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Tilak etc. The moderates were able to use these councils to put forward the grievances of public and to expose and criticize the policies and actions of government regarding economic and political issues. The moderates were able to build a national movement which eroded the authority of the British government and generated anti-colonial feelings among the people. However, they could not transform the national movement into a mass movement.

The Demands for Administrative Reforms

  1. Demand for increasing the number of Indians in the government services. They argued that the British bureaucrats and officers expect very high salaries, so the increase in the number of Indians would reduce the economic burden on the government. Secondly, Indianisation of government services would reduce the drain of wealth as salaries and pensions of British officials were ultimately sent to Britain. Thirdly, they criticized the British, for being discriminatory to Indians by keeping them out from important administrative positions.
  2. They demanded for the simultaneous examinations of Indian civil service in India and England. This was to ensure increased participation of Indians in the government services.
  3. They demanded for the separation of Executive and Judiciary to avoid the arbitrary actions of police and the bureaucracy. Further, they criticized the bureaucracy for being tyrannical and oppressive and the Judiciary for being costly and time consuming.
  4. They demanded for the repeal of various unfair laws like the Arms act and the License act.
  5. They demanded for the reform of municipal and local bodies giving them more powers and funds. This was to improve the general welfare and administrative efficiency of administration.
  6. The moderates criticized the aggressive foreign policy for the annexation of Burma, war against Afghanistan and operation against the tribals in the North West Frontier province.
  7. They demanded to remove the racial discrimination and to ensure just treatment of Indian labourers who were working abroad in the colonies of British.

Demands for the protection of civil rights in India during moderate phase (1885 to 1905)

The British government in India had an authoritarian character and more than often it tried to curtail the Civil rights of Indians through draconian laws. The moderates demanded protection of rights like right to free speech and liberty, right to association, freedom for free press etc. They demanded for the removal of Preventive Detention Acts, which was arbitrarily used by the British. Leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak and several journalists were arrested on sedition charges for making provocative statements. This led to increase in the protests due to increased awareness among the masses.

Achievements of moderate nationalism
  1. The moderate nationalism promoted the national consciousness and national identity. They laid the foundation for the growth of feeling of India as a nation.
  2. They were able to create anti-colonial ideology and political awakening and consciousness among the public.
  3. They were able to expose the myth of benevolent despotism of British rule in India. Through their economic critique and criticism of British policies etc, they uncovered the exploitative nature of British rule in India.
  4. They were able to build a feeling of unity among the people of diverse religion, caste, creed and language etc.
  5. They prepared the stage for a more aggressive militant and mass based national movement in the coming years.
  6. They laid the foundation stones for the progressive ideas of democracy, liberty, civil rights and freedom which played a major role in the national movement.
  7. They were able to get some of their demands fulfilled such as allowing simultaneous examinations of Indian civil service in India and England, reforms such as Indian councils act 1892 act.

Criticism of moderate phase (1885 to 1905) leaders

The moderate phase leaders were criticized for the methods they used i.e. 3 P's -prayers, petitions and protests. These methods were criticized as being inadequate for challenging the British might in India. Further the lack of participation of masses in the movement has been criticized as the major drawback as the leaders were mainly educated middle class professionals like lawyers, teachers, journalist and civil servants etc. The masses mainly played a passive role during the moderate phase of national movement.

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