The movement for India’s independence began with the establishment of the Indian National Congress in 1885. It is very difficult to say as to how the idea of establishing an organisation like the National Congress originated.
Before the birth of the National Congress, a number of organisations were formed. But most of them had limited objectives and their influence remained confined to their respective regions.
In order to draw the attention of the British public opinion towards the welfare of the Indians in 1866, Dadabhai Naroji established East Indian Association in London.
Mahadeva Govinda Ranade formed the Madras Mahajana Sabha in 1881 and also the Poona Sarvajanik Sabha in 1867 for social reforms and national awakening. In 1885, the Bombay Presidency Association was formed under the leadership of persons like Feroz Shall Mehta, Badruddin Tayabji etc. with the aim of awakening national consciousness.
However, among all these organisations, the Indian Association established under the leadership of Surendra Natli Banerjee and Anand Mohan Bose, actively attempted to form a strong public opinion against the unjust policies of the British Government. It opposed the Arms Act and the Vernacular Press Act of Lord Lytton. It also opposed the reduction of the qualifying age for appearing in the Indian Civil Service Examination from twenty-one to nineteen.
It organised a number of peasant demonstrations demanding reduction of the rate of revenue. With a view of bringing representatives from all over India to a common platform, the Indian Association organised All-India National Conferences twice in 1883 and 1885. But the Indian public opinion could be organised and articulated only with the formation of Indian National Congress as a national forum.
Allan Octavian Hume, a retired I.C.S. officer was instrumental in the formation of Indian National Congress. He wrote an open letter to the students of Calcutta university asking at least fifty among them to be ready for making sacrifices for the cause of the motherland. Mr. Hume met Lord Dufferin, the then Governor- General of India and decided to form an association which might function on the model of the opposition party of Britain.
This association could be consulted by the British Government to assess the Indian public opinion on various issues of national interest. Moreover, this all India forum would work as a ‘safety valve’ for the escape of great forces generated due to the British rule in India.Hume invited eminent Indians from different parts of the country to meet at Poona from 25th to 28th December 1885. But the venue of the meeting was shifted to Bombay as Poona became infected with Cholera.
The first session of the All India Congress began on 28th December 1885 at Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit College. Eminent barrister of Calcutta, Mr. Woomesh Chandra Banerjee presided over it. Seventy two invited delegates from different parts of India assembled in this first session. Mr. Hume was elected as the first general secretary of the Indian National Congress. Nine resolutions were passed in this first session.
Though Indian National Congress made a very humble beginning, yet it gradually developed into a powerful organisation. With its birth, the struggle for India’s liberation was started in an organised manner. Mahatma Gandhi subsequently ‘made it a mass organisation from a class organisation of few urban educated middle class people.
It gave representation to the people of different parts of India belonging to different walks of life. National Congress attempted to fulfill their hope and aspirations. India could be liberated from the British colonial rule by starting a non-violent movement under the banner of National Congress.