Several factors contributed to the emergence of Indian nationalism which can be analyzed as follows:
1. Political and Administrative Unity:
One of the significant results of the British conquest of India was the establishment of a centralized state. It brought about a political and administrative unification of the country.
The pre- British India was divided into numerous feudal states frequently struggling among themselves to extend their boundaries. The British authority established a centralized state structure in India with a uniform reign of law. They enacted and codified laws which were applicable to every citizen of the state. These laws were enforced by a hierarchically graded system of tribunals.
The public services brought about the administrative unification of the country. The establishment of uniform currency system, common administration, common laws and judicial structure contributed to India’s unification which ultimately helped the rise of national consciousness.
2. English Language and Western Education:
Introduction of western education was another important factor which paved the way for the growth of nationalism. Three main agencies were responsible for the spread of modem education in India. They were the foreign Christian missionaries, the British Government and the progressive Indians. With the intension of spreading Christianity among the Indians, the Christian missionaries did extensive work in the spread of modern education. They were among the pioneers of modern education in India. The British Government was the principal agent of disseminating modern liberal and technical education in India.
It established a network of schools and colleges in India which turned out a number of educated Indians well versed in modern knowledge. The introduction of modern education in India was primarily motivated by the political, administrative and economic needs of Britain in India. The British government assigned various key posts of the administrative machinery to the English and filled the subordinate posts with educated Indians.
Some progressive Indians like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar etc. were the pioneers of western education in India. The old system of education was only perpetuating superstition and orthodoxy. English education was treated as the treasures of scientific and democratic thought of the west. English educated Indians like Raja Ram Mohan, Vivekananda, Gokhale, Dadabhai Naroji, Feroz Shah Mehta, Surendra Nath Banerjee etc. who led the social, religious and political movements in India were all English educated.
English language became the medium of communication among the educated Indians by which they could develop close contacts with one another. They also came in contact with western ideas, culture and institutions through the medium of English language. It helped to build up a democratic and rationalist outlook. Ideas of nationalism, democracy, liberty, equality, socialism etc. could be infiltrated to India. The philosophical ideas of Milton, J.S. Mill, Thomas Paine, John Locke, Rousseau, Mazzini, Garibaldi etc. helped the growth of national consciousness.
Such consciousness found expression in the formation of various organisations where people could meet and discuss various problems of their motherland. Exchange of views on different subjects of social, political and economic interest could be possible on a national scale. These educated Indians were instrumental in the political awakening and organisation of political movements in India.
3. Development of Transport and Means of Communication:
Modern means of transport helps in the consolidation of people into modern nations. In India too, the establishment of railways, construction of roads, canals and organisation of postal, telegraph and wireless services all over India contributed in forging the people into a nation. Of course, all these facilities were developed in the interest of the British industries and for political, administrative and military reasons.
However, these modern means of communications helped the growth of political and cultural life on a national scale. It promoted the organisation and functioning of a number of political organisations like Indian National Congress, All India Kishan Sabha, Youth League, All India Trade Union Congress etc.. Railways made it possible for the people of different towns, villages, districts and provinces to meet, to exchange views and to decide upon programmes for the nationalist movements. Without the modern means of transport, no national conferences could have been held.
4. Emergence of Modern Press:
As a powerful social institution, the press facilitates the exchange of thought on a mass scale within a short time. The introduction of the printing press in India was an event of revolutionary significance. Raja Ram Mohan Roy was the founder of nationalist press in India. His ‘Sambad Kaumudi’ in Bengali published in 1821 and ‘Mirat-UL-Akbar’ in Persian published in 1822, were the first publications with a distinct nationalist and democratic progressive orientation.
The emergence of a number of nationalist and vernacular newspapers also played a very vital role in mobilizing public opinion and awakening national consciousness. Among them, Amrit Bazar Patrika, The Bengali, The Bombay Chronicle, The Tribune, The Indian Mirror, The Hindu, The Pioneer, The Madras Mail, The Maratha, The Keshari etc. had played important role in exposing the failure of the British Government in providing welfare measures to the people. Among the news agencies, The Free Press News Service played the most important role in distributing news from the nationalist standpoint.
The national movement was possible due to the facility of political education and propaganda provided by the press. With its help, the Indian nationalist groups were able to popularize among the people the ideas of representative government. The press also brought the news of the international world which made the people conscious of their own position in India.
The Nationalists in India were very much eager to protect the independence of the press. Raja Ram Mohan Roy was the first fighter who filed a petition in the Supreme Court of Calcutta along with some enlightened nationalist Indians such as Dwarkanath Tagore, Harchandra Ghose, Chandra Kumar Tagore, Prasanna Kumar Tagore etc. for this purpose. The struggle for the freedom of the press has been an integral part of the national movement in India.
5. Economic Exploitation:
The worst feature of the British rule in India was the economic exploitation of all classes. Britishers came to India as traders and their primary motive was how to gain financial benefit. The industrial revolution in Britain necessitated the import of raw materials from different foreign countries and to search extensive market for its goods out side. India provided both to them.
The British government maintained its civil service and military force at the cost of India. Attempt was made to destroy the indigenous Indian industries to expand the public demand for British industrial goods. While heavy import duties were put on Indian goods to restrict their entry into British market, there was free trade policy for the transactions of the raw materials or British goods in India. Leaders like Dadabhai Naroji, Mahadev Gobinda Ranade, G.K. Gokhale etc. analyzed the economic impact of colonial rule in India. Economic exploitation to such a high extent had great repercussion on the growth of Indian nationalism and the people agitated against the foreign government.
6. Revival of Glorious Indian Heritage:
When Indians were developing a sense of inferiority complex being exploited under the colonial rule, the glorious heritage of India was revived by some western scholars like Max Muller, William Jones, Charles Wilkins etc. They translated some Sanskrit texts into English and attempted to prove the supremacy of ancient Indian culture, its heritage and philosophy. Some Indian scholars like R.G. Bhandarkar, H.P. Shastri etc. also helped in reviving the past glory of India. All these helped in regenerating a sense of self confidence and patriotism among the people.
7. Impact of International Events:
Several movements and events in foreign countries also helped in awakening national consciousness. The Declaration of Independence by U.S.A. in 1776, the French Revolution of 1789, the unification of Italy and Germany in 1870, defeat of Russia by Japan in 1904 etc. inspired the Indians. They became confident that it would be possible to fight against the mighty British authority for their right of self-determination. World events thus, motivated Indians and promoted the rise of nationalism.
8. Social and Religious Reform Movements:
The various social and religious reform movements which took place in India during the British rule were nothing but expression of the rising national consciousness of the people. The new educated class who imbibed the liberal western culture, recognized the need of reforming social institutions and religious outlooks as these were regarded as obstacles to national advance. A number of organisations like Arya Samaj, Brahmo Samaj, Rama Krishna
Mission, Theosophical society etc. helped in bringing movements of reformation and renaissance in India. These movements aimed to eliminate privilege from the social and religious fields, to democratize social and religious institutions of the country and to promote individual liberty and social equality. They sought to establish equal rights of all individuals irrespective of their caste or sex. In this way, the national democratic awakening found expression in all fields of national life. In politics, it gave birth to the movement of administrative reform, self-government, Home Rule and finally independence.
9. Repressive policies and Racial Arrogance of the British:
The racial arrogance and the rude behaviour of the Britishers towards the Indians had played a significant role in making them conscious of their condition. The British Government did not allow the educated Indians to avail any opportunity to serve in higher administrative posts. The age limit for Indian Civil Service examination was reduced from twenty one to nineteen years and the examination was held in Britain. This change actually intended to debar the Indians from entering the civil services.
Anactment of a number of laws further created widespread discontent among the Indians. The Vernacular Press Act curbed the liberty of the Indian press. The Arms Act prohibited the Indians from keeping arms without license. Abolition of import tax on foreign cotton cloth harmed the Indian textile industry. During the Viceroyalty of Lord Ripon, the Indian judges were allowed to have the right to try Europeans along with the Indians as per the provision of the Ilbert Bill. But the Britishers opposed the Bill tooth and nail and ultimately they succeeded in getting the Bill amended suitable to their interest.
This amendment exposed the policy of racial discrimination of the British Government. Lord Curzon not only adopted certain unpleasant measures to hurt the self-respect of the Indians, he even ordered for the partition of Bengal to suppress the rising Indian nationalism. The partition order created widespread resentment among the people. The use of ‘Swadeshi’ goods and boycott of foreign goods were adopted as effective techniques for expressing the resentment of the people. The resentment of the Indians against the repressive policies and racial arrogance of the British authorities helped in strengthening Indian nationalism.
10. Emergence of Conscious Middle Class:
Bipan Chandra is of the pinion that the foundations of the Indian national movement were laid by the emerging group of the modern intelligentsia. Initially, these groups adopted a very positive approach towards the colonial rule. They early realized that since India had come under the rule of the most advanced country in the world, she would be highly benefited with such connection. India would be turned into a major industrial power with its immense natural and human resources. The very period of the development of industrial capitalism in Britain witnessed the underdevelopment in India.
They even noticed a connection between the two. A.R. Desai refers to “neo-social classes” which included the middle class like the Indian traders and business communities, land lords, money lenders, educated Indians recruited in lower posts etc. Each group though had different interest yet they realized that their interests could not be protected under the British rule.
These groups had taken a leading role in developing a sense of patriotism among the people. The consciousness of this neo-social class found expression in the formation of a number of associations prior to the founding of All India National Congress. Ultimately the Indian National Congress emerged as a platform for the organisation of national movement.
All these factors jointly, had promoted the growth of nationalism in India. Indian nationalism was not the hand maid of a particular class, but the result of a common consciousness among all classes of India. From 1885, the Indian National Congress helped in widening and consolidating the growth process of nationalism. Ultimately, it had brought independence in India.