Thursday, July 25, 2024

Were the Moderate Nationalists British Stooges?

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Were the moderate nationalists British stooges? It is a question that needs to be answered in some detail

India’s anti-colonial liberation movement had seen leadership of various shades and hues. It was never a one-size-fits-all movement.

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There have been high as well as low points.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, several brave sons and daughters of Mother India made it their life’s goal to break the shackles of alien colonial rule over India.

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Bharatvarsha had been suffering from the yoke of colonialism for a long period of time.

This was in the beginning Middle Easterner and then European colonialism.

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But it is necessary to understand if a section of the Indian’s liberation leadership had pro-British feelings.

This refers to the moderate leadership in and around the Indian National Congress.

Who were the Moderates?

The moderates were those luminaries of Indian National Congress and outside of it who were committed to the liberation of India or to put it in actual terms “swaraj” of the country in soft terms.

By soft terms I mean the idea of self-rule.

This means the prospect of being governed by one’s own countrymen while remaining within the broad ambit of the British Empire.

This form of government was found in the other self-governing colonies of Britain like Canada, New Zealand.

Moderate leaders were mostly educated either in Britain or in the western styled universities of India like Calcutta University, Bombay University etc.

Such leaders were Surendranath Banerjea, Ananda Mohan Bose, Dadabhai Naoroji, Badruddin Tyabji, Gopal Krishna Gokhale etc.

Mindset of Moderates

The moderates were heavily influenced by British ideals and principles, especially Western philosophy and sciences.

They had tremendous faith in the “fair-play” of British rule.

In a way they believed that British rule was an act of divine providence for India and wanted Britain’s white man to look after their “less-able” non-white subjects.

They were convinced that the British mentality was to ensure the welfare of Indians.

Methods Used

The Moderates made use of methods like letters, petitions, resolutions and deputations to the institutions of governance.

They refused to endorse the violent or coercive methods of protest.

This was perhaps on the grounds that the British government will come down heavily upon them. For example-Surendranath Banerjea, Dadabhai Naoroji did pay routine visits to England.

The purpose of visits-to try and improve the British perception towards Indian subjects.

Were they Stooges?

In a way, they certainly were British stooges, the fact that they were staunchly opposed to the use of force and violent methods of the neo-nationalists showed that.

Even a part of the Bengali moderate intelligensia condemned the cult of the bomb that Aurobindo Ghosh, Khudiram Bose etc represented.

But the specificity of the historical context need to be understood, Indian psyche was colonised and so it is only concomitant that the early nationalists will have their psyche influenced by European colonialism.


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