Q. The Britishers formed Indian National Congress (INC) to act as a safety valve. However, the Indians used the forum as a lightning conductor much to the whammy of Britishers. In this light the purpose behind formation of INC and the intention of Indians in respect of the same.

Structure of the answer:

  • Introduction
  • Safety valve theory/ Britisher’s intention on formation of INC
  • Use of INC by Indians for propagating nationalist interest
  • Conclusion

Model Answer

There is wide spread belief that reason behind the formation of INC was safety valve theory i.e. Britishers wanted to pacify the raising discontent among Indian masses through INC. The discontent among Indians was due to issues like passing of Vernacular Press act, Illbert bill controversy (1883), general discrimination etc.

In this background the INC was formed by retired British Civil Servant A.O. Hume and some of the reasons put forth for formation of INC are as follows:

  • C Banerjee says that INC was to gauge the extent of discontent among the Indians masses so as to take pre-emptive steps against large scale flare up.
  • Further, the Britishers did not want another face off with the Indians like Revolt of 1857. So, they gave the Indians a tool with which they can vent their frustration.
  • The Britishers also wanted to remain informed of the pulse of the masses.
  • Moreover, the Britishers knowingly allowed formation of INC so that Indian Intelligentsia would be busy inside INC rather than politically instigating mass.

However, the above justification appears to be a half truth after considering the following propositions:

  • Formation of INC was not a sudden incident as since 1860s many regional associations were active in India. For ex.- Poona Sarvajanik Sabha, Bombay Presidency Association
  • Leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji, Pherojshah Mehta wanted an all India political body to give a proper shape to the movement and to mobilize the whole country against oppressive rule of British.
  • Further, Indians formed this platform with help of Britishers to prevent any suppression as happened in 1857. Thus, wanted to use Hume as a lightning conductor for the same.

Thus, once INC was formed, the reason for its formation did not matter much as INC evolved over a period of time and helped India to get much needed freedom.

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