(a) Memories of 1857
Indian national movement dates its birth from the 1857 uprising. The outrages committed by the British army after putting down the revolt remained “un-avenged”. Even the court-martial law and formalities were not observed. Officers who sat on the court martial swore that they would hang their prisoners, guilty or innocent and, if any dared to raise his voice against such indiscriminate vengeance, he was silenced by his angry colleagues. Persons condemned to death after the mockery of a trial were often tortured by soldiers before their execution, while the officers looked on approvingly. It is worth recalling what Elphinstone, Governor of Bombay Presidency, wrote to Sir John Lawrence, future Viceroy of India (1864) about the British siege of Delhi during June-September, 1857: ‘…A wholesale vengeance is being taken without distinction of friend or foe. As regards the looting, we have indeed surpassed Nadirshah.’
(b) Racial Discrimination
The English followed a policy of racial discrimination. The systematic exclusion of the Indians from higher official positions came to be looked upon as an anti-Indian policy measure and the resultant discontent of the Indian upper classes led the Indians to revolt against the British rule. When civil service examinations were introduced the age limit was fixed at twenty one. When Indians were making it, with a view to debarring the Indians from entering the civil services, the age limit was reduced to nineteen. Similarly, despite requests from Indian educated middle class to hold the civil service examinations simultaneously in India, the Imperial government refused to concede the request.
(c) Repressive as well as Exploitative Measures against Indians
Repressive regulations like Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (1870), punishing attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government, and the Vernacular Press Act (1878), censoring the press, evoked protest. Abolition of custom duty on cotton manufactures imported from England and levy of excise duty on cotton fabrics manufactured in India created nationwide discontent. During the viceroyalty of Ripon the Indian judges were empowered through the Ilbert Bill to try Europeans. But in the face of resistance from the Europeans the bill was amended to suit the European interests.
(d) Role of Press
T he introduction of printing press in India was an event of great significance. It helped people to spread, modern ideas of self-government, democracy, civil rights and industrialisation. The press became the critic of politics. It addressed the people on several issues affecting the country. Raja Rammohan Roy’s Sambad Kaumudi (1821) in Bengali and Mirat-Ul-Akbar (1822) in Persian played a progressive role in educating the people on issues of public importance. Later on a number
of nationalist and vernacular news papers came to be launched to build public opinion and they did yeomen service in fostering nationalist consciousness. Among them Amrit Bazaar Patrika, The Bombay Chronicle, The Tribune, The Indian Mirror, The Hindu and Swadesamitran were prominent.
(e) Invoking India’s glorious Past
Orientalists like William Jones, Charles Wilkins and Max Muller explored and translated religious, historical and literary texts from Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic into English and made them available to all. Influenced by the richness of Indian traditions and scholarship, many of the early nationalists made a fervent plea to revive the pristine glory of India. Aurobindo Ghose would write, ‘The mission of Nationalism, in our view, is to recover Indian thought, Indian character, Indian perceptions, Indian energy, Indian greatness and to solve the problems that perplex the world in an Indian spirit and from the Indian standpoint.’