Surendranath Banerjee, A Pioneer Leader of Indian Politics And Political Empowerment

Surendranath Banerjee was one of the earliest Indian political leaders during British rule. He propelled the foundations of modern India.

#colourfulingrey: Surendranath Banerjee
The idol of yesterday is the demon of today, ruthlessly trodden in the dust. ~ Surendranath Banerjee, Indian political leader (10 November 1848–6 August 1925)

Career As A Civil Servant And Time In London

Surendranath Banerjee was born in Kolkata. He grew up under the nurturing influence of his capable father, Durga Charan Banerjee. A doctor by profession, Durga Banerjee was liberal and progressive-minded. Post his graduation, Surendranath competed in the Indian Civil Service examinations. The exams were then held in England. He was appointed by the British crown as an assistant magistrate to Sylhet (now in Bangladesh) (1871–1874).

After his work in Sylhet, Banerjee returned to London and joined The Honorable Society of The Middle Temple. However, a year later, he was dismissed and had to return to India. When in London, he studied the works of Edmund Burke and other liberal philosophers, including the writings of Italian nationalist Giuseppe Mazzini. These helped mold his political thinking.

Return To India And Political Career

On his return, Banerjee began his career as a professor of English, which was to last for a remarkable 37 years. He founded Ripon College, later renamed Surendranath College in Kolkata. He delivered public speeches on nationalist and liberal political subjects and Indian history, to create and mold political awareness.

On 26th July 1876, he co-founded India’s first avowed nationalist organization, Indian National Association with Anandamohan Bose. It was an attempt to bring Hindus and Muslims together for political action.

#colourfulingrey: Surendranath Banerjee

In 1879, he purchased The Bengalee, a newspaper he would edit for 40 years from his nationalist viewpoint. In 1883, Banerjee was arrested for publishing remarks in his paper, marking him as the first Indian journalist to be imprisoned. On his arrest, protests and hartals erupted across cities.

In 1886, Banerjee merged his organization with the Indian National Congress owing to their common objectives and memberships. He was elected the Congress President in 1895 at Poona and in 1902 at Ahmedabad. However, the increasing rift between the moderates and extremist factions resulted in walking out of the moderates, Banerjee included, from the Indian National Congress in 1906. Later, Banerjee founded the Indian Liberation Federation.

The Britishers appointed him as a minister in the Bengal government, but he lost the legislative assembly elections in 1923 to Bidhan Chandra Roy. This marked an end to his political career. Banerjee worked towards making the Calcutta Municipal Corporation a more democratic body during his tenure as minister. The same year, the Britishers knighted him for his political support to the empire.

#colourfulingrey: Stamp of India
Source: Wikipedia

Political Outlook

Surendranath protested the partition of the Bengal province. He was neither for the extremist views of Bal Gangadhar Tilak nor the non-cooperation standpoint of Mahatma Gandhi. Thus, he advocated the Swadeshi Movement and supported both Morley-Minto Reforms and the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms. This was adverse to the Indian ideology during that time. Due to this, he became a subject of resentment, and the majority of the Indian public ridiculed his thinking.

He wrote the widely acclaimed A Nation in Making: Being the Reminiscences of Fifty Years of Public Life, published in 1925. He passed away that year at Barrackpore town, Kolkata, India.

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Kasturi Goswami

Kasturi Goswami

Writer| Mechanical Engineer| Writing expresses my inner embedded code. It is a portrait of words spun with ink.