Surendranath Banerjee

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Sir Surendranath Banerjee
Surendranath Banerjee.jpg
Surendranath Banerjee
Born (1848-11-10)10 November 1848
Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India (now Kolkata, West Bengal, India)
Died 6 August 1925(1925-08-06) (aged 76)
Barrackpore, Bengal Presidency, British India (now West Bengal, India)
Nationality Indian
Other names Surrender Not Banerjee,Indian Gladstone,Indian Edmund Burke
Occupation Professor

Sir Surendranath Banerjee About this sound pronunciation  (Bengali: সুরেন্দ্রনাথ বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়) (10 November 1848 – 6 August 1925) was one of the earliest Indian political leaders during the British Raj. He founded the Indian National Association, one of the earliest Indian political organizations, and later became a senior leader of the Indian National Congress.He also organised two sessions of Indian National Conference in 1883 and 1885.Surendranath Banerjee and Anandmohan Bose were main architect of Indian National Conference.Surendranath also founded Indian National Liberation Federation. He was also known by the sobriquet Rashtraguru.He was editor of "The Bengali" newspaper.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Surendranath Banerjee was born in Calcutta (Kolkata), in the province of Bengal to a Bengali Brahmin family. He was deeply influenced in liberal, progressive thinking by his father Durga Charan Banerjee, a doctor. Banerjee was educated at the Parental Academic Institution and at the Hindu College. After graduating from the University of Calcutta, he traveled to England in 1868, along with Romesh Chunder Dutt and Behari Lal Gupta, to compete in the Indian Civil Service examinations. He cleared the competitive examination in 1869, but was barred owing to a dispute over his exact age. After clearing the matter in the courts, Banerjee cleared the exam again in 1871 and was posted as assistant magistrate in Sylhet.

Banerjee was soon dismissed for making a serious judicial error. He went to England to appeal his discharge, but was unsuccessful because, he felt, of racial discrimination. He would return to India bitter and disillusioned with the British.[1] During his stay in England (1874–1875), he studied the works of Edmund Burke and other liberal philosophers. These works guided him in his protests against the British. He was known as the Indian Burke.

Political career[edit]

Upon his return to India in June, 1875, Banerjee became an English professor at the Metropolitan Institution, the Free Church Institution[2] and at the Ripon College, founded by him in 1882. He began delivering public speeches on nationalist and liberal political subjects, as well as Indian history. He founded the Indian National Association with Anandamohan Bose, one of the earliest Indian political organizations of its kind, on 26 July 1876. He used the organization to tackle the issue of the age-limit for Indian students appearing for ICS examinations. He condemned the racial discrimination perpetrated by British officials in India through speeches all over the country, which made him very popular.

In 1879, he founded the newspaper, The Bengalee. In 1883, when Banerjee was arrested for publishing remarks in his paper, in contempt of court, protests and hartals erupted across Bengal, and in Indian cities such as Agra, Faizabad, Amritsar, Lahore and Pune. The INA expanded considerably, and hundreds of delegates from across India came to attend its annual conference in Calcutta. After the founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885 in Bombay, Banerjee merged his organization with it owing to their common objectives and memberships in 1886. He was elected the Congress President in 1895 at Poona and in 1902 at Ahmedabad.

Surendranath was one of the most important public leaders who protested the partition of the Bengal province in 1905. Banerjee was in the forefront of the movement and organized protests, petitions and extensive public support across Bengal and India, which finally compelled the British to reverse the bifurcation in 1912. Banerjee became the patron of rising Indian leaders like Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Sarojini Naidu. Banerjee was also one of the senior-most leaders of the moderate Congress — those who favoured accommodation and dialogue with the British — after the "extremists" - those who advocated revolution and political independence — led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak left the party in 1906. Banerjee was an important figure in the Swadeshi movement - advocating goods manufactured in India against foreign products — and his popularity at its apex made him, in words of admirers, the uncrowned king of Bengal.

Later career[edit]

The declining popularity of moderate Indian politicians affected Banerjee's role in Indian politics. Banerjee supported the Morley-Minto reforms 1909 – which were resented and ridiculed as insufficient and meaningless by the vast majority of the Indian public and nationalist politicians. Banerjee was a critic of the proposed method of civil disobedience advocated by Mahatma Gandhi, the rising popular leader of Indian nationalists and the Congress Party. Accepting the portfolio of minister in the Bengal government earned him the ire of nationalists and much of the public, and he lost the election to the Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1923 to Bidhan Chandra Roy, the candidate of the Swarajya Party – ending his political career for all practical purposes. He was knighted for his political support of the British Empire. Banerjee made the Calcutta Municipal Corporation a more democratic body while serving as a minister in the Bengal government.[3]

He is remembered and widely respected today as a pioneer leader of Indian politics — first treading the path for Indian political empowerment. He published an important work, A Nation in Making which was widely acclaimed. The British respected him and referred to him during his later years as Surrender Not Banerjee. But nationalist politics in India meant opposition, and increasingly there were others whose opposition was more vigorous and who came to center stage. Banerjee could accept neither the extremist view of political action nor the noncooperation of Gandhi, then emerging as a major factor in the nationalist movement. Banerjee saw the Montague-Chelmsford reforms of 1919 as substantially fulfilling Congress's demands, a position which further isolated him. He was elected to the reformed Legislative Council of Bengal in 1921, knighted in the same year, and held office as minister for local self-government from 1921 to 1924. His defeat at the polls in 1923 brought his political career to a close. Surendranath died at Barrackpore on August 6, 1925.

Commemoration[edit]

His name is commemorated in the names of the following institutions: Barrackpore Rastraguru Surendranath College, Raiganj Surendranath Mahavidyalaya, Surendranath College, Surendranath College for Women, Surendranath Evening College, Surendranath Law College and the Surendranath Centenary School in Ranchi.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Khan, Ataur Rahman (2001). "The Language Movement and Bengali Nationalism". In Ahmed, Rafiuddin. Religion, Identity & Politics: Essays on Bangladesh. Colorado Springs, CO: International Academic Publishers. pp. 168–169. ISBN 1-58868-080-0. In the end, Banerjea lost his job by committing a serious judicial mistake, dismissing a case recording the complainant and his witnesses absent while whey were actually present in his court. Banerjea went to England to lodge an appeal ... He concluded that his appeal failed because he was an Indian. This was the basic reason for his becoming a nationalist. 
  2. ^ Staff List: Free Church Institution and Duff College (1843-1907) in 175th Year Commemoration Volume. Scottish Church College, April 2008. page 570
  3. ^ "Kolkata - A Municipal History". Kolkata Municipal Corporation. Retrieved 26 January 2016. Democracy was ushered into the Municipal Government of Kolkata by making provision for election of a Mayor annually, by Sir Surendranath Banerjee, who as the first Minister of Local Self-Government in Bengal was the architect of Calcutta Municipal Act of 1923. 

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