The emergence of national consciousness among Indians during 19th century was the direct outcome of British rule. India was being exploited as a British colony. This process of colonization brought about economic, political and social changes in India. These changes resulted in oppression of Indians and gave rise to wide spread dissatisfaction among all Indian classes. Moreover, the development of post, telegraph, railways, printing press and educational institutions contributed to the growing nationalism. Though British developed post, telegraph, railways, printing press and educational institutions for their own benefit and effective administration, they became instrumental in rise and growth of national consciousness.
Collapse of Indian Agriculture
- The Indian agriculture and handicraft industry was completely destroyed by the economic policies adopted by British. Farmers, artisans and other economic classes were deeply affected.
- British agriculture policies just aimed to collect maximum revenue from the peasants. Zamindari system was established at the permanent settlements and here zamindar was responsible to collect the land revenue and pay to the state.
- Though the land revenue was fixed for zamindars, they used to charge more from the peasants than what they had to pay to the state.
- Many a times, the peasants had to borrow from the money lenders. And money lenders used to charge huge rate of interest.
- Furthermore, cash crops like indigo, sugarcane and cotton were taken at dictated prices and exported as raw materials for British industries. This badly affected cotton and indigo farmers.
Consequently large numbers of farmers were just reduced to landless laborers.
Destruction of Indian Industry
Artisans also faced hardships due to the restrictions imposed on import of Indian textiles in Britain whereas machine-made goods from Britain were brought to India without any taxes. Moreover, Indian artisans could not compete with machine-made goods of Britain.
- The workers of factories, mines and plantations were paid very low wages and they had to live in extreme poverty.
- The policies relating to trade, tariff, taxation and transport also affected the new upcoming industries in India.
- Indian capitalists were ignored in comparison to the British capitalists who wanted to establish any industries in India.
Consequently, India was just used as the source of raw material for British industries.
Factors helping emergence of national consciousness
Administrative system: Large parts of the country which were ruled by British were brought under unified administrative system. Police, Law and order, land revenue administration, judiciary etc. was brought into this unified administration. With this unification the thoughts from one part was to other part of the country.
Communication system: For the convenience of the British rule post and telegraph, railways etc. were developed. All the major cities were well-linked with post and telegraph. Also the main idea behind the development of the railways was to link all the presidencies with each other. Railways also provided for the cheap mode of transport to carry goods from the ports. But later with the development of the railways, people in faraway places got the opportunity to interact with one another.
Education system: British introduced a system of education which was western both in method and material. The main idea behind the establishment of the new education system was the creation of British loyal Indians. To put it in the words of Macaulay, the idea was to form “a class of persons, Indians in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect”. But this education system also familiarized educated Indians with ideas of equality, liberty and nationalism. These ideas already existed and proved in western countries.
British expansion policy: British initially conquered kings who were against them and established their rule in different areas. This expansion policy continued even with the rulers who were not at war with them. This made Indian rulers frightened and worried about the British.
Printing press: The spread of ideas and thoughts became inexpensive with the introduction of printing press. Large number of newspapers and periodicals started to emerge. These printed materials shared the problems existing in different parts of the country. Printing press proved to be a blessing among the literate section of Indians.
Thoughts of the Intellectuals: Modern education also paved way for the rise of intellectuals. These intellectuals had critical and creative thoughts about the contemporary society. They strongly aimed at transforming this contemporary society along the modern lines. Ishwar Chandra vidyasagar, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ranade, Keshub Chandra Sen were a few intellectuals who contributed to the emergence and rise of national consciousness.
Reaction of Indians to British exploitation
Since the beginning of the British rule, the oppressed Indians showed resistance to the policies adopted by the British. This resistance gradually took the form of a national movement. Nineteenth century saw numerous uprisings of peasants and tribal people. Though in modern sense these were not actual conscious national uprisings, they contributed to the overall national consciousness. Peasant revolts were less violent compared to the revolts of the tribal people. The following is the list of few peasant and tribal revolts of early nineteenth century,
- Travancore revolt (1800-09)
- Bhil revolt (1818-31)
- Ho revolt (1820-21)
- Khasi revolt (1829-31)
- Wahabi movement (1830-69)
- Kol revolt (1831)
- Faraizi movement (1834-47)
- Santhal revolt (1855-56)
The main factors behind all these revolts were the British policies of exploitation. Later the revolt of 1857 was the first where we can find the flavor of national consciousness. This revolt spread to north and central India. But this revolt was brutally suppressed by British and this resulted in the transfer of power over India from East India Company to British government.
The following is the list of peasant movements in later half of nineteenth century,
- Indigo revolt (1860-90)
- Kuki revolt (1869-72)
- Kuka revolt (1869-72)
- Pabna peasant movement (1872-73)
- Birsa munda revolt (1899-90)
Though all these revolts were disappointments, they could strengthen the national consciousness among the people.
National consiousness also grew among the educated and middle classes of the society. This became the mainstream channel to showcase the discontent and it was instrumental in the development of national consciousness in India. The educated middle class began to examine the society both in social and political sense. Social organizations and reform movements were also instrumental in developing national consciousness. A number of organizations were established by the educated intellectuals to abolish social evils. For example,
- Ram Mohan Roy established Branho Samaj
- Dayanand saraswati established Arya Samaj
- Vivekananda established Ramakrishna mission
The educated middle class which included merchants, traders, industrialists, teachers, journalists, doctors etc. also underwent the agony of British rule. As soon as Indians realized that all the British policies were just profiting British only, they started protesting against the British rule. The protest staged by the educated class was different from the protest of peasants and tribal people. They started writing books and articles. They used the printing press to spread their ideas. They also formed organizations societies and associations to share their thoughts. Following are the few famous printed publications,
- Ram Mohan Roy started journal named Sambad Kaumudi in Bengali
- Dinabandhu Mitra wrote the play Nil Darpan.
- Bankimchandra wrote Anand Math with Vande mataram hymn.
Huge number of periodicals and newspapers were published in different languages like Urdu, Tamil, Marathi, Hindi etc. There were around 169 vernacular newspapers in 1877. Prominent among them are,
|*Amrita Bazar Patrika
|At Uttar Pradesh,
*Amrita Bazaar Patrika became an English language newspaper in 1878.
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