| The Indian National movement was primarily a movement for freedom from alien domina-nation. The movement has been one comprehensive effort embracing all aspects of the life of the community.
The birth of the Indian National Congress, perhaps the oldest and the biggest democratic organisation in the world, did not take place in an atmosphere of a fanfare of trumpets nor did it create a stir by passing flamboyant resolutions.
In 1884, at the annual convention of the Theosophical Society at Adyar in Madras, Mr. Allan Octavian Hume laid bare to his friends his plan to organise the Congress. A committee was formed to make the necessary preparations for a session at Poona to be held in 1885.
The committee consisted of Mr. Hume, Mr. Surendranath Bannerji, Mr. Narendranath Sen, Mr. S. Subramania Iyer, Mr. P. Ananda Charlu, Mr. V. N. Mandalik, Mr. K. T. Telag, Sardar Dayal Singh, Lala Sri Ram.
Mr. Hume, still a government servant, addressed an open letter to the graduates of Calcutta University with a fervent appeal for self help.
He said: "and if even the leaders of thought are all either such poor creatures, or so selfishly wedded to personal concern, that they dare not strike a blow for their country's sake, then justly and rightly they are kept down and trampled on, for they deserve nothing better. Every nation secures precisely as good a government as it merits. If you the picked men, the most highly educated of the nation cannot, scorning personal ease and selfish objects, make a resolute struggle to secure greater freedom for yourselves and your country, a more impartial administration, a larger share in the management of your own affairs then we, your friends arc wrong and our adversaries right, then Lord Rippon's noble aspirations for your good are fruitless and visionary, then at present at any rate, all hopes of progress are at an end, and India truly neither lacks nor deserves any better government than she enjoys.
"Only if this be so, let us hear no more factious, peevish complaints that you are kept in strings and treated like children, for you will have proved yourself such. Men know how to act. Let there be no more complaints of Englishmen being preferred to you in all important offices, for if you lack that public spirit, that highest form of altruistic devotion that leads men to subordinate private ease to the public weal that patriotism that has made Englishmen what they are - then rightly are these preferred to you, rightly and inevitably have they become your rulers. And rulers and task masters they must continue, let the yoke gall your shoulders never so sorely, until you realise and stand prepared to act upon the eternal truth that self-sacrifice and unselfishness are the only unfailing guide to freedom and happiness."
THE FIRST SESSION
The first session of the Congress was to meet at Poona but owing to an outbreak of cholera the venue was shifted to Bombay and the session began on the 28th December, 1885, with Mr. W. C. Bannerjee, the doyen of the Calcutta Bar in the chair, though originally, it had been decided to request Lord Reay, Governor of Bombay, to be the first President of the Indian National Congress but the idea had to be dropped as the Governor was advised by the Viceroy not to accept the offer. 72 delegates came from different parts of the country and most important among them were Dadabhai Naoroji, Ranade, Pherozeshah Mehta, K. T. Telang, Dinshaw Wacha, etc. The meeting was truly a national gathering consisting of leading men from all parts of India.
The president defined the objective of the Congress as "promotion of personal intimacy and friendship among all the more earnest workers in our country's cause in the parts of the empire and eradication of race, creed or provincial prejudice and fuller development of national unity.”
In its early sessions, the Congress Organisation, by and large, limited its activities only to debates.
After the Madras Session in 1887, an aggressive propaganda was started among the masses. Hume published a pamphlet entitled "An Old Man's Hope" in which he appealed to the people of England in these words: "Ah men, well-fed and happy, do you at all realise the dull misery of these countless myriads? From their births to their deaths, how many rays of sunshine think you chequer their gloom-shrouded paths? Toil, toil, toil; hunger, hunger, hunger, sickness, suffering, sorrow; these alas, alas, alas are the keynotes of their short and sad existence."
In December 1889, the Congress Session was held at Bombay under the Presidentship of Sir William Wedderburn. It was attended by Charles Bradlaugh, a member of British Parliament. He addressed the Congress in these words; "For whom should I work if not for the people? Born of the people, trusted by the people, I will die for the people, and I know no geographical or race limitation."
Dadabhai Naoroji was re-elected as the President of the Lahore Session of the Congress held in December 1893, His journey from Bombay to Lahore presented the spectacle of a procession, and Citizens at various places on the way presented him addresses. At the Golden Temple at Amritsar, he was given a robe of honour. Addressing the audience at the Session, Dadabhai Naoraji declared: "Let us always remember that we are children of our mother country. Indeed, I have never worked in any other spirit than that I am an Indian and owe duty to my work and all my countrymen. Whether I am a Hindu or a Mohammedan, a Parsi, a Christian, or of any other creed, I am above all an Indian. Our country is India, our nationality is Indian."