Nationalism's inner eye

Indian National Evolution: A Brief Survey of the Origin and Progress of the Indian National Congress and the Growth of Indian Nationalism, by Amvika Charan Mazumdar is Frontpage, Kolkata's latest book. It has an introduction by Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, whose book Vande Mataram has a similar cover... The two are very different, of course.

Indian National Evolution is a rare first person observer’s account of the history of the Indian National Congress chronicles the movements led to its birth in 1885 as well as the multifaceted growth achieved during the first three decades of its political journey till 1915 when Mazumdar first published Indian National Evolution which is the first history of the Indian National Congress.

Unlike any other history of the Indian National Congress, it is more than a narrative of what during the initial years the Congress and its organs had planned and accomplished under the colonial impediments.

Mazumdar contextualized the Indian National Congress in a wide-ranging history of the growth of political consciousness in British India; the most important feature of this historical account is that Mazumdar, being a pre-Gandhian Congress leader, for the first time, put forward the idea that the Indian National Congress was not just a party, it was also a national movement.

Amvika Charan Mazumdar (1851-1922) was born at Sendiya, in the district of Faridpore in present-day Bangladesh. While studying in Calcutta he met Surendranath Banerjea in 1875 and became involved in the national movement. In the agitation against Partition of Bengal in 1905 Mazumdar was a major leader, and that led to his eventual elevation to the President’s position at Lucknow Session of the Indian National Congress in 1916. One of the stoutest advocates of constitutional development of India, Mazumdar in his presidential speech at Lucknow stated: “Call it Home Rule, call it Self-Rule, call it Swaraj . . . it is representative government.”

Sabyasachi Bhattacharya is the Chairman of Indian Council of Historical Research. He was earlier Professor of History at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi (1975-91, 1995-2003), and Vice Chancellor, Visvabharati University, Santiniketan (1991-1995). He has also held teaching and research assignments at the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata, the University of Chicago, St. Antony’s College at Oxford University, and El Colegio de Mexico.

In hardcover 296 pages, Rs 795. ISBN: 9788190884129