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British Indian Association, The


British Indian Association, The was founded on October 29, 1851 at Calcutta with Raja radhakanta dev and debendranath tagore as its President and Secretary respectively. Other members of the Association included Ramgopal Ghosh, peary chand mitra and Krishnadas Pal. Its membership was kept exclusive to Indians.

The object of the Association was 'to secure improvements in the local administration of the country and in the system of government laid down by Parliament'. The Association gave leadership to remove the existing defects in the laws and civil administration of the country and to promote greater welfare of the Indians. In 1852 the Association sent a petition to Parliament 'relative to the East India Company's charter' fallen due to be renewed in 1853. The Association informed parliament that Indians were not benefited by their connection with Great Britain 'to the extent they expected'.

It submitted a list of grievances, which afterwards became a part of the Congress demand. These were the relaxation of the pressure of the revenue systems, the improvement of judicial administration, the protection of the life and property of the people from molestation, relief from monopolies of the east india company, encouragement of indigenous manufacture, education of the people and the admission of the Indians to the higher administrative services. The Association demanded that in the future two-thirds of Indian Legislative Council's representatives should be Indians.

From its inception the Association had an all-India outlook and maintained close contacts with associations of similar character, which were established in Poone, Madras and Bombay. For about quarter of a century, the Association was the spokesman of India. When the Government of India put restriction on higher education (1879), the Association vehemently protested. Being predominantly an organisation of the landlords and of the upper class, it was obviously concerned with those measures of the administration that affected their class interests.

The exclusive character of the Association and its high rate of annual subscription came under public criticism. The Muslims of Bengal who were largely raiyats and peasants had little interest and connection with this Association. So in order to protect their own interest the Mohamedan Association was founded in Calcutta in 1856. The British Indian Association, however, welcomed it. The leaders of this Association gave their co-operation during the Indian National Conference (1883 and 1885) and the Conference of the Indian National Congress (1886) held in Calcutta.

In 1859, despite its pro-zamindari and landed aristocracy interest the Association refused to join the indigo planters in their efforts to get Act x of 1859 repealed and supported the cause of the raiyats. In 1860 also it urged the Government to set up a Commission of Enquiry for solving the question of indigo cultivation.

The Indian Association ceased to operate after the abolition of the zamindari system in West Bengal in 1954. [ABM Mahmood]