Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A thought was born

That block of flats along the western border of the Kapaleeshwarar temple tank occupies the space where, in the late 19th century, Diwan Bahadur Raghunatha Rao's house, Krishna Vilasam, had stood. Sometime in Aug-Sep of 1884, seventeen prominent men of south India had met at this house and resolved that a "national movement for political ends" be formed. One of the members present was Alan Octavian Hume, a member of the Theosophical Society. Hume followed up on this resolution at the annual convention of the Theosophical Society in December 1884 and his suggestion of all-India organization to present the cause of Indians found acceptance with Annie Besant, Womesh Chandra Bannerjee and Surendranath Bannerjee. 

December 28-30 of the following year saw the first session of the Indian National Congress, in Bombay. With just 72 delegates, it didn't seem to be big deal. But Hume had covered extensive ground. He had travelled to England and had the proposal of forming the INC cleared by Lord Ripon, then Viceroy of India, and other influential persons. Without those efforts, the organization might have remained one more of the many which had petered out after the initial enthusiasm. 

The first resolution of the INC was moved by G Subrahmania Aiyar, who was then the editor of The Hindu, a delegate from Madras. In the years to follow, other delegates from Madras continued to play important roles in the Congress. In the 1960s, however, the Congress lost ground in Tamil Nadu and has been struggling to regain it here since. This year, the party has slipped across the country; its annual session this year a couple of days ago was a low-key affair.  An idea that was sparked at a Mylapore meeting charted the course of this country for over a century - and will hopefully regain its lustre in the years ahead!

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