Dadabhai Naoroji Biography
Dadabhai Naoroji was a politician whose name is synonymous to the freedom struggle for the independence of India. Also famously called “The Grand Old Man of India”, Dadabhai Naoroji was born on the 4th of September, 1825 to a Parsi family in Bombay. Dadabhai Naoroji falls in the fundamental category of the founding pioneers of political and social leaders that grasped the evils of the colonial administration and pushed for India’s freedom form the British Raj. An intellectual, and academician, an economist, a staunch nationalist, a social reformer and an educator, Dadabhai Naoroji was instrumental in the formation of the Indian National Congress along with other leaders like Dinshaw Edulji Wacha and A. O. Hume. He is also responsible for the establishment of other important organizations like the Royal Asiatic Society of Bombay and the East Indian Association in London among many others. His distinguished caliber also led him to become the first Indian to become a Member of Parliament of the British where he held the responsibilities of a Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom House of Commons as a member of the Liberal Party. Dadabhai Naoroji’s incredible aptitude for economics resulted in him writing a seminal text called ‘Poverty and Un-British Rule in India’ where its pages spoke of his renowned ‘Theory of Drain of Wealth’. This theory provided ground breaking insights to the various forms of exploitation carried out by the colonial British that took place in incalculable magnitudes eventually leading to the continuous impoverishment of India. A believer of equality and an upholder of progressive views, Dadabhai Naoroji believed in the equal treatment of both men and women and was a forerunner that advocated for education among the women. Belonging to the assemblage of Moderates, he spoke strictly against all forms of caste discrimination and oppression and upheld the importance of constitutional procedures.
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Early life of Dadabhai Naoroji:
Dadabhai Naoroji was born to a Gujarati speaking Parsi household in the erstwhile Bombay that was under the administrative control of British India. During his days as a scholar, he was under the patronage and supervision of Sayajirao Gaekwad III who happened to be the Maharaja of Baroda where he took the role of a dewan (minister) to the Maharaja. It was due to his influence that gradually led to the transformation of Dadabhai Naoroji to have a just and a progressive viewpoint of the world as time went by. Soon after, by the virtue of him being and Athornan, Dadabhai Naoroji took to founding the Rahnumae Mazdayasne Sabha on the 1st of August, 1851 on the hopes to revert the faith of Zoroastrian faith to its original wholesomeness. Dadabhai Naoroji was true to his faith and in order to promote the message of social reforms, equality and fraternity of the Parsi sect, he laid the stone to the Rast Goftar in the year 1851 that happened to be a fortnightly publication written the language of Gujarati.
The year 1855 saw the induction of Dadabhai Naoroji in the Elphinstone College in Bombay as a Professor of Natural Philosophy and Mathematics. For the first time, history saw an Indian accomplishing this feat of securing an academic position. In the same year, Dadabhai Naoroji moved to London to establish the first Indian Company in England. He became one of the stake holders in Cama & Co that was established in Liverpool. Subsequently in the year 1859, Dadabhai Naoroji taught Gujarati as a Professor in the University College London. In order to contribute to matters that dealt with the Indian political, social and economic situation, Dadabhai Naoroji founded the London Indian Society in the year 1865. One of the most important decisions of Dadabhai Naoroji that changed the course of the freedom struggle for India was the setting up of the East India Association which eventually was one of the predecessor associations of the Indian National Congress. This organization sought to bring to the light of the British, the viewpoint of the Indians in matters that affected them and later on, proved to be a significant forum that challenged the racial supremacy of the white British and their constructed claims of the Indian population being an inferior one. He became one of the members of the Legislative Council of Bombay from the year 1885 to the year 1888 and also held the post of the Prime Minister of Baroda in the year 1874. Dadabhai Naoroji was also a participant of the Indian National Association that was established by Sir Surendranath Banerjee, an organization that morphed into the Indian National Congress in the later years. After the birth of the Indian National Congress, he was voted the President in the year 1886. Later on, he again shouldered the responsibilities as the President of the Indian National Congress for the years 1893 and 1906.
The verdict of the 1892 elections also enabled Dadabhai Naoroji to be elected into the British House of Commons. No Indian had been previously elected for such an office of responsibility and he held the post form 1892 to 1895. Dadabhai Naoroji became the first ever Indian Member of Parliament of the British where he constantly voiced his opinions about the well-being of India. In the year 1901, he published ‘Poverty and un-British Rule in India’. The book spoke of how the British plundered the resources of India that consistently led to the rise of destitution and misery in India and happens to be one of the most important texts in the context of the Indian independence movement.
Family, personal life and outlook:
Dadabhai Naoroji was born to a Parsi family on the 4th of September, 1825 in Bombay of British India. He was a man who strongly professed his faith of Zoroastrianism and throughout his life laid foundations to many institutions and organizations that spoke of the ways of the Parsi faith. Dadabhai Naoroji was also a frequent writer where he preached the beliefs of Zoroastrianism in a local Gujarati publication called Rast Goftar which literally translates to ‘The Truth Teller’. Dadabhai Naoroji was married to Gulbai at the age of eleven. Dadabhai Naoroji’s outlook towards life is highlighted in the principles of the progressive views that he believed in. Throughout his life, he believed in the equal treatment of men and women and always raised the importance of providing education to the women. Dadabhai Naoroji was also a staunch believer of the principles of equality and fraternity. This is reflected in his resentment against the multiple forms of caste based discriminations that he spoke against and also refuted the propaganda of the theory of racial supremacy of the British that was legitimized by the Ethnological Society of London.
Dadabhai Naoroji’s ‘Drain of Wealth’ theory and poverty:
The economist in Dadabhai Naoroji allowed him to closely analyze what he called the drain of wealth form India by the British Administration. The prime reason of this analysis of Dadabhai Naoroji rested of the premise of his endeavour to comprehend and map the net profit of India along with the effects on it on account of the various avenues of the colonial government. After a close study of the dynamics of exchange, Dadabhai Naoroji formulated six major postulates that justified how the British administration in India was plundering its wealth without any measure by the former to fulfil the void. The first factor that enabled such exploitation was due to the nature of administration of India where the country was being governed not by its own elected people but rather, a foreign government. The second postulate highlighted the lack of the influx of immigrants in India that directly caused the chocking of the inflow of labour and capital; the two variables that are an absolute essential for an economy to flourish. Thirdly, the major expenses of the army of the British along with the administration personnel from various civil bodies were all sustained by India. Additional to this, the fourth highlight spoke of the miscellaneous expenses that arose on account of the building of England along with her infrastructure were too, borne by India. The fifth point depicted how India in the name of free trade was being plundered of its resources without any kind of compromise where the jobs with handsome packages were all offered to the foreign nationals. The final justification to this wealth drain spoke of how there was a drain in capital as most income earners were foreign national themselves and by the virtue of them returning to their own lands caused in the tremendous loss of capital. These postulates were eventually published in his famous text titled ‘Poverty and Un-British Rule in India’ in the year 1901 that read of how the colonial administration was the prime cause for the tremendous loss of India’s revenue that amounted to well over two hundred to three hundred million pounds that were never reimbursed. Dadabhai Naoroji in his book described this entire process of plundering by the British as “vampirism” where the material resources along with capital were used as a metaphor for blood. This text was very important for the nationalist movement as it brought out into the light the actual picture of the processes carried out by the colonial administration in the name of free trade. He did not see the investments of the British such as the establishment of railways among the others as sufficient enough to give back the wealth drained from India. Moreover, these investments indirectly would further aid the British to mobilize the resources from the Indian subcontinent further impoverishing the country.
Political journey of Dadabhai Naoroji:
Dadabhai Naoroji had a distinguished political career and was one of the pioneers of the fight to freedom form the colonial raj. Two of the most important contributions among the many of Dadabhai Naoroji were the establishment of the London Indian Society in the year 1865 and the East India Association in the year 1867. Both these organizations in the name of the welfare of the Indian citizens focused on matters related to the socio-economic and political scenario of the country along with bringing to the notice of the British, the matters that would benefit the people of India. These two organizations apart from their established roles were important as they served as the bedrock for the Indian National Congress to finally emerge that eventually changed the course of history in India’s fight for freedom. Dadabhai Naoroji eventually served as the President of the Indian National Congress for the three years of 1886, 1893 and 1906. After Dadabhai Naoroji was elected as the first Indian Member of the Parliament to the British House of Commons, he continuously raised numerous matters that concerned the Indians in the floor of the British Parliament. Dadabhai Naoroji on account of his excellent oratory skills managed to highlight the issues and plight of the Indians among the entire House of Commons and this often led to the change in the outcomes of the decisions made by the British Parliament. Dadabhai Naoroji was belonged to the Moderates of the Indian National Congress. He was a very strong influence for the other freedom fighters of the Indian independence movement and mentored leaders like Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi among the many.
The reason why he is called “The Grand Old Man of India”:
Dadabhai Naoroji is also popularly recalled as the ‘Grand Old Man of India’. He is associated with this title predominantly because of his immense contribution to India’s freedom struggle against the British Raj. Not only was he one of the greatest leaders of the Indian national Congress but also a progressive social reformers whore efforts ranged beyond the political mobility of the Indians. His intellectual distinction led to the birth of the ‘Theory of Drain of Wealth’, an understanding that exposed the true nature of the British rule. Dadabhai Naoroji was immensely responsible for the moulding of the Indian National Congress where the party was appropriately nurtured especially under the three years of him being its President. Another important declaration from the Grand Old Man himself was in the year 1904 when he demanded India to be governed by self-Swaraj. Dadabhai Naoroji was also a key figure in the Indian Home Rule Movement that later manifested as the Non Cooperation Movement under the stewardship of Mahatma Gandhi with his principles of swadeshi and boycott of the British. The title ‘Grand Old Man of India’ commemorates the impeccable abilities of Dadabhai Naoroji and the vast contributions that he selflessly put forth for India’s freedom struggle as well as the betterment of the citizens of the country.
To recall his presidential address delivered during the 1893 Lahore Session of the Indian National Congress:
“Let us always remember that we are all 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 country and all my countrymen. Whether I am a Hindu, a Mohammedan, a Parsi, a Christian, or any other creed, I am above all an Indian. Our country is India; our nationality is Indian.”
Death and legacy of Dadabhai Naoroji:
Dadabhai Naoroji breathed his last on the 30th of June 1917. His contributions towards his country and countrymen alike were immense. Dadabhai Naoroji not only fought the fight for independence on his home soil but also played a key role of intervention among the British authorities especially in the British Parliament as an official Member of Parliament. Many landmarks and places including the Dadabhai Naoroji Road, in Mumbai, the Dadabhai Naoroji Road in Karachi, Pakistan, The Central Government Servants’ Residential Colony, Naoroji Nagar, South Delhi and the Naoroji Street in the Finsbury section of London are named in his honour. One can also find a plaque at the entrance of the Finsbury Town Hall at the Rosebery Avenue in London in honour of Dadabhai Naoroji. In the year 2014, the Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Nick Clegg inaugurated the Dadabhai Naoroji Award. The India Post in Ahmedabad also issued a stamp exclusively dedicated to the Grand Old Man of India on the 29th of December, 2017 as a celebration of the centenary year of his death.
Literary Works of Dadabhai Naoroji:
Dadabhai Naoroji was gifted with and extraordinary mind and was and extremely capable academician. In the course of his life, he wrote many texts that mostly dealt with India and her socio-economic and political situation under the British Raj. He being a staunch believer of his faith also published many works that spoke about the ways of the Parsi faith. The following are a few of the literary works of Dadabhai Naoroji among the many:
- The Manners and Customs of the Parsees (Bombay, 1864)
- The European and Asiatic races (London, 1866)
- Admission of Educated Natives into the Indian Civil Service (London, 1868)
- The Wants and Means of India (London, 1876)
- Condition of India (Madras, 1882)
- Poverty of India (A paper that was read before the Bombay Branch of the East India Association, Bombay, in the year 1876)
- Lord Salisbury's Blackman (Lucknow, 1889)
- The Parsee Religion (University of London, 1861)
- Poverty and Un-British Rule in India (1902)