Indian National Congress

Ambica Charan Mazumdar

President: 1850 - 1922 (Lucknow, 1916)

Ambica Charan Mazumdar was born at Sandiya, Faridpur district in East Bengal, in 1850. His father, Radha Madhab Mazumdar, was a zamindar and thus Ambica Charan Mazumdar had a rich aristocratic background.

While studying in Calcutta he met Surendranath Banerjea in 1875 at the Metropolitan Institute and became interested in politics. In 1886, he attended the second session of the Indian National Congress held in Calcutta.

But it was from 1899 that he became one of the leaders of Bengal in the Nationalist Movement, when he presided over the Bengal Provincial Conference at Burdwan. In 1905, Ambica Charan Mazumdar plunged into the partition agitation along with Aswini Kumar Datta, Bhupendra Nath Basu and Surendranath Banerjea and organised meetings, protesting against the partition of Bengal, Lord Curzon and Sir Joseph Bampfylde Fuller.

In 1908, at the Madras Session of the Indian National Congress, he welcomed the long-expected reform scheme. In 1910, he again presided over the Bengal Provincial Conference held in Calcutta. In 1915, he published a book, 'Indian National Evolution', which was a brief survey of the origin and progress of the Indian National Congress.

In 1916, as a culmination of his political career, he became the President of the 31st Session of the Indian National Congress in Lucknow and in his presidential speech stated, "Call it Home Rule, call it self-rule, call it Swaraj . . . it is representative government." He retired from active politics in 1918 after helping to form the Liberal Federation.

A close friend of Gokhale and Sir Henry Cotton, a follower of constitutional means in the nationalist movement, Mazumdar remained a moderate in his political views to the end. He was one of the great leaders of Bengal in the Nationalist Movement. Sir John Woodburn, Lt. Governor of Bengal, called him ‘The Grand Old Man of Faridpur’. An orator and a lawyer, Pansy Chhaya Ghosh called him one of the stoutest advocates of constitutional development of India.

“Here are our demands which, God willing, are bound to be fulfilled at no distant date. India must cease to be a dependency and be raised to the status of a self - governing state as an equal partner with equal rights and responsibilities as an independent unit of the Empire.

In any scheme of readjustment after the war, India should have a fair representation in the Federal Council like the colonies of the Empire. India must be governed from Delhi and Simla, and not from Whitehall or Downing Street.

The Council of the Secretary of State should be either abolished or its constitution so modified as to admit of substantial Indian representation on it. Of the two Under - Secretaries of State for India one should be an Indian and the salaries of the Secretary of State should be placed on the British estimates as in the case of the Secretary for the Colonies.

The Secretary of State for India should, however, have no more powers over the Government of India than those exercised by the Secretary of State for the Colonies in the case of the Dominions. India must have complete autonomy, financial, legislative as well as administrative.

The Government of India is the most vital point in the proposed reforms. It is the fountain head of all local administrations and unless we can ensure its progressive character any effective reform of the local Governments would be impossible. For this the services must be completely separated from the State and no member of any service should be a member of Government.”

From the Presidential Address- Ambica Charan Mazumdar I.N.C. Session, 1916, Lucknow