Indian National Congress: Safety Valve Theory

In the previous post we have read about the Lord Ripon. We have saw from the revolt of 1857 though the power centre was changed from the East India Company to British Crown. But the intensity of the exploitation and suppression was remained same.

Cause of Frustration Among Masses
Cause of Frustration Among Masses

So, this led to the disappointment and frustration among the masses. People from all classes were having various problematic issues. So, India saw the emergence of organised nationalism. People started to campaign against the exploitative government.

This organised nationalism got the platform when in 1885, Indian National Congress came into the scene. Here are some facts and myths related to the foundation of Indian National Congress. In this post, we shall discuss all the reasons.

Indian National Congress, 1885

Myth or fact of Indian National Congress

The opponents of Congress are of the opinion that government played a very important role in the formation of Indian National Congress. As the opinion to have an all India organisation was of Allan Octavian Hume (A.O. Hume). According to opponents, Congress from 1885 to 1947 smartly fulfilled the interest of its master.

Somehow it is true also. But one can not deny this fact also that the Congress played a very important role to awaken masses in India for the Freedom Struggle. The opponents of Congress are of the opinion that Congress instigated the people from time to time. So, whenever the temperament of people reached its peak Congress deliberately ended the movement. Example,

Different Movements organised by Indian National Congress
Different Movements organised by Indian National Congress

Though these allegations of opponents were very obvious. All these allegations gave birth to the hypothesis of official conspiracy in which evidenced are,

View in favour and Against of Safety Valve Theory
View in favour and Against of Safety Valve Theory

For or in Favour of Safety Valve Theory

A. O. Hume, a British civil servant played a crucial role in the formation of Congress. He acted as general secretary of Congress for initial 20years. So, he himself coined the term Safety Valve. This was somehow a good term used by A. O. Hume and it is justifiable by the following facts,

  • When Congress came into existence in 1885, Lord Dufferin was the Viceroy of India. So, Lord Dufferin organised a Tea Party for the initial delegates of the Indian National Congress.
  • Womesh Chandra Banerjee, the first President of Indian National Congress’s first session in Bombay gave the statement that A. O. Hume is working under the direction of Lord Dufferin.

All these evidence are used by opponents to prove that Congress was the creation of British Empire in India. But Congress and its supporters always defended it. So, there are people who have the opinion against to the safety valve hypothesis. Let’s have look on their sayings also.

Views Against Safety Valve

A. O. Hume, right from his arrival in India in the 1850s was interested in philanthropic activities. He played important role in establishment of schools, hospitals etc. So, Hume from the very beginning showed his concerns for the plight condition of Indians under British Rule.

During his tenure as General Secretary, B. M. Malbari, the social reformer of Maharashtra in his newspaper “The Spectator” appealed Congress to work for social reforms in India. Because social crisis like Caste System was the biggest obstacle in the emergence of Modern India. But that time A. O. Hume opposed this cause and called it as the wrong trend.

Relation of Hume and Dufferin

Lord Dufferin gave the Tea Party to the initial delegates of Indian National Congress. Here, he appealed Congress to work for social reforms. Because Dufferin was of the opinion that Government was already doing the political reforms. So, when the Indian National Congress rejected the proposal of Lord Dufferin. Dufferin called Congress as Microscopic Minority.

Whereas there are also some facts that Lord Dufferin did not have good relations with the A. O. Hume. Lord Dufferin was angry by the spiritual inclination of Hume towards Indian Culture. So, in his recommendation to the government, he called Hume as insane, shrewd and canning etc.


So, above written facts and myths have their own significance. What matters to us is that one should not doubt about humanitarian aspects of Hume. But then if also he would have any kind of ill motives in his mind then Indians proved smarter than him. Because if he would have used Indians as Safety Valve, Indian would have used him as a lightning conductor as said by the Lala Lajpat Rai.

This was brief about the foundation of Indian National Congress in 1885. In the coming posts, we shall deal with the different phases of Indian National Congress.

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