Routledge

From the Bombay Gazette (28 December 1885)

Introduction: The first English newspaper in Bombay (Mumbai) was the "Bombay Herald", established in 1789. It name was changed to "Bombay Gazette" in 1791. It remained for along time the leading paper of that city. Its reporter portrayed the first session of the Indian National Congress in 1885 very well.

(see also AHOI, Ch. 6, section: The pattern of constitutional reform)

A new era is marked in the political history of this Presidency with the organisation of what is called a National Conference which held on Monday its first sitting in Bombay. Poona was at first selected for this meeting, and delegates from all parts of India had already assembled there, but owing to the prevalence of cholera in the capital of the Deccan, the delegates had to be brought down to this city, and here they have been accommodated in the spacious building  of the institution which is called The Goculdas Tejpal Boarding School, Sanskrit College and Library, situated at Gowalia Tank, Before commencing the serious work for which the Conference is held, an opportunity was given at an informal gathering on Sunday afternoon to those who are strangers to this city to be introduced to some of the representative men belonging to the native community of Bombay. And the spectacle which presented itself of men representing  the various races and communities, castes and sub-divisions of castes, religions and sub-divisions of religions, met together in one place to form themselves, if possible, into one political whole, was most unique and interesting. For they had not come from the Presidency towns alone, but from all parts of India, and their presence afforded a  most interesting study of the heads and head-dresses typical of the variety  of castes and communities inhabiting this country. There were men from Madras, the blackness of whose complexion seemed to be made blacker by spotless white turbans which some of then wore. A few others hailing from that Presidency were bareheaded and barefooted, and otherwise lightly clad, their bodies from the waist upward  being only partially protected by muslin shawls. It may fairly be presumed that they are the leading lights of the towns which they represent and as such it may be supposed that they are well educated. But they have preferred to retain their national dress and manners, and in this respect they present a marked contrast to the delegates from Bengal. Some of these appeared in entirely European costume ... None of them wore the gold rings and diamond pendents which adorned the ears of some of the Madrasees; nor had their foreheads painted, like their more orthodox and more conservative brethren from the Southern Presidency. Then there were Hindustanis from places as Delhi, Agra, Lucknow and Benares. Some of them wore muslin skull-caps and dresses chiefly made of the same fine cloth. On the other hand there were delegates from the North-West – bearded, bulky and large-limbed men – in their coats and flowing robes of different hues and their turbans like those worn by Sikh soldiers. There were stalwart Sindhees from Kurrachee wearing their own tall hat surmounted by a broad brim at the top. In this strange group were to be observed the familiar figures of Banyas from Gujarat, Marathas in their ‚cart-wheel’ turbans, and of Parsees in their not very elegant head-dress which they themselves have likened to a slanting roof. .... All these men assembled in the same hall ... After the ceremony of introduction had been concluded the delegates freely exchanged with one another their views upon things in general and politics in particular. They included a large number of lawyers and conductors of newspapers and they all appeared to have agreed in the opinion that they had some political aspirations which could by no possibility clash with opposing interests and that for the promotion of their common object there was a necessity for concerted action.....

(J. Murdoch, The Indian National Congress (London and Madras, 1898) p.8 f.)

 

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