Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee

Womesh Chandra Bannerjee (or Umesh Chandra Banerjee by current English orthography of Bengali names; 29 December 1844 – 21 July 1906) was an Indian barrister. He was the co-founder and first president of Indian National Congress.[1]

Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee
WCBonnerjee.jpg
1st & 8th President of Indian National Congress
In office
1885–1886
Preceded bypost established
Succeeded byDadabhai Naoroji
In office
1892–1893
Preceded byAnandacharlu
Succeeded byDadabhai Naoroji
Personal details
Born(1844-12-29)29 December 1844
Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India
Died21 July 1906(1906-07-21) (aged 61)
Croydon, London, England
NationalityBritish Indian
Political partyIndian National Congress
Spouse(s)
Hemangini Motilal
(m. 1859)
Alma materMiddle Temple
OccupationLawyer
Known forCo-founder and First president of Indian National Congress

Born on 1844 at Calcutta, he studied at the Oriental Seminary and the Hindu School. His career began in 1862 when he joined the firm of W. P. Gillanders, attorneys of the Calcutta Supreme Court, as a clerk where he acquired a knowledge of law. In 1864 he was sent to England where he joined the Middle Temple and was called to the Bar in June 1867. He returned to Calcutta in 1868 and within a few years he became the most sought after barrister in the High Court. He was the first Indian to act as a Standing Counsel, in which capacity he officiated four times — 1882, 1884, 1886-87. In 1883 he defended Surendranath Banerjee in contempt of court case against him in the Calcutta High Court. He was the fellow of Calcutta University and was the president of its law faculty. He retired from the Calcutta bar in 1901.

He presided over the first session of the Indian National Congress held at Bombay in 1885 from 28 to 31 December. In the 1886 session held at Calcutta, he proposed the formation of standing committees of the Congress in each province for the better co-ordination of its work and it was on this occasion that he advocated that the Congress should confine its activities to political matters only. He was the president of the Indian National Congress again in the 1892 session in Allahabad where he denounced the position that India had to prove for worthiness of political freedom.

He moved to Britain and practiced before the Privy Council. He financed the British Committee of Congress and its journals in London. In 1865 Dadabhai Naoroji founded the London Indian society and Bonnerjee was made its general secretary. When Bonnerjee became the Congress president Naoroji along with him, Eardley Norton and William Digby opened The Congress Political Agency, a branch of Congress in London. He unsuccessfully contested the 1892 United Kingdom general election as a Liberal party candidate for the Barrow and Furness seat. In 1893, Naoroji, Bonnerjee and Badruddin Tyabji founded the Indian Parliamentary Committee in England.

Birth and AncestryEdit

Womesh Chandra Bannerjee was born on 2 December 1844 at Calcutta (now Kolkata), in the present-day state of West Bengal.[2] He belonged to a very respectable Rarhi Kulin Brahmin family who hailed from Baganda, located west of the town of Howrah in present-day state of West Bengal. His grandfather Pitambur Bonnerjee first migrated to Calcutta (now Kolkata) and settled there. From his mother's side, Womesh Chandra was descended from the renowned Sanskrit scholar and philosopher Pundit Juggonath Turkopunchanun of Tribeni, Hooghly District in present-day West Bengal.[3]

Early daysEdit

Womesh Chandra Bannerjee studied at the Oriental Seminary and the Hindu School.[2] In 1859, he married Hemangini Motilal. His career began in 1862 when he joined the firm of W. P. Gillanders, attorneys of the Calcutta Supreme Court, as a clerk. In this post he acquired a good knowledge of law which greatly helped him in his later career. In 1864 he was sent to England through a scholarship from Mr. R. J. Jijibhai of Bombay[2] where he joined the Middle Temple and was called to the Bar in June 1867.[4] On his return to Calcutta in 1868, he found a patron in Sir Charles Paul, Barrister-at-Law of the Calcutta High Court.[2] Another barrister, J. P. Kennedy, also greatly helped him to establish his reputation as a lawyer. Within a few years he became the most sought after barrister in the High Court. He was the first Indian to act as a Standing Counsel, in which capacity he officiated four times — 1882, 1884, 1886-87. In 1883 he defended Surendranath Banerjee in the famous contempt of court case against him in the Calcutta High Court. He was the fellow of Calcutta University and was the president of its law faculty[2] and often represented it in the legislative council.[4] He retired from the Calcutta bar in 1901.[2]

As a president of India National Congress,Edit

He presided over the first session of the Indian National Congress held at Bombay in 1885[4] from 28 to 31 December and attended by 72 members.[5] In the 1886 session held at Calcutta, under the presidency of Dadabhai Naoroji, he proposed the formation of standing committees of the Congress in each province for the better co-ordination of its work and it was on this occasion that he advocated that the Congress should confine its activities to political matters only, leaving the question of social reforms to other organizations. He was the president of the Indian National Congress again in the 1892 session in Allahabad[4] where he denounced the position that India had to prove for worthiness of political freedom.[6] He moved to Britain and practiced before the Privy Council.[4] He financed the British Committee of Congress and its journals in London.[4] In 1865 Dadabhai Naoroji founded the London Indian society and Bonnerjee was made its general secretary. In December 1866, Naoroji dissolved the society and formed East Indian Association.[7][self-published source?] When Bonnerjee became the Congress president Naoroji along with him, Eardley Norton and William Digby opened The Congress Political Agency, a branch of Congress in London.[7] He lived in Croydon and named his residence after his birthplace Khidirpur.[7] The Liberal party made him his candidate for the Barrow and Furness seat in 1892. Bonnerjee was defeated by Charles Cayzer, a Tory candidate. In the same elections Naoroji won the Finsbury Central constituency and defeated his nearest rival by a narrow margin of only 5 votes. Naoroji became the first Indian member of the British Parliament. In 1893, Naoriji, Bonnerjee and Badruddin Tyabji founded the Indian Parliamentary Committee in England.[7]

Personal lifeEdit

His daughter Janaki Majumdar (née Bannerjee) studied natural science, chemistry, zoology and physiology at Newnham College, Cambridge University.[8][9] His daughter, Susila Anita Bonnerjee was a doctor, teacher, and suffragette.[10]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Nanda, B. R. (2015) [1977], Gokhale: The Indian Moderates and the British Raj, Legacy Series, Princeton University Press, p. 58, ISBN 978-1-4008-7049-3
  2. ^ a b c d e f Buckland, CE (1906). Dictionary of Indian Biography. London: Swan Sonnenshein & Co. p. 48.
  3. ^ Sanyal, Ram Gopal (1889). A General Biography of Bengal Celebrities (vol. 1). Uma Churn Chuckerbutty. p. 35. ISBN 9788170245865.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Sayed Jafar Mahmud (1994). Pillars of Modern India, 1757–1947. APH Publishing. p. 19. ISBN 978-81-7024-586-5.
  5. ^ "Sonia sings Vande Mataram at Congress function". Rediff. 28 December 2006. Retrieved 23 August 2014.
  6. ^ Lacy, Creighton (1965). The Conscience Of India – Moral Traditions In The Modern World, Holt, New York: Rinehart and Winston, p. 123
  7. ^ a b c d Faruque Ahmed (14 January 2011). Bengal Politics in Britain. Lulu.com. pp. 24–25. ISBN 978-0-557-61516-2.[self-published source]
  8. ^ Susheila Nasta (2012). India in Britain: South Asian Networks and Connections, 1858-1950. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-230-39272-4.
  9. ^ Majumdar, Janaki Agnes Penelope (2003). Family History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-566360-0.
  10. ^ "Susila Anita Bonnerjee | Croydon | Making Britain". www.open.ac.uk. Retrieved 15 October 2020.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
(none)
President of the Indian National Congress
1885
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the Indian National Congress
1892
Succeeded by