Was Congress a Safety Valve for British Indian empire?

Who gave the safety valve theory for Indian National Congress?

The safety valve theory was put forward by LaLa Lajpat Rai in 1916.

  • According to this Theory, Congress was established as a safety Valve for British Indian empire. The level of discontent among people are very high because the official grievance redressal mechanism was dysfunctional. AO Hume was apprehensive that this discontent could be burst out in a form of massive revolt and the British Indian empire may not survive.

Biography of A.O. Hume

The safety valve theory was based on the reference found in the biography of A.O. Hume. This biography was written by Sir William Wedderburn in 1913.

According to this biography, when Hume was working in Shimla in 1878. He came across 30,000 secret reports. These reports were full of warnings about the possibility of massive revolts because the anti-British discontent was very intense among the people.

According to this biography, Hume maintained a large network of mysterious Mahatma’s, they used to travel across India. These mahatmas have the magical power to appear or disappear in any place of free will. They also informed a Hume that anti-British discontent was very intense.

These reports about the intense discontent prevailing among the people alarmed A.O. Hume and he decided to establish Congress, so that grievances to carry the voice of people to higher British functionaries.

Safety valve theory was used by Extremists

The safety valve theory was used by extremists and the opponents of Congress who question the Nationalist character of early Congress.

It was emphasized that Congress was established for the safety of the British Indian empire. It was not a true nationalist platform.

Critical Examination

A closer examination of arguments and evidence has put forward in support of safety while Theory reveals that it did not represent truth.

In 1878, AO Hume was working in a revenue department at Shimla. How could An Officer of Revenue Department come across seven volume of secret reports was not explained by William or Lalal Lajpat Rai.

The story of mysterious Mahatma’s was clearly an act of fiction because nobody can have such power to appear or disappear at any Place at free will.

Even it if it is accepted that you Hume came across these secret reports and he was worried about the safety of British Indian empire then why did he wait for seven long years for establishing Congress? There was no restrictions on participations of officials in political activities. Even in first session of Congress 28 officials were participated.

AO Hume retired from service in 1882. He did nothing to establish a platform like Congress even after getting relief from officers responsibility.

It is quite clear that the reform references found in AO Hume biography was fabricated and fictional. It appears that these stories were weared by Hume to justify the foundation of Congress in the eyes of British. He wanted to convince the British man that he was concerned about the safety of British Indian empire.

Even if it is believed or assume that Hume wanted to use Congress for the safety of British Indian empire, Congress never acted like as a safety valve. From the very first, Congress raised issues concerning Indians. It opposed the colonial exploitations of Indian Resources. The British rule was held responsible for the economic suffering of Indians. So safety valve Theory fails to explain the foundation of Congress satisfactorily

Safety valve theory was nearly an attempt by extremists to pressurize moderates because at that time the extremists were not the part of Congress. The extremists only rejoin Congress only in December 1916.

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