Dadabhai Naoroji’s legacy of an inclusive India is worth remembering in the time of chauvinism and anti-intellectualism that animates the current leadership and running counter to the traditions of Indian nationalism.
- The Grand Old Man of India (as he was known), he was the first modern Indian economic thinker, the first Indian elected to the British Parliament, and the first leader to establish swaraj as the goal of the Congress.
- His first agitation, in 1859, concerned recruitment to the Indian Civil Service.
- Throughout his career, he stressed an Indian national identity which overrode religious, caste, class, or ethnic differences. For him the country is India and nationality is Indian.
- Naoroji nurtured some of the best Indian traditions of tolerance, and those traditions, in turn, shaped popular images of early Indian nationalism.
- Naoroji put great effort to reach out to Muslims, particularly after the educationalist Sayyid Ahmad Khan repudiated the organisation in 1887, and after a wave of communal violence wracked northern India and Bombay in 1893.
- Naoroji understood a fundamental truth about his country: India worked best when it worked together. As a Parsi, a member of a small but highly influential community, Dadabhai Naoroji was specially attuned to the concerns of minorities.
- Presiding Congress session in Lahore in 1892, Naraoji declared to the Congress delegates that they were Indians first—that they were “above all” Indians in spite of their differing backgrounds.
Shortcomings of the nationalism propagated by Naoroji:
- Naoroji was almost completely blind to the issue of untouchability, a glaring omission given his close study of Indian poverty.
- He endorsed swadeshi but hesitated about tactics he considered as unconstitutional, such as mass boycotts and strikes.
An atmosphere of overt majoritarianism, as well as the cynical deployment of communalism even in the face of a calamity like the COVID-19 epidemic.