4 September: Remembering Dadabhai Naoroji on his Birth Anniversary
Dadabhai Naoroji also known as the “Grand Old Man of India” and “Unofficial Ambassador of India” was an Indian political leader, merchant, scholar, and writer. Who was a Liberal Party Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom House of Commons between 1892 and 1895 and the first Asian to be a British MP other than the Anglo-Indian MP David Ochterlony Dyce Sombre, who was disenfranchised for corruption after nine months in office? Naoroji is renowned for his work in the Indian National Congress, of which he was one of the founding members and thrice the elected president in – 1886, 1893, and 1906. In the session of 1906, his conciliatory tactics helped to postpone the impending split between moderates and extremists in the Congress Party.
In his many writings and speeches and especially in Poverty and Un-British Rule in India (1901), Naoroji argued that India was too highly taxed and that its wealth was being drained away to England. He was also a member of the Second International along with Kautsky and Plekhanov. In 2014, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg inaugurated the Dadabhai Naoroji Awards for services to UK-India relations. India Post depicted Naoroji on stamps in 1963, 1997 and 2017.
Dadabhai Naoroji was born on 4 September 1825 in Navsari, Bombay Presidency, British India. He was patronized by the Maharaja of Baroda, Sayajirao Gaekwad III, and started his career life as Dewan to the Maharaja in 1874. Being an Athornan, Naoroji founded the Rahnumai Mazdayasan Sabha on 1 August 1851 to restore the Zoroastrian religion to its original purity and simplicity. In 1854, he also founded a Gujarati fortnightly publication, the Rast Goftar, to clarify Zoroastrian concepts and promote Parsi social reforms.
During this time, he also published another newspaper called “The Voice of India.” In December 1855, he was appointed Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Elphinstone College in Bombay, becoming the first Indian to hold such an academic position. He was also a member of the Indian National Association founded by Sir Surendranath Banerjea from Calcutta a few years before the founding of the Indian National Congress in Bombay, with the same objectives and practices. The two groups later merged into the INC, and Naoroji was elected President of the Congress in 1886. Naoroji published Poverty and un-British Rule in India in 1901.
He died on 30 June 1917 (aged 92) in Bombay, Bombay Presidency, British India.