Arora IAS Short Notes

India Struggle for Independence(1857-1947) Notes

Revision Notes or Short Notes




Formation of Indian National Congress (INC):

  • Founded in December 1885 by seventy-two political workers.
  • O. Hume, a retired English ICS officer, played a significant role.

Myth of the Safety Valve:

  • Suggests INC was formed under Lord Dufferin’s direction to provide a peaceful outlet for discontent.
  • Widely accepted but lacks historical evidence.

Views on the Safety Valve Theory:

  • Liberals: Seen as a means to prevent violent revolution.
  • Radicals: Argue it compromised INC’s anti-imperialist stance.
  • Extreme Right: Claim INC was anti-national from inception.

Criticism by Lala Lajpat Rai (1916):

  • Alleged INC was created to save the British Empire.
  • Argued its birth was to protect imperial interests.

Role of R. Palme Dutt (India Today, 1938):

  • Propagated the safety valve myth as a left-wing opinion.
  • Believed INC was created by the government to counter unrest.

Dual Character of INC:

  • Created by the government but evolved into a nationalist body.
  • Became a vehicle for mass movements but retained loyalty to imperialism.

M.S. Golwalkar’s Critique (1939):

  • Accused INC of promoting secularism and undermining Hindu nationalism.
  • Alleged INC was created by the British to suppress national consciousness.

Views of C.F. Andrews and Girija Mukherji (1938):

  • Accepted safety valve theory as it prevented bloodshed.
  • Considered INC’s creation a success in maintaining peace.

Post-Independence Perspectives:

  • Various scholars continued to propagate versions of safety valve theory.
  • Despite historical inaccuracies, the myth remains popular.


  • Safety valve theory influenced political perspectives on INC’s role in India’s independence



The Mystery of the Seven Volumes: A Historical Inquiry


Hume and the Safety-Valve Theory

  • O. Hume, a British civil servant, believed in the existence of a vast conspiracy among the lower classes to overthrow British rule in India.
  • He claimed to have seen seven volumes of secret reports as evidence of this discontent.

The Transformation of the Seven Volumes

  • The accounts of the seven volumes varied over time:
    • Lajpat Rai (1921): Mentioned them as the source for Hume’s belief in an impending calamity.
    • Gurmukh Nihal Singh (1933): Claimed they were government reports.
    • Andrews and Mukherji (later): Described them as secret CID reports.
    • Palme Dutt (most influential): Stated they were official secret police reports.

The Flawed Evidence

  • Historians overlooked inconsistencies in the story:
    • Hume’s position (Revenue Dept. Secretary) wouldn’t grant access to Home Dept. files (where CID reports resided).
    • The sheer number of reporters (30,000) was implausible for the intelligence department’s capacity at the time.
    • The delay in founding the Congress (7 years after supposedly discovering the plot) didn’t align with the urgency of the situation.

The Truth Behind the Seven Volumes

  • Revealed in William Wedderburn’s biography of Hume (1913):
    • The source of the reports was religious leaders (Gurus) with millions of followers (Chelas) across India.
    • These Gurus feared an unrest leading to violence and sought Hume’s help to avert it due to his government connections.
    • The reports were provided by Chelas who acted as spies and informants for the Gurus.

The Esoteric Element

  • Wedderburn hinted at the Gurus’ special nature but downplayed it to protect Hume’s reputation.
  • Further research suggests the Gurus were believed to possess occult powers:
    • Communication and direction over vast distances.
    • Invisibility and manipulation of thoughts.


  • The seven volumes were not official government documents but reports from a network of religious leaders and their followers.
  • Historians’ credulity and reliance on secondary sources led to the misconception for decades.



A.O. Hume and his Belief in Mahatmas


Hume’s fascination with the occult

  • O. Hume, a British administrator in India, came under the influence of Madame Blavatsky, a proponent of Theosophy, in 1881.
  • Blavatsky claimed to be in contact with a secret brotherhood of Mahatmas in Tibet with supernatural abilities.
  • Hume believed Blavatsky and sought to gain occult powers himself.

Hume’s “correspondence” with the Mahatmas

  • Hume believed he could contact the Mahatmas through Blavatsky and letters.
  • He claimed these Mahatmas possessed knowledge of Indian affairs and public opinion.
  • He used this supposed connection to influence British policy in India.

Hume’s claims to Lord Ripon (Viceroy 1880-1884)

  • Hume informed Lord Ripon of his association with the Mahatmas in 1883.
  • He claimed superior knowledge of Indian opinion due to their insights.
  • He credited the Mahatmas for influencing past events like the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny.
  • Hume believed the Mahatmas could help Ripon’s reform agenda and prevent future rebellions.

Hume’s claims to Lord Dufferin (Viceroy 1884-1888)

  • Hume interacted with Lord Dufferin but was more cautious about revealing his advisors’ identities.
  • He hinted at their special nature but mostly portrayed them as political figures.
  • On one occasion, he claimed his advisors used “occult methods” to obtain a secret letter.

Hume’s frustration and the end of his claims

  • Hume’s inability to provide concrete proof of his connection with the Mahatmas frustrated him.
  • He felt ostracized by Europeans who viewed him as delusional.
  • By 1885, Hume abandoned mentioning the Mahatmas in his political endeavors.

Revelation about the source of the information

  • The texts Hume saw (possibly the seven volumes) were not created by official sources.
  • They were likely compiled by Blavatsky’s network of followers and not Indian political leaders.



Safety-Valve Theory of Indian National Congress Debunked


W.C. Bannerjee’s Claim (1898):

  • Bannerjee claimed Congress was created by Lord Dufferin to understand Indian political opinion.
  • This aimed to mimic the role of Her Majesty’s Opposition in British Parliament.

Evidence Against the Claim:

  • Hume’s discussions with Indian leaders revolved around a political gathering.
  • Prior Indian associations like Bombay Presidency Association were already political.
  • Hume himself publicly urged Indians to participate in politics since 1882.
  • Hume opposed social reform movements, prioritizing political reforms.
  • Dufferin criticized Congress for focusing on narrow political interests, not social reform.
  • Dufferin’s private papers (released in 1950s) contradict Bannerjee’s claim.

Hume’s Proposal and Dufferin’s Response:

  • Hume proposed a political convention like O’Connell’s pre-Catholic emancipation movement.
  • Dufferin initially disagreed with Hume’s focus on social reform.
  • Dufferin later turned against the Congress, seeking ways to dismantle it.

British Officials’ Views on Congress:

  • Neither liberal nor conservative British officials supported the Congress.
  • Dufferin even considered ways to destroy the Congress in 1888.
  • Other British officials viewed the Congress with apprehension.


  • The safety-valve theory lacks evidence and contradicts historical records.
  • The theory likely originated from unsubstantiated claims.



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