In profile: Dadabhai Naoroji


Known as 'The Grand Old Man of India', Dadabhai Naoroji was the founding father of Indian Nationalism, who led the beginning of the Indian freedom struggle.

From poverty to academia
Born in Bombay in 1825 to a poor Parsi family, Naoroji's father died when he was four year's old. His mother, who was illiterate, made it her priority to ensure her son got the best English education possible.

In 1850, at the age of 25, he became a leading Professor at the Elphinstone Institution in Bombay, the first Indian to hold such an academic position.

The freedom fighter
After his passage to England in 1855, Naoroji wanted to educate the British people about their responsibilities as rulers of India, delivering speeches and publishing articles to underline his opposition to the unfair treatment of India's people under Imperial rule.

In 1867, he established the East India Association with the aim of keeping Britain well-informed of India's plight and needs, while endeavouring to secure fair treatment for India's people.

Naoroji developed the idea of 'Drain Theory' to illustrate the bleeding of India's wealth and resources during the British Raj regime. He published the facts and figures in a book, Poverty and Un-British Rule in India, the first economic critique of colonialism.

Election to Parliament
In 1886 Naoroji canvassed as the Liberal Party candidate for Holborn, a strongly Conservative seat, but was unsuccessful.

The Conservative Party Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, stated that an English constituency was not ready to elect a 'Blackman'.

This increased Naoroji's notoriety and in 1892, he campaigned on Gladstone's platform of Liberalism and was elected as a Member of Parliament for Central Finsbury. He immediately began championing various causes in the House of Commons.

Refusing to take the oath of office on the Bible as he was not a Christian, Naoroji swore in the name of God on his copy of Khordeh Avesta, the Zoroastrian sacred text.

Naoroji died on 30 June 1917, aged 93.

Photo: Dadabhai Naoroji by RM Richardson and Co (public domain), via Wikimedia Commons

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