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Dadabhai Naoroji

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Early Life and Education

He was born in Bombay in 1825 into a poor Parsi family. The family fell upon really difficult times when his father died when Dadabhai was just four years old. His mother Maneckbai single-handedly raised her family and did a very admirable job at it. She herself was illiterate but wanted to give her son a quality education. She played a very important role in making Dadabhai the person he grew up to be. His marriage was arranged to Gulbaai when he was 11 years old as per the custom in India during those times. He received his primary education from the Native Education Society School after which he went to the Elphinstone Institute where he studied literature of the world. He was chosen for Clare’s scholarship when he was 15 years old and was considered a scholar at this young age.

 

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Career and Role in Freedom Fighting

When he was just 25, he became an Assistant Professor at the Elphinstone Institute. He hailed from an Athornan (priestly family) and founded the Rahnumae Mazdayasne Sabha on 1st August 1851 in an attempt to restore the Zoroastrian religion to its past glory. This society still operates in Bombay (now Mumbai). He founded a fortnightly publication, the ‘Rast Goftar’, meaning the ‘truth teller’ in 1853 to clarify the Zoroastrian concepts to the common man. In 1855 he was appointed the professor of Mathematics and Philosophy at the Elphinstone Institute thus becoming the first Indian professor at the college which only had English professors so far. He also served as the Treasurer of the Student Literary and Scientific society.

He left for London in June 1855 to become a partner in Cama & Co., which was the first Indian company to be established in Britain. Though he worked diligently there, he was disillusioned by the company’s unethical practices and resigned. In 1859 he established his own company, Naoroji & Co., a cotton trading firm. Starting from the 1860s, he actively began working for the upliftment of Indians. He was very vocal against the colonial rule of the British in India. He presented the “Drain Theory” to the British in which he stated how the British had exploited India, systematically depleting her wealth and resources while making the country poorer.

 

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He became involved with politics and helped to establish the East India Association in 1867. This association would serve as one of the predecessor organizations of the Indian National Congress. He was patronised by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III of Baroda and started his public life as the Dewan (Minister) to the Maharaja in 1874. He also served as a member of the Legislative Council of Mumbai from 1885 to 1888. He was elected the president of the Indian National Congress in 1886. He moved to London in the late 1880s and was elected for the Liberal Party in Finsbury Central at the 1892 general election - becoming the first British Indian MP. He spent his later years writing articles and giving speeches on the exploitation of India by the British, thus setting the foundation for the Indian Nationalist Movement.

 

Personal Life

When he was 11 years old, his mother arranged his marriage with Gulbaai, a seven year old girl. The couple went on to have three children one son and two daughters.

 

Death

Dadabhai Naoroji believed in non-violent and constitutional methods of protest. He died at the age of 92 on June 30, 1917.

 

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