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1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Banerjea, Sir Surendranath

BANERJEA, SIR SURENDRANATH (1848-), Indian orator, political reformer and journalist, was born Nov. 10 1848, a member of the Rarhi sub-caste of Kulin Brahmans, and the second son of a medical practitioner in Calcutta. Passing for the Indian civil service at the open competition of 1870, he was posted to Sylhet as assistant magistrate but, at the expiry of two years, was compulsorily retired on a small compassionate pension, on account of a technical irregularity—a decision since admitted generally to have been unduly harsh. He then opened a small school in Calcutta which soon expanded into the well-known Ripon College. His work as a political reformer began in 1876 when he founded the Calcutta Indian Association, and three years later he became editor of the Bengalee newspaper. In subsequent years he became the centre of many stormy episodes. He was one of those who established the Indian National Congress in 1883, and presided over the Poona session of 1895 and again at the meeting at Ahmedabad in 1902.

From 1876 to 1899 he served on the Calcutta corporation, when he resigned with 27 other leading commissioners as a protest against the changes introduced by the Calcutta Municipal Act. In 1893 he was elected to represent the corporation on the Bengal Legislative Council, and was twice returned to the central Legislature as member for Bengal. He gave evidence in 1897 before the Royal Commission on Indian Expenditure and frequently visited England in connexion with deputations and political missions. Vehemently opposing the administrative partition of Bengal effected by Lord Curzon in 1905, he supported the boycott of foreign goods and the movement in favour of “national” education which arose from the upheaval. He always exhibited, however, a preference for constitutional agitation, and was among the first to welcome the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms. Severing his association with the Congress, which had passed under “extremist” control, he formed an “Indian Liberal” organization, and came to London in 1919 to present the case for his party before the Joint Parliamentary Committee, subsequently accepting office as Minister for Local Government and Sanitation in Bengal. A knighthood was conferred upon him in Jan. 1921. Possessed of a remarkable knowledge of the English language and literature, he had earned by his eloquence the title of the Gladstone of India.

(H. E. A. C.)