With the indigo riots, the agitation for freedom acquired greater momentum. Meanwhile the spread of English education brought into being a new generation imbued with liberal ideas and willing to fight a long drawn battle with the British for independence. At the same time, a vernacular Fourth Estate was slowly taking shape to express Indian aspirations.
This resulted in the promulgation of the Vernacular Press Act in 1878 intended to muzzle the periodicals in Indian languages. The reason advanced by Lord Lytton, the then Viceroy, was that the increasingly violent native press was directly provocative of rebellion. The whole of India protested against the Act and appealed to the British government to repeal it. The was finally repealed by Lord Ripon, the then Viceroy, in 1882.
Lord Lytton as Viceroy (1874 -1880) fathered an offensive family of laws and regulations. The Arms Act (which exempted Europeans) and the abolition of the import duties on British goods were among the more obnoxious performances of the government under Lytton.
Lord Ripon's viceroyalty, otherwise benign, was sullied by the infamous Illbert Bill. This bill amended the Criminal Procedure Code and specified that only European judges could try European offenders for serious misdemeanors.
In 1883 the agitation over the Illbert Bill still continued. Surendranath Banerjee was arrested for an article he wrote in the Bengali. Soon arrests of other persons for seditious articles followed. This accumulation of discriminatory laws, arrests and prosecutions, roused the masses.
Some Englishmen in India felt the same way. Henry Cotton and Allan Octavian Hume, a retired English ICS officer, among them felt that an abiding concord between the government and the people had to be built up.
Hume formed the Indian National Union in 1884. The aim of the Union was to oppose by all constitutional methods all authorities high and low here or in England, whose acts and omissions are opposed to the principles of the Government of India Act laid down by the British Parliament and endorsed by the British Sovereign.
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