Skip to main content

Bonnerji, Womesh C.

BONNERJI, WOMESH C.

BONNERJI, WOMESH C. (1844–1906), first president of the Indian National Congress. Barrister Womesh C. Bonnerji of Calcutta presided over the first meeting of the Indian National Congress on 28 December 1885 in Bombay. Seventy-three professional men, representing British India's major cities and far-flung districts, gathered during that Christmas week in Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit College, a self-selected inchoate "Parliament" of New India's elite. Bonnerji, born in Sonai to a Bengali Christian family, was educated at the Oriental Seminary in Calcutta, and in 1864 sailed to England, where he studied law and was called to the Bar of London's Middle Temple. He returned home to join Calcutta's High Court in 1868. Inspired by his visits to London's Parliament and Temple of Justice, he became one of young India's most eloquent advocates of representative government.

Surely never before had "so important and comprehensive an assemblage" gathered on Indian soil, President Bonnerji told his compatriots at that first session of the Congress. Though not popularly "elected," they were uniquely qualified to speak for India's voiceless masses, since all Congress delegates shared their "sentiments," "feelings," and "community of wants." In 1892 Bonnerji was again invited to preside, over a larger seventh session of India's National Congress in Allahabad. He was also elected that year to represent the University of Calcutta's Senate on Bengal's Legislative Council.

In 1901 Barrister Bonnerji moved to London and established his practice there, pleading before the Privy Council, until he lost his vision in 1904. He died in July 1906, half a year after his brilliant young friend, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, presided over the Benares Congress. In his eulogy to Bonnerji, Gokhale hailed him as a man whose wisdom and political integrity should have elevated him to the position of prime minister of India, had India been an independent nation-state. Bonnerji, like Gokhale, Mahatma Gandhi's "political guru," was one of New India's bravest and best political leaders.

Stanley Wolpert

See alsoCongress Party ; Gandhi, Mahatma M. K. ; Gokhale, Gopal Krishna

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Martin, Briton, Jr. New India, 1885. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1969.

Sisson, Richard, and Stanley Wolpert, eds. Congress and Indian Nationalism. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1988.

"W. C. Bonnerji's Presidential Addresses to the Indian National Congress, 1885 and 1892." In The Indian National Congress. 2nd ed. Madras: G. A. Natesan, 1917.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Bonnerji, Womesh C.." Encyclopedia of India. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Bonnerji, Womesh C.." Encyclopedia of India. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 19, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bonnerji-womesh-c

"Bonnerji, Womesh C.." Encyclopedia of India. . Retrieved November 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bonnerji-womesh-c

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.