Public Life

Bipin Behari Bose’s public life had two interlinked facets. On the one hand was his relentless activism (both in his capacity as a lawyer and as a man of influence) against outdated social norms and customs that plagued the Indian society. On the other was his dedication towards the Indian National Congress, with its objectives of forging a spirit of nationalism and achieving political self-sufficiency. Both these aspects had seen Bose emerge as a great organizer and an enterprising figure with a distinguished capacity to get things done.

The Spirit of the Age:

To understand the true spirit of Bipin Behari Bose, we must place his persona in the context of 19th Century Bengal when the place was going through significant transformations. As the seat of the British Empire in India, the Bengali society had a sudden exposure to western ideas and institutions. A new social order loosened many of the old rigid hierarchies, causing a noticeable mobility through social ranks and classes. And education—westernized education to be precise—was the great engine of this mobility. A new rank of highly literate Bengalis (from varied castes and backgrounds) formed the new local elite in the society, and a host of most brilliant individuals emerged out of it. This phenomenon was also known as the ‘Bengali Renaissance’.

Bengali Renaissance in 19th Century

The Bengali Renaissance—a 19th century sociopolitical movement in Bengal founded upon the spirit of enlightenment—was noted for its diligent pursuit of social reforms. Illustrious figures such as Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Rabindranath Tagore and Keshab Chandra Sen, among a host of many others, worked relentlessly to reform a society that was trapped in a labyrinth of regressive practices, religious superstitions and outmoded institutions. Ancient and oppressive caste systems, the customs of Sati and child marriage, mistreatment of widows, were some of the many evils from which society needed to be freed.

The British Rule

And arching over it was the plight of being a subjugated race. In fact, many Bengali intellectuals had recognized that the misfortune of being ruled by foreigners was, if not entirely at least partially, tied to the fact that the Indian mind was trapped in the darkness of unreason; that the British could rule because Indians had not fully ‘awakened’. And it is with this pursuit of awakening that many brilliant and earnest men worked tirelessly, and often at many fronts at once. One of those outstanding figures of the 19th century was Bipin Behari Bose: a nationalist social reformer, an educationist, a lawyer, an activist, a member of the Indian National Congress, and a writer with a certain flair for writing rousing patriotic verses.

Social Welfare

As one learns about Bipin Behari Bose’s life it becomes evident that here was a man who toiled in the service of welfare of humankind. In 1897, deeply disturbed by the cruel effects of famine on the poor and the unprivileged, he went from door to door seeking donations to raise money to feed the hungry. There are stories of him rescuing widows from oppressive conditions, helping them rehabilitate. He campaigned to amend child and infant marriage laws in the country to save hapless children thrown into conjugal misery before reaching adulthood. He petitioned for the abolishment of public consumption of opium, a common debilitating addiction of the time eroding the social fabric of certain parts of the nation. He displayed an uncommon generosity and an earnest desire to help others.

Bose was also a man of certain influence in the public sphere who had risen to be one of the leading lights of Lucknow. Soon after arriving in Lucknow he joined the organization called Rifa-e-Aam, where local leaders and public figures gathered to discuss political and social issues of the day. In a short time, Bose was first appointed Assistant Secretary of Rifa-e-Aam, and soon after, was elevated to the post of Secretary. Under his leadership, the place became one of the more important think-tanks of the Central Provinces, holding lively debates and discussions, organizing important events and becoming a vital part of some major nation-wide campaigns for social reforms.

Public Activities

Bipin Behari Bose was always aiming to improve the condition of the lives of those around him. To address the lack of a good school for Bengali children in Lucknow, he helped found the Queen’s Anglo-Sanskrit School. In 1892, under his presidentship, the Bengali Young Men’s Association was formed.

The city of Lucknow will always remember him for his contribution in the public sphere, creating schools and welfare institutions that only aimed to build a better future.

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