Bonhams India and Beyond, Travel and Photographs Auction

. March 29, 2010

A hand written diary kept by Allan Ocatavian Hume, the founder and first general secretary of the Indian National Congress, during the Indian Mutiny in 1858 is to be auctioned at Bonhams’ India and Beyond, Travel and Photographs sale on 13 April 2010.

As Magistrate and Collector of the Etawah District in modern day Uttar Pradesh, Hume led an irregular force of 650 Indian troops in defence of the area and kept a daily record of skirmishes with the mutineers. Blaming the uprising on the British Government’s political ineptitude, Hume sympathised strongly with the plight of ordinary Indians unwittingly caught up in the action, writing, “God help the poor cowed villagers. I can’t… and no body else seems inclined to do so”. He pursued a deliberate policy of mercy towards the local population estimating that there were no more than 3,000 rebels in the area.

From 1850, when he was first posted to India, Hume had been a prominent social reformer introducing secular education in Hindi and Urdu, newspapers in the same language, and improving health care provision. His lasting contribution, however, was as founder of the Indian National Congress in 1885 and its first general secretary. On his death in 1912 at the age of 83 the Congress – which later led the country to independence in 1947 – paid tribute to him as the, “father and founder of the Congress, to whose lifelong services, rendered at rare self-sacrifice, India feels deep and lasting gratitude.”

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