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Dadabhai Naoroji

Dadabhai Naoroji (6 September 1825 30 June 1917) was a Parsi intellectual, educator, cotton trader, and an early Indian political leader. His book, Poverty and Un-British Rule in India, brought into the limelight the drain of India's wealth into Britain. He was a Member of Parliament (MP) in the British House of Commons between 1892 and 1895, and the first Asian to be a British MP. He is also credited with the founding of the Indian National Congress, along with A.O. Hume and Dinshaw Edulji Wacha.

Formative years

The son of Maneckbai and Naoroji Palanji Dordi, born into a poor family of Parsi-Zoroastrian priests in Navsari, Naoroji was educated at Elphinstone College. At the early age of 25, he was appointed Assistant Professor at the Elphinstone Institution in 1850, becoming the first Indian to hold such an academic position.[2] Being an Athornan (ordained priest), Naoroji founded the Rahnumae Mazdayasne Sabha (Guides on the Mazdayasne Path) on 1st August 1851 to restore the Zoroastrian religion to its original purity and simplicity. In 1854, he also founded a fortnightly, the Rast Goftar (or The Truth Teller), to clarify Zoroastrian concepts. By 1855 he was Professor of Mathematics and Natural philosophy in Bombay. He travelled to London in 1855 to become a partner in Cama & Co, opening a Liverpool location for the first Indian company to be established in Britain. Within 3 years, he had resigned on ethical grounds. In 1859 he established his own cotton trading company, Naoroji & Co. Later he became professor of Gujarati at University College London.

In 1867 Naoroji helped establish the East India Association, one of the predecessor organizations of the Indian National Congress. In 1874 he became Prime Minister of Baroda and was a member of the Legislative Council of Bombay (1885-88). He also founded the Indian National Association from Calcutta a few years before the founding of the Indian National Congress in Bombay, with the same objectives and practices. The two groups later merged into the INC, and Naoroji was elected President of the Congress in 1886.

Naoroji moved to Britain once again and continued his political involvement. Elected for the Liberal Party in Finsbury Central at the 1892 general election, he was the first British Indian MP. He refused to take the oath on the Bible as he was not a Christian, but was allowed to take the oath of office in the name of God on his copy of Khordeh Avesta. In Parliament he spoke on Irish Home Rule and the condition of the Indian people. In his political campaign and duties as an MP, he was assisted by Muhammed Ali Jinnah, the future Muslim nationalist and founder of Pakistan. In 1906, Naoroji was again elected president of the Indian National Congress. Naoroji was a staunch moderate within the Congress, during the phase when opinion in the party was split between the moderates and extremists.

Naoroji was known as the 'Grand Old Man of India', a mentor to both Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Mahatma Gandhi. He was married to Gulbai from the age of eleven. He died in Bombay June 30, 1917, at age 92.
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