(born Nov. 10, 1848, Calcutta, India—died Aug. 6, 1925, Barrackpore, near Calcutta) Indian statesman, one of the founders of modern India. As a young man, he attempted unsuccessfully to serve in the Indian Civil Service, at the time virtually closed to ethnic Indians. He then became a teacher and founded a college in Calcutta (now Kolkata), which was later named for him. Banerjea attempted to bring Hindus and Muslims together for political action, and for 40 years he put forward a nationalist viewpoint in his newspaper, The Bengalee. Twice elected president of the Indian National Congress, he advocated for an Indian constitution on the Canadian model. He was elected in 1913 to two legislative councils and later was knighted (1921); in 1924 he was defeated by an independence candidate, whereupon he retired to write his autobiography, A Nation in the Making (1925).
Learn more about Banerjea, Sir Surendranath with a free trial on Britannica.com.
When Banerjee was arrested for publishing remarks in contempt of court, protests and hartals erupted across Bengal, and in Indian cities such as Agra, Faizabad, Amritsar, Lahore and Pune. The INA expanded considerably, and hundreds of delegates from across India would come to attend its annual conference in Calcutta. After the founding of the Congress in 1885 in Bombay, Banerjee merged his organization owing to their common objectives and memberships. He would serve as Congress President in 1898 and 1904. rishan was one of the most important public leaders to protest the partition of the Bengal province in 1905. Banerjee was at the front of organizing protests, petitions and extensive public support across Bengal and India, which finally compelled the British to reverse the bifurcation in 1912. Banerjee became the patron of rising Indian leaders like Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Sarojini Naidu. Banerjea was also one of the senior-most leaders of the "moderate" Congress - those who favoured accommodation and dialogue with the British - after the "extremists" - those who advocated revolution and political independence - led by Bal Gangadhar Tilak left the party in 1906. Banerjee was an important figure in the Swadeshi movement - advocating goods manufactured in India against foreign products - and his popularity at its apex made him, in words of admirers, the "uncrowned king of Bengal."
Banerjee died in 1925. He is remembered and widely respected today as a pioneer leader of Indian politics - first treading the path for Indian political empowerment. He published an important book, A Nation In Making which was widely acclaimed.
The British respected him and referred to him during his later years as "Surrender Not" Banerjee.