Radhakanta Deb founded the Dharma Sahba in 1830 in Calcutta. It was an orthodox Hindu society, established mainly to counter the ongoing social reform moments led by reformers like Henry Derozio and Raja Ram Mohan Roy. The impetus for forming the organisation came from a new law enacted by the British rule in 1829, which banned the practice of Sati in the country.
In 1829, during the period of Governor-General Lord William Bentinck, the colonial government passed the legislation to ban Sati. But the conservative Hindu society led by Radhakanta Deb did not like this action. The focus of the Dharma Sabha was to repel this law. They believed in preserving the status quo of Hindu socio-religious beliefs and practices. They strongly opposed an intrusion by the British into the social and religious affairs of their community.
Dharma Sabha filed an appeal in the Privy Council in England against the ban on Sati by Lord William Bentinck, as it went against the assurance given by George III (king of Great Britain) of non-interference in Hindu religious affairs. However, the Council rejected their appeal and upheld the ban on Sati in 1832.
The chief public organ of the Dharma Sabha was the Bengali newspaper “Samachar Chandrika“, whose editor ‘Bhabani Charan Bandyopadhyay‘ was himself the Secretary of Dharma Sahba. The newspaper voiced for preserving the Hindu cultural values. The Dharma Sahba had branches in several district towns of Bengal.
In 1856, during Governor-General Lord Dalhousie, the Dharma Sahba also campaigned against the Hindu Widow Remarriage Act of 1856 and submitted a petition against the proposal with nearly four times more signatures than the one presented for this Act by Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. However, Lord Dalhousie personally finalised the Hindu Widow Remarriage Bill despite the opposition and being considered a flagrant breach of Hindu customs as prevalent then. Governor-General Lord Canning passed this Act on 16 July 1856.
The organisation soon morphed into a ‘society in defence of the Hindu way of life or culture. However, it favoured the promotion of Western education, even for girls.