“If there is one place on the face of the earth where all the dreams of the living men have found a home for the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India”, quoted by Romain Rolland. India, a land where speckles of numerous lives grow under one roof. A land where every corner tells you bunches of diverse tales. A country with a history to ponder upon and draw inspiration from. You must be grateful for the India that you have today. Seventy-four years ago, India found its way to breakthrough atrocities. It then never stopped. It continues to fly high and achieve one sky after another. The growth we have reached today as a developing country is phenomenal. We must be proud of ourselves, for we achieved the best we could in these tender years. India narrates a heart-wrenching but spirited tale of its breakthrough. Independence to India was like a mammoth task, around 200 years ago. It went through the oppressions of the British, year after year. Somedays, the country lost hope to breathe the next day. With the colonizers entering India, poverty, malnutrition, economic tarnishment, cultural estrangement, and no native government changed India for bad. People were treated as slaves and kings were sold to the colonizers. Many Indians sided with the British to live a life of luxury while others hoped to be independent someday. It was only in the late 19th century that India rose to fight for its freedom. Our country has many flaws but we cannot deny the glorious past which has paved the way for liberty for us. Probably, if we did not have a rebelling past, we might still be waiting for the impending freedom.
Tracing back to a long history, India saw the hues of caging from 1608. The British East India Company stepped in Surat for the objective of trade. India was popular for its spices and this let the British enter India. It was between 1615 to 1618 when Sir Thomas Roe of the East India Embassy gained a Farman from the Mughals to trade and establish factories. With this India was already having the Dutch, French, and Portuguese entering for trading purposes. However, after 1700, the East India Company shifted its motives. The trade motive was now changed to acquisition. In 1757, the East India Company made its first advancement in establishing its power in India. The Battle of Plassey, fought under the leadership of Robert Clive, gave the British autonomy in Bengal. The battle marked the end of the last Nawab, Siraj-ud-Daulah. With this, the East India Company acquired control over the region of Bengal. In 1765, the company rose to power in the states of Bihar and Bengal, and this is where India started to fall in fragments. The company then started to acquire power in the Maratha rule, which resulted in the first Anglo-Maratha war. It was only after hundred years of suppression, we Indians started opposing the norms and rule of the colonizers. Here is a timeline of how India fought for its independence.
1857-1859: The Breakthrough for Freedom Struggle
The first rise against colonists began in 1857. This initial independence war has been named The Great Indian Mutiny, Great Rebellion, Revolt of 1857, Indian Insurrection, and First War of Independence. This war was consequent to the imposition of British style lifestyles, tax laws and deprived authority on resources. The war grew with the harshness of the sepoys acquired by the company. It only burst out due to the Enfield rifle incident, which had cartilage of rifles greased with tallow (from beef) and lard (from pork). Though the Indians were defeated, it was a wake-up call for the British company.
1867-1876: Uniting for Freedom
After the revolt of 1857, Indians realized the need for unity to fight for their freedom. It was also a lesson for the different communities in India to come together and work on their potential. Till 1857, there were no proper political organizations solely dedicated to Indians. But, this changed. In 1867, Dadabhai Naroji founded the East India Association in London. It consisted of Indians and retired British officials. The association discussed various issues of India and asked for representation of Indians in government. In 1876, Surendranath Banerjee and Anand Mohan Bose pioneered the Indian National Association. The main objective of this association was,” promoting by every legitimate means the political, intellectual and material advancement of the people.”
1885: The Start of the Indian National Congress
The initial political associations sparked the need for freedom amongst the people. This also led a huge number of Indians to initial organizations to fight for their rights. The need for self-governance and liberty led to the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885. This was a breakthrough for India in its political domain. This political organization had 72 delegates in the initial phase. The party immersed itself in rural India and led the freedom struggle under the guidance of Mahatma Gandhi.
1900- Strengthening of Nationalism
Remember the lines of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, “Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it.” After the INC was formed, it took time for the people to come together again. Bal Gangadhar Tilak was the first Indian nationalist who promoted the concept of Swaraj. He strictly held disapproval against the education system of India. He called it to be a system of defaming Indian culture and values. This again split the nation into two; the radicals and the moderates. The radicals believed in aggressive revolts while the moderates wished for change but within the British rule.
1919-1920- The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
In the year 1919, the East India company had passed the Rowlatt Act to gain dominance over the local folk of India. The Imperial Legislative Council had the power to arrest anyone without any trials, as per the act.
Following this, there was a huge protest in Punjab, demanding the release of Satya Pal and Saifuddin Kitchlew. A peaceful meeting in Jallianwala Bagh on 13 April 1919 was ruptured by the British after they opened fire and closed all the escape ways for the people. millions of lives were lost and India was shocked again.
1922-1947- The Series of Freeing Movements
India rose again to fight for its freedom. This time, the freedom struggle was led by the nation’s icon, Mahatma Gandhi. The Swadeshi movement led the people to give up on British goods. Instead, they started using the nation’s goods. Prominent figures like Rabindranath Tagore gave up their dignified titles from the British government.
Another movement that further depleted British rule was the Civil Disobedience Movement. This movement began in 1930, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. It was a long walk from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi. After reaching Dandi, Gandhi broke the salt law, a law that did not legalize salt making as it was the government’s property. This movement became an example for the people to defy oppressive government policies.
Other significant instances taking place in 1942, were the Quit India Movement and the formation of Azad Hind Fauj. The Quit India movement, led by Gandhi, asked for the orderly withdrawal of the British. Meanwhile, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose formed the Azad Hind Fauj to get independence for India. Netaji and his fauj raise arms against the British Army. However, the country lost another leader, in what is said to be a planned murder.
After a series of movements and struggles, the British finally left India in 1947. After the colonizer left, India yet again faced the issue of assembling itself. It went on to draft a Constitution with a Drafting Committee. India adopted its Constitution in 1949 and enacted it in 1950. Since then, our country is still seeing positive growth despite all the flaws. We successfully held our first elections in 1952 and have got different parties coming up with policies and strategies too. There are times, we consider the flaws more than what we have achieved. Derogating our nation because it has so much to do, is not an option. What we need to concentrate on is that we are still on the path of growth.
Before you begin to criticize our nation, always remember the past. Past left you but it also taught you the lessons to carry forward. To get the freedom we have today, we have lost so much. We have lost our ancestors, our freedom fighters under the cruelty of the British, our resources that nature gifted us. There were pools of blood gushing out of towns and corners. There were innocent lives hanged for fighting for their rights. Some women went out to free our nation, living behind their fears. Some people left behind luxury to live like the poor. We are in a much better position. Our ancestors did not have an independent nation rather they fought for it. We need to appreciate the lives we have got. There is freedom, there is diversity and there is a sense of our Swaraj. We have a nation, which lives on its capabilities and fights the storm. For this, you need to be grateful for those who had sacrificed their blood and held the ropes of hope, even when the light was nowhere amongst murkiness.