Indian Freedom movement
Vande Mataram. Sujalam, sufalam, Malayaja
shashya shyamalam Mataram.
The land of Bharat, called India by many, is one of the most ancient yet living civilizations on earth. Throughout the ages Bharat has immensely contributed to many disciplines of science, mathematics and philosophy for the betterment of human life. With her enormous wealth and resources India has also been a target of foreign invasions. India has been one nation from time immemorial. In the great epic Mahabharat Indias cultural unity is vividly painted. India has been fighting foreign invasions and domination from the dawn of her history and her fight for freedom still goes on. This presentation will cover Indias struggle for freedom, starting from the early 1700's.
Between the sixth century Before the Common Era (BCE) and sixth century of the Common Era (CE), the Hindus were able to valiantly shake off foreign domination, including that of Alexander. Those who remained in India were all assimilated in the society at large. Those who sought shelter, like the persecuted Jews, the Persians and the Zoroastrians, are maintaining their culture even today.
Starting from 6th century the invaders like the Turks and the Muslims were attracted to India mainly for her wealth and the freedom fighters continued their struggle for freedom. Then came the Mughals in the 11th century. During each of these invasions thousands were massacred,
and forcibly converted to Islam; thousands of temples and important places of education and social and human developments were plundered and destroyed. Almost for 1000 years, Hindus met with one holocaust after another by the invading barbarians. Renowned historian Will Durant said: The Mohammedan conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace may anytime be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.
Gradually, India was forced to abandon the leadership role in the world of science and thought. Even the Muslim occupation of India and their massive looting of the nation for 600 years did not diminish her wealth, neither could it destroy the civilization; unlike most other invaded nations, India still live with her rich culture & heritage. The 15th century CE saw the advent of the Western adventurers, who set foot on India with financial motives. The Portuguese were the first to arrive and wherever they went, brought tremendous miseries for Indian people through their cruel rule and forcible conversion. The Portuguese were followed by the Dutch, the French and the English, in quick succession.
The death of the last Mughal ruler Aurangzeb in 1701 initiated the downfall of the Mughal rule and fueled the fight to finally free India from Mughal tyranny. The freedom fighters of Maharashtra, known as the Marathas took over a major part of India in North and South and fulfilled the dreams of Chatrapati Shivaji. All over India, especially in Bengal, Avadh and Deccan, kings became independent. The Mughal empire totally disintegrated after the attacks of Nadir Shah in 1740.
Soon, the English had outpaced their competitors in establishing their base in India and extended their trade mission in the name of the East India Company.
Establishment of the British Raj
Even though the Battle of Plassey in 1757 was little more than a skirmish, its results were far- reaching. The British won the battle due to the treachery of General Mir Jafar who worked for Siraj-Ud-Doulla, the Nawab of Bengal. This paved the way for the British conquest of Bengal and eventually of the whole of India. In 1761 Marathas were defeated in the battle of Panipat. After 800 long years of Muslim occupation and tyranny, India was cursed with the tyranny of the British occupation.
England was a poor country with many of its people half starved, illiterate and ill-clad. They came to India as traders, for better fortune, and stole the role of the ruler of the country almost overnight through treachery. They occupied India for almost two centuries and robbed India mercilessly. But, Indian people fought them from day one.
Economic exploitation reduced the Indian peasantry to servile poverty. For her industrial advancement, Britain needed capital, raw material and markets for their finished goods. India provided a base for all of this and thus British started looting India. Between 1747 and 1757 England paid over 450,000 Pounds of Gold to India for imports at an exchange rate of 2.8 Pounds per Rupee. When the British left India in 1947, the exchange rate was one Pound to 5 Rupees! India, which was famous for her hand-made cloth, especially muslin was forced to compete with the machine made yarn of Britain. In order to completely destroy this industry they cut the thumbs of thousands of weavers in Bengal. Slowly, they destroyed many age-old traditional indigenous industries. Rage and resentment against the English also grew.
Early fight against British During the great famine of 1769 to70 the British sent massive amount of food grains to England when thousands of people starved to death in India. Throughout North Bengal peasants revolted, lead by Bhavani Pathak. This revolution went on for 3 decades. The number of revolutionaries were at least 50 thousand. To destroy this revolt the British burnt hundreds of villages and killed even women and children. The Sanyasi or 'Saint' revolt started in 1760 and lasted till 1800, when it was brought to a brutal end by the British. In 1783 there was a peasant revolt in Rangpur, East Bengal. This movement was crushed with maximum brutality by the British.
In 1784 in Rajmahal, near the border of Bengal and Bihar, the Santhal revolt started under the great leadership of Tilka Majhi. In the final round of the battle he was caught after a great fight. He was pulled by a horse all around the city and finally was hanged.
In Tinevelle of Tamilnadu the local Poligar kings revolted against the British under the leadership of Pandeyam Kottabomman in 1799. After long battles Kottabomman was caught and hanged.
On the night of 10th July 1806 about 1800 Indian soldiers revolted against the British and took control of Vellore Fort. But they could not save it for long, because additional forces and canons were used by the British to brutally kill over one thousand of these revolutionaries.
In 1808 The British tried to occupy Trivankur. Diwan Velu Thampi led a massive resistance against them and sought help from France and America. But, after one year of fighting, Velu lost and finally died in the jungle.
The state had a superior military power and successful manufacturers and traders as well. But within ten years of Ranjit Singhs death in 1839, the kingdom was swallowed up by the English in a series of two Anglo-Sikh Wars.
In 1824 the British tried to attack Kittur, a small kingdom in todays Karnataka state. Queen Chennamma took up the sword to fight against the British. Eventually she was caught by the British and died in 1829. But the fight did not stop. A poor guard named Raianna restarted the war. After many battles, he was also caught and was hanged in 1830.
Assam had a heroic tradition of having steadfastly repulsed the Muslim invaders until the Ahom kings got engaged in infights. The British eventually overtook Assam in 1826.
Professor Derozio of Hindu College in Calcutta was a genuine India-lover. He influenced many educated young people in Bengal in patriotism and formed 'Young India' which sowed the seeds for future revolutionary movements.
Vanavasis or the forest dwelling people in Bihar and parts of Bengal again revolted during 1835 to 1855, which was called the Santhal Revolt. It was against the unjust orders imposed on them by the British. The Santhal Revolt had its repercussions in other parts of the country. In the end, all the leaders of this movement were killed including the legendary heroes Sidho and Kanu.
When the British first came to India, they found to their surprise a culture with strong roots and traditions, one that could not be easily shaken. They concluded that if they were to be successful in ruling the country, they would have to create a sense of inferiority in the Indian psyche, while at the same time, promoting their own superiority.
In 1773, the Asiatic society was founded with the stated intention of studying Indian history and culture. Ancient Hindu texts were translated into English. The ultimate purpose of these translations was to aid the spread of Christianity by undermining the Hindu religion. Max Mueller, the so-called great Indologist, outlined a plan to systematically reduce the faith of the Indians in their own heritage, while at the same time promoting white supremacy. He advocated sending Christian missionaries to India in greater numbers. The British started rewriting Indian history to serve their purpose which was to create inferiority amongst the Indians and to cut off the nation from its continuous stream of history and all her past glories.
By 1849, the whole of the country had come under the British administration by fair means or foul. But, unrest and rebellions against them were everywhere. In 1793, the peasants of Vizianagaram, near Vishakhappatnam rose in revolt against the British and stopped paying taxes to them. The agitation further continued up to the beginning of the present century, when Alluri Seetarama Raju died, after making the Manyam Peasant Rebellion immortal. Palashi Kerala Varma's rebellion in Kerala in the beginning of the 19th century, was a great one. There were also vanavasi rebellions all over India against the British. Many of these patriots were called bandits and thugs by the British and were shot dead.
Great War of Independence : 1857
The British recruited thousands of Indians in their army to rule the country who were commonly called Sepoys. On 29th March, 1857 young Mangal Pandey gave a clarion call to all the Indian soldiers to revolt against the British. But he was caught and was sentenced to death and the Great war of Independence started within 2 months.
The war of 1857 shook the mighty fabric of the Empire to its very foundations. There were economic, religious and military factors that contributed to this war. The introduction of the Enfield Rifle, cartridges of which were greased with animal fat, were a source of great strife among the troops which finally sparked off the war.
Nana Saheb, the last of the Peshvas of Maharashtra, set out to organize this discontent and succeeded in building up an excellent organization throughout the country. The sepoys or soldiers in service of the English were in sympathy with Nana. The revolt was slated to start all over the country on 31st May 1857. But, some over enthusiastic persons could not restrain themselves. The war broke out in a haphazard fashion everywhere on 10th May, 21 days in advance of the schedule.
The war, though an outbreak of a formidable nature, failed due to defective organization of the insurgents. Unfortunately, the insurgents could not get the united and universal support of the civil population in all parts of the country, many of them were alienated by the confusion and disorder which followed the uprising.
The great leader of this war, Tatia Tope and his commander Jaola Prasad who killed hundreds of British soldiers were caught and hanged. Bahadur Shah Jafar, one of the leaders, said: As long as Indian people had self-respect, one day London would feel the repercussions from India. Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi created history by fighting a great battle against the British. She succumbed to her wounds in the battlefield. British stopped the war after burning thousands of houses, killing women, children and elderly indiscriminately. Many great heroes fought against the British in various parts of India during that time. Kuor Singh of Bihar fought a heroic battle and became a martyr. Rao Tularam of Hariana went to collect arms from Russia, but he died on the way. Surendra Sain of Orissa also fought for a long time and died in the jail. Maniram Diwan and Piali Barua of Assam were sentenced to death.
The British succeeded in crushing this War of Independence, but it forced the British to reconsider their approach towards Indians. The British crown abolished the East India Company and took over the reins of administration directly. India became the brightest jewel in the British Crown and every 6th persons prosperity in Britain was dependent upon resources taken from India.
From the First war to
the birth of Congress (1857-1891)
In the late 1850s the Britishers forced the peasants of Bengal to grow Neel or indigo instead of regular crops, which would increase their profit in the cloth business and also imposed taxes. Bengal revolted against this, and it resulted in the Neel revolt of 1862.
Between 1865 and 1875 Guru Ramsingh Kooka organized an armed agitation in Punjab. Ram Singh sent Gurucharan Singh to get help from Russia. The Russian traveler Vereschogin described how cruelly this movement was suppressed by the British. Called mercy killing, each person was tied in front of the canon and was blown away.
Britishers took thousands of Indian people to other parts of the world as indentured labors promising a great future and a return after short service to the countries like South Africa, Mauritius, Fiji and West Indian islands such as Trinidad & Tobago and Surinam. But alas! They could never come back to their motherland again! Many freedom fighters and revolutionaries were also transported to these countries. Their unwritten pain, agonies and miseries echoes in the meadows of history. Mohandas Karam Chand Gandhi, the future Mahatma Gandhi went to South Africa in search of fortune.
In India, the writings of Vishnu Hari Chiplumkar, Ranade, Gopal Ganesh Agarkar, Tilak, Jyotirao Phule in Maharastra, Jhaverchand Meghani in Gujrat and Dinabandhu Mitra, Mukund Das, Rajanikant, Rajnaryan Basu and others of Bengal kindled the spirit of nationalism among the educated class of India. In 1872 Rajnarayan Basu first sang a national song and expressed the vision of this ancient nation :"...I see in my mind the noble and puissant Hindu Nation rousing herself after sleep and rushing headlong towards progress with divine prowess this rejuvenated Nation again illumining the world by knowledge, spirituality and culture and the glory of Hindu Nation again spreading over the whole world." Rajnaryan was the grand father of Shri Aurovindo. Soon after Rishi Bankim Chandra composed the great Vandemataram song in 1876, which inspired thousands of freedom fighters and soon became India's national song.
A nationwide armed struggle took off from the dying embers of the 1857 movement. It sparked off the struggle of Vasudev Balawant Phadke, who inspired hundreds of revolutionaries to fight against the British oppression. The Chapekar brothers, inspired by Vasudev, jumped into the scene soon after. Their efforts at armed struggle ended with their imprisonment for the slaying of the infamous collector Rand, of Pune, for his untold atrocities on the civilians of Pune during the Plague menace. They were hanged in 1897. This incident moved young Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in Nasik and he took a vow in front of the family deity to overthrow the British regime. He founded Mitra Mela and the Abhinav Bharat', a secret society for revolutionaries. Savarkar initiated many young men into Abhinav Bharat. At that time, Shyamji Krishna Varma offered a scholarship to him for higher studies abroad. Savarkar proceeded abroad, with the dual intention of pursuing his higher education, and of giving himself a broader base from which to operate his revolutionary activities. At the behest of Abhinav Bharat, Madanlal Dhingra slew Sir Curzon Willie for poisoning the young Indian minds against their own motherland; young Anant Laxman Kanhere of Aurangabad killed Jackson, the District Collector of Nasik for his agonizing torture of all revolutionaries, including Abhinav Bharat's Baba Savarkar. Both of the young men were sentenced to death. In 1876 Pandit Shibnath Shastri Initiated Bipin Pal and many other youth into revolutionary activities. The Sanjivani Sabha was established by Rajnarayan Basu and Rabindranaths older brother Jyotindranath.
The non-revolutionary path of struggle also started by then. Surendra Nath Banerjee's Indian Association of Bengal, Justice Mahadev Ranade's Sarvajanik Sabha in Maharashtra, Subrahmanya Bharathi's Madras Mahajan Sabha and Feroze Shah Mehta's Bombay Presidency Association were very helpful in awakening the masses to their rights. In 1883, the Ilbert Bill was introduced which deprived Indian judges the ability to prosecute non-Indians and resulted in nation-wide protest and boycott of foreign goods.
Babington Macaulay introduced a new system of English education in India, replacing the age old traditional schools that existed in almost every village. His goal was, in his own words: To create Indians with Indian skin and look, but British at heart. The success of the British mission can be seen in many forms, even today. Many cities are still called by the names given by the British. The British left India, but left behind a large class of Brown Sahibs with slave-like mentality.
The British not only took over India politically, they invaded India socially and culturally as well. They managed to shake the devotion and faith of the Indian people in her past achievements and the glory of this nation. This harm was recognized by the philosophical and cultural leaders of India, but many political leaders did not understand this. The cultural and religious leaders tried in their way to combat the social and cultural invasion. They strengthened the faith of the Hindus in their culture. Raja Rammohan Roy founded the Brahmo Samaj in 1828. Keshab Chandra Sen joined later. Prarthana Samaj started its work in 1867 through notaries like Bhandarkar, Chandavarkar and Mahendra Ranade. The Arya Samaj founded by Swami Dayananda Saraswati started functioning in Bombay in 1875 and in Lahore in 1877, which spread intense nationalism among the masses. Their efforts converged at one goal which was to rejuvenate the faith of the Hindus in their age-old Vedas and Upanishads. On August 14, 1879 Swami Dayananda Saraswati appealed for the use of indigenous goods only and the boycott of foreign goods. This had a great impact in the country. Besides these three Samajas, there were others like the great reformer Vidyasagar of Bengal, the Theosophical Society of India, founded in Madras in 1882 by Annie Besant and other theosophists who had great faith in Indian philosophy.
In order to ensure that the Indian resentment against the British should not go out of control, the British had to find an outlet for the bottled up resentment of the Indian masses. So they aided in the formation of the Indian National Congress, founded in Bombay in 1885 by Allen Octavian Hume, under the protection and patronage of Lord Dufferin.
Soon some of the leaders in Congress realized the plans of the British and started fighting against their injustice. The first leaders of the Congress such as Gopal Krishna Gokhale and Motilal Nehru were moderates, and fought only by the constitutional methods. Many of these Congress leaders were greatly under the influence of English education and culture, and believed that they were aiding the birth of a new nation, whereas India is one of the oldest nations and civilizations.
The 'Aryan Invasion Theory,' was an example of the British attempt at establishing Western supremacy. By spreading the myth that Europeans invaded India, defeated the Dravidians and drove them further south, and that European blood was flowing in Indian veins, and white skin is beautiful, they sowed the seeds of division between north and south India. British also separated the Sikhs from the mainstream Hindu society.
The British provoked the resentment of Muslims against the majority Hindus, for the former were, after all, the rulers in many pockets of the country. Many measures were taken to this end: Bengal, which then comprised Assam, Bihar and Orissa, along with pre-independence Bengal, was strategically divided, such that the eastern portion would be a Muslim majority area. This way, the Muslims would win the elections of East Bengal. The English, thus encouraged the ever widening gap between the Muslims and the Congress. The Muslim League was formed in 1906, with the indirect sanction of the English, and was supposed to mirror the political ambitions of the Muslim people. Their ambition to regain the lost glory of Muslim occupation in India was encouraged.
In 1891 Tikendrajit Singh and his army chief Thangal of Manipur fought against the British and both gave life in the gallows. While following his studies, Aurovindo Ghosh, who would later become the celebrated great sage of modern India, together with Charu Chandra Datta formed a secret society in London called Lotus and dagger in 1891. They contacted the Irish revolutionaries of Sin Feinn for help, but to no avail.
Role of Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda, the disciple of Shri Ramkrishna Paramhansa, presented Hindu Dharma with élan and éclat at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 made the whole world aware of the greatness of India, her religions and culture. After his return to India he electrified the whole nation with his clarion call:
"Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached".
Prophetically he saw the future and demanded his countrymen to come forward to work for the nation saying that: "For the next fifty years this alone should be our keynote - this, our great Mother India. ... This is the only God that is awake.....". The next decades were to follow with the birth of dozens of great freedom fighters. In exactly 50 years, India became free of British occupation. Netaji Subhas Bose said: "Swami Vivekananda may be regarded as the spiritual father of the modern nationalist movement." Pandit Nehru said: Rooted in the past and full of pride in India's heritage, Vivekananda was yet modern in his approach to life's problems and was a kind of bridge between the past of India and her present. Directly or indirectly, he has powerfully influenced the India today." After the passing of Swami Vivekananda, Sister Nivedita announced: "Swamiji is verily our national hero, my role is to awaken the nation." She encouraged and assisted revolutionaries by providing shelter and funds and throughout her life she tried to make India independent culturally, economically and politically.
Early Congress : 1893 - 1918
Lala Lajpat Rai from Punjab, Bal Gangadhar Tilak from Maharashtra and Bipin Chandra Pal from Bengal became the trio-heroes of the nation and were fondly called Lal-Bal-Pal. The freedom movement of the nation was at times lacking mass participation. Tilak came up with a visionary idea: to celebrate Ganesh Festival and Shivaji Utsav to instill patriotism amongst people, which literally brought the fight from the Council halls to the streets. Rabindranath introduced the Shivaji Utsav in Bengal. Finally Tilak declared: "Swaraj (independence) is my birth-right." By then, Congress had two distinct groups - moderates and the extremists.
Through Mitra Mela, Savarkar recruited writers, poets and artists who spread the message of nationalism. In Bengal, Aurobindo Ghosh, Chittaranjan Das and P. Mitra became the pioneers of the secret revolutionary movement called Ansulian Samiti. Aurobindo sent Jatindra Mookerjee from Baroda to Calcutta to impart military training to the revolutionaries. Aurobindos brother Barin Ghosh came to Calcutta after learning the technology to make bombs. Later on Jatindranath opened an ashram and took the name Niralamba Swami, who initiated the father and uncle of Bhagat Singh into revolutionary activities.
Vikhaji Rustam Kama helped the recolutionaries in collecting arms and training from England and France. The Munda revolt became a very powerful struggle against the British. The great vanavasi leader of this movement, Birsa Munda gave his life in the British jail in 1900 after tremendous torture.
The bifurcation of Bengal in 1905 sparked off another revolutionary movement in Bengal. But the very act of division revolutionized the province of Bengal in particular, and the whole of India in general. The Swadeshi Movement called for boycott of foreign goods. Self-rule was declared as the right of every one. National schools were set up, the intention being to counteract the British influence in the field of education, by imparting nationalist education. Many revolutionary parties and bands took birth during this time. The first bomb exploded on 23rd December 1907. On 30th April 1908, Khudiram Bose and Prafulla Chaki threw a bomb to kill Magistrate Kingsford. Khudi Ram, who was hanged at the age of 19, became a martyr and a hero, so much so that his photographs had an immense sale value.
Sri Aurovindo guided many revolutionaries all over India. He edited many nationalistic newspapers and magazines where his powerful writings inspired many. He was arrested in 1908 for the Alipore Conspiracy Case. Later on he moved to Pondichery and lead the life of a spiritual master. Through his speeches and writings he had provided the vision of future India and guided the patriots till his maha samadhi.
Punjab also played its part in the revolutionary movement. Sardar Ajit Singh, the uncle of Saheeed Bhagat singh , who spearheaded the movement, was a revolutionary of the Bharat Mata Society of Lahore. He revolted against the repressive Colonialization Act, which cheated the peasants of Lyallpur of the fruits of their own labor.
Severely repressive sentences were passed to crush the revolutionary activities. Lokmanya Tilak was sentenced to six years of imprisonment. Agitation against this and the partition of Bengal started everywhere. As an outcome of this, in 1911, the division of Bengal was abandoned, and Bengal was unified. Rabindranath, the Nobel-laureate sage poet played a major role in this movement. His patriotic songs and writings inspired the freedom fighters.
Promoting separatism was part of the British Divide and rule policy. The Act of 1909 introduced separate electorates for Muslims. In 1919, the Sikhs also got separate electorates. The Act of 1935 gave separate representation to Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans and the Harijans. The creation of Pakistan was one of the major consequences of this communal representation.
While they were in jail, many of these revolutionaries were fed by British with Communist literature to divert their nationalism and patriotism. Some of these revolutionaries established the communist party of India. Being the patrons of a foreign ideology, Indian communists showed more support towards the cause of communism than the cause of their motherland and on many occasions betrayed the people of India.
Indian people living abroad had a major role in Indian struggle for freedom. Indian people around the world in Burma, Singapore, Japan, Afganisthan, Germany, England, Canada and America were constantly providing support to various revolutionary activities. The Gadar Party was formed in the USA to support the cause of freedom struggle and also to protect Hindus living in America from persecution. It had among its leaders Lala Hardayal Rash Behari Bose, Sachindra Sanyal, Ganesh Pingale, Sohan Singh Vakhna and Bhogi Kartar Singh, who were planning a war against the British.
On 29th September 1914 a Canadian Ship named 'Komagata Maru' with 400 freedom fighters reached Calcutta. There was a great battle between the British force and the Gadarites. Many of the Gadarites died, some escaped and the rest were sent to jail.
Soon, an all India Revolt was to start on 21st February 1915. Vigorous preparations were made for this. Millions of dollars were collected for arms and ammunition. Then Gadarites contacted Indian soldiers in the far East, South East Asia and all over India, and persuaded many regiments to revolt. The revolt was unfortunately doomed to end in failure. One Kirpal Singh passed on all the secret plans to the Government. The Gadaraites were tried in the Lahore Conspiracy Case and a heavy punishment was imposed on them.
In 1918, The Rowlatt Act was introduced which made a provision that any political subject could be arrested and imprisoned without inquiry or assigning any reason. Both Mahatma Gandhi and Tilak condemned the action of the government in strongest possible terms. And again, the country rose, imbued with the spirit of rebellion and patriotism. Martial law was Imposed in Punjab.
On 12th April, 1919, a proclamation was issued by General Dwyer, that no meetings or gathering of the people were to be held. There was a public meeting on the 13th of April at 4.30 P.M. in the Jallianwalla Bagh, a public courtyard, which neither General Dwyer nor other authorities took any action to stop. The Jallianwallabagh is closed practically on all sides except at the entrance. General Dwyer entered the Jallianwala Bagh with armored cars and troops, and ordered them to fire and continue to do so till the whole of the ammunition at his disposal was exhausted. The victims were unarmed, peaceful people, consisting of men, women and children, congregated at a public meeting. Hundreds were massacred. The carnage, of such heinous magnitude awakened the whole country. Dwyer did not escape the crime without retribution, Sardar Udham Singh slew him in 1940.
By then, Mahatma Gandhi had come back from South Africa to join the freedom struggle. Gandhiji became the apostle of the Hindu values of non-violence and peace. He introduced spirituality as the base of his non-violent movement.
After the defeat of Germany in the First World War, Turkey was divided and the post of Khalifa, or the symbolic head of all Mislims, was dissolved. The Allies played a large part in this. Therefore, the Indian Muslims revolted against the British to restore the post of Khalifa. Gandhiji saw it as an opportunity for courting the Muslim support in the nationalist struggle, and extended the Congress support for the Khilafat movement. Unfortunately Congress, by acting in concert with the movement, strengthened the extra-national attitude and the Pan-Islamic agenda of the Muslims. Much to the national humiliation, the Indian Muslims sent representations to the religious leaders of Afghanistan and Arabia to accept the position of the Khalifa. So, the Khilafat Movement was an agitation doomed to failure from the very beginning. Gandhiji proposed to start a non-cooperation movement against the British for self-rule and Khilafat both. Accordingly, a resolution was passed by the Congress. The non-violent non-cooperation movement was launched. Many persons left their jobs and students their studies in 1920 & 1921. Great persons like Chittaranjan Das, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Vinoba Bhave, Rajagopalachari, Madan Mohan Malavya, Sarojini Naidu, Abdul Gaffar Khan, K.M.Munshi and Dr. S. Radhakrishnan gave up their career and joined the movement.
Dr. Hedgewar and the
birth of RSS
Many English-educated national leaders of those times had implicitly come to believe what the British rulers had to tell them, and had consequently lost faith in the ancient heritage of the nation. But there were few others who loved their ancient traditions and culture, and one of them was Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. He had participated in both the revolutionary and non revolutionary movements for freedom. But he was not happy with the leaders and their paths. He wondered why the land of Ram, Sita, Krishna, Rana Pratap and Shivaji had become so weak. How could a tiny nation, which was 6000 miles away, control such a huge nation, with a population of 300 million. He concluded that British dedication and loyalty to their country and excellent organizational skills was the secret of their success. This was what India lacked. For a living nation, an organized nation would be replete with power and glory. Dr. Hedgewar believed that the ancient tradition taught by the sages should be a strong commanding force. This could only be done by organizing the people into a united force.
Dr. Hedgewar started with a few youth, in what Swami Vivekananda said was a man making mission. He realized that without citizens with great character and love for their country and people can neither serve the nation nor the world. RSS was founded in 1925 to lead the country in the fight of social and cultural freedom The swayamsevaks participated in Satyagraha, Quit India, and many other movements and today it is serving the entire nation in hundreds of different areas.
Congress and advent of Gandhiji After the death of Lokamanya Tilak, Gandhiji became the sole leader of Congress. The Congress leaders intended to ask for dominion status by the end of 1929. But the attitude of the British government was different. Lord Irwin said that India would be granted self-rule within the British Empire. But Congress wanted swarajya, or complete self-rule. When the Congress met on the banks of the River Ravi, near Lahore in 1929, they declared complete independence as their goal. 26th January, 1930 was declared Independence Day and a pledge was taken by the people of India on that date, which was repeated every year thereafter.
On 12th March, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi started his famous Dandi March to break the salt laws, inspiring countless people into following his example. Meanwhile. the Simon Commission's report was published wherein it was stated that British ruled territories would be granted self government and the whole of India would be a Union of State governments and princely states.
Three Round Table Conferences were held in England to discuss Indias future. The first Round Table Conference of 1930, which discussed the Simon Commission, was not attended by Indian leaders, due to the Civil Disobedience movement.
The Civil Disobedience movement started on January 4, 1932. The British Government responded with the most uncivilized behavior, from torturing women and children to setting fire to houses. Even the police was encouraged to loot and rape. Bertrand Russel wrote: The British committed mis-deeds in India quite as serious as Nazis doing in Germany.
The British wanted Gandhiji as the national representative at the second Round Table Conference. Hence the Gandhi-Irwin pact was signed; As per this pact the Govt. of India was to make concessions and Congress was to withdraw the civil disobedience movement. However, the communal bodies did not see Gandhiji as the national leader. In this Conference, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the champion for the people of backward classes and a key player in writing the constitution of free India, pleaded for separate representation for Harijans on the lines of Muslim demands. And, the Second Round Table Conference was a failure. The Third Round Table Conference of 1932 was unattended by Indians.
Muslim majority provinces of Sindh and North-West Frontier Province had already been created. Govt. of India Act of 1935 gave the provinces the right of self-government. The Muslim League session was held in Lahore in 1940, wherein the Pakistan theory was proposed, which suggested Muslims could not live under the rule of the majority Hindus and they needed a separate homeland and they proposed the division of India into three parts: India, East Pakistan and West Pakistan. Indian national leaders exercised their vehement disapproval of the idea, and Dr. Rajendra Prasad, first president of free India, called it an impossibility. The communist leaders in India supported the idea of a separate homeland for Muslims.
In 1940 Congress under the leadership of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad demanded full independence and suggested Civil disobedience which was not approved by Gandhiji.
Several other insurrections, all over the country took place. To mention a few, we have the Kakori case, the killing of Saunders in Punjab by Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Azad, as an act of vengeance against his ill-treatment of Lala Lajpat Rai, the throwing of a bomb in the Central Assembly on 8th April, 1929 by Sardar Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutta and so on. The Chittagong movement headed by Master Surya Sen, looted the armory, actually freed Chittagong for a span of 8 days and declared freedom. In 1931 Chandra Sekhar Azad, another colleague of Bhagat Sing fought with the police in a fierce battle and gave his life in Allahabad after killing many police officers.
On 8th December 1930, Benoy Bose, Badal Gupta and Dinesh Gupta dressed as Europeans entered the Writers building in Calcutta and shot dead Simpson, the Inspector General of prisons and injured other officials. Dinesh was hanged and other two killed themselves.
Bhagat Singh Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged by the British and wrote their names amongst the great freedom fighters in the world; unfortunately the Congress leaders including Gandhiji remained silent about the treacherous verdict of a tribunal.
Jatin Das, a great revolutionary, fasted for 63 days and died in protest of ill treatment towards the freedom fighters.
Between 1931 and 33 Bengal revolutionaries became very active again. At Midnapore three magistrates in succession were murdered. The collector of Comilla was shot dead by two young girls, Santi Ghosh and Sumita Choudhury. The Superintendent of Tripura police was shot dead. Pritilata and Kalpana Dutta of Surya Sens group bombed the railway institute in Chittagung. Governor Jackson was shot dead by Bina Das.
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was a favorite leader of the masses. He became the President of the Congress Party twice. After the disagreement with Gandhiji regarding the path for freedom struggle, he quit Congress and formed a party named Forward Block. While Gandhiji and Jawharlal Nehru supported Britain in its efforts for the 2nd World War, Netaji moved throughout India addressing people not to support Britain as its breakup would bring freedom for India. Subhas Bose and his supporters were soon put in jail. In London he said: Britain had destroyed India economically, politically, culturally and spiritually.
After secret communications with leaders like Veer Savarkar and Rashbehari Bose, on January 17, 1941 Netaji escaped from his home detention in Calcutta. After this historic near impossible escape from the British police and intelligence, he crossed Indian Border by foot in Afghan dress and reached Berlin via Kabul and Moscow. In Germany he recruited 3000 Indian War Prisoners to form one regiment of the Indian National Army. In March 1942 Rasbehari Bose formed Azad Hind Fauz or Indian National Army in Tokyo. In June 1943 Netaji arrived in Tokyo via submarine, and INA was handed over to him by Rasbehari Bose. Netaji Thundered: Give me blood,
I'll give you freedom.
Congress - 2
In 1942, the British Government commissioned Stafford Cripps to form the Cripps mission, which set forth the proposal that India will be given independence inside the British Dominion.
The Cripps' proposal came under severe criticism. Gandhiji expressed his disillusionment of the concept of co-operation between Hindus and Muslims. Congress launched the Bharat Chodo Andolan or Quit India movement on Aug. 8, 1942. Gandhiji introduced the mantra: 'Karenge ya marange: Do or die.' But even before the movement started, the British threw all the national leaders behind bars. Many people gave their lives in the hands of British at this time. Seventy year old Matangini Hazra was shot dead in Medinipore. The Quit India Movement was subdued totally by October, 1942, in two and a half months. The Indian communists offered help to British to sabotage this movement and the British made full use of it.
The INA, or the Indian National Army, was organized in East and South-East Asia by Ras Behari Bose and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, to give armed resistance to the British, as opposed to the non-violent and non-cooperation movement of Gandhiji. They decided to take advantage of the raging Second World War and took the assistance of Japan. Netaji gave a rousing call : 'Delhi Chalo: Let us go to Delhi.' The INA penetrated the Indian borders, and reached Assam. The British Government, being seriously concerned about the progress and popularity of INA, started massive anti-Netaji propaganda, and the Indian communists helped the British to accomplish this task.
But with the defeat of Japan, INA also had to accept defeat. Quit India movement and INA, both were unsuccessful. But due to the popularity of the INA, the British were forced to release all the soldiers unconditionally after a historic trial. The INA created a tremendous wave of force within the country. In February 1945 the Royal Indian Navy revolted against the British which was followed by the Air Force as well. The British were convinced by then that they could not keep India under their thrall much longer.
On August 16, 1946, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the future father of Pakistan, gave a call for Direct Action. Massacres of thousands of Hindus occurred in Bengal in broad daylight and particularly in Calcutta under the Govt. headed by Suharawardy. This is known as the Great Calcutta Killings, which spread to other parts of India.
Partition of the nation
Then came the black day, the proposal of the division of the country was placed before the nation by the Viceroy Mountbatten in March 1947. The political scene at that time was ripe with mistrust and non cooperation. Being disgusted with the behavior of the Muslim League leaders, Sardar Patel had concluded that it was impossible to work with the Muslim League. Pandit Nehru gave his approval within four or five days. It was during this time that Gandhiji told Maulana Azad that his body should be divided before India was divided - a remark which was to become very famous. But Gandhiji gave his assent to the division after two meetings with Mountbatten. It was an event which embarrassed and shocked the country. The nation had been betrayed; and by its own leaders!
Mountbatten hastened to England, and an elaborate plan for partition was drafted before his return to India in May 1947. His proclamation, which was announced on 3rd June 1947, proposed to divide India into India, east and west Pakistan and 600 princely states. But the whole nation was against this. The Congress Working Committee, which met on June 14, 1947, also strenuously opposed the move to partition the country. They had to be brought around with the direct intervention of Gandhiji. Finally, the move to divide the country was approved by Congress-by 29 votes against 15.
As the time drew closer for the British to depart from India, things began to move very rapidly. Britain looted Indias wealth for 200 years. But during this time they made all efforts to transfer as much jewelry, gold and diamonds as they could. Invaluable masterpieces of paintings and sculptures were overnight moved to London. Even fifty years after the independence, Britain possesses most of these invaluable materials of India. Mountbatten transferred power to Indian hands on August 15, 1947, a full ten months before the slated date. That did not give Congress any time to ponder the implications of partition. Acting mainly on immense pressure from the British and Gandhiji, who himself appeared to have succumbed to British pressure, Congress agreed to the partition. In retrospect, if they had had more time to debate the issue, public opinion may have pressured them to vote against the partition. This was also the opinion of Guru Golwalkar, then the head of the RSS, who urged the Congress to wait for six months. But the British were in a hurry to leave, and decided to press the issue. The result was the partition of India and the ensuing blood bath, where
hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives in this holocaust. The nation got the long awaited freedom, but at what expense. The nation had to accept the division and loss of land as well as a holocaust, where thousands lost everything, thousands got butchered and thousands of women were raped!
Partition and After
India finally became free of foreign occupation after 1000 very long years. The Freedom struggle of India inspired similar struggles in many countries of Asia and Africa and the dawn of Indian independence in 1947 heralded an era of independence for many enslaved nations. Martin Luther King and President Nelson Mandela were highly influenced by the non-violent Satyagraha movement of Gandhiji and India supported the cause of freedom struggle of many countries including South Africa.
Partition took place on midnight of August 15, 1947. Pandit Nehru, as the first Prime Minister of Free India proclaimed his 'Tryst of destiny.' Over 300 princely states were free to join either the Indian Union or Pakistan. Most of them within the Indian territories were persuaded to join the Indian Union with the persuasion of charismatic 'Iron Man' Sardar Patel. Military action had to be taken against the Muslim ruler of Hyderabad to make it part of India. Kashmir, the so called heaven on earth which is an integral part of India since time immemorial, on the other hand, presented a rather complicated problem. The ruler of Kashmir, Maharaja Hari Singh, wanted to remain independent. But Pakistan tried to seize Kashmir by force, sending in its own soldiers in the guise of Mujahid or so-called freedom fighters. India saved Kashmir from Pakistani aggression, and King Hari Singh agreed to accede to the Indian Union. However, a large part of Kashmir is still occupied by Pakistan. Jawaharlal Nehru insisted that the people of Kashmir should have a say in the merger of Kashmir into India, and so, despite the Maharaja's approval of the merger, it was delayed. The matter could not be resolved, and was taken to the United nations. Nationalist leader Shyama Prasad Mookherjee died in the jail of Kashmir while fighting the passiveness of Indian Government to make Kashmir fully integrated to India.
A conspiracy was hatched by some powerful Muslims to hoist the Pakistani flag on the Red Fort and take hold of Delhi through the use of massive arms. The Dooms Day was set as September 6 1947. The RSS volunteers alerted Sardar Patel and Pandit Nehru, and necessary steps were taken to foil the conspiracy.
A Constituent Assembly drafted a Constitution for the people of India which came into force from 26th January 1950. The French, like other colonies oppressed the people of Pondichery before it became integral part of India in 1954.While most of India was independent of foreign occupation by 1947, Goa, Daman and Diu was still under Portuguese domination. On 15th August of 1955 many Satyagrahis lead by Tristao Broganza entered Goa to free it. The rulers again killed many helpless unarmed people. Finally the Indian Army had to intervene and freed Goa, Daman and Diu from Portuguese yoke on 18th December, 1961.
India's neighbor China suddenly attacked India in 1962, and took over thousands of square miles of land including that in Kashmir and the north east frontier borders.
In 1965 Pakistan attacked India and was defeated by the brave Indian army. Pakistan again attacked India in 1971. This time they were not only defeated by the Indian army under the Prime Ministership of Indira Gandhi, but East Pakistan was freed from Pakistani rule, and a new nation, Bangla Desh was formed with the help of Indian people. Over 3 million people were tortured and killed and over 33, 000 women were raped by the Pakistani forces. Hindus were specially targeted and were attacked from house to house by the Pakistani forces. This was one of the largest genocide of this century, which is yet to be known to the people of the world.
During the partition of the country Pakistan signed the agreement that it would make sure that the rights and the safety of the minorities would be taken proper care. But through planned activities of persecution and torture and forced conversion of minority Hindus and Christians, the number of minorities in Pakistan has gone down from 20% in 1947 to 2% in 1996. In Bangladesh, the number of minorities has gone down from 30% in 1947 to 14% in 1996.
Pakistan is still having a proxy war in Kashmir. It is training and arming the Islamic terrorists, for which the country is paying a heavy toll. Thousands of Kashmiri Hindus are refugees in their homeland.
India lives on with her world mission. India’s struggle to free herself from external forces continues. Communism, capitalism, consumerism and religious fundamentalism of Islamic and Christian missionaries are the main forces working against the unity and progress of the nation. Indian people will not forget the divisive diplomacy of Britain, which created the vivisection of the country and enmity among her people. However, reunification of the people and land in future is not an impossible dream after the fall of the Berlin Wall.