British ruled over India for almost 200 years. India witnessed an array of events before attaining independence in the year 1947. The freedom struggle not only liberated us but also proved to be a significant step in the making of the nation. The Indian freedom struggle was beautified by the sweat and blood of various freedom fighters.
East India Company started dominating India in the 18th and 19th centuries. East India Company entered into India as a trading company but gradually it started influencing the political affairs of India as the East India Company got itself involved in the politics. It marked the beginning of the British Raj in India.
First War of Independence
The First War of Independence is also known as the Revolt of 1857 or Sepoy Mutiny. It all started in Barrackpore when sepoys were asked to bite the cover of the cartridges from their rifles to remove it. They realized that the cover was greased with beef and pork. One person who stood out of the crowd during the revolt of 1857 was Mangal Pandey who shot his sergeant. Later on, when he was arrested and hanged, the soldiers boycotted the new rifles and marched towards Delhi. They declared the then Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar II, the true emperor of India.
The Domino Effect of the Movement
- Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, fought against the British because they didn’t allow her to proclaim her adopted son, Damodar Rao as the heir of the kingdom and wanted to seize the state of Jhansi. The Britishers refused to accept him as the heir under the Doctrine of Lapse which stated that an adopted son could not be declared as the heir to the throne.
- Tantia Tope helped Rani Lakshmi Bai to run away to Gwalior where she died while fighting and Tantia Tope was also hanged eventually.
- Kuwar Singh led the revolt in Bihar and died eventually.
- Begum Hazrat Mahal also led the revolt but ran away to Nepal later on.
Effects of Revolt of 1857
- The rule of the East India Company ended in India and India was put under the direct rule of the British crown.
- Indian National Congress was formed by A.O. Hume in and Womesh Chandra Banerjee was declared the first president of INC.
- The biggest province of British India, Bengal, was portioned by Lord Curzon in 1905. It was done to apply the formula of divide and rule and create a rift between Hindus and Muslims.
A lot of other freedom fighters started participating in the freedom struggle – Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Ajit Singh, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, to name a few. All of them played a vital role in the freedom struggle. Swami Dayanand Saraswasti formed the Arya Samaj.
Moderates and Extremists – There were moderates and extremists. Moderates wanted nominal British rule. They wanted the British people to understand the plight of the Indian mass and consider Indian people and work in favor of the local people. The Extremists on the other hand wanted complete independence. They demanded ‘Purna Swaraj’ and opted for methods such as the boycott of foreign goods. Their approach was more radical.
Moderates comprised of people like Dadabai Naorojia and Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and Bipin Chandra were together known as ‘Lal-Bal-Pal’ and they were the extremists.
Formation of the Muslim League – Muslims demanded a separate platform and hence, Muslim League was formed in 1906 at Dacca.
The Lucknow Pact – Congress and the Muslim League signed the Lucknow Pact in December 1916 to work together for Indian Independence.
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
British introduced the Rowlatt Act that curbed the basic fundamental rights of the Indian people and allowed the police to use their strengths devilishly. On April 13, 1919, thousands of people gathered in the Jalliawalan Bagh at Amritsar. It was a peaceful gathering to oppose this law.
British troops and General Dyer marched to the park. General Dyer commanded the troops to open fire on thousands of innocent people gathered at the park that included women and children too. There was no way for them to escape and many of them jumped into the well.
This whole incident made the Indian citizens furious and gave birth to the Non-cooperation movement, also called the Civil Disobedience Movement.
Non-Cooperation Movement, 1920
Non-Cooperation Movement was introduced in 1920. During this movement, the foreign cloth was burnt and honorary titles given by the British were surrendered. Several students left government colleges and schools and lawyers also stopped their practices. People boycotted elections.
In February 1922, at Chauri Chaura, Uttar Pradesh, twenty-two policemen were killed when the enraged peasants burned off a police station. The non-cooperation movement was called off after the Chauri Chaura Incident.
In 1927, a commission was sent to India by the British Government in England to bring about some political reforms. It was headed by John Simon and all the members of the commission were British. It had no Indian representative. This enraged the Indian Citizens and created a widespread revolt. The commission was met with the slogans like “Simon, Go back” on their arrival.
Hindustan Socialist Republican Association was founded in 1928 at Ferozshah Kotla in Delhi. It was founded by Bhagat Singh, Chandra Shekar Azad, Sukhdev, and other people who wanted to end British rule.
On 17 December 1928, Bhagat Singh, Azad, and Rajguru killed the police officer who was responsible for the lathi charge that resulted in the death of Lala Lajpat Rai.
On 8 April 1929, Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt threw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly. The bomb was harmless because they did not intend to hurt anyone but “to make the deaf hear”.
Their slogan ‘Inquilab Zindabad’ became very famous. Unfortunately, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru were hanged to death on 23rd March 1931.
To break the Salt Law, Gandhiji started a salt march of 375 Km from Sabarmati Ashram to Dandi.
It was utterly wrong to tax salt since it is the most basic and essential ingredient of our food. This march took 26 days and Gandhiji broke the salt law at the end of this march by collecting and boiling the salt found on the seashore of Dandi.
Gandhi Irwin Pact of March 1931
An agreement was made between Mahatma Gandhi and Lord Irwin. The terms of the agreement included the release of political prisoners except for those who were involved in violent acts, permission to collect and manufacture salt and return the confiscated lands and properties.
Government of India Act, 1935
In August 1935, The Government of India Act was passed for the establishment of an all-Indian federation where it was allowed to make relatively independent decisions while remaining within a federation.
The government was allowed to conduct elections for the provisional legislatures and these elections were held in 11 provinces. Congress won the elections of 7 out of 11 provinces.
Bose and INA – Subas Chandra Bose, played a major in the Indian freedom struggle. He raised the Azad Hind Fauj, also popular by the name of the Indian National Army. This army aimed to free India from colonial rule. He also tried to get the support of Adolf Hitler but died under mysterious circumstances.
The Quit India Movement
In 1942, The Quit India Movement was launched at the Bombay session of the All India National Congress. Gandhiji asked people to ‘Do or Die’ to end the British Raj in India. He said, “We shall either free India or die in the attempt. We shall not live to see the perpetuation f our slavery”.
The British responded repressively and all the prominent leaders were arrested. But the rebellion brought the British rule to an end.
Muslim League was adamant about wanting a separate nation from the Hindus as they feared that Muslims might go unrepresented. Hence, they announced 16th August 1947 as ‘Direct Action Day’. This resulted in riots. Thousands of people were killed in these riots. The partition caused violence and many people were forced to leave their homes and run for their lives.
Partition took place and a new nation was born – Pakistan. We got independence. Our nation was finally free and the British rule had ended.
This historic event will always remain bittersweet for us. Yes, we got freedom and that is why this struggle was important. A lot of sacrifices were made. People suffered, people left their homes and some even watched their close ones leaving them behind. We celebrate Independence Day on 15th August every year. We fly kites and celebrate the freedom we are entitled to today. We also remember those sacrifices and feel proud.