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Story of India’s Freedom

Hritika.N.K, IIK Young Reporter Wednesday, August 5, 2020
Story of India’s Freedom

There have been many events which led to the freedom of India . as the latter says , it was one fine day when everyone day woke up to the rumors that the new Enfield rifles were greased with beef and pork fat which was offensive to Hindus and Muslims . To load the rifle, sepoys had to bite the cartridge open to release the powder. the people became furious , the news of someone trying to destroy their caste and affect their religious sensibilities . Some changes, such as outlawing sati (a widow's suicide by fire) and child marriage, may have been well-meaning. But the British imposed them without any regard for Indian cultures .Fears that the British were also trying to force conversion to Christianity upon the Indian people led to a widespread feeling that the traditional way of life was threatened.

In the mid-19th century, India was very different from the nation state we know today. It didn't exist as a country, but instead consisted of different territories controlled by a variety of rulers. The greatest of these was the British East India Company which governed two thirds of the subcontinent.It purchased land from Indian rulers to build its settlements on, and recruited native armed forces to protect them. By the mid-18th century, the previously dominant Mughal Empire was collapsing as native and European states attempted to carve out their own power bases.

Poor terms of service and pensions, bad pay, lack of promotion, and increased cultural and racial insensitivity from British officers all contributed to the feelings of discontent among the Indian soldiers of the Bengal Army. Many high caste Hindu sepoys also viewed attempts during the 1840s to extend recruitment to lower caste Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims as a threat to their traditional social status. No single factor was in itself enough to start a rebellion. But the cumulative effect meant all that was needed was a catalyst to turn quiet discontent into a much more serious affair.

On 29 March 1857 at Barrackpore, Mangal Pandey ,( a well known freedom fighter now) of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry attacked his officers. When his comrades were ordered to restrain him they refused, but they stopped short of joining him in open revolt. Although only a handful of sepoys had been involved, the entire regiment was disbanded in disgrace. Sepoys elsewhere thought this too harsh a punishment.

The Mutiny proper began at Meerut on 10 May 1857 when 85 members of the 3rd Bengal Light Cavalry, who had been jailed for refusing to use the new cartridges, were broken out of prison by their comrades. They ransacked the nearby military station and killed any Europeans they could find. Trouble spreads

The situation rapidly escalated, and the British reacted slowly. The following day Delhi fell to the mutineers. News of these events spread, encouraging further mutinies elsewhere. Thousands of common people joined the revolt, some for religious reasons, others out of loyalty to their old rulers or simply to engage in looting. Many wanted to destroy the system by which the Company collected taxes.

It was not a unified revolt. While all wanted the British gone, notions of ‘Indianness’ were rare. So the british got control over the revolt eventually . But who knew one day after a long period something fate-changing would happen .

General Dyer’s very British determination to teach the colonized population a lesson was rooted in the memories of the Great Rebellion of 1857, when Indian rebels — sepoys of the British Indian Army, peasants, artisans and dispossessed landholders and rulers — revolted against the East India Company, killed several Europeans and brought the company to its knees in much of northern India. The British responded ferociously, decisively defeated the rebels, and carried out wanton retribution to teach the natives a lesson in imperial governance.

The fear and panic of 1857 was still alive among the colonial authorities in 1919. The East India Company had always portrayed its governance of India as the rule of law. But the company was in fact a conquering regime, and saw itself surrounded by the disaffection and sedition of its conquered subjects.In March 1919, it introduced the Anarchical and Revolutionary Crimes Act, popularly known as the Rowlatt Act, which extended its wartime emergency powers into peacetime.

But when news of the impending Rowlatt legislation became public, Gandhi ji immediately expressed his opposition and called for a nationwide general strike on April 6, 1919. He asked people to engage in nonviolent struggle, or satyagraha: Observe a daylong fast and hold meetings to demand the repeal of the legislation.

Protesters in Amritsar clashed with the authorities; the troops killed at least 10 people. The crowd attacked government property and set fire to two banks. Five Europeans were killed, but the event that angered the British the most was the assault of Marcella Sherwood, a European missionary, who was wounded and left for dead on the street.

Dispatched to Amritsar, General Dyer took control from the civil authorities on April 11. He issued a proclamation prohibiting public assembly and warning that such gatherings would be dispersed by force. Peace was restored, but the people were not cowed.

On April 13, several thousand gathered in Jallianwala Bagh in defiance of General Dyer’s orders. Incensed, he rode to the venue with his troops on two armored vehicles. Finding the lane leading up to the walled garden too narrow, they dismounted, marched to the ground and opened fire. The massacre killed atleast 400 and injured 1200 .

The Jallianwala Bagh massacre marked the beginning of the resistance against the exceptional laws of colonial governance. Ironically, the postcolonial Indian state retained several of these laws of exception, the very same ones that people in Amritsar had died fighting against.

The uprising of events like the Jallianwala massacre gave rise to The Non-Cooperation Movement . The movement was essentially a peaceful and non-violent protest against the British government in India. Indians were asked to relinquish their titles and resign from nominated seats in the local bodies as a mark of protest .People were asked to resign from their government jobs .

People were asked to withdraw their children from government-controlled or aided schools and colleges .People were asked to boycott foreign goods and use only Indian-made goods .People were asked to boycott the elections to the legislative councils .People were asked not to serve in the British army .It was also planned that if the above steps did not bring results, people would refuse to pay their taxes .

The INC also demanded Swarajya .Only completely non-violent means would be employed to get the demands fulfilled. The non-cooperation movement was a decisive step in the independence movement because, for the first time, the INC was ready to forego constitutional means to achieve self-rule . Gandhi ji had assured that Swaraj would be achieved in a year if this movement was continued to completion.

The Quit India Movement also known as the August Movement, was then launched at the Bombay session of the All-India Congress Committee by Mahatma Gandhi on 8 August 1942, during World War II, demanding an end to the british rule . Sporadic small-scale violence took place around the country and the British arrested tens of thousands of leaders, keeping them imprisoned until 1945. In terms of immediate objectives, Quit India failed because of heavy-handed suppression, weak coordination and the lack o/f a clear-cut program of action. However, the British government realized that India was ungovernable in the long run due to the cost of World War II, and the question for postwar became how to exit gracefully and peacefully. Even though we had to suffer a lot , the end was in favour of the truth .

This true , horrifying and tragic story of india’s independence still sends chill down the spines of many . And the saying goes , “All is well that ends well”.

Jai Hind and, Vande Maatram .
//Stay home , Stay safe /

Hritika N Kademani
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