The Indian freedom struggle (1857 – 1947)

The Freedom Struggle In India (1857-1947)

A lot of people were quite eager to come to India in the primeval times. From Central Europe, the Aryans came to settle down in India, then the Persians followed and then the Iranians too came to India. The Mughals also settled permanently in the country, the Mongolian Chengiz Khan also plundered and invaded the country a lot of times. Alexander the Great also wanted to conquer India so came to the country, battled with Porus and then turned back. In a knowledge pursuit, Xuanzang came to India from China, and visited Takshila and Nalanda universities in India. Columbus also wanted to come to India but unfortunately reached the American shores. To trade in barter, goods for exotic spices from India, Vasco da Gama also arrived from Portugal and established a good number of colonies on Indian soil. Last of all the British came to India and ruled the nation for almost two centuries. In 1757 the Battle of Plassey took place and the British gradually gained power in India.

During Lord Dalhousie’s tenure, they established their dominance. Lord Dalhousie had become the Governor General in the year 1848. In the North West regions of India, including the Peshwar, Punjab and the Pathan tribal areas, he occupied many places. Authority and power of the British got established firmly by the year 1856 after which India had to struggle for its freedom from them. The British introduced the zamindari system where landlords of the new classes ruined lives of peasants with ridiculous charges. This led to the Indian Mutiny of 1857. The British administration endangered the Indian society’s traditional foundation. There was disgust, dissatisfaction and discontent prevailing within the country. The Indian Mutiny of 1857 then led to the birth of the Congress and freedom struggle.

Mahatma Gandhi’s Struggle

In the struggle for freedom in India, Mahatma Gandhi, the greatest man ever in Indian history, had played a very important role. His full name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He was responsible for giving character and shape to the struggle for freedom for which he deserves standing ovation. For the sake of the country, he sacrificed his life. He always lived a very simple life and earned tremendous respect of the Indian people. His role in India’s freedom was pivotal. To gain independence or freedom from the British he used peaceful and non violent methods which continued to remain the foundation till the very end.

Mahatma Gandhi was born in Gujarat at a place called Porbunder on 2nd October 1869. After marriage he went to South Africa to work as a barrister for two decades. He had his very first brush with apartheid in South Africa. Despite possessing a ticket, he was thrown out once from the first class compartment of a train. It was after this incident that he made a decision that he would put in all his effort to eradicate apartheid from the face of this earth.

When he returned to India, he discovered that the British were ruling his own country and they were treating is fellow countrymen in a very harsh and bad way. Mahatma Gandhi was very patient and took his time in growing and developing the techniques to ensure that his actions made the right kind of impact on the freedom struggle, just like the other great leaders in history. He had commendable faith in other religions. With the same kind of belief and faith that he had in the Hindu scriptures, he also listened to the teachings of Christianity. As far as truthfulness and honesty were concerned he was indeed brutal which helped in his future years of his life.

The Non Cooperation Movement

Mahatma Gandhi initiated non cooperation movement which was the first one in a series of non-violent protests in India. It was in the Gandhian era that an official beginning of these protests was made. During this movement, the Indian people were made aware that the British rule could be opposed in an active manner. The non cooperation movement helped in keeping a check on the British rule. Hence foreign goods and educational institutions were boycotted and the Indians did not take up seats nominated to them by the government institutions. The people of India were awakened to a concept of fighting against the British in a non violent way, even after failure of this movement.

The non cooperation movement was basically an indication to the British, that the Indian people were not willing to cooperate with them and they were not acceptable within the country and the Indian people wanted their own freedom from the British rule. Being peaceful, resistant and non cooperative were the weapons Gandhi used to fight against the injustice experienced by civilians in the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh, Punjab. The brutal act by the British was criticized by Gandhi as well as the Indian retaliation act. Obtaining complete control of the institutions in India, self government and spiritual, individual and political independence was the focal point of the non cooperation movement. The boycott of law courts, imported clothing, seeking admission to educational institutions, forsaking British honors and titles and resigning from posts offered by the government were advocated by Gandhiji. Reorganization of the Congress took place under the leadership of Gandhi in the year 1920. The main goal of the n ew constitution was to gain swaraj or freedom.

Transformation of the party took place to appeal in a mass scale at the national level. This movement did attain a lot of success and people from all over India participated in it. However, in Uttar Pradesh, at Chauri Chaura, a violent clash took place and the non cooperation movement came to an end, in an abrupt manner in February 1922. Gandhiji had no choice but to call a stop to the non cooperation movement fearing the violent outcome and lots of bloodshed. On March 10, 1922, he was arrested.

The Civil Disobedience Movement

The civil disobedience movement was another form of the non violent movement. As compared to the non violent movement it was far more active and brought in a revolution of sorts. Main aim of the movement was to withdraw support from each and everything and bring the administration of the British to a halt. The civil disobedience movement was basically an agitation against the duly levied on imported cloth, military expenses, salt tax abilities, land revenue etc. To protest against the tax levied on salt, as part of the protest he also undertook the Dandi March or the Salt Satyagraha movement.

The Quit India Movement

In 1939 the World War I had broken out. Moral support of the non violent kind was favored by Gandhi initially. However later on he withdrew the offer of participating in the freedom of democracy war, since freedom was denied to India. The war kept progressing and Gandhi kept on increasing his demand for independence for India which led to a movement called the Quit India Movement. This revolt can be considered as one of the most definite and most vehement onesagainst the British rule. Independence to India was agreed upon by the British after this movement. By the year 1943, it was quite clear that the power would be transferred to the hands of the British. With regard to division of power for freedom, extensive dialogues started taking place between the Hindus and Muslims in which a major role was played by Gandhiji.

In August 1942 under the leadership of Karamchand Gandhi, this movement called the Quit India Movement was launched. He wanted the British to negotiate with the leaders in India, which was the main idea of launching the Quit India Movement. This movement was basically a call for attaining freedom immediately. A slogan called ‘Do Or Die’ was adopted immediately for gaining freedom in India. After Gandhi gave his speech the Indian leaders were arrested and jailed by the British officers. To get the leaders released, Mahatma Gandhi went on a fast for twenty one days, even though his health was failing. The British had no choice but to release the Indian leaders. Both the common man as well as leaders of the Congress was released.

The Kheda Satyagraha And Champaran

The Kheda Satyagraha and the Champaran agitation in 1918 were the major achievements of Mahatma Gandhi. The British forces had suppressed the Indian farmers. They were left with extreme sufferings, poverty and meager compensation. Villages remained dirty, civic rights were deprived and there were vices like alcoholism developing rampantly. The farmers were in a desperate situation due to the oppressive tax levied on them by the British landlords. Mahatma Gandhi could not bear to see this so, in an effort to organize his volunteers and supporters he established an ashram. This helped in surveying the villages and searching for any incidents related go degenerated living and suffering. Gandhi began cleaning up the villages, hospitals and school buildings, once he gained confidence of the village people. To condemn evils taking place in the society, he encouraged the people of the villages to take up leadership. The British arrested him on charges of antagonizing the people and creating unrest within the people and against the government. But the good thing was that Gandhi’s supporters, put up a protest against this arrest, in hundreds and thousands. The government had no choice, but to release him. An agreement was signed with the British government to grant compensation, cancel the tax and relax control over the land owned by the poor people and the farmers. It was during this agitation that Gandhi was called as Bapu or Mahatma Gandhi which then made him very popular all through the country.

The Salt March Or The Salt Satyagraha

The British did not agree to grant a dominion status to India and freedom to the thousands of innocent Indian people jailed in various prisons in the country. This resulted in the Salt Satyagraha or the Salt March. Gandhi was to retaliate in a peaceful way and for this he resorted to a non violence campaign, the Salt Satyagraha. Main aim of the new campaign was to attain independence for India. In March 1930 Gandhiji launched and planned this satyagraha against the tax levied on salt. The Dandi March or the Salt March took place from March 12, 1930 to April 6, 1930. The march lasted for 248 miles which is approximately 400 kilometers right from Ahmedabad to Dandi in Gujarat. The march by Gandhi was to make salt for himself. In this Dandi march towards the sea, thousands of Indian people accompanied him. Around sixty thousand people were arrested by the British government. Negotiations did take place later with the government and a decision was taken that all the prisoners could be set free if the Civil Disobe dience Movement would be ended by the Congress. A Round Table Conference was held in London, for which the only Indian invited was Gandhiji. Being a representative of the Indian people also marked a victory for Mahatma Gandhi.

The Indian Independence

The struggle for freedom became more passionate and intense after the Quit India Movement. In the struggle for freedom, all the people of India became united. In whatever way possible, the Indian people made their contributions. It raised the cry for complete independence or Purna Swaraj. On 15th August 1947, India gained independence after much efforts and sacrifice.

The Gandhian era started from 1920. It was in March 1920 that a manifesto was issued by Mahatma Gandhi to elaborate his non cooperation and non violent doctrine. In fact this was a presentation of its very first kind in the political action against the British that continued to last for a few years. This movement altered the struggle for Indian freedom. The communists in India were dedicated to the eradication of inequalities in the society and curbing power held by the rich classes. The Indians did not lose sight of the main need of attaining independence. The main aim was organizing a national revolution.

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