It wasn’t a day’s work, and took decades of strength, courage and unity from leaders, freedom fighters as well as the common man.
By Reya Mehrotra
Seventy-four years ago, on this day India awoke to freedom. It wasn’t a day’s work, and took decades of strength, courage and unity from leaders, freedom fighters as well as the common man. Here are the major milestones that helped India gain independence from British rule in 1947.
The Revolt of 1857
Also known as Sepoy Mutiny, it began in Meerut in 1857. The cause was the sepoys’ refusal to peel cartridges, wrapped in paper greased with cow and pig fat, using their mouth. In 1857, sepoy Mangal Pandey attacked British officers in Barrackpore. He was executed, but it led to other mutinies. ‘Peace’ was declared in 1859 and East India Company was abolished. India came under the rule of the British government.
The Lucknow Pact was an agreement between the Indian National Congress and Muslim League at a joint session in Lucknow in 1916. A step towards Hindu-Muslim unity, it demanded an increased number of elected seats and representation to religious minorities in the provincial legislatures. It also demanded that laws passed by a large majority in the councils be accepted by the British, minorities be protected, all provinces be granted autonomy, and the executive and judiciary be separated. The pact helped in making the relationship between the extremists and moderates cordial.
Mahatma Gandhi launched the movement to protest against the treatment meted out to farmers in Champaran district of Bihar. The farmers were being forced into indigo cultivation under British law and were treated poorly. Gandhi arrived in Champaran in 1917 and was arrested for causing unrest. However, he was later released after massive non-violent protests. Eventually, indigo cultivation was abolished.
Also called Caliphate Movement and the Indian Muslim Movement, the pan-Islamist political protest campaign took place between 1919 and 1924. It was led by the Muslims of British India like Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar, Shaukat Ali, Hakim Ajmal Khan and Abul Kalam Azad. The movement was organised to restore the Caliph (said to be the leader of Muslims, an effective political authority) of the Ottoman Caliphate. It was a protest against the sanctions placed on the Caliph after World War I by the Treaty of Sevres. The movement collapsed in 1922.
Between 1920 and 1922, Mahatma Gandhi organised the Non-cooperation Movement as one of his first large-scale civil disobedience movements. It was the result of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919—a large crowd, gathered for a peaceful protest, was fired at by the British. It was a non-violent movement which required Indians to boycott foreign goods, services and elections, resigning from their titles and eventually refusing to pay taxes. It was aimed at providing Indians self-governance. However, after the Chauri Chaura incident in 1922, when an angry mob murdered police officers, Gandhi called off the movement, seeing it take an ugly turn.
The 1930 Salt March was an act of non-violent civil disobedience led by Mahatma Gandhi. The movement was against British salt monopoly. Gandhi started the 390-km march in March from Sabarmati Ashram till Dandi. Several hundreds joined him on his way to break the Salt Law. It was at 6.30 am on April 6 that Gandhi finally broke the Salt Law by making salt by evaporation. Over 60,000 people were arrested after the Salt Satyagraha, but the movement brought international attention to the Indian independence struggle.
Quit India Movement
The Quit India Movement was launched at the All India Congress Committee’s Bombay Session in 1942 during World War II. It demanded an end to British rule in India. The British were dragging the country into the war to fight on their behalf. More than 87,000 Indian soldiers were martyred. After the failure of the Cripps Mission to secure Indian support for the British war effort, Gandhi made a call to “do or die” in his Quit India speech in 1942. Throughout the country, there were huge protests which came together under the umbrella of Quit India.