The British first came to India in the 1600s for the sole purpose of trade. They set up a company in Calcutta, originally called the Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies which later came to be known as the East India Company.

The Battle of Plassey (1757-1758)

history of Independence Day of indiaWith the growth and spread of the East India Company, the British gained power and slowly started to excise control of larger areas with the use of private armies and military powers. The Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-daulah objected to the British expanding and gaining control and the strengthening of their roots in India. Robert Clive bribed Mir Jafar, the commander in chief of Nawab’s army and attacked, defeated and took over Calcutta. The Nawab of Bengal in turn retaliated and attacked the British and held prisoners of war. The growing tension between Siraj-ud-daulah and the British finally resulted in the Battle of Plassey, (1757-1758). This war is very significant for the history of India, for it resulted in the British finally taking control and ruling India for the next 200 years, in what came to be known as the British Raj.

Revolt of 1857

There had been many instances where the various princely states resisted, fought and eventually succumbed to the British rule, battles were fought and lost. The most eminent turning point and the real struggle for freedom started after the Revolt of 1857 or India s First War of Independence. Most of north and central India extensively rebelled against the East India Company but were defeated and the control of the company was reinstated to the British.

Major Events in Revolt of 1857

The introduction of modern education in India by Vivekanada, and the various poems and sonnets written by several educated and knowledgeable individuals increased awareness amongst people. This resulted in colonial India gaining awareness and starting to finally dream of a free nation. This was further aggravated by the formation of various organized groups like the Indian National Congress and various socio-religious groups formed by the likes of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Swami Dayananda Saraswat to name a few.

Partition of Bengal (1905)

Partition of Bengal 1905The Indian National Congress formed in 1885, was a political organization formed for the educated Indians to lend a voice to the people of the country in the British Raj. The Muslim community was apprehensive and claimed they didn’t have adequate representation because they were a minority and hence refused to join the group. Religious conflicts and attacks on the Muslims by Hindus due to cow-slaughter and religious conversions only confirmed this notion.

The state of Bengal, because of its large area was getting difficult to rule. Lord Curzon ordered a division of Bengal into East Bengal (now Bangladesh) and West Bengal to increase administrative efficiency and followed the basic theory of divide and rule. Another reason for the partition was the increasing tension and conflicts between the Hindu and Muslim communities of region. This led to the formation of the All India Muslim League in Dhaka, for the sole purpose of lending a voice to the Muslim community and looking after their interests.

During The First World War India wholeheartedly supported the British by providing soldiers, food and amenities and in turn was later rewarded with Edwin Montagu announcing that Indians were now going to be given more administrative powers and gradually could become a self governing nation under the British rule. Power was divided where Indian political leaders gained control of some sections while the British retained powers over delicate matters like law, finance and taxation. However, the impact of the war was terribly felt, India suffered greatly in terms of inflation and a breakout of the epidemic, influenza.

Satyagraha Movement & Rowlatt Act (1919)

Mahatma Gandhi in Satyagraha MovementThe Satyagraha movement in Chamaparan, Bihar resulted in the British retaliating and making a Rowlatt Act which gave the British powers to arrest activists and demonstrators without a trial, control of the press, and even arresting people suspicious of any agitation or treason. This was met with a nation-wide protest and an anti-Rowlatt Act campaign governed by non-violence was taken out, accompanied with demonstrations, strikes, protests and termination of work through the nation.

Jallianwala Bagh (April 1919)

The British officials became wary and always fearing a rebellion and in turn attacking the demonstration taken out by people. This was what triggered the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy. Around 15000 men, women, elders and children had gathered in Jallianwala Bagh for a meeting on Baisakhi, 13th April 1919 to protest silently to the rule made by Brigadier General Reginald E.H Dyer to make every Indian crawl the same stretch of the street where an English woman was previously attacked by a mob. On hearing of the meeting, General Dyer reached the premises blocking the only exits his armed men. Without any warning to the crowd, he instructed his men to start shooting at the crowd and to continue shooting till the ammunition finished. This action was met by outrage accompanied with protests and demonstrations in the whole country. This was one of the key factors that started the Indian Independence Movement and later the ‘Quit India Movement’.

Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar

After World War II, British rulers could see that their power over India was diminishing, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain their hold. At the same time the freedom fighters were becoming more determined to get rid of the British clutches and have a nation ruled by its own people. During the Great depression that followed the war, India suffered in a major way, in terms of mass unemployment, inflation and famine which added to the country’s turmoil. This mayhem was followed by the Quit India Movement lead by the Indian National Congress.

Independence Day (August 15, 1947)

India became an independent nation following the famous non-violence resistance and civil disobedience movement initiated by the Indian National Congress and carried out nation wide. With the Hindu and Muslim community always at odds and violence and riots breaking out, the British leaders finally decided to relieve India from their clasps in June 1948. However, the viceroy after having decided to withdraw and bring an end to the British Raj in India decided to move up the proceeding after seeing the state and the uncontrollable chaos, riots and upheaval in India and the continuous demands for a separate Muslim state.

Struggle for Independence in IndiaIn June 1947, Muslim League and the Congress Party decided to partition India along religious lines. Thus, on the 14th of August, Punjab was divided and a new separate nation, Pakistan was born. On 15th August, 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru read out his famous speech “Tryst with Destiny” at midnight announcing India was a free nation. The British had finally retreated and India was reborn as a free and independent nation. Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the most eminent freedom fighters who India owes her Independence to, was sworn the first Prime Minister of independent, free India.

Partition of India (1947)

The breakout of riots, violence and a constant demand for a separate nation for the Muslims was becoming a constant factor at the fag end of the freedom movement. The Muslim League in 1946 followed Jinnah’s orders for a Direct Action Day to demand a new state, when the party leaders got arrested because of their resistance to the war. The Muslim League was in accordance with the British. Members of this group acted out irrationally creating havoc and violence in north India, costing thousands of lives. This in turn was concluded to be an irreconcilable dispute between Hindus and Muslims and a new nation for the Muslim was agreed to.
Partition of India - The Birth of Pakistan

Nearly 15 million refugees crossed the borders during the partition on the two sides with Hindus and Sikhs moving from Pakistan to India and Muslims from India moving to Pakistan, making it one of the largest migrations in history and also one of the most tragic events in the recent history of  India and her freedom struggle. Bloodshed and riots followed in the provinces of Punjab and Bengal. While India received most of the 562 scattered polities or princely states, Pakistan received the remaining western part and the Muslim dominated eastern region which was known as East Pakistan now Bangladesh.

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