Hands That Hold The Flag

By Sarika Agarwal, SY BBA LLB Div. B

Since time immemorial, India has witnessed several settlements from abroad. The Persians, the Iranians, and the Parsis immigrated to the country. These were followed by the Mughals, who also entered the land with the motive of settling down permanently. Genghis Khan, a Mongolian, attacked and looted India several times. The short visit by Alexander the Great, He-en Tsang’s arrival to gain knowledge, the establishment of French colonies, and finally the rule of the British.  

The British conquered India and ruled for nearly twenty decades. The Battle of Plassey in 1757 marked the achievement of their power in the political field. Lord Dalhousie played a significant role in establishing the supremacy of their rule and led on to become the Governor-General of the country in 1848. He captured states like Punjab, Peshawar, and the Pathan tribes. By 1856, the British had gained complete control of India. As these foreigners were able to set a firm foot on the land, the local rulers started feeling powerless and were forced to abide by the orders of the British. A large number of soldiers were also dismissed from their jobs. All of this led to The Indian Mutiny of 1857. 

The Indian Mutiny of 1857

India’s conquest, which could have started with the Battle of Plassey (1757), ended only after the completion of Lord Dalhousie’s tenure in 1856. It was not an easy affair as the constant dissatisfactions of the citizens gave rise to several local revolts during this time. The Indian Mutiny of 1857 was a revolt started by a group of militants at Meerut, but soon gained the support of a large number of Indians, and started to pose a problem to the British. Although the Britishers were successful in suppressing it within a year, the revolt became so popular that it was labeled as the First War of Indian Independence.

End of the East India Company

After the crash of the revolt of 1857, India witnessed several changes with respect to its governance and administrative workings. As per Queen Victoria’s Proclamation on November 1, 1858, the rule of East India Company came to an end and the country would further be governed by and in the name of the British Monarch through a Secretary of State.

The Non-Cooperation Movement

After multiple sets of incidents, such as the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, Mahatma Gandhi realised that there was no possibility of getting a just behaviour from the side of the British, so he decided to call off any kind of cooperation with the government. This led to the birth of the Non-Cooperation Movement. Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress are regarded as the pillars behind the launch of this movement. The movement took place from September 1920 to February 1922. This duration provoked a new awakening in these movements to free India. The movement was initially a huge success as it brought together Indians from all over the country to unite and boycott the west. The spirits of the Indians shook the British government in totality. 

Quit India Movement

Mahatma Gandhi was firm with his decision to drive Britishers out of the country. He initiated the Quit India Movement in August 1942. Under this movement, he started a Civil Disobedience movement and a ‘Do or Die’ call at a large scale to put pressure on the British to leave the country. Even though Gandhiji strictly believed in non-violence, this movement witnessed mass killings in several public areas including government offices and railway stations. The British held Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress guilty for planning the violent acts. All significant leaders were arrested and put into jail for organising the movement, Indian National Congress was banned, and the British army was sent to halt the movement. Amidst all of this, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose succeeded in running away from the British detention in Calcutta (present-day Kolkata) and formed the Indian National Army (INA) to wipe out the British rule from India.

Partition of India and Pakistan

After the end of the second world war, the Labour Party came to power in Britain. This party was sympathetic towards the want of freedom by the Indian citizens. In March 1946, a cabinet mission was sent to India that suggested the formation of an interim Government. Accordingly, an interim government was set up with Jawaharlal Nehru as the head. The committee also rolled out a plan for establishing a constituent assembly by conducting elections. The Muslim League did not agree to take part in the elections of the constituent assembly but instead, demanded an independent state, Pakistan. Lord Mountbatten, the then Viceroy of India, formulated an action plan for the division of the country into India and Pakistan. Due to the strong opposition by the Muslim League, Indian leaders had to agree with the separation. 

Henceforth, at the stroke of midnight, on August 14, 1947, India was set free.  Jawaharlal Nehru was made the first Prime Minister. His first speech to the Independent India is termed as “the Tryst with Destiny” which is as follows:

“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we will redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance… We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again.”

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