Milestones of India’s Freedom Movement on her 75th Independence Day

On the 15th of August 2021, India celebrates 75 years of its independence. These last 75 years of freedom are a result of several historic events that unfolded over the last few centuries. Today, let us take a walk down India’s historic lane, to pay homage to the pivotal events that have brought us to this place of freedom — a position and a place that we call our home today.

Our first milestone is the Indian Rebellion of 1857. There was a great uprising of the people in India against the rule of the British East India Company. This milestone is referred to as by a myriad of names including the Great Mutiny of 1857, the Indian Mutiny, The revolt of 1857, and First war of independence, to name a few. Lasting for over an entire year, the mutiny was started in May of 1857 and extended till June of 1858. The rebellion took the form of a mutiny of the sepoys of the Company’s army and its spark lit the fire of India’s freedom movement.

Nearly 47 Years later, came the Swadeshi movement. The Swadeshi Movement was a crucial part of the Indian Independence movement, strengthening and adding power to the concept of Indian Nationalism. The root of the word ‘Swadeshi’ can be traced to ‘swa’ — which means own and ‘deshi’ which refers to our country. Swadeshi translates to one’s own country. The Swadeshi movement stimulated creation of national power and wealth. This movement included the countrywide boycott of international and foreign goods. This was an economic strategy that aimed to remove the British from power and improve national economic conditions through means of our self-sufficiency.

Fast forward 14 years to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre (1919). This unfortunate and gruesome massacre occurred on the 13th of April 1919, where a peaceful gathering in Amritsar protested against the arrest of pro-Indian independence leaders. British troops blocked all possible exit entries and troops fired on a large crowd of unarmed Indians resulting in the loss of numerous lives. The massacre was an eye-opener to the citizens of the nation, further deeply questioning the intentions of the British Empire.

The latter year of 1920 was the initiation and formation of the political campaign known in India’s history as the Non Co-operation movement. The movement was the political response to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. This movement persisted for two years, from the September of 1920 to the February of 1922. This movement was spearheaded by the father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi.

The movement was a non-violent movement, that involved Indians resigning their titles; boycotting government educational institutions, the courts, government service, foreign goods, and elections; and, eventually, refusing to pay taxes.

1930 was the year when the Famous Dandi Salt March took place. Gandhi inaugurated the Civil Disobedience Movement by conducting the historic Dandi Salt March, where he broke the Salt Laws imposed by the British Government. Gandhi embarked on his march from his Sabarmati Ashram on a 200 mile trek to the remote village Dandi. On 6th April 1930, Gandhi with the accompaniment of seventy nine satyagrahis, violated the Salt Law by picking up a fistful of salt lying on the sea shore. The aim of this movement was to primarily disobey the orders of the British government

12 years later, on August 8 1942, the Quit India movement was launched. A mass civil disobedience movement was launched and Gandhi made a call to ‘do or die’ in his speech delivered in August of 1942. This movement was an effort to force British rule out of India. The movement was followed by large-scale acts of violence directed at railway stations, telegraph offices, government buildings, and other emblems and institutions of colonial rule.

The government held Gandhi responsible for these acts of violence and suggested that they were a deliberate act of Congress policy. This resulted in the arrest of most prominent leaders and the banning of Congress. The army and police were called to control and suppress the movement. This movement gave the British government realization that their time as colonial rulers was up. At this point in time they knew that India was ungovernable in the long run. The burning question of the postwar era now became how to exit amicably and peacefully.

August 15th commemorates the day when the provisions of the 1947 Indian Independence act, which transferred legislative sovereignty to the Indian Constituent Assembly took effect. Two days from now, we celebrate 75 years of independence and freedom. I have only spoken about a few of the myriad milestones in our freedom movement. As we celebrate our 75 years of freedom, we should all take some time to respect and read about the movements and people that have shaped the India we live in today.

— Written and Researched by Joanna Grace Fernandez

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