Struggle for Independence

India’s struggle for independence stated almost as soon as it became a colony of the British. In 1857, the Indiansserving in the British army rebelled against their superiors and initiated India’s first freedom struggle. This freedom struggle marked the advent of a new chapter in the history of India and is famously known the ‘First War of Independence’ or the ‘Revolt of 1857’. However, the British called it merely a Sepoy Mutiny and were successful in suppressing this first independence struggle, waged by Indians. After the failure of the revolt, the British rule in India grew stronger and came under the direct control of the Queen of Britain.
Though, India’s First War of Independence (Revolt of 1857) was unsuccessful in gaining an Independent status for India, but it did raised a feeling of nationalism all across the country, which can be treated as an achievement in itself. Formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885 boosted this feeling of nationalism to the next level. Though, the initial stand of the Indian National Congress was moderate but with the passage of time, due to apathetic attitude of the British government, the national movement of Independence began to take its shape. The British government did not paid any heed to even extremely basic demands raised by the Congress, which provoked the Indians and another freedom movement started.
Congress grew more skeptic of the British government by the end of first decade of twentieth century. Extremist tendencies were continually increasing amongst the Congress members and they were unsatisfied with the moderate policies adopted initially by the Congress. The British government soon got alert and played its card of ‘Divide and Rule’, which led to the disintegration of the Indian National Congress and another party, Muslim League, was formed. This weakened the independence move initiated by the Congress. Keeping Muslim League on its side, the British government tried to suppress almost every demand raised by the Congress. Later, in 1916 AD, the Congress and the Muslim League united once again against the British government but the truce was short-lived. The independence struggle grew more aggressive by the end of second decade of the twentieth century. Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, numerous freedom movements were launched against the British rule.
Non-cooperation movement (1920 AD to 1922 AD) was amongst the very first movements initiated by Mahatma Gandhi and it was followed by the civil disobedience movement. Apart from Congress, there were also some other individual organizations which strengthened the Indian independence struggle. Till 1930, many small and large movements were raised against the British rule in India. At the advent of Second World War, the Indian National Congress decided to support the Britain in its war effort and believed that the Britain will give independence to India after the war gets over. However, soon in 1942, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, the Congress initiated the ‘Quit India Movement’ after which the British realized that it was no longer possible to rule India and finally decided to quit.
At about the same time, the Muslim League vowed for the creation of an independent Muslim state, Pakistan. They feared that the united India will be primarily dominated by the Hindus. In 1945-46, under the leadership of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the Muslim league won all thirty reserved seats for Muslims in the Central Legislative Assembly with a majority of the reserved provisional seats. In order to resolve the tie between the two, the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, and transfer power to a single Indian administration, a three-man Cabinet Mission was formed in 1946 which drafted the plan for a three-tier federation of India.
The plan suggested India to be divided into three groups, Group-A including the Hindu majority areas whereas Group-B and Group-C comprising of the Muslim majority areas, and each group to be governed separately with a high degree of autonomy except for the handling of critical areas such as defense, foreign affairs, communications, etc.
The plan, however, did not take into account the fate of the Sikhs who formed a sizable portion in the Group-B population and wanted an independent state for themselves. Later, the Sikhs decided to stay with India and brought down their demand. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, as the leader of Muslim League, accepted what was proposed in the plan but Jawaharlal Nehru was not satisfied and stated that “no constituent assembly could be bound by any prearranged constitutional formula”, in his first press conference as the re-elected president of Congress. In return, Jinnah retraced him and the Muslim League withdrew its consent with the plan. In mid-August 1946, the Muslim League called upon the Muslims to launch a direct action which finally resulted into a frenzy of rioting between Hindus and Muslims

Later, in March 1947, Lord Mountbatten of the Great Britain came to India and in the wake of the civil war suggested the country to be split into two independent nations. However, Mahatma Gandhi opposed his recommendation and urged him to offer Mohammad Ali Jinnah to lead independent India, but this was unacceptable to many nationalist leaders, including Jawaharlal Nehru. Hence, it was finally decided that India would be partitioned into two independent states. Accordingly, in July 1947, the Britain’s Parliament passed the Indian Independence Act. Finally, in August 1947, two independent states, India and Pakistan, came into existence.


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