In primeval times, people from all over the globe were eager to come to India. Initially, the Aryans came from Central Europe and settled down in India. Later, the Persians followed by the Iranians immigrated to India. Then came the Mughals and they too settled down permanently in India. Changes Khan, the Mongolian, invaded and plundered India many times. Alexander the Great too, came to conquer India but went back after a battle with Porus.
He-en Tsang came from China in pursuit of knowledge and visited the ancient Indian universities of Nalanda and Takshila. Columbus was willing to come to India, but instead landed on the shores of America. Vasco-da-Gama from Portugal came to trade his country’s goods in barter for Indian species. Also, the French came and established their colonies in India.
Lastly, the Britishers came down and ruled over India for almost 200 years. Soon, after the battle of Plassey in 1757, the British achieved political power in India. Their dominance was established during the tenure of Lord Dalhousie, who became the Governor- General in 1848. He occupied Punjab, Peshawar and the Pathan tribes in the north-west of India. And by the year 1856, the British conquest and its authority were firmly established 3d sign boards in pakistan.
The Indian Mutiny of 1857
Introduction of the zamindari system by the British, where the peasants were ruined through ridiculous charges made from them by the new class of landlords. The craftsmen were destroyed by the incursion of the British manufactured goods. The religion and the caste system which formed the stiff foundation of the traditional Indian society were endangered by the British administration. The Indian soldiers as well as people in administration could not rise in hierarchy as the senior jobs were exclusively reserved for the Europeans. Thus, there was all-round discontent, dissatisfaction and disgust against the British rule, which burst out in a revolt by the sepoys at Meerut whose religious sentiments were snubbed when they were given new cartridges greased with cow and pig fat, whose covering had to be stripped out by biting with the mouth before using them in rifles. The Hindu as well as the Muslim soldiers, who bluntly refused to use such cartridges, were arrested which resulted in a revolt by their fellow soldiers on May 9, 1857.
The Mutiny of 1857, which began with a revolt of the military soldiers at Meerut, soon became prevalent and posed a serious challenge to the British rule. Even though the British succeeded in crushing it within a year, it certainly became a popular revolt in which the Indian rulers, the masses and participated so enthusiastically that it came to be regarded as the First War of Indian Independence.
The rebel forces soon captured Delhi and the revolt spread to a wider area and there was uprising in almost each and every part of the country. The most ferocious battles were fought in Delhi, Rohilkhand, Bundelkhand, Allahabad, Awadh, Agra, Meerut and western Bihar. The Hindus, the Muslims, the Sikhs and all the other brave sons of India fought shoulder to shoulder to throw out the British. The revolt was controlled by the British within one year; it began from Meerut on 10 May 1857 and ended up in Gwalior on 20 June 1858.
The Struggle for Freedom
It started with the birth of congress. The credit for the birth of the Indian National Congress is given to A.O. Hume, a retired British civil servant who inaugurated it. He collected widespread facts of the imminence of a terrible revolution by the half-starved and desperate population. Thus he set about to find ways and means to direct the popular impulse into an innocuous channel. He wrote a letter to Graduates of Calcutta University in 1883 and as a result, the Indian National Union was formed in 1884. It was to meet in Pane later that year for constitutional agitation, on an all-India basis; this organization was renamed the Indian National Congress. In December 1884, the Annual Convention of the Theosophical Society was held at Madras and there some leading public figures met and decided to inaugurate an all India national movement.
Right from its birth, the Indian National Congress took its job seriously. They were a class of elite and erudite people. However, in 1907, there took place a split in the Congress, as there were some members who were dissatisfied with the scheme of affairs under the Moderate leaders. Blistering and spirited leaders like Bain Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, parted company with them.
This was the time when extreme nationalists came to the forefront; this was sparked off by the Partition of Bengal into west and east Bengal in 1905, by Lord Curzon, the then Viceroy and Governor-General. He declared that the step would help to develop the administration of the highly populated region, where the Bengali Hindu intelligent men exerted considerable influence on both local and national politics. The partition created two provinces: Eastern Bengal & Assam, with its capital at Dhaka, and West Bengal, with its capital at Calcutta. This hastily implemented action outraged the Bengalis. There were widespread agitations across the state. It was October 16, 1905, the day on which the partition came into effect, was observed as a day of mourning and fasting throughout Bengal. RabindranathTagore, the famous Nobel-laureate and writer, spoke out against this political event by means of a highly inspiring poem. There was a mass-scale fasting by the people and no food was cooked on that day.
This was the time when the Swadeshi Movement was first initiated. Indians all over the country came together in groups, made public bonfires of foreign clothes, cigarettes, soap and anything that came handy. They vowed to use only native manufactured products. A large number of young leaders in Bengal took up the massive task of educating people. On August 15, year 1906, a National Council of Education was introduced under the educationist and revolutionary, Aurobindo Ghose.
The British government came down heavily on these exhibitions and protests. In 1907, leaders Lala Lajpat Rai and Sardar Ajit Singh were exiled from the Punjab. In 1908, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was arrested and sentenced to a period of six years imprisonment. Aurobindo Ghose was also arrested, prosecuted and when acquitted, escaped to Pondicherry to escape the clutches of the British. In later years he founded the Aurobindo Ashram; a center for the evolution of another kind of life which would in the end be moved by a higher spiritual consciousness and embody a greater life of the spirit.