The Indian Freedom movement, is epochal and has probably set a tone for resistance movements across the world. The passivity and non-violence principles including those of paining self in form of going without food for days has set a trend in resistance movements. Truth, honesty, simplicity and dedication were the hallmark of the Indian independence movement. It is strongly believed across the world and definitely in India that it was the dedication of Mahatma Gandhi and the other freedom fighters that led to the freedom of the nation.
There were many others who contributed to the freedom struggle across the nation – Tipu Sultan, Jhansi Laxmi Bhai, Subash Chandra Bose, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Chandra Sekhar Azad and many more whose names have been etched permanently in history. The struggle for freedom was a mass movement, everyone across all the sections of the society participated in this movement. Governance became difficult. The complete governance system broke down. The rulers no longer trusted their own native employees in the police force and the armed forces. Their allegiance to the Throne was questionable. The rulers were no longer in a position to be sure of their orders being diligently executed. All this was created as a result of the pressure exerted by the leadership of Congress, Mahatma Gandhi and other stalwart leaders.
The belief in the Indian sub-continent is that the freedom was earned and rightfully so due to the long and sustained passive freedom struggle. The police batons were quietly borne, blood was shed but not a single stone was thrown. There were macabre incidents like the Jalianwala Bagh, where ruthless General Dyer ordered incessant firing on thousands of innocents. Hundreds died, many more perished, yet there was no retaliation. How much can a perpetrator inflict on innocents? Would it be a repeat of the gas chambers or something close to it? The rulers were human too and they relented and that is what is being believed.
The freedom struggle was far more than mere political struggle, it transformed into a social struggle too. What started as a mere trade relationship, got entrenched too deeply into the internal affairs of the country. By the 1920s the national movement became heated and aggressive. Moderation was not looked kindly to. Gandhiji offered alternate thoughts on the struggle – Non-cooperation movement, Civil Disobedience movement and the Quit India movement. It was during this time that the Muslim League formed out of fear that a free India would have Hindus at the helm of affairs and that they would neglect the welfare of the Muslims. Indian sepoys participated in the World War II in support of the British Army. Did the Second World War influence Indian Independence?
The II World War completed destroyed the economies of the warring countries. The British forces were so completely destroyed and the war had such a ravaging effect on the British that they were barely able to maintain the armed forces. This made them ineffective in their ability to maintain power in the colonies and put down the resistance movements and freedom struggle. This pushed British towards leaving their colonies.
The Cripps mission of 1942 was a clever ploy by Chruchill to buy more time and assuage the anti-colonial feelings in the United States. There was a feeling of a sense of loss of imperialism. The administrators were no longer motivated to create newer ways of maintaining command and control. The Viceroy Wavell said that the town was lost to opponents and the countryside had slipped away like the proverbial sand from the fingers. And finally Wavell reported to the masters back home that India had become “ungovernable.”
It is also said Gandhi had no idea of how to bring about Indian independence. In 1927 Madras Congress Session, Nehru and Subash Chandra Bose brought a resolution declaring complete Indian independence, this was later modified to appease Gandhiji requesting a dominion status in the following plenary session in 1928 in Calcutta. So the question that raises its ugly head is whether Gandhiji can be fully credited of brining freedom to the nation. Subash Chandra Bose said, “I began to heap question upon questionThe reply to the first question satisfied meHis reply to the second question was disappointing and his reply to the third question was no betterMy reason told me clearlythat there was a deplorable lack of clarity in the plan which the Mahatma had formulated and that he himself had no clear idea of the successive stages of the campaign which would bring India to her cherished goal of freedom..”
The British Prime Minister Clement Atlee when granting the independence went on record saying that the Gandhiji’s non-violence movement had next to zero impact on the British. Is it Hitler that should be credited for the Indian Independence. So did India earn their freedom or was it given to them?
It was reported that Subash Chandra Bose had died in 1945, and many did not believe it. Bose had collaborated with the Germans and the Japanese against the British army using his own Indian Nationalist Army or the INA. At the end of the war, three officers of INA General Shah Nawaz Khan (Muslim), Colonel Prem Sehgal (Hindu) and Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon (Sikh) werer tried at the Red Fort in New Delhi for waging a war against the King Emperor. While Nehru publicly defended these three, there was a reported secret pact between Nehru, Gandhi, Mohd. Ali Jinnah and Moulana Abul Kalam Azad to hand over Subash Chandra Bose to the Britishers if he ever entered into India!
The trial being public only ensured the three major communities – Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims got together that generated unprecedented sympathy for them and also seeded the Naval Mutiny. Riots broke out all over the country. Britishers were forced to shout “Jai Hind!” The mutiny led to uprising unknown before. The soldiers rebelled against their masters. In midst of all this the main stream political leaders including Gandhi were only concerned about their hold on the masses “to see themselves being upstaged by a bunch of young upstarts with romantic patriotism in their eyes was unnerving,” and even the fact that the religion was no longer a matter of concern for an ordinary Indian was forgotten without any machination, a golden opportunity was lost. So the question remains did India get its freedom or was it given to them?
Hopkins, P J Cain and A G. 2002. British Imperialism 1688-2000. Harlow: Pearson Education.
India Abroad (India). 1997. Netaji and Gandhi, 2 Titans of the Independence Struggle. New Delhi.
India Folks. 2009. How did India get Independence? – A Brief History. 12 March. Accessed October 8, 2014. http://www.indiafolks.com/history-and-culture/how-did-india-got-independence-brief-history/.
Kumar, Susmit. 2012. Hitler, NOT Gandhi, Should Be Given Credit for the Independence of India in 1947. 2012. Accessed October 8, 2014. http://www.susmitkumar.net/index.php/hitler-not-gandhi-was-the-reason-for-the-1947-indian-independence.
Raj, James L. 1997. Making and unmaking of British India. Abacus.