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Shaheed Bhagat Singh

Who was the first Indian woman to be appointed the President of the Indian National Congress? Read about her inspiring life!


Inquilab Zindabad! Long live the revolution! Even today, these famous words evoke Patriotic feelings and a spirit of Nationalism in the heart of every Indian.

 

Bhagat Singh, an Indian freedom fighter is considered to be one of the most influential revolutionaries of the Indian Independence movement. He is remembered in the minds of people as Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

 

Bhagat Singh was born on 28 September 1907 into a Sandhu Jatt  family to Sardar Kishan Singh Sandhu and Vidyavati in a village in the Lyallpur district of Punjab. He came from a patriotic Jatt Sikh family, some of whom had participated in movements supporting the independence of India. Singh, as a teenager, became an atheist and had studied European revolutionary movements. He also became attracted to anarchism and socialism. His father had enrolled him in Dayanand Anglo Vedic High School, an Arya Samajist school due Khalsa high school's loyalism to the British Rule.  At age 13, Singh began to follow Mahatma Gandhi's Non-Cooperation Movement.  In support to this movement, he burned his government-school books and any British-imported clothing. Following Gandhiji's withdrawal of the movement after the violent murders of policemen by villagers from Chauri Chaura, Uttar Pradesh, Singh, felt resentful and discontent with Gandhiji's nonviolence action. He joined the Young Revolutionary Movement and began advocating a violent movement against the British.

 

He studied at the National College in Lahore where he came into contact with other revolutionaries such as Bhagwati Charan, Sukhdev and others. By the age of 16, Bhagat Singh was completely dedicated to the cause of national liberation. Nothing illustrates this better than his attitude to marriage. In 1924, Bhagat Singh was pressurised to get married. Unable to convince his parents of his determination not to marry, Bhagat Singh left his house in Lahore, reached Kanpur and became a member of the organization Naujawan Bharat Sabha.  In the note left behind for his father Bhagat Singh said, 'My life has been dedicated to the noblest cause, that of the freedom of the country. Therefore there is no rest or worldly desire that can lure me now'.

 

In 1928 he came into contact with another famous revolutionary Chandrasekhar Azad. The two combined to form the 'Hindustan Samajvadi Prajatantra Sangha'. In the same year, the British government of India appointed the Simon Commission to enquire into the possibility of granting India the chance to rule itself. That this Commission had no Indian representative made it the focus of popular attack in Lahore. Lajpat Rai was at the head of a demonstration that was asking the Simon Commission to go back to England. The police in retaliation lathicharged the crowd and Lajpat Rai enfeebled by age, died subsequently. To avenge Lajpat Rai's death, Bhagat Singh and his friends, Sukh Dev and Raj Guru decided to kill the British official responsible for the killing, Deputy Inspector General Scott. But they accidently shot Assistant Superintendent Saunders instead, and then went underground.

 

Later, on April 8, 1929, Bhagat Singh threw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly and thereafter courted arrest. Bhagat Singh's trial began aon May 7th and in the statement made in court on 6th June, Bhagat Singh said, 'we dropped the bomb on the floor of the Assembly Chamber to register our protest on behalf of those who had no other means left to give expression to their heart-rending agony. Our sole purpose was to make the deaf hear and to give the heedless a timely warning... from under the seeming stillness of the sea of humanity, a veritable storm is about to break out'. On the 15th of June he launched a hunger strike for jail reforms. The trial of the Lahore Conspiracy Case started on 10th July, 1929 and ended on the 7th of October, 1930 with a death sentence for Bhagat Singh for his subversive activities. Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged on the 23rd of March, 1931. The legendary son of India became Shaheed (martyr) at a tender age of 23. But his famous war cry of “Inquilab Zindabad” lives on!

Shaheed Bhagat Singh

The First War of Indian Independence 1857 (Sepoy Mutiny)

Read about the next major battle in the Indian struggle for Independence - The Non-Cooperation Movement 1920-22

What was the major Independence struggle after the Non-Cooperation movement? What led to the Salt Satyagraha of 1930?

The British first arrived in India in the early 17th century. In 1612, the British East India Company established its first permanent factory in Bengal. At that time the Mughal empire was at its peak. Over the next 100 years, the Mughal Empire started to decline with the rise of the Maratha Empire led by Shivaji Maharaj. The Maratha Empire waged war for 27 years with the Mughals from 1681 to 1707.The death of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707 brought the Marathas into prominence in the sub-continent’s political landscape.

Meanwhile, the East India Company was gaining prominence in South Asia. After the Company's victory at the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and Battle of Buxar in 1764, the Company gradually began to expand its presence and clout. By mid-19th century, after defeating the Marathas in the 2nd and 3rd Anglo-Maratha wars (1805-1818), the East India Company became a major political and military power in the subcontinent.

The growing British military recruited soldiers (sepoys or sipahis) from the local communities. The commanding officer of a battalion became a form of substitute for the village chief. The sipahis had to pledge allegiance (oath of fealty) to the East India Company and included faithfulness to the salt that one has eaten. The forces were divided into three presidency armies - the Bombay, the Madras, and the Bengal. The Bengal Army recruited soldiers from the so called higher castes; the Madras and Bombay Armies were more localized and caste-neutral. This domination of higher castes in the Bengal Army is considered as one of the early sparks that eventually led to the 1857 mutiny.

Many reasons contributed to the cause. One theory suggests that after the annexation of Oudh by the East India Company in 1856, many sepoys were deprived of benefits usually afforded to landed gentry. Another theory attributes the discontent among sepoys to the  presence of missionaries. Local sepoys were convinced that the Company was masterminding mass conversions of Hindus and Muslims to Christianity. A third reasoning indicates that the changes to the terms of  professional service of the sepoys may have created significant resentment. As the jurisdiction of East India Company expanded, the soldiers were not only expected to serve in less familiar regions such as Burma, but also had to make do without the "foreign service" remuneration that had previously been their due. Another financial grievance stemmed from the general service act, which denied retired sepoys a pension. While it only applied to new recruits, it was suspected that it would also apply to those already in service. Additionally, the Bengal army was paid less than the Madras and Bombay armies, which compounded the fears over pensions.

This build up of resentment through several events over time resulted in the eventual outbreak on May 10, 1857 at Meerut. The sipahis rebelled against the contemporary British establishment. The fire spread rapidly and soon several mutinies and civilian rebellions erupted in the Gangetic plain and central India. Other regions such as Bengal province, the Bombay Presidency, and the Madras Presidency remained relatively calm. The princely states of Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore, Kashmir, and Rajputana did not join the rebellion. In some regions, such as Oudh, the rebellion took on the attributes of a patriotic revolt against European presence. Rebel leaders such as Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai, Tatya Tope became heroes. The rebellion led to the dissolution of the East India Company in 1858, and forced the British to reorganize the army, the financial system, and the administration in India. Thereafter, India was directly governed by the British Crown, ushering in the era of British Raj.

While the rebellion of 1857 was primarily a sipahi mutiny against the practices of the East India Company, it sparked Nationalist sentiments in the hearts of Indians across the sub-continent. It was a patriotic awakening, even if at the deepest sub-conscious levels for most people. Hence, later on, it came to be regarded as India’s First War of Independence.

The Salt Satyagraha started on March 12, 1930, with the undertaking of the Dandi Yatra (Dandi March). The triggering factor for this movement was the British monopoly of salt trade in India. Read more.....


The First War of Indian Independence 1857 (Sepoy Mutiny)

Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai

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Khoob ladi mardani woh toh Jhansi wali Rani thi! ... click here to read the Poem by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan

Rani Lakshmi Bai, the queen of Jhansi, is one of the most respected freedom fighters in the history of Indian freedom struggle. At just 21 years of age, she was a prominent member of the Sepoy Mutiny, also called the Revolt of 1857. The mention of her name evokes the image of a young female warrior riding a horse, while carrying her baby on her back.

Jhansi Rani was born at Varanasi (Kashi) on November 19, 1835 to Moropant Tambe and Bhagirathibai Tambe. Her birth name was Manikarnika, or Manu. Her father worked at the court of Peshwa of Bithur. Because of her father's influence at the court, Manu was fortunate to have the independence that most women could not have at that time. She studied horsemanship, archery, self defense, and even formed her own army of female friends.

Lakshmi Bai was married to Gangadhar Rao, the Raja of Jhansi. They had a son in 1851, but, the child died at four months of age. So, the Raja and Rani of Jhansi adopted Damodar Rao (later renamed Anand Rao). Raja Gangadhar Rao died in 1853. Because Anand Rao was adopted, the British East India Company applied the Doctrine of Lapse whereby a non- biological child could not inherit the kingdom. As per this policy, Anand Rao's claim to the throne was rejected and Jhansi was annexed by the British. In March 1854, the Rani was given a pension of Rs. 60,000 and ordered to leave the palace at the Jhansi fort.

Shortly afterwards, on May 10, 1857 the Sepoy (soldier) Mutiny started in Meerut. It became the starting point of the Indian rebellion against the British. During this rebellion many British soldiers and officers of the East India Company were killed by the sepoys and the British wanted to end the rebellion quickly.

As the movement began to spread throughout India, the British were forced to focus their attention elsewhere, leaving Lakshmi Bai to rule Jhansi. She effectively led her troops against small battles breaking out in Jhansi. Through her leadership, Lakshmi Bai was able to keep Jhansi relatively calm and peaceful. Up to this point, she had been hesitant to rebel against the British, but her hesitation finally ended when British troops attacked Jhansi on 23 March 1858. Rani Lakshmibai along with her army fought nail and tooth against the British. An army of 20,000, headed by the rebel leader Tantya Tope, was sent to aid Jhansi and Lakshmi Bai. However, the British prevailed and Lakshmi Bai’s forces could not hold out any more. The British captured the city but Lakshmi Bai escaped along with the young Anand Rao.

She joined other rebel forces at Kalpi, including those of Tantya Tope. They marched to Gwalior and defeated the army of the Maharaja. Then they occupied a strategic fort at Gwalior. But, on the second day of the fighting, on 18 June 1858, Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai lost her short but well-lived life.

Rani Lakshmibai epitomized courage, wisdom, and women’s empowerment in 19th century India. She will always be a shining beacon in the history of India’s freedom movement.

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Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai

Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak

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Lokmmanya Bal Gangadhar TilakLokmanya Bal Ganagadhar Tilak was born in Ratnagiri on July 23 1856, a year before the first war of Independence fought in 1857. Lokmanya was a title conferred on him by the public. As the British put it, he was the “father of Indian unrest”. He was a freedom fighter, teacher, journalist, editor, Sanskrit scholar, authority on Vedas and mathematician. “Swaraj ha maza janmasidha adhikar aahe ani to mi milavinach” “Swaraj (self rule) is my birthright and I shall have it.” His statement made in the court addressing the judge is still remembered today.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak was a bright child and very good at mathematics. The problems the teacher gave to work our on paper, Bal would do them mentally and give the answer. He also had a sense of fairness and justice from very early age. He was very independent minded and did not falter at expressing his opinions.

One day the teacher came to class and found peanut shells on the ground. “Who ate peanuts in the class and create this mess?” asked the teacher. No one came forward. “Well, if no one wants to come forward, the whole class gets the punishment.” The teacher began to give two cuts with cane to each child on the hand. This was a common form punishment at schools. “I did not eat those peanuts, I will not take the punishment” said Bal. “Well, if you do not want the punishment, tell me the name of the boy who did eat” said the angry teacher. “I am taught not to tell tales and I cannot tell you the name of the boy. However, I did not make that mess and I will not be punished for it.” Bal was not afraid to stand up against injustice from a very young age. He loved to hear the stories from his grandfather. His grandfather lived in Kashi during the 1857 Revolution and told him the stories of Nana Saheb, Tatya Tope and Jhansi Rani LakshmiBai.

When Bal was ten years of age, the family moved from Ratnagiri to Poona (modern day Pune). The move was very good for Bal’s education. He joined the Anglo-Vernacular School which had renowned teachers. Within a few months, his mother passed away. When Bal was 16 years old, his father passed away. Bal was married to a girl named Satyabhama who was 10 years old.

He graduated with B.A and LLB degrees. When he joined college, he was weak in health. The desire to serve his country was instilled in him by the stories his grandfather told him. A weak man cannot make any sacrifices, so he exercised regularly and by the end of his first year in college, he developed a well muscled body. He believed that “Religion and practical life are not different. To take to Sanyasa (renunciation) is not to abandon life. The real spirit is to make the country your family instead of working only for your own. The step beyond is to serve humanity and the next step is to serve God.” The concept of “swaraj” was unfamiliar and Tilak thought a good education could promote patriotism. With his classmate Gopal Ganesh Agarkar and Vishnushastry Chiplunkar, Tilak founded the New English School. It soon blossomed and transformed into the “Deccan Education Society”. This society founded the Fergusson College in Pune and today runs Fergusson College and the Greater Maharashtra Commerce and Economics College in Pune, the Willington College in Sangli and the Bombay College in Bombay as well as a number of high schools. The trio also started two newspapers “Kesari” in Marathi and “Maratha” in English.

In 1890, due to differences with the board of Deccan Education Society, Tilak was forced to resign. With a heavy heart, he bid farewell to the very institutes he founded and worked for ten years. He then became active politically.

From 1890 to 1897, he waged his war against the British rulers through his columns in his newspapers. He also used his newspaper columns for social reforms and called for a ban on child marriages and promoted widow remarriages. He transformed local celebrations of Ganapathi Festival and the birthday of the Shivaji into national festivals to organize people. He was a member of the Municipal Council of Pune, a member of the Bombay Legislature, and an elected 'Fellow' of the Bombay University, he was also taking a leading part in the Congress sessions. Added to these, he wrote and published his maiden work 'Orion'.

In 1896, famine and plague spread from Mumbai to Pune. The assistant collector of Pune, Mr. Rand mishandled the humanitarian catastrophe with brutal methods. His methods included destroying houses, transporting healthy people to hospitals, burning all the belongings and sending military men with guns into the houses. At the same time, the Government continued with the celebrations for Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign. Tilak wrote a scathing article in his newspaper and quoted Gita “no blame could be attached to anyone who killed an oppressor without any thought of reward”. Mr. Rand and his assistant were killed and Tilak was arrested and charged with inciting the murder. In the court he made his most famous statement, “Swaraj is my birthright and I shall have it.” In the jail he wrote “The Arctic home in the Vedas”.

In 1905, Lord Curzon divided Bengal on communal lines. Tilak called for the boycott of English goods and the movement came to be known as the Swadeshi Movment. He opposed the moderate views of Gopal Krishna Gokhale and his nationalist views were supported by Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal. The trio became Lal-Bal-Pal. In the annual Congress meeting in 1907 at Surat, Congress split into the Jahal Matavadi (“hot faction’ or the extremist) and the ‘Maval Matavadi’ (Soft Faction or the moderates).

On April 30, 1908 two youths Prafulla Chaki and Khudiram Bose, threw a bomb on a carriage with the intentions to kill District Judge Douglass Kenford . Instead they killed some women traveling in the carriage. Tilak, in his paper Kesari, defended the two and reiterated his demand for Swaraj. He was charged with sedition and arrested. Tilak asked a young Muhammed Ali Jinnah to represent him. Tilak was sentenced to Mandalay Burma from 1908-1914. Tilak was 52 years old then and had diabetes. The masses were not sure he would last his prison term. His rigorous imprisonment was reduced to simple imprisonment which enabled him to read and write. During this time he wrote “Geeta Rahasya” in Marathi. He also learnt German and French through the “teach yourself” books. Meanwhile, in India, his wife passed away while Tilak was serving his term in Mandalay.

After completing his term, Tilak rejoined the Congress in 1916. From 1916-1918 he also helped in founding the All India Home Rule League with Joseph Baptista, Annie Besant and Muhammed Ali Jinnah. A journalist named Chirol who was visiting India, charged Tilak as “leader of violent revolution in India”. Tilak took him to the courts in England and had to travel and spend 13 months there. During his stay in England, he addressed hundreds of meetings and intensified the Home Rule movement. He also built good relationships with leaders of the labor party. “Jalianwala Bagh Massacre” made Tilak to rush back to India.He issued a call to the Indians not to stop their movement no matter what happened, till their demands were met. The jail term at Mandalay, Burma ravaged his old body. Tilak was feeling very weak but would not stop his efforts of awakening the spirit for freedom in the masses. He visited Sangli, Hyderabad, Karachi, Solapur and Kashi where he addressed large crowds. He arrived in Bombay. In the early hours of August 1 1920, his old body gave up and the Kesari (lion) of India breathed his last.

Two Lakh people witnessed his last journey. Mahatma Gandhi, Lala Lajpat Rai, Shaukat Ali and others shouldered the bier by turns.

He led a simple life, and offered himself, body and soul, to the service of his country. Tilak had no property. His clothes were very simple. A dhoti, a shirt, a shawl on the shoulder and a red 'Pagadi' (a marathi cap) on his head. In many ways he was the architect of India’s Freedom Struggle. His ideas and efforts were carried on by equally worthy next generation of leaders Gandhiji, Patel, Nehru and others.

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Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak

Gandhiji's Truth

Gandhiji wrote his autobiography called "My experiments with truth". Being truthful at all times and doing the right thing was very important to him. A story from Gandhiji's childhood tells his resolve to do the right thing at all cost.
One day, the Inspector of Schools, Mr. Giles, came to Mohan's school. He read out five English words to the class and asked the boys to write them down. Mohan wrote four words correctly, but he could not spell the fifth word 'Kettle'. Seeing Mohan's hesitation, the teacher made a sign behind the Inspector's back that he should copy the word from his neighbour's slate. But Mohan ignored his signs. The other boys wrote all the five words correctly; Mohan wrote only four. After the Inspector left, the teacher scolded him. "I told you to copy from your neighbour," he said angrily. "Couldn't you even do that correctly?"Every one laughed.

As he went home that evening, Mohan was not unhappy. He knew he had done the right thing. What made him sad was that his teacher should have asked him to cheat.

Gandhiji's Truth

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