Key Landmarks in the Indian Freedom Struggle
"Nadir Shah looted the country only once. But the British loot us every day. Every year wealth to the tune of 4.5 million dollar is being drained out, sucking our very blood. Britain should immediately quit India.'' That's what the Sindh Times wrote on May 20, 1884, a year before the Indian National Congress was born and 58 years before the ''Quit India'' movement of 1942 was launched. Contrary to the view that nationalist sentiments were awoken by the Indian National Congress only when M.K. Gandhi took over it's leadership, nationalist feelings in India had been present as early as 1857, and expressions of Indian nationalism manifested themselves in various forms all through the course of British rule. The Boycott of Foreign Goods
An early form of economic nationalism was seen in Shikarpur (Sindh), when the Pritam Dharma Sabha, set up in 1888, initiated various social reforms, but also inspired the setting up of swadeshi sugar, soap, and cloth mills. The literature produced by the Sabha was considered so revolutionary that, in 1909, three of it's members, Seth Chetumal, Virumal Begraj and Govind Sharma were all sentenced to five years' rigorous imprisonment by the British administration. The partition of Bengal along communal lines in 1905 by the British (''Vanga Bhanga'') triggered a nation-wide Swadeshi movement, giving a great fillip to the freedom movement throughout the country. A boycott of foreign goods was proclaimed on August 7, 1905. At this time, the Indian National Congress gave only conditional support to the plan, but a year later, under the influence of more radical leaders like Tilak from Maharashtra, Bipin Chandra Pal and Aurobindo Ghosh from Bengal and Lajpat Rai from Punjab, the Calcutta session of the Congress in 1906 proclaimed for the first time, the concept of 'swaraj', i.e self-rule and called for support to the boycott movement. Although the demand for 'swaraj' was only a partial step towards full political and economic freedom for India since India was to remain a part of the British empire, it was an important step towards real independence, and it encouraged several local nationalist groups to participate in the movement to boycott imported goods, and set up local stores where only locally manufactured goods would be sold. Early Calls for Complete Independence: The Emergence of the Ghadar Party The first Indian political organization to call for complete independence from British rule was the Ghadar (or Gadar) Party, organized in 1913 by Indian immigrants in California. The Ghadar movement was remarkable for many reasons. Although Sikhs from Punjab made up the majority of it's founding members, the movement was completely devoid of any trace of regional or religious chauvinism. It's platform was uncompromisingly secular and called for a total rejection of any form of caste discrimination. And unlike the Congress, it's membership was primarily drawn from the working class and poor peasantry. Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus of all castes (including Dalits) were welcomed in the movement without bias or discrimination. The literature of the Ghadar Party was also the clearest in describing the depth of misery that the common people of India experienced under British rule. They were also amongst the first to anticipate the outbreak of the First World War. Correctly sensing that it was an opportunity for the Indian people to liberate themselves from the yolk of colonial rule, they called for a mass movement for total independence. In their widely distributed poster, "Jang Da Hoka" (Declaration of War) they warned of the danger of Indian soldiers being drawn into the British War effort in the First World War. Unfortunately, the Congress failed to take advantage of this tremendous opportunity and leaders like Gandhi went as far as campaigning for the British War effort, calling upon Indians to enroll in the British Army. This treacherous and sycophantic policy of...
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