On 15th August 1947 India gained its independence. It was an uphill task but was achieved after years of agitations, toiling, sacrifices and hard work by the collective people of India. Perhaps, the fact that in spite of India being home to a diverse population it was the coming together of all different movements that finally led the way towards total Independence.
The Indian freedom struggle is thus unique. Where on one hand most nations that seek independence do so on the basis of a particular unifying factor, be it language, literature, area or culture, the Indian freedom struggle finds contributions and uprising from all quarters of its diversity. Surprisingly, though the cause of rebel has been stipulated to general mistreating and curbing of basic rights, the outbreak of discontent and method of fighting back found expression from almost all quarters of the Indian society. This collective yet dispersed form of rebellion is one of the main highlights of the Indian independence struggle, and in many ways also its biggest strength. Though it may be argued that channeling the different emotions to form one largely enormous uprising may have been more fruitful, it is hard to imagine India as an entity of anything singular or even close to it. Because we are a nation that is home to many languages, cultures, religions, castes, class and professions, essentially means that we have different thought processes, myriad methods of execution, ideologies that differ, yet the freedom struggle acted as the common plank, the final goal that was aimed by all.
So how did diversity ultimately contribute in gaining independence? Here is taking a look at some of the distinct varying aspects that in spite of its manifold expressions were rooted in a common cause.
Language, Literature and Arts
At the time of Independence a large part of the population was considered illiterate. Yet, language and literature have played an immensely large role in the freedom struggle. Bande Mataram a weekly newspaper in English by Bipin Chandra Pal, the Jugantor Patrika in Bengali, Rast Goftar in Gujarati, Kesari in Marathi, Al-Bagah in Urdu, Pratap in Hindi and many more publications written by fiercely independent freedom fighters and journalists have been excellent propellants of countering British policies and forming opinions of the masses.
Poets and authors from across the country wrote in their individual mother tongues, lashing out at the colonial rule and inspiring millions to fight for their freedom. Urdu, Hindi, Bengali, Marathi poets made the pen a mighty warrior, penning down spectacular lines that cut across language and region barriers and resonated in one single sound. Ram Prasad Bismil, Iqbal, Rabindranath Tagore, Ajit Singh, Nandlal Noorpuri, Bankim Chandra and many more glorified Mother India and the very idea of freedom and their quotes and poems were used by freedom fighters as slogans and motivational songs.
Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Bengali theatre and drama was also extremely critical of the colonial rule.
Tribes and Caste
Though there is enough argument on how the role of the Dalits and backward classes has been relegated in the background by historians, it is neither surprise nor wonder to note that people from different class and caste fought for the independence struggle in their own way. As early as 1770 during the Bengal famine, sanyasis and fakirs joined in a rebellion to attack against the increase in revenue, Tilka Manjhi is considered by many as the first adivasi to organize an attack against the British, the tribal of Sambhalpur, the Santhal Rebellion, the Tana Bhagats a tribal community of Jharkand’s uprising, the Munda rebellion or the Rampa, a hill tribes rebellion point out how the tribes were carrying out their individual battles. Dalits participated in the 1857 revolt and more recently India saw some of its finest leaders as those who had risen from the lowest strata of society and herald a cause for not only the freedom struggle but an emancipation of the downtrodden caste, such as, Jotirao Phule, Periyar, Mangoo Ram and of course B.R. Ambedkar.
Women fought shoulder to shoulder alongside men and their role in the independence movement cannot be ignored. From Rani Lakshmi Bai, Begum Hazrat Mahal, Rani Avantibai to Sarojini Naidu, Kamala Nehru, Vijay Lakshmi Pandit and many more women stalwart leaders took the mantle of making it their choice to defend the freedom of the country. Their participation in the independence struggle was seen through various mediums and they took up each of these with grit and determination.
Though the caste system was intricately aligned to the profession, the independence struggle saw some form of contribution from practically all professions. The fighters were heavily involved in the 1857 revolt; however, farmers too were an important link in the various movements, such as, the Indigo Revolt or Champaran Satyagraha and the Kheda Satyagraha which were carried out due to the British forcing the growth of indigo and levying high taxes. Working class agitations can be traced back to the early 19th century occurring in mills of Kolkata, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Surat and Coimbatore. The Swadeshi uprising brought a considerable limelight on organized labor strikes who demanded for better wages and thus began the hints of a socialist tenor to the struggles of the unions and labors. The All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) and leaders like Lala Lajpath Rai urged the working class to participate in organized freedom movements, since political freedom is of no use without economic freedom.
The freedom struggle saw the rise of many leaders. However, all did not conform to the same ideologies while executing the movement. On one hand Mahatma Gandhi advocated non-violence on the other Netaji Subhash Chandra formed the Indian National Army to fight the British. While freedom fighters such as, Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad laid down their lives and became the nation’s heroes, Jawarharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel were instrumental in laying down the foundations of an independent India. There were major and subtle differences in the ideologies of different leaders, each with a mass following and each of these movements garnered enough traction to create a dent in the armor of the British and its policies.
Finally, the sheer range of involvement of people across all regions, religions and strata is one of the leading and finest examples of how unity can exist in diversity. That is how India is and that is how we wish it to remain.