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18-Indian History-AD-6 (1764-1947)

India has a continuous civilization since 2500 BC. During the 2nd millennium, Aryan speaking tribes migrated from northwest into the Indian subcontinent. The following material has been taken from "A New History of India", by Stanley Wolpert. 2004.

British Raaj (1764-1947 AD) - 328 years
See British Staff to see the names of some of their Staff and their works

East India Company's Push For Power
After the death of Aurangzeb, in 1707, The British East India Company extended it into the heart of India. India had fallen into many smaller states, so the Company provided them security, and in exchange of it they paid subsidy to the Company. By paying this they became weaker and thus the Company extended its territory and brought them under its rule under Wellesley's leadership.

Haidar Alee and Teepoo Sultaan who had built a wealthy kingdom in Maisoor region resisted for its rule, but Teepoo was killed in 1799. The Maraathaas remained undefeated until the war of 1816-1818. Only the North-west region remained beyond their control, so in 1799, Ranjeet Sinh was able to set up a Sikh state in Panjaab, which survived until 1830s.

Lord Bentinck, in 1828, banned the Satee Prathaa and moved to control Thuggee (ritual murder and robbery carried out in Central India in the name of Goddess Kaalee). But his most known change was to introduce education in English. Lord McCauley in his speech of Feb 2, 1835, British Parliament "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such caliber, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation."

If this is true, then when and why people of India became so poor, so corrupt and so immoral?

The resolution of March 7, 1835 forced to promote European literature and science to native population through English medium and so the new educational institutions were born, such as Calcutta Medical College. The innovation stimulated change, and change contributed to the growing unease, particularly under the leadership of Lord Dalhousie (1848-1856). The development of the telegraph, railways, new roads, three universities and the extension of massive new canal irrigation projects in North India started threatening traditional society. More states came under British rule - the most important o these was Oudh (Avadh in UP).

Mutiny of 1857, End of Mugal Empire and British East India Company, and British Rule  
Growing discontentment gave rise to mutiny. In May and June, British gave new rifles to Bangaal army which had many Braahmans in it. Their cartridges were smeared with a mixture of cow and pig fat. This affected both Hindu and Muslims. On May 10, 1857, troops in Meerut (UP) - Bangaal army was settled in Meerut - mutinied. They reached Dehlee, where Bahaadur Shaah, the last Mugal Emperor favored mutineers. For 3 months, Lakhnaoo and other cities in the North were under siege.

This mutiny marked the end of not only Mugal Empire, but also of the East India Company. British Government took overall control in 1858. It made its capital Kalkattaa which remained till 1912, when it shifted to Dehlee. But within 30 years a movement for self-government had begun, and there were the first signs of a demand of new western educated elite that political rights be awarded to match the sense of Indian national identity.

Birth of Indian National Congress and Muslim League
This movement went through a series of steps and resulted in the birth of Indian National Congress in 1885. IT was the first All-India political institution and was to become the key vehicle of demands for independence. At the same time the Muslim elites (of UP) saw a threat to Muslim rights, power and identity, so Sir Sayyad Ahmad Khaan, who had founded Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh in 1877, advised Muslims against joining the INC seeing it as a vehicle for Hindu and especially for Bangaalees.

So the educated Muslim community of North India remained only 8% of the attendees of INC between 1900-1920; and they created their own League, Muslim League in 1906. However the demands of Muslim League were not always opposed  to those of he INC. In 1916, it concluded the Lucknow Pact with the INC, in which the INC won Muslim support for self-government, in exchange for the recognition that there would be separate constituencies for Muslims. The British conceded the principle of self-government in 1918, but the reforms fell far short of Indian expectations.

Mahaatmaa Gandhi  
Into this tense atmosphere, Mahaatmaa Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in 1915 after practicing there for 20 years as a lawyer. On his return, the Bangaalee Noble Laureate poet Rabindranaath Tagore dubbed him as "Mahaatmaa" - the great soul, so his name became Mahaatmaa Gandhi. He arrived at the time when Government of India was being given new powers by the British Parliament to try political cases without a jury and to give provincial governments the right to imprison politicians without trial. Gandhi opposed it and proposed for Hadataal (protest), so all activities ceased for a day. This was across India.

Thus these Hadataal (strikes) became a fashion and they often accompanied by riots. On April 13, 1919 a huge gathering took place in Jalinyaa Vaalaa Baag in Amritsar. It had been prohibited by the Government, so General Dyer ordered troops to fire on the people without warning. This killed 379 people and injured at least 1,200. It marked a turning point in relations with Britain and the rise of Gandhi to the key position of leadership in the struggle for freedom.

The Thrust for Independence and the Conceptualization of Paakistaan in 1930  
In 1930 the ANC declared that 26th January should be Independence day - still celebrated as Republic Day in India today. The leader of the Muslim League Muhammad Iqbaal addressed the League in the same year and suggested the formation of Muslim state within an Indian Federation. Also, in the same year, a Muslim student in Cambridge University, Chaudhuree Rahamat Alee, coined a name for the new Muslim state - PAKISTAN. These letter stood for - Panjaab, Afagaan, Kashmeer, Sindh, with the suffix STAN - a Persian word for country. The idea was still in a seed form.

By the end of World War II, the positions of the Muslim League, now under the leadership of Muhammad Alee Jinnaa, and the INC under the leadership of Jawaahar Laal Nehroo were irreconcilable. Although the question of both, Hindu and Muslim states was unanswerable, but General Wavell (the British Viceroy) was clear that there was no alternative but to accept that the independence has to be given on the basis of two states.

Independence and Partition in 1947 -
Muslims were only the 1/5th of the total population of India, but there were regions both in North-west and the East where they formed majority, Muslims were also scattered all over India. It was therefore impossible to define a simple territorial division which would provide a state to match Jinnaa's claim of a two-nation theory. On February 20, 1947, the British Labor Government announced its decision to replace Lord Wavell with Lord Mountbatten as Viceroy with who was to oversee the transfer of power to new independent governments. It set a deadline of June 1948 for British withdrawal. This announcement made the Indian politicians even less willing for compromise and the resulting division satisfied no one.

When Independence arrived on 14th August 1947 for Paakistaan and 15th August for India, many questions still remained unanswered. Several key Princely states had not decided firmly to which country they should accede. Kaashmeer was most important among these - and it still lasts to the present day.



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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 10/01/12