The 15th day of August is regarded with deep affection and pride for it was the day when the all efforts to liberate Indiawere finally fruitful.
It all started in the 19th century. Frustrated with the expanding dominion of the East India Company and Lord Dalhousie’s Doctrine of Lapse, Rani Lakshmibai, Tatya Tope and Nana Sahib swore to liberate the nation, and sparked off a revolution.
At an ashram of DashnamiSanyasis, Rani Lakshmibai, Tatya Tope, Bala Sahib Peshwa, Feroz Shah and BabuKunwar Singh plotted to uproot the British dominion in secret. There, they pledged to kill the oppressors. Word of this resolution was circulated and a day was marked for a battle in the history books, the day of May 10, 1957.
MangalPandey’sstand against the Britishers is tagged as the first step towards independence. In Barrackpore, the introduction of the Enfield Rifle sparked an outrage in the Bengal Army. Incidentally, the cartridge in the rifle, rumoured to be greased with beef and pig fat, had to be bitten off to be loaded. This angered both Hindu and Muslim communities across the nation.
Pandey, a sepoy in the 34th Bengal Native Infantry, infuriated about the rifles, revolted against the Company. Pandeyshot Sergeant-Major Hewson, when he arrived in Barrackpore to investigate the matter. For his treason, Pandey was hanged on April 8. His death inspired others to join the rebellion. One of them was the famous LalaLajpatRai.
Rai was born in Dhudike village in Firozpur district on January 28, 1865 and joined the AryaSamaj when studying at college in Lahore. At 23, he joined the Indian National Congress and drew their attention to poverty and illiteracy. He was lauded with the titles Punjab Kesari and Sher-E-Punjab. Since he strongly resisted the British Empire, he was arrested for treason in 1907.
When the Simon Commission came to India, Rai led a peaceful protest on October 30, 1928. During the protest, he received injuries after being beaten by police SP James A. Scott with sticks. Rai passed away on November 17, 1928 as he could not recover from his injuries.
In life, LalaLajpatRai was a prolific writer and a staunch advocate of the revolution, more so with two other nationalists BalGangadharTilak, and Bipin Chandra Pal. The trio was famously nick-named ‘LalBal Pal’.
BalGangadharTilak was born on July 23, 1856 in a small village named Chikhali Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district. He graduated from Deccan College in Pune and was amongst the first generation of Indians to graduate college. Tilak wanted to be rid of the Empire’s cruelty and hence, joined the fight for independence.
He became a part of the Indian National Congress. Soon, he got disappointed with the moderate attitude of the party and in 1907, the Congress was divided into the ‘Garam Dal’ that largely consisted of extremists and the ‘Naram Dal’, a faction of moderates. LalaLajpatRai and Bipin Chandra Pal were a part of the extremist group
In 1908, Tilak supported the attack laid by revolutionaries Khudiram Bose and PrafullaChaki in Muzzafarpur which landed him a six year sentence in jail in Mandalay, Burma. After his release, he continued working with the Congress and with Annie Besant and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, he started the Indian Home Rule movement in 1916. He died on August 1, 1920 in Mumbai.
With every life the British claimed, a swarm of revolutionaries arose. In 1897, one such freedom fighter was born who managed to motivate the masses in a whole different way, through his writings.
Ram Prasad Bismil was born on June 11, 1897. Angered by the death sentence of BhaiParmanand, Bismil penned down his frustration in a poem titled ‘MeraJanm’ and discovered his resolve.
Bismil left his education and in 1916, he led a procession for BalGangadharTilak in Lucknow, despite the opposition of the Naram Dal of the Congress. He also started an organisation of revolutionaries named ‘Matrivedi’ with the help of GendaLal Dixit from Auraiya.
In January 1918, he published a pamphlet named ‘DeshwasiyonKeNaamSandesh’ and distributed it along with his poem ‘Mainpuri Ki Pratigya’.
The same year, he also carried out three robberies. During a congress session, he narrowly slipped a police raid for selling banned literature. After fleeing the scene, he jumped into the river Yamuna and swam till what now forms Greater Noida to hide in a ravine.
On October 3, 1924, at a Hindustan Republican Association (HRA) meet in Kanpur, many notable leaders, SachindraNathSanyal and Jogesh Chandra Chatterjee were present along with Bismil. To collect funds for the party, the town of Bamrauli was looted. Bismil also played a hand in the KakoriConspiracy. For the Kakori incident, Ram Prasad Bismil and three others were sentenced to be hanged. Bismil was hanged on December 19, 1927 in Gorakhpur jail.
To collect funds for the party, the town of Bamrauli was looted. Bismil also played a hand in the Kakori Conspiracy. For the Kakori incident, Ram Prasad Bismil and three others were sentenced to be hanged. Bismil was hanged on December 19, 1927 in Gorakhpur jail.
The list of significant players in the war of independence has another eminent personality, Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Gokhale was born on May 9, 1866 in Maharashtra’s Ratnagiri district. During his schooling, he proved to be an exceptional student for which, he was awarded a Rs 20 scholarship from the government.
Gokhale is commonly remembered as Mahatma Gandhi’s mentor but, besides him, he was also a mentor to Muhammad Ali Jinnah. It is believed that had Gokhale been alive at the time of independence, the partition of India may not have been successful.
It was after gaining inspiration from Gokhale that Gandhi followed the principle of non-violence and opposed Apartheid in South Africa. Apart from struggling for independence, Gokhale was also known for working towards abolishing casteism and untouchability.
He also dedicated himself to bringing Hindu and Muslim communities closer. He was a respected member of the Indian National Congress and Servants of India Society. Sadly, on February 19, 1915, he passed away, decades before India attained independence.
In December 1921, Gandhi started the Non-Cooperation Movement. The movement was joined by a member, a 14 year old boy named Chandra Shekhar Azad. Noted for the Kakori Conspiracy and the killing of Deputy SP Sanders, he was arrested and presented before the magistrate for his notorious behaviour.
He identified himself as ‘Azad’ (free) and ‘Swatantrata’ (Independence) as his father. When inquired about his residence, he replied “Prison”. He continued to shout slogans of ‘VandeMataram‘ and ‘Mahatma Gandhi ki Jai‘. It was after this incident that he was given the name Azad.
In 1931, he went to visit Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi in Sitapur jail, where Vidyarthi suggested that he meet with Jawaharlal Nehru in Allahabad. When he arrived at Allahabad, Nehru ignored him.
Angered, he went to Alfred Park to plot his next move with Sukhdev Raj. Seeing that he was being surrounded by the police, he began shooting. He managed to distract the police, allowing Raj to escape and remained to fight them alone. He soon ran out of ammunition. With his last bullet, he shot himself, dying at his own terms, dying ‘Azad‘.
Azad brought a new vigour to the HRA, and with the help of his allies, transformed the organisation into the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). One of his allies was was the famed Bhagat Singh.
The JallianwalaBagh massacre in April 13, 1919 deeply impacted Singh. He carried deep-seated hatred for the British Raj. He dropped out of National College, Lahore and started his own organisation, the ‘Naujawan Bharat Sabha’.
When the conspirators of the Kakori train robbery were sentenced to death, Bhagat Singh tied-up with Chandra Shekhar Azad and joined HRA. They were involved in the killing of Deputy SP Saunders on December 17, 1928 after the death of LalaLajpatRai.
His most popular feat was the bombing of the Central Legislative Assembly in 1929 with fellow revolutionary BatukeshwarDutt. Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were arrested and hanged on March 23, 1931.
Another revolutionary involved in the Kakori conspiracy was Ashfaqulla Khan, who was born on October 22, 1900 in Shahjahanpur. Growing up, Khan drew inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi but, after the ChauriChaura incident, when Gandhi withdrew the Non-Cooperation Movement, Khan was disgruntled. On August 8, 1925, he attended a meeting with Chandra Shekhar Azad and Ram Prasad Bismil. At this meeting, the Kakori conspiracy to loot Government Treasury was hatched.
Khan, along with Chandra Shekhar Azad, Ram Prasad Bismil, RajendraNathLahiri, Roshan Singh, ShachindraBakshi, KeshavChakrawarti, BanwariLal, MukundLal, ManmathLal Gupta executed the robbery of Number 8 Down Train Saharanpur-Lucknow on August 9.
The looters had assumed new identities to conduct the raid. The British government was outraged by the incident and started a manhunt. Khan fled to Banaras and started work at an engineering company.
After 10 months at the company, he planned to work as an engineer abroad so he could financially assist the revolution. To move out of the country, he sought assistance from a Pathan friend in Delhi, who betrayed him and informed the police of his whereabouts. He was arrested and on December 19, 1927, he was hanged in Faizabad jail.
BatukeshwarDuttwas born on November 18, 1910 in Oari village, Burdwan district. He was also known as B. K. Dutt, Battu and Mohan.
He moved to Kanpur to attend High School and it was here that he met Chandra Shekhar Azad. Azad was busy conducting activities in Allahabad, Kanpur and Jhansi around that time. Dutt also befriended Bhagat Singh while he was in Kanpur.
Dutt was trained in making bombs and in 1929, he bombed the Central Legislative Assembly with Bhagat Singh. On June 12, he was sentenced to life imprisonment in Kala Pani jail.
In 1933, While in jail, he initiated a historic hunger strike that he continued till 1937. In 1937, he was moved from the Cellular Jail to Bankipur Central Prison and in 1938, he was released.
In 1947, after India’s independence, he married Anjali Duttand settled in Patna. On July 20, 1965, he died at AIIMS from a long illness.