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2. Milestones in India’s Freedom Struggle

The history of Indian Freedom Struggle can be divided in to three stages. First stage was before ‘the First War of Independence 1857’ (The battle of Plassey was in 1757 and it success paved the way to strengthen the political power of British East India Company in India.) Unorganized and localized fighting known as Resistance Movement carried through by patriots like Pazhassi Raja; popularly known as the Lion of Kerala (died on 1805) and Veluthampi Dalawa (died on1809).

The 2nd stage was during 1857 to 1919, when the strong feeling and thirst for freedom developed and agitation initiated all over the country against the British East India Company.

The 3rd stage was during 1920 to 1947, when organizations were formed national wide and well organized meetings, Sathyagrahas, demonstrations were arranged and launched a series of mass movements - the Non Cooperation Movement, the Civil Disobedience Movement etc .This has developed step by step and unbeaten strength, unity, oneness amongst Indians and that lead to independence .

The 2nd and 3rd stages are considered the milestones in Freedom Struggle and let us see the details in brief.

2.1. The First War of Independence (1857-58)
It was the first general agitation against the rule of the British East India Company. The Doctrine of Lapse, issue of cartridges greased with cow and pig fat to Indian soldiers at Meerut ‘triggered the fire’. Further, the introduction of British system of education and a number of social reforms had infuriated a very wide section of the Indian people, soon became a widespread agitation and posed a grave challenge to the British rule.

As a result of this agitation the East India Company was brought under the direct rule of the British Crown.

Even though the British succeeded in crushing it within a year, it was certainly a popular revolt in which the Indian rulers, the masses and the militia participated so enthusiastically that it came to be regarded as the First War of Indian Independence.

Rani Lakshmibai was the great heroine of the First war of India Freedom. She showed the embodiment of patriotism, self-respect and heroism. She was the queen of a small state, but the empress of a limitless empire of glory.

2.2. Partition of Bengal; Swadeshi Movement (1905)
Swadeshi Movement emanated from the partition of Bengal, 1905 and continued up to 1908.

It was a successful economic strategy to remove the British Empire from power and improve economic conditions in India through following principles of swadeshi (self-sufficiency).

Women joined men to protest this division by boycotting foreign goods and buying only Swadeshi goods, i.e. goods produced in the territory of Bengal. Mrs. Nonibala Devi joined the new Jugantar Party which was dedicated to aggressive movement

2.3. Jalianwalabagh massacre (1919)
General Dyer's Jalianwala Bagh massacre followed the strike wave, when an unarmed crowd of 10,000 Baisakhi celebrators was mercilessly attacked with over 1600 rounds of ammunition. Yet, Gandhi continued to advocate cooperation with the British in December 1919, even as the resistance of ordinary Indians continued. The first six months of 1920 saw an even greater level of mass resistance, with no less than 200 strikes taking place involving 1.5 million workers. It was in response to this rising mass revolutionary tide that the leadership of the Congress was forced to confront its conservatism and give a somewhat more militant face to its program. The "non-violent non-cooperation" movement was thus launched under the stewardship of leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Lajpat Rai and Motilal Nehru.

2.4. Non-cooperation movement launched (1920)
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi returned to India from South Africa in 1915 and took up the demand for self-rule and non-cooperation movement. Sarla Devi, Muthulaxmi Reddy, Susheela Nair, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Sucheta Kripalani and Aruna Asaf Ali are some the women who participated in the non-violent movement. Kasturba Gandhi, the wife of Mahatma Gandhi, and the women of the Nehru family, Kamla Nehru, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit and Swarup Rani, also participated in the National Movement. Lado Rani Zutshi and her daughters Manmohini, Shyama and Janak led the movement in Lahore

2.5. Poorna Swaraj declaration by the Congress; Meerut conspiracy case (1929)
Mahathma Gandhi later demanded for Poorna Swaraj through non-violent methods. His call to join the Satyagraha Movement witnessed women getting involved in all his programmes. Some of the important women who played a very active role in the Swadeshi Movement were Dr. Sarojini Naidu, Smt. Urmila Devi, the widowed sister of the Congress leader C.R. Das, wife of C.R. Das, Biamma, the mother of Shokat Ali and Mohmad Ali, leader of All India Khilafat Committee, Durgabai Deshmukh, Smt. S. Ambujammal, Smt. Basanti Devi, and Krishnabai Ram of Madras and so on.

2.6. Civil Disobedience; the Dandi Salt March (1930)
Gandhiji inaugurated the Civil Disobedience Movement by conducting the historic Dandi Salt March, where he broke the Salt Laws imposed by the British Government. Followed by an entourage of seventy nine ashram inmates, Gandhi embarked on his march from his Sabarmati Ashram on a 200 mile trek to the remote village Dandi that is located on the shores of the Arabian Sea. On 6th April 1930, Gandhi with the accompaniment of seventy nine satyagrahis, violated the Salt Law by picking up a fistful of salt lying on the sea shore.

The Civil Disobedience Movement was an important milestone in the history of Indian Independence. The aim of this movement was a complete disobedience of the orders of the British Government. During this movement it was decided that India would celebrate 26th January as Independence Day all over the country. On 26th January 1930, meetings were held all over the country and the Congress tri- colour flag was hoisted. The British Government tried to repress the movement and resorted to brutal firing, killing hundreds of people. Thousands were arrested along with Gandhiji and Jawaharlal Nehru. But the movement spread to all the four corners of the country.

(During this time, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were arrested on the charges of throwing a bomb in the Central Assembly Hall (which is now Lok Sabha). And they were hanged to death on March 23, 1931.)

Women too, played an active role in the struggle. Sarojini Naidu, Aruna Asaf Ali and Bhikaji Cama, to name but a few, inspired millions of others to take the first step on the road to emancipation and equality.

Although The Civil Disobedience Movement failed to achieve an immediate positive outcome, it was an important juncture in the history of Indian independence; it enabled masses to rediscover their inherent strength and confidence to crusade against the British.

2.7. The Quit India Movement (1942)
In August 1942, the Quit India movement was launched. "I want freedom immediately, this very night before dawn if it can be had. We shall free India or die in the attempt, we shall not live to see the perpetuation of our slavery", declared the Mahatma, as the British resorted to brutal repression against non-violent satyagrahis. The Quit India resolution, taken against British, directly addressed women "as disciplined soldiers of Indian freedom", required to sustain the flame of war.

Usha Mehta, a committed patriot set up a radio transmitter, called The "Voice of Freedom" to disseminate the "mantra" of freedom-war. News of protest and arrests, deeds of young nationalists, and Gandhi’s famous "Do or Die" message for the Quit India movement were circulated amongst the masses. Usha Mehta and her brother persisted with their task of broadcasting until their arrest.

These acts proved that the British could maintain the empire only at enormous cost due to wide spread agitation.

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