THE STRUGGLE TO FREEDOM
The British entered India as traders and their primary objective was to earn profits by carrying on trade in India. In order to earn maximum profits from Indian trade and commerce and to develop monopoly of trade and commerce they competed with other European powers. By the beginning of the middle of the 18th century, the British crippled the French interests in India and became a dominant trading power.
This colonialism bled the Indians and made India a de-industrialised power. In this span of seventy-five years from 1772 to 1857, the process and pattern of colonialism underwent different stages because the Charter Act of 1813 made by the British Parliament and Crown abolished the monopoly of the British East India Company and opened the gates of trade and commerce to every British citizen. Further, by Charter Act of 1833, the Governor General of Bengal became the Governor General of India with control over the presidencies of Bombay and Madras and the British citizens were permitted to own property in India and thereby we come across British landlords and planters of tea, coffee, indigo and cotton and also British capitalists investing surplus capital in Colonial India. Both these measures hastened the process of draining of the wealth of India by the colonialists with their colonial policies. Along with the colonialist measures, the British introduced ideology of mercantilism, orientalism, evangelicalism, utilitarianism and liberalism to justify their colonialist policies in India. In the name of ‘improvement’, ‘progress’ and ‘Whiteman’s burden’ the British administrators made it their avowed objective to introduce British laws and revenue measures into India. Added to the above ideological and philosophical tenets, the modernisation process of Dalhousie also acted as the last straw on the camel’s back, and the substance of colonialism remained the same throughout the period of seventy-five years. The colonial administrative apparatus from top to bottom was controlled by the Crown and Parliament through their Acts and Charter Acts. The British East India Company enjoyed a unique position at England as King George III patronised it and its friends – fought with the help of the parliament. The British decided to control the company’s Indian administration in the interest of Britain’s influential elite group as a whole. The company was allowed to have monopoly “of the trade and Directors of the company” were given the control of Indian administration.
The history of Indian Independence is a long and chequered one. It was on 15th August, 1947, that the country was officially announced to be an independent nation but it took a seemingly endless struggle, the blood, sweat and endurance of popular as well as millions of faceless Indians who fought unitedly to liberate their nation after almost 200 years of colonial enslavement by the British. The British Empire before the freedom of the people was allowed saw various big and small wars targeted against her, as the people were determined to be liberated. Prominent among these were the Battle of Kanpur led by Nana Sahib of Bithur, the Battle of Jhansi by Rani Laxmibai and Tantia Tope, the fight at Arrah in Bihar by the landlord of Jagdishpur Kunwar Singh and the war at Lucknow led by Hazrat Begum. These wars took place in isolated areas of the country and hence, met with little success. But these battles were indicative of the simmering discontent of the Indians against their European rulers and served to keep the torch of the Indian freedom struggle burning. By the 20th century, the dissatisfaction with the British government had begun to take a concrete shape. The beginning of the 1900s saw the springing up of a number of revolutionary groups in several parts of the country such as Bengal, Punjab, Gujarat, Assam and the southern states of India. Extremist groups began to spring up in many parts of the country all of which tied to arm-twist the British government into submission through violent activities. Such strategies and their executions were not without reason, the natives of India were neither given equal social opportunities nor treated with leniency even for small crimes while their British counterparts were let off easily even after being found guilty of murder. In all walks of life, Indians (even the highly educated ones) found themselves to be discriminated against. Political groups such as the Congress were formed to counter the Britishers in a peaceful way and voice the dissent of millions of Indians who were unsatisfied with the double standards of the government and its preferential treatment to the Britishers.