History is the study of past events. It helps to understand those processes that enabled the early humans to successfully conquer their environment and develop the present day civilizations. It is not just a study of battles and kings as is normally understood by some. It is an analysis of society, economy and cultural trends over a long period as reflected in available sources.
Congress governments in different provinces remained in office for over two years and undertook various measures in the interest of various sections of the people. Reduction in rent for the peasantry, release of political prisoners and the lifting of restriction on the press were some of the steps taken by the Congress governments.
In 1935 was passed the Government of India Act that extended some concessions to the nationalist movement by introducing more autonomy to the elected members in the legislatures of the provinces. This Act also extended the voting rights to a greater percentage of the Indian People.
The years between 1930 and 1934 was also marked by an unprecedented explosion of acts of revolutionary terrorism with its focus in Bengal and Punjab. A total of 92 incidents were reported in 1931 itself that included 9 murders.
As there was no response to the eleven point ultimatum, the movement of civil disobedience was launched based on the issue of salt. Salt was an item of basic necessity for all and any taxation on it would affect the poorest of the poor, thus salt became the symbol of the deprivation and oppression of the Indian people.
Amidst this reformulation and resurgence of the revolutionary movement and the subdued state of the mainstream movement was announced the Simon Commission to formulate further constitutional reforms for India. The all-white commission did not include any Indian and thus it was clear that the forthcoming reforms, if any, would not fulfill the aspirations of the Indian people.
The spontaneous upsurge of the non-cooperation movement released the great force of India’s youth that were determined to wrest freedom. The youth of the country had responded eagerly to the call of Gandhi and had participated in the non-cooperation movement.
The British Government introduced the next set of constitutional reforms in 1919 (The Montague-Chelmsford Reforms). Although these reforms claimed to have brought forth local self-government and considerable autonomy to Indians, they kept the real powers firmly in British hands.
Martial law was imposed in Punjab after the Jallianwalla Bagh massacre. Inhuman treatment was meted out to Indians e.g. men were made to crawl on their bellies in the bylane where a European woman had been attacked. Although the Rowlatt satyagraha had been withdrawn, the feeling of resentment toward British rule grew even more bitter.
The rift between the moderates and extemists grew wider and wider within the Congress. The Extremists were in favour of boycott of the assembly elections to be conducted under the constitutional reforms introduced by the colonial government.
The phase between 1885-1905 is known as the period of the moderates. In 1905 Lord Curzon, the then Governor general announced the partition of Bengal. The province of Bengal at that time comprised of the present states of West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand, Orissa and Assam.
There came into being, in the second half of the 19th century, a thinking on Indian nationalism which was based on religion. It was leaders like Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Dayanand Saraswati, Vivekanand, and Arbindo Ghosh who made Hindu religion and its ideas the motivating force behind Indian nationalism.
The origins of economic nationalism can be traced back to the second half of the 19th century when Indian leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji, Mahadev Govind Ranade and Romesh Chandra Dutt among others began realizing that the British rule was economically exploiting India and that it was largely responsible for keeping India under extreme poverty.
The history of this idea is not more than 200 years old. Nationalism, in the sense in which we use it today, did not exist in India before the 19th century. The roots (origins) of this idea do not lie in the Indian history but in the history of Modern Europe.
The British though managed to suppress the revolt but realized the extent of people’s resentment. The events of 1857 compelled the British to re-examine their policy towards India, after the revolt; therefore, they adopted a strategy to check the future incidents of such a revolt.
Historians are of different opinions regarding the nature of the Revolt of 1857. British historians interpreted the revolt as a mutiny of the sepoys. Ignoring the grievances of the local people and their participation in the movement, the British historians felt that the rebellion was engineered by the sepoys, and some landholders and princes having vested interest.
There were specific grievances which actually precipitated the people’s discontent against the British Raj and led to the Revolt of 1857. The Revolt broke out on 10th May in Meerut, when Sepoys revolted and started marching towards Delhi to restore the last Mughal ruler, Bahadur Shah II, on the throne.
The early years of the English East India company’s rule in India witnessed a large number of uprisings and rebellions. Over a period of 100 years, starting from 1750s to 1850s, the English East India company adopted various measures to transform India into a colony.
Very soon a debate arose about the choice to be made with regard to the medium of education in India on which the company’s government was to spend. There were impassioned debates between the votaries of Oriental and English systems.
English education was first introduced in India in 18th century through some charity schools in Calcutta, Madras and Bombay for educating European and Anglo-Indian children.
There was a sense of loss of power among educated and elite Muslims of India. This happened mainly because of (i) transfer of power from Mughals to British, and (ii) replacement of Persian by English as the language of employment and advancement in the new bureaucracy.
During the late 19th century, another notable reform movement in Bengal, which soon spread to other parts of the country, was the Ramakrishna Mission. The movement began under an ascetic and priest Gadadhar Chatterjee or Swami Ramakrishna Paramhansa (1836-86) who achieved inner peace around 1871-2.
The third phase is seen to have begun from the 1860s, when British India became part of the ever-expanding British empire, to be placed directly under the control and sovereignty of the British crown. This period was one of ‘finance-imperialism’, when some British capital was invested in the colony. This capital was organized through a closed network of British banks, export-import firms and managing agencies.
The ‘Second Phase’ is generally seen to have begun with the charter Act of 1813, when the Company lost its monopoly trading rights in India, and ended in 1858, when the British crown took over the direct control and administration of all British territory in India.
The ‘First Phase’ is generally dated from 1757, when the British East India Company acquired the rights to collect revenue from its territories in the eastern and southern parts of the subcontinent, to 1813, when the Company’s monopoly over trade with India came to an end.
The need for constitutional change arose after the East India Company became the political power in 1757. The British Government was no longer willing to allow the Company’s affairs to continue unsupervised. Pressure from merchants and manufacturers to end the monopoly of the Company mounted.
The first major conflict of the British against an Indian power was in Bengal. The history of Bengal from 1757 to 1765 is the history of gradual transfer of the power from the nawabs to the British.
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