Independence of India: background and resistance –

In order to explain the independence of this country, it is necessary to briefly go back to the beginning of relations between Europe and India: France and England disputed the monopoly of the country’s products and this led to control by the East India Company ( EIC) of the territory, which ruled until the year 1857. Do you want to know more? We tell you all the details about the Indian Independence: Background and Resistance.

This management by a private company meant that it was only ensured to maximize profits without taking into account the abuses that were committed, so the English government had to start intervening (India Act of 1784) when it understood that it could put into endanger colonial possessions in those areas.

one of the greats changes introduced by the British in India was the change in the system land ownership (readapted to the capitalist model). Also, new taxes and tariffs and the Indian weaver was damaged in favor of the English (the latter did not pay tariffs). In fact, the largest customer of the British Empire was India.

The power of the EIC ended with the Great National Revolution or the Mutiny of the Sepoys between the years 1957 – 1958. From this moment the British government became the one who controlled India – is the birth of british raj which ended in 1947 with the independences-. In 1871, Queen Victoria was crowned Empress of India.

This event in the mid-19th century can be considered as the first antecedent to what began to happen at the beginning of the 20th century.

direct antecedents

The first fight against the british occurred at the beginning of the century when an attempt was made divide the province of Bengal: in that year Bal Gangadhar Tilak (conceived as the predecessor of M. Gandhi) organized an autarkic movement in order to boycott English products. Such a movement, called swadeshi, did not escalate because it became a fight between religions (Muslims supported the division, Hindus rejected it).

Many authors detect in this historical moment the root of the problem between hindus and muslims in india: ‘communalism’, which would be the product of that British ‘divide and rule’ policy. Shortly after this moment the figure of Mahatma Gandhi.

The conditions for the emergence of the nationalist leader were given: both Gopal Krishna Gokhale -died in 1915- and Bal Gangadhar Tilak -neutralized after the Swadeshi movement- were figures without influence in the reality of the time. The only person with any influence was the Englishwoman Annie Besant, who was a Theosophist.

‘passive’ resistance

Gandhi’s ideology is usually defined as a mix between Hindu religious thought and Leo Tolstoy’s postulates. Thus, Gandhi’s ideology can be summarized in three premises:

  • Non-violence or ahimsa.
  • Truth or satya.
  • Chastity or brahmacarya.

This ideology -applied to its context- was translated into three actions against the British Empire:

  • No collaboration or cooperation with colonial government bodies.
  • Civil disobedience that should not be understood as violent, quite the opposite: they tried to be courteous so as not to offend the authorities, this achieved great notoriety and that among the British authorities Gandhi was seen as a worthy opponent.
  • Fasts: they could be with a specific objective or until death (Gandhi never did the latter).

This pressure got a new India Act in 1935. Important was the Quit India movement of the year 1942 (during World War II). At the same time, the movement of the Muslim League should also be highlighted, which will have as its main claim the creation of Pakistan.

If to these events we add the failure of the British Cabinet Mission -which caused the British Prime Minister to declare his intention to withdraw from what was then known as the British Raj- caused a wave of violence to be unleashed that ended up bloodying the independence of both India (achieved on August 15, 1947) and Pakistan ( August 14, 1947).

Now that you know what the independence of India was like, we invite you to learn in depth about another interesting historical period:

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