What is Independence?
Independence is an idea – it is more mental than physical. A person can be a slave of his/her own thoughts, his habits, his comfort. One becomes independent when he/she decides to break all shackles and start living a life of choice. Where everything is done by choice, not by compulsion.
Before we go into which day should India’s independence from British Rule be celebrated, let us first try to understand what constitutes independence. Is independence a geographical phenomenon or is it a psychological drama? Technically the converse of independence is dependence. The context in which we are talking about is the relationship between a ‘ruler’ and the ‘ruled’; between a ‘master’ and a ‘slave’.
A slave becomes free when he/she decides to be free, makes efforts to be free and not when the master decides to free the slave at his/ her own convenience. Weak wait for the latter. Given the plethora of freedom fighters that India has been blessed with, any term remotely close to ‘weak’ does not apply to India.
Ever since the British came to India in the guise of the East India Company, they constantly faced oppositions of big and small magnitudes. They were never allowed to settle down and rule the way they wanted. Be it any Viceroy, from Canning to Mountbatten, they all had to have a separate department, just to deal with all the skirmishes between British and non-cooperating Indians. Indians never really became slaves.
Maybe from outside, but mentally, we were always free. Hence, we were Independent when we decided to be free, when we refused to accept Britishers as our rulers, and NOT when they chose to go.
Independence ought to usher in Swarajya (self-rule) and to rebuild India with Swatantra (own systems of governance) based on our cultural and social ethos. In short, its implementation system should reflect our Swa – our spiritual, philosophical, and cultural principles in every facet of day-to-day life and living – in agriculture, education, economy, and yes, politics.
On the midnight of August 14-15, 1947, the Indian Independence Bill took effect demarcating the dominions of India and Pakistan.
This wasn’t independence in its true sense. India was given a dominion status, which meant:
- Loyalty to the British Crown, the then King George VI, who continued to remain the Emperor of India.
- Though Nehru was sworn-in as India’s Prime Minister, Mountbatten was still the Governor General until 1948 to oversee the constitution-making process. The rest of the national administrators took oaths in the name of the British Emperor.
- The British Field Marshall led the Indian Army.
- The British appointed the federal and high court judges.
It was only three years later January 26, 1950 that India came off free from the clutches of the British administration. On this day, the Indian Constitution came into effect and India declared itself a Democratic Sovereign Republic.
Lord Mountbatten who was given the mandate to transfer British power to India is quoted in the Freedom at Midnight,
The date I chose came out of the blue. I chose it in reply to a question. I was determined to show I was master of the whole event. When they asked had we set a date, I knew it had to be soon. I hadn’t worked it out exactly then — I thought it had to be about August or September and I then went out to the 15th August. Why? Because it was the second anniversary of Japan’s surrender.
It was Mountbatten who oversaw the making of India’s Constitution. And what was its quality? It was adopted – not adapted – adopted lock, stock and barrel from the British. Kashyap captures this succinctly.
To a very large extent, the present-day crises and problems in governance have their source in the Constitution which we, the people of India were supposed to have given to ourselves in our Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949. The Constitution of India is not a revolutionary document…
The Constitution has had an organic growth through the various stages of the nationalist demand for self-governing institutions, struggle for freedom and reforms grudgingly and haltingly granted by the British. The primary concern of the British, naturally, was how to rule over India, keep the ‘natives’ weak; divided and control and govern them.
Finally the Government of India Act, 1935, the Cabinet Mission Plan and the Indian Independence Act 1947, all drafted by the British to serve their interests, contributed nearly three-fourths of the Constitution of India as it came out of the Constituent Assembly…No wonder the entire infrastructure of the Constitution remained colonial. There was little emphasis on the principles of governance or traditional values in Indian political thought.[i]
On this basis, did we really become independent on August 15? Obviously not!
By Whom and why was August 15 declared as India’s Independence Day?
To understand this, let
‘s think about who would benefit from this? – Answer is simple., just look at the people who are glorified and given full credit for getting freedom – Gandhi, Nehru, Congress
On this day, only the governance changed
Think of it like a huge company wh
o went through a management change because the board decided to do so. Now, change in the senior management doesn’t guarantee an improvement in the quality of life of its employees. ’Indian’ leaders in ‘independent’ India operated with the same colonial mindset. Brown sahibs replaced the white sahibs and these brown sahibs treated the people of their own country with the same contempt as did their colonial masters.
Months before our ‘independence’, the Congress agreed for dominion status for India, reversing their earlier stance of full self-governance. In the three years leading to the sovereign republic, India’s constitution came into force and over 500 princely territories were integrated into the national framework.
The rank and file of the Congress wanted Sardar Patel to be sworn in as the first Prime Minister of India. But Gandhi chose Nehru. Nehru’s Marxist addiction influenced his policies and stands, often placing national interests beneath his ideological fantasies.
His foreign policies were disastrous to say the least. The signing of the useless Panchsheel agreement saw India lose a war and 80,000 square kilometers of Indian territory to China in the Sino-India war of 1962. It was Nehru who decided to remove Tibet as a buffer zone thus unleashing China’s vicious attack on Tibet in 1950. Nehru’s internal policies were no better. Nehru referred the Kashmir issue to the United Nations when India was in a war-winning situation and could have easily restored peace in the valley.
Part of Kashmir was lost to Pakistan and LOC was established. Article 370 was signed giving Jammu and Kashmir autonomous status in 1948. Decades after independence, India is still struggling to address these issues. It was only in 2019 that the Modi Government revoked Article 370.
Time for 21st October 1943 to be the Independence Day of India?
Unfortunately this is not common knowledge of the history of 1.3+ billion people that this is the day when Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose formed in Singapore the provisional government of Azad Hind or Free India, which had international recognition and support of Japan, Germany, Italy and other allies for India’s freedom from the British rule. Azad Hind wasn’t a government-in-exile. It had its own land, its flag, its anthem, cabinet, court, bank, army, etc.
Soon after in December 1943, hoisted the Tricolor in Port Blair, declaring Andaman and Nicobar Islands as part of Indian territory free from the British rule, and named the islands as Shaheed and Swaraj, respectively. This was the first taste of independence that the provisional government gave to the Indian people after several centuries of servility.
Convinced that only war could liberate the motherland from colonial rule, Netaji’s Indian National Army fought the British in Imphal-Kohima regions of Eastern (now Northeast) India. Though gravely outdone and defeated due to the dominance of land and air forces that the British held, this war was the tipping point of a series of events that left the British with no choice, but to leave India.
The sharp rise in communal violence and the naval and air force mutinies of 1946 shook the confidence of the British administration that eventually led to grabbing our freedom a year later.
Thus, in a very short time, Netaji transformed an entire historical situation. His rousing slogan, ‘Give me blood, and I promise you freedom’ inspired his troops and Indian nationalists into action. His devotion to the cause of the motherland drew admiration especially from young Indians who called him Netaji or ‘revered leader’ and continues to inspire the people of India. Even Gandhi in 1946 admitted that Bose’s patriotism was ‘second to none.’
This briefly captures the role Netaji played in the Indian independence movement with a hope it will encourage youngsters to get a better picture of India’s struggle for independence.
[i] Subhash C Kashyap, ‘Governance and the Constitution Defined’, Indian Constitution – Conflicts and Controversies, (Vitasta, New Delhi, 2010), p. 7
Every citizen’s responsibility is to know the history of his/ her nation. Only by knowing the real history and not propaganda that has been fed, we will be able to shape a bright future for generations to come.
As Modi himself said, ‘a nation ought to be connected and be very aware of its own history.’ Rabindranath Tagore wrote:
…A foreigner sees only the storm, because he is outside the houses, not inside. That’s why, in the history written by foreigners, we only see stories of that dust and storm, not of the homes. When we read that history, it seems there was no India then, the Mughals and Pathans, raising their flags, just marched around from north to south and west to east.
…otherwise, who gave birth to Kabir, Nanak, Chaitanya, Tukaram amid all this turmoil? But the kind of history we are made to read makes our children forget all this. It seems, we don’t exist in India, only the visitors do.
Precious lives which have been sacrificed for the freedom that we enjoy today should be honored and commemorated. We owe it to them and owe it to generations to come to tell them exactly how this wonderful nation was built. What is the cost of this freedom that we enjoy? Are we taking it for granted? This needs to be investigated.
Mechanical Engineer by qualification, Engineering manager by profession. Strong believer of Vedic values and Santana. ISHA Volunteer
Independent writer, deeply committed to Bharat and Sanatana Dharma.
[i] APJ Abdul Kalam and YS Rajan, India 2020 – A Vision for the New Millennium, (Penguin Books India, 1998) p. 28