Happy Independence Day.
India is a free country today. Or is it?
Sure we’re celebrating more than 5 decades of freedom from the British Raj, but let’s take a moment and ask ourselves, are we really free? Not in a high handed philosophy driven existential angst sort of a way, but in basic struggles of our day to day lives.
Are we free from Social Injustice? Gender politics? Corruption? Deterioration of the basic moral fibre of fellow countrymen? It’s easy to sit back and rant about it, it’s easier to expect someone else to take the first step towards change; but it is not easy to make a change, or even support the person who fights for a noble cause. The personal cost is the hardest to pay, and the worst of its kind.
We all remember Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhagat Singh, Veer Savarkar, Mangal Pandey, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Subhash Chandra Bose, Lokmanya Tilak among other names from our history books and Bollywood’s take on Indian History, but do we remember or even give thanks to the faceless followers who went to battle, shoulder to shoulder with these heroes of our past but never returned? Are we never inspired by the heroism and machismo shown by every man woman and child who wilfully followed the path of doing the right thing, even if it wasn’t the easy thing to do?
Let’s take a minute to change that today.
Let’s visit 8 of the many places that were a part of our country’s freedom struggle, let’s honour the Heroes whose names we know, and also those whose names we never knew.
1.) Cellular Jail, Andaman & Nicobar Islands
Perhaps the worst place to find oneself during the ongoing struggle, this place housed hundreds of prisoners exiled and tortured, for standing up for what they believed in; for standing up for freedom. Names like Birendra Chandra Sen, Ullaskar Dutta, Hemchandra Das, Ganesh Savarkar and Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, to name a few, are associated with this hell hole of a prison, which still holds its head low in shame for all the pain and suffering it has witnessed.
Yet it also witnessed heroism and courage in their purest forms. It was perhaps the only time, when being co-conspirators in organized crime against the government was, in all rights, a title to be proud of.
2.) Jallianwala Bagh Martyr’s Memorial, Amritsar
What was supposed to be a wonderful gathering of people from different religious belief systems to celebrate Baisakhi in Punjab at the Jallianwala Bagh, quickly turned out to be a disaster for each and every one of those people and their families. Mercilessly slaughtered by open gunfire and no means to escape, thousands lost their lives, but not in vain.
This isolated incident of inhuman brutality, boiled bloods in every household, regardless of their religious beliefs. It redefined India’s resolve to get back the freedom that was unlawfully taken away from her.
Over 1600 rounds of bullets were fired that day, all of them aimed at innocent people gathered there for a peaceful protest, and till today the number of actual deaths at the gathering remains undetermined. The Jallianwala Bagh Martyr’s Memorial has a stone lantern at each corner of the tank with the words “In memory of martyrs, 13 April 1919,” inscribed in Urdu, Hindi, English and Punjabi on the pillar’s four sides.
3.) Gandhi Ashram, Ahmedabad
The reason behind establishing the Ashram is perhaps the most poignant things you’ll read all day. Located between a British established crematorium and prison, this ashram is the perfect middle ground between the only two places a satyagrahi could end up – either in prison, or on a deathbed.
Otherwise made famous because of the Dandi March, the ashram has seen the sentiment of nationality and kinship among countrymen of different faiths first hand. It has seen promises made, allegiances sworn, and willingness to die for a just cause, the ashram is as peaceful as Gandhi’s preaching; yet heavy from the memories it witnessed being made within its walls.
This wasn’t just an ashram for Gandhi and his family, but for the numerous people who followed him, revered him, respected him, obeyed him and swore their loyalties to the cause of Indian Independence, just like him. In their own small ways, they were all Mahatmas.
4.) Red Fort, Delhi
Symbolic of power since the Mughal rule, the fort was built by Emperor Shah Jahan, the Red Fort gets its name from the red sandstone that was used in its construction. After a long and enduring battle for independence, Independent India’s first prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru hoisted the national flag and delivered his Independence Day speech from this very fort. Remembering sacrifices made, support offered, and blood shed for the noble cause of India’s freedom, and encouraging Indians to continue to stand up for the right cause, and celebrate their freedom and equality.
In keeping with tradition, successive prime ministers address the nation at the Red Fort each year on Independence Day.
The robbery was conceived and carried out by Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan on 9 August 1925, the Number 8 Down Train travelling from Shahjahanpur to Lucknow was approaching the town of Kakori (now in Uttar Pradesh), when one of the revolutionaries pulled the chain to stop the train and overpowered the guard. It is supposed that they looted that specific train because the train was going to carry the money-bags belonging to the British Government Treasury in the guard’s cabin. One passenger was killed by an accidental shot, making it a murder case. They looted only these bags containing some 8,000 Rupees and escaped to Lucknow. They ensure that not a single Indian was looted, because among the chief targets of the mission, were:
- Obtaining money for the organisation – Hindustan Republican Association, which was intended to be obtained from the opponent British Administration itself.
- To shake the British Administration by taking away money from them.
6.) August Kranti Maidan, Mumbai
8 August 1942, Mahatma Gandhi gave a rousing speech at a park in Central Mumbai urging every Indian to fight for their freedom. This park, formerly known as Gowalia Tank Maidan, is now known as August Kranti Maidan.
The speech stirred a revolt from the gathered masses, who fearlessly asked the British to “Quit India” regardless of the consequences of such defiance. In honour of this important historic event, a monument was built at the maidan, which resonates with the fervor and zest that coursed through every member of the audience during and after the speech.
7.) Champaran, Patna
British landlords forced thousands of farmers of the Champaran district to grow opium or indigo on a certain portion of their lands. They were then made to sell the crops at a fixed price, causing great losses to the farmers. In 1916 an indigo cultivator urged Gandhi to visit the district and just like that, began a protest which later went on to become the starting point of the entire Satyagraha movement. For raising his voice against the practice, Gandhi was produced before the court.
All it took was one wise farmer, to take a stand and do something about the situation.
Gateway of India, Mumbai
Gateway of India was built at Apollo Bunder in Colaba, Mumbai, to celebrate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Bombay, designed by a British designer, put together with the blood, sweat and hard work of Indians, the monument stands gloriously tall, recounting days of horror, and also days of happiness – when in a turn of events extremely befittingly, the monument was also used to bid goodbye to the last of the British troops as they sailed out of Mumbai’s harbour on 28 February 1948.