Several books, publications and films have been brought out on different aspects of the freedom movement of India. The whole process and development leading to the independence of the country has been a subject of research. This event has been considered as a watershed in the world’s history. The process of de-colonization; freedom struggle in Asin, African and Latin American countries; and a new wave of identity, self-respect and awaking in the least developed parts of the world have been somehow linked to it. Hence, the freedom movements in India have been analyzed by historians, economists, film-makers and researchers from a broad perspective.
This subject has been dealt in detail by Pandit Nehru in his book, Discovery of India. The last four chapters of this book are related to this movement (edition 2004; pp. 313-632). Many other authors have narrated the process in their own way. Perhaps it would be relevant to see how this process in their own way. Perhaps it would be relevant to see how this process is similar or different from the freedom struggle in other countries under different imperial powers. Nevertheless, a lot of literature has been written on this subject. In fact globally this topic was very popular among the authors during the second half of the last century. The question arises, what will be so new in this volume? How it is different from the other books available on the subject.
On the golden jubilee of our independence, we ponder over this issue. We also studied the contributions available on the subject. We found a lot of literature is available in the form of history books and anthology produced by different political leaders of the country. On the one hand, they inspired us to make a contribution on this occasion; while, on the other, we felt that it would be interesting if we examine this event spatially. Hence, this volume was planned. Earlier, we made successful attempts to maps historical and cultural patterns and brought out books entitled historical Atlas of India, and Cultural heritage atlas of India. Mapping of these issues were new to the organization. Nevertheless, we got encouraged to undertake the mapping of the political patterns. Such an attempt required a lot of introspection because earlier maps on this subject were hardly helpful in pointing out the way forward. After a lot of considerations, it was decided to map the events in different historical phases. Hence, a spatio-temporal approach was accepted. The mapping of the events may appear as isolated and disconnected activities on the maps. Contradictorily, the ramifications of such events were far and wide which could not always be expressed in the maps of this publication. Though, this is an atlas, a lot of supporting test has been added along with the maps which is in a way explains the processes leading to freedom movement. Nevertheless, maps have been designed to give a snap-shot of the spatial dimension of the events.
The period under study was another major issue to be sorted out before finalizing this volume. The earliest important processes and developments which lead to the independence of the country were examined, and finally it was decided that this volume should cover a period of hundred years starting from 1850 AD to the time when India was declared as a sovereign socialistic republic in 1950. This period of hundred years was full of events terminating as independence and partition of the country. The events like the first was of independence, dethroning of Mughal Emperor Bahadur Saha Zafar, end of the company’s rule the two world wars, partition of Bengal, civil disobedience, quit India movements, famines, revolts, formation of political parties, demand of separate nations on religious lines and other events that happened during this period. Futher, there were several extra-political events and activities during those hundred years. We have included those as these contribute towards the freedom movements, explicitly or implicitly. Some of such activities are social movements, khalsa reforms, peasants’ unrest and spread of modern education.
We were benefited by the rich collection of books in our own library. Nonetheless, we consulted other libraries as well. The most important one was the national library in Kolkata. Further, we were greatly benefited by the way of being a member of Gandhi heritage Commission. Under this body, an exhaustive list of Gandhi heritage sites (GHS) was developed. We were able to find out the events related to freedom movement and this information enriched the maps and literature, particularly after the arrival of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi from South Africa. We are grateful to the Chairman of this Commission, Shri Gopal Krishna Gandhi, and the then governor of west Bengal. He was a guiding force for us Dr. T. Ramasami, Secretary, Department of Science & Technology; Governement of India has always encouraged us in our Endeavour. We are indebted to him.
The entire project has been coordinated by Shri A.K. Malik, Joint Director. The compilation of this atlas has been done by Smt Gouri Rudra, Shri Prosenjit Roychanwdhury and Smt Basabdatta Ghosh, Research Assistants under the supervision of Dr. Baisakhi Sarkar, Research Officer assisted by Dr. C. M. Rao, Scientific Officer. Printing of the atlas has been carried out by Shri Shyamalendu Basak, Research officer under the supervision of Dr. A.K. Dasgupta, Deputy Director.
I am sure that this atlas, brought out on the occasion of the diamond jubilee of the Indian Republic, would be appreciated by all. The spatial dimension to this mega event should throw new light on our struggle which has been appreciated, envied, and remembered by the people of this great nation. As India march towards taking leadership role in global events, the proceedings of the past would prove to be a source of inspiration and encouragement. We are hopeful that administrators, scholars, historians as well as geographers, would appreciate this unique Endeavour.
The Atlas of Freedom Movement of India is a sincere effort to portray the social, cultural, economic, and geo-political situation during India’s freedom struggle. The incidences and sites of protests, events and movements have been depicted with a series of maps supplemented by literature. This publication is dedicated to country’s freedom fighters for their sacrifice to free India from the colonial rule.
Situation prior to 1850 and early unrests
The history of India under the British rule began with treachery, the underhand plot and the farce of the battle of Plessey in 1757. Earlier the country used to face disturbances like foreign attack, invasion, internal politics, feuds and consequences of disasters like famine, flood, epidemic and the like. After the death of Emperor Aurangzeb in 1701, the socio-economic set up India gradually collapsed. Slowly, the black shadow of misfortune overcastted the country, and India lost her indigenous tradition and heritage. The English east India Company Gradually assumed responsibility for governance of the country. The company directly ruled Bombay, received from Charles II as a grant, as well as Madras and Calcutta- grants from the Mughal emperor. The company had no territorial possession but administrated Bihar and Orissa as the diwan of Mughal Emperor.
After the battle of plassey, the English east India Company became the virtual master of Bengal as well as many other parts of the country. The role of the British Indian bureaucracy, which had originally been established as a means of collecting revenue, expanded to include administering law and order, disaster relief and development projects. The luck of integrity of local rulers and the huge wealth of India provoked East India Company to take an aggressive attitude.
However, the sons of the soil were not at all satisfied with company’s administration. Since 760, peasants, small-scale workers and tribal people seriously expressed their dissatisfaction. In 760, Mir Kasim, Nawab of Bengal, held the torch of resistance when he realized that the merchants of the East India company were exploiting peasants, weaves and local traders. Servants of the company used to procure the commodities by force and paid only a nominal price. In 1763, Mir Kasim issued an order abolishing all the internal trade duties in Bengal; henceforth, Indian traders got equal opportunity to sale their commodities on similar term enjoyed by the English merchants. The decision led to a war at buxar in 1764 between the British and the Nawab. Unfortunately, Mir Kasim along with Shuja-ud-Daullah, Wajir Ali – Nawab of Oudh and Shah Alam (II) the Emperor of Delhi were defeated by the British troops. All the warriors surrendered excepting Mir Kasim. He took shelter in Rohilakhand and as long as he survived, eh tried to organize troops against the British Raj.
After the battle of Buxer expansion of British colonialism was rapid. The meager oppositions that company had to face were from Tipu Sultan of mysore and from the princess of Kittur in Karnataka. Both Hyder Ali (1966) and his son Tipu were obstacles to the company towards expanding the empire in southern India. Tipu, with the help of the French the big enemy of the British, tried his best to modernize the economy as well as the defece of his state. Nevertheless, in spite of his effort, the British troops led by Lord Wellesley, captured Mysore and seringaapatam. The fall was due to the treachery of local commanders. Tipu fought bravely and breathed his in the battlefield (1799).
The end of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century witnessed sporadic outburst of public discontent against the British rule. The causes behind the revolt were political, social, religious as well as administrative. Rebels wanted to get rid of the alien government and restore the old order. During the geat famine in Bengal (1770-71) the working class peasants and labourers of north Bengal revolted against the British ruler and their revenue officers. Fakirs and sanyasis organized the protests. From north Bengal the upsurge spread in central Bengal and continued for three decades simultaneously, during 1773-84 there was peasant up rise in Rongpur district of Bengal. Another contemporary movement sprouted in bankura of Bengal; it was known as Chuar movement.
The British Parliament started to enquire into the administration policy of the east India and Company and introduced the Regulating Act of 1773. Under this act the governor of Bengal became the governor general of the country; supreme court was established at Calcutta. Pitt’s India Act of 1784 laid down the general framework in which the company’s administration had to be carried out. In the academic sphere, sir William jones, a judge of the supreme Cort and his thirty European friends in Calcutta, founded Asiatic society in January 1784. Their objective was to study heritage and culture of Asian coutrites. Jones was the founder presidents for ten years till his death. During the same decade surveyor General Sir James Published memoir of a Map of Hindoostan in 1788.
Lord Cornwallis established four circuit courts at Calcutta, mushidabad, Dacca and Patna. In 1793 he introduced a new rule for entire Bengal presidency law of permanent settlement. According to that law, landlords were the landowners who to pay fixed revenue to the government and the right collect amount of tax the peasants. The Muhalwari settlement in United provinces and Rayatwari settlement in Madras Presidency were also introduced. All these rules brought in great misfortune to the peasant community during the year of scanty introduction. They tried to protest in all possible ways.
During 1817-46, bheel unrest spread in Khandesh, dhar, malwa and baglana; local village masters rendered the leadership. During 1824-25 peasants of bundelkhand raised their voice against exploitation. The leaders of that up rise were Nana Pandith and Saikh Dullah. They protested and got support from Appa Saheb, the fugitive rebellion of Nagpur. After a prolonged unrest the movement dissipated. In 1824, a revolt broke out under the leadership of jat peasants of Rohtak and Hissar.
Kittur near Belgaum, Karnataka, was a small princely state. When the prince died without a son, the Britsh attempted to capture the state under the new law the doctrine of Lapse. The widow Princess Channmma raised her voice. After a battle she was imprisoned in 1825 and died in captivity. For the next three years Rayanna, a peasant leader, led the protest he was brutally killed by the British troops.
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