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  • India marks independence of a country formed by Colonial Britain.

    India marks independence of a country formed by Colonial Britain. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 August 2019

The idea of India was not present in ancient history. Different states were brought by the British to form current India and now many of them are demanding their freedom. 

India marked its 73rd independence day Thursday. The country was colonized by the British Empire for over 200 years. The colonial period in India is commonly known as the British Raj. However, it has a rich history even before the British occupied the country, even before there was an India.

History of India Before Colonization

The country’s history starts with the Indus Valley Civilization of 2,500 B.C. It flourished in the western part of South Asia. The region is currently shared by India and Pakistan. The Indus valley, next to the river Indus was home to one of the first four urban civilizations of the world. 

After the Indus civilization ended due to natural calamities, many more flourished in different parts of India like the Vedic civilization based on Hinduism or the Buddhist era.

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In 326 B.C., Alexander the Great invaded India and left in 325 B.C. India has been simultaneously ruled by many great powers in different regions. 

India’s medieval history boasts of many great Muslim rulers like the Mughal empire which managed to unite most of present-day India. 

During the medieval times, many colonial powers came to India like the Portuguese, French, Dutch but the British empire ruled it the longest. 

Colonial India and Freedom Struggle 

They landed as traders in India’s West region, currently known as West Bengal. The colonial power was called the British East India Company. In 1757, the company waged a war against the Nawab (local ruler) of Bengal. They achieved political power and the company started to annex Punjab, Peshwar (presently in Pakistan). 

By 1856, their authority over most of India was firmly established and in 1857, the first mutiny against the colonial rulers took place. The mutiny soon spread throughout India and ended in 1858. 

The British East India Company's rule ended after the revolt and starting November 1858, the country was governed in the name of the British Monarch through a Secretary of State. 

The 20th century saw a rise in different types of anti-colonial struggles in India under many leaderships. The movement was divided between moderates and extremists. 

Organizations like Congress and the Communist Party of India were formed and surely were all banned by the British Raj. 

However, the only party which was not banned was the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the current ruling party of India BJP. The party that prides itself on its “nationalism” and very vocal anti-Pakistan rhetorics.

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Historically, however, the RSS, which acts the ideological apparatus of BJP, was not so ultra-nationalistic in its approach.

It was formed in 1925 and since then “the RSS only tried to disrupt the great anti-imperialist struggle of the Indian people against the British colonial rulers,” Shamsul Islam wrote in the book “Religion, Power and Violence: Expression of Politics in Contemporary Times” adding that the RSS was never a part of the anti-colonial struggle. Two leaders that RSS were proud of, Veer Savarkar and K.B. Hedgewar were subservient to the British colonial rule.  

When Gandhi started the Quit India movement in 1940, RSS promised the colonial home government to send their cadres to join the colonial civic guards.

Despite RSS’ collusion with the U.K, India gained its independence after numerous struggles in 1947. The weakened British empire post World War-II also helped India in its demand for freedom. 

Partition and Independence

India, even in present-day reels from the partition hangover. Pakistan and Bangladesh were partitioned from India in 1947 which was always blamed on Pakistan’s first leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah. 

However, historians like Ayesha Jalal, showed in her books that Jinnah, who established the Muslim League party during the British Raj, wanted more autonomy and representation of Muslims who are a minority in India. 

But the last British governor-general Lord Mountbatten and independent India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru gave Jinnah the option to either have a different country or settle for the situation Indian Muslims had. 

Jinnah chose the first option and India was divided. India had 584 princely states which were banded together to form the present-day geopolitical territory. 

All the princely states were under local rulers in a subsidiary alliance with the British Raj. They were semi-sovereign territories indirectly ruled by the British. 

After the partition, all the princely states of India were given options of joining either India or Pakistan. The states that chose Pakistan were forcefully annexed by India. Hyderabad for example was annexed in 1948. Junagadh, another state accede to Pakistan in 1947 despite Mountbatten’s opposition, was annexed by India as well. 

India has annexed many territories for trying to stay with Pakistan or wanting to be independent like the occupied Kashmir

And now in present-day India, at least three regions are fighting against the India's rule namely, Kashmiris, Khalisthan (in the northwest Punjab state), and North Eastern states. 

The idea of India was not present in ancient history. Different states were brought by the British to form present-day India and now some of those states are demanding their freedom from the country.

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