India celebrates its 70th Independence Day on 15 August 2016. The country became independent from British colonialism on this day in 1947. The day is celebrated with great fervour across every state of the country, with the capital city Delhi becoming the hub of all celebrations. India’s Independence Day celebrations officially take place at the Red Fort.
History and significance
The history of Indian Independence is laced with the struggle and sacrifice of many leaders and revolutionaries of the country.
The story of India’s colonisation began with the arrival of the British East India Company to the country in the 1600s. The merchants who came to trade with India soon began to exercise military and administrative control and by 1757, they had huge swathes of the country under them.
Resentment against the alien company and its unfair rule over the local populace began to grow and in 1857, the first organised revolt against it took place with a group of Indian soldiers rebelling against the British rank in the Barrackpore, Bengal unit. Referred to as the Great Struggle of 1857 (the British called it the Sepoy Mutiny), this rebellion marked a new era in India’s freedom movement.
As a direct result of the rebellion, administrative control of the country passed from the East India Company to the British Crown in London. From 1858 to 1947, India was governed by London with representatives in the form of governor-generals and viceroys posted in India. However, several incidents such as the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, where more than 1,000 people were killed after General Reginald Dyer ordered troops to fire machine guns into a crowd of Indian protesters and the Bengal famine of 1943, which killed up to five million people, only went to alienate the local people from their rulers.
Prominent Indian leaders and revolutionaries such as Mahatma Gandhi, Subhas Chandra Bose, Lala Lajpat Rai, Chandrasekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel took part in the uprising against the British over different time periods, which ultimately led to India’s freedom from foreign rule.
In February 1947, the then British prime minister Clement Attlee, announced that his government would grant full self-governance to British India by June 1948 at the latest.
Nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience led by leaders like Gandhi, Patel and Nehru were largely responsible for India’s independence. However, independence came with the partition of India into the dominions of India and Pakistan.
On 15 August 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, raised the Indian national flag above the Lahori Gate of the Red Fort in Delhi.
Nehru delivered his famous speech — Tryst With Destiny — in which he addressed the long-drawn struggle and future that lies ahead.
“At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance”
Jawaharlal Nehru (Tryst With Destiny)
Although India’s freedom struggle has become history today, 15 August still holds great significance in the hearts of millions of people of the country. Most Indians celebrate the national holiday with family get-togethers and by attending patriotic events.
The national flag is hoisted by the prime minister of India on the ramparts of the Red Fort, Delhi, followed by a speech. Other politicians hoist the flag in their constituencies. People fly kites to express their feeling for freedom.
A national holiday is observed throughout the country with flag-hoisting ceremonies, cultural events and parades. Almost all movie channels entertain their viewers with old and new patriotic movies and classics.