Bharat will celebrate its 75th year of Independence from August 15, 2021. In this Context, it is important for us to revisit the whole Idea of the Bharatiya freedom movement from the perspective of Swa (“our Selfhood”), which has much to inspire our people and will, hopefully, unfold its true meaning to the people of our times. The 75th Independence Day celebration is a great opportunity for all of us to revisit, refine and reinvent our lost ‘collective truth’ about the whole narrative of freedom struggle, to explore and acknowledge the unsung heroes of the freedom struggle as well as to change our perspectives to analyse the unfolding truths about our past and collective identity
The British ruled Bharat for about two hundred years. Bharat got freedom from the British Raj on August 15, 1947. The exploitation of the Bharatiya people and our economy was just one part of it, the cultural and intellectual colonisation was the larger context of it. It is a fact that the Bharatiya people never accepted foreign domination without resistance. Since the fifteenth century itself, there had been a number of popular protests in different parts of Bharat by diverse sections of society against the expansion of colonial rule. Their protests may look localised and isolated in spread but definitely national in its content.
During this long struggle for Independence our people fought for the Idea of Swa (selfhood); they believed that there would be no point in getting rid of the British without getting rid of the centralised, exploitative, and violent system of governance and the economics of greed it pursued. Sri Aurobindo and Mahatma Gandhi led this socio-philosophical construction with the idea of Sarvodaya, Swar?j, and Swadeshi. The first concept in this trinity was Sarvodaya, the uplift of all; this includes the care of the Earth–of animals, forests, rivers, and land. The second is Swaraj – the self-government. Swaraj works to bring about a social transformation through a small-scale, decentralised, self-organised, and self-directed participatory structure of governance. It also implies self-transformation, self-discipline, and self-restraint. Thus, Swaraj is a moral, ethical, ecological, and spiritual concept and method of governance.
The third in the trinity is Swadeshi, ‘local economy’, which was an attempt to recreate the local demand and supply chains for local products and consumers. Earlier, the idea of Swadeshi was confined to economics, but later it was used in socio-cultural aspects as well. If we closely observe in the trinity (Sarvodaya, Swar?j, and Swadeshi), there is a common root in all these three words and that is Swa, which is the ‘self’.
If we expand the idea of Swa from the above trinity (Sarvodaya, Swar?j, and Swadeshi) we find that the colonial structure was a device to suppress this idea of Bharatiya Swa through various methods and techniques. An attempt was made to diminish the Bharatiya Identity and self-respect of the people by enforcement of the foreign rule and foreign religion in the land of Ram and Krishna.
It is important to look at this colonialism through the perspectives of religious-cultural imperialism to the people of the East by the people of the West. The notion of racial superiority and the white man’s burden is visible through various narratives, which must be re-investigated in the light of new findings in history. We are celebrating this 75th Independence for a larger cause, and we are also seeking this opportunity to correct our own identity as a R?shtra which has been misrepresented and manipulated by Islamo-Leftist historians in the second half of the twentieth century. Before analysing the real character of the Independence struggle, it is necessary to understand the myths created around the same.
The real Nature of Freedom Struggle
Swami Vivekanand exhorted young students: “Now it is for us to strike out an independent path of historical research for ourselves, to study the Vedas and Puranas and the ancient annals of Bharat and from these make it our life’s sadhana to write accurate, sympathetic and soul-inspiring histories of the land. It is for the Bharatiyas to write history.” Instead of taking up this task immediately after the Independence, the Left historians not just continued with the myths created by the British but added few more to it. There is a huge gap in Bharatiya history because of the selective approach of historians on a particular ideology. Multiple narratives of Bharatiya history have got marginalised due to the distortion of history by many modern Bharatiya historians. Historians like Jadunath Sarkar, R C Majumdar, and K A Nilakantha Sastri have made epochal contributions to Bharatiya history but they are systematically sidelined in the teaching and research of history. Seventy-five years celebration of Independence is the perfect opportunity to correct these wrongs and present our freedom struggle from a truly indigenous point of view.
It was a Long One
Many scholars and intellectuals trace the beginning of the national freedom struggle to the establishment of the Congress party in 1885. This is a dangerous myth. Some might take a more liberal view and stretch the time period to 150-200 years, beginning from the Battle of Plassey or the War of 1857. This is a very limited view of our struggle. The British dismissed the 1857 war as a Sepoy Mutiny. It was Veer Savarkar who first called it a ‘War of Bharatiya Independence’. It took a long time for it to be accepted and it was officially declared to be the ‘First War of Bharatiya Independence’ only on the occasion of its 150th anniversary in 2007. However, Savarkar never called it the ‘First War,’ because he knew that Bharatiyas had been fighting for their Independence much before this war. In these pages, we will discuss these attempts. To give just one example, we had heroes like Martanda Varma of Travancore (present-day Kerala) who defeated the Dutch in their prime in 1741, long before the Japanese became the next Asian power to defeat a European power decisively in 1905.
It was Nationwide
One of the hallmarks of the freedom struggle was how several parts of the country put collective resistance to win freedom. There had always been an idea of a nation embedded within the consciousness of our people. It was expressed through the medium of the widespread usage of Sanskrit, pilgrimages to holy places, and sacred geography. The War of 1857 is an exemplary event where Bharatiyas joined hands to forcefully overthrow British power. We have examples of national leaders like Mangal Pandey, Tatya Tope, Rani Lakshibai, Nana Saheb, Kunwar Singh, and many others. But it was not only during the War of 1857 that leaders emerged who were willing to sacrifice their lives for our national struggle. Two prominent examples from South Bharat are: Sangolli Rayanna (1796-1831) from Kittur, present-day Karnataka, who fought the British until his death at their hands; another is, Thampi Chempakaraman Velayudhan (1765-1809), the Prime Minister of Travancore, present-day Kerala, who led a rebellion against the East India Company in 1809. Another figure emerges from the state of Manipur, Tikendrajit Singh (1856-1891), who led the Manipuri army in a war against the British and was publicly hanged by them.
Across the all Social Sections
Our National freedom movement was significant for it brought together various strands of society, at different points of time, in a collective effort to regain our freedom. There is a myth that only English-educated Bharatiyas from north Bharat took part in the freedom movement, while most people were passive followers. This couldn’t be further from the truth, for every class of society, from all parts of the country participated in this movement. Sometimes people took matters into their own hands when they felt their leaders were lagging behind. For example, the Sannyasi revolution which rocked northern Bengal and adjacent areas of Bihar between 1763 and 1800, the Bheel movement of 1818 against the British in Rajasthan, and the Santhal Revolution in 1856. For a while, Santhals even ended British rule in their territory but it came at a great cost. For when the British sent troops to crush the uprising between 15 to 20 thousand people were killed. There are hundreds of such movements strewn across our nation’s history which speak volumes about the strong desire for Independence within our countrymen.