FESTIVALS : Independence Day: When India won its freedom 69 years ago!

On August 15, 1947, we celebrate Independence Day in India. After long, glorious years of struggle and countless sacrifices, the joy and the pride of attaining freedom can only be imagined by the present generation.

As Jawahar Lal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, unfurled the tri-coloured Indian flag on the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi in 1947, he gave his famous ‘Tryst of Destiny’ speech: “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. It is fitting that at this solemn moment, we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity? But it was not the first time India was celebrating its Independence Day.Nationalists were observing January 26 as the Independence Day ever since Indian National Congress gave the call of Purna Swarajya in 1929, at its Lahore session.

Events that led to India’s Independence In 1942, Mahatama Gandhi launched ‘Quit India Movement’ at a strategic moment. This was the time of World War II – when Germany and Japan were ruling the roost.

President Roosevelt sent a personal emissary Colonel Johnson to India. The American pressure to win the support of Congress for war efforts and the growing restlessness of India prompted British government to finally step back and transfer the power to Indian leaders.

In 1946, the British government realised that the aftermath of World War II has taken a toll on its exchequer.

Native forces in India were not reliable anymore. Moreover, it had lost the mandate at home as well as international support to continue its control over the country. Hence, in February 1947, then British Prime Minister – Clement Atlee- announced that British India would be granted full governance, latest by June 1948.

On June 3, 1947, Lord Mountbatten announced that the date of Independence of India has been chosen as August 15, 1947 – the second anniversary of the surrender of Japan in World War II. It is alleged that the decision was shrewd and was made to thwart any attempts of future linkages between India and Japan.

At the time, Japan was known to have aided Subhash Chandra Bose in forming Indian National Army.

The celebrations in India at the time when Japan suffered in humiliation is said to have been a deliberate attempt on the part of the British Government to severe Indo-Japan ties.

The Broken Dream of United India The happiness of gaining Independence was only marred by the Partition of Mother India into two dominions – secular India and Islamic Pakistan.

Muslim-majority areas – West Punjab and East Bengal – became part of the new country – Pakistan.

The details of the Partition of India were finalized in the Indian Independence Act that was passed by the British Parliament on July 18, 1947. It was also decided that the British Government would cease its suzerainty over hundreds of princely states in India and they will be free to join one of the two dominions.

Lord Mountbatten later admitted that India was granted its freedom early because he feared that the growing tension between Congress and Muslim League might lead to a collapse of the interim government.

However, no one had foreseen the massive bloodshed that followed. Billions of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh refugees were displaced from their native areas and millions lost their lives in the riots that ensued.

At the time India was celebrating its Independence, Mahatama Gandhi was in Calcutta on a 24-hour fast trying to make peace between Hindus and Muslims. Independence Day Celebrations India’s National Flag – the Tricolour Flag of India – came into existence on July 22, 1947. Jawaharlal Nehru – who became the first Prime Minister of India – called it the ‘flag of freedom’ as he hoisted it up at the Constituent Assembly on August 15, 1947 for the first time. It was a moment of pride and honour for all the Indians. Lord Mountbatten took part in the official ceremonies of transfer of power as the country’s first Governor General. Illuminations and fireworks display marked the birth of our great nation. Even though Pakistan celebrates its Independence Day on August 14, there are three countries that celebrate their Independence Day on August 15 along with India:South Korea that won its freedom from Japan in 1945,Republic of Congo that won its freedom from France in 1960, and Bahrain that won its freedom from the United Kingdom (UK) in 1971.

One of the three most important national holidays of India, we mark Independence Day celebration with flag hoisting ceremonies at schools and offices, singing National Anthem, remembering national heroes and garlanding their portraits, parades, cultural programmes, and speeches to stir patriotism in the present generation.

At many places, people hold kite flying competitions on Independence Day too. True Independence is about freedom of thoughts and an opportunity to do what’s right. Be a proud Indian!