10 Most Remarkable Stories from India's Freedom Struggle Movement!

ThisDay curated a list of devices or tools that chronologically records some of the best tales from India's past that significantly contribute to the development of our country to this day. Read this to know more.
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Our books provide basic details of India’s quest towards ‘azaadi’ while there were stories that stood off the record. In the days when the freedom movement was widespread in India, it rose to power only owing to innovative devices or tools that enabled the creation of political awareness among people. ThisDay curated a list of devices or tools that chronologically records some of the best tales from India's past that significantly contribute to the development of our country to this day.

Read this to know more.

1857- When Chapati Spread The Fear

It was the year 1857. Indians were frustrated with whatever was happening in their country- rising taxes, harsh laws, and increasing violence. Amid this chaos, a mysterious movement took momentum in various parts of India. This movement not only puzzled the Indians but baffled the Firangis as well. Some reports from the North Indian villages said that the Indian flatbreads or chapatis were circulated among different groups. No one knew where these flatbreads exactly came from or who brewed this fantastic idea. All they knew was that these chapatis could crush the Britishers and their evil rule across India. The Indian press was full of speculation about what it implied. The chapati movement is what it was called. People who received these chapatis made sure to make more of them and pass them on to the next village. These chapatis traveled up to 200 miles a night, a speed which is much more than the British mail service. A genuine concern took over the Britishers when they found that more than 90,000 policemen were involved in making and distributing these chapatis. When the 1857 rebellion broke out, everyone assumed that the chapatis were a signal for an underground movement planned against the Britishers. Though there was no evidence as to why chapatis were distributed, numerous theories emerged.

1905- Worshipping Bharat Mata

Bharat Mata. Mother India. Vande Mataram. We are quite familiar with these terms. These names arouse a strong patriotic sentiment and immediately bring to mind the image of our nation –be it in the form of a woman, the tricolour flag, or the Indian map. Yet, it is the image of the woman that needs special attention. It was during the Swadeshi Movement of Bengal (1905), the image of Bharat Mata was first crystalized and became popular. Abanindranath Tagore came up with ‘Banga (Bongo) Mata’ because the Swadeshi Movement was a struggle against the Bengal partition of 1905. Banga Mata was portrayed as an ascetic with four hands, each carrying a sheet of cloth, a sheaf of rice, a rosary and a book, signifying industrial, agricultural as well as religious and intellectual well-being, respectively.

1892- When Ganpati Utsav meant Revolution

Back in those days, the auspicious Ganesh Chaturthi was quite different from how it is celebrated today. Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations provided a way for many politically active revolutionaries to raise political awareness without getting in the way of the British. One of them was Shrimant Bhausaheb Rangari who installed the first public or ‘sarvajanik’ idol of Ganesha in his home.

Later in 1893, Tilak in his newspaper, ‘Kesari’, applauded Rangari’s efforts of making Ganesh Utsav a symbol of national pride and harmony. He knew that unity and collective identity of people came from their shared beliefs, culture and practices. So, to ignite the spirit of nationalism or a sense of belonging and unity, Tilak decided to rely on a simple yet highly effective strategy- Ganpati Utsav. If nationalist leaders could not engage in social gatherings and mobilize the masses, the task was carried out by Ganpati, who was now the leader of the masses. Hiding behind the apparent celebrations of the Ganpati festival, Tilak initiated jalsas (public performances) and speeches to arouse patriotic and nationalist sentiments among the people.

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Anti Colonial Theatres and Social Awareness

Back in those days, literature and drama became a medium to protest against British rule. During the last part of British jurisdiction, politics couldn't be openly questioned, so writers and theatre used tricks to get around the political rules of the time. Theatre helped build cultural nationalism by using mythology, classical literature, songs, and satires to talk about India's past glory. "Kulin Kulascirvaswa '' by RamNarayan Tarkaratna was the first original Bangla play that could be called a protest play. It talked about poor social practices like polygamy among the Kulin Brahmans of Bengal, marrying very young girls to very old men so that they don't end up as spinsters, and men using dowries from multiple marriages to get rich. It was the first play to question indirectly the power of the Brahman caste system.

Another such instance was of The Great National Theatre of Calcutta putting on an improvised play called "The Police of Pig and Sheep," which made clear references to police commissioner Hogg and superintendent of police Lamb.When the satire "Gajadananda O Yubaraj" (Gajadananda and the Prince), which makes fun of the Prince of Wales's visit to the home of a famous Bengali lawyer and government loyalist, got the attention of the Government. Police warned against its staging, so it was put on under the name "Hanuman Charitra."

Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna: A soul stirring ode to every patriot at heart

Seldom do we come across works that ignite our souls no matter where we might be or the era where we're living. Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna is one of them- a revolutionary, patriotic, and sentimental ode to the changemakers, the revolutionaries, and all those who take risks for the betterment of this country. Bismil Azimabadi was the man who penned down this revolutionary spark. The poem Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna begins with an ardent message conveying that we're ready for a revolution, and all that's left is to see the strength wielded by the executioner. Consisting of 11 couplets, each stanza sparks bravery and a patriotic feeling. From honoring the courage of the martyrs to embracing death as an old friend as one risks losing lives in this struggle for freedom, Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna reminds us of human resilience. Each line resounds with the need for revolution and a desire for the inevitable struggles that would lead to victory eventually.

These immortal and less talked about devices became a war cry for India's freedom struggle against the British.

1915- The Undeniable Charm of Khadi

Handlooms became a revolutionary tool for Indians to take back what was theirs, using their own products and skills to create their own wealth. It was an enlightening experience for masses to rediscover themselves and lighten their spirit for India’s independence. In 1918, he started a movement to encourage handloom products, also known as the Khadi movement.

Hand-woven Khadi was a medicine for the masses ridden with poverty due to economic stagnation. From 1934 onwards, the fabric became something that the village people could use for themselves; it became a symbol of national identity. The masses followed the footsteps of Gandhi when he once said, "If we have the ‘khadi spirit’ in us, we can surround ourselves with simplicity in every walk of life. The ‘khadi spirit’ means infinite patience." The spinning wheel (charkha) of Indians moved in unison until it blurred these distinctions between them and covered everyone within the Khadi canopy.

1906- Making of Indian Identity: National Flag

Need for a flag was felt for the first time after the partition of Bengal. It acted as an instrument of unity to come together for the independence of their homeland. The first flag was designed by Sister Nivedita, an Irish disciple of Swami Vivekananda. It was in red and yellow colour with the words 'Bonde Matoram'. This was the first Indian flag that is said to have been hoisted on August 7, 1906, in Kolkata at the Parsee Bagan Square. After this, another flag was designed in 1906 with three colour stripes blue, yellow, and red. The design of the Indian tricolour is largely attributed to Pingali Venkayya, who in 1921 upon the suggestion of Gandhiji, made a flag that represented all religious communities of India with the colours red, white and green. Several changes continued to be made until the tricolour was adopted with a charkha in the middle that symbolised the economic regeneration of India. The tricolour was altered to become the flag of Independent India. Hansa Mehta, on behalf of the women of India, presented the National Flag to the Constituent Assembly of India, symbolising national pride.

1942- Secretly revolutionising Radio from one nook of the country

"This is the Congress radio, calling on 42.34 meters from somewhere in India."

It was August 1942 and the final battle of "do or die" to make British quit India was in demand. However, morning of August 9th was not in the nation’s favour. Almost all the Congress leaders including Gandhi were arrested due to their participation in mass protests. In the midst of all this chaos, a young woman in Bombay secretly walked out of her home and vanished for nearly a fortnight but when she reappeared, she had set up an underground radio station. This woman was Usha Mehta, a true Gandhian who was deeply inspired by Gandhi's "Do or Die" speech. With her prior experiences in the national struggle, Usha Mehta knew that public communication was critical to the success of the Quit India Movement. As a result, the concept of an underground radio station was born, and “Radioben” became its voice. The injustice and discrimination faced by Indian people at that time were being broadcast through underground radio. People from different regions started to find their voice through this invisible radio station.

1930- NOT just a Pinch Of Salt

Salt was an ingredient that could be found in every household- from a pauper's dinner to a king's brunch. Salt was a standard item of consumption, and putting taxes on such a common ingredient meant snatching away the rights of everyday people. It was produced naturally from saline water that was available in abundance. Thus, imposing taxes on salt would indirectly mean imposing a tax on seawater, which is immoral and unfair to their livelihood. Those who dared to defy these laws tried to make salt from the seawater. But this did not go unnoticed by British officials deployed at various sites to invigilate whether the ordinary people were breaking the salt law. Those people who were found guilty of breaking the law were severely punished.

Thus, Gandhiji thought that salt would be the right tool to represent the plight and defiance of an ordinary man against the firangis and their laws that were becoming unethical and cruel. The movement brought together people from all walks of life, starting from affluent families to poor ones. It was also the first movement in which the merchant and manufacturing communities joined and gave large sums of money to Congress to support the movement.

Role of Print Media and True Journalism

Every revolution always began with a refusal to accept the oppressor's propaganda and indoctrination through music, art, and stories. India is no different. Newspapers like Vande Mataram, founded in 1905, Harijan, founded by Gandhi in 1932, and Jungantar Patrika, founded in 1906, sought to make Indian citizens socially and politically aware, as well as unite them around a common cause. These Pamphlets written and distributed throughout India provided critical information while also serving as anti-British sentiment. The publishing of poems or songs in newspapers was a smart step that made the Britishers restless, so restless that they started banning those works. The introduction of the printing press in India was a watershed moment in the history of the Indian people, resulting in the birth of the nationalist press and the awakening and growth of national consciousness among them. In the 1870s, the Indian press began to spread its roots and gave birth to many fearless journalists who proved that a pen could also be a sword.

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