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Recent  History of Indian Subcontinent

Indian Civilization is almost 5000 years old and before that civilized communities lived in India in planned cities with adequate arrangements. India draws its name from the river Indus flowing through north-west India, but is now a part of Pakistan. The first Aryan settlers in Indian called this great river Sindhu, which means a large sheet of water like the sea. They built houses of brick, wore cotton clothes, made beautiful gold and silver jewellery, pottery and toys. Their fine seals depicted a pictographic script which is yet not fully interpreted.


Early contact with other Nations

India had no direct contact with Europe, until Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India in 1498 via the Cape of Good Hope. Trade with India was channeled through the Arabs. Later, the Portuguese controlled the trade with India. But, their monopoly was broken in the 17th century earlier by the Dutch, and later by the British and the French. The British originally started trading from the west coast at Surat. Later, they acquired Mumbai. On the east coast, they set up trading posts at Chennai and kolkata. 

The foreign trading communities remained under check so long as the Imperial Government at Delhi was able to inflict punishment on them for breaking the trading norms imposed on them. But as soon as the imperial power in Delhi weakened, they started interfering in the political affairs by taking sides, one against the other.

In their effort for power, the British were able to put aside the French earlier on the Carnatic coast and later in Bengal. In Bengal, their leader, Robert Clive, defeated the forces of the Mughal Viceroy at Plassey in 1857. The British forced the Imperial power to delegate to them the revenue administration of the three States of Bihar, Bengal and Orissa. 


British rule in India  (1818-1947)

Up to the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857, the forces of the British East India Company were expanding. They obtained territories of Indian princes on false pretexts. The Indian princes were unstable and resentful. In 1857, they united under the leadership of the Mughal emperor Bahadurshah Zafar, and started a revolt. They were joined by the Indian sepoys of the British Army. Luckily, all the Indian soldiers did not join the revolt. The armies of some of the Indian princes, including the Sikh Army, remained loyal to the British. The riot was put down and the British Crown took direct control of the Indian administration, eliminating the role of the British East India Company. The Queen promised the Indian princes that their territorial honour would be respected. As a result, they were expected to remain loyal to the British. 


After the first World War

The period following World War I, was one of mass awakening among the Indian people who began to realize their plight as a slave nation. This gave them determination to gain freedom. This seemed possible in 1885 when an Englishman, Mr. A. Hume, founded the Indian National Congress to fight for the legal civil rights of Indians. In course of time, the INC was taken over by committed nationalist leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Lokmanya Tilak who expressed the Indian demand for self-rule. The British tried to force the Indian National Congress, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, to give up their demand for seeking total Independence in 1932. They called it Swaraj (self-rule). In order to split the unity amongst the people, the British encouraged the Muslims to organize themselves in a separate organization which then led to the formation of the "All India Muslim League". The Muslim League opposed the demand of the Indian National Congress for Independence, saying it did not want to be dominated by the Hindus.

Simultaneously, the British were trying to win over the Indians by offering them minor reforms and a kind of representative government. Mahatma Gandhi did not accept this and started a non-violent civil disobedience movement. He also started a "Non-cooperation Movement" asking Government servants to leave their jobs, teachers and students to quit schools and people in general not to buy British-made goods. This movement weakened the British administration. But due to a case of violence Mahatma Gandhi suspended this movement since wanted to achieve victory through non-violence.


After the second Word War

During World War II, the Viceroy, Lord Wavell, announced India’s participation in the war in 1939 without discussing it with the Indian leadership. The Indian leaders became furious by this and announced a movement asking the British to “Quit India”. Majority of the Indians supported this movement declared by the leaders. The British Government now knew that there was no option but to fulfill the demand for the independence of India. But the Muslim League leader, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, wanted the British to “Divide and Quit”.The new British Government decided to grant independence to India, and gave this responsibility to a new Viceroy, Lord Mountabatten. Both Jawaharlal Nehru, and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, refused to have a lose Federation as told by the British Government. Jinnah declared, “I will have India divided or India destroyed”. Mahatma Gandhi declared that he would never let that happen, however, nobody listened to him. India was divided into two parts on the basis of Hindu and Muslim majority areas. Pakistan comprised two wings, West Pakistan extending from the North West Frontier to Lahore in Punjab, and East Pakistan (presently Bangladesh) comprising half of Bengal and a small part of Assam. The remaining part of India was called India or Bharat. The princely states were released by the British and were required to join one country or another. There were some 560 princely states in the subcontinent. 

In the joy of independence on August 15, 1947, departure of over 200,000 British from India was a smooth and an uneventful affair. Indians had forgotten their humiliation and anger. India also accepted Lord Mountabatten as the first Governor General of the country even after independence. 


India after the Independence

As India was divided into two nations, Pakistan became a Muslim state and forced non-Muslims to leave it. India decided to remain secular providing equal opportunities and justice for all religious and ethnic minorities. But the rage in Pakistan, caused by the new zeal of Islam, led to violence and the migration of Hindu and Sikhs from their homes in Pakistan. Loaded trains of non-Muslims moved out of Pakistan and the Muslims in India at that time left India. In one year, some ten million people moved in opposite directions to find safety. Never had a massive migration taken place in the history of the world. Thousands of people lost their lives and properties in the confused activities that took place during partition. 

It was a difficult task for the Indian Army to control this situation. At this critical point, Mahatma Gandhi came to Delhi and began his fast unto death in search for peace. People listened to him. Gandhi insisted the Hindus to make sure that their Muslims brethren did not leave their homes in India. The strife-torn subcontinent started breathing peace. Later, a bigoted Hindu youngman, Nathu Ram Godse, shot Gandhi dead on January 30, 1948. His  objection was that Gandhi had favoured the Indian Muslims who should have been allowed to go to Pakistan. The nation was stunned. Nehru announced in grief, “The light has gone out of our lives.” The assassination of Gandhi shocked the country, restored sanity, giving Nehru time to build a new India. 


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