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August 18, 2007

Mainstream,
- VOL XLV No 35, August 18, 2007

YOU must have heard about the war of independence which broke out in Meerut, Delhi, Lucknow and many other parts of India though very few people perhaps know the details....

There are two or three broad facts to be kept in mind. One, there is no doubt about it that whatever the causes behind it may have been, it was an Indian struggle for independence. It was an expression of resentment against the yoke of foreign rule and an attempt to get rid of it. What might have followed if the movement had succeeded is a different matter. Secondly, it is true that the religious sentiments of the Hindus and the Muslims were hurt by the suspicion that the British were forcing them to use bullets which had pork in it. But it is wrong to say that that was the cause of the revolt. The real reason was people’s anger against British rule and other factors including religion were part of it. You will find that throughout those two years, there was no communal disharmony of any kind in spite of our ingrained habit of internecine feuds. Both Hindus and Muslims participated in the movement and in victory as well as in defeat, they marched shoulder to shoulder....

Exactly a hundred years ago today on the 10th of May, our war of independence began in Meerut and shook up pactically the whole of north India to its foundation. At no time after that can it be said that the people of India fully accepted foreign domination. It is true that the British rule went on for a long time after that. But the flame of freedom burnt bright at all times....

(From Jawaharlal Nehru’s Speech on Centenary of 1857 Revolt, Ramlila Grounds, Delhi, May 10, 1957)

In the broad historical perspective of India’s struggle against British domination what needs being stressed is not the limitation and narrowness of the 1857 uprising but its sweep, breadth and depth. The 1857 uprising stands sharply demarcated from all the earlier anti-British wars of resistance fought on Indian soil....

One of the great positive achievements of the 1857 uprising acclaimed with justified pride by the Indian national movement has been the noble attempt to forge, and sustained efforts to maintain, against British machinations, Hindu-Muslim unity for the successful conduct of the struggle....

The insurgent leaders consciously laid great stress on Hindu-Muslim unity for the success of the struggle. Bahadur Shah, the sepoy leaders, the learned Ulema and Shastris issued proclamations and fatwas stressing that Hindu-Muslim unity was the call of the hour and the duty of all... In the highest political and military organ of insurgent leadership Hindus and Muslims were represented in equal numbers...

... the great national uprising of 1857 laid the foundation for the worldwide democratic solidarity with the Indian struggle in its next phase and our new national movement built itself on healthy internationalist traditions... It was thus no accident that after the achievement of independence India emerged as a great world power championing the cause of world peace and the liberation of all subject nations....

(From P.C. Joshi’s “1857 In Our History” written and published on Centenary of 1857 Revolt)