It is a picture story. It recalls the story of freedom through pictures. It also explains the idea that led to the first war of Independence in 1857.
At a function in Delhi, Lata Mangeskar sang patriotic song “Aye Mere Waten Ke Logon”. She called upon the Indians to recall with tearful eyes the sacrifices of Indian freedom fighters.
The English East India Company came to India for trade. But with its superior weapons of diplomacy they extended its power in the 18th century. Indian princes were divided and short-sighted. People in India had no peace due to constant fights among the states of the country. They sought the help of the English merchants to defeat each other. These rivalries helped the Company to defeat and subdue Indian princes one by one.
A far-sighted ruler like the brave Tipu Sultan of Mysore fought the British till he died fighting.
Now Indians reacted to the conquests made by the English Company. Some of them thanked God as well as the British for restoring peace in the country and stop looting. They said their destiny was linked with the English.
But there were others who felt unhappy. They complained that the white man had killed or dethroned their kings. No doubt some kings were bad, but after all they were Indians. Under the white rulers, they had become slaves.
Some religious leaders supported the social evils such as untouchability and child marriage. They forbade crossing the seas and going abroad. A few said that women were to blame for all the misery. The truth was that Indians had lost self-respect. The white hated and disbelieved them.
The English were merchants first. Their aim was to make quick profits. They imposed heavy taxes on the farmers. They sent many farmers to jail for failing to pay their tax arrears. They destroyed Indian cottage industries also in order to sell goods manufactured in England. They exempted all goods imported from England from duties. Thus they ruined Indian artisans and their business.
Ram Mohan Roy, a learned social reformer from Bengal, understood what was wrong with the country. He called upon the people to feel proud of their ancient culture, and get the society rid of silly superstitions. He pointed out that all religions preached the same thing. He understood the importance of science and modern knowledge. He started newspapers but the British stopped them in 1823. He crossed the seas and went to England to see what made the British so powerful. He then adopted the middle path. He agreed to accept the British as rulers but they must remember the responsibilities of rulers towards their subjects.
From 1765 to 1835, the British continued to oppress Indians. In 1818, they passed a resolution under which an Indian could be jailed without trial. The British officers in India drew huge salaries and also made fortunes in private business. As a result, Britain prospered while Indian industries began to decline. Governor-General Bentinck wrote back home about the starving cotton weavers.
Indians were taught Persian and Sanskrit. In 1835, an English man named Macaulay recommended the teaching of English in India. English education produced clerks who were given petty jobs. But it also produced a set of intellectuals. They said that Indians should learn English. They should improve their economic conditions and then convey their grievances to the British Parliament.
By 1856, the British had conquered the whole of India. They cared little about the welfare of Indians. Indian kings and rulers became puppets of the British. The people had lost all jobs and lands. They felt the need to drive the white man out. The Santhals revolted in 1855 and killed many Europeans. The Indian soldiers in the British army were also dissatisfield because they were poorly paid. They were sent to other countries. Sepoy Mangal Pandey attacked the white and was hanged. Thousands of other sepoys were also put in chains. The Brahmin soldiers came to know that their bullets had fat of cows and pigs. The message was sent from village to village to get ready for the revolt. The sepoys marched to Delhi and accepted Emperor Bahadur Shah as their head.
The rebellion spread. Many landlords also joined it. Begum Hazrat Mahal of Lucknow and Azimulla Khan, Peshwa Nana Sahib, Kunwar Singh of Bihar pitched battles all over north India. So did the people in Bareilly, Kanpur and Allahabad. This marked the beginning of India’s first war of Independence.
Notes For the Teacher