New Delhi: The keyword SECULAR from the Preamble of Indian Constitution says all religions in India get equal respect, protection and support from the state. This is not merely a recognition to religions. This is a way to ‘unison’ which makes India known for its “Unity in Diversity” at a global level as well as it holds instances in the history that whenever we rose up with unity, we created wonders.
India's first War of Independence which slowly spread its root since the beginning of 1498 slowly cemented with the British East India Company becoming the major force.
It was an uphill task but was achieved after years of agitations, sacrifices and hard work by the collective people of India. Perhaps, the fact that in spite of India being home to a diverse population it was the coming together of all different movements that finally led the way towards total Independence.
Rise of the Rebel:
During the “British Raj” in India, the Indian sepoys were treated as inferior creatures. They were treated roughly and were even addressed as ‘suar’ or a pig. They were paid less than the British sepoys, were lodged and fed in an even worse manner. The long term suppression was slowly leading to dissatisfaction. An even intense dislike and hatred sparked by 1857 with the episode of greased cartridges which led to a revolt.
By then, the Enfield rifle was introduced in the army, the cartridges of which had a greased cover. This was required to be bitten in order to be loaded in the rifle. The fact that in some instances this greased cover was made of beef and pig fat enraged Hindu as well as Muslim sepoys. They believed their religion was tried to be destroyed for converting them to Christianity.
This was a beginning of discontent which further was provoked when eighty five people of the Native Cavalry were imprisoned and put into fetters when refused to use greased cartridges giving it an immediate cause to Revolt.
Secularity as a strength:
According to an eminent historian Bipin Chandra, much of the strength of the Revolt of 1857 lay in Hindu-Muslim unity. When the sepoys headed towards Delhi during 1857 they proclaimed th aged Bahadur Shah Zafar. The reign of Mughal dynasty made it the traditional symbol of India's political unity.
When Delhi soon was about to become the centre of Revolt and Bahadur Shah its great symbol. This raising of the last Mughal King to the leadership of the country was a recognition of that long reign.
People were united. The rebels together from all religions and communities from some states were coming together to fight and replace the British regime. Some did not join the revolt but showed sympathy for the rebels. They rejoiced on their successes. They boycotted all sepoys who were loyal to British. They refused to give them help or information and even misguided them with wring information.
“In no instance is a friendly glance directed to the white kan's carriage...Oh! that language of the eye! Who can doubt? Who can misinterpret it? It is by it alone that I have learnt our race is not even feared at times by many and that by all it is disliked," a correspondent of London Times, WH Russel wrote.
During that situation, there was a complete cooperation as between Hindus and Muslims. The sepoys respected each other’s sentiments. For an instance, wherever the Revolt was successful, orders were immediately issued banning cow slaughter out of respect for Hindu sentiments. This was also spotted in a bitter complain of senior British official, “In this instance we could not play off the Mohammedans against the Hindus.”
Several Muslim people contributed to the struggle. General Bakht Khan who led the revolt of the Bareilly troops and brought them to Delhi was the one with whom the real command of a Court of soldiers used to lie whereas emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar held a nominal symbolic leadership.The revolt at Kanpur was led by Nana Sahib, the adopted son of Baji Rao II, the last Peshwa. Azimullah was another loyal servant of Nana Sahib who was an expert at political propaganda. The revolt at Lucknow was led by Begum Hazrat Mahal, the Begum of Awadh who also contributed a lot to the instance by helping the sepoys and zamindars in formulating an attack on the British.
Rani Lakshmibai also is one of the great leaders of the Revolt of 1857, also is the greatest heroines of Indian history. The Queen of Jhansi also had a life-long Muslim friend and companion, a Muslim girl who also lost life along with the brave Rani. Maulavi Ahmadullah of Faizabad was one of the outstanding leaders and strategist of the Revolt. He preached the armed rebellion.
The lack of unity among Indians grew unavoidable at a certain stage which became a weaknes as many other rulinh chiefs and big zamindars were active helpers of the British. Some of the States remained quiet. Some weren't at all supporting. Some were cool. Some even abandoned after government's assurance of their States being returned to them. Sustainability of the campaign got disturbed. Zamindars were clearly supporting the British along with the big merchants Bombay, Calcutta and Madras because their maij profits came from foreign trade. The modern educated Indians also not favoured the Revolt due to their belief that Britishers would lead them to modernisation. Later did they realise it would take them to impoverishment. The disunity of Indians proved fatal to revolt. Though the Revolt disappeared, but never went in vain.
Swami Vivekananda, Raja Rammohun Roy, Pandit Vidyasagar, Swami Dayanand Saraswati, Sayyid Ahmad Khan and Ramkrishna Paramhansa were some of the prominent people in the religious and social reforms during the Nationalist movement.
Women played an active and and important role in the freedom struggle. They were a part of agitation against partition of Bengal and in the Home Rule movement. Women marched in political processions, picketed shops selling foreign goods and propagated Khadi. They were even sent to jails. They voted in election to legislatures and even stood as candidates after the period of 1918.
Sarojini Naidu became the President of National Congress. Several women were Ministers and secretaries during 1937.
Woman's participation in India's freedom struggle began as early as in 1817. Bhima Bai Holkar fought bravely against the British colonel Malcolm and defeated him in guerilla warfare. Many women including Rani Channama of Kittur, Rani Begam Hazrat Mahal of Avadh fought against British East India company in the 19th century; 30 years before the “First War of Independence 1857”.
Gandhi ji returned to India from South Africa in 1915 and took up the demand for self-rule and non-cooperation movement. Sarla Devi, Muthulaxmi Reddy, Susheela Nair, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, Sucheta Kripalani and Aruna Asaf Ali are some the women who participated in the non-violent movement. Kasturba Gandhi, the wife of Mahatma Gandhi, and the women of the Nehru family, Kamla Nehru, Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit and Swarup Rani, also participated in the National Movement. Lado Rani Zutshi and her daughters Manmohini, Shyama and Janak led the movement in Lahore.