“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment, we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity.”—Tryst with Destiny speech, Jawaharlal Nehru, 15 August 1947
Today, the 15th of August 2015, is the day India celebrates its 69th year of independence from the British rule. After years of struggle, blood shed, civil disobedience movements and mutinies, India was formally declared independent on 15th August, 1947, ending almost 200 years of British colonisation.
This freedom did not come easy and certainly did not come cheap. Millions of people sacrificed their lives, homes and loved ones for the struggle. The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 was one of the most important landmarks of the Indian struggle against the British rule and is considered the flame that kindled the fire.
Over the years, as British ill treatment of Indians increased (they were discriminated against in their own country, punished heavily for petty crimes and completely sidelined by the British), dissatisfaction grew and led to the establishment of revolutionary groups across the country. Several small wars were waged but they did little to displace the English.
Finally in 1947, Lord Mountbatten, the last British Governor-General of India, announced that the British would be leaving India. But this announcement was followed by the decision to divide the British Indian Empire along religious lines – India and Pakistan; with the majority of the Muslim population moving to Pakistan. The partition was followed by violent riots leading to mass casualties and displacement of millions of people. Even to this date, hundreds of families separated by the two borders, remain to be united.
On 15th August 1947, the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru hoisted the Indian national flag over the Red Fort in New Delhi. And since then, every year on this day the Indian Prime Minister raises the tri-colour and makes a speech from the ramparts of the fort. The day is marked by colourful parades, flag hoisting ceremonies and other events across the country.
So on this 69th year of independence, here is wishing all my fellow Indians a very Happy Independence Day! We have remained secular so long and I hope we continue to do so.