A survey carried out in various cities of India has revealed that today’s youths have forgotten its history and have no idea about what happened in the year 1857. For some, it signifies a car’s number plate. While for others, it’s a year when riots took place. There are those for whom dates don’t matter at all, only personalities like Mahatma Gandhi do. Then comes the ones who, in their wide embrace of history, attribute the events of 1857 to Bhagat Singh and Shivaji.Many historians called this First War of Independence as a ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ of 1857. For them, it was just a bunch of Indian sepoys (soldiers) who had mutinied. They largely failed to recognise the involvement of a vast section of Indian society that took part in this struggle. Peasants and nobles all were involved.
It may be the First War of Independence, but it is a mutiny the nation seems to be in a hurry to forget. Several political parties and the government talked a lot about the year-long celebrations planned (starting May 10, last year) to mark the 150th anniversary of the 1857 revolt, but in the time of Indian Premiere League (IPL) and other more mundane things, the ‘1857 struggle’ appears to have failed to stir the imagination of the country. The struggle, which is an example of the unity, in which people from various sections of the society participated unitedly.
But our political parties are just not interested in the ‘unity’ aspect of the struggle and all of them individually carried out few events and processions suiting their ideology. The government flagged off Azadi Express, a train showcasing the events of the struggle, ‘freedom movement chair’, event in Meerut last year and some processions in New Delhi. But our political parties used this occasion to direct their guns at the rivals. Sitaram Yechury took his usual dig at Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for having stayed away from the freedom struggle, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), obviously, cannot be part of any observations and celebrations of that glorious history of Indian people’s struggle. If that is the case then let me tell you that neither did communist took part in the freedom struggle, nor did the Congress in the current shape.(Congress has been divided so many times that the Congress, which was there during the freedom struggle is not the one that we have today). Neither you nor me participated in the movement, but then can’t we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the struggle?
I strongly feel that we should keep politics aside in the matter of national interest. Why blame only Communist Part of India (Marxists) (CPM), even BJP and Congress are also no saint in this. Uttar Pradesh holds a key place in the First War of Independence, but the chief minister seems to have forgotten the occasion. On May 13, the Mayawati government celebrates the completion of its one year in office. But while the state gears up for a round of pomp and pageantry to celebrate the achievement of the state’s first woman chief minister, Uttar Pradesh has forgotten another woman’s sacrifice – Rani Laxmi Bai. In the entire anniversary year, the state government organised only one rally in Lucknow in May 2007. People in cities like Meerut, Lucknow, Kanpur and Jhansi, which were focal points of the revolt , does not even know about the significance of May 10. A senior culture department official told a leading newspaper in an interview that out of the rupees three crore sanctioned for the 1857 anniversary programmes in 2007-08, only Rs50 lakh had been utilised. There is no prize for guessing where the rest of amount must have been utilised.
India’s First War of Independence carried on as late as 1859, while in some instances before it was finally over. A number of heroes and heroines of the India’s First War of Independence have been immortalised for their fight against the British rule.
But we have forgotten them. There is a common saying, “History is a guide to navigation in perilous times. History is who we are and why we are the way we are.”
“Shaheedon ki chitaaon par lagenge har baras mele. Watan pe mitne waalon ka yahi baaki nishaan hoga.” Isn’t it true?
If you are interested in reading more about the First War of Independence, refer-