To refresh my memory of this other kind of freedom fighters who sought nothing and got nothing, I got a DVD and watched the film Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey where the story of Surya Sen, the architect of the Chiittagong Armed Robbery has been essayed. The lives of such revolutionaries and their spirit of sacrifice have to be seen to be believed. But how many of you have heard of Surya Sen? Or of Jatin Das, who died in Lahore prison after a fast of 63 days (the only political fast unto death in pre independence India), fighting for the improvement in the living conditions of the Indian prisoners? Jatin Das was a contemporary of Bhagat Singh, who of course would follow Jatin Das in dying for his country.
While organized political pressure was one of four main factors that brought India to the goal of independence. The other three were violent resistance; non-violent resistance; and the influence of global political and economic changes. Violent resistance to British rule began when Indian military forces opposed the encroachments of the British East India Company in the mid eighteenth century. In the end this resistance proved unsuccessful. By 1818 the Company was in control of the greater part of the subcontinent. But its control was not uncontested. Between 1770 and 1900, there were more than a hundred instances of armed insurgency in various parts of India. The most significant of these was of course the Great Rebellion – sometimes still known as the Sepoy Mutiny – of 1857-8. It shook the foundations of the East India Company, but it also led to the replacement of Company rule by that of the British crown.
Later on, people like Netaji, of whom the late Lakshmi Sehgal was an associate, was of the firm belief that the British could only be thrown out by force. He had no constitutional means and peaceful methods for the attainment of freedom. He disagreed with Gandhi’s method of struggling for freedom. He thought that India under Gandhi’s principles will not attain freedom and never achieve at all. He could not rely on Gandhi on this. While working as an active protagonist of the Congress, he had formed the Forward Block, a political formation which still exists as a minor constituent of West Bengal’s Left Front.
In our history books, we only study about the Gandhian methods adopted to achieve independence and these were largely guided by liberal ideology, constitutional agitation, effective argument, and fervent appeal to the democratic consciousness and traditions of the British were the accepted methods of struggle. Gradualism and constitutionalism were the key concepts. While I myself would not agree with the politics of violence adopted by the revolutionary freedom fighters, credit must still be given to their motives, idealism and selflessness, if not their approach.