During India’s freedom struggle, starting with the First War of Independence, colonially called Indian Mutiny of 1857, Punjab’s zealous contribution matched that of any other State of the country.
Kuka or Namdhari movement of Baba Ram Singh, a dedicated follower of Guru Nanak and Guru Gobind Singh, defied the unjust British Rule politically and sought to sweep the cant of superstitions, inequality of women, casteism, animal slaughter for the palate, drinking, injustice to the down-trodden, off the back of the Punjabi Society. The movement for the first time, highlighted the need for swadeshi as also for non-violence; it sacrificed 66 kukas, in 1872, who were brutally blasted by canon, placing them literally at the gun-mouth one by one.
In 1913, Lala Hardyal, Sohan Singh Bhakna, Vaisakha Singh and Jwala Singh formed the Ghaddar Party in USA, with headquarters at San Francisco and branches in Japan, China, Fiji and Malaya. Gurdit Singh it was who sponsored the Japanese ship Kama Gata Maru which was illegally disallowed to touch its destination, Canada, provoking a rebellious procession which was fired upon, killing 23 persons.
Underground activities were organised by towering Punjabis like Ajit Singh, Lala Lajpat Rai, Madan Lal Dhingra and Bhai Parmanand. Many revolutionaries wer hunted out and imprisoned or shot dead, Eighty-two were hanged, including the firebrand young hero, Kartar Singh Sarabha who was hardly 20. But the patriotic sentiment was kept brightly burning by several movements like the Singh Sabha, Arya Samaj and Akali Movements and by organisations like Bharat Mata Society, Naujawan Bharat Sabha and Kirti Kisan Sabha, to name only the prominent ones.
Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha against the black Rowlatt Act found a popular support in Punjab. His arrest on 8 April, 1919, at Palwal, on way to Punjab, evoked widespread demonstration to crush which O’Dwyer, the Punjab Governor, let loose a reign of terror under the army general, Dyer, Jallianwala Bagh massacre at Amritsar on 13 April, 1919, the Baisakhi day, which proved a turning point in the history of not only of Punjab but also of India.
In 1928, huge Punjab crowds greeted the Simon Commission with shouts of "Go Back" and waving of black flags. Lala Lajpat Rai the lion of Punjab, fell to the murderous police lathi charge, ordered by Saunders. The dying leader prophesied that "each lathi blow on my body would prove a nail driven into the coffin of the British Empire in India".
Bhagat Singh, Punjab’s prince among Indian martyrs, alongwith Sukhdev and Rajguru, expressed their anger at Lala Lajpat Rai’s death by throwing bombs and leaflets in the Indian Legislative Assembly on April 8, 1929. That day India was also given the slogan "Inqilab Zindabad". The Trio surrendered themselves, exhibiting the noblest expression of heroism. On 23 March, 1930, these heroes were hanged under cover of darkness on the banks of the Sutlej, near Ferozepur.
It was at Lahore that Jawaharlal Nehru declared at the Congress Session in 1930 that the goal of India, henceforth would be complete Independence. Remarkable contribution was made by Punjab to the Quit India Movement in 1942. During the Second world war, many Punjabi soldiers joined the Indian National Army, INA, started by Subhash Bose, General Mohan Singh, Captain Dhillon are shining names in INA history.
When the rest of India was celebrating the dawn of Independence, Punjab was burning in the furnace of partition. But, with its courageous fortitude and proverbial resilence, Punjab rose out of the ashes of Partition, like the mystical Chinese bird Phoenix, young and vigorous to take its well earned place of pride among the Indian People.
The text and images in this section are from the
Archives of the Punjab Government.
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