In the 16th century, the British approached the then rulers of India for trade alliances. They foresaw the rich resources in the region , the abundant wealth of the Raja’s and Nizam’s and also the cultural richness and diversity. The country was an ideal target for extending trade relations. The did enter our waters for trade but slowly started misusing the hospitality extended. They made strong attempts of capturing ports, aspiring to establish a British dominion in India.
India was the largest producers of industrial goods in the world. The fine cotton and silk fabrics, were in great demand all over the world. This rich produce enabled us to earn lot of gold and silver. Our produce was used both within the country and was exported too. With the fall of the Mughal dynasty in the latter half of the 18th century, India was weakened by Persian and Afghan invasions. It was torn by internal conflicts. The royal princes sought the help of British to solve their disputes and the Britisher’s took advantage of this opportunity to establish their rule. By the beginning of the 19th century they had become a very important ruling authority in India. Unfair trade practices and exacting land revenues from the poor and rich countrymen together was slowly crippling the economy of the once rich country. The Britishers were clearly determined to weaken the economy and initiated a slow invasion in the Indian trade. The first soft targets were artisans, skilled workers, craftsmen and cultivators of Bengal. They tried to rob these people of their skill and they were forced to sell their rich produce only to the Britishers and no one else. The price offered was very basic, almost negligible. Each artisan had to work in presence of the British guards. The poor artisan had no option but submit to the atrocities of the Englishmen. Oppressed by the British thousands of weavers fled their homes.
Meanwhile the Britisher’s build up the fabric industry like that of cotton and charged heavy duty on Indian cotton weaves and less on their own produce, slowly leading the way to extinction of weavers who were paid less. The quality of the British cotton was low and Indian cotton was far from superior . But, the poor weavers were not given much money on their produce . After much exploitation and atrocities this skilled lot then turned to earning their livelihood by cultivating crops on agricultural lands. The Britisher’s saw a great prospect of earning land revenue in the agricultural sector too. They appointed zamindars who were yes-men and would do whatever to extract money from the poor people. Exploitations continued and the country’s economy was on the brink of a breakdown. The Britisher’s managed to cripple the agrarian economy with the help of exploiting zamindars and money lenders. Famines added to the misery of the farmers. Seeds were kept aside for the next sowing, too, were cornered, causing a further rise in the price of food grain. Various type of taxes was exacted even from vegetable vendors, carpenters etc. The poor became poorer and some even tried to migrate but later got killed by the Britisher’s . The rich Indians too were not spared, when a firangi(foreigner) was sighted travelling in a coach, the rich Indian would have to wait and allow the firangi to pass by. If the paths crossed then it was considered disrespectful by the English and the rich or poor passerby would have to face grave consequences. Such instances caused sprouting of disdain among the affluent Indians too. Though qualified they were considered unfit for high public officers. The British criminal could literally get away with murder, if the hapless victim happened to be one of our countrymen.
Religious insecurities, matters of religions were hurt by missionaries offended the Indian countrymen. In the military cantonments, fat from cows and pigs were being used to grease the cartridges for the new musket. This was taken very offensively by the sepoys as an attempt to defile them and convert to Christianity. Ultimately, the frustrated Indian who was exploited for almost hundred years decided to raise and take up arms and strike a blow to safeguard their religion. At all sections of the wounded Indian society be it rich or poor, educated or illiterate wanted to revolt with the foreign force. This ultimately led to the beginning of the fight of India for independence.
The national uprising, 1857, created the freedom fervour and took the Britisher’s by surprise. Year on year after 1857 the struggle of Indians countrymen continued, but somehow British with their strong force could defeat these rising mutinies. But, the spirit of fighting for independence did not die and struggles continued for almost 90 years after the first national uprising, the first rebellion by the Indians. Ultimately India got independence on 15th August, 1947. The country was now free from the foreign exploits and each Indian will be proud of this day for the sacrifices laid by his fellow countrymen for the centuries gone.