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India: a nation, a feeling, a belonging, a civilization of thousands of years, centuries of evolution. When we (not all of us, particularly Historians and History lovers) go back to the books and try to trace out the roots of this country’s thousands of years old civilization, it’s but natural that there are a few incidents in every decade or every century that changed the shape and direction of the nation and played an important role in it’s evolution process. For those of us who believe that history is the play of the contingent and unforeseen, that no event is inevitable until they happen and that there are many plausible possibilities in every decision, “what if so and so event hadn’t happened?” becomes the most intriguing of questions. But, fortunately or unfortunately those events took place and yeah, they effected our lives in some way or the other. This small piece of my writing focuses on those incidents, without which India wouldn’t have been the same nation, in which we live now. These incidents include only those of them, which has been witnessed by Independent India.
…the first tragedy: Partition of India.
Sorry for being a bit pre Independent, but I couldn’t stop myself from including this incident, as if this wouldn’t have happened, only God knows Where India would have been today.
One summer in 1946 changed the destiny of the entire nation, plunged it into chaos and gave it the bloodiest riots in its history. In the spring of 1946, the Labour government sent out to India the cabinet mission which consisted of Lord Patrick-Lawrence, the secretary of state for India, AV Alexander, first lord of the admiralty, Sir Stafford Cripps, president of the board of trade, to see how can the power could be transferred to an independent India. The main task of this mission was to convince our Indian leaders that British government really intended to leave our country. The second most important task of this mission was to help the viceroy to establish a constitution making body or a constituent assembly, which could prepare a rulebook to administer good governance. The then British Prime minister Lord Attlee was well aware of the Hindu-Muslim differences in India at that time, as formerly he had been a member of the Simon commission. In 1946,the clashes between the congress and the Muslim league over the issues and ideologies of the united/undivided India and a partitioned India were on their peak. In 1946, Pakistan was not a non-negotiable demand. Jinnah and Pt. Nehru had their reasons of their views on united and partitioned India but the most unfortunate incident was the riot which took place during that time. The bloodsheds of partition can never be washed out from our history.
Beginning of a new era: The constitution of India.
It took our constituent assembly two years, eleven months and eighteen days to complete the world’s lengthiest constitution for the world’s largest democracy, the Constitution of India. The constitution of India consists of 395 Articles and 12 schedules. The constituent assembly had more than 300 members. In his magisterial history of the Indian Constitution ,Granville Austin identifies twenty as being the most influential. Of these, as many as twelve had law degrees, including the congress stalwarts, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Vallabh bhai Patel and Rajendra Prasad.
The day 26th of January,1950 was a red-letter day in the history of India. On that day the written constitution of India came into operation. January 26th was purposefully chosen because since 1930 it was celebrated as the day of complete independence throughout India by millions of people .And since then, We the people of India are proud citizens of this great democratic republic.
The Abolishment of Zamindari.
One of the greatest milestones achieved by our then Lawmakers in the early and infant phase of the Indian republic was the abolishment of zamindari system. In 1951,the Indian Parliament passed a law amending the Right to property shown in articles 19 and 31 of the Constitution which gave power to the state governments to make laws to abolish zamindari system in their respective states. Interestingly, it was the first amendment in our constitution. At that time, it was one of the major successful steps taken by the Indian Government to ensure the dream of socio-economic justice in Independent India. Also, it should be noted that Zamindari system came to India during Mughal period and so, it is understood that it wasn’t an easy task for the Nehru government to abolish an almost two centuries old system, which was and is, still to some extent or the other, deeply rooted in rural parts of India.
The Green Revolution.
A new agricultural strategy was adopted in India during the third five year plan i.e., during 1960s.Adoption of the new technologies like HYV(high yielding variety) seeds in the field of agriculture proved to be yet another milestone for India as it enabled us in being self-sufficient in the fields of crops production. It was only due to this modern revolutionary techniques that India could cope up with the challenges like famine and agrarian crisis. It was a brainchild of a Mexican professor, Prof.Norman Bourlog but it was implemented in India under the supervision of eminent scientist Dr.M.S. Swaminathan. Green revolution is considered as revolutionary because it was introduced at such a point of time in India, when the Indian masses were suffering from a phase of food crisis and thus, this revolution proved to be a savior for millions of people.
The Nationalization of Banks.
In July 1969,the then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi brought an ordinance to nationalize fourteen privately owned banks which was later ratified as an act by the parliament. This was seen as another tool of the government to promote economic equality. Not only this many polity-economic scholars termed this step of Mrs.Gandhi, more as a social initiative, rather than an economic or financial strategy. Earlier, the banks were owned privately by the big business/corporate houses.In 1980,after the Janta Government fell, Mrs.Gandhi resumed her task of nationalizing banks by converting six major privately owned banks into nationalized banks.
Justice Jagmohan Lal Saxena of Allahabad High Court, who was hearing the election petition against Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then PM had held her guilty of misusing official machinery during poll campaign. He had debarred her from occupying an elected office for six years but had stayed the order for three weeks from June 12 to July 3,1975, to enable her to go in appeal to the Supreme Court. The opposition had attacked Mrs. Gandhi on many counts: corruption, authoritarianism and her scant respect for democratic traditions. But nothing seemed to work. The judgment did. After the Allahabad High Court’s verdict, Mrs. Gandhi consulted her lawyer-confidant, the West Bengal CM Siddhartha Shankar Ray, who advised her to impose Internal Emergency, when she said that there was an External Emergency. While imposing emergency, Mrs. Gandhi said in defense that she had foiled “the plot to negate the very functioning of democracy.” On 25th June,1975 the National Emergency was declared. Historians consider this day as a Black Day of India, which made a mockery of our country’s democratic values. Mrs. Gandhi’s this decision shattered the whole country and the emergency faced a wide opposition all over India.
Operation Blue Star.
Operation Blue Star was nothing like the routine counter-insurgency operations we had seen in a few parts of India. The date was 5th June, 1984 and the venue was The Golden Temple, Amritsar. The Golden Temple was captured by Jarnail Singh Bhindarwale and his troops who demanded the India’s partition and make another country for Punjabis i.e., Khalistan. As dusk fell on June 5, commandos dressed in jet-black dungarees slipped into the temple through the road between the stairs and the Guru Ramdass Lunger building. Tanks and howitzers were used. The army controlled the entire state of Punjab. Mrs. Gandhi, the then PM, denied that she had given the orders to the military, to carry such a devastating operation. But the historians claim that the Indian army is far too disciplined to have undertaken such a major operation without clear orders from the highest authority. However, such devastation was never expected by Mrs. Gandhi nor her generals. Nevertheless, she was well aware of the risks involved in any military operation in the Golden temple and yet she gave orders for the operation Blue Star suggests that she had no other alternative left. The army managed to clear the Golden Temple, Bhindarwale and his key lieutenants were killed but terrorism returned to Punjab and survived for a whole decade. Blue star unleashed a cycle of revenge not seen since the partition and resulted in widespread mutiny in the Army sikh units. The operation Blue Star finally resulted in the assassination of the Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi by her sikh bodyguards, which marked the end of an era. This assassination was followed by a huge massacre of Sikhs throughout the country especially in Delhi.
The Shahbano case.
This is a controversial case alimony and maintenance in Muslim. This case in fact highlights how people use religion as a tool for their own personal vendetta. Supreme Court had passed a masterpiece judgment, giving right to Muslim woman of maintenance on monthly basis, but then it was over turned by a legislation passed by the parliament with full majority- Muslim Women (Protection on Rights of Divorce) Act,1986. The events that took place actually shakes the faith in how people have manipulated Islam, the need for Uniform Civil Code, and how congress used religion as a tool to get votes.
The Pokharan Test 1998
The decision to explode five nuclear devices at Pokharan on May 11 and 13,1998 and to weaponise India’s nuclear option was made pre-empetively in the utmost secrecy, in the name of national security and “Shakti”, without any objective review, in disregard of the consequences for the region and basic interest of the Indian people. These circumstances defined the character of the event. When India conducted five nuclear tests in summer of 1998, political shock waves were felt across the world. Eminent scientists like R.Chidambaram and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam dressed like army personnel with pseudonyms of Major Nagraj and Major Prithvi Raj respectively, carried out their conversation during the operation Shakti in code words to bluff the foreign satellites (especially USA) who were keeping an eye on the every step of India towards being a nuclear super power.
New Century, New Story.
With these brief accounts of the major incidents that played a vital role in taking India, wherever it is right now, there are a very few incidents so far in the twenty-first century said to brought major change in lives of people in India. The bloodstains of Godhra 2002, are still be washed, judgments like Delhi High Court gave in Naz foundation case need to be applauded widely, still we need to realize that we have achieved a lot and a lot is yet to be achieved.With technological enhancement and infrastructural developments, we need to learn to be attached to our soil and values of integrity and brotherhood. Indian socio-cultural values needs to be implanted in every Indian citizen since their childhood, then only the future goals can be achieved.
Author: Vishal Kumar Singh
About the author: Vishal Kumar Singh is a third year law student pursuing his five year B.A. LL.B.(H.) degree from School of Law and Governance, Central University of South Bihar.