India is celebrating its 75th Independence Day with zeal and elation. It was a result of vigorous and determined attempts as well as sacrifices that India gained its freedom in 1947 from the despot British rulers. People from several religious and cultural backgrounds took part in this movement, but the outstanding participation and great sacrifices of Muslims under the leadership of their sincere leaders and religious scholars are generally being overlooked, if only because of the lack of information. If it continues so, perhaps the coming generation will not even know that we and our ancestors also played an unforgettable role in India’s freedom struggle which overthrew the British and ended their power not only from India but also from the Muslim countries of Asia and Africa, where its grip was considered strong and its fall, imminent.
The dignified Indians were persistent in their resistance against the oppressive rule and tyranny of the British in India from the very first day. This resistance gradually laid the foundation of a great movement that became so spirited for the freedom of India that the then considered invincible power of the British could not suppress it. It was the result of myriad sacrifices the participants of this movement had made within a century that proved that Indians would not accept tyrant British as their rulers under any circumstances.
It is generally said that the armed struggle against the British started in 1857. This is a lie that has been deliberately made public so that the movement which started a hundred years before 1857 following the resistance and revolutions led by Siraj-ud-Daula of Bengal in 1757, Majnu Shah in 1776 and 1780, Hyder Ali in 1767, his son Sultan Tipu in the late eighteenth century, Maulvi Shariatullah and his son Dadu Miyan in 1812 and Syed Ahmad Shaheed in 1831 against the British can be buried in the dust of history. Moreover, this way, the countrymen remain unaware that the spark of hatred against the British was burning in the hearts of the Muslims from the day they set their unholy feet on this land. For a hundred years, the Muslims fought against them with full force and power under the direction of their scholars, until 10 May 1857, when the second phase of the freedom movement began and non-Muslim citizens also registered their participation in the freedom struggle.
The first among the Indian rulers to realize the threat of the British was Fateh Ali Khan Sultan Tipu, the brave and heroic ruler of Mysore. Sultan Tipu, also known as the ‘Tiger of Mysore‘, with his mature vision and extraordinary intelligence, realized that if no strong and organized power stood before the British, they would divide the entire country into provinces and states. He fought four wars against the British under his father Hyder Ali as well as after him. In 1799, a British-led coalition of nearly 50,000 troops – an army made up of the best of all the British East India Company’s client states marched towards Mysore. This was a very vast army as compared to Tipu’s. The British were unable to defeat Tipu Sultan due to his valour and war tactics anyhow. Therefore, the British following their old tactic bought traitors like Tipu Sultan’s Prime Minister Mir Sadiq, another minister Mir Moinuddin, an army general Mir Qamaruddin, artillery in-charge Ghulam Ali Langra and army chief Pandit Purnia. These faithless traitors opened the gates of the Sultan’s fort for the English troops at their own cost. The Sultan set out to fight with his Muslim general, Raja Khan, but he too was influenced by Pandit Purnia and joined the British. Despite asking for water on the very battlefield, this traitor did not even give water to the Sultan but advised him to surrender himself to the British. It was after hearing this that Sultan Tipu uttered the historic sentence which is still written in gold letters, “To me, one day’s life of a lion is better than a hundred years of a jackal’s life”.
The battle of 1857 plays one of the most significant roles in the history of India, in which the revolutionaries united and raised their voices against the British, recognizing the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar as the king on 11 May 1857 and continued to fight against the British. Now the king was not a nominal king, but his authority was proclaimed. The royal decree had already begun. Now the King was playing the leading role. Within a few days, Delhi was captured by defeating the British. Being the central figure in this alteration of sovereignty, Bahadur Shah Zafar was convicted and exiled to Rangoon. In the year 1858, the crescent flag of our majesty was taken down and the Union Jack was hoisted. On the one hand, the British were hoisting the flag of their values on the citadel of our majesty and power, and on the other hand, we lined up to compete with them in the field of freedom.
in 1915, a government was formed by some revolutionaries in Kabul, Afghanistan, separated from India under the British, presided by Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh with Professor Barkatullah Bhopali, serving as its Prime Minister. This regime came into being under the ‘Reshmi Rumal Movement’. The pioneering founders and operators of this movement were Maulana Mahmood ul Hasan Deobandi, Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi, Professor Barkatullah Bhopali, and Raja Mahendra Pratap Singh, etc. These people had established a freedom struggle party (Inqalabi Jamat) in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, which continued to implement its strategy after 1905. The silk handkerchief was given by Maulana Mahmood-ul-Hasan, a famous revolutionary and theologian of Deoband, to the members of his revolutionary party (Jamaat). His responsibility was to lead a powerful rebellion against the British by forming an alliance with the Ottoman Empire, the Emirate of Afghanistan, and the German Empire. A special day and time were fixed for this but the plan was revealed before it could succeed. These handkerchiefs were made in a special way, if some of their threads were moved back and forth, the signature of Maulana Mahmud-ul-Hasan would emerge. On the basis of many reasons, this movement failed, but by keeping its experiences and ideologies in the center, the wave of national independence arose after 1920 and the emergence of violent and non-violent successful movements on a large scale had the light of this movement working behind them. Despite its failure, it has its own special place in history.
It is an undeniable certitude, explicitly penned by prominent History writers of Urdu, Hindi, and English like Santimoy Roy, Sir Edward Thompson, Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and many more, that Muslims who contributed with their utmost capacity throughout India’s struggle for independence were Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Shaheed Abdul Hamid, Husain Ahmad Madani, Abul Kalam Azad, Muhammad Ali, Shibli Nomani, Shaukat Ali, Allama Iqbal, Mohammad Barkatullah, Bi Amma (mother of Ali brothers), Badaruddin Tyabji, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Dr. M.A. Ansari, Dr. Siafudeen Kichlu, Dr. Basheer Ahmad, Syed Ameer Ali, Dr. Syed Muhammad, Hasrat Mohani, Nawab Abdul Latheef, Altaf Hussain Hali, Syed Ahmad Sirhindi, Syed Ahmad Bareily, Munshi Karamat Ali, Munshi Zakaullah, Begum Hazrat Mahal and countless others stand as shining exemplars.
Syed Ilham Jafri is a student pursuing English Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Maria Aqdas
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.