Many a road that led to India's freedom at midnight of August 14-15, 1947 went through Haryana. That magical moment of India's tryst with destinythat gave us our freedom from British rule was a result of blood, sweat and tears of many Indians across India.
But do you know of Haryana's contribution to the freedom movement? It's important for the current generation to know of the sacrifices that our forefathers and leaders made to give India its freedom and all of us an opportunity to lead a life where we are free in our own land and where all citizens have an equal chance to live and work freely.
The story of Haryana's contribution in making this possible is one of selfless service, heroism and sacrifice, and one that should inspire the youth of today to build a better and more prosperous Haryana.
Haryana: the Battleground
Haryana takes the pride of place in the evolution of Indian history. Right from the time of Mahabharata, where a large part of the epic took place in what is now called Haryana. Kurukshetra was the land where the greatest battle between right and wrong took place. And it is interesting that right through history, Haryana has been a battleground for many battles.
1966: Haryana is Born
Since Haryana was formed in 1966, it was earlier part of Punjab and therefore there is a lot of mention of Punjab in the freedom struggle for independence but little is known of Haryana's contribution in terms of people's sacrifice and the places where significant events took place.
First spark for Independence in Haryana
Are you aware that the 1st spark of revolt in haryana against the British rule started on 10th May, 1857 at Ambala? It was here that the soldiers of the Native Infantry started the revolt by protesting the use of animal fat on the cartridges, which they had to bite off to load their rifles. On the same day, similar revolt took place in the Native Infantry located at Meerut. The incident quickly spread to all parts of Haryana which soon came to be known as the 1st Battle for Independence.
Soon the peasants, soldiers of the then British Army and local leaders all came together under the leadership of a Meo peasant of Pinaghwa called Sadruddin. Local leaders like Rao Tula Ram and his cousin Gopal Dev joined in support of the revolt. Soon General Abdus Samad Khan, Muhammad Azim Beg, Rao Kishan Singh, Rao Ram Lal, all joined in to revolt against the British.
It is important to note, that the ordinary peasants, local soldiers and local leaders of Haryana were at the forefront of this revolt, while the leaders of neighboring regions did not raise their voice against the British Raj during this brief but significant event in Indian history.
Like other parts of Haryana that rose in revolt, Rohtak also saw a violent uprising with all symbols of British Raj being attacked and destroyed. One Bisarat Ali of Kharkhauda, who was a Risaldar in the British Army took charge of the revolt, along with Sabar Khan, a local peasant leader. The local people all came together and began attacking British property and residents. They soon attacked Rohtak. The Deputy Commissioner of Rohtak District, William Loch had to leave Rohtak but the Tehsildar, Bakhtawar Singh and Thanedar, Bhure Khan, were killed.
Finally, on August 15, 1857, Lt W.S.R. Hodson supported by Major General Wilson arrived with re-enforcements and superior arms and took on the locals who had revolted in Kharkhauda. Despite offering stiff resistance, the revolutionaries ultimately were defeated and Bisarat Ali was killed in the struggle. They then proceeded to Rohtak District to take on Sabar Khan, who was leading the revolt there.
Sabar Khan along with the local peasants of Rohtak fought back with the limited resources they had but ultimately Rohtak fell. Meanwhile, the local people of Hissar, Hansi and Sirsa were up in revolt under the leadership of Lala Hukam Chand Jain, his nephew Faqir Chand Jain, Meena Beg, Mohammed Azim, Nur Muhammad, all led the revolt. On 29 May, 1857, they killed 12 Europeans including the Deputy Commissioner of Hissar, John Wedderburn, along with his wife and child. Such was the resentment against the British Raj.
During the brief revolt, other than some parts of Ambala, Thanesar and Jind state, most of the remaining areas of Haryana stood up against the British and stopped paying revenues in rebellion. However, by 16 November the same year, the revolt came to an end and the British consolidated their hold.
Social Awakening in Haryana
Soon after, there was a new movement of social reform that began to take roots in Haryana. On 10th April, 1875, Swami Dayanand started the Arya Samaj in Mumbai. The Arya Samaj spoke out against idol worship, child marriage, untouchability, infanticide, and favoured widow re-marriage and female education. Arya Samaj found a lot of support amongst the people of Haryana and soon grew into a movement that was not only socio-economic awakening but also gave rise to nationalist thought. This was also to have a major influence in the subsequent rise against British Raj.
Very few people know that Lala Lajpat Rai started his public life in Haryana where his father taught at a school in Rohtak. Lala Lajpat Rai promoted the Arya Samaj in a major way. There were many other leading names that contributed in the spread of the movement. Some prominent names of the time were Chaudhury Matu Ram and his son Chaudhury Ranbir Singh, amongst several others.
There was another movement that began to spread in Haryana. In 1886 at Jhajjar, Sanatan Dharam Sabha was started by Din Dayalu Sharma. This movement promoted the use of Sanskrit and Hindi languages, keeping education and traditional values as the basis. Other significant names associated with the movement were Swami Sharddhanand, Chaudhury Matu Ram, Bhagat Phool Singh, Bhim Singh, amongst several others. They too spoke against various social evils, at the time. Both the Arya Samaj and the Sanatan Dharam movements made major contribution to the development of social values in Haryana.
Birth of the Indian National Congress
By 1885, the Indian National Congress (INC) had been born under the aegis of Allan Octavian Hume, a British Civil servant. INC was now growing in its membership with both educated Indians and the common man being drawn to its call for freedom from the British. However, with the World War 1 looming, the British turned to the local Indians for support. And India, responded by offering its sons for battle on behalf of the British Empire. Haryana was again at the forefront contributing 84,001 soldiers that were recruited from four recruitment centres in Delhi, Jhajjar, Rewari and Bhiwani between January 1915 and November 1918.
The Congress offered support for the British with the hope that the British would respond by rewarding a Dominion status to India. Instead, in 1918 the British came out with the Rowlatt Bill and the Montagu-Chelmsford Reform Bills that went against Indians and was opposed all over India. From April 06 to 10 1918, there were hartals in towns like Gurgaon, Ballabhgarh, Jhajjar, Rohtak, Sonepat, Rewari, Panipat, Ambala and Jagadhari.
But it was the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, in Amritsar on 13th April, 1919, where hundreds of innocent, unarmed and completely non-violent protesters were massacred under the orders of Brigadier General R.E.H. Dyer that shook the nation and thus laid the foundation for the call for complete Azadi.
Haryana in the forefront of protest
By now, the Non Cooperation Movement in haryana was gaining ground with more people joining in the call for independence. Several young citizens from Haryana who were studying in places like Delhi and Lahore gave up their education to jump into the freedom movement. Amongst the many names who joined the movement wereDeshbandhu Gupta (Panipat), Lala Janki Dass, Pandit Ram Phool Singh (Rohtak), Lala Ajudhya Prasad (Dadri), Chandrasen Vashisth (Gurgaon) were amongst the long list of patriots. Haryana today owes its gratitude to their nationalism.
There was patriotism and zeal amongst the people and the resentment against the British was only growing and with each passing day, the British began to realise that theIndiawas becoming more difficult to govern.
It took the World War 2, to turn the tide in favour ofIndia becoming independent. The terrible loss of lives suffered by the British and the massive cost of war bled the empire. That along with the growing movement inIndia for independence finally made the British decide to freeIndia from colonial rule. But the freedom came at a terrible cost of communal strife between Hindus and Muslims, which ultimately led to partition and the formation ofPakistan.
So it was India stryst with destinyon Aug 14-15, 1947 that saw India finally achieving its Independence from British rule.
We must never forget the massive sacrifice that our forefathers and leaders made to make this possible and of the significant contribution by all men, women and children of Haryana through the years. Their collective contribution makes us live freely and with dignity today and this is a legacy that we must all uphold together and pass on to the next generation. For this is our land and heritage.
Haryana belongs to all of us, so on this auspicious day, let us all together pledge our support and commitment to developing a better and more prosperous Haryana for all. Jai Hind!