Saturday, May 16, 2009

Indian Strugge for Independence Vs American War of Independence

I visited Mt Vernon today. It is the home of United States' first president General George Washington. The mansion and grounds are somewhat interesting. But I found their museum / education center to be truly wonderful.

It was in the museum at Mt Vernon that I discovered exactly for how long the American War of Independence went on: eight years, from 1775 to 1783.

Just EIGHT years! By contrast, the first war of Indian Independence happened in 1857. The British had already colonized many parts of India for years before then. It would be 90 - NINETY - f-ing more years after that first so called war for India to get its independence. How many more humiliated, killed, enslaved during that time? How much of India's wealth shipped to Britain, while India was impoverished, famines caused and millions killed?

In fact, we don't (CAN'T) even call India's bid for freedom a war. We only call it a struggle. Like a slave's struggle for freedom.

Nearly 62 years after we got independence, as I sit here and type this, my heart burns! We had to 'struggle' to get the freedom that should have been ours by right. An ancient civilization, which had already had many great and vast empires, a land which had raised countless armies of its own, a land of millions of people - such a land had to struggle for over a century before becoming independent. An independence which came with the cost of partition, a cost paid for by the life and blood and property of millions.

By contrast, America's army that fought in their war of independence was relatively young. It was outnumbered by the British army 10-to-1. The American population (not counting the Native Americans) was extremely small, compared to the Indian population. They WON their independence in just eight years. They did not wait for any f-ing British to grant them independence. They just declared it and they stuck to their guns.

As we drove back from Mt Vernon, I kept telling to myself: "No wonder India is where it is, compared to where America is".


  1. And I never understood why Gandhi insisted on a non-violent struggle for freedom, and why a country of millions mutely followed his philosophy in this regard.

  2. There are so many factors that drove India's Struggle for Independence. I don't know whether it is right to say that 1857 was a 'War of Independence' it was a civil rebellion in which all sections of society from landlords to peasants and soldiers decided to take a stand against the British and their policies.

    I think the one reason why India took such a long time is because of its heterogenous population. Also the level of awareness and identity as a nation. Indians are still so confused as to who they are. They would rather relate to a more parochial identity like that of a Tamilian or Gujarati than a broader identity like an INDIAN. This was the same problem at that time- lack of unity and a common sense of being Indians under the British rule.It took a long time to for Indians to unite as ONE against the British. Only a few individuals like the freedom fighters and leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bhagat Singh and Mahatma were educated had the vision to see Indians as enchained by the British and they worked at their own social and cultural levels towards freedom. India was also suffering a host of problems like illiteracy, famines and the caste system, low status of women- factors that hindered the common man's desire to overthrow the British. Social reformers like Raja Ram Mohun Roy, Iswhar chand vidya Sagar were working towards removing these ills.

    India can have an army or soldiers if they are united. There were armies consisting of Indians but they were used by the British to fight their wars abroad. Only the Western educated Indian understood the reality and what could be done about it.

    And since they were Western educated and had seen democracy work in Europe,especially Britain, they adopted these methods of petition and appeal to work their way towards independence. Mahatma Gandhi perhaps understood the problems of India in all its entirety. He worked against the caste system, encouraged the upliftment of women and most importantly, introduced the concept of civil disobedience or satyagrah in the freedom struggle. The country followed Gandhi because of the respect and stature he had gained as a political and spiritual leader of the masses. Leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel followed him.
    Non-violent struggle is more powerful weapon than violent struggle as breaks the psychological strength of the opponent. Of course, Gandhi was just human and he did his best. He could not control partition which is a sad event in the history of our country.

    Hope this works for u!

  3. Let us not compare India with USA. There are a lot of differences.

  4. EYE,

    Thanks for stopping by. I agree that there are a lot of differences between the US and India. Whenever I compare the two countries, for any reason, I never imply that things in India should be the same as they are in the US. I think Indians should try their own methods, come up with their own ideas, do things their own way. But I am impatient and I can't stand the high extrinsic obstacle index in India.

    Specifically, as far as the current topic of independence from the British goes, 8 years for America vs over a century for India is a HUGE difference. Every time I think about it, I just can't digest that fact. Even a 25-year process would have been acceptable. Ideally, we should never have been colonized - just as China and Japan were never colonized.


  5. In 1775, Britain was one of many imperial countries and did not have the maritime reach to maintain a sustained cross ocean war. By contrast, during colonial India, the Brits were the masters of the sea and could maintain a steady refresh of troops and supplies.

    In 1775, the US colonies had little that Britain wanted except tobacco and furs. By contrast, India was the world supplier of the spice trade and a huge component of the British economy.

    These are two of many reasons why independence took longer for India.

  6. Radman,

    Thanks for stopping by. I admit that there were many differences between old-time USA and India. Many more differences than you have mentioned in your comment. But those differences do not justify the more than a century it took for us to become free.


  7. LL

    I think you answered part of the answer yourself and the rest by EYE.
    You said "Indians should try their own methods and come up with their own ideas", and they did exactly that, using non-voilence. Your problem seems to be with the duration it took and that I guess EYE has answered, its because of the identity called "Indian". Moreover, if you look at historical GDP data from 1 AD to 1870 AD India was mostly either first or second and third by 1870. US was no where near that. Probably, the then British administration did not consider US to be that worth fighting for especially facing severe resistance, whereas in India they were winning quite easily.
    Hope I make sense.

  8. Rahul,

    Thanks for your comment. I don't deny the truth in what EYE and you say. But I am still convinced that we could have gotten our independence much earlier than we did. Your facts don't explain why we didn't do so. The fact that the British were more vested in India, than in the US doesn't explain it. So, what if the British were more vested in India? If all Indians had united, no foreigner would have ever stood a chance.

    The Chinese and Japanese had as much vicious in-fighting as Indians did. However, they never allowed foreigners to divide and rule them. Against foreigners, they stood united. To this day, these cultures have immense national pride, which borders on racial chauvinism. They looked upon foreigners with disdain. Their word for foreigners was literally translated as 'barbarians'. Contrast that with Indians who looked upto everything English and Western, and continue to do so today.

    Let's forget the past, Rahul. The same things which caused an entire ancient civilization to be enslaved by foreigners continues to exist in the Indian psyche to this day. Only, we are allowing our political leaders to keep our progress and growth under check. It's the politicians who are now dividing and ruling. We are progressing and growing not because of them, but in spite of them.


  9. Your question is similar to the question raised by Chanakya, why didn't we stand upto Alaxander as a united India and fight? Probably, part of the answer to your question is what you mentioned, corrupt leadership without a vision, akin to some of the modren day Indian politicians. Mughal leadership failed after Jehangir. Aurangazeb was interested in spreading Wahhabism and other local rulers underestimated the British and wanted share of declining mughal empire.
    I see increasing signs of change brought by new generation people and a growing economy. If people vote as they voted this time for developement, then I guess Lalus, Mulayams, Mayawatis and Modis will have to change for their existance. This implies that if the people want change, they have the power to change how politicians think. Only thing they have to do is to vote consistently for non-divisive politicians.
    I have one question, how come chinese and japanese allowed a foreign religion - Buddhism - to take over.

    PS: I saw your post on dating Indian men and you are absolutely spot on. I have a few comments and I will post there.

  10. Rahul,

    I am not quite familiar with the history of how Buddhism spread to other countries to be able to intelligently answer your question. However, I can hazard a couple of guesses:

    1. Although Chinese and Japanese were pretty closed politically to foreigners, they were quite open when it came to exchange of knowledge and trade. In fact, apart from the Indian culture, Chinese and Japanese are two of the oldest cultures which gave a lot of prominence to discovering, organizing, documenting and teaching knowledge. Remember that initially Buddhism was less a religion, and more a certain way of thinking and living. So, they must have been open to receiving information and knowledge about this new way.

    2. I also think that Buddhism was taken into China and Japan more by the people of those countries who travelled to foreign lands, than by anybody from India. Since someone from their own country brought the new teachings inside, they were perhaps more open to receiving them.

    Those are just my guesses. Hope that helped.


  11. LL,
    US versus British war was White Men versus White Men. Their basic origins were the same, their thinking process was the same, the arrogance was the same. I guess in a sense this must have helped. They were all colonizers. In an down-and-dirty war, both sides must be ready for such a war, and have the same mentality. If one is pacifist, they are either vanquished or the war prolongs.

    This weekend, took my kid to the museum. Showed her all the Native American artifacts. They had a good number of carvings, beadwork, elaborate clothing on display - from various tribes. A ladle made of goat horn was just priceless - the bowl was made of boiled and unfurled horn, and the handle was made of another goat horn.

    Anyways, the museum also had the timeline of Native American and Mayan civilizations. The whole timeline ended (of all these civilizations) with White Man's rule. Be the Spaniards, British, French, Portuguese - the same merciless instinct to colonize, plunder and destroy (of course, the guns helped).

    You see this tendency in Chinese rulers (the Huns) and the Mohammedans, and also Japanese. Perhaps this is why they were never colonized themselves by an outside race.

    Indians by nature are philosophical, fatalistic, and mind their own business. Even our religion (yes - I mean Hindu religion - along with Buddhists, Jains and Sikh; rest are foreign derived) - is tolerant, and does not proselytize. Sikhism was born simply to combat Mohammedan warriors, hence bit more militant.

    Had we been a race of merciless plunderers like the White Men, Chinese or Muslim rulers with superior weaponry we might not have been colonized in the first place.

    Africa suffered similarly because of mystic, tribal religions that were probably less aggressive (I don't know). Also no guns.

    When I saw the Native American artifacts, I told my daughter that White people have destroyed so many civilizations and languages. All the more reason to not lose touch with our language and culture!

    If we can feel this anger, the Native Americans must hurt a lot. They lost their entire land, people, and way of life. The American buffalo that they so revered was driven to near extinction by the White man. The black anger is understandable as well: they were brought as slaves and treated as sub-human.

    I'm digressing. Bottomline: American war of independence didn't last long because it was the same race of colonizers who fought each other. They also had similar weapons. As someone else said, the distance helped too - British soldiers had to come in across the seas.


  12. I think we should all leave our cynical attitude towards what happened in the past and look at the present. Thanks to the British, we know English- one factor that is helping us in the world today. India would never been united had it not been for the British. They gave us the railways and post. Helping us to communicate better. Priyamvada is right. We Indians always had a philosophical attitude and that is one reason we were colonized. We initially allowed the British as traders but later gave into them.

    As for time...who has ever been able to explain that? All I can say that time heals and let's hope that Indians come out of their colonial hangover with time and find their place in this world.

  13. EYE,

    What is happening in the present is exactly what happened in the past. Only now, it's the politicians who are practicing divide and rule in India. That is why it is important to look into the past and learn from history. As a nation and a people, I don't think we Indians are any more nationalistic, unified, community-minded, efficient and progressive in the public domain than we were two or three centuries ago. We are not any less selfish or less apathetic or less prone to letting outside/inside negative forces erode the best things in us. That is what makes this so hard to digest.


  14. At least you in India got your independence - but only after the poms had ransacked your resources. We Maori still have the British colonials here as do the Kanaka Maoli of the illegally annexed Hawai'ian islands & the 1st peoples of the continents now known as USA & Canada. As my (Australia) Aboriginal brothers say, "4000 yrs of Dreamtime, then 200 yrs of NIGHTMARE"!

  15. BTW: The Native Americans, Hawai'ian kanaka Maoli, 1st Nations of Canada, Alaska certainly DO hurt a great deal after 500+ yrs of colonial occupation by the white settler squatter classes - AKA: THIEVES - and their cohorts. As a fellow oppressed native I could NEVER live in another's occupied stolen lands unless I was directly in support of their people - otherwise any success I had would come on the backs of the Indigenous women - just as any migrants to the country now known erroneously as New Zealand prosper on the backs of Maori women.

    2ndly having read the dating indian men blogs, you've now explained why we don't get the same quality of migrants here in NZ. This country is considered the back-door entry to Australia & beyond via our immigration, citizenhsip & passport system. So we get ppl who are not otherwise able to get directly into Australia or the USA any other way for reasons you describe above.

    THANKS so much for your insightful blog. You're a BIG help.

  16. Be proud of your achievements. They are enviable! You still have your languages as well. We've lost much of our many dialects & we're still in recovery mode.
    Our language remains endangered.

    We are now running our own health units on shoe string budgets. Part of our recovery includes our identity and of course our language.

    An Indian wanted the drug & alcohol counselling job in one of our clinics. He only has an undergraduate BA in psychology is not a therapist, nor has any work or professional experience but was considered on merit. The understanding he'd have insights into our status as colonised peoples and an appreciation for our culture and respect for recovery via the language & culture. He did not get the job because he became offended by the minute use of what little Maori language we've clawed back. He revealed how he had no respect for what we were trying to do and no appreciation for the role of language and cultural identity in restoration.

    I think you need to embrace your achievements as a people. Celebrate that you've maintained your languages, therefore your identity. We can learn a lot from peoples that have resisted British imperialism in their lands.

  17. Know your history first (be it American or Indian) before you compare apples and oranges:

    The white American was under a European monarch for over 270 years and the English speaking American was under a European monarch for 176 years

    Even counting the dominion of the East India Company, India was under British “rule” for 182 years. We were under a European monarch for 89 years.

    The American Revolutionary War had major support from France because of its long-standing rivalry with England

    The French actually had to plead/coerce George Washington to attack Yorktown (if Washington went to New York as he had intended to, the outcome of the war would have been different)

    The most important reason that he was appointed General for the Revolutionary War was because he was from the South (Virginia)

    The Battle of 1857 was a mutiny of sepoys under the employ of the East India Company

    The mutineers were already disgruntled employees whose religious beliefs were hurt (by rumors of pork fat dipped cartridges)

    It was mainly supported by the landlords who lost their land to the British and some adopted children of kings who lost their serfdom

    The war of 1857 is considered the first war of independence because of the inspiration people drew from it in the early 1900s

    The concept of a Indian as a nation was formulated in the early 1900s and there were both extremists who wanted the British out and loyalists who wanted more Indian representation in the governance of the country who were equally respected and influential – just like there extremists and loyalists in America all through the 1700s

    The period between 1910 and 1947 can be considered the Indian Independence Movement. In those 37 years, we have actually stood with our “oppressor” to fight both the world wars, for the better part of 10 years. That brings the number of years to 30.

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  20. (read points 1 thru 11 in the comment above first)

    Gandhi led the Indian Freedom Movement from 1920.

    Gandhi took 27 years to do what Washington did in 8 years

    Only, he did not kill people, he fought a far more advanced adversary than Washington (difference in fire-power between India and Britain vs different in fire-power between America and Britain), he did not have the support of any advanced country and he was leading a far more diverse people

  21. I descend from the Sioux Nation as well as Kanaka Maoli - we want our sovereignty back.

  22. Here's How Hawai`i Nationals Feel About The Overthrow Of Their Country

    Let's pretend I visit your house.

    You offer me food and rest. I decide to stay.

    Then, I order you and your family around, use your things and rearrange the rooms.

    I take down your photos and religious symbols, replace them with my own and make you speak my language.

    One day, I dig up your garden and replace it with crops that I can sell.

    You and your family must now buy all of your food from me.

    Later, I invite my father and his buddies over.

    They bring guns. We take your keys.

    I forge a deed and declare my father to be the owner of your house.

    I bring more people. Some work for me. Some pay me to stay in your house.

    I seize your savings and spend it on my friends.

    You and your family now sleep on the porch.

    Finally you protest.

    Being reasonable, I let you stay in a corner of the house and give you a small allowance, but only if you behave.

    I tell you, "Sorry, I was wrong for taking the house."

    But when you demand your house back, I tell you to be realistic."You are part of this family now, whether you like it or not," I say. "Besides, this is for your own good.

    For all that I have done for you, why aren't you grateful?"

  23. HEWA " recognition given to American Indians
    and Alaskan Natives." What the polls dont show is HAWAIʻI being illegally occupied and controlled by a puppet Government that uses its military force and corrupted Media propaganda to continue its illegal acts of GENOCIDE and MANIFEST DESTINY NOT ONLY TO OUR KINGDOM AND NATION BUT TO THEN USE OUR NATION AND ITS RESOURCES TO TERRORIZE OTHER NATIONS AND COUNTRIES TO FURTHER THE UNITED STATES EMPIRE TOWARD A NEW WORLD ORDER.

  24. Actually, what Indians did, was maintaining their culture. There is a saying in Sanskrit that says "Adhiti devo bhava", which can be translated to "Guests are equivalent to god". When Portugese first came here, we accepted them as gods, built churches for them to pray, and made them happy in every way, initially considering them as merchants. After them came many countries like the French, and British, who gradually misused their freedom and eventually taking over our governmental issues. Then started the struggle. We were too late by then. They had started to tear off and torture our culture. Within the next 400 years there had been many revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh, and others who tried to gain freedom in their own way. But most of us did not leave our cultural limits and tried to free us in the traditional, and efficient, and most non-violent way... That is where Gandhi came in with his amazing philosophy which sounded crazy first, but subsequent events made many follow him. At last, his philosophies were what gave us freedom. Of course if we had took up guns and shot the British, we could have won the freedom quickly. But we did not do this because we knew it was against our culture and most of all, it would hurt them. If we had took up the guns and shot them, YOU would have tattooed us criminals. Consider Afghani Jihadis. They are shooting you, and how does that make you feel? If we had done the same, you would have thought of us the same way you now think about Jihadis... We wanted no blood. What we wanted was a red-free new beginning. And that is exactly what we got... We got our independence without killing any one. No tears were flown from any eyes, not from those of the British soldiers, who may have cried because of defeat, but not because of our deeds, and not from their families, who would have wept for the loss of their loved ones, if we had took up the guns.
    And about our current economic state: I know that our governments are not the best or not the most dedicated.. But no country is perfect initially, WE the people should make it best, especially youth. Why US has gained this much advancement, in any thinkable fields? It is because the people of US tried to dedicate their lives and intellect towards the progress of their country. But what we, Indians are doing is just the opposite. We are given excellent education, and we are gifted with intelligence in our blood, but we are not spending this towards the progress of India. We are just trying to go to the West and Middle-East as soon as our education is completed. If this Brain-Drain phenomena ever stops (It is not far away, I am sure, that the economy of the West falls to the ground and the East will retain it's remarkable lead in all fields it had before the Western invasion. I am not particularly talking about India here, but also China, Japan, and similar countries), India would be miles ahead of other countries. And DON'T YOU DARE INSULT ANY OTHER COUNTRIES!

    P.S.: I am not against any one here, I am just sharing some thoughts I had while reading this post. Peace out.
    P.P.S.: Even I could become a prey of Brain Drain, but my heart will belong to India, and India always... <3


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