Nationalism in India
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How did Nationalism begun in India? Well these were organized mass movements emphasizing and raising questions concerning the interests of the people of India. In most of these movements, people were themselves encouraged to take action. Due to several factors, these movements failed to win Independence for India. British economic interest in India began in the 1600s, when the British East India Company set up trading posts at Bombay, Madras, and Calcutta. At first, India’s ruling Mughal Dynasty kept European traders under control. By 1707, however, the Mughal Empire was collapsing.
Akbar and succeeding Mughal emperors established a politically and economically stable state by relying on regional leaders to collect revenue and govern. Local nobles, agreed to supply taxes and military support to the Mughal rulers in return for a the right to control the revenue of a region Like early modern China, India was primarily an agrarian land empire. Akbar taxed fifty percent of the agricultural yield, and peasants had to pay in a new silver coinage. By demanding that taxes be paid in cash, the emperor brought peasants into the market economy. By 1605, Akbar had left behind an empire of over 110 million people and a large army demanded 80% of the Mughal budget. The economy thrived. For example, scholars estimate that India traded 400,000 articles of cloth to Indonesia for spices in just one year in the early 1600s. Mughal emperors in the 17th century lavished their wealth on many of the greatest architectural achievements in Indian history, such as the world famous Taj Mahal.When small European ships first landed on the shores of South Asia in the early 1600s in search of spices, they encountered merchants on the periphery of the Mughul Empire (1526-1858), a kingdom larger and more powerful than any country in Europe at the time.
The Mughuls ruled over a vast and diverse land of deserts, large navigable rivers, thick forests, plateaus, grasslands, and mountains. Many of these physical barriers separated various linguistic, religious, and ethnic groups. There were religious Sikhs in the Punjab to the West, Muslims in Bengal to the East, Hindu Maratha tribes in the Deccan Plateau, Tamil speakers in the South, and Hindu princes in Hyderabad. The highest mountains in the world—the Himalayas—blocked interaction with China. Invaders, before the British, came overland from the northwest from what is today Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. Conquerors from these lands brought cultural influences such as Islam, the Persian language, and Afghani ethnic groups. The hub of the Mughal Empire was in the densely populated northern region along The Ganges River Basin. The rich soil and river system there was ideal for farming, transportation, and communication. The Mughal Empire’s weakest presence was along its coasts and this would be one cause of its eventual downfall.
To rule this diverse and vast land successfully the Mughal emperors often shared power with regional leaders. Unlike the Hindu majority, the Mughal rulers were Muslims of Afghan origin who spoke a Turkic language and were culturally influenced by Persia. As foreign monarchs, they needed cooperation of local rulers. For example, the most famous Mughal Emperor, Akbar (1556 -1605), enlisted Hindu Rajput warriors from the south to help build the empire. Rajput princes owed allegiance to the Emperor. But they administered their own territory and maintained the right to keep their regional customs and language. In this way, the Mughal tradition of involving local rulers in governing also had the effect of encouraging regional ethnic, linguistic, and religious differences. This strong regional identity throughout India prevented the growth of a single unified culture. It may have been Akbar’s awareness of the Mughal’s Muslim minority rule that encouraged him to implement policies in favor of religious tolerance. He enlisted Hindus and Jains into leadership positions and gave them equal rights as Muslims and even allowed a Jesuit Priest to teach him about Christianity.
The area controlled by the East India Company grew over time. Eventually, it governed directly or indirectly an area that included modern Bangladesh, most of southern India, and nearly all the territory along the Ganges River in the north. East India Company Dominates Officially, the British government regulated the East India Company’s efforts both in London and in India. Until the beginning of the 19th century, the company ruled India with little interference from the British government. The company even had its own army, led by British officers and staffed by sepoys, or Indian soldiers. The governor of Bombay, Mount Stuart Elphinstone, referred to the sepoy army as “a delicate and dangerous machine, which a little mismanagement may easily turn against us.” At first, the British treasured India more for its potential than its actual profit. The Industrial Revolution had turned Britain into the world’s workshop, and India was a major supplier of raw materials for that workshop. Its 300 million people were also a large potential market for British- made goods. It is not surprising, then, that the British considered India the brightest “jewel in the crown,” the most valuable of all of Britain’s colonies. The British set up restrictions that prevented the Indian economy from operating on its own. British policies called for India to produce raw materials for British manufacturing and to buy British goods.
In addition, Indian competition with British goods was prohibited. For example, India’s own handloom textile industry was almost put out of business by imported British textiles. Cheap cloth and ready-made clothes from England flooded the Indian market and drove out local producers. India became increasingly valuable to the British after they established a railroad network there. Railroads transported raw products from the interior to the ports and manufactured goods back again. Most of the raw materials were agricultural products produced on plantations. Plantation crops included tea, indigo, coffee, cotton, and jute. Another crop was opium. The British shipped opium to China and exchanged it for tea, which they then sold in England. Trade in these crops was closely tied to international events. For example, the Crimean War in the 1850s cut off the supply of Russian jute to Scottish jute mills. This boosted the export of raw jute from Bengal, a province in India. Likewise, cot- ton production in India increased when the Civil War in the United States cut off supplies of cotton for British textile mills. India both benefited from and was harmed by British colonialism. On the negative side, the British held much of the political and economic power. The British restricted Indian-owned industries such as cotton textiles. The emphasis on cash crops resulted in a loss of self-sufficiency for many villagers.
The conversion to cash crops reduced food production, causing famines in the late 1800s. The British officially adopted a hands-off policy regarding Indian religious and social customs. Even so, the increased presence of missionaries and the racist attitude of most British officials threatened traditional Indian life. On the positive side, the laying of the world’s third largest railroad network was a major British achievement. When completed, the railroads enabled India to develop a modern economy and brought unity to the connected regions. Along with the railroads, a modern road network, telephone and telegraph lines, dams, bridges, and irrigation canals enabled India to modernize. Sanitation and public health improved. Schools and colleges were founded, and literacy increased. Also, British troops cleared central India of bandits and put a/n end to local warfare among competing local ruler. Social Class in India:
Social class determined the way of life for the British Army in India. Upper-class men served as officers. Lower-class British served at lesser rank and did not advance past the rank of sergeant. Only men with the rank of sergeant and above were allowed to bring their wives to India. Each English officer’s wife attempted to re-create England in the home setting. Like a general, she directed an army of 20 to 30 servants. Indian Servants
Caste determined Indian occupations. Castes were divided into four broad categories called varna. Indian civil servants were of the third varna. House and personal servants were of the fourth varna. Even within the varna, jobs were strictly regulated, which is why such large servant staffs were required. For example, in the picture here, both servants were of the same varna. However, the person washing the British officer’s feet was of a different caste than the person doing the fanning. The Sepoy Mutiny
By 1850, the British controlled most of the Indian subcontinent. However, there were many pockets of discontent. Many Indians believed that in addition to con- trolling their land, the British were trying to convert them to Christianity. The Indian people also resented the constant racism that the British expressed toward them. Indians Rebel As economic problems increased for Indians so did their feelings of resentment and nationalism. In 1857, gossip spread among the sepoys, the Indian soldiers, that the cartridges of their new Enfield rifles were greased with beef and pork fat. To use the cartridges, soldiers had to bite off the ends. Both Hindus, who con- sider the cow sacred, and Muslims, who do not eat pork, were outraged by the news. A garrison commander was shocked when 85 of the 90 sepoys refused to accept the cartridges. The British handled the crisis badly. The soldiers who had disobeyed were jailed. The next day, on May 10, 1857, the sepoys rebelled. They marched to Delhi, where Indian soldiers stationed there joined them. They captured the city of Delhi. From Delhi, the rebellion spread to northern and central India. Some historians have called this outbreak the Sepoy Mutiny.
The uprising spread over much of northern India. Fierce fighting took place. Both British and sepoys tried to slaughter each other’s armies. The East India Company took more than a year to regain control of the country. The British government sent troops to help them. The mutiny marked a turning point in Indian history. As a result of the mutiny, in 1858 the British government took direct command of India. The part of India that was under direct British rule was called the Raj. The term Raj referred to British rule over India from 1757 until 1947. A cabinet minister in London directed policy, and a British governor-general in India carried out the govern- ment’s orders. After 1877, this official held the title of viceroy. Nationalism Surfaces in India
In the early 1800s, some Indians began demanding more modernization and a greater role in governing themselves. Ram Mohun Roy, a modern-thinking, well- educated Indian, began a campaign to move India away from traditional practices and ideas. Sometimes called the “Father of Modern India,” Ram Mohun Roy saw arranged child marriages and the rigid caste separation as parts of religious life that needed to be changed. He believed that if the practices were not changed, India would continue to be controlled by outsiders. Roy’s writings inspired other Indian reformers to call for adoption of Western ways. Roy also founded a social reform movement that worked for change in India. Besides modernization and Westernization, nationalist feelings started to surface in India. Indians hated a system that made them second-class citizens in their own country. They were barred from top posts in the Indian Civil Service.
Those who managed to get middle-level jobs were paid less than Europeans. A British engineer on the East India Railway, for example, made nearly 20 times as much money as an Indian engineer. Nationalist Groups Form This growing nationalism led to the founding of two nationalist groups, the Indian National Congress in 1885 and the Muslim League in 1906. At first, such groups concentrated on specific concerns for Indians. By the early 1900s, however, they were calling for self-government. The nationalists were further inflamed in 1905 by the partition of Bengal. The province was too large for administrative purposes, so the British divided it into a Hindu section and a Muslim section. As a result, acts of terrorism broke out. In 1911, yielding to pressure, the British took back the order and divided the province in a different way. Conflict over the control of India continued to develop between the Indians and the British in the following years. Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, the same struggles for control of land took place between local groups and the major European powers that dominated them.