15th August 1947: India after Partition is declared Independent of British Rule


 On 15 August 1947, India after Partition was declared independent of British rule and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was sworn in as the first Prime Minister of independent India.

Independence of India was preceded by the partition of British India on the basis of religious demographics. The partition of the country gave birth to the Dominion of Pakistan, a new homeland for Indian Muslims (which would later be further divided into the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh). Pakistan came into existence on 14 August 1947, while India gained Independence on 15 August of the same year. The partition of India is one of the most violent and tragic events in the sub continent in recent history and saw massive migration across the border. Indian Muslims left for their new homeland Pakistan, while Hindus and Sikhs left what was now Pakistan for India. Partition resulted in gruesome riots, killings, abductions and rapes. Trains full of butchered bodies crossed the newly drawn Radcliffe Line, which divided both countries. Many people fled from their homes, leaving behind all their possessions in fear of communal violence. Ten million people travelled miles on foot, bullock cart and train towards their newly promised homes. 

By the end of World War II, Britain had exhausted most of its resources and it realised that it no longer had what it took to rule an increasingly agitated India. It was then that the British decided to end their rule in India and in the beginning of 1947 it was announced that Britain would hand back power to India by June 1948. But as time progressed the violence between the Hindus and the Muslims intensified, especially in the states of Punjab and Bengal and with the British army unprepared to control this large scale violence, the then Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, brought forward the date of transfer of power; giving both India and Pakistan less than six months for the mutually agreed plan for Independence. In June 1947, nationalist leaders such as, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Abul Kalam Azad and Muhammad Ali Jinnah who was representing the All India Muslim League (which he created when he branched out from the Congress), B.R Ambedkar representing the Dalits and Master Tara Singh representing the Sikh community, agreed to partition the country along religious lines; something which Mahatma Gandhi had opposed all along. Hindus and Sikhs were assigned to India, whereas Muslims were to move to the new nation of Pakistan.

The two self-governing countries, India and Pakistan came into being at the stroke of midnight on 14th and 15th August 1947, respectively. Lord Mountbatten had attended the ceremony of the transfer of power held a day earlier in Karachi, the then capital of Pakistan and a day later was present in Delhi, for the transfer of power for India. Pakistan celebrates their Independence Day on 14th August, while India celebrates its Independence on 15th August each year.

The independence of India was inaugurated with a speech by Jawaharlal Nehru called "Tryst with Destiny". Nehru made this speech to the Indian Constituent Assembly in Parliament on the eve of Independence, almost towards midnight on 14 August 1947. This is considered to be one of the greatest and most famous speeches of all times and encapsulates the victory of India achieved in its non-violent struggle against the British. In this legendary speech Nehru proclaimed, "At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance." Through his speech Nehru also reminded his countrymen saying, "freedom and power bring responsibility". During his speech Nehru also remembered those who had moved across the border during Partition and said "We think also of our brothers and sisters who have been cut off from us by political boundaries and who unhappily cannot share at present in the freedom that has come. They are of us and will remain of us whatever may happen, and we shall be sharers in their good and ill fortune alike." Nehru ended his speech by paying homage to India saying, "And to India, our much-loved motherland, the ancient, the eternal and the ever-new, we pay our reverent homage and we bind ourselves afresh to her service. Jai Hind [Victory to India]."

The Independence of India on 15th August 1947 also marked the end of the Interim Government of India which was formed on 2 September 1946 from the newly elected Constituent Assembly of India and that was responsible for the transition of India and Pakistan from British India to Independence. The Constitution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949 and came into force on 26 January 1950 (which is celebrated as Republic Day every year). By the adoption of the Constitution, the Union of India came to be known as the Republic of India.

After Independence, Jawaharlal Nehru was appointed as the first Prime Minister of India and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel as the Deputy Prime Minister. Sardar Patel invited Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last Governor-General of India to continue as the Governor-General of now Independent India. Lord Mountbatten was replaced by Chakravarti Rajagopalachari in June 1948.

The Independence of India also marked the establishment of Wartime Gallantry Awards such as the Param Vir Chakra (the highest military honour to military personnel), Maha Vir Chakra (the second highest military honour given to soldiers for displaying exemplary bravery and valour in the presence of an enemy) and the Vir Chakra (third highest military honour), which are essentially bravery awards given to soldiers of the Indian Army.

Following Independence, India has remained in the Commonwealth of Nations and has maintained a friendly relationship with the United Kingdom since then. Both countries share strong cultural and social ties and currently there are over 1 million Indians residing in the United Kingdom.

Independence Day in India is observed by marking it as a public holiday across the country. On the eve of Independence Day each year, the Prime Minister of India delivers an "Address to the Nation" and hoists the national flag at the Red Fort. This is followed by twenty one gun shots in honour of the occasion and the singing of the national anthem. Government buildings are beautifully lit up and schools, colleges and offices around the country have flag hoisting ceremonies. People also fly tricolour kites which are symbolic of freedom and a popular way to enjoy and commemorate Independence Day.

Also on This Day:

1772: The East India Company took the decision for separate civil and criminal courts in districts.

1854: East India Railway ran its first passenger train from Calcutta (now Kolkata) to Hooghly, covering a distance of 37 km. This line was officially inaugurated in 1855.

1872: Indian nationalist and philosopher, Sri Aurobindo was born.

1972: Postal Index Number (PIN code) was inaugurated.

1982: Nationwide colour telecasting and national programme of TV was inaugurated at Delhi.

1990: Akash, a medium range land-to-air missile was successfully launched.

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