HISTORY: FROM THE COLONIAL ERA TO THE FIRST WORLD WAR
Returning to the general history of India, a new fact had occurred starting from the century. XVI: the European colonial powers had appeared on the subcontinent. Portugal arrived first in 1498 with the conclusion in the port of Cochin of the voyage that had seen Vasco da Gama’s ships circumnavigate Africa. Subsequently, Portugal was joined by Holland, France and England, who had come to establish merchant bases along the coasts of the subcontinent and maintained representatives of their commercial companies at the Mughal court or other minorities of coastal India. Local rivalries and European political events led to the progressive rise and affirmation of the English East India Company: in the span of about sixty battle of Plassey (1757), which ensured the dominion of Bengal, it practically became the master of all India, starting the deep and characteristic process of westernization of the country. Having become a highly politicized body, the Company had to transfer its position of supremacy in India directly to the government of her British majesty, after the great revolt (Mutiny) of 1857, the last gasp of traditionalist India in an attempt to hinder the advance of Western civilization. The bourgeois class, formed and grown precisely due to the deepening of the Westernization process, began to demand with increasing insistence the granting of posts of primary importance in the public administration, posts that it believed itself capable of filling, as the European ruler had sufficient prepared for that. In 1885, as an outlet for these needs and as an organism through which the government could probe local moods, the Indian National Congress was founded. At first loyalist and moderate in its demands, the Congress soon took on a decidedly nationalistic character, especially following the LG Tilak (1856-1920), a zealous preacher of patriotism among the marāṭhā population. Also in other parts of the country, such as in Bengal, which had been the cradle of a profound religious and social awakening and which Lord Curzon had artificially divided into different administrations (1905), a certain discontent towards the foreign government began to develop. This gradually granted various administrative reforms, aimed above all at widening the participation of Indians in public administration, even in the most important bodies. At the same time, requests for a differentiated treatment for Muslims were also accepted, and they decided to form a Muslim League (1906), in opposition to Congress. It was its soul Muḥammad ‘Alī Jinnah (1876-1948). Meanwhile, the prestige that Europeans had always enjoyed was diminishing, especially following the victory of Japan over Russia (1904-05) and then the First World War, seen by the Indians as a fratricidal struggle of Europeans. The Young Turks revolution, the Bolshevik revolution, the “14 points” of US President Thomas Woodrow Wilson were further stimuli for the demand for self-determination. In 1917 the British government promised to grant it in stages, but spirits were already very exasperated. At this point the great apostle of Indian nationalism, Mohandas Karamcand Gandhi,entered the scene (1869-1948). With his campaigns of non-cooperation and civil disobedience and the fascination of his profound humanity, he was able to impart a new character to the independence struggle, although in practice his methods were sometimes criticized and rejected as too idealistic. In 1915 Gandhi returned to India, after having taken part in the fight against apartheid in South Africa, with a policy of non-violence (satyagraha), giving great popularity to the independence cause. In 1919 a protest was violently repressed by the British.
HISTORY: FROM THE BIRTH OF THE INDIAN UNION TO THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIRA GANDHI
During the Second World War, India fought loyally on the side of Great Britain, but internally the intolerance towards foreign domination continued to increase, while the situation between Hindus and Muslims also began to become unsustainable. Thus, the project of forming two states, one Hindu and the other Muslim, when the country had obtained independence, took on ever greater consistency. According to Abbreviationfinder, this in fact happened with the establishment of the Indian Union and Pakistan, proclaimed independent states within the Commonwealth August 15, 1947. The Indian Union, consisting of most of the territory of historical India, was faced with a whole series of very serious and urgent problems: pacification of the border areas with Pakistan, devastated and bloodied by religious hatred and the two-way exodus of millions of people; resolution of the economic-productive difficulties, due to the absurd distribution between the two new states of the canalization works between Sutlej and Indo; structuring of the federation, initially composed of 362 states, some of which are of insignificant size and importance, others (Hyderabad, Kashmir etc.) difficult to attribute to the Indian Union or Pakistan, being governed by a Muslim prince, but with mostly Hindu population, or vice versa; urgency to industrialize the country and promote its economic and social progress. Gradually, thanks to the skill of leading men, Vallabhai Jhaverbhai Patel and especially Jawaharlal Nehru – Gandhi was dead, victim of religious hatred -, these issues were resolved or at least lost their virulence. In particular, the Constitution – with a bicameral parliamentary system (Lok Sabhā and Rājya Sabhā), for which the English, US and Irish ones served as a model – entered into force in 1950; the Union finally turned out to be composed of 17 states, plus some territories with special status. In the international arena, Nehru and then his successors, Lal Bahadur Shastri and Indira Gandhi, they always followed the policy of non-alignment between the great powers, although a certain propensity towards the Soviet bloc had manifested in the 1970s. In 1971, in fact, India and the USSR signed a twenty-year treaty of friendship and mutual help. Relations with China progressively deteriorated, until the Chinese invasion of the areas of the north-east Indian border in 1962; however, in the early 1980s there were signs of relaxation. With Pakistan, the state of struggle lasted until 1972, first because of Kashmir (of which a part became a federated state of India called Jammu and Kashmir) which gave rise to the border wars of 1948 and 1965-66, therefore due to East Pakistan, which became independent at the end of the conflict (1971) with the name of Bangladesh. In 1975, Sikkim was formally annexed to India. As for domestic politics, power was always in the hands of a single party, that of Congress (renamed New Congress in 1969 after the split of the more conservative elements), until 1977, when the various opposition forces – except the Communists – joined in a heterogeneous coalition, the Janata (People’s) Party, which won the elections and ruled the country for three years, first with Moraji Desai and then (1979) with Charam Singh. In 1980, new elections brought the Congress Party and its leader Indira Gandhi back to power. The first steps of Indira’s new government were characterized by a relative internal tranquility and by a certain rebalancing of foreign policy (which in the 1970s had taken on a too pro-Soviet tinge) through the establishment of more friendly relations with the USA.