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Indian history

7 Solved Questions with Answers
  • 2017

    2. Clarify how mid-eighteenth century India was beset with the spectre of a fragmented polity? (2017)

    The first half of the eighteenth century witnessed decline and disintegration of the mighty Mughal Empire and rise of virtually independent regional powers. Lack of strong central authority and emergence of regional power weakened the political structure that led to rise of foreign power.

    Factors that could be considered to play potent role in fragmented polity were–

    • The Mughal court saw a host of weak emperors in succession, emperors who were incapable to command the glorious empire and would rather indulge in wasteful extravagance of pomp and show. Courtrooms became kingmaker’s ground for treachery and war of succession became recurrent.
    • A number of powerful kingdoms such as Bengal, Avadh, Hyderabad and Mysore arose and became virtually independent from the Mughal Empire. 
    • The weakened Mughal Empire was challenged by Marathas time and again. Marathas captured vast swathes of territory in northern and central India.
    • The remaining illusion of continued domination of Mughal power was shattered by Nadir Shah’s (Shah of Persia) invasion of India in 1739.
    • Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali also made frequent inroads into Punjab and finally took over Delhi in 1756-57. Marathas, who were considered as only contender to fill the power vacuum in Delhi, were defeated by Abdali's forces in the Third Battle of Panipat (1761). The war didn’t decide who will rule India but who would not.

    After these series of events, the Mughal Empire ceased to exist as an all-India empire in practice. The British took advantage of the entire situation. They defeated the forces of Bengal in Battle of Plassey and finally combined forces of Bengal, Awadh and Mughal were crushed in Battle of Buxar.

  • 2016

    3. Explain how the upraising of 1857 constitutes an important watershed in the evolution of British policies towards colonial India. (2016)

    The Revolt of 1857 gave a severe jolt to the British administration in India and made its re-organization inevitable. The Government of India’s structure and policies underwent significant changes after the Revolt.

    Changes in Administration: By the Act of Parliament of 1858, the power to govern India was transferred from the East India Company to the British Crown. The authority over India was now to be exercised by a Secretary of State for India aided by a Council.

    The Indian Council Act of 1861 enlarged the Governor’s Council for the purpose of making laws, which was known as the Imperial Legislative Council.

    Provincial Administration: The British had divided India for administrative convenience into provinces, three of which- Bengal, Bombay and Madras-were known as Presidencies. The Presidencies were administered by a Governor and his Executive Council of three, who were appointed by the Crown.

    Changes in the army: The domination of the army by its European branch was carefully guaranteed. The proportion of Europeans to Indians in the army was raised. The crucial branches of artillery, tanks and armored corps were put exclusively in European hands. The Indians were strictly excluded from the higher posts.

    Divide and Rule: Immediately after the revolt they suppressed Muslims, confiscated their lands and property on a large scale, and declared Hindus to be their favorite. After 1870, this policy was reversed and an attempt was made to turn Muslims against the nationalist movement. The Government cleverly used the attraction of government service to create a split between the educated Hindus and Muslims.

    Relations with Princely States: Loyalty of Princely States was now rewarded with the announcement that their right to adopt heirs would be respected and the integrity of their territories guaranteed against future annexation.

    The officials became hostile to the educated Indians when the latter began to organise a nationalist movement among the people and founded the Indian National Congress.

    The lands of most of the talukdars of Awadh were restored to them. The zamindars and landlords were now hailed as the traditional and ‘natural’ leaders of the Indian people. Their interest and privilege were protected and they, in turn, became the firm supporters of British rule in India.

    Hence, in essence, uprising in 1857 was an important mark from which the British government started consolidating its hold over India, with an aim of having long lasting empire.

  • 2017

    3. Why did the ‘Moderates’ fail to carry conviction with the nation about their proclaimed ideology and political goals by the end of the nineteenth century? (2017)

    The moderates were not against the British rule per se and had strong belief in sense of justice and goodness of the British rule. They pursued the policy of gradualism and constitutionalism. Constitutional reforms, administrative re-organisation and protection of civil rights were high on agenda and methods of prayers, petition and protest were followed.

    Moderates met limited success in later stages due to various reasons–

    • The political jargons used by the moderates were alien to uneducated masses. There was also lack of political faith in the masses. Thus people largely remained aloof.
    • It was gradually realised that the British didn’t concede to any of the major demands of the moderates.
    • Indian Council Act 1892 was criticised. Moves such as further amplification of repressive laws under IPC and reduction in number of members in Calcutta Corporation didn’t go down well with progressive elements in INC.  
    • Political ideologies of the moderates were blamed to be inefficient. Methods followed by moderates were described as political mendicancy. The result was emergence of a more militant school of thought.

    However, the role of moderates can also not be negated. They were first to create national awakening among Indians and prepared a solid ground for mass oriented national movement at later stages that followed.

  • 2016

    4. Discuss the role of women in the freedom struggle especially during the Gandhian phase. (2016)

    The freedom struggle in India symbolized a cauldron in which various sections of society contributed according to their potential to create a flavor of nationalism. In this context the role of women is very significant. The role of women in national movement evolved through various stages during which they were awarded different roles. Initially stages, the literati portrayed Indian women as ‘Mother’ and linked it to ‘Bharat Mata’ (in Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya’s Anand Nath). The reform movements of 19th century presented the image of Ideal mother, Ideal wife and Ideal sister.

    Women’s active participation in mass movements began with the Swadeshi Movement in 1905 and only grew in later movements. Gandhiji accorded special role to women in NCM and CDM. He glorified their strength despite accepting their biological and social limitations. During Gandhian struggles the image of women changed from motherhood to sisterhood. To inspire confidence in them, Gandhiji presented examples of Sita and Damayanti. Some of women leaders during Gandhian struggle are as follows:

    • Anusuya Ben — Accompanied gandhiji in his tours and actively participated in 1918 Ahmedabad Textile milk strikes.
    • Sarojini Naidu — Led the raid on Dharasana salt works during civil movement following gandhiji arrest along with his son Manilal.
    • Mridula Sarabai — A Gandhian who worked with Vanara Sena (Organised by Indira Gandhi).
    • Besant — Helped Gandhiji organised Rowlatt Satyagrahs through Home Rule Leagues.

    In addition to these Gandhian leaders, women also participated in freedom struggle in other capacities:

    • Revolutionary Extremists — Kalpana Dutta (Chittagong Armoury raid), Bina Das/shot Bengal governor point blank, Durga Bhabhi/member of HSRA) etc.
    • Women during Quit India Movement — Usha Mehta (Congress Radio), Sucheta Kriplani/Underground movement) etc.
    • Indian National Army’s Rani Jhansi regiment led by Lakshmi Swaminadhan (Sehgal).

  • 2016

    5. Highlight the difference in the approach of Subhash Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi in the struggle for freedom. (2016)

    Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose were both legendary personalities, gigantic in their political moral and ethical stature. Both played crucial roles in the freedom movement. They were both internationalists and humanists as well as secular in their approach and anti-social in their outlook. In spite of their common thought process, there were glaring differences in their approach. They are as follows:

    • Subhash Chandra Bose was a radical socialist meaning that he wanted to change the existing socio-economic situation whereas Gandhi was a conservative.
    • The young members, of INC including Bose demanded complete self-rule without any compromise while the senior members were okay with dominion status for India within British rule.
    • Bose had a strong revolutionary urge to achieve freedom while Gandhi believed in passive resistance.
    • Bose proposed the idea of complete Independence from the British rule. He wanted Swaraj based on all out struggle. Gandhi on the other hand believed in the concept of Struggle-Truce-Struggle. Gandhi was in favour of trusteeship theory and aspired village to be self-sustained economy.
    • Bose was a strong supporter of Fascism which was obvious in his strong belief that India needed a political system which was a mix of fascism and communism. Gandhi on the other hand was an anti fascist who did not propagate any such extreme political system.
    • Bose was open to the idea of taking foreign assistance to achieve freedom as seen in the formation of Indian national Association while Gandhi was completely against any such idea.

    Despite their ideological defferences both Gandhi and Bose spoke highly of each other. There were occasions when Bose praised Gandhi for his success in involvement of women in freedom struggle. Even Gandhi while differing from Bose’s extreme methods had utmost admiration for his unique effort for India’s freedom, mainly his struggle for freedom from outside India. Cue must be taken from these two great leaders’ tolerance and respect towards each other even after serious difference of opinion.

  • 2017

    12. Examine how the decline of traditional artisanal industry in colonial India crippled the rural economy. (2017)

    When the Britishers took over, traditional Indian artisans ruled the world and supplied about a quarter of all manufactured goods produced in the world as famously quoted by Peter, the Great that ‘commerce of India was the commerce of world!’

    Nationalist economists proposed that with the beginning of British rule in mid-eighteenth century, the process of deindustrialization started for the traditional artisanal industry. The various reasons for that were:

    • The traditional artisanal industry lost its many patrons, like rulers, zamindars etc. after the coming of colonial rule.
    • The colonial rule flooded Indian market with cheaper manufactured goods against which Indian handicrafts lost the competition.
    • The colonial rule also opened Indian markets with zero import tax which went in favour of British manufactured goods. Moreover, Indian goods were severely restricted in foreign markets due to various regulations and taxes leading to loss of market.
    • The artisans also suffered at the hands of colonial power by having to agree to exploitative terms. The English carried on the put-out system of manufacture where the artisan was supplied with the materials and the finished product was brought at a low price. The English also procured raw cotton from peasants, at a low price and sold it at exorbitant rates to the artisans. Thus, the artisan suffered both as a buyer and a seller.
    • With the advent of railways in mid-nineteenth century onwards the process of deindustrialization was further fastened by colonial economic and commercial penetration into the hinterlands of India.

    This not only eroded the prosperous income base for millions of Indian artisans but eroded the labour productivity of Indian agriculture due to crowding and the twin pillars of traditional Indian rural economy were completely crumbled.

    Thus, in a short span of just 200 years (1757-1947) the entire rural economy which was self-sustained and prosperous for ages was completely crippled.

  • 2017

    13. Highlight the importance of new objective that got added to the vision of Indian independence since the twenties of the last century. (2017)

    The ‘twenties of the last century’ was the watershed moment for the Indian national movement. With emergence of new scenarios and actors the movement became a true mass movement.

    This decade started on the backdrop of Russian Revolution and emergence of communism as an alternative to Imperialism which presented a new ray of hope for the colonies undergoing struggle for independence. With the rise of socialists and communists in India, the issues of peasants and workers became an important objective of Indian independence.

    Mahatma Gandhi returned to India in 1915 and with some initial experiments on limited scale in Champaran, Kheda and Ahmedabad, finally in the early twenties he was all set to take the leadership of Indian National Movement and this changed the vision of Indian independence.

    • Starting with Non Cooperation Movement in the early twenties, he led Civil Disobedience Movement in early thirties and finally Quit India in early forties. In these years, Indian national movement transformed from the movement of few middle class elites, to a mass movement.
    • The objectives of Independence became Swaraj and Sarvodaya where the fruit of independence was to be tasted by the last man standing in the row and not mere the transfer of power from one set of white elites to another Indian elites.
    • After twenties the goal of political independence was gradually broadened by the constructive programmes where the issues of untouchability and Hindu- Muslim unity were also considered as important goals.
    • Fundamental Rights and Economic Policy was shaped during Karachi resolution of 1931.

    Hence the vision of Indian independence was broadened in scale and scope after the twenties of last century.

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