In 1900, India had 240 million people and was part of the British Empire. Between 1757 and 1858, India was effectively ruled by the British East India Company. In 1857, a mutiny of four and a half months arose against the British by Indian soldiers, which originally resulted from British ammunition cartridge greased with animal fat (pig and cow fat). This upset the Indian soldiers who were Hindus and Muslims who had to bite on the cartridges to release the gunpowder. The mutiny was crushed by the British. The mutiny or the first Indian Rebellion signified mismanagement by the British in India. On the Indian side, at least 800,000 died in the uprising and the ensuing famine. There were 2,392 fatalities recorded on the British casualties. The rebellion marked the end of the British East India Company altogether. After the uprising, between 1858 and 1947, the British government ruled India directly and formally as a colony. India was considered the jewel in the crown of the British Empire – India was valuable to Britain economically. Queen Victoria had been made Empress of India in 1858 and the British had a major military presence in India. Indian nationals had no say in the central government and even at a local level, their influence on policy and decision making was minimal. In 1885, educated middle class nationals founded the Indian National Congress (INC) in Bombay (Mumbai today). After 1920, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, the Congress led the successful Indian freedom movement. In 1947, India received its independence from the British, but it was partitioned into India and Pakistan. The accompanying communal upheaval to the partition led to ‘200,000 to 3 million’ deaths. India today, with 1.38 billion people, is the largest democracy in the world. India has 29 states and 7 union territories (including Delhi). Corruption and poverty unfortunately permeate Indian society. In 2004, one out of five members of the Indian parliament elected in 2004 had criminal charges against him or her. A study conducted by Transparency International in 2005 recorded that more than 62% of Indians had at some point or another paid a bribe to a public official to get a job done. In 2008, another report showed that about 50% of Indians had first-hand experience of paying bribes or using contacts to get services performed by public offices. Corruption Perceptions Index ranked India 86th place out of 180. Fifty percent of Indian households have to resort to open defecation for lack of a household toilet according to the national census of 2011. In Mumbai, the largest city in India today, 40% of its population of 20 million live in slums. Yet, there are plenty of rich people and many clever Indians have won Nobel prizes. Bengaluru or Bangalore, India’s third most populous city, is today’s ‘Silicon Valley’ – many Indians are internationally tech savvy.

India Taj Mahal
  1. Using about 2,000 words, I will describe major events that affected India from 1900 to the present.
  2. 1900 – India has 240 million people.
  3. 1911 – Capital of India transferred by the British from Calcutta to Delhi.
  4. 1914 – (to 1918) World War One. One million Indian troops served abroad helping the British during World War One. In total 74,187 died, and another 67,000 were wounded.
  5. 1915 – Lawyer and freedom fighter, Mahatma Gandhi returns to India from South Africa.
  6. 1919 – The Rowlatt Act is passed by the British which imposed emergency measures including arrest without warrant and indefinite detention without trial. Many Indians were unhappy; mob uprising led to a few deaths on the British side.
  7. 1919 – The Amritsar Massacre or the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Acting Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer ordered his troops to fire their weapons between 10 and 15 minutes on peaceful protestors of 20,000 in Amritsar, including unarmed women and children, killing at least 379 people and injuring over 1,200 other people. The massacre shocked many in India but what caused equal outrage was the British reaction to Amritsar – General Dyer was simply allowed to resign his commission after an inquiry criticised his leadership during the riot. Many national Indians felt that he, and others in the army, had got away very lightly. The more radical Indians felt that the British government had all but sanctioned murder. As a result of Amritsar, many Indians rushed to join the Indian National Congress and it very quickly became the party of the masses. 
  8. 1920 – (to 1922) Nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi launches anti-British civil disobedience campaign. Gandhi persuaded many of his followers to use non-violent protests. They had sit-down strikes, refused to work, refused to pay their taxes, etc. If the British reacted in a heavy-handed manner, it only made the British look worse as they would come across as bullies enforcing their rule on the bullied.
  9. 1930 – (to 1931) Great Depression (fall of agrarian prices) hits India.
  10. 1930 – Gandhi leads the Salt March against British sale monopoly. After a 250-mile march to the sea, Gandhi started to produce his own salt. This produced a violent clash with the British authorities and Gandhi was arrested.
  11. 1935 – Government of India Act enacted by the British. An elected Indian assembly is to have a say in everything in India except defence and foreign affairs. This Act failed mainly due to the Hindu–Muslim disagreement. Nearly two-thirds of India’s population were Hindus, and the Muslims feared that in an independent and democratic India, they would be treated unfairly.
  12. 1937 – In the provincial elections, the Hindus, who dominated the Congress Party under Jawarharlal Nehru, won eight out of the eleven provinces. The Muslim League under Muhammad Ali Jinnah demanded a separate state of their own to be called Pakistan.
  13. 1939 – (to 1945) Second World War. India helping the British become the largest volunteer army in history of 2.5 million men. 87,000 Indian soldiers died. The Indians provided valuable military help in the fight against Japan especially in the campaign in Burma (Myanmar today).
  14. 1940 – Feeling unhappy about its policy direction, Mahatma Gandhi passed the leadership of Congress to Jawarharlal Nehru.
  15. 1942 – The Quit India Movement is launched by the Indian National Congress. Along with the desire for independence, tensions between Hindus and Muslims have been developing over the years. The Muslims had always been a minority within the Indian subcontinent, and the prospect of an exclusively Hindu government made them wary of independence; they were as inclined to mistrust Hindu rule as they were to resist the foreign British Raj, although Gandhi called for unity between the two groups.
  16. 1945 – The newly elected Labour government in England headed by prime minister Clement Attlee (taking over from Winston Churchill) wanted to push ahead with solving what was seen as the “Indian Problem”.
  17. 1946 – Jawarharlal Nehru was asked by the British to form an interim government in August 1946. The British hoped that the creation of an actual government headed by Indian nationals would be supported by all. The Hindu Nehru included two Muslims in his cabinet but this did not succeed in stopping violence. Jinnah became convinced that Nehru could not be trusted and he called on Muslims to take “direct action” to get an independent Muslim state. Violence spread and over 5,000 people were killed in Calcutta. India descended into civil war.
  18. 1947 – Early in 1947, British prime minister Clement Atlee announced that Britain would leave India no later than June 1948. A new Viceroy was appointed – Lord Mountbatten – and he concluded that peace could only be achieved if partition was introduced. Mountbatten became convinced that any delay would increase violence and he pushed forward the date for Britain leaving India to August 1947.
  19. 1947 – In August 1947, the Indian Independence Actwas signed. Jawarharlal Nehru becomes prime minister of India. The Act separated the Muslim majority areas (in the north-west and north-east regions of India) from India to create the independent state of Pakistan. Muhammad Ali Jinnah becomes prime minister of Pakistan. This new state was split in two, the two parts being 1,600 kms apart. Some people found themselves on the wrong side of frontiers especially in the mixed provinces of the Punjab and Bengal. Millions moved to the new frontiers – Hindus and Sikhs in what was to be the new Pakistan moved to India, while Muslims in India moved to Pakistan. On the western side, 6 million Muslims migrated to Pakistan; and 9 million Hindus and Sikhs moved from Pakistan to India. On the eastern side, 5 million migrated to East Pakistan; and 4 million Hindus and Sikhs moved to India.
  20. 1947 – The Partition of Punjab (in the west) and Bengal (in the east) saw one of the largest mass migrations anywhere in modern history. Where the two moving groups met, violence occurred, leaving 200,000 to 3 million dead.
  21. 1948 – Gandhi was assassinated by a fellow Hindu. It was a gesture that showed Hindus were fed up with Gandhi’s tolerance of Muslims. The murder of Gandhi shocked so many people that ironically it ushered in a period of stability.
  22. 1951 – Congress Party wins first general elections under leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru.
  23. 1962 – War over disputed territory of Kashmir with China.
  24. 1962 – India seizes Goa, Diu and Daman from Portuguese India.
  25. 1964 – Death of prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
  26. 1965 – Pakistan invades Kashmir.
  27. 1966 – Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi becomes prime minister of India.
  28. 1971 – Bangladesh War. Bangladesh was created (from East Pakistan), with Indian support.
  29. 1974 – First nuclear device detonated in underground test.
  30. 1977 – (to 1980) Licence inspection created. Government ministers and bureaucrats in Delhi control an array industrial licences which led to corruption and economic stagnation.
  31. 1975 – (to 1977) Indira Gandhi imposes state of emergency after being found guilty of electoral malpractice. Many opposition leaders arrested.
  32. 1977 – Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party loses general elections.
  33. 1980 – Indira Gandhi returns to power heading Congress party splinter group, Congress (Indira).
  34. 1984 – Troops storm Golden Temple, the Sikhs’ most holy shrine, to flush out militants pressing for self-rule.
  35. 1984 – Indira Gandhi is assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards following attacks on Golden Temple. Her son Rajiv Gandhi takes over as prime minister of India.
  36. 1984 – Many Sikhs were killed due to the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
  37. 1984 – Gas leak at Union Carbide pesticides plant in Bhopal. Thousands are killed immediately and many more subsequently die or are left disabled.
  38. 1985 – Crippling restrictions such as the licence inspections lifted by the Congress government of Rajiv Gandhi.
  39. 1987 – Major corruption over arms sales revealed involving kickbacks to key defence officials and politicians at the very top of the Congress government, leading to Rajiv Gandhi losing power in 1989.
  40. 1987 –India deploys troops for a three-year peacekeeping operation in Sri Lanka’s ethnic conflict.
  41. 1989 – Falling public support leads to a Congress defeat in general election.
  42. 1991 – Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated by a suicide bomber sympathetic to Sri Lanka’s Tamils (the Tamil Tigers).
  43. 1991 – Liberalisation of Indian economy leads to rapid growth.
  44. 1999 – War with Pakistan-backed forces around Kargil in Indian Kashmir.
  45. 2000 – India has 1 billion people.
  46. 2003 – Kashmir cease-fire begins a thawing of relations with Pakistan.
  47. 2004 – Manmohan Singh elected prime minister; tsunami hits east coast.
  48. 2008 – The Mumbai Attacks. Gunmen attack the main tourist and India’s financial capital of Mumbai in a series of co-ordinated attacks leaving 174 people dead, including 9 of the 10 terrorists from an Islamic terrorist organisation based in Pakistan known as Lashkar-e Taiba. More than 300 were injured.
  49. 2009 – Manmohan Singh’s governing coalition wins election (second term).
  50. 2011 – Mass movement against India’s culture of corrupt officialdom emerges.
  51. 2013 – A court sentences four men to death for the violent gang rape and murder of a student on a city bus in Delhi – a case that led to violent protests across India and new laws against rape.
  52. 2014 – Narenda Modi is elected as prime minister of India.
  53. 2016 – In a surprise announcement, the government withdraws high denomination notes: 500 rupee (US$7) and 1,000 rupee (US$14) notes as part of anti-corruption measures from circulation causing chaotic scenes at banks across the country by customers trying to exchange old notes. The two notes accounted for about 85% of the cash in circulation. New 500 rupee and 2,000 rupee denomination notes with new security features were given to people to replace those removed from circulation.
  54. 2018 – Supreme Court strikes down a colonial-era law to decriminalise gay sex.
  55. 2019 – Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 was passed which amended the Citizenship Act of 1955 by providing a path to Indian citizenship for members of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi, and Christian religious minorities, who had fled persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan before December 2014.
  56. 2020 – (to 2021) COVID-19 pandemic caused more than 160,000 deaths in India.
  57. 2021 – India has 1.38 billion people.

© Comasters April 2021.

  • Jim KABLE
    Posted at 15:08h, 09 April

    Well, so what do I know of India or the sub-continent (including the Himalayan States, Pakistan, Kashmir, India, Sri Lanka Bangladesh…apart from vaguely remembered studies at Sydney in 1968 when I thought that History III (Asian Studies) meant China/Japan – but from my first day6 of lectures understood it meant India from the 18th century onwards – what a shock – India has never been spoken of in Australia as Asia -(though it is of course part of Asia – as is most of Turkey, too – and Israel/Palestine, Iraq – etc). But in the UK “Asian” automatically refers to persons of Indian/Pakistan origin – and Sydney University must have been dominated then by a peculiar “from-England” point of view! Anyway one of the significant names I studied about was Subhas Chandra Bose – a true Indian nationalist – in fact I have visited the temple in Tokyo where his bust sits on a plinth in the precincts – where he lived in part during WWII. That’s one omission I will point out Jeff. I have kinfolk connections whose East India Company times and British Raj ancestry goes back before the that 1857 First War of Independence against the British – one branch disappearing into latter 18th century Indian family links – a feature of many of the East India Co. officials – as written about byWilliam Dalrymple in his Indian histories and sketches. Especially White Mughals. It is a complex society with many religions and languages and a caste system many find difficult to understand (yet matched by the British class system in many ways) and by a largely abandoned (?) class & caste system in Japan, too – obviously in some senses descended from cultural links out of India (there were Indian Buddhist missionaries in Japan in the 8th century) with its own also largely discredited “untouchable” caste and attendant discriminatory unofficial policies which I noted during my nearly two decades there. I would not use the word “clever” to describe its scientists and others of significance in the IT world. “Clever” carries a negative connotation – it always surprised me that Bob Hawke was pushing his idea of Australia as the Clever Country! Shades of shadiness – dabbling with aspects not quite seemly and open. I have only visited India the once – briefly – early in 1973 – Bombay and Delhi, Agra and a touchdown/lift-off at Madras – before heading to visit an aunt and uncle living in Petaling Jaya in KL, Jeff! Now we say Mumbai, Delhi, Agra and Chennai! And Calcutta – Kolkata – the city in Japan where I lived some 13+ years had a kind of quasi sister-city link via the coal from Coalcutta (I jest) Kolkata – and had received a pair of that vast city’s famous pink pelicans – whose first offspring (male) born in remarkable circumstances was named Kata-kun (from Kolkata). All totally off the subject now Jeffrey – but that’s how history and one’s relationships go! And a scientist mate out of Bengal – whose first of several languages – Bengali – is the fifth most-used language in the world – he from West Bengal – East Bengal known as Bangladesh! And Rabindranath TAGORE one of that languages greatest writers – and Nobel Laureate!

    • comasters1
      Posted at 19:34h, 10 April

      You are right, Subhas Chandra Bose was an Indian nationalist hero – whose picture is on coin money. However, he got too close to the Nazis and the Japanese during WW2 in his attempt to thwart British control of India, hence he is not featured in my 2,000-word article.
      The Untouchables caste was something Gandhi and Nehru tried to remove. I also read that a British governor strived hard to stop suttee (sati) – the Indian custom of a wife immolating herself with her dead husband.