A bittersweet independence day

Yesterday was Indian Independence Day, marking a thoroughly complicated event that combined the culmination of a successful and protracted anti-colonial struggle with an explosion of reactionary ethno-religious violence that killed and displaced millions via Partition, and the continuation of a regime dominated by colonial-era domestic elites.

The best example of the latter point is perhaps the Telangana Rebellion, an armed insurgency by communist peasant groups against the Nizam of Hyderabad and local landlords, that started in 1946 and continued unabated through the exit of the British Empire in 1947, up until 1951, when the newly decolonized Indian Army finally quelled the unrest and saved the landlords from being completely expropriated.  It is thus unsurprising that the current communist insurgency in India has deep roots in Telangana.

On a related note, its highly irritating how consistently Western narratives on the Indian Independence Movement erase its militant and revolutionary dimensions, and instead put forward a highly superficial conception of a completely non-violent struggle.  Not that the non-violent media spectacles organized by Gandhi didn’t play an important role; but it is complete nonsense to ignore the role played by militant organizations like Anushilan Samiti, the Ghadar Party, the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association, and the Indian National Army, or the increasingly violent uprisings that destabilized the British Raj like the aforementioned Telangana Rebellion, as well as the 1942 Quit India Movement and the 1946 Royal Indian Navy Mutiny.  I’ve written about the Quit India Movement here, and argued how it was this violent insurrection that proved to be the major factor in the collapse and retreat of the British Empire from the Indian subcontinent by 1947.

If we’re to be true to the progressive spirit of anti-colonial/anti-imperialist struggle, then let’s make sure that we save this history from liberal white-washing–as well as ensure that the unfinished tasks of the struggle do not remain as such.


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