Independence Day: Images that defined India’s history



On this day in 1947, India became an autonomous state by breaking itself free from the clutches of the British rule. The country is celebrating its 72nd Independence Day today. The Indian Express has compiled some of the most powerful images that have inspired, shocked and moved us as a nation.

For most Indians, the words of that iconic speech from August 15, 1947, are permanently etched in the mind: “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now that time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of today’s midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”

Partition – 1947

The euphoria of independence was short-lived. Millions of Muslims, unsure and afraid of what awaited them in largely Hindu India, travelled towards Pakistan. Millions of Hindus and Sikhs, similarly terrified and uncertain, made the journey in the opposite direction. Hundreds of thousands never made it across. The violence that followed Partition is one of the darkest chapters of the region’s history.

Mahatma Gandhi assassination – 1948

Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead at point blank range in New Delhi on January 30, 1948, by Nathuram Godse, a right-wing advocate of Hindu nationalism. The assassination case had led to the conviction and execution of Nathuram Vinayak Godse and Narayan Apte on November 15, 1949.

Jawaharlal Nehru death – 19“The light is out.” Jawaharlal Nehru’s death was announced in Parliament on May 27, 1964. He was India’s first prime minister and served 17 years in office after playing an integral role in achieving its Independence. Born on November 14, 1889, his birthday is celebrated as ‘Children’s Day’ in India. He was fondly called “chacha Nehru” by children.

India-Pakistan 1965 war64

The war of 1965 was a result of Operation Gibralter carried out by Pakistani armed forces to occupy Kashmir. Large number of military vehicles and tanks were used for the purpose and the war saw casualties numbering in thousands by the end of it. The war ended only after the diplomatic intervention of the Soviet Union and the United States.

Lal Bahadur Shastri death – 1966

The country’s second prime minister, Lal Bahadur Shastri, was born in 1904 and held office between June 1964 and January 1966. Shastri died in Tashkent on January 11, 1966, at the age of 61, soon after signing the Tashkent Pact with Pakistan. It was maintained that he died of cardiac arrest but his family had alleged foul play.

India-Pakistan 1971 war

The 1971 war happened over a course of 13 days and saw possibly the largest number of prisoners of war since the World War II. The outcome of this was was the independence of East pakistan and also the creation of the People’s Pakistan of Bangladesh.

Chipko movement – 1973

The Chipko movement was a non-violent agitation in 1973 that was aimed at protection and conservation of trees. The uprising against the felling of trees and maintaining the ecological balance originated in Uttar Pradesh’s Chamoli district (now Uttarakhand) in 1973 and in no time spilled onto other states in north India. The name of the movement ‘chipko’ comes from the word ’embrace’, as the villagers hugged the trees and encircled them to prevent being hacked.

Emergency (1975-77)

In the early hours of June 25-26 in 1975, the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi notified to the nation that the President has proclaimed Emergency on account of “imminent security threats” to the country. Soon after, constitutional rights of citizens were suspended and curbs placed on the freedom of the press. For the next couple of days, no major newspapers could be published. Gandhi expelled several foreign correspondents and over 200 journalists were arrested. The publications could be back two days later.

On June 28, when The Indian Express resumed its publication, it issued a front-page apology for being out of circulation for two days. It went on to report on the mass arrests that had taken place over the past two days.

Asian Games- 1982

India was the host nation for the Asian Games held in New Delhi from November 19 to December 4. It was ranked fifth with 13 gold medals, 19 silver medals and 25 bronze medals with a total tally of 57 medals. The event also saw a huge boost to the Capital’s infrastructure.

1983 World Cup

June 25, 1983, is one date which will be etched in Indian cricketing history and memory of all Indian cricket fans forever. It was on this day that India, under the captaincy of Kapil Dev, lifted the World Cup (Prudential Cup) for the first time by defeating a star-studded West Indian unit to lift the trophy and make history. The impact of this victory on the psyche of the nation was huge.

Operation Blue Star – 1984

The Army, in a 10-day operation, codenamed Blue Star, flushed out heavily armed militants and radicals from inside the shrine complex in June 1984. The same year, in an act of revenge, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her own bodyguards — who were Sikhs — for sending troops into the holy shrine.

Indira Gandhi assassination – 1984

Indira Gandhi had returned to power in 1980 and during this time she ordered storming of Sikh Holy Shrine Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, following which she was assassinated on October 31, 1984, by her two Sikh bodyguards.

Bhopal Gas Tragedy – 1984

Over 3,000 people were killed and thousands maimed due to the toxic gas that leaked from Union Carbide’s pesticide factory in Bhopal on the intervening night of December 2-3, 1984. Thirty-four years after the Bhopal gas tragedy, survivors are still fighting for adequate compensation and proper medical treatment for ailments caused by the toxic leak.

Rakesh Sharma – 1984

Rakesh Sharma, an astronaut and former Indian Air Force pilot, became the first Indian to go into space. Sharma was the astronaut in joint Indo-Soviet Space Mission-1984 which culminated in an 8-day near Earth Orbit Space Flight.Air India Kanishka bombings – 1991

On June 23, 1985, a bomb exploded aboard Emperor Kanishka or Air India Flight 182, a Boeing 747 aircraft flying on the Montreal-London route, with New Delhi as the final destination. The bomb, placed in a suitcase and checked into cargo during a stopover in Vancouver, exploded over the Atlantic Ocean in Irish airspace at an altitude of 31,000 feet, killing all 329 on board — 268 Canadian citizens (many of them of Indian origin), 27 Britons and 24 Indians.

Kashmiri Pandit exodus – 1990

January 19 marks the beginning of the exodus of the community from Kashmir in the wake of militancy. As per official figures, there are about 62,000 registered Kashmiri migrant families in the country out of which around 40,000 families are residing in Jammu and 19,000 families are in Delhi.

Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated on the night of May 21, 1991, at Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu by a woman suicide bomber, identified as Dhanu, at an election rally. Fourteen others, including Dhanu herself, were also killed.

Liberalisation reforms- 1991

July 1 was the day when the historic devaluation of the Rupee took place that set in motion the irreversible process of opening the Indian economy. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is considered the architect of the economic liberalisation measures unleashed in 1991. Singh was the finance minister in the Narasimha Rao government during 1991-96. The dramatic changes in trade policy on July 3-4, 1991 set the stage for sweeping changes in the way India engaged with the world. Key to this was also then commerce minister in the Narasimha Rao government P Chidambaram and his team, who worked on a new policy to open up trade, boost exports, help foster a more competitive industry.

Babri Masjid – 1992

In 1989, Lal Krishna Advani, the then BJP national president, embarked on a nation-wide rath yatra in support of fringe groups demanding that a temple for Lord Ram be built on the site of Babri Masjid. The yatra succeeded in mobilising hundreds of Kar Sevaks across the country, who had later descended in Ayodhya. In 1990, at least 16 Kar Sevaks were killed in police firing after they partially damaged Babri Masjid. This resulted in large-scale communal clashes in Hyderabad. Over 200 people died and scores were injured as a result of the firing.

Mumbai serial bomb blasts – 1993

A series of blasts ripped through the city of Mumbai, then Bombay, on March 12, 1993. As much as 157 people were killed and almost 713 people were injured in the 13 explosions which went off within quick intervals of each other.

Pokhran II tests- 1998

In 1998, India conducted Pokhran-II tests where five nuclear explosives were tested. The tests took place between May 11 and May 13. The first explosive was a fusion device while the rest four were fission devices. May 11 is now commemorated as National Technology Day for India’s successful foray into nuclear weapons development.

Kargil war – 1999 

On July 26, India emerged victorious in the Kargil conflict with Pakistan. In order to commemorate India’s win in the war, the Kargil Vijay Diwas is celebrated every year. The Indian soldiers had secured this victory after a three-month conflict that led to a loss of lives from both sides with the Indian side losing nearly 490 officers, soldiers and jawans. During the war, the Indian Army kicked out Pakistani intruders and succeeded in recapturing the Tiger Hill and other posts as a part of Operation Vijay. The conflict had gained a lot of attention because of the India-Pakistan relations post-1971 war. 

Kandahar hijack – 1999 

The Indian Airlines plane IC-814, with mainly Indians passengers, had taken off from Nepal on December 24, 1999 and just as it entered Indian airspace, the militants hijacked it to Kandahar in Afghanistan. The hijackers also killed one passenger. The hijacking ended when the Indian government released three terrorists including Maulana Masood Azhar and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh for the safe return of the passengers.

Bhuj earthquake – 2001

The 2001 Gujarat earthquake also known as Bhuj earthquake occurred on January 26 as the country was celebrating its 51st Republic Day. One of the worst disasters in the state’s history was spread over 700 kms affecting 21 districts and over 6 lakh people were left homeless. The historic earthquake killed over 2 lakh people and more than 1 lakh people were injured.

Godhra train burning case – 2002

On the morning of February 27, 2002, a coach of the Sabarmati Express — Coach S6 — was set ablaze and 59 passengers travelling in that coach were charred to death. The train had arrived at Godhra station in Gujarat just then. The victims included 27 women and 10 children. Injuries were suffered by another 48 passengers in the train. The train burning incident had within hours triggered violent riots across the state. The riots broke out on the evening of February 2 and continued for 2-3 months across the state.

T-20 world cup victory – 2007

MS Dhoni led a very young Indian cricket team to title triumph in the inaugural World T20 in 2007. India beat Pakistan in a thrilling final to lift the title.

26/11 Mumbai terror attacks – 2008

Ten Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists had sailed to Mumbai from Karachi and carried out coordinated attacks, killing 166 people and injuring over 300 in November 2008. Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafeez Saeed is the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Ajmal Kasab, the only terrorist caught alive by the police was one of the four militants carrying out the gunfire inside the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station which left 52 dead and injured over a 100 others.

Chandrayaan mission- 2008

India launched its first mission to the moon, rocketing a satellite up into the pale dawn sky in a two-year mission to redraw maps of the lunar surface.

Narendra Modi led BJP government swept to power, decimating the Congress leaving it with only 44 seats in Parliament. The results were declared on May 16 and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had emerged victorious, winning 336 out of 543 seats. BJP and its allies formed the government at the centre.

Demonetisation – 2016

On November 8, 2016, the Narendra Modi-led government had withdrawn Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes from circulation, in a bid to curb corruption and black money. The opposition has time and again slammed the government with Trinamool’s Mamata Banerjee calling for a rollback. Demonetisation had led to a logjam in the Parliament.

Source - IE 

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