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MODERN HISTORY-III

Gandhiji's Etawah - Freedom Moment

In 1885 when Dasahra and Muharram coincided, communal distrubance broke out between the Hindus and the Muslims. In 1885, the Indian National Congress was established in Bombay by A.O. Hume. In Etawah it had, however, not assumed the shape of a political organization. But some of the prominent moderate leaders of the district such as Zorawar Singh Nigam, Baleshwar Prasad and Surya Narain held public meetings under a pandal and passed resolutions which merely contained certain complaints for submission to government and some were in the form of prayer.

In 1907 rumours were afloat in Etawah that Zorawar Singh Nigam had organised a conspiracy to throw out the British. A special team of police officers headed by the inspector general of police and two deputy inspectors general hastened to Etawah. But on enquiry it was found baseless and a person named Khalil who was responsible for the rumour was arrested and sentenced. In 1914-15 the district came into prominence as a center of revolutionary activity when Gendalal Dixit, a teacher at Auraiya, formed the Shivaji Samiti with the object of liberating the country. At his persuasion, Brahmachari, a dacoit leader also joined the revolutionary movement and with his help, he organised the other dacoits operating in the Chambal and the Yamuna ravines. They decided to plunder the house of a money lender, but a spy informed the police. The spy mixed poison in the food being prepared for the party and Brahmachari ate it. He at once understood that there was foul play and promptly shot the spy who tried to escape under the pretext of getting water. The police alerted by the shots closed in on them and a gun battle followed. Thirty-five men of the Brahmachari group were killed. Brahmachari, Gendalal Dixit and a few others were arrested and locked up in the Gwalior fort. Gendalal Dixit had also organised a group of young men called "Matri-Vedi". They unsuccessfully attempted top free Gendalal Dixit from the Gwalior fort and were arrested. Their trial took place at Mainpuri and which became known as the Mainpuri Conspiracy case. The first session of the Congress attended by Mahatma Gandhi who had recently returned from South Africa was held at Lucknow in 1916. The national movement had so far been confined to the urban intelligentsia but his appearance on the Indian political scene gave a new direction and meaning to the freedom struggle which was now carried to the masses. In Etawah a large number of persons enrolled themselves as volunteers. 

In 1920, the Congress declared that its objective was "the attainment of Swarajya by the people of India by all legitimate and peaceful means." Towards this end, Mahatma Gandhi launched his famous Non-co-operation Movement all over the country in August of that year. In Etawah the response of the people to this movement was enthusiastic and wide-spread. In 1920-21 the district Congress Committee was formed with Maulana Rahmat Ullah as its president. He was soon arrested by the authorities. Mahatma Gandhi suspended the Non-co-operation Movement in 1922, after Chauri Chaura incident which involved loss of a few lives. But the movement roused the consciousness of the people against alien rule and gave them a new confidence and courage to fight it. The Congress contested and won a seat allotted to the district in the council election. In 1925, Jyoti Shankar Dixit of village Lalpura and Mukandi Lal of Etawah city were arrested in connection with the Kakori Conspiracy case but were later released. The later had also taken part in the Mainpuri Conspiracy case and had remained in jail upto 1939. In 1928, when the Simon Commission visited India it was subjected to boycott all over the country and in this connection Jawaharlal Nehru visited Etawah. In Etawah black flag demonstrations and protest meetings and hartals against the Commission were organised all over the district. On November 23, 1929 Gandhiji visited the district and addressed a large public meeting at Auraiya. 

In 1930, the Civil Disobedience movement was started in Etawah, as in other parts of the country. The first phase of the movement was violation of the Salt Act. Numerous arrests were made. The police made lathi charge on the students of the Government Intermediate College, Etawah, who hoisted the Congress flag on the college building, and when thousands of persons assembled to protest against this act of oppression the police arrested about 1,500 persons. Inspite of this the people of the district kept up their non-violent struggle. British goods were boycotted and foreign cloth burnt publicly. In this connection about 1,000 arrest were made. A large number of peasants also joined the Congress. All the political prisoners were released as a result of the Gandhi-Irwin Pact in 1931. On May 10, 1931, a large gathering was organised at village Nagla Dhakau (in tahsil Bharthana) to march in a procession to welcome the released leaders. On hearing this the police rushed to the venue and opened fire on the processionists killing three persons. The district participated in the elections for the Legislative Assembly in 1936 and the two seats allotted to the district were won by the Congress. 

The Quit India Movement of 1942 received wide support from people in the district. Hartals were observed, protest meetings were held and processions taken out. There was also wholesale defiance of the prohibitory orders under section 144 Cr. P.C. and the Congress flag was hoisted on all Congress offices and on numerous private buildings. There were mass arrests, imposition of collective fines, and lathi charges. On August 12, 1942 the police opened fire at Auraiya killing at least six persons. This movement clearly showed that there was universal discontent against British rule and was an indication that the British could not hold on to India for any length of time. By 1945, when the Second World War ended, British public opinion had veered round to granting complete independence to India. The British Parliament by passing the Indian Independence Act, 1947 decided to quit India for good. On August 15, 1947, the country was liberated from alien rule and declared independent. The district of Etawah has had its due share in the fight and rejoicings of freedom. Etawah celebrated the event with befitting glee and rejoicing in every home. National flag was hoisted on the collectorate building. It flew on almost all the private and government buildings.


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