Every 15th August, we all stand proud in our whites, saffrons or greens and blues and proclaim our love for our motherland. 15th August is celebrated as the Independence Day in India, the day when India finally ceased to be a colony of the British Empire and became a free nation. It was in 1947, on the stroke of midnight, every man, woman and child of the country stood wide awake, ready to welcome a new era of independence and a new governance. Since then, every year on 15th August we celebrate Independence Day and this is the 70th Independence Day in 2016 that we will be celebrating. Independence Day is one of the three national Holidays of India, the other two being Republic Day (26th January) and Gandhi Jayanti (2nd October).
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But then, while today we revel in our freedom, there’s a whole lot of facts about our Independence Day that we as Indians have forgotten. The struggle to independence was not an easy one for us Indians and we had many movements before we finally managed to free our country. There were many Indians who laid down their lives for the country and it is because of their sacrifice that today, we are able to enjoy the life we lead and be relaxed. However, while it was on 15th August that the British government finally handed over the reins of governance to India and declared the country as a free nation, the fight for independence led the the creation of an Independence Day much before the official declaration by the Britishers.
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The wave of independence had begun to spread in the country right at the beginning of the 20th century. Under leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, etc the masses were encouraged to fight for their freedom. The Swadeshi movement was catching momentum where people were asked to give up imported cloth, materials and instead, support Indian traders. The Indian Congress was formed and through Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violence movement and civil disobediance, the country was slowly making their displeasure known to the British rulers. Finally, it was during the 1929 Lahore session of the Indian National Congress that the declaration of Poorna Swaraj (complete freedom) was made.
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Once the declaration of Complete Independence was made, the date of 26th January was then unanimously decided as the Independence Day. Every year, the 26th of January was celebrated as Independence Day in India then onwards. From 1930 to 1946, the day was celebrated each year by the Congress members, freedom fighters and even the common man. One of the common ways of celebrating was by taking the “pledge of independence” by the members and then, there would be peaceful discussions. There would be no long speeches given or no influencing the common man. The celebrations were carried out in a completely peaceful manner. Gandhiji also encouraged the masses to take up a constructive activity on this day.
Once the Indian Independence Day was finalised on 15th August, the Congress then decided to instead mark 26th January as the Republic Day. The constitution of India was adopted on 26 November 1949 and for the interim 3 years, the earlier Independence Day was not celebrated. But once the constitution was adopted, the constitution finally came into effect on 26 January 1950, the date chosen to commemorate the Poorna Swaraj Independence movement.
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