A review on Revolutionaries: The Other Story of How India Won Its Freedom

THE history of India’s freedom from British Rule is often seen from the perspective of the Gandhian non-violent movement or Satyagraha.Although this approach to independence has been highlighted in various publications, there is another side to it.

Revolutionary activities in the form of mutinies, attacks against British personnel and others were common particularly in states like Punjab and Bengal. The Mutiny of 1857 within the ranks of the Indian troops in the British-Indian army is regarded as the first war of independence.This superb book by Sanyal meticulously tells the story of the other side of the war of independence against the British. Without revolutionary struggle, the non-violent movement headed by Mahatma Gandhi would not have obtained intellectual nourishment.The revolutionary movement highlighted the hypocrisy of British rule in wanting to bring about enlightenment for Indians. In many ways, the passive non-violent movement against independence cannot be separated from the revolutionary approach.People of great intellectual and moral calibre such as Vinayak Savarkar, Aurobindo Ghosh, Rasbehari Bose, Sachindra Nath Sanyal, Bhagat Singh, Subhas Chandra Bose and many others impacted the Indian independence movement in varying ways. Just because they were not recognised by Western countries and the dominant media, their role was no less important than that of Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru and Valabhai Patel.Moreover, the revolutionaries who wanted to oust the British were not mere individual actors, but they were part of a wider network of armed resistance against the British Empire.The revolutionary movement had its tentacles in different parts of India, they might not have been well coordinated if they shared the overwhelming desire to expel the British out of India.

The revolutionaries established wide networks outside India and even obtained the support of some governments abroad.The Indian National Congress (INC) might not share its ideals with the revolutionaries, but without the pivotal role of the revolutionaries, the INC might not have had the benefit of the support of the broad-based opposition in India.In fact, the INC could not have obtained the independence of India without the selfless struggle of the nationalist revolutionaries. These revolutionaries coming from different backgrounds were united in the objective of driving out the British by force.Political developments in Italy, Germany and Japan had a decisive influence on them.Furthermore, the revolutionaries and the pacifists in the INC are two sides of the same coin in the struggle for India’s independence.The author does an excellent job of examining the role of the revolutionaries, who they were, their motivations, their adventures, the dangers they faced, treachery, betrayals and others. Many revolutionaries were incarcerated for long periods in some of the dreaded prisons, many were hanged for the assassination of British officials, and many had to flee India for the safety of other nations.In the absence of the Indian National Army (INA) trials in the Red Fort, New Delhi, freedom for India would not have been hastened.India is slowly but surely recognising its revolutionaries for their monumental sacrifice and heroism. There is no independent India today without the Herculean sacrifice of the revolutionaries.This is a must-read for those who are keen to understand the wider spectrum of the Indian independence movement. I will give this book an excellent rating. – June 30, 2023


Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also deputy chief minister II of Penang.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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