India’s Independence in 1947 was the beginning of a new social and political order as it set the ball rolling for the independence of other countries. The British Crown could not afford to keep other countries any longer. During the last 60 years of Independence volumes and volumes have been written about India and Indian history. Till 1947 history was what British historians or their followers presented. There were certain contrary views were also from some groups because they interpreted the events differently.
But it is refreshing to read the events as they happened without any bias or prejudice. H D Sharma has done this by compiling the 100 Best Pre- Independence Speeches (1870 – 1947). It is a volume containing all important speeches of all the Indians, British and other leaders who mattered during that period. Here we find all the antagonist and protagonist, conformist and non-conformists, leaders and followers, conventionalists and rebels, rivals and supporters, opponents and favorable, separatists and unifiers and what not.
Certain names of this volume may appear unfamiliar to the new generation but they are alive in this book through their thoughts. One can gauge the whole history from 1870 to 1947, in this book. How many people, I dare ask, not only from the younger generation but from older generation also, know Pandit Ajudhianath. He thundered on 26th December 1888 in Allahabad as chairman of the reception committee of Congress session.
Role of Communists in the freedom struggle is hotly debated in Independent India. Rightist parties are more vocal on this issue. M N Roy was a radical humanist of recent past yet I am sure new generation might not be aware of him to the extent. While addressing the Second Congress of the Cominterm (Third International) he gave new interpretation of freedom struggle.
General Dyers much hated name in Indian struggle as he is known as perpetrator of Jallianwala Bagh massacre in India. But every English person was not General Dyer. There were British people who had sympathy with the cause of Indian freedom. One of them was Sir William Wedderburn, who served India as ICS officer and later was British Parliamentarian. He came to India after his retirement to attend the session of Congress and support India’s struggle.
Generally M A Jinnah is attributed as the person to prepare ground for a separate country on the basis of religion. But the speech of Sir Aga Khan, a recognized head of Muslim community in the world, addressed a gathering as head of Muslim delegation in Simla on 1st October 1906 in which he made his cared clear. Ambedkar sighed - this document (the address) has great importance and significance in the history of India.
The princely states and dewans had their fates hanging in balance once India gets independence or country is partitioned. This was one of the major problems which needed some permanent solution. Lord Mountbatten took it upon himself to call a meeting of all of them and address them on 25th July 1947 in New Delhi in a congenial atmosphere.
The volume contains speeches of great freedom fighters of United India like Keshab Chandra Sen, Sir Pherozeshah M Mehta, Badruddin Tyabji, Dadabhoy Naoroji, M G Ranade, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Romesh Dutt, Gokhale, Tilak, C R Das Radhakrishnan, Lala Lajpat Rai, Dr. Rajendra Prasad Sardar Patel, Pandit Nehru, Moti Lal Nehru, Maulana Azad, Mahatma Gandhi, M A Ansari; thinkers like Dr. BR Ambedkar Rasbihari Bose, V D Savarkar, R N Tagore, W C Bonnerjee; great supporters like Sister Nivedita, Madam Bhikaji Cama, C F Andrews, Annie Besant; revolutionary like S P Mookerjee, Subhash Bose; Intellectuals like Radha Kumud Mukherjee, M N Roy, V S Srinivas Sastri Ramanand Chatterjee, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan; religious leaders like Aurobindo, Swami Vivekanand.
People like Mohd. Iqbal, M A Jinnah, started as freedom fighters but later on changed their views formed the separatist groups. There are people representing the Crown like the then Prime Minister Clement Attlee, Stanley Baldwin, former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill, head of Cripps Mission Sir Stafford Cripps, Lord Irwin, Lord Linlithgo, John Morley, Lord Pethwick-Lawrence, Lord Wavell, and many more.
The volume is valuable not only for the students of history and India’s freedom struggle but also for the research workers who want to gauge into the thought process of that period. Though published in 1998, it has everlasting importance.
The editor and the publishers deserve kudos for bringing such a treasurer of information.