India Recent History
Nothing was known about the origins of Indian civilization until a few decades ago. Only in 1924, in fact, during archaeological excavations carried out in the Indus valley, did the remains of four cities that date back to 3000 BC come to light. This shows that there was already a flourishing civilization in India at that very remote age.
But around 1800 BC, the first Aryan tribes poured into India from the steppe areas of Central Asia. Numerous other waves came in the following centuries, up to 1000 BC. According to Abbreviationfinder, this people merged with the Indian one and assimilated its civilization, religion, which was Brahmanism, and social organization, which was based on the division into 4 castes: Brahamana, of priests; the Ksatria, of the warriors; la Vasia, of the farmers; Sudria, which included the rest of the population.
From 1000 to 500 BC the Aryans were committed to consolidating their conquests, which extended from the Indus valley to the current Gulf of Bengal.
Foreign invasions resumed in India beginning in the 6th century BC. In fact, during the period between the sixth century BC and the fifth century after Christ, the Persians, the Greeks, the Shiites and the Huns arrived in India.
For more than three centuries the Indians successfully faced invasion attempts by the Arabs. But from 1000 after Christ another Muslim people, that is the Turks, managed to settle in the regions of northern India. From here they then extended their dominion to the Indus and Ganges valleys, where they formed several sultanates, the most important of which was that of Delhi.
There were many insurrections perpetrated by some Indian princes, but none of them were successful. And the Turks remained in India until the 16th century, when they were driven out by another invader: the Mongols.
The Mongols had already begun their invasion threats three centuries earlier but it was necessary to arrive in 1526 to see Baber, a descendant of the great Tamerlane, to enter almost completely in India and found the famous “Great Moghol” empire, with capital Delhi.
The city was then embellished with fantastic monuments and the Mongolian domination coincided with the most splendid period in the whole history of the country. And the Mongols remained in India until the eighteenth century, when, due to the division of the empire into many small statues, always fighting with each other, the decay of the whole organization began. These internal struggles attracted the attention of some European powers, such as Portugal, Holland, Denmark, France and England, who already frequented the coasts of the country with their already developed businesses. These powers sensed the possibility of acquiring some dominion over the territory and intervened. The nation that first took advantage of the right time was France, in the eighteenth century, towards the end.
But in a short time all the conquests made there by France fell into the hands of England. And this had first to do with the insurrections of the Indians, which soon tamed; then in less than a century he managed to extend his dominion to the island of Ceylon (today Sri-Lanka). When in 1862 the last Mongol emperor died, England was absolute master of the whole peninsula. And after 14 more years India was proclaimed Empire of England. The first empress was Queen Victoria who, however, was represented on the spot by a viceroy.
The capital was initially Calcutta but then, after 1911, it became Delhi. Many were the problems that immediately presented themselves to the British, if they wanted to make the most of the country’s potential. Bridges, roads, railways and ports had to be built but, above all, the poor conditions in which the people lived had to be improved.
Despite all this, the Indians did not resign themselves to British domination. They wanted autonomy. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, after some insurrectional riots occurred between 1880 and 1885, the “Indian National Congress” was established in India. This brought together some of the country’s most powerful men, who were determined to achieve independence at any cost.
England, in order to quell the spirits, granted greater political freedom to the people and favored the entry of some Indian officials in the exercise of the government. But this was not enough to satisfy the Indian people’s thirst for freedom and in 1906 Congress formally declared that all Indians would fight strenuously until the country’s total independence was achieved.
Hoping that England would be grateful to India, granting independence, the Indians during the First World War had lined up alongside the English Crown. Instead the opposite occurred and then Mahatma Gandhi was placed at the head of the Congress, intelligent and tireless animator of all the revolt movements against the British.
Revolts broke out in the summer and autumn of 1921 by the Mophlas Indians in the south; in December they very coldly welcomed the visit of the Prince of Wales. Then the unrest continued with characters of national recovery, under the direction of Gandhi, advocate of the “non-violent” struggle. The Indians had a satisfaction at the Imperial Conference in London in November 1923, when in contrast to the delegates of Southern Africa, they obtained recognition of British nationality and the right to vote.
Among the acts of rebellion included the riots of Sholapur of 1925, Calcutta of 1926, Khamagpur and Patna of 1926. At the end of 1929 Gandhian nationalism demonstrated the power of his organization with serious and legal demonstrations, whereby the viceroy in office promised the establishment of India in autonomous domination, on November 5, 1929. In the following years the unrest was coordinated by Gandhi in the sense of India’s absolute independence from Great Britain: so in fact they were the “Panindian Congress” of 1929, the “March of the Martyrs” started by Gandhi on March 12, 1930, starting from the Monastery of Satyagraha, the Conferences of the “Round Table” of 1930 and 1931 with the intervention of Gandhi at the second.
Gandhi was arrested for the spread and intensification of the unrest in Paona, Karaci, Bombay and Sholapur, also in 1931. He remained firm in his intentions and after a few hours he was freed. On February 24 of the same year he renewed the boycott order for British textiles. An immediate conversation between Gandhi and the viceroy Irvin led to the “exemption from the salt monopoly” in all coastal areas. In April a new viceroy arrived: Willingdon. Four months later Gandhi attended another Round Table conference in London, but to no avail.
In August 1935, the United Kingdom bestowed the Constitution, which was to be efficient in 1937, based on the federal principle. In the years leading up to the Second World War the contrasts intensified. Gandhi proposed with ever greater conviction the absolute freedom of India and the internal pacification between Hindus and Islamists. Another, more extremist, movement came to the fore, promoted by another prominent Indian politician, Jawaharlal Nehru and his disciple Subhas Chandra Bose, in contrast to Gandhi in relation to the means of struggle.
And with the Second World War a parenthesis opened, as had happened in the first. Meanwhile, as early as 1937, the vast area of Burma had been separated from British India; a colony had been made with the hope of being able to remove it from English rule.
At the end of the war the nationalists found themselves strengthened in India. India in 1945 had a provisional government with the promise of a Constituent Assembly in order to bring the country to the rank of a free and independent Federal State, but with close collaboration with the Commonwealth. And on July 19, 1947, King George VI of England signed the law that recognized India’s independence.
On August 15, India was divided into two federal complexes but not well defined limits: Hindu, Hindu, and Pakistan, Muslim. On January 30, 1948 in New Delhi, a young Hindu, an opponent of pacification policy, killed Gandhi. This tragic episode marked the end of the idea of Indian unity. On June 2, 1948 King George VI formally renounced the title of Emperor of the Indies. This allowed the two independent “republican” states to remain associated with the British Commonwealth, that is, with a community headed by a king.
The first general elections in the history of India took place in 1951/52. 60% of the 173 million voters participated in them since most of the people were illiterate. The victory went to the Congress Party and not only to the Central Parliament but to every Assembly in every state.
And the men responsible for running the country, led by Jawaharlal Nehru, began their work knowing that it was necessary to start right from the foundations. The first reforms were applied with respect for the millennial customs and traditions of the people and their profound religious conscience. The first of these concerned the use of the language. It was established that the official language until 1965 would be English but after that only “Hindi”.
This was chosen because it was more widespread among all those used in the various states of the Union. But the protests were so serious that in order not to risk the division of populations it was established that English could continue to be used as an official language even after that date. Closely connected to the problem of language was that of the reorganization of the various states, 29 in all, all listed in the Constitution. For this purpose, a special “States Reorganization Commission” was established.
First some states were eliminated and others were created, but the borders of all were defined. These operations lasted the whole time of the first legislature.
In foreign policy, the Indian Union entered into dialogues with France and Portugal to regain their possessions. With France the problem was resolved peacefully but not with Portugal. India, always faithful to the policy of “non-violence”, did not want to run the risk of triggering armed clashes, therefore it postponed the issues with Portugal to another era.
The problem that aroused many concerns instead was with Pakistan regarding the Kashmir region of which India already had three quarters.
The United Nations for several years had been suggesting that a plebiscite be called so that the population itself could make its choice. Without this, relations remained tense but improved around 1960 when an agreement regulating the water use of the Indus was signed between the two countries.
As for relations with other countries, India, which needed economic aid from both existing blocs, preferred to adopt “non-alignment”.
Meanwhile in 1957 the second elections had been held and this time the population called to the polls had increased. There were 193 million voters and the victory went to the Congress Party, but not in all states. In fact, Kerala, Orissa, Bihar, Panjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bombay were not reached from this victory, where the Communist Party won the majority and became the second party of the Union.
The work of economic and social development included in the five-year plans, very important, had to be temporarily slowed down when the revolt broke out in Tibet. Then the government had to face various clashes at the Himalayan border with the troops of popular China which, in a short time, came from victory to victory, up to the valley of Brahamaputra. At this point, victorious China declared the “ceasefire” unilaterally and withdrew to its territories.
Instead some military success had been achieved against the Portuguese for the reconquest of Goa. In any case, after these war events, the Indian policy of “non-violence” was forever denied.
In May 1964 Nehru died and the assignment passed to LB Shastri, a non-charismatic person, who suffered the influence of the party’s conservative wing.
In that year, as a result of serious unrest in East Bengal, 200,000 Hindus took refuge in India. Shastri met with the Pakistani president but the talks degenerated and in 1965 there were armed clashes over the undefined border with Sindh. Hostilities re-entered due to arbitration. But in the meantime the Kashmir question had returned to the fore. Pakistan launched an attack on the Union on September 1, 1965, which responded in the Lahore area. There was fierce fighting which then came back as the United Nations intervened, imposed a truce. The armistice was concluded with the mediation of the Soviet Union in the Tashken Conference of 4-10 January 1966. But the problem remained. The day after the signing of the armistice, Shastri died of a heart attack. Prime Minister became Indira Gandhi,
A rather difficult situation arose. The scarcity of rains in the years 1965/66 had brought about a very serious famine; the students in 1967 demonstrated for the overcrowding of the universities and for the state of indigence in which they lived; it was necessary to devalue the rupiah.
General elections were held in February 1967 and the downsizing of the ruling party was evident.
In March riots and terrorist actions began in Naxalbari and in some areas of Bengal, which tormented the country for many years.
In July 1969, continuing the financial difficulties, Indira Gandhi nationalized the major 14 banks attracting the hostility of the conservative wing of Congress, headed by the finance minister M. Desai.
The party split into two factions that continually opposed each other in Parliament, until in 1971, with the new elections, the prime minister’s faction had a resounding victory.
In March-April 1971, the Pakistani army cut off separatist unrest that had developed in Bengal. India was forced to shelter a large mass of refugees. About 10 million people were mentioned and soon India found itself involved on the guerrilla side. But with the danger of a Sino-Pakistani understanding, India hastened to conclude a treaty of friendship and cooperation with the Soviet Union which immediately sent important military supplies. Thus strengthened, India entered the territory, fought a brief victorious war and forced Pakistani forces to surrender. It was December 16, 1971 and the new state of Bangla Desh was born amid a thousand difficulties.
Between 1972 and 1975, with various agreements, prisoners of war were repatriated. And with the end of the war, the equidistance of India from the two blocks also ended.
Still a severe drought in 1973 and the world oil crisis, led to one of the most worrying economic situations in India.
In early 1977 Indira Gandhi, after having proclaimed and then lifted the state of emergency, found herself facing strong election propaganda from the opposition.
And in fact in the March elections the Congress Party suffered a clear defeat and Gandhi was not even re-elected.
On March 24 a new government took office headed by the octogenarian Morarji Desai, an ancient disciple of Mahatma Gandhi and head of the Janata Party.
During this period the presidents of the Indian Union were:
– from 1962 to 1967: the philosopher S. Radhakrishnan;
– from 1967 to 1969, died in office: the Muslim Z. Husain;
– from 1969 to 1974: VV Giri;
– from 1974 to 1976, died in office: another Muslim Fakhr ud-din Ali Ahmad;
– since 1976: BD Jatti.
After the electoral defeat of 1977 Gandhi was accused of abuse of power and imprisoned. But only for a few days. Then, as soon as she was freed, and expelled from the party, she composed another which she called “Indian National Congress” and which in 1980, by winning the elections, brought her back to power.
In foreign policy, the Indian Union sought to improve relations with the United States but with poor results. Instead, those with Bangla Desh were better because the solution to the old problem of the exploitation of the waters of the Ganges was found, then those with Nepal, with the Soviet Union and with China; Cooperation agreements were brought to a successful conclusion with these states.
Indira Gandhi was still able to record international successes when he chaired India for two conferences in Delhi, one from the Commonwealth and one from the “non-aligned” countries. But then friendship with the Soviet Union set the pace when it invaded Afghanistan.
In domestic politics Indira Gandhi had to face, in addition to the economic and social disruptions, also some religious conflicts in the areas of Assam, Jammu and Kashmir. But the one who gave her the greatest concerns was the Panjab, where the Sihk, that is the “pure”, in June 1984 even asked for the creation of their autonomous state. Gandhi had to send troops against the temple of Amrtsar and 29 others all manned by armed Sihk. There were hundreds of deaths, including the head of fundamentalists J. Singh Bhindranvala. All Sihk government elements, military and from all sectors, withdrew from their posts. It was 31 October 1984 and Indira Gandhi was the victim of an attack, always of Sihk matrix. He was succeeded by the government, amid unrest and protests, his son Rajiv who obtained a good reception of the people,
But on the borders with the secessionist areas there were always various conflicts that were renewed from region to region until almost the beginning of the nineties.
With Pakistan in particular, the Kashmir issue always came to the fore.
In 1988, however, Rajiv Gandhi met with Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and an agreement was signed with which the two countries agreed not to initiate nuclear attacks.
Good trade treaties were also signed with China, the Soviet Union and the United States. The latter mainly exported information technology to India.
Rajiv, despite his successes, was contested for having initiated a certain privatization and liberalization of the market, something also urged by the International Monetary Fund.
This situation caused the prices of consumer goods to rise and, therefore, difficulties for the lower classes of the population. Consequently, manifestations of discontent, in addition to religious problems with the fundamentalists of the various currents, helped to drop the government already weakened by a scandal, said of Bofors, from the name of the Swedish company that had paid huge bribes to ensure the export of war material.
The November 1989 elections decreed a second historic defeat for Gandhi’s party.
There was a coalition government led by V. Pratap Singh. He attempted to reform the public administration and immediately attracted popular protests. In October 1990 a violent dispute broke out between Hindus and Muslims over a disused 16th-century mosque that the Hindus wanted to tear down because it was placed on an ancient temple of Rama, whose reconstruction they planned.
In addition to all this, the already precarious economic situation was complicated by the return to home of over 140,000 refugees following the Gulf war between Iraq and Kuwait.
This war brought a profound crisis to the government due to the granting of a stopover at Bombay airport to US planes bound for Iraq, in violation of the country’s neutrality.
The right of call was revoked, the crisis passed and the government arrived in the elections of 20 May 1991.
Rajiv Gandhi was regaining votes when the next day news of his death from a plastic bomb detonated by a suicide terrorist was heard. The attackers were found to be the famous “Tamil Tigers” who had not forgiven Rajiv for military intervention in 1987 in Sri-Lanka.
The elections were delayed for a few days then on June 12th they were completed and brought the Indira party back to power with moderate growth, and the government was chaired by PVN Rao, who succeeded Rajiv in leading the party after his widow, the Italian S. Maino, had declined the succession offer.
The new government addressed the economic situation by taking drastic measures and, of course, causing discontent everywhere. Social unrest of various kinds devastated the early nineties. On the other hand, commercial agreements could be obtained with the United States which undertook to support, with substantial financial aid, the liberalization of the Indian Union market.
Internationally, the Union saw its prestige increase when, as a “non-permanent” member of the United Nations Security Council, the embargo on Libya was launched on 1 April 1992.
Inside, however, almost everywhere there were religious conflicts that caused many victims. Various corruption scandals occurred in the government, which cost the 1996 elections.
The new coalition government, among thirteen leftist parties, was entrusted to HD Devgoda, head of the “United Front”.
He, a politician of regional stature and not from a higher caste, managed to form an executive with the external support of the Indian National Congress. But this, in March 1997, deprived the government of his support because, after Rao’s resignation as head of the party, he had been replaced by S. Kesri, opponent of the prime minister.
Devgoda resigned and another minority government came into force, chaired by I. Kumar Gujral. The latter gave the country’s foreign policy a very unusual turn since it sought to improve relations with all neighboring countries, even with unilateral collaborative gestures.
In February-March 1998 there were early elections, won by the Hindu-born Bharatiya Janata Party.
On March 16, the new government came into force, led by AB Vajpayee. He, a Member of Parliament for many years, was a staunch supporter of the importance of Hindu culture. His motto: “India must be built by the Indians” was symptomatic of what he had been saying for some time about Hindu culture, not at all in agreement with westernizing tendencies.
All this nationalism somewhat rekindled the conflicts with Pakistan in the Kashmir area; in the spring of 1999, fierce fighting took place which also required aviation.
In May of the same year, nuclear tests were resumed with a series of underground explosions which, if the Hindu nationalists liked them, did not have the approval of the whole international sector and least of all of Pakistan.
Public opinion, contrary to this state of affairs, decreed the fall of the government and in September-October new elections were called which reassigned the victory to the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies.