No slander please, they are our freedom fighters first – issue of the politicization of the freedom movement | 24th March 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

It discusses the issue of the politicisation of the freedom movement for political purposes.


  • GS1: The Freedom Struggle — its various stages and important contributors/contributions from different parts of the country;
  • Essay
  • Prelims


  • Political parties are increasingly adopting a binary perspective on the leaders who led the freedom struggle. According to their present ideology, they are applauding some decisions made by freedom fighters and criticising others.
  • In this article, the writer argues that our freedom movement was a melting pot that had freedom fighters from contradictory and even conflicting backgrounds and ideologies.


  • The forgotten heroes:
    • Many moments of indomitable courage, insurrection and sacrifice which have left their imprint on the freedom struggle have never got their due.
    • The 1857 rebellion is called the First War of Independence. But the many spirited revolts against the British Empire in South India prior to this, such as the Attingal revolt, the Poligar rebellion and the Vellore Mutiny are scarcely mentioned.
    • The central government’s ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’ initiative, to celebrate and commemorate 75 years of freedom, has endeavoured to honour such unsung mileposts and icons.
  • Unity in diversity wrt Freedom Movement:
    • With its thread of selfless nationalistic zeal, India’s independence movement was a crucible that coalesced people from contradictory and even conflicting backgrounds and ideologies.
      In the early 20th century, it pitted the moderates, who trusted constitutional methods, against the extremists, who preferred boycott and revolution.
    • Thus the Lal-Pal-Bal triumvirate and Aurobindo underwent rigorous imprisonment, while the valorous Bhagat Singh, Birsa Munda and Vanchinathan sacrificed their lives.
    • There were also the icons, Gopal Krishna Gokhale and B.R Ambedkar, who served in the British Viceroy’s executive council and were probably never imprisoned.
    • But this in no measure dilutes or even diminishes their patriotism and contributions to India’s freedom.
    • The intrepid Subhas Chandra Bose valiantly raised an army overseas to free India, a venture where he worked with Japan, an Axis power.
    • The patriots Bhikaiji Cama, Shyamji Krishna Varma, Chempakaraman Pillai and Thillaiyadi Valliammai championed the cause of India’s liberty from abroad.
  • The present issue of politicisation of the freedom movement for political purposes:
    • It is a matter of regret that in the recent political discourse in India, leaders and organisations are being slotted, stigmatised and even slandered for their role or the lack of it in the freedom movement.
    • V.D. Savarkar is one such figure.
    • Our gallant freedom fighters did not plunge into their battle against the British for pelf, position or power, and they certainly did not know whether they would live to see the next day.
    • They were fallible humans who assessed circumstances and arrived at decisions with the sole aim of liberating their motherland.
    • It is easy to sit on the high chair of hindsight and make sweeping judgements about history. To impugn individual patriotism while viewing it through the coloured spectacles of concocted binaries is not only regressive but also wrong.

Facts for prelims:

  • March 23 is a milestone in the history of India’s Independence struggle. It was on this day, in 1919, that Mahatma Gandhi was in Chennai on the invitation of Kasturi Ranga Iyengar.
  • The Rowlatt Satyagraha of April 6, 1919 was an act of defiance that brought the nation to a standstill and shook the foundations of the Raj.
  • Gandhiji supported the British in the bitter Boer war, or the South African war.
    • He was later awarded the Kaisar-i-Hind medal, in 1915, by the British for his humanitarian work in South Africa, which he later returned in 1920.
  • The moderates in the Congress supported the 1919 Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms in the immediate aftermath of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
  • In 1942, C. Rajagopalachari stayed away from the Quit India Movement as he felt it would not serve India’s best interests.

Way forward:

  • In the 76th year of India’s Independence, every Indian is beholden to express unreserved gratitude to all, especially the unsung luminaries of our freedom struggle who were devoted to the national cause.
  • This should transcend any ideological inclination or political proclivity that they professed or practised in their later lives.

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