India at 75: How was August 15 chosen as India’s Independence Day?

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On August 15, 2022, India will celebrate its 75th Independence Day. To mark the event, the government of India is organising several events under ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mohatsav’, with the theme ‘Nation First, Always First’. The government also aims to hoist 200 million Tricolours to mark the special occasion.

The day is special for all Indians. The Prime Minister addresses the nation from the Red Fort in Delhi. This was a tradition started by Jawaharlal Nehru, the first PM of independent India, and continues to date. This year, PM Narendra Modi will deliver the address.

Also Read | Har Ghar Tiranga: How India plans to take the Tricolour to every corner

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So, how did August 15 become India’s Independence Day?

History of Indian Independence Day

The ‘Purna Swaraj’ resolution was adopted in the 1929 Lahore session of the Indian National Congress. The INC shifted to its demand for complete independence, a deviation from the erstwhile dominion status.

The resolution was adopted as the talks between Lord Irwin and Indian delegates failed. Britishers wanted to grant dominion status to India. Indians, represented by Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, and Tej Bahadur Sapru, wanted complete independence.

As the delegates failed to reach any conclusion, INC decided to demand only complete independence and chose January 26, 1930, as the first ‘Independence Day.’

After the INC adopted the resolution, Nehru, on December 29, 1929, hoisted the national flag on the banks of the Ravi in Lahore. “The Congress is holding its most momentous session and is going to take a great step forward in the fight for the country’s freedom,” he said.

Since then, till 1947, India celebrated January 26 as Independence Day. It was the same date on which, in 1950, India adopted the Constitution and became a republic. We celebrate the day as Republic Day today.

Why was August 15 chosen as India’s Independence Day?

After years of struggle, the Indians forced the Britishers to give up their hold of the country. The British parliament then gave the mandate to Lord Mountbatten to transfer the power to India by June 30, 1948. Mountbatten was the last British governor-general of India.

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Indian freedom fighters objected to the delay in granting India independence.

Mountbatten decided to advance the date to August 15, 1947. He justified it by saying that he did not want bloodshed or riots.

Mountbatten chose August 15 as the date of the Indian independence to also mark the second anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War 2.

In his own words, as quoted in Freedom at Midnight, Mountbatten claimed, “The date I chose came out of the blue. I chose it in reply to a question. I was determined to show I was the master of the whole event. When they asked if we had set a date, I knew it had to be soon. I hadn’t worked it out exactly then — I thought it had to be about August or September, and I then went out to August 15. Why? Because it was the second anniversary of Japan’s surrender.”

Japan’s emperor Hirohito addressed his country on August 15, 1945, announcing the surrender. Severely damaged by nuclear bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, respectively, Japan was the last of the axis powers to surrender.

After Mountbatten’s decision, the British House of Commons passed the Indian Independence Bill on July 4, 1947. It was decided to establish two separate dominions of India and Pakistan.

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Why is Pakistan’s Independence Day celebrated on August 14?

According to the Indian Independence Act, both India and Pakistan were to celebrate their independence on August 15. Even the first stamp issued by Pakistan carried August 15 as the date of independence.

According to a report by The Indian Express, Jinnah said, “August 15 is the birthday of the independent and sovereign state of Pakistan. It marks the fulfilment of the destiny of the Muslim nation which made great sacrifices in the past few years to have its homeland.”

In July 1948, Pakistan released its first commemorative stamps, mentioning August 15, 1947, as its Independence Day. However, the date was later changed to August 14. The reasons for this change are not clear, however.

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