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When is Indian Independence Day 2023? Meaning behind the date explained and how it is marked in India

Indian Independence Day falls on 15 August every year, and is a national holiday celebrated to commemorate the country’s freedom from British colonial rule.

The British first landed on Indian territory in the 1600s, but their rule did not begin until 1858. By the end of the Second World War Britain could no longer afford to administer the country, and wanted desperately to leave.

On midnight of August 14, 1947, the Indian Independence Act 1947 came into existence. “As from the fifteenth day of August, nineteen hundred and forty-seven, two independent Dominions shall be set up in India, to be known respectively as India and Pakistan,” the Act states.

But what is the history? Here’s everything you need to know.

What happened on August 14, 1947?

The Partition of India was decided by Lord Mountbatten, who was the last viceroy of India. The map of post independence India and Pakistan was made by Sir Cyril Radcliffe, a British lawyer and Law Lord, on his first trip to India. Sir Cyril alarmed many in the Subcontinent by never once leaving his hotel to meet with ordinary people. This, it has been claimed, meant he had very little knowledge of the country and simply drew two lines on the map to denote Muslim majority and Hindu and Sikh majority areas. The country was carved up based roughly on the proportion of Muslims and Hindus living in each area.

Partition was accompanied by widespread violence between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, as millions were forced to leave their homes and villages of generations and migrate between the newly created states, according to their religion.

Partition meant that millions of people found themselves on the “wrong” side of the borders. Ten million became refugees in what was the largest population movement in history. Muslims travelled to Pakistan; Sikhs and Hindus to India. Up to a million of these refugees were killed in a series of horrific massacres in the border regions.

In 2009, American historian Stanley Wolpert blamed Lord Louis Mountbatten for this: “Britain’s shameful flight from its Indian Empire came only 10 weeks after its last viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, took it upon himself to cut 10 months from the brief time allotted by the Labour government’s cabinet.” He said Mountbatten also withdrew “its air and fleet cover, as well as the shield of British troops and arms, from South Asia’s 400 million Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs.”

History has revealed that as many as six British Army brigades were present in India at the time of Partition. They were not deployed to prevent or quell any violence.

Why does Pakistan celebrate on a different day?

Pakistan celebrates its independence a day earlier, which some historians say is because Lord Mountbatten had a schedule clash.

He transferred power to Pakistan’s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah at the Constituent Assembly, the day before India was granted freedom.

The initial celebration of this took place on 15 August, 1948 in India, so following this line of reasoning, India is set to commemorate its 76th anniversary of Independence. An alternative perspective considers the year 1947 itself as the starting point of India’s independent journey – suggesting this is the 77th Independence Day for India.

India’s struggle for independence from British rule was initially led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, known to his followers as Mahatma (Great Soul) Gandhi who organised and led non-violent protests. However he later became disatisfied as he opposed the partition of India, seeing it as contradicting his vision of unity among Indians of all religions.

Other leaders urging independence were Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the first Governor-General of Pakistan and Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister and a follower of Gandhi.

Nehru became the first Prime Minister of independent India and made his famed “Tryst with Destiny” speech on the first stroke of midnight at the Red Fort in the capital Delhi.

“Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially,” he said. “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom.”

How is it celebrated?

Independence Day celebrations in India will be led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will deliver a speech from the Red Fort. He is also expected to inspect the Guard of Honour and unfurl the national flag at the building. This year’s unifying theme is “Nation First, Always First”.

Celebrations across the country take place all day on the 15 August. The national flag is hoisted in schools and public places, and people participate in cultural events and parades, culminating in the the Prime Minister’s address to the nation from the Red Fort. Kite flying, which is a symbol of freedom in the country, takes place all day.

Other celebratory events include flag hoisting ceremonies, parades, speeches, public distribution of sweets and fruit, and lighting lamps in houses.

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