Friday, 3 April 2020

The 1896-97 palgue attack in Bombay and Pune - first major event that fastened India's freedom struggle against the British

Bombay plague 1896-97 .procaffenation.com
If you recall the history of India's freedom struggle against the British, the tragic events between 1896 to early 1940s   such as the bubonic plague of Bombay and Pune - 1896-97, the Spanish flu of 1918, unwanted entry of  British India and Indian soldiers in WWI, the barbaric and horrible massacre of more than 400 innocent people in Jallianwalla Bagh, Amritsar  of Punjab -April, 1919, participation of Indian soldiers  again in WWII and the great Bengal famine of  1940s  had highly impacted the call  for India's freedom. The very first major impact came from the Indian nationalists in the wake of  1896-97 plaque attack in Bombay and Pune cities and it was followed by the outbreak of the Spanish flu of 1918.
.Bombay plague 1896-97. procaffenation.com
How did the plaque of 1896-97 in  Pune and Bombay give an  effective impetus to  India's freedom  movement against  the British  Crown?   The following are maim reasons:
01. The Bombay Municipal corporation with a population of 8.2 lakhs  did not pay attention to  the well-being of the working classes who lived in slums and chawls. Many  diseases were endemic to them and  least attention was paid to  the sanitation of such areas by the colonial rulers.
02. When the first case of the plague attack was reported near Bombay port in September, 1896, the British administration did not take it  seriously. 
Clipper ship. opium trade British India and China. kadist.org/program
03. When the Raj  came to know that the plague was first landed in Bombay via disease-carrying rodents  on the  Bombay-bound ships from Hong Kong after unloading the opium chests, they failed to take action. They did not disinfect the opium ships and the port area of Bombay .
04. What infuriated the Indian leaders was the British never ordered the closure  of Bombay harbor and  ban on ships from  Hong Kong even after knowing the sources of plague, China. They continued the illegal opium trade via Bombay and Hong Kong and kept the ports functional.
1896 Plague landed in Bombay from China via opium ships kadist.org
05. They failed to plug the main sources of plague and, to them silver from China was more important than the precious lives of Indians and their welfare.
06. Because of belated response from the health department and medical experts, the plague began to spread faster then expected in Bombay and other adjacent areas. Besides, hurriedly drafting and writing new Epidemic Disease Act of 1897, the Raj  gave harsh punishment to Indians, including women and children.

07. Quite obnoxious was the way  Pune Asst Commissioner W.C Rand and his  officials implemented the laws. They, without scruples, subjected the Indian women to ill-treatment. They tested  the dignity of native Indians by way of  stripping them naked publicly, including women  and ransacking their homes and burning their personal belongings, food, etc. All these were done in the name of  controlling the spread of plague in Pune and  examination of the body.
08. According to some reports,  there were some cases  of soldiers raping women under the pretext of body-searching, though such reports were denied by Rand. 09.  It was in this hour of the plague pandemic, grief and pain,  Bal Gangadar Tilak  who underwent imprisonment for 18 months for his writings  against the highhandedness of British officials in the Pune plague made a strong ststement:  ''Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it''. This  catchy slogan caught the attention of countless patriots across India and gave an impetus to India's freedom struggle.
10. The New York Times  reported in 1897 a statement made by a  Christian priest:  'the city was facing two kinds of deadly diseases and both deadly - natives dying by hunger, overseers stealing the supplies''
11. The crowded detection centers  set by the Raj aggravated the grave situation in Bombay. 
12. The ill treatment of Indians continued for some time and this led to  unrest among the people.  W.C. Rand  was assassinated by the Chaphekar brothers on July 22, 1898  for his humiliating actions against the Indian women.
In 1900,  the mortality rate from plague was about 22 per thousand for various reasons, late  healthcare efforts taken by the British,  crowded places, certain communities' refusal to cooperate with the government guide lines. were the underlying causes.

In the subsequent years protests against British atrocities and 
their dishonest dealings in India gathered more momentum. Consequently,  Indian national leaders began to give more pressure to the colonial rulers to hand over the freedom to the Indians soon and leave the Indian shores for good. 
https://navrangindia.blogspot.com/2020/04/the-bubonic-plague-of-india-1896-97.html
https://scroll.in/article/694177/the-chilling-discovery-when-the-plague-came-to-bombay-in-1896 https://www.livehistoryindia.com/history-daily/2020/03/24/lessons-from-the-bubonic-plague-of-1897