"At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new...India discovers herself again."
- Jawaharlal Nehru, on Independence Day, 1947
After more than 200 years of British rule, India won back its freedom on August 15, 1947. At the Red Fort in Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, the nation's first Prime Minister, unfurled the tricolour of independent India for the first time.
Today, the Indian Independence Day is celebrated as a national holiday. People hoist the National Flag throughout the country. The Prime Minister addresses the nation, recounts the country's achievements and discusses current issues and future plans for the progress of the nation and its people.
LET'S LOOK BACK AT THE LAST 63 YEARS AND RECOUNT SOME OF THE EVENTS THAT SHAPED INDIA AS WE KNOW OF IT TODAY
1948: Peace lover and leader Mahatma Gandhi was killed by Nathuram Godse on January 30.
1949: Close to one million Hindu refugees flooded into Bengal and other states from East Pakistan, owing to communal violence, intimidation and repression from Muslim authorities.
- On January 26, Dr Rajendra Prasad was sworn in as the first President of India.
- The Indian Constitution came into force and the day is observed as Republic Day.
- Central Railway, India was founded on November 5.
- The first Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru presented the first five-year plan to the Parliament of India on December 8.
- The Congress Party of India, led by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, won an outright victory in the country's first general election.
- The Parliament passed extensive reforms that increased the legal rights of women in Hindu society and further legislated against caste discrimination and untouchability.
- Jawaharlal Nehru appointed the States Reorganisation Commission, upon whose recommendations the States Reorganisation Act was passed in 1956. Old states were dissolved and new states were created on the lines of shared linguistic and ethnic demographics.
- Indian Airlines was formed on June 15.
1957: India passed a bill which placed Kashmir under its control as part of the Union.
- Doordarshan, which is India's national state-owned broadcaster, was established on September 5. For the first 17 years the transmission was in black and white.
- On March 17, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, fled Tibet and travelled to India.
- On May 1, Gujarat and Maharashtra were separated into two separate states.
- After continual petitions for a peaceful handover, India invaded and annexed the Portuguese colony of Goa on the west coast of India.
- October 10 marked the beginning of the Sino-Indian War, a border conflict between India and China. On November 21, China withdrew troops from South Tibet and ordered armistice along the McMahon Line.
- On December 19, the last foreign-occupied territory of India, Daman and Diu, integrated into India.
- Hindi was declared as the official language of India on January 26.
- In the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965, India attacked Pakistan on all fronts after attempts by Pakistani troops to infiltrate into India-controlled Kashmir.
- A Soviet-mediated peace pact was signed between the Prime Minister of India Lal Bahadur Shastri and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan in Tashkent, Uzbek, USSR on January 3.
- On January 11, Prime Minister Shastri died of a heart attack in Tashkent and was succeeded by Indira Gandhi on January 19.
- On November 17, Reita Faria was crowned Miss World and became the first Indian to win the title.
- India successfully detonated its first nuclear weapon outside the country, becoming the sixth nation to do so.
- The Indian National Congress split into two groups - one under Indira Gandhi and another under Morarji Desai.
1971: India and Pakistan fought the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971, which was their second major war, over East Pakistan. Bangladesh was formed as a result.
- A friendship treaty was signed between India and Bangladesh soon after the withdrawal of Indian troops on March 19.
- On July 2, after Pakistan’s defeat in the Indo- Pakistani War of 1971, both nations signed the historic bilateral Simla Agreement where they agreed to settle their arguments peacefully.
1974: Under project Smiling Buddha, India successfully detonated its second nuclear weapon near the Pakistani border. This was the first nuclear test to be carried out within the country.
- On April 9, the first Indian satellite, called Aryabhatta, was launched into Earth’s orbit.
- Emergency was declared by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in which the press was censored and 1,00,000 people were jailed.
1976: The minimum age for marriage was raised to 21 years for men and 18 years for women.
- The Indian Hockey team won a gold medal at the Olympics in Moscow.
- On June 23, Sanjay Gandhi, son of Indira Gandhi, died in a plane crash.
1981: On July 2, Infosys was established in Pune.
- INSAT-1A was launched in April and deactivated in September.
- In July the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), an apex development bank, was established. It has been accredited with matters concerning policy, planning and operations in the field of credit for agriculture and other economic activities in rural areas in India.
- The Ninth Asian Games are held in New Delhi between November 9 and December 4. The mascot for the games was Appu, a baby elephant.
1983: On June 25 India won the Cricket World Cup at Lords under the captaincy of Kapil Dev.
- Squadron Leader Rakesh Sharma travelled into space on board the Soyuz T-11 on April 2. He was the first Indian and 138th person to journey into space.
- The Indian government, led by Indira Gandhi, began Operation Blue Star, the planned attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
- On October 31, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was murdered by two of her security guards. She was succeeded by her son Rajiv Gandhi as the next Prime Minister.
- On December 3, a methyl isocyanate leak from Union Carbide’s pesticide plant in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, killed more than 2,000 people and injured between 15,000 to 22,000 others (some 6,000 of whom later died from their injuries) in one of the worst industrial disasters in history.
1985: Indira Gandhi National Open University was established.
1987: On May 30, Goa was elevated from Union Territory status to India's 25th state, with Daman and Diu remaining Union Territories.
1990: VP Singh announced the implementation of the Mandal Commission report. The Mandal Commission allocated seat reservations and quotas for people on the basis of 11 social, economic and educational indicators.
- During the election campaign, Rajiv Gandhi, former Prime Minister of India, was murdered by a Tamil suicide bomber in southern India on May 20.
- On July 24, the Government of India announced its new industrial policy, marking the start of India's economic reforms.
- On December 11, the Rapid Action Force was established by the Union Home Ministry.
- The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the stock exchange regulator, was established by the Government of India.
- On December 6, a 16th Century mosque located in Ayodhya in Northern India was torn down. This sparked off nationwide communal riots in which some 3,000 people died.
- On March 12, a series of bomb blasts took place in Mumbai.
- A major earthquake occurred in Killari, Maharashtra on September 30.
1994: India rolled out the Prithvi missile at the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi.
1997: On September 5, Mother Teresa died of heart failure in Kolkata.
- On May 11, India conducted three underground nuclear tests in Pokhran. Two days later India carried out two more nuclear tests. In response to the tests United States and Japan imposed economic sanctions on India.
- The National Highway Development Project was launched. The project aimed at upgrading and widening major highways in India. The project was divided into seven phases.
- On February 20, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee made a goodwill visit to Pakistan on the maiden trip of a cross-border bus service.
- On July 11, India recaptured Kargil, forcing the Pakistan Army to retreat. India announced victory thus ending the two-month conflict.
- The first passenger rail link between India and Bangladesh started.
- On June 28, India joined a select group of six countries when it commenced regular summits with the European Union (EU). The other five countries which have regular discussions with the EU include Canada, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.
- On January 4, the government tested its first homemade jet fighter, the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). The plane will not be ready for service until 2010.
- The drug manufacturer Cipla announced that it plans to offer anti-AIDS drugs at very low prices.
- On April 18, the country’s space programme was brought into a new era with the successful test launch of its geostationary satellite launch vehicle, the GSLV-D1, at Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
- In mid-May Prime Minister Vajpayee announced that India will honour the ASEAN treaty keeping Southeast Asia a nuclear weapons-free zone.
2002: On February 27, a series of riots left hundreds dead after pilgrims died aboard a train burned in Godhra, Gujarat.
- On April 6, the biggest ever Indo-French naval exercise, Varuna 2004, was conducted off the coast of Goa.
- On December 26, a tsunami occurred on the west coast of Sumatra Island in Indonesia, effects of which were felt in India.
2005: On July 26, Mumbai was submerged under 5 to 7 feet of water following a cloudburst. The financial capital of India literally came to a standstill for four to five days.
- In early March, George Bush, then President of USA visited India to sign the nuclear deal.
- A series of synchronised bomb attacks hit several trains in Mumbai during evening rush hour on July 11.
2007: Pratibha Patil was elected as the first female President of India on July 19.
- Chandrayaan-1 was launched from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota.
- India test fired nuclear-capable surface-to-surface missile Agni-I having a range of 700 to 900kms.
- In March the central government launched the Dhan Laxmi scheme in seven states. Under this scheme an insurance cover of one lac rupees would be provided for every girl child at her birth. The scheme aimed to improve the girl child ratio.
- Tata Motors bought two British automobile manufacturing companies, Jaguar and Land Rover, from Ford, their American owners.
- On April 28, India set a world record by sending 10 satellites into orbit in a single launch.
- On October 15, Aravind Adiga was awarded the 2008 Man Booker Prize for his debut novel, ‘The White Tiger’.
- At the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, shooter Abhinav Bindra won a gold medal in the 10mt Air Rifle event. He became the first Indian to win an individual gold medal at the Olympics. Wrestler Sushil Kumar won a bronze medal in the Men’s 66 kg Freestyle Wrestling and boxer Vijender Kumar won a bronze medal to become the first Indian boxer to win an Olympic medal.
- In 2008, India entered the Formula One circuit with Force India, a team owned by Vijay Mallya.
2009: On March 23, Tata Motors launched the world’s least expensive car, Nano. The car is priced between Rs 1.20 lac and Rs 1.30 lac.
- The Parliament of India passed the Right to Education Act towards making education a Fundamental Right for all children between the ages of six and 14 years.
- The Commonwealth Games were held in New Delhi between October 7 and 14