The East India Company, which came into being on 31st December 1600, progressed gradually from scales to sword and from sword to power. The Portuguese in India limited themselves to Goa, while the East India Company set up its shop in the Moghul territories. Charles II , the king of England married Catherine de Braganza of Portugal who brought the port of Mumbai into the coffers of the British with her as dowry. This whole thing was illegal, since the territory did not belong to the Portuguese technically. Taking advantage of the location of port Mumbai the British rapidly spread their power in Maharashtra from 1818 to 1857. The East India Company took over the lands belonging to Pratapsinh Maharaja of Satara by deceit. The Governor General Lord Dalhousie refused to recognize adoptions and brought the kingdoms with adoptive heirs under the British control. Elphinstone cleverly brought the Mumbai region under control. Elphinstone created the bureaucratic apparatus ‘Clerk to Collector’ which stands even today.
In 1850 municipal corporations were created so as to facilitate people’s participation in the administration. Since 1861 separate police official was appointed for each district to facilitate themselves and maintain peace and organization in Mumbai. In 1894 the prison codes came into being. The British deemed all Indians equal before the Law. In 1833 the Law Commission was established and in 1837 the penal code was implemented. This gave rise to a hierarchical and expensive judicial system. The Bombay High Court was established on 14th August 1862. By banning the owning of arms by Indians, the swords of Marathas were left to rot. The Post and Telegraph began before 1857. Compilation of Gazetteers began in 1865 while the first census was carried out in 1871.
New systems of revenue collection like the Ryotwari , Kayamdhara and others were introduced in Maharashtra. The Inam commission was appointed to look into the feudal rights and land donations. Thirty two thousand estates came under enquiry, twenty one thousand estates were confiscated due to lack of proper documentation while documents regarding several estates were burnt and destroyed. This gave rise to general dissent among the populace.
In 1818 the Bhils of Khandesh revolted against the British power under the leadership of Godaji Dengle and Mahipa Dengale. There were several revolts in Maharashtra, noted amongst them were revolt of Dharmaji Prataprao in Beed (1818), Hansaji Naik Hatkar’s revolt in Nanded (1819-20) , the armed rebellion of Chirsingh, Sattu Naik, Umaji Naik (1826-31) , the rebellion of Savantwadi (1828-38), the Gadkari revolt in Kolhapur (1844). These revolts were crushed by the British. But people from Kolhapur, Satara, Mumbai, Khandesh, Nasik, Nagpur, Aurangabad, Jamakhindi, Nargund, Solapur and Mudhol participated voluntarily and actively in the War of Independence of 1857. The leaders of the 1857, Peshwa Nanasaheb alias Dhondopant, Queen of Zhansi, Tatya Tope etc. were defeated.
Between 1874-78 people revolted against oppressive regimes of local moneylenders in many places in Maharashtra. Collectively these revolts are known as Deccan revolts. Vasudev Balawant Phadake (1845-1883) who wanted to overthrow the British regime by armed revolt , was imprisoned and served sentence in prison in Eden till his death. From all these rebellions, it dawned on the people of Maharashtra that they would not be able to sustain an armed rebellion against the British for an extended period of time. This gave rise to political institutions. The Bombay Association, that laid the foundations of Indian politics came into existence on 26th August 1852. Jagannath Shankarshet, Dadabhai Nowrojee were among its founders. The main aim of the Association was to take the concerns of the Indian people to the British rulers and address issues and tackle problems.
The next milestone was the establishment of Sarvajanik Sabha (social council). The Sabha, founded by Ganesh Vasudev Joshi (known as Sarvajanik Kaka, Kaka=uncle), started an agitation against the salt tax. It helped the Indians in Mauritius, helped pass a law in favour of the peasants in the south, contributed greatly in areas like establishing famine relief committee, freedom of press, Swadeshi, translation of famine code. This laid the foundation for the Indian National Congress party. The meaning of Congress is coming together! The first meeting of the Indian National Congress took place on 28th December, 1885 in the Gokuldas Tejpal Sanskrit School. Of the seventy two representatives, thirty eight representatives came from the Bombay region. Amongst those from Maharashtra the following were present: Dadabhai Nowrojee, Justice M.G. Ranade, Firozeshah Metha, Gopal Krishna Gokhale.
Era of Tilak
Later Lokamanya Tilak became truly an Indian National leader because of the sacrifices he made, the imprisonments that he underwent and his efforts towards independence and social development. Tilak promoted Swarajya , Swadeshi , Nationalist education and boycott. His articles in the Kesari, public celebration of ShivJayanti and Ganesh festivals, his work during the famine, writings on GeetaRahasya (the truth behind the Geeta, a holy book of the Hindus), and his incarceration in Dongri-Mandale gave him public acceptance (Lokmanya) and the status of a national leader. He also supported the Irish Home Rule movement. During Tilak’s times Chaphekar brothers from Pune assassinated the ‘Plague Commissioner’ Rand. Swatantrya Veer Savarkar founded a revolutionary organization named Abhinav Bharat in 1904 towards independence of India through forceful means. Inspired by Savarkar, Madanlal Dhingra shot Curzon Wyllie in England. Jackson, the collector of Nasik was shot by Anant Kanhere. Senapati Pandurang Mahadev Bapat went abroad to learn how to make bombs. Savarkar was tried and sent on exile to the Andaman Islands. Vishnu Ganesh Pingale, Shivram Hari Rajguru, Babu Genu, Shirish Kumar and others laid down their lives for sake of freeing the country. The death of Lokmanya Tilak in 1920 brought about the end of his era.
Era of Mahatma Gandhi
After the death of Lokmanya Tilak, the first congress of All India Trade Union chaired by Lala Lajpat Rai took place in Mumbai on 31st October 1920. In the Nagpur session of Indian National Congress the leadership of national movement went into the hands of Mahatma Gandhi. In this session Gandhiji made a proclamation of freedom to India within one year. In 1921 various kingdoms and principalities in Maharashtra founded Dakshini Samsthan Hitavardhak Sabha for the welfare of the people of the princely States. The political atmosphere in these days was tense and very much against the visit of the British prince to Mumbai.
Sahitya Samrat (literary genius) N. C. Kelkar formed a party Pratiyogi Sahakarita Paksh and continued the work. Under the leadership of Shripad Amrut Dange there were wide spread protests in Maharashtra against the Simon commission. Mahatma Gandhi’s Salt March were echoed in Maharashtra in places like Shiroda, Konkan and Akola. Martial Law was declared in Solapur for forty nine days sighting the anti-British sentiment prevailing in Solapur as a cause. Four patriots from Solapur, Mallappa Dhanashetty, Shrikrishna Sarda, Jagannath Shinde and Kurban Hussain were sentenced to death. Under the civil disobedience movement of Mahatma Gandhi several Satyagraha were carried out like the Jungle Satyagraha in Vidharbha, Bilashi Satyagraha in Satara, and similar Satyagraha in Nasik and Raigad.
The Indian National Congress’s first village session took place in Faizpur in Maharashtra. Elections took place for the first time in India under the 1935 act. Balasaheb Kher became the first Chief Minister of Bombay region. This government took some effective measures in land revenue relief, supply of drinking water in rural areas, adult literacy, ban on alcohol consumption, release of political prisoners etc. Around the same time the Praja Parishad Movement took roots in Kolhapur under the leadership of Comrade Madhavrao Bagal. In 1940 Mahatma Gandhi began the individual Satyagraha movement. Vinoba Bhave was selected as the first Satyagrahi. The 1942 session of Indian National Congress chaired by Pandit Nehru took place in Mumbai. The call of 'Quit India!' was first heard in this session. There were strong agitations in Chandrapur, Raigad, Ahmednagar and Satara. An independent underground radio Azad Radio was run by Usha Mehta. The Patri Sarkar or the parallel government run by KrantiSinha (revolutionary hero) Nana Patil was most effective during this period. In 1946 the armed forces rebelled in Mumbai against the British.
On 15th August 1947 India was freed and the Union Jack fluttering on Shaniwarwada came down forever. Though India was independent, the problem of princely States continued. The princely State of Kolhapur joined the Indian union. The problem of Marathwada, which was a part of the Nizam princely State, persisted. Swami Ramanand Teerth, Govindbhai Shroff led the movement for the freedom of Marathwada through Hyderabad State Congress. The Indian Army entered Hyderabad on the orders of Sardar Patel on 13th September 1948. Marathwada became a part of Bombay region. Even in free India, Sanyukta (united) Maharashtra still remained a dream.