…These five nations too celebrated coming into their own on along with it.
A girl gets her face painted in the colours of India’s national flag, as she takes part in India’s Independence Day celebrations inside a college in Chennai, India, August 15, 2017. REUTERS/P. Ravikumar
Like always, Independence Day was celebrated in India with gusto and fervour this 15th August, too, both at the national and hyper-local level. Stories of how people braved floods to hoist the flag in a small school in Assam and how Priyanka Chopra got trolled for wearing a tri-coloured dupatta are now doing the rounds in the news media.
But did you know there are five other nations that celebrated their Independence Days with India on 15th August in their own special ways. And if you looks a bit closely, their travails bear remarkable similarity to ours.
Here’s a look at those nations and a quick roundup of their journeys to independence.
North Korea and South Korea
Both South and North Korea, which became separate entities after gaining emancipation from the Japanese, who ruled with an iron hand for 35 years and tried to supress Korean language and customs, commemorate their victory on 15th August.
Their emancipation was brought about by the USSR’s Red Army, which marched into Pyongyang in August 1945 and ousted the occupier. Korea was then divided into two along 38 degrees north latitude and the border is known as 38th parallel.
After gaining independence, North Korea backed by the former Soviet Union created a communist regime equipped with Russian tanks and artillery, while South Korea built a pro-US government which was weaker in military might. As a result, peace did not follow the independence. Instead the two nations, backed by global superpowers, plunged into a military conflict that resulted in the death of five million civilians and military personnel. Military hostilities finally ended in 1953.
The Korean peninsula remains divided till date, even though both nations – South Korea, which has gone on to become highly developed by embracing capitalism and North Korea, which has remained an economic basket case and a police state with the same family ruling over it for three generations – celebrate their independence on the same day.
Comprised of 30 islands in the Arabian Gulf, Bahrain too saw itself emancipated on 15th August 1971. And like India, the Bahrain archipelago was ruled by the British. But a peaceful “independence survey” carried out by the United Nations allowing the inhabitants to decide whether they wanted independence or Iranian control, replaced a violent independent struggle instead. The outcome of the poll showed an overwhelming majority of inhabitants wished to be identified as citizens of a sovereign, independent State and be free to decide their equation with other States.
With Iranian control ruled out, Bahrain subsequently became independent from the UK in August 1971. Like India, Bahrain had been under different rulers, namely the Arabs and the Portuguese, before it became a British protectorate in the 19th century.
One more important fact – even though 15th August is the actual date when Bahrain got its independence, it celebrates it on 16th December annually, when former ruler Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa took the throne in 1971. 16th December is known as “National Day” in Bahrain.
Sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria, this pinprick on a map with a small population, celebrates its independence along with us on the same date in August. Leichtenstein came into its own after attaining freedom from German rule in 1866. The microstate became a member of the German Confederation in 1815.
The nation has a wonderful way of celebrating its independence too – a Catholic mass in the meadows followed by free drinks and sandwiches at the prince’s castle. On the special occasion the common people also get a chance to interact with the royal family.
Republic of Congo
The Republic of Congo (not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of the Congo) vanquished its French ruler to become a free nation on 15th August 1960. The nation situated to the north of the Congo River ended up under French sovereignty in 1880 on account of a treaty. In the first 50 years of French rule, economic development was brought about primarily by extraction of natural resources using brutal tactics. It is said the construction of the Congo–Ocean Railroad, one of the most extreme railways in the world, under the French after World War I, cost at least 14,000 lives.
Once ushered into independence, the nation however was faced with political instability, chaos and violence.