Role of Telegraph in Freedom Struggle of India

The telegraph in India was a colonial legacy. The first telegraph line in India was laid by the East India Company in 1850 to connect Kolkata and Diamond Harbour, separated by a distance of only 43 km. As far as its role in India’s freedom struggle is concerned, it was both positive as well as negative, seen from the perspective of India’s struggle against the colonial empire.

Negative Role

  • It was an important symbol of colonial authority and legacy in India.
  • It aided the British immensely during the revolt of 1857. It was the telegram which led the British to rush fresh troops to the various flashpoints and successfully crush the rebellion.
  • It helped bring the British Indian administration closer under the control and management of the authorities in London.
  • It resulted in decreased freedom of manoeuvre for progressive-minded officials who sought to challenge the political status quo.

While the telegram was an important symbol of colonial authority, it was used as a valuable tool by the Indian nationalists as well.

Role in Freedom Struggle

The following points throw light on the positive role played by the telegraphic network during the struggle for India’s freedom:

  • During the era of early nationalist leaders, the railway network had not been completely laid out and the telephone was a distant dream. It is here that telegraph was instrumental in the discussion that led to the founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885.
  • Early nationalist leaders, in particular Dadabhai Naoroji, comprehended the importance of telegraph for political coordination and used it to their advantage.
  • The success of nationalists to use the telegraph system to their advantage proved an important point – that a technology that was initially deployed to aid the colonial authority, could easily be used in their favour as well. This could be instrumental in not only enabling political coordination across the subcontinent but also reducing the distance between India and the British Parliament and other colonial authorities in London.
  • It was used to convey urgent and sometimes tragic news, for which hardly any better means were available then.

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