Attempts to make free and compulsory education accessible to Indian children began a little more than a century ago. A strong consciousness for the need of free and compulsory Primary Education in India was highly moved by enactment of the Compulsory Education Act in 1870 in England. Education has been formally recognized as a human right since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948. This has since then been reaffirmed in numerous global human rights treaties. Ultimately, universalization of elementary education has been one of the most important goals of educational development in India since independence. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE Act), 2009, came into force from April 1, 2010, pursuant to the Eighty-Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of India (2002), which guarantees elementary education as a fundamental right. This article attempts to delve into the checkered history of development of the free and compulsory primary education in India under the British Raj. The history of compulsory and free primary education during the British Rule in India is an uphill journey replete with suggestions, advocacies, demands, experimentations, attempts, promises, and movements within legislative framework. The British rulers adopted a good number of policies on education, but these were framed in tune with the needs of the colonial power. Consequently, compulsory and free primary education remained an unfulfilled dream during the British Raj, in spite of the stirring efforts of the Indians. © 2017, © The Author(s) 2017.