Nature of the Revolt of 1857

There is a great controversy amongst the scholars over the nature of the revolt of 1857. British historian have only considered it as a “sepoy mutiny”, they consider its immediate cause the greased cartridges only. Some other foreign historian holds it to be a “Muslim conspiracy” against the British and its aim was to re-establish the Mughal Empire under the leadership of Bahadur shah zafar. But according to majority of Indian historians, this was the first war of independence or first nation movement.
The English government was flourishing all along through the east India Company. It not only added to the power and territory of the English but also whetted their greed for gold and lust for power. Owing to this reason it was but natural that the Indian rulers might have felt afraid that they could be the victims of the imperialist policy of the English at any time. Hence, dissatisfaction arose in their mind against the British rule which ultimately resulted in the outbreaks of A.D.1857.The English authors have named it as a “Sepoy Mutiny” but the contemporary Indian historians refer to it as a first war of independence but Stanley wolpert mentions.
Actually, it was not one reason which could be pinpointed as leading to the outbreak of this revolt but if we read between the lines, the political reasons surpassed all the other in giving rise to the revolt.
1. THE DOCTRINE OF LAPSE: Lord Dalhousie made every possible effort for the expansion of the British empire in India and he implemented his doctrine of lapse very strictly. He did not permit the native rulers to adopt a son as their successor. On the basis of this principle the kingdoms of Satara,Jaunpur,Sambhalpur,Jhansi and Nagpur were annexed to the British empire. This was a condemnable policy of Lord Dalhousie. As a result doubt and anxiety arose in their minds. Hence they began to think about the over throw of the English in their own interests.
2. ANNEXATION OF AVADH TO THE BRITISH EMPIRE: Lucknow was the capital of the province of avadh of contemporary India, and nawab wazid ali shah was its ruler who had always been faithful to the English owing to his stern policy Lord Dalhousie accused avadh of maladministration and annexed it to the British empire. The policy of annexation terrified the native rulers and they began to doubt the integrity of the English.
3. DESIRE TO GET RID OF THE SLAVERY OF THE ENGLISH: The English took over the Mysore, Maratha and other native kingdoms for the satisfaction of the imperialist policy and fortified the independence of the native rulers. Thus he established the rule of the company in the country as a result the general messes and the solider tried to eliminate the English from India.
The people of India were dissatisfied with the administrative policy of the English. System and the police administration of the English were also not satisfactory and people were always worried for the safety of their life and prosperity. The English tried to impose their superiority on the Indians. Introduction of English in place of Persian dissatisfied the masses. The English did not appoint any Indians to any administrative posts in the empire. As a result, the masses and the intellectuals were dissatisfied with the English. They decided to raise a standard or revolt against the English and oust them from their country.
SOCIAL AND RELIGIOUS CAUSES: The English after gaining their foothold in India began to interfere with the social and religious mores of the Indians. It irritated them no and. The English imposed restrictions on the system of sati and encouraged the widow remarriage. The step of the English might be praised by the people of modern age but in the eyes of the contemporary conservative people, it was not a reform but an uncalled-for intervention by the English in the religious beliefs of the Indians. Hence, the Indians rose against the English.
The English also destroyed the fabric of education. They wanted to keep most of the Indians people uneducated. Because they knew that the educated persons would become aware of their rights, and duties, hence there would always remain a possibility of their revolting. Attempts were being made to convert the people into Christianity on a large scale. In order to show the superiority of the English race, the English did not permit the Indians to take part in their social activities. The Indian were not allowed to enter the hotels managed by Europeans. They wrote at the gates of their hotels to humiliate Indians, “Indians and dogs are not allowed”.
The English moved heaven and earth to spread Christianity. They made the study or bible compulsory in their educational institution and temped the prisoners to adopt Christianity.

The English traders flourished by destroying the native trade of India. Not only the raw material from India began to be exported to the English factories but also their manufactured goods began to be imported to our country. They needed the new makers for the sale of their manufactured articles and that way India was the best makers for them.
The English forced the Indians weavers to work for the East India Company. They imposed merge tax on the raw material nominal tax on the manufactured goods that came from England so that the English goods could be sold cheaper in the Indian market in comparison to other native manufactures. In order to destroy the Indian cloth market, they imposed heavy taxes on manufactured goods which were sent to England and thus created problems for the sale of the Indian articles. As a result, the cloth trade of India was completely destroyed.
In fact, prior to the advent of the English India was not only an agricultural country but her trade and commerce also flourished. So, India use to gather a lot of wealth from the foreign countries. But the English destroyed all the trade of India and continued to fill their coffers with the wealth of India. This policy of English plunged India into poverty.

India was hit by a severe famine in A.D.1770 on a account of the economic exploitation of the English. This resulted in about one-third population of Purnea district falling prey to it. However, the English enhanced the land revenue and forced the farmers to pay the same. In case some farmers failed to pay the revenue, his land was auctioned. Thus, they were compelled to pay the land revenue constantly under all circumstances and even at the cost of their lives. Consequently, poverty went on increasing day by day and the people of every caste, class and creed had to fall victims to exploitation.
The Indian soldiers in the army of the East India Company outnumbered the English soldiers, but they had some grievances against the British government. In comparison to the English soldiers, they were paid less and there were merge chances of promotions for them. Normally, they had to retire from the post on which they were recruited. Moreover, the behavior of the English officers towards the Indian soldiers was very crude. In case, any Indian began to earn name and fame by his devoted service and excellent conducts, he was removed from the service.
The historian have divergent opinions about the beginning of this revolt some scholars are of the opinions that it was an organized attempt made by the Indians in order to get rid of the rule of the English.
31st May A.D.1857 was fixed as the date of the revolution in the entire country but owing to the mistake of Mangal Pandey , a soldiers in Barrackpur the secret could not be kept which harmed the revolt tremendously. On the 19th March when the greased cartridges were issued to the 19th battalion of Barrackpur, Mangal Pandey could not tolerated and he began to instigate soldiers against the British government. When some English officers tried to capture him, he assassinated them. Consequently, he was caught and hanged to death. On the death of Mangal Pandey, the soldiers was meerut raised a standard of revolt against the English; gradually, it spread through the hole of northern India and among various Battalions of the Indian army. Nana Saheb, BahadurShah Zafar, Tantia Topey, Maharani laxmi Bai , Kunwar Singh , Molvi Ahmed Shah and other took active part in this revolt on the basis of the sense of brotherhood. They started a fierce opposition to the government. They expected that the revolt would certainly make the English tremble in their boots and force them to flee India. Although the revolt had the support of the people, it was mostly based on the army.


Author: Nidhi Sharma