Monday, 15 August 2011

Uprising of The Great Revolt of 1857.


There has been constant resistance against British rule in India amounting to 40 most popular uprising and revolts arising between 1763-1856. these revolts can be classified as “Mass revolt, Kissan Revolt, Tribal Revolt, Sepoy Revolt.” The resistance for revolt was basically on the local or regional level which was due to dissatisfaction that has been brought by the British in the field of Economy, Administration and Land Revenue Policies. Within thirty years in Bengal the British had raised the Land Revenue almost twice than that of Mughals. This revenue was not at all used for the development and welfare which led to the beginning of “Sanyasi Revolt” that lasted from 1763-1780.  The nature of Civilian revolt Pre-1857 was “Traditional” and there was no sense of mature organized resistance among them. The basic aim of these revolts was to establish the previous form of administration and social relationship. Revolt of 1857 generated a surging spirit of national unity and solidarity and fired the hearts of Indian patriot to liberate the country from the British rule. To restore the throne of last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar both Hindus and Muslims gave a gallant fight against the British. But the failure of the uprising proved to be a national disaster. On one hand it resulted in the perpetuation and entrenchment of the British rule and on other hand it led to the institution of frustration and demoralization of Indian people. Basically after the failure of the revolt the Hindus and the  Muslims caught in the deadly tangles of communalism and began to drift apart which helped the British to fortify themselves.

The uprising of 1857 against the British rule was the first united uprising and was not sudden , but the culmination of growing discontent. The century following the battle of Plassey (June 23, 1757) and the outbreak of the great revolt in 1857 was marked by a series of violent region-political uprisings and disturbances, which were anti-British. The peasants, soldiers, landlords, princess, religious mendicants, the ministers and dependents of the deposed Indian rulers participated in these uprising. The ‘Faqir’ and the ‘Sanyasi’ rebellion of Bengal, The ‘Pagal Panthis ’ rebellions of the north east. The ‘Wahavi’ movement the ‘Kuka’ movement in Punjab, The ‘Farzai’ movement, The uprising of Titu Mir etc. were a few among them.

The uprising of 1857 which marked the completion of the first hundred years of British rule in India was the greatest revolt of the 19th century. In fact it was the culmination of of the civil rebellion which aimed at the restoration of pre-existing privileges and the status of different segments of the Indian society. The Hindus and the Muslims, artisans, peasants, zamindars, maullavis and pandits, all of them mobilized along with the sepoys. They all cut across the lines of caste, class, community and religion. Though the forces of Nationalism were not there but the widespread participation of different classes and communities an account of popular discontent with the British rule, presented one major pre-requisite for the emergence of nationalism in India. Precisely it can be said that though the uprising of 1857 did not happen as a result of the emerging nationalism, it created a situation which made its emergence inevitable.

Causes of Uprising:-
            Recent researches have established beyond doubt that besides the ‘greased cartidge’  affair, there were a variety of political, social, religious, and economic causes which combined to produce the rebellion.

Political Causes:-
The indiscriminate application of the ‘Doctrine of lapse’ by Lord Dalhousie had caused widespread discontent. The overthrow of Nawab Wajid Alishah and his annexation of Oudh in 1856 was resented all over India. It provoked the Indian soldiers, mostly recruited from Oudh and made them rebellions. Annexations of several Hindu principalities including Satara (1848), Jaipur and Sambhalpur (1849), Nagpur and Jhansi (1854), and forfeiture of the ex-peshaws pension using this doctrine had alarmed the princely states. The annexations was not a blow to the princely families alone, but to their dependent subjects as well.
            The policy of subordination and annexation of Dalhousie reduced the prestige of the treaties made by the Britishers.
            The ‘absentee sovereigntyship’ of British rule in Indian was another political factor. The Indians fell that they were being ruled from England and their country was being drained of her wealth.

Social and Religious Causes:-
            Initially East Indian Company followed the policy of  ‘splendid non-intervention’ in the social and religious matters of Indians. The colonial masters were well aware that there interventions would result into political upheaval and catastrophic to the young empire. But around the second decade of the nineteenth century, when their conquest of India was virtually complete, they suddenly awoke to the reality  that they were the master of an empire. This led them to change the policy of ‘non-intervention’ and adoption of the policy of ‘progressive intervention’ which resulted in the following social cum religious and cultural initiatives.
            Lord William Bentick, who belived that the British had a great moral duty to perform in India, initiated social reforms including the abolition of the cruel rite of Sati in 1829. His reforming zeal was maintained by his successor, specially, Lord Hardinge who took firm steps against the practice of female infanticide. Besides the legislation of widow remarriage, the right of inheritance to Christian converts, the promotion of western education at the expense of traditional learnings were not welcomed by the Indians.
            The English were infected with a spirit of racialism. The rulers followed a policy of contempt towards the Indians. European officers and soldiers on there hunting sprees were often guilty of indiscriminate criminal assaults on Indians. The European juries, which alone could try such cases, acquitted European criminals with light or no punishment. Such discrimination rankled in Indian mind.
            The permission given to the Christian missionaries in 1813 to come to India confirmed the suspicion that the British Government was determined to convert the Indians to Christianity. Popular suspicion that the British Government were gradually trying to replace Hinduism and Islam with the Christian faith, gained ground in 1850, the government enacted the law which enabled to convert to Christianity to inherit his ancestral property. This rapid penetration of Christianity alarmed the conservative sections of Indian society which helped the mobilization of the people against the government.
            The introduction of Railway and Telegraph were looked upon by the Indians as ingenious device for breaking the traditional social order and cast rules. Thus tension was inevitable when new ideas and innovations of the west to mingle with the orthodox Indian society.

Economic Causes:-
            According to Bipin Chandra “ Perhaps the most important cause of the popular discontent was the economic exploitation of the country by the British and complete destruction of its traditional economic fabric, both improvised the vast mass of peasants, artisans, handicraftsmen as also a large number of traditional  zamindars”.
            The economic exploitation of the country, the huge drain of wealth from Bengal and the destruction of the industry impoverished one of the richest countries of the world. The British deliberately crippled Indian trade and manufacture by imposing heavy protective duties in Britain. While British goods are imported in India at a normal duty. The machine made British goods flooded the Indian market and ruined Indian manufacturer. The ruin of Industry and commerce turned India into an agricultural colony of British manufacturing capitalism. The exorbitant land revenue ruined the peasantry to such an extent that they lacked the barest requirement of food and clothing.
            While poor classes were growing under poverty and discontent, the upper and middle classes were no less affected. The resumption of rent free tenures by William Bentick disposed many land holders of their estates, through the measure secured increased revenue of the state. Economic distress became more acute with the outbreak of several famines in the first half of the nineteenth century. All the classes except that of Indian compradors and new zamindars, suffered heavily under British rule givingsufficient reason to overthrow the over-exploitive British regime.

Miscellaneous Causes:-
            The Indian soldiers resented their low pay and their poor prospects of promotion. Indian soldiers serving overseas were either not given overseas allowance at all or paid much lower than their European counterparts. Campaigns in strange lands outside India were unpopular among the soldiers on account of the great hardships involved. These sufferings were the major cause of discontent among the Indian soldiers.
            The period of growth among the people coincided with certain events such as The First Afghan War(1838-42), The Punjab War (1845-49), The Crimian War (1854-56), The Santhal Rebellion (1855-56), etc. questioned the notion of the British invincibility and ended the myth of their everlasting superiority.

Immediate Causes :-
            In August 1856, pattern 1853 Enfield rifle was provided with greased cartridge. To load the rifle, sepoys had to bite the cartdige open to release the powder. The grease used to ‘fallow’  supplied by the Indian firm of Gangadhar Banerjee and Co. The rumours were abroad that the Enfield cartridge were greased with animal fat. This issue agitated both Hindu and the Muslims soldiers and proved to be a spark in the out burst of 1857 uprising.
            The uprising sparked off on March 29, 1857 at barrackpore near Calcutta. Next day the 34th cavalry regiment rebelled at Meerut and marched to Delhi. The initial success created a sensation in various parts of North and Central India and rebellions broke out in Oudh, Rohilkhand, West Bihar and many other towns and cities of North-Western provinces. The rebel leaders could not consolidate theirinitial gains, while the then Governor General, Lord Canning, took all the possible steps to gather the forces from Calcutta, Madras, Bombay and Punjab to quell the rebellion. With heavy losses it took more than two years for British to restore the British authority in India full and firmly.

Causes of the Failure :-
                                 i.            The revolt was not inspired by any positive and creative idea. It lacked plan programme and funds.
                               ii.            The revolt was localized, restricted  and poorly organized. The Sikhs, Rajputs and Marathas and ruling Chiefs of Eastern India did not take part in the uprising.
                              iii.            The resources of British empire were far superior to those of the rebels.The European soldiers were equipped with the latest weapons of war. In tactics and strategy, the British forces were superior than the natives.
                             iv.            The possession of widespread Telegraph system and the control of postal communication proved very helpful to the British in sending reinforcement at the earliest time.
                               v.            The English were fortunate for having Generals like James Outram, Huge Rose, Lawrence, Edwards, Havelock, Colin Campbell etc. who had exceptional capabilities.
                             vi.            The uprising were mainly feudal in character carrying with it the stains of few nationalistic elements. Besides the intellectuals showed the lack of interest.
                            vii.            The revolutionaries had no common ideal before them, so they could not attract the common people towards them, because of the class of interest, success was an impossibility.
                          viii.            The revolution broke out much earlier than the appointed day. This very fact disorganised the very plan and gave the English valuable time for reorganizing their forces.

Fundamental Changes after Uprising:-
                                 i.            The most significant development was the Queens Proclaimation’ which announced the end of the rule of The East India Company and assumption of Government of India directly by the crown.
                               ii.            The proclaimation promised non-interference in the religious affairs of the people, grant of equal protection of law and respect for ancient rights and customs of the people.
                              iii.            The policy towards the princely states radically treated as the bulkware of the empire against future contingencies. But the status of these rulers was reduced to privileged subordinates and dependents.
                             iv.            Reactionary and backward elements Like Landlords , Merchants were patronised to promote the interest of the British.
                               v.            The entire people of India were dubbed as unworthy of being trusted and they were subjected to humiliations, contemptuous treatment and insults.
                             vi.            The uprising opened India to the British merchant and capitalistic class for India’s further economic exploitation. It ended the era of territorial expansion and ushered in the era of economic exploitation.
                            vii.            Rani Lakshmi Bai, Nana Sahib, Kunwar Singh, Mangal Pandey, Bahadur Shah etc. the leaders of uprising  became national heros, the champions of national freedom and symbols of challenge to the mighty British empire in India.

Revolutionaries of Indian Rebillion of 1857 :-
Mangal Pandey— (Born on 19th July1827 at Nagwa, Ballia, Uttar Pradesh, India and died on 8th April 1857.) Was a sepoy in the 34th  regiment of the Bengal’s Native infantary of the East India Company. He attacked Lieutenant. Baugh, the Adjutant on March 29, 1857 at Barrackpore. He was executed.           

Ishwari Prasad— In command oh the quarter-guard, he was executed on the pretext of helping Mangal Pandey.
Rani Laxmi Bai— (Born in 19th Nov 1835 at Kashi, Varanashi, India and died on 17th June 1858.) Her original name was Manikarnika and was also called by other names:- Manu, Chabilli, Bai-Saheb. Symbol of the resistance of British rule rule in India, She was the firebrand who began the Indian revolution against the British colonialism and is one of the most famous women freedom fighter of India. She died on June 17, 1858 during the battle for Gwalior, fighting against British army at a place called “Kotah-ki-Serai” near Phool bagh area of Gwalior. General Huge Rose commented, “remarkable for her beauty, cleverness and perseverance, she was the most dangerous of all rebel leaders”.
Nana Sahib— (Born on 1824) His real name was Dhondupant. Related to the “Sati Chaurah Ghat” massacare “Bibigarh” massacare. He disappeared after British recaptured Kanpur. By 1859 it was reported that Nana Sahib fled to Nepal. His ultimate fate is in obscure.
Tantia Tope— (Born on 1814, Yeola, Nasik and died on 17th April 1859 at Shivpuri.)His full name was Ramchandra Pandurang Tope who was a personal adherent of Nana Sahib. He was defeated by the troops, commanded by General Napier after his trusted friend Mansingh betrayed him on April 18, 1859, he was executed by British Government at Shivpuri.
Bahadur Shah II— (Born on 24th Oct 1775, Mughal Empire, Delhi and died on 7th November 1862 at Rangoon, British Burma.) His Royal Highness Abu Zafar Sirajuddin Muhammad Bahadur Shah Zafar was also known as Bahadur Shah II or Bahadur Shah. The last Mughal ruler of India and his reign was from 28th September 1837 to 14th September 1857. Most rebelling Indian kings, Hindus and Muslims alike, and the Indian regiments unanimously accepted him as the emperor of India. He was compelled to surrender by Major William Hudson on Sept. 20, 1857, and later exiled to Rangoon, the capital of Burma. He died on Nov 7, 1862, and was buried near Shewadagon Pagoda in Burma. He was a noted urdu poet and wrote a large number of urdu ghazals.
Begum Hazrat Mahal— She was the Begum of Awadh and first wife of Nawab Wazid Ali Shah. Her Maiden name was Muhammadi Khanum. She led a band of supporters against the British and was even able to sieze the control of Lucknow. Ultimately, she had to retreat to Nepal where she had died in 1879.
Kunwar Singh— The zamindars of Arrah (Bihar), he fought against the British troops at the age of 80 and won many battles. He occupied Azamgarh and defeated Captain Le Grand near Jagadishpur. He died on April 26, 1858 in his village. He was respected as a good and brave warrior.
Amar Singh— Younger brother of Kunwar Singh who took the reign of rebellion in his after the death of his brother. He ran a parallel government in the district of Shahabad. In October 1859, he joined the rebel leaders in the Terai of Nepal.

Bhakt Khan— A pashtun, related to the family of Rohilla Chief  Najib-ud-Daula, organized trained and built up the Rohilla sepoys and left for Delhi where the Emperor bestowed upon him the tittle of “Saheb-i-Alam Bahadur”. In 1859 he was mortally wounded and died.

Azimullah Khan— He was the Prime Minister of Nana Sahib. His role in the rebellion was political rather than military. He bought a French printing press to print and distribute subversive literature against the British in India.

Mirza Mughal— He was designated Commander-in-Chief of the rebel troops. He was shot dead by Hudson alongwith the two other princes of Mughal dynasty.

Sherbaz Khan— He was the leader of Dhund Adibasi tribe in Hazara region. He planned to attack Muree  but he was captured by the British troops and shot dead.

Nahar Singh— King of the princely state of Ballabhgarh. His name will be highly regarded among those who martyred themselves in the rebellion of 1857.

Rahul Gunderjaharagand— Born in Bisslebboron, Patna he was a leader in the Indian rebellion of 1857.

Jhalkaribai— She was a soldier in the army of Rani Laxmi Bai. She disguished herself as the queen and fought on front to let the queen escape safely out of the fort of Jhansi.

Rao Tula Ram— He is credited with having oblitered every vistage of British rule from the region of South West Harrayana. He also helped rebel forces fighting in Delhiwith men, money and material. He died in Kabul on September 23, 1863.

Kalu Singh Mahara— He was the first freedom fighter from Kumaun. He organized the local people against the British empire. He was arrested from a place called Annakhera and was later executed.

Pran Sukh Yadav— He was an extra ordinary military commander of his time. He fought alongwith Rao Tularam of Rewariagainst the British troops at Nasibpur. Later he settled at village Nihalpura in Alwar district and joined Aryasamaj.

Scholars View About the Nature of Revolt of 1857 :-

            Sir John Seelay :- Wholly unpatriotic and selfish sepoy mutiny with no native leadership and no popular support.
T. R. Holmes :-  It was a conflict between civilization and barbarism.
James Outram :-  A Mohamedan conspiracy making capital of Hindu grievances.
L. E. R. Rees :- A war of fanatic religionists against Christians.
Trevelyon Kaye :- A mutiny confined to the army which did not command the support of the people at large.
V.D.Savarkar :- A planned war of National Independence.

            Benjamin Disraeli :- A National rising.

            Dr. S. N. Sen :- What began as a fight for religion ended as a War of Independence.

            Karl Marx :- The struggle of the soldier peasant democratic combined against foreign as well as feudal bondage.

            Prof. F. G. Hutchin :- It began as a military mutiny, the uprising quickly assumed the character of a popular rebellion.

            J. L. Nehru :- Essentially it was a feudal outburst headed by feudal Chiefs and their followers and aided by the widespread anti-foreign sentiments.

            Tara Chand :- On the whole the rising of 1857 was an attempt—the last attempt of medieval order to halt the process of dissolution and recover its lost status.

            Bipin Chandra :- The entire movement lacked an unified and forward looking programme to be implemented after the capture of power.

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