DU SOL BA 3rd Year History of India Notes Chapter 2 Revolt of 1857
Examine the causes of revolution of 1857. How far it is correct to call it a war of Indian Independence? Discuss.
What were the causes of the revolt of 1857? Was it a military or national rising?
Examine the causes of the rebellion of 1857. How far is it correct to call it a war of Indian Independence?
What is the signiciance of the revolt of 1857 in the history of Indian national movement? T
What were the causes of great outbreak in 1857? Do you regard it as a national war of independence, against the British? Give reasons for your answer.
Nature Of The Revolt
Purely a Military Revolt. The mutiny of 1857 is a great landmark in the history of India. It was the first time in 1857 that the Indians made a serious attempt to overthrow the British rule in India. Diametrically opposite views have been expressed by the historians regarding the characters of the great Mutiny of 1857. It was like the French Revolution of 1787 or American War of Independence 1776. The English scholars regard it as a Sepoy mutiny. Sir John Lowrence and Sir John Seelyregard it as the Sepoy mutiny.
According to John Lawrence: “the great revolution was an army rebellion which had its origin in the army whose proximate cause was the greased cartirdge and nothing else. It was not attributable to any antecedent conspiracy whatsover although it was afterwards taken advantage of by disssatisfied person to compaSs their own ends.” Sir John Seelay writes, “The mutiny was only impatriotic Sepoy mutiny with no national leadership and no popular support.” According to P.E. Roberts it was nothing more than a Sepoy revolt.
Some scholars do no accept the views expressed above. Some writers are of the view that the revolt of 1857 was in fact the Hindu Mulsim Conspiracy to replace to British Government by national one. This view is supported by Gen. Ou tram who says: “the great rebellion was the outcome of Muhammadan conspiracy making out capital of the Hindu grievances. The cartridge incident merely precipitated the mutiny before it had been thoroughly organised and before adequate arrangements had been made for making the mutiny thefirst step towards the popular insurrection.” According to Dr. R.C. Majumdar this view is not correct as in India nationalism was actually nowhere in existence.
The Mutiny was a War of Indian National independence –
A majority of Indian historians are of the view that the Mutiny was a war of Indian national independence. Vir Savarkar, Ashok Mehta. Pt. Jawahar Lai Nehru, Siri Jai Chandra Vidyalankar all hold the view’ that the Mutiny was a war of Indian national independence.
Vir Savarkar in his book, “The War of Indian IndependenceAshok Mehta in his book, ‘ 1857’ the Great Rebellion; Pt. Jawahar Lai Nehru in his book “Discovery of India” have held the view that the great mutiny of 1857 was in fact an Indian National War of Independence.
While Dr. Majumdar and Dr. Sen who made a special study of the printed and unprinted documents connected with the mutiny of 1857 have admitted that the great rebellion was neither the result of any organised effort or activities of the Indians nor was it based on brain of any national leader. The feeling of nationalism near about 1857-58 among the Indians had not developed.
It was neither wholly a war of National Independence nor merely a muting revolt. Dr. Sen and Dr. Majumdar are of the view that the Mutiny of 1857 was neither wholly a war of national independence nor merely a military revolt. According to Dr. Sen and Dr. Majumdar the mutiny of 1857 was neither wholly a war of national independence nor merely a military revolt.
The feeling of unity among the different communities and different provinces had not developed near about 1857-58. Even Rani of Jhansi had risen in revolt against the British in order to get the restoration of her rights and privileges which she had been deprived of by the English. The Nawab of Oudh was a feudatory of the British. The Taluqdars of Oudh rose in revolt in order to safeguard their interests. The national character of the Indians was as its lowest ebb at that time.
They could never untie themselves against the Britishers. Of courses there was some personalities such as Ahmad Ullah, Tantya Tope etc., who sacrificed themselves for the honour and national interest of Indians. The majority of person remained spectators and some of them even allied themselves with the British Government for the sake of their selfish interests. Therefore, the view of Dr. Sen and Dr. Majumdar appears to be more correct and forceful. The mutiny can be called as the first step towards the national struggle for independence. It was not purely a war of national independence.
It assumed national character only later on under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. Hence we can say that the mutiny of 1857 was neitlier wholly a national war of independence nor merely a military revolt. It was partly a Sepoymutiny and partly the first step towards the national struggle for independence. This view also finds support from Shri K.M. Munshi and Dr. Ishwari Prasad.
The Rebellion of 1857 was more than a mere Sepoy mutiny as observed by Ashok Mehta, “It was an eruption of the social volcano where in many pent up forces found vent. After the errupiion the whole social topography had changed. Trie scars of the rebellion remained deep and shining. ” According to K.M. Pannikar: “It is true that all the leaders of the rebellion came from among the great dispossessed; but all were united in object they had in view, the expulsion of the British and the recovery of national independence. In that sense the mutiny was no mutiny at all but great national uprising.
The large areas and powerful princes kept aside from movement, does not in anyway distract from its national character, for clearly they were waiting for on events and it was plain enough that the rebellion had litle chance of success. ”
Describe the nature and causes of the great revolution of 1857 or the first war of independence.
“The mutiny may be considered either as a military revolt or as a bid for recover of their property and privileges by dispossessed princes and landlords or as an attempt to restore the Mughal Emperor or as a peasant War.” Discuss.
What were the causes of the great outbreak in 1857? Do you regard it as a national war of independence against the British? Give reasons for your answer.
Causes Of Revolt
Causes of the Mutiny. The main causes of the mutiny of 1857 can be classified into—(a) Political; (b) Religious; (c) Social; (d) Economic; (e) Military.
Political Causes –
(i) Slowly and gradually the British continued to extend their influence and authority in Indian and with in a period of hundred years they becam e the most formidable power in India, on account of their diplomacy. The crushed the power of the Indian princes and incorporated their states into the British empire.
(ii) Even those states which had not been incorporated into the British dominions were also not left independent to conduct their own affairs. Then- foreign policy was fully controlled by the British. A British Resident was usually appointed in these states who not only controlled the foreign policy of these states but also interfered in the internal affairs.
(iii) Under subsidiary alliance, the native states were compelled to keep a British army on their own expense. When they were unable to bear the expense of army, they were forcede to part with some of their territories on account of the expenses of the British army.
(iv) The administration of the native states suffered badly on account of the interference of the British in their internal affairs. Henery Mead a journalist who had spent over 20 years in India before the great Mutiny of 1857 has given a vivid picture of corruption, favouritism and debauchery in the so called independent states.
(v) The imperialist policies of Lord Dalhausie had further increased the discontent and the feeling of revolt among the native states. He had annexed in the name of Doctrine of Lapse the states of Satara, Nagpur, Jhansi etc., in the British empire.
(vi) Maharani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi became a staunch enemy of the British.
The native princes had a fear that in the course of time their states might also be annexed by the British.
(vii) Dalhausie abolished the pensions and titles of the Indian princes. Prominent leaders like Nana Sahib became the staunch enemy of the British.
(viii) The Muslims were also unhappy because the British had made Mirza Qyas instead of Bahadurshan’s son Jawan Bux, the Yuvaraj of Mughal empire.
Regarding the policies of Dalhausie, it has been rightly observed : “ they aroused a feeling of uneasiness among many of those natives who were capable of observation and reflection. The unswerling regularity with which it was carried out, the absence of the provocation at their part which had seemed to justify the annexation of former rulers created in the minds of many of them as impression that the British Government was abandoning to those principles of good faith which had raised it above earlier conquerers and entering upon a new career of unscrupulous aggrandizement.”
(ix) The high military officers and soliders of states which had been annexed by the British empire were dismissed from the service. Thus about 8000 soliders had become unemployed. Since these soliders were deprived of their services, they have become a staunch enemy of the British.
(x) The Taluqdara and Zamindars were also dissatisfied with British Government because their land had been taken by the British.
(xi) The dissatisfied Indians could not even make complaints against the highhandedeness of the Company’s Officers because the Indian courts were not competent to hear the cases against the Britishers. In the begining the Muslim rulers did not treat the Hindus with equality. But in the course of time the Hindu Muslim amity and co-operation had developed. The British rulers not only deprived the Infans both the Muslim and the Hindus of the high posts but at the same time treated them with hatred.
Religious Causes –
1. The English people were not religious fanatics like the Muslims. They did not interfere in the religious affairs of the Indians. But the missionaries who came to India for the propogation of Christianity preached against the Hindu and Muslimreligions. The missionaries got financial help and the Indians embracing Christianity were given preference in the appointments on Government posts. The Christian preachers abused the gods and goddesses and Muslim prophets. It gave rises to dissatisfaction among the two major communities.
2. Lord Williams Bentinck modified the Hindu law to the effect that a Hindu becoming a convert in Christian religion will be entitled to his share in the family property. This was considered as an interefence in the religion of the Hindus and created great discontent.
3. During Dalhausie’s region the prisoners were prohibited to keep a pot of their own for drinking water. The Hindus suspected that it was done to convert them Christians. Thus their religions feelings were hurt.
4. The Indians were also dissatisfied with the English education in the schools where Christianity was taught and other religious were openly disgraced.
5. The introduction of railways and telgraphs by Lord Dalhausie also made people suspicious who thought that this was being done by the British in order to crush their religious feelings.
6. The new type of cartridges were supplied to soliders. It was rumoured that these cartridges were made of fat of cow and pig. This agitated the minds of the Hindus as well as the Muslims. They took it as an affront on their religions.
7. The English legalised the Hindu remarriage which was regarded as violation of the Hindu religious laws.
8. The system of Sati was also abolished by the British. The Hindus alleged that it was a personal and voluntary act. It was an ancient religious custom. It was a disrespect to the Hindu way of life to stop the age long custom. Abolition of Sati also helped to create the gulf between the English and the people of India.
Dr. Ishwari Prasad says: “The English happy in their ignorance of Indian philosophy attempted to introduced western notions of inheritance marriage and succession and thereby consciously and unconsciously trampled upon the most sensitive portion of a Hindu’s life. This was great degradation and was the result of a well settled policy.
It has been a common belief of all imperialism that degrade the conquered, to distrupt their social system, to make than forget their past, to impoverish them and then to lure them to the religion of the conqueror is a better guarantee of stability than mere military strength. In its application to Indian society, however, the policy recoiled on its promoters. It stirred the people brought back to them the remeniscences of their glorious past and cemented the causes of rebellion.”
Social Causes –
1. Social innovation introduced by the British were disliked by the Indians and increased their discontent.
2. The Muslims though foreigners had ruled in India for several centuries. But there was not much difference between the ruling class and the ruled. But it was quite different with the British. They not only despised the Indian but it was quite different with the British. They not only despised the Indians but also regarded them utterly incapable of any faith and insulted them on every occasion.
3. The British did not like to have any social relations with the Indians in general. They removed all Indian from high posts and destroyed their social status and respect.
4. Abolition of Sati, illegalising child marriage, changing the laws of Hindu inheritance in case of change of religion was direct interference in the social life of the people. The British made the remarriage of widows valid. People thought it was simply crushing their culture and traditions and to impose foreign ideas and philosophy upon them.
5. The British did not give due place to Indian literature and languages. They tried to impose European literature to the utter disregard of the Indian languages. This created a great discontent among the native inhabitants.
6. The British abolished the ancient religious education and the system of education introduced by Lord Macaulay was against the Indian traditions. It created a section of the Indians called ‘babus’ where began to hate Indian culture and civilization. Therefore the right thinking Indians began to look with suspicion the new system of English Education.
7. The British passed the Caste Disabilities Removal Act 1850 in total disregard of the Indian social customs and traditions. It was an act of folly on the part of the British. The ‘Morning Herald’ of U. K. wrote that it was “a blow to Hindu Law, it subverted one of the institutions most sacred in the eyes of the Hindus.” The Law of Property, widows remarriage Act of 1856 were an open defiance of the Hindu sentiments and social usages.
It is no doubt that social causes also played a great part in creating a feeling of discontent and animosity against the British.
Economic Causes –
1. The economic policy of the British also created discontent among the Indian inhabitants. India was looted and plundered several times by the foreigners. Even the Muslim rulers aimed to enjoy the money and property of India; but they did not transfere this money and property of India to any other country and used the same in the country itself. It was only a sort of redistribution of wealth within the limits of the frontiers of the Country. But the British Governed the Country for the British Crown and their main aim was to expand and prosper at the cost of Indians. India was treated a mere colony which should exist for the prosperity of the mother country.
2. The British exploited the Indians in political as well as economic fields. Their aim was to extract as much money as was possible. They did not pay any heed to improve the economic condition of the peasants and labourers.
3. The British came to India as traders with a clear aim to make the maximum money. Gradually they captured the whole of Indian trade. After the Industrial Revolution in England India became the great market and centre of the manufactured goods of England. The Indian trade and commerce began to decay while that of the British propsered day by day. The Indians could not compete with the British who enjoyed all he privileges and a large number of craftsmen became unemployed. The village industries and cottage industries decline. The workers lost their traditional craft.
4. The British extracted Indian money by every possible means. Handsome salaries were paid to the English Officers from Indian treasury and the British merchants took away a lot of money to their country. After the decline and decay of Indian industries the Indians were left with no alternative but fall back upon agriculture. Thus India was doomed to remain a backward, undeveloped agricultural country. The prices of the land increased and the conditions of the peasants became worse. There was a great discontent among the peasants.
5. A large number of persons had become unemployed on account of the political and economic policies of the British. These unemployed persons became the staunch enemies of the British regime.
6. The East India Company deprived the old Zamindars and Taluqdars of their rights and captured their lands. They started exploiting the people who actually cultivated those land. Thus the Zamindras, the Taluqdras as well as the people were greatly dissatisfied with the British. When the Taluqdars took arms against the British the people willingly joined them. Dr. Ishawari Prasad has observed:
“The political changes prior to the advent of the British, the rise and fall of empires in Delhi had little or no effect upon the economic structure and life of the people. The reason for this was that the wealth remained in the country and whatever power ruled over Delhi it had no sympathies beyond the boundaries of India. With the English, however, it was quite different. Though paramount in India, they were subordinate to the Crown of England and their economic policy was subservient to their mother country. Indian wealth flew out of the country. Indian economy began to be fashioned to meet the needs of Industrial England.
With the Industrial Revolution of the early 19th century, England ceased to be a mere commercial nation and was transformed into a manufactory of the world. Raw material for her factories and markets for her finished goods became England’s prime needs. British policy in India was developed to meet those needs. The once famous Indian industry died of English competition and neglect; the burden on agriculture increased and India became a land exporting raw materials and importing finished goods. English capital flowed into the country and as it carried away both interest and profits, the results were ruinous. India became a milk cow to feed England while her own sons were gradually pushed to the starvation wage. ”
Military Causes. Since the Afghan adventure of Lord Auckland, the discipline in the army had suffered a serious setback. Lord Dalhausie had written to the Home authorities that “the discipline of the army from top of bottom, officers and men alike is scandalous.” The British had been able to establish their empire with the help of the Indian armies. In the year 1857 there were about 40;000 British soliders as compared to more than 2 lakhs of Indian soliders.
The policy and treatment of the British had created great discontent among the Indian soliders and they had been nursing these grievances for a long time. The credit of starting the revolt of 1857 goes to the Indian soliders. Some historians even regard the revolt of 1857 as the Military Revolt. Three fifths of therecruits of the Bengal Army were drawn from Oudh and N.W. Provinces and most of them came from high caste Brahimin and Rajput families who were averse to accepting that part of the army discipline which treated them on par with the low caste recruits. During the govemor- Gencralship of Lord. Dalhausie three mutinies had occured in the army. The mutiny of 22nd N.I. in 1849, of the 66th N.I. in 1850 and the 38 N.I. in 1852. The following were the main military causes of the Mutiny of 1857.
1. Almost all the high posts in the army were given to the Britishers and Indian soliders were thought incapable of holding high posts in the army. They were compelled to serve on lower posts through out their life. This was quite insulting for the Indian soliders. Whenever Indian soliders protested against this practice they were mercilessly and ruthlessly suppressed. Thus day by day their dissatisfaction against the British was on the increase.
2. The British officers treated the Indian soliders very badly. They abused and insulated at every step and often subjected to inhuman treatment.
3. In comparision with that of the Britishers, Indian soliders were paid lower salaries and were not provided the same facilities of promotion and allowances which were given to the British officers and soliders.
4. The British never completely believed the Indian soliders and always suspected their integrity and honesty Napier had no confidence in the allegiance of high caste mercinaries. Three mutinies had already occured in the army in 1849, 1850, 1852.
5. At’ the time of war Indian soliders were always sent on the front row and consequently a large number of them died in the battles. Inspite of this their services were not acknowledged by the British and rewards were given to the English officers.
6. The Hindus could not have a tilak on their foreheads could not were caps etc., the Muslims could not keep moustaches and beards. It was an affront on their religious feelings.
7. A large number of British soliders were sent to Europe, Middle Asia and China in wars and hence the number of British soliders in Indian had diminished considerably. Under such circumstances the Indian soliders got the right opportunity for which they had been waiting for a long time.
8. The Indian princes were propagating the ideas ofrevolt and discontent in the Indian army against the British.
9. Since many high military officers were apointed on the political posts, the discipline of the army was constantly deteriorating.
10. In 1856 Canning’s government passed the General Service Enlistment Act which decreed that all future recruits for the Bengal army would have to give an undertaking to serve anywhere their services might be required by the Government The Act did not affect old incumbants but was unpopular because service in the Bengal army was usually hereditary. Those soliders who had been sent in the army of invasion of Afghanistan during 1839-42 had not been taken back in the folds of the caste. Sepoys declared unfit for foreign-service were not allowed to retire with pension but were to be posted for duty at cantonments.
11. The privilege of free passage so long enjoyed by the Sepoys was withdrawn with the passing of the Post Office Act of 1854.
12. The distribution of troops was also faulty.
13. Disasters in Crimian War had lowered the general morale of the British soldiers.
14. The British Governor – General had reduced the number of soldiers in the army of the states. Thus a large number of Indian soldiers had become unemployed. They being dissatisfied against the British were nursing a grievance against the British. Finding an appropriate opportunity they had started instigating the Indian soldiers.
15. Immediate Cause of the rebellion was the introduction of Greased Cartridges. A new type of cartridges were supplied to the soldiers. It was rumoured that these cartridges were greased with the fats of cows and pigs. Cow is sacred to the Hindus and the pig is forbidden to Muslims. This created great discontent among the Hindus and the Muslims who thought that the British was bent upon crushing their religious feelings. When the soldiers of the two communities protested against the use of these cartridges because, the British Government denied the truth of this allegation. This infuriated the sepoys.
“The fire of vengence once ablazed could scarcely be quelled by the representatives of Lord Canning downwards that the story of greased cartridges was untrue and was spread by mischiefmongers. English historians have themselves admitted that cow’s fat and lard were used in the composition of tallow used in the new cartridges.” The sepoys were perfectly right in their belief. In his book “Forty years in India”.
Lord Roberts has also remarked : “The recent researches of Mr. Forrest in the records of Government of India prove beyond doubt that the lubricating mixture used in preparing the cartridges was actually composed of the objectionable ingredients cow’s fat and lard and that incredible disregard of the soldiers religious prejudices was displayed in the manufacture of these cartridges.
Thus we see that the greased cartridges became the immediate cause of the great Revolt of 1857. However, this may be noted that the great rising of 1857 was not the result of a chance cause only. The greased cartridge merely precipitated the crisis.
Spread of the Mutiny. Troubles began first at Barrackpore where the discontent of the sepoys was marked by the outbreak of incendiary fires. Then they openly mutinied and their example was followed at Berhampur. It is said that one day a Brahmin Soldier did not allow other soldiers to touch his bowl. The other soldiers told him that soon the Brahmins would be deprived of their pride in their high caste because the Government had supplied greased cartridges which are greased with the fat of cows and pigs.
Both the Hindus and Muslims will have to bite the end of the cartridge before using it. This news infuriated the Sepoys who could not be convinced even upon the assurances given by the British Officers. This discontent became known through out the country within a short time. A Soldier named Mangal Pande added fuel to the fire by shooting the British Officer and thus the mutiny started. Soon incendiary fires also broke out at Ambala. But the decisive outbreak occurred at Meerut where 85 Sepoys of the Cavalry regiment were sentenced to two years imprisonment for refusing to use greased cartridges. At this three regiments broke into open mutiny shot down their officers, broke open the prison, released their comrades and marched off to Delhi. General Hewitt, the Officer Commanding at Meerut had 2,200 European Soldiers at his disposal but did nothing to stem the rising tide.
Delhi was seized by the rebels on 12th May 1857. Lieut. Willoughly incharge of the magazine at Delhi offered some resistence but was over come. The palace and the city was occupied. Some European inhabitants of Delhi were shot dead. Bahadur Shah II was proclaimed the Emperor of India. The loss of Delhi was a serious loss of prestige to the English.
The mutineers joined by the Delhi sepoys made themselves masters of the city and the palace. The capture of Delhi by the mutineers was the signal for a general rising in Northern India and soon the mutiny spread to Lucknow. Bareilly, Kanpur, Agra, Jhansi, Central India, Bundelkhand and other places. Everywhere the mutineers killed the Europeans, broke open the jails and then marched towards Delhi and thus the mutiny started.
Give an account of the organisation and spirit of revolution of 1557. How was it Suppressed?
Organisation, Spread And Suppression –
Events of the Mutiny. Nana Sahib, (Baji Rao’s adopted son) Azimullah, Rani Laxmi Bai of Jhansi, Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah and his Begum Zinat Mahal, the Nawab of Oudh’s Begum Hazrat Mahal, Kunwar Singh of Jagdishpur, Tantiya Tope etc., were some of the most prominent persons who took advantage of the wide spread discontent of the sepoys and planned armed revolution against the British.
Nana Sahib was the fore most leader of the revolution. In the opinion of Sir John Kaye “Nana Sahib was a quiet Notations young man not at all addicted to any extravagant habits. Lord Dalhausie had abolished the pension of Nana Sahib who sent his pleader Azimullah to England to represent his case. Although Azimulla could not get success in his mission yet he utilised his time well touring East Europe and other countries and established contacts with persons of several countries. He toured Russia, Italy, Egypt and Turkey.
While in India Nana Sahib organised secret meetings in which the dissatisfied Rajas and Nawabs resolved to rise in revolt against the British in the name of the Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah. It was decided to start the revolution from 31st May, 1857. Secret meetings were held in the Red Fort. The Mughal Emperor Bahadur shah and his Begum Zinat Mahal, Wazir Ali Shah’s wife Begum Hazrat Mahal, Wazir Ali Naquikhan etc, participated in these meetings.
Ali Naquikhan made an extensive tour of the whole of India in the guise of a hermit. He instigated the Hindus and tire Muslims were to take oath of Ganges water and Quran in order to express their firm determination to actively participate in the proposed revolution. Likewise Maulvi Ah am Shah made extensive tours from Lucknow to Agra and instigated the people to rise in revolt against the British. The Taluqdars and Zamindars also contributed to make the revolution a success.
An atmosphere against the British was thus created by the leaders of the ensuing revolution. The lotus and chapati were made the symbol and were circulated among each and every village and cantonement. Village chaukidars helped to distribute the chapatti in the villages. However some Scholars are of the opinion that the distribution of Chapatis had no connection with the revolution. Sir Syed Ahmad Khan has written : “The fact is that even at the present day we do not know what caused the distribution of these chapatis.”
However others think that the chapatis and Lotus were the emblems of bread and livelihood, were made the symbols of revolution and the whole of India eagerly waited for the date fixed for the same. The organisation of the revolutionaries was performed with such dexterity and ability and with in such a short span of time that the English could not know anything about it. Nana Sahib along with his brother Bala Sahib and Vakil Azimullah travelled Delhi, Ambala, Mathura, Agra and Lucknow on the excuse of making pilgrimage to these places but in fact to ensured that everything was properly organised.
Mangal Parade Incident. There was so much discontent among the people and they were so much anxious to take the revenge that they could not even wait for the date fixed by the organisers of the Revolution. In January 1857 when the soldiers of Dumdum cantonment came to know the truth about the greased cartridges the became anxious to take the revenge from the British.
Unrest was brewing from the beginning of 1857. On 23rd January fin- troops at Dumdum refused the cartridges. On 26th January trouble broke out at Berhampur in Bengal. In order to punish the British soldiers of the regiment and to disband them, the British officers summoned the British army from Burma. When the 19th and 34th regiments of the infantry came to know of this they could not check their anger and on 29th March 1857 a soldier named Mangal Pande came out of his row and openly called the Indian soldiers to take revenge from the British.
Sergent major Hudson ordered the soldiers to arrest him but none of the soldiers stepped forward. There after Mangal Pande shot Hudson dead and also killed another English officer who was advancing towards him on a horse. Col. Wheeler asked the soldiers to arrest Mangal Pande, but his orders were also not complied with by the soldiers. Thus mutiny started two months before the fixed date. The incident shows that although the Indian soldiers agreed with the views of Mangal Pande, yet they were hesitating to start mutiny before the fixed date.
However Mangal parade shot himself and was made a prisoner in wounded state. The British decided to hang him to death on 8th April and 19th and 34th Regiments were ordered to be disbanded. In the whole cantonment of Barreckpore no one was prepared to perform the task of hanging Mangal Pande. Hence four persons were called from Calcutta to perfprm this task and Mangal Pande was hanged on 8th April, 1857. The news of Mangal Pande’s hanging spread like wild fire throughout the country and it became impossible for the sepoys to wait till 31st May which was the date fixed to start mutiny.
Thus the mutiny began prematurely Dr. Ishwari Prasad has observed : “The news of Mangal Pande spread like fire throughout the cantonments of Northern India and secret meetings began to be held in every regiment to decide whether to wait till 31st May or to start the Revolt at once.”
Main Events of the Mutiny. It is quite unfortunate for the country and fortunate for the British that Mangal Pande’s incident of Barrackpore had started the revolt prematurely. Since the organisation of the mutiny could not be completed by then, the British were able to suppress the Revolt. Some of the important events of the mutiny are described below:
Revolt in Meerut: The cantonment of Meerut was the most important cantonment in Northern India in those days. The news of the Barrackpore incident reached Meerut and the sepoys there also started revolt. When on 24th April Col. Smith ordered the soldiers to use the new cartridges only five out of 90 sepoys obeyed his orders. The remaining 85 soldiers were made prisoners and were given rigorous imprisonment for 10 years. The incident further increased the discontent of the Sepoys.
The hand cuffed 85 sepoys were demonstrated before the other soldiers to set a lesson for them. It added fuel to fire and their anger knew no bounds. Next morning i.e., 10th May 1857 they also revolted. The British officers were killed and burnt their houses. The gates of the prison were broken open and all the imprisoned sepoys were freed. Thereafter they distributed arms among the sepoys and started shooting every Britisher whosoever came before them. Thus after killing thousands of Britishers, the sepoys set out towards Delhi with the determination of capturing the Government Treasury. Regarding the Revolt of Meerut, Dr. Ishwari Prasad has observed :
“As events prove Meerut accident by precipitating the revolt saved the British Rai from the ruin which Nana Sahib and his colleagues had planned. Wilson, White and Malleson three noted historians of the revolt ‘ agreeing in regarding Meerut out break as fortunate for he company and fatal to revolt. It upset the whole plan of the the rebels, deprived them of a concerted action and in many places the local leaders did not know what to do. This ledmanyto spontaneous and unpremeditated action.”
Capture of Delhi by the rebels. The mutineers from Meerut reached Delhi on the morning of 11th May. No British army was present there to resist their trumphant march. The Indian Sepoys there all joined the mutineers and murdered many Europeans in coldblood. There were some 10,000 guns, 9 lakh cartridges and hundreds ofmaunds of gun powder. But the attempts of the mutineers to capture the arms was foiled by nine British guards who burnt the place. Had the mutineers been able to capture the place, the mutiny would have taken a different shape and it was quite possible they would have been successful. The entered Red Fort and declared Bahadur Shah as their emperor. Delhi was declared independent. Bahadur Shah was declared as the leader of the mutineers.
Soon the people rose in revolt in Aligarh. Etawah, Mathura Mainpuri and Rohilkhand. People were greately encouraged with the success at Delhi. They were in high spirits. The news of success spread to distant places also .Everywhere the Europeans were killed. But Indians also helped the Britishers particularly women and children to escape themselves, gave them shelter in their own houses. For some time the British rule in the above mentioned places was ended. Everywhere the Indian flag fluttered triumphantly. By 15th June the mutiny spread throughtout the whole northern India and the mutineers erased the signs of the East India Company.
Role of Nana Sahib and other leaders. Nana Sahib was in Kanpur. He directed the operations from there. He declared himself the independent Peshwa and started leading the revolutionaries of the neighbouring provinces. Nana Sahib is held responsible for the massacre at Kanpur. He invited Kunwar Singh to join him.
Another leader was Ram Chandra Pandurang alias Tantia Tape. He was one of the few military leaders of ability produced by the mutiny. He was present at the Kanpur massacre. He assumed command of Gwalior rebels. He defeated the force of Windham at Kanpur but he was defeated by Coli. He persuaded the rebels of Gwalior to join the rebeis at Kalpi. He visited Gwalior secretly and planned an attack on Gwalior. Ultimately he was betrayed by Mansingh. He was captured by the British and sentenced to death and executed.
Azimullah Khan. He was originally a khidmatgar in some Anglo Indian Family. He acquired a thorough knowledge of English and French languages. He became a teacher in Government School at Kanpur. He was chosen by Nana Sahib to represent his case before the authorities in London. So charming was his personality that many English women fell in love with him. He is said to be the chief investigator in Kanpur massacre.
Maulvi Ahmad Ali Shah of Faizabad was known by various name. He travelled from place to place accompanied by some armed men. He had his disciples all over India. He openly declared holy war against the Farangis and made seditious speeches. The soldiers at Faizabad also revolted. Ahmad Ali Shah was their leader. He attacked Shahjahanpur. He was killed in 1858. He was a man of great ability and undaunted courage. According to Malleson, “If a patriot is a man who plots and fights for the independence wrongfully destroyed for his native country then most certainly the Maulvi was a true patriot.’He had not stained his sword by assassination, he had connived at no murders; he had fought manfully, honourably and stubbornly in the field against the strangers who had seized his country and his memory’is entitled to the respect of the brave and the true hearted of all nations.”
Kunwar Singh was the doyen of the guerilla fighting. He was about 70 at the time of out break of the mutiny. He had extensive landed estates the total annual rental of which amounted to Rs. 3,00,000. He paid an annual revenue of Rs. 1,48,000. He was illiterate and consequently could not look after his estates. He was heavily debt. In 1857 he found himself on the brink of bankruptcy. He was on very intimate terms with the English officials in India. He joined the rebels under a threat of violence. Once with the rebels he staked everything for their victory. He fought valiently against the British atmanyplaces. He died on 23rd April 1858.
Rani of Jhansi (Laxmi Bai). The Rani of Jhansi is a legendry figure. Her popularity and grip over the Indian mind is proved by the fact that not only is she the most well known of the rebel leaders but a large number of folk songs and ballades have been composed in her memory by her
contemporaries and also by later poets. She is also the theme of modern poems, novels and dramas which have become famous all over the country.
When Raja Gangadhar Rao of Jhansi died, his adopted son was not recognised by the British Government and Jhansi was annexed in 1853. The Ray was harassed in every possible way. She was asked by the Government to pay the debts of her husband from her pension of Rs. 6000/- per annum. The Rani put up with all the indignities and continued to wait for some suitable opportunity.
On 4th June 1857 the Sepoy regiment stationed at Jhansi revoluted. British authority was crumbling all over India. The British position was so weak that their representative openly asked the people to accept the rule of the Rani who was stated to be acting on their behalf.
The Rani was forced to leave Jhansi but she managed to reach Kalpi to join her forces with the Nawab of Bunde, Tantia Tope and others. The British forces pushed her and ultimately the battle had to be fought. After the fall of Kalpi, she managed to capture Gwalior from Scindhia Sir Hugh Rose mounted a terrific offensive and ultimately the rebel front crashed except the sector held by the Rani. While organising the retreat on 18th June 1858 she was mortally wounded and she died in the battle field.
True that the Rani died in the battle field but her name became immortal. She was praised not only by her admirers but even by her enemies. Sir Hugh Rose observed thus : “Although a lady, she was the bravest and the best military leader of the rebels. A man among the mutineers. ” According to Malleson; “She gained a great influence over the hearts of her people. It was this influence, this force of character added to a splendid and inspiring courage, that enabled her some months later, to offer to the English troops under Sir Hugh Rose a resistence which made to a less able commander might even have been successful.”
Suppression of the mutiny. Mutiny could not spread to Punjab. The Provinces of Kashmir, Rajasthan, Bombay, Hydrabad etc. remained unaffected by the mutiny. It remained confined in Northern India and Madhya Bharat and so the English were able to suppress it without much difficulty. Lord Canning the Governor-General became nervous in the beginning but soon he decided to suppress it with firm determination. He spread a network of spies in the length and breadth of the whole country. The British soldiers were summoned from Madras and Bombay. A British army that was going to China via sea was stopped and utilised to suppress the mutiny. Lord Canning was helped by the State of Hyderabad, Gwalior, Patiala, Nabha, Jind, Barole, Jodhpur Jaipur etc. Henry Lawrence was sent to Lucknow and John Lawrence to Punjab. The Sikhs not only showed their apathy towards the mutiny but also helped the British in suppression of the same. The gurkhas also helped the British in suppressing the mutiny.
Subedar Bakhtar Khan was incharge of the revolutionary armies. Mirza Illahi Bux a relation of Bahadur Shah betrayed the emperor and gave all the secrets to the British. In September 1857 General Nicholson reached Delhi with a big army consisting of the British, Gorkha, Sikhs, Punjabi and Kashmiri soldiers. The ruler of Jind also reached Delhi to help the British. After a terrible fight which lasted for ten days, the British recaptured Delhi on 24th September.
Bahadur Shah was made a prisoner and was sent to Rangoon where he died in 1873. The fall of Delhi decided the fate of revolt. Gen. Neil reached Banaras with a big army and killed thousands of innocent persons without any regard of sex or age. He then proceeded to Allahabad. The mutineers struggled for 11 days but they could not capture the fort which was defended by the Sikhs. Gen. Neil reached Allahabad on 17th June 1857 and without much difficulty he captured the city and hanged to death hundreds of persons on the trees of Allahabad.
At Kanpur Nana Sahib had captured the fort. The British inmates were allowed to cross the river by boat. It is said that when the boat reached the mid stream, the Indian Sepoys attacked them. Very few of them could escape. When Nana Sahib came to know of this he felt very sorry and saved as many as possible. Two British armies were sent from Allahabad under General Havelouch and Raynard. Nana Sahib resisted the British army bravely but he was defeated. The British army after recapturing Kanpur marched toward”. Lucknow.
Revolt in Oudh. The mutiny took the most terrible form in Oudh. The rule of Begum Hazrat Mahal was established in the whole of Oudh except the Residency. She placed her minor son Brijis Qadir on the throne of Lucknow and she herself became the regent on behalf of her son. The British Resident Sir Henry Lawrence bad come to know beforehand about the start of the revolt and had given shelter to the Britishers in the Residency.
The Zamindars and Taluqdars had also taken active part in the revolt of Oudh. Many Europeans were killed. The administration of the British completely collapsed in Oudh. Sir Peorge Forresh writes: “The English administration in Oudh vanished like a dream and left not a wreck in behind. But there was no revenge no cruelty. The brave and turbulent population with a few exceptions treated the fugitives of-the ruling race with marked kindness and the high courtsey and chivelry of the people of Oudh was conspicuous in their dealings with their falling masters who in the days of their power had from the best of motives inflicted on many on them a grave wrong.”
The mutineers could not capture the Residency inspite of their serious efforts to do so. The Britishers had fortified it well. In order to protect the Britishers who were besieged in the Residency. General Haveloch set out for Lucknow from Kanpur. He had to face the opposition of the Taluqdars in the way. In the absence of General Haveloch the mutineers had recaptured Kanpur and the position of General Neil had become precarious. On the request of Gen. Neil, Haveloch had again to return to Kanpur. A terrible battle was fought between the mutineers and the British on the Plains of Ganges.
General Haveloch again returned to Lucknow on September 20. It was on September 23 that Haveloch had to fight against the mutineers in Alambagh. He was able to reach the Residency of Lucknow on September 25, 1857. Here lie felt that he had been besieged by the mutineers when commander-in-chief Campbell came to know of this he started from Calcutta on October 27 with a huge army. He reached Lucknow on November 9. After a grim fight for several days he was able to join the army of Haveloch. However, General Haveloch died fighting on November 24.
In the meantime Tantiya Tope had attacked Kanpur and General Campbell was compelled to return to Kanpur. After suppressing the revolt at Kanpur he returned to Lucknow. A terrible battle was fought at Lucknow in March 1858. After a great bloodshed the British army ultimately emerged victorious and Lucknow was recaptured by the British on March 31, 1858. Lord Canning confiscated the property of some Taluqdars.
However, some scattered revolts in Oudh continued uptill 1859. Shah Jahanpur by nowhad become the stronghold of the mutineers. Nana Sahib and Ahmad Shah had also reached there. Hence Campbell proceeded towards Shahjahanpur but the two great leaders went to Bareilly where Begum Hazrat Mahal, Bala Sahib and other revolutionary leaders had also assembled. Bareilly was captured by the British in May. Ahmadshah was murdered by a traitor. Nana Sahib and Begum Hazrat Mahal and Bala Sahib fled away to the Tarai of Nepal and never returned to this country. Thus the mutiny Qudh was ruthlessly suppressed by the British.
Describe briefly the causes of the failure of the revolt of 1857.
Causes For The Failure Of Revolt Of 1857
The Revolt was localised and not countrywide. The revolt was to a great extent localised, limited and ill organised. The revolt could not become wide spread as it could not be started simultaneously on the stipulated date. It had almost no effect in the South of Narmada, Sindh, Rajputana, Punjab, Bengal, Kashmir and Nepal also remained unaffected. According to Dr. R.C. Majumdar : It was never an all India character but was localised, restricted and poorly organised.” The areas mainly affected were United Provinces. Rohilkhand, Oudh, Afghanistan under Dost Mohammad remained quite friendly. Sindh was quiet, Rajputana was loyal, Central and Eastern Bengal were undisturbed and Nepal not only remained aloof but rendered the British valuable assistance in putting down the revolt.
2. Support of the native rulers to the English and lack of it to the Indian mutineers. Instead of supporting and participating actively in the revolt, the Indian princes showed their loyalty to the British at the time of mutiny. The rulers of Hyderabad, Nabha, Patiala, Kapoorthala etc. showed their loyalty to the British and helped them in suppression of the revolt. The Maratha Chiefs Scindhia and Holkar also remained loyal to the British. The brave Marathas remained quite apathetic with regard to the revolt.
Sir Russel writes: “Yet it must be admitted that with all their courage the English would have been quite exterminated if the natives had been all and altogether hostile to them. The desperate defence made by the garrisons was no doubt heroic but the natives shared their glory and they by their aid and presence rendered the defence possible. Our seige of Delhi would have been quite impossible if the Rajas of Oudh and Patiala had not been our friends and if the Sikhs had not been recruited in our battalions and remained quiet in the Punjab. The Sikhs at Lucknow did good service and in all cases our garrisons were helped, fed and served by the natives as our armies were attended and strengthened by them in the field.”
3. Lack of Leadership. Although there were some capable leaders like Nana Sahib, Tantiye Tope and Rani Laxmi Bai yet there was none who could command the allegiance and respect of the people of the whole of India. Maulana Abul Kalam has written “in the light of the available evidence we are forced to the conclusion that the uprising of 1857 was not the result of carelul planning nor were there any masterminds behind it. Besides, the natives spying for the British were at work inside and outside the Fort, among whom the Maulvi Rajab Ali stands out as the most notorious.
On the other hand, the English had the advantage of having very capable leaders and trend generals like the Lawrence brothers, Outram Haveloch, Nicholson, Neil, and Edwards. This was really fortunate for the British Government. It were these British leaders and generals who resisted the mutineers very stub bornly is the early stages of the Mutiny and who were thus in a position to control the situation. They had received a substantial aid from their homeland in the later stages of the mutiny. Otherwise also, they were far superior to the Indian leaders in military and political qualities. All of them had only one object before them and that was the defence of the British Government in India. They had unity of purpose. They were not divided in their political aims.”
4. Lack of unity of purpose and organisation. The Indian rebels lacked unity of purpose and organisation. There was no central organisation which could lead the whole revolt by having an whole India aspect. The Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shall wanted to regain his past glory and prestige, Nana Sahib wanted to become the Peshwa and Rani Luxmibai was participating in the revolt to secure Jhansi for her adopted son. They were participating on account of their selfish interests and were unable to
combine effectively for the execution of the common plan. Under these circumstances the revolt was doomed to be a failure.
5. The Revolt began Prematurely. The organisers of the Revolt had fixed 31st May 1857 as the beginning of the Revolt and this news had been communicated in all the cantonments and cities. But the incidents of Meerut and Barrackpore hastened in revolt and it began prematurely. Dr. Ishwari Prasad writes: “As events proved, the Meerut accident by precipitating the revolt saved the British Raj from the ruin which Nana Sahib and his colleagues had planned.
Wilson, White and Malleson three noted historians of the revolt agree in regarding the Meerut outbreak as fortunate for the Comany and fatal to the revolt. It upset the whole plan of the rebels, deprived them of a concerted action and in many places the local leaders did not know what to do. This led many to spontaneous and unpremediatd action.”
6. Limited Resources of the Indian Rebels. On account of the limited resources, the rebels did not have sufficient arms. This proved detrimental for their cause. On the other hand, the British had vast resources on their side.
7. The British had developed means of transport. The railways Postal system, telegraphs started by Lord Dalhausie proved to be a great asset to the British. The Indian rebels did not destroy the roads, the railways routes and the telegraph houses and the British were able to suppress the Revolt with the help of these facilities. .
8. The Revolt remained confined to the big cities and could not gain the Co-operation of Common man. The peasants did not participate in the revolt.
9. False propoganda of the British and the Co-operation of the traitors. The British started propogating false news among the Indians so as to create differences among them. They spread their secret agents throughout the whole of India who started creating communal differences among the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. The news was spread that Bahadur Shah wanted to establish a Muslim empire and that he would destroy Sikhs. This infuriated the Sikhs who gave their wholehearted support and co-operation to the British.
10. The state of anarchy in the Country. On account of lack of financial resources the Indian rebels started looking the common people. They broke open the gates of the jails and thereby let loose the criminals and anti-social elements to commit atrocities upon the people. A state of anarchy was created in the country which made the people dislike the revolt. ,
11. Control over sea routes and satisfactory position. As the English had their control over the seas they were in a position to pour men and ammunitions into India with practically no difficulty. A large number of troops were at once sent to India. The Indians fought with primitive weapons. They could not fight the Enfield rifle with their talwar and bhalas. The rebels had practically no war materials at their disposal. They had with them what they had managed to capture.
12. The year 1857 was favourable to the British. The Crimean war and the Chinese war were just over. The British armies were free to throw their weight against the mutineers. Russia was defeated and there was no danger from that quarter. Internationally the Indian rebels were isolated. They English feared that Dost Mohammad might attack India at this critical time. But Dost Mohammad strictly followed the treaty obligations and created no difficulties for the British at this critical time.
13. Personal jealousies among the Mutineers Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad writes : As I read about the events of 1857,1 am forced to the conclusion that Indian national character had sunk very low. The leaders of the revolt could not agree. They were mutually jealous and continually intriguing against one another. In fact, these personal jealousies were largely responsible for the failure of the rebellion of 1857.
14. Delayed Action. The only hope of success for the mutineers was to have quick victories. Time factor was against them. It could be taken for granted that the English could be able to get reinforcements from outside.
15. Noble Efforts of Lord Canning for the Pacification of the Mutiny. “Lord Canning never for a moment lost his balance of mind during the excitement of the mutiny.” Many English men advocated a ruthless policy of vengence against the Indian rebels but Lord Canning refused to show vindictive spirit and followed a mild and pacific policy.
Describe briefly the political and social results or the significance of the upheavel of 1857-58.
What changes and consequences did the great’ revolt of 1857 bring in the administration and governance of India.
“The constitutional result of the mutiny was the abolition of Mugbals at Delhi and the termination of powers and privileges of the East India Company.” -(Dodwell). Explain and describe the above statement.
“Perhaps a more fortunate occurance than the mutiny of 1857 never occured In India. It swept the Indian sky clear of many clouds.” (Lapel Griffin). Explain.
“The great revolt of 1857 marks an epic in the British Indian History.” Justify.
Results Of Revolt
The Mutiny of 1857 brought about fundamental changes in the character of Indian administration and the future development of the country.
1. Mutiny and the East India Company. The first casualty of the Mutiny was the East India company itself. The Government of India Act of 1858 deprived the powers of the Company and transferred the Government of India directly to the Crown. The assumption of the Crown was more a formal than a substantial change. By the charter Act of 1853 the company had lost all its trading privileges.
All real power had long passed to the President of the Board of Control and the Directors had lost their most coveted privilege, the patronage of India. By the Act of 1858 the President of the Board of Control disappeared in favour of Secretary of State. He was to be advised by a Council of 15 members, appointed at first for life afterwards for ten to fifteen years. Eight members were appointed by the Crown and seven by the Directors. The crown administration was less personal than the Company. The Crown stood forth, in fact, as well as in name, as the ruler of India. The Crown itself in the person of Queen Victoria, took keen interest in Indian affairs.
In India the Governor. General received the title of ‘Viceroy’. He became the personal representative of the monarch. The Viceroy became responsible to the Secretary of State who exercised an increasing control over the financial and political activities of the Government oflndia. By the Indian Council’s Act of 1861 the Executive Council was retained and expanded to contain a fifty ordinary members. The Legislative Council contained not less than six or more than 12 additional members nominated for two years by the Governor-General at least one half being non-officials. It marked the beginning of Indian participation in Government at the top.
2. Change of Policy towards Indian States. One of the most important changes that took place after the mutiny of 1857 was the change of the British policy towards the Indian States. The policy of territorial expansion was slackened and the integrity of their territories guaranteed. Thus the policy of subordinate Union was adopted in place of subordinate isolation. Queen Victoria issued a proclamation in 1858 in which it was made clear that the British Government would not merge the Indian States. The policy of Doctrine of Lapse was also abolished. The Proclamation of the Queen Said.
“We desire no extention of our present territorial possession; and we shall respect the rights, dignity and honour as well as our subjects should enjoy that prosperity and that social advancement can only be secured by internal peace and good Government.” Again, “we hereby announce to the native princes of India that all treaties and engagements made with them by or under the authority of the Hon’ble East India Company or by us we accept and will be scrupulously maintained and we look for the right advance on their part.”
3. Changes in the Army. Two important changes were effected one relating the proportion between the English and Indian Army and the other relating to the future organisation of the forces. The mutiny had impressed upon the authorities the necessity of maintaining a due proportion between the Indian and Euporean troops and itwas nowresolved that the proportion of Indian to European troops for the future should not exceed two to one and that the field and other artillery should be exclusively manned by the Europeans. As a result India was garrisoned with about 72,000 Europeans and 1,35,000 Indian troops. The rule was laid down that one third of the military forces in India must consist of European troops. The King’s forces and the Company’s forces were amalgamated.
4. Centralisation of the Administration. Pitts India Act had established double government under the control of the president of the Board of Control and the Directors. After the extinction of this rule of the Company, these two departments were abolished. In their place, a Secretary of state for India and Indian Council was appointed. This Secretary of State for India exercised control over the Viceroy of India.
5. Increase in Racial animosity. The Mutiny of 1857 embittered relations between the Indians and the Europeans and created strong racial hatred between them. K. M. Pannikar Says, “On the Indian side also the mutiny loomed large. The rebels had been put down with a heavy hand. The atrocities of the white terror rankled long in Indian minds and poisoned the relationship of the two races for decades to come.”
6. Increase of misunderstanding between Hindus and Muslims. The revolt of 1857 increased the misunderstanding between the two major communities of India the Hindus and the Musalmans. It is true that the Muslims had taken active part in the mutiny and had shown a keener and wide spread sympathy for the rebels. Therefore as compared to the Hindus, the Muslims had to suffer more. The Muslim Nawabs and rulers were hanged to death and their properties were confiscated. This further embittered the relations between the Hindus and the Muslims.
7. The Muslim renaissance received a set back. As compared to the Muslim renasissance the Hindu renaissance which had been growing in Calcutta escaped the horrors of the mutiny. According to C.F. and Rews “It is not difficult to trace the fatal havoc to budding spiritual life which one year of mutiny wrought. Decay immediately over took the revival of learning in Delhi from which it never recovered. Calcutta the Centre of Hindu renaissance escaped the horrors of the mutiny and was saved.”
8. Change in Indian Foreign Policy. As a result of the mutiny the Foreign policy of the Government of India also underwent far reaching changes. The control of Home Government was tightened and Indian Foreign policy was linked up with the European politics.
9. Interest to internal development. The failure of the revolt had crushed the political ambitions of Indian princes and Nawabs. Their aims and ambitions were frustrated by the British.
10. Emotional after effects of the Mutiny. Racial bitterness was the worst legacy of the struggle. The Punch cartooned Indians as sub-human creature, half goiside, half negro and who could be kept in check by superior force only.
11. New era. The rebellion of 1857 ended an era and sowed the seeds of a new era. The era of territorial aggrandisement gave place to the era of economic exploitation. For the British the danger from the feudal India ended for ever; the new challenge to British imperialism came from progressive India fed on the philosophy of John Stuart Mill and British liberals of the 1.9th Century.
The Mutiny ‘A Fortunate Occurance’ –
Sir Lepel Griffin says that ‘Perhaps a more fortunate occurance than the mutiny of 1857 never occurred in India. To understand the spirit of this remark we must shut our eyes to many painful acts on both sides and regard the mutiny as a revolt of the old against the new; of Indian conservatism against aggressive European innovation. This conflict had to be fought our and if the greased cartridge had not supplied the opportunity of the struggle it would have come a little later over some other issue.
To quote Griffin’s words: “The Mutiny swept the Indian sky clear of many clouds. It disbanded a lazy pampered army, which though in its 100 years of life had done spendid service, had become impossible, it replaced an unprogressive, selfish and commercial system of administration by one liberal and enlightened and it attached the Sikh people to their rulers and made them what they are today, the surest support of the Government. ”
Queen Victoria’s Proclamation (1858) –
After the uprising of 1857 the British Parliament transferred the power of the East India Company to the Cro wn by the Government of India Act 1858. In order to clarify the British Policy and to inform the Indian rulers and people the British Queen issued a proclamation which was read at a Royal Durbar held at Allahabad on November, 1 185 8 by the first Viceroy, Lord Canning. The Proclamation laid down the principles on the basis of which India was to be governed in future. The following was the form of the Proclamation
Proclamation by the Queen-in-Council to the Princes, Chiefs and the People –
Victoria by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Colonies and Dependencies thereof in Europe, Asia, Africa, America and Australia, Queen Defender of the Faith.
Where as for diverse reasons, we have resolved by and with the advice and consent of the Lord spiritual and temporal, and commons in Parliament assembled, to take up ourselves the government of the territories in India, here to fore, administered in trust forces by the honourable East India Company.
Now, therefore, we do by these presents notify and declare that by the advice and consent aforesaid, we have taken upon ourselves the said government and hereby call upon all our subjects with in the said territories to be faithful and to bear true allegiance to us our heirs and successors and to submit themselves to the authority of those who we may hereafter, from time to time see fit to appoint to administer the Government of our said territories in our name and on our behalf.
And we reposing especial trust and confidence in the loyalty, ability and judgement of our right trusty and well beloved ccusin Charles John, Vis count Canning, to be our first Viceroy and Governor-General in and over our said territories and to administer the Government thereof in our name and generally to act in our name and on. our behalf, subject to such orders and regulations as he shall from time to time receive through one of our Principal Secretaries of State.
And we do hereby confirm in their several offices, civil and military all persons employed in the service of the honourable East India Company subject to our future pleasure and to such laws and regulations as may hereafter be enacted.
We hereby, announce to the native princes of India that all treaties and engagements made with them by or under the authority of the East India Company are by us accepted and will be scrupulously maintained and we look for the like observance on their part.
We desire no extension of our present territorial possessions and while we will permit no aggression upon our dominions or our right to be attempted with impunity, we shall sanction no encroachment on those of others.
We shall respect the rights, dignity and honour of native princes as own; and we desire that they as well as our own subjects should enjoy that prosperity and that social advancement which can only be secu?ed by internal peace and good government.
We hold ourselves bound to the native of our Indian territories by the same obligations of duty which bind us to all our other subjects, and those obligations, by the blessing of Almighty God, we shall faithfully and conscientiously fill.
Firmly relying on ourselves on the truth of Christianity and acknowledging with gratitude the solace of religion, we disclaim alike the right and the desire to impose our convictions on any of our subjects. We declare it to be our royal will and pleasure that none be any wise favoured none molested or disquited by reason of their religious faith or observances but that all shall alike enjoy the equal and impartial protection of the law and we do strictly charge and enjoin all those who may be in authority under us that they abstain from all interference with the religious belief or worship of any of our subjects on pain of our highest displeasure.
And it is our turther will that, so far as maybe our subjects of whatever race or creed be freely and impartially admitted to office in our service, the duties which they be qualified by their education, ability and integrity only to discharge.
We know and respect the feelings of attachment with which the natives of India regard the lands inherited by them from their ancestors, and we desire to protect them in all rights connected therewith, subject to the equitable demands of the state and we will do that generally in framing and administering the law due regard be paid to the ancient rights, usages and customs of India.
We deeply lament the evils and misery which have been brought upon by the acts of ambitious men, who have deceived their countrymen by false reports and led them into open rebellion. Our power has been shown by the suppression of that rebellion in the field we desire to show our mercy by pardoning the offences of those who have been misled but who desire to return to the path of the duty.
Already, in one province, with a desire to stop the further effusion of blood and to hasten the pacification of our Indian dominions our Viceroy and Governor-General has held out the expectation ofpardon on certain terms to the great majority of those who in the late unhappy disturbances have been guilty of offences against our Government and has declared the punishment which will be inflicted on those whose crimes place them beyond the reach of forgiveness.
We approve and confirm the said act of our Viceroy and Governor-General and do further announce and proclaim as follows Our clemency will be extended to all offenders save and except those who have been or shall be convicted of having directly taken part in the murder of British subject. With regard to such, the demand of justice forbade the exercise of mercy.
To those who have willingly given asylum to murderers knowing them to be such or who have acted as leaders or instigators of revolt their lives alone can be guaranteed but in apportioning the penalty due to such persons full consideration will be given to the circumstances under which they have been induced to throw off their allegiance and large indulgence will be shown to those whose crimes may appear to have originated in credulous acceptance of the false reports circulated by designing men.
To all others in arms against the Government we hereby premise unconditional pardon, amnesty and oblivion of all offences against ourselves, our Crown and dignity, on their return to their homes and peaceful pursuits.
It is our royal pleasure that these terms of grace and amnesty should be extended to all those who comply with all these conditions before the 1st day of January next.
When by the blessing of providence, internal tranquility shall be restored, it is our earnest desire to stimulate the peaceful industry of India, to promote works of public utility and improvement and to administer the government for the benefit of all our subjects resident therein. In their prosperity will be our strength, in their contentment our security and in their gratitude our best reward. And may the God of all power grant to us and to those in authority under us strength to carry out these our wishes for the good of our people.”
Significance of Queen Victoria’s Proclamation –
Queen Victorias proclamation is a landmark in the history of India.
- By this proclamation the British Government assumed the direct responsibility of governing India.
- It went a long way to improve the contemporary conditions of India. It assured the people of India of peace, prosperity, religious, freedom, impartiality and equality of behaviour and appointment on higher posts on the basis of equality and ability.
- This proclamation is the founder of a new age as it paved the way for the constitutional development by establishing provincial legislation and giving rights of local self government to Indians.