The uprising of 1857 : The character and causes of the Indian Rebellion.
The Uprising of 1857, also known as the Indian Rebellion or the Sepoy Mutiny, stands as a pivotal moment in Indian history, sparking a dramatic shift in the country’s relationship with its colonial rulers.
This tumultuous event serves as a testament to the resilience and determination of an oppressed people, whose outcry against British rule reverberated throughout the subcontinent and sent shockwaves across the empire.
From its complex underlying causes to the diverse characters who played pivotal roles in this historic rebellion, the Uprising of 1857 remains a compelling and enigmatic chapter that continues to captivate historians and enthusiasts alike.
Explain the character and causes of the uprising of 1857.
The character of the uprising of 1857
- Opinions vary as regards the nature or character of the Revolt of 1857. However, the opinion of modern historians on this issue may be considered valid.
- They have opined that though the revolt had behind it the discontent of the sepoys, it did not remain confined to the sepoys alone. Modern historians point out that the participation of different classes of people, irrespective of their class and creed, clearly indicates the popular nature of the Revolt of 1857.
- In support of the opinion expressed by modern historians, it may be said that at various places in northern and central India, the common people revolted along with the sepoys.
- In some places, common people came forward to fight against the English with ordinary weapons even before the sepoys had raised the banner of rebellion.
- The nearby English factories were the chief targets of their attacks. In some areas of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, peasants and artisans rebelled against the English rulers, as well as the zamindars, a new class created by them.
- The rebels even did not hesitate to swarm into the court and treasury. Indeed, the participation of the common people gave Revolt its popular character.
Causes of the uprising of 1857
To study the factors responsible for this great historic event in India, one can visualize that political frustration, social inequality, religious beliefs, and the imbalanced economy were exploded by the matchstick of greased cartridges and the discontentment of the sepoys.
(A) Political: The East India Company’s policy of gradual extension to the Indian native states takes a definite shape with the introduction of the subsidiary alliance system by Lord Wellesley. The logical culmination was made by Dalhousie who threw away all codes of morality and political conduct after the use of the Doctrine of Lapse. Dalhousie’s policy of annexation of Oudh disturbed many sepoys who came from that province and became unpopular with the men.
(B) Administrative: The annexation of Indian states resulted in depriving the Indian aristocracy of power and high positions. They found little chance to gain the same old position in the new administrative set-up under British rule. In the military services, the highest posts attainable by the Indians were those of a Subedar on a salary of Rs. 60 or Rs. 70 to the maximum.
Under British rule, all high posts—civil and military—were reserved for the Europeans. British officers were in the regular practice of treating the natives with violence and often with cruelty. The Character Act of 1833 could not change the policy of the British officers towards their subordinates in any manner.
(C) Economic: The newly introduced British economic policy in India worked against the interests of Indian trade and commerce. Small industrial houses were closed. Company employees used force to destroy Indian handicrafts. They worked as the intruders who broke out of the Indian handloom industry and destroyed the spinning wheel. The company government imported machine-made finished cloth to the Indian markets.
(D) Social: The Britishers engaged in the administration became rude and arrogant towards Indians. They said that the Hindus were barbarians and the Muslims were bigots, cruel, and faithless. They committed indiscriminate criminal assaults on the Indians. The European judges could try cases of English criminals and, as such, award them light or no punishment.
(E) Religious: From the beginning of British rule, the missionaries tried to preach Christianity among the people. Gradually, their activities began to grow. The government permitted the Christian missionaries to come in large numbers from England to spread the English way of life, embracing Christianity. With the extension of the British Empire, the missionaries began to move all over the country.
(F) Military: The Indian Sepoys employed in the British army gradually became restless because of the discriminating attitude of the company government. The Indian Sepoys were the defenders of the country, and they were the backbone of the imperial strength. The empire rested on their loyalty, but for several reasons, the Sepoys became angry and thus disloyal.
All the above factors, at last, culminated in the most memorable bloodbath in modern Indian history.