Revolt 1857

Causes of the Revolt:

Satara, Jaitpur, Sambhalpur, Baghat, Udaipur, Jhansi and Nagpur were annexed by the application of the Doctrine of Lapse by Dalhousie. Awadh was annexed in 1856 on the pretext of the good of the governed. The pension of Baji Rao-Il‘s son Nana Saheb was discontinued. In 1856, Lord Canning announced that the Mughal Prince next in succession to Bahadur Shah-II would have to renounce the regal title and the ancestral Mughal places in addition to the renunciation agreed to by Prince Faqir-ud-din. 

      Dissatisfaction was widespread amongst the sepoys under the British. There was great inequality in treatment between the Indian and British counterparts in terms of salary and other benefits. The high rank of the army was exclusively reserved for the Englishmen. The general Service Enlistment Act (1856) further angered the religious minded sepoys. The act decreed that all future recruit for the Bengal Army would have to give up an undertaking to serve anywhere where their services might be required by the government.

     According to the Post Office Act of 1857, the privilege of free postage enjoyed by the sepoys was with-drawn. The British army suffered major reverses in the first Afghan war (1838-42) and the Punjab war (1845-49). This shattered the general belief in the invincibility of the British army and encouraged the people to believe that the days of British regime was numbered. The economic policy of the British adversely affected every section of the society. Many people were rendered jobless and there was overcrowding of the agrarian sector. A large number of Zamindars were dispossessed of their land. The British racially abused the Indians. Abolition of Sati and Widow Remarriage Act created suspicion in the minds of the conservative Hindus that the British were trying to anglicise them.

      In 1856, the government decided to replace the old fashioned musket ‘Brown Ness’ by ther ‘Enfield Rifle’.  The training of the new weapon was to be imparted at Dum Dum, Ambala, Sialkot.  On March 29, 1857, the sepoys at Barrakpore refused to use the greased cartridge and one Brahmin sepoy, Mangal Panday attacked and fired at the adjutant.  On 10th May, 1857, the sepoys of the 3rd cavalry at Meerut also refused to use the greased cartridge and broke out in open rebellion. They were immediately by the 11th and 20th native infantries.  On May 12, 1857, Delhi was seized and Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah-II was proclaimed the emperor of India.  The real command was in the hands of Bakht Khan who had led the revolt at Bareilly and brought the troops to Delhi.


     In Kanpur, the revolt was led by Nana Saheb who proclaimed himself the Peshwa. He was assisted by Tantia Tope. The Rebels defeated General Windham outside Kanpur. Azimullah Khan also led at Kanpur.  In Lucknow Begum Hazrat Maha and Ahmadullah led the revolt. Hazrat Mahal proclaimed Brijis Kadr as the Nawab of Awadh against the wishes of the British. Henry Lawrence the British resident was killed at Lucknow.  In Jhansi, Rani Laxmibai assumed the leadership of the mutiny. In Bareilly, Khan Bahadur proclaimed himself as the Nawab and revolted there.

     In Arrah, Kunwar Singh led the revolt. In Faizabad, Maulvi Ahmadullah led the revolt. The other centers of the revolt were Benaras, Allahabad, Gwalior. Nasirabad in Rajputana, Indore, Aligarh and Kota. Delhi was suppressed by Colonel Nicholson and Hudson.  Kanpur was suppressed Campbell. Lucknow was suppressed by Campbell. Jhansi was suppressed by Hugh Rose. Allahabad and Benaras was suppressed by Colonel Neil. Arrah was suppressed by William Taylor and Vincent Eyre. Bahadur Shah was arrested and deported to Rangoon, where he died in 1862. Nana Saheb escaped to Nepal. The revolt was poorly organised, restricted in its scope and there was no unity among its leaders.  There was no impact of rebellion beyond Narmada.  Even in north Rajasthan, Punjab and Sind remained quiet.  The Indian Princes such at Schindhia Gwalior, Nizam of Hyderabad, Gulab Singh of Kashmir, prince of Rajasthan remained loyal to the British. The Indian intelligentia class remained aloof.


     The control of the Indian administration was transferred from the East India Company to the crown by the Government of India Act, 1858. The Queen’s declaration or proclamation declared against any desire for extension of territorial possessions and promised to respect the rights, dignity and honour of nation’s Princes as their own. General amnesty was granted to all offenders, save and except those who have been or shall be convicted at having directly taken part in murder of British subjects.

    The Indian Civil Services Act was passed which provided for an annual competitive examination to be held in London for recruitment to the covenanted civil services. The Army Amalgamation Scheme of 1861 transferred the company’s European troops to the service of crown.

     The general formula followed was that in Bengal Presidency, the proportion between the European and Indian troops should be 1:2 while for Bombay and Madras Presidency it should be 1:3. R. C. Majumdar has said that it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the so called first national war of independence is neither the first, nor national nor war of independence. 

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