Revolt of 1857
- The Revolt of 1857 or The First War of Indian Independence or Sepoy Mutiny as the Britishers call it is widespread but ultimately unsuccessful armed rebellion against the occupying British East India Company.
- It began as a revolt of the Indian sepoys in the British East India Company’s army but was eventually joined by other native forces in the country.
The First War of Indian Independence
- V.D Savarkar in his book titled “The history of the war of Indian Independence” called the 1857 revolt as the First War of Indian Independence.
- The Revolt of 1857 is regarded by Indian historians as the first instance of concerted opposition against the rule of British East India Company.
Causes of the revolt
- While the immediate cause of the revolt is often regarded as the introduction of the new Enfield rifles with greased cartridges, it was caused by the cumulative effect of British expansionist tactics, economic exploitation, and administrative innovations had harmed all.
- Policies like ‘Effective Control,’ ‘Subsidiary Alliance,’ and ‘Doctrine of Lapse,’ which were aimed at increasing the control of the company amongst the native kingdoms created unsatisfaction amongst them.
- Among this, the Doctrine of Lapse, promoted by Lord Dalhousie, became the primary Political Cause of the Revolt of 1857.
- The company used Doctrine of Lapse to annex Satara (1848), Sambalpur (1850), Jhansi (1853), Nagpur (1853), Jaipur (1849) and Bhagat (1850).
- The Religious Disabilities Act of 1850 made it possible for a Hindu who converted to another religion to inherit his ancestors’ wealth which many Hindus saw as promoting conversions to Christianity.
- Lord Dalhousie also conquered Awadh citing poor administration which resulted in Awadh becoming a raging hotbed of anti-British sentiment.
- There was widespread public animosity which stemmed from the British tactic of economically exploiting India.
- The high tax expectations and a strict program for collecting revenue resulted in the suffering of general public.
- The high levels of tax forced the peasants to take out loans from moneylenders/traders at exorbitant interest rates which increased the issue of landless peasants and rural indebtedness.
- This issue has plagued Indian society to this day with these moneylenders and businessmen emerging as the new landlords.
- The zamindari system introduced by Lord Cornwallis exacerbated this issue.
- Post Industrial revolution, British policies discouraged Indian handicrafts while promoting British items.
- Along with this, imports of British products into India were subject to cheap duties, which encouraged their introduction into the market.
- The socio-religious changes brought about by the Britishers such as the elimination of sati, support for widow-marriage, and women’s education was seen by many in the Hindu community as outsiders interfering in the social and religious spheres of Indian culture.
- Particularly the Religious Disabilities Act of 1856 which declared that a change of religion did not prevent a son from inheriting his ‘heathen’ father’s property was seen as a way to promote conversions to christianity.