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THE REVOLT OF 1857

 

 

 

The revolt of 1857 was the most severe outburst of anger and discontent accumulated in the hearts of various sections of the Indian society ever since the inception of British rule in Bengal, following the Battle of Plassey in 1757 and the Battle of Buxar. British historians called it a "Sepoy Mutiny" and the Indian historians termed it as the "First War of Independence". Jawaharlal Nehru in his book "Discovery of India" described it as the Feudal Revolt of 1857 and added that "it was much more than a military mutiny and it rapidly spread and assumed the character of a popular rebellion and a war of Indian Independence".

 

Though the revolt was started by the Indian soldiers in the service of the East India company, it soon proliferated all over the country. Millions of peasants, aritsans and soldiers fought heroically for over a year and sacrificed their life so that others might live. Hindus and Muslims kept their religious differences aside and fought together in order to free themselves from foreign subjugation. The British tried to dismiss this Revolt by merely calling it a "Sepoy Mutiny", but this Revolt clearly shows the pented hatred that the Indians had for the foreigners. The Revolt did not take place overnight. There were many economic causes that added fuel to the fire. The British were exploiting the Indian economy and thus leaving many people jobless, helpless and homeless.

 

There were many social and religious reasons for the Revolt. The British started imposing their religion on the Indians by building churches and by forcing people to convert to Christianity. Further more, the Doctrine of Lapse, whereby adopted children were refused recognition and deprived of pension, instigated the political causes of the Revolt. The British did not even spare the Indian soldiers. Rough treatment was meted out to the soldiers and they lived in squalor. The British left no stone unturned to create an eternal wall between Hindus and Muslims. The introduction of the greased cartridges took the situation to its highest point and thus in addition to economic, social and political causes there were military causes added to the Revolt of 1857.

 

 

The Revolt of 1857 was clearly not a success but it is unfair to dismiss it as a mere mutiny. This was the first time when Indians got together to fight against an invincible military power. The Revolt failed due to lack of planning, organization and leadership. The unfortunate part however was that there were some Indians who helped the Britsh suppress the Revolt. Had they cooperated the Revolt might have been a success. Eventhough the Revolt was a failure, the consequences of the Revolt were very important in Indian history. The Revolt brought the end of Company's rule, along with changes in the British policy towards Indian States. With the escape of Nana Sahib and the death of Bahadur Shah Zafar came the end of Peshwaship and the Mughal Rule. The end of the Revolt also led to the reorganization of the army and India was completely ruined from economic point of view. One of the most important outcome of the Revolt was that it gave rise to Nationalism. Indian people became more aware of the heroes, who sacrificed their lives so that others might live. The Revolt however, scarred the relationship between Hindus and Muslims with the Divide and Rule Policy.