A rumor had spread that the new cartridge contained the fat of cow and pig. On 9th May 1857, on the parade ground of Meerut, 85 Indian troopers were court martialed. On 10th May 1857 men of 3rd Light Cavalry stormed the barracks jail and released their comrades.
Soon the Indian civilians joined the mutineers and killed about 50 Europeans. The news spread like wild fire. The already simmering anger against British burst out into a violent storm.
Causes of the Revolt of 1857
- Lord Dalhousie’s policy of annexation and the Doctrine of lapse had made the Indian rulers angry and insecure. The Rani of Jhansi Laxmibai was not allowed to adopt a son. In case of disputed interpretation, the decision of the East India Company was binding & that of the court of the Directors was final.
- Regal titles of the Nawab of Carnatic & Tanjore were abolished. The imperial title of the Moghul Emperor was discontinued after Bahadur Shah II.
- The pension of Nana Saheb (Peshwa Baji Rao II’s adopted son) was stopped.
- Thousands became unemployed when the English, under Lord Dalhousie annexed Oudh.
- The British were rude and used abusive and insultive language.
- The practice of sati was abolished. Child marriage, infanticide and polygamy were not allowed.
- The European juries allowed European criminals with little or no punishment.
- Hindus and Muslims were forced into Christianity.
- British Officers abused the name of Ram and Muhammad.
- Idolatry was denounced. Hindu deities were ridiculed.
- The British had drained India of all her wealth and natural resources by selfish economic policies.
- Unrest spread among the landlords of Bengal when William Bentinck took away rent free estates from them.
- Lord Dalhousie confiscated thousands of jagirs in the Deccan.
- After Oudh was annexed, the estates of Zamindars and Taluqdars were confiscated.
- High posts and handsome salaries were given to the British. This caused frustration amongst Indians.
- Immense discrimination between the Indians and the British.
- The Indian sepoys were deprived of high salaries and promotions. The highest post for an Indian was that of the Subedar.
- New recruits had to travel across the sea. It was forbidden as per Hindu belief.
- The British army exposed its vulnerability in the First Afghan war, the Sikh war and the Crimean war.
- The Indian sepoys were required to work far off without extra Bhatta or payment.
- The privilege of free postage enjoyed by the sepoys was withdrawn with the passing of the Post Office Act 1854.
IMPORTANT CENTRES OF REVOLT
- On 9 May 1857, 85 Sepoys were court martialled. They had refused to use new cartridges. Next day their companions attacked the jail. Sepoys were freed. Officers & Europeans were killed. Revolters headed towards Delhi.
- On 12th May 1857, Delhi was seized by rebels. Some Europeans were shot dead. Bhahadur Shah II was persuaded to support. Loss of Delhi was a prestige loss for British. On 14th September 1857, British attacked. On 20th September 1857, British regained Delhi. Bahadur Shah & Zeenat Mahal fled to Humayun’s tomb. But were followed & captured by General Hudson. 3 sons killed & the king & queen exiled to Rangoon. The king died in 1862.
- Oudh annexed by Lord Dalhousie. The Nawab of Oudh exiled to Calcutta. But his wife Begum Hazrat Mahal and 11 year old son continued to live in Oudh but in very poor condition. So people of Oudh were angry. The revolt broke out on 4th June 1857. Henry Lawrence, the British Resident, with some Europeans with some hundred sepoys took refuge in a Residency. Begum seized Residency and killed Henry & some others. In November, Sir Colin Campbell (Commander-in-Chief) attacked with Gorkha regiment. In March 1858, the city was finally recaptured. The rebels driven to Nepal border to die in bad climate or captured by Gorkhas.
- Nana Sahib, the adopted son of Peshwa Baji Rao was proclaimed the Peshwa. He led the revolt in Kanpur with Tantia Tope, his assistant. After a fierce battle, General Sir Hugh Wheeler surrendered on 27th June 1857. Nana Saheb assured safe passage of British to Allahabad. General James O’Neil (At Allahabad & Banaras) inhumanly ill-treated Angry Indians killed the passing British citizens. In June 1857, The General defeated Nana Sahib. In November 1857, Nana Sahib & Tantia Tope recaptured Kanpur back. On 6th December 1857 General Campbell reoccupied Kanpur. Nana fled to Nepal (died there) and Tantia joined Rani Laxmibai.
JHANSI & GWALIOR
- In June 1857, the troops at Jhansi revolted. Rani Laxmibai (widow of Raja Gangadhar Rao) declared ruler. Tantia Tope joined her after Kanpur was lost. On 3rd April 1858, Sir Hugh Rose recaptured Jhansi. Laxmibai escaped to Kalpi (near Gwalior) where Tantia joined her. Both marched to Gwalior. Sir Hugh Rose also marched to Gwalior and captured in June 1858. Rani died fighting bravely. Tantia escaped southward but was betrayed by his friend Man Singh. Tantia was finally hanged.
OTHER CENTRES OF REVOLT
Khan Bahadur Khan proclaimed himself the ruler.
Zamindar Kunwar Singh raised the revolt
Banarasis organised a rebellion.
(All were subsequently suppressed by British)
- The revolt was completely suppressed and crushed by July 1858.
CAUSES OF FAILURE OF THE REVOLT
- The revolt was localized and was poorly organized.
- The British had better resources than the rebels.
- The revolt was feudal in character.
- The leaders lacked military skills.
- The native princes did not join the revolt.
MAJOR IMPACT OF THE REVOLT
1) The control of Indian administration was transferred form the company to the crown by the GOI Act 1858
2) The Queen promised to respect Rights & dignity. General amnesty to all offenders except murders.
3) The Indian army was reorganised. Included Sikhs, Gurkhas & Pathans.
4) The Mughal dynasty ended with the extinction of Bahadur Shah II & was replaced by British Crown.
5) Freedom of religion granted.
6) As per Queen’s Proclamation, more Indians joined the administration.
7) Racial animosity increased.
8) The British introduced the policy of Divide & Rule that led to the partition of India in 1947.
9) The British exploited the economy further.