Chapter 5. When People Rebel: 1857 and After

Policies and People
• policies of East India Company affected different people like kings, queens, peasants, landlords, tribals & soldiers in different ways.

Nawabs lose their power
• Since mid-18th century, nawabs & rajas have lost their authority and power. Many governing families attempted to bargain with Company in order to defend their interests.
• After death of Gangadhar Rao, his queen, Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi wanted Company to recognise her adopted son as heir to kingdom. Company, however, rejected down requests.
• One of final territories to be acquired was Awadh. A subsidiary alliance was forced on Awadh in 1801 and it was taken over in 1856. Company intended to put an end to Mughal dynasty.
• Governor-General Dalhousie declared in 1849 that after Bahadur Shah Zafar’s death, his family would be moved out of Red Fort and given a new home in Delhi. None of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s progeny would be recognised as kings after him; instead, they would be referred to as princes.

peasants and sepoys
• high taxes and stringent revenue collection tactics irritated peasants and zamindars in countryside. Many people lost their lands as a result of their failure to repay moneylenders.
• Employees of Company who were Indian sepoys were dissatisfied with their pay, allowances and working conditions. When sepoys were told they would have to go to Burma to fight for Company by water, they rejected, but consented to go via land.
• In 1856, Company approved a law requiring every new person hired into Company’s army to agree to serve overseas if necessary.

Responses to reforms
• British transformed Indian society by enacting laws prohibiting practise of Sati and encouraging widows to remarry. promotion of English education was widespread.
• Christian missionaries were allowed to operate freely in country after 1830 and they were allowed to hold land and property. In 1850, a new law was passed to make it simpler to convert to Christianity. statute gave Indian Christians right to inherit their forefathers’ property.

A Mutiny Becomes a Popular Rebellion
• A big number of people believed that they were fighting same enemy and fought back at same time. People must have been organised, communicated, taken initiative and demonstrated confidence in order for a situation like this to flourish.
• In May 1857, English East India Company was confronted with a major uprising. Beginning in Meerut, sepoys mutinied in other locations and a significant number of civilians from various social classes rose up in revolt. This is regarded as 19th century’s largest armed resistance to colonialism.

From Meerut to Delhi
• Mangal Pandey was executed on March 29, 1857, for attacking officers in Barrackpore. Some sepoys in Meerut Regiment refused to undertake army practise with new cartridges, which were suspected of being covered in cow and pig fat.
• For disobeying their officers, eighty-five sepoys were removed from service and sentenced to ten years in prison on May 9, 1857.
• On May 10, army released sepoys who had been imprisoned in Meerut Prison. soldiers were adamant about ending their reign over country.
• sepoys galloped all night on May 10th and arrived in Delhi early next morning. Soldiers arrived at Red Fort, triumphant, demanding to meet Badshah.
• Bahadur Shah Zafar agreed to proposal and sent letters to all of country’s chiefs and rulers, urging them to unite and form a confederacy of Indian nations to fight British.
• Mughal dynasty ruled over a sizable portion of India. rise of British rule put small kings and chieftains in charge of various provinces under pressure.
• British expected uproar sparked by cartridges’ distribution to subside. situation, however, was drastically altered by Bahadur Shah Zafar’s choice.

rebellion spreads
• British were driven out of Delhi and there was no rebellion for nearly a week. Regiments revolted and forces converged on nodes such as Delhi, Kanpur & Lucknow.
• Nana Saheb, late Peshwa Baji Rao’s adopted son, declared himself Peshwa, collected military men and ousted British army from city. Birjis Qadr was proclaimed new Nawab in Lucknow.
• Rani Lakshmibai joined rebel sepoys at Jhansi and fought British alongside Tantia Tope, Nana Saheb’s general. Rani Avantibai Lodhi of Ramgarh raised and led an army against British who had taken over governance of her state in Mandla district of Madhya Pradesh.
• In a number of conflicts, British were beaten. In Awadh region, in particular, a situation of widespread popular insurrection evolved. Many new leaders have emerged. Ahmadullah Shah from Faizabad, Bakht Khan from Delhi and Kunwar Singh from Bihar are just a few examples.
• British were greatly outnumbered by rebel forces. They were defeated in a number of battles. This convinced people that rule of British had collapsed for good and gave them confidence to take plunge and join rebellion.

Company Fights Back
• Company brought reinforcements from England, passed new laws to easily convict rebels. In September 1857, Delhi was recaptured and last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar was sentenced to life imprisonment.
• In March 1858, Lucknow was taken and Rani Lakshmibai was defeated and killed in June 1858. Rani Avantibai chose to embrace death when surrounded by British on all sides. Tantia Tope was captured and killed in April 1859.
• Desertion was encouraged by loss of insurgent forces. British promised awards for loyal landholders, who would continue to enjoy traditional rights over their lands, in order to earn people’s loyalty.
• If anyone who rebelled against British surrendered and did not kill any white people, they would be secure and their claims to land and rights would not be ignored.

• By end of 1859, British had regained control of country. Some of important changes that were introduced by British are mentioned below:
(1) In 1858, a new Act was passed that transferred East India Company’s powers to British Crown, allowing for better supervision of Indian affairs. A member of British Cabinet was named Secretary of State for India, with responsibility for all aspects of India’s governance. He was granted Indian Council as a council to advise him. Governor-General of India was given title of Viceroy. British Government accepted direct responsibility for rule of India as a result of these policies.
(2) All ruling chiefs were assured that their territory would never be annexed in future. They were allowed to pass on their kingdoms to their heirs, including adopted sons. Indian rulers were to hold their kingdoms as subordinates of British Crown.
(3) In army, proportion of Indian soldiers was lowered while number of European soldiers increased.
(4) Land and property belonging to Muslims were taken in enormous quantities and they were treated with mistrust and hostility.
(5) British opted to respect people of India’s traditional religious and social customs.
(6) Landlords and zamindars were protected by policies that guaranteed their rights to their lands.

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