NCERT / CBSE NOTES | Class 8th (VIII) : Chapter Summary

When People Rebel - 1857 and After

Causes of the Revolt of 1857

The Revolt of 1857, the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Uprising of 1857, the Great Rebellion, the Indian Mutiny, the Sepoy Mutiny, are the different names for India’s First War of Independence against the British.
The policies and laws introduced by the Company created discontentment among the rulers, landlords, peasants, tribals and sepoys and all wanted an end to the colonial rule. The Company appointed Residents who were meant to intervene in the affairs of the states.

The Doctrine of Lapse, introduced by Lord Dalhousie, was used to annex many Indian states like Satara, Sambalpur, Udaipur, Jhansi and Nagpur. The subsidiary alliance policy was used to forcefully annex Awadh.

The Company hence planned to bring an end to the Mughal dynasty. It stopped minting the name of the Mughal king on its coins, and declared that Bahadur Shah Zafar would be the last Mughal king. The land revenue systems introduced made the lives of the peasants and the zamindars miserable. Huge taxes were levied forcing the peasants to borrow money from moneylenders, who seized their lands if they failed to pay back the loan.

The British also brought in many reforms in Indian society. They encouraged widow remarriage, stopped the evil practice of sati and gave importance to English-language education.

In 1850, a law was passed that made it easier to convert to Christianity. Those who converted were allowed to inherit the property of their ancestors. The sepoys were also dissatisfied by the Company’s rule and were unhappy with the conditions of their service, pay and allowances.All these reforms stifled the Indians, and they felt that their traditions, customs and religions were being destroyed.

Some of the rules that the Company introduced were also against their religious sentiments. The cartridges by sepoys to be used were greased with the fat of pigs and cows, which was against their religion. This was the trigger that unified the sepoys for the Revolt of 1857.

Retaliation by the Company

The Great Rebellion, in May 1857 as a mutiny of the sepoys in Meerut, erupted into civilian revolts and smaller mutinies in central India and the upper Gangetic Plains. The scale of the Revolt of 1857 intimidated the Company, and it decided to use all its might to repress it.

The scale of the upheaval frightened the Company, and it began to strengthen its military by bringing in men and material from England and passing new laws to convict the rebels easily. In September 1857, the Company recaptured Delhi, and in October, Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was captured and sentenced to life imprisonment.

In March 1858, the Company recaptured Lucknow, and in June, Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi was killed. Tantia Tope was killed in April 1859. Hundreds of rebels, nawabs, sepoys, kings and civilians were tried and executed by the British.

By the end of 1859, the Company regained its control over India. According to a new act in 1858, the ruling powers of India were transferred to the British Crown. The Governor-General of India was given the title of Viceroy, who was a representative of the Crown. The British annulled the policy of Doctrine of Lapse and recognized the right of an adopted son. They also decided to increase the proportion of European soldiers in the army.

The British held the Muslims responsible for the revolt, and so confiscated their property and treated them with hostility. The revolt also made the British respect the traditions and religions practised in India. They framed policies to protect the land rights of zamindars.

The Revolt of 1857

The Revolt of 1857 was one of the first wars of Indian independence against the British. This revolt can aptly be termed the first war of Indian independence against the British. Kings, peasants, tribals, landlords and we sepoys, all were dissatisfied with the British rule.

The start of the revolt was on the 29th of March, 1857, when Mangal Pandey, attacked his officers. The attack by Mangal Pandey is considered one of the first acts of what came to be known as the Great Rebellion or the Sepoy Mutiny.

The sepoys wanted an end to the British rule and make Bahadur Shah Zafar their leader. In Delhi, sepoys killed many British officers, confiscated their ammunition and set their buildings on fire. A week after the British were evicted from Delhi, a wave of mutinies began in different parts of the country. More and more regiments rebelled and joined other troops at nodal places like Kanpur, Delhi and Lucknow.

Near Kanpur, Nana Saheb and in Lucknow, Birjis Qadar and his mother Begum Hazrat Mahal, contributed a lot to the uprising. Birjis Qadar was the son of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. In Jhansi, Rani Lakshmibai, Tantia Tope and the sepoys together fought against the British. The mutiny saw the emergence of many new leaders like Ahmadullah Shah from Faizabad, Bakht Khan from Bareilly and Kunwar Singh, from Bihar.

The revolt scared the British and shook the very foundation of their rule in India.

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